Posts Tagged ‘economic recession’

The Relationship Vote

May 19, 2011
This piece was originally published in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review
I’ve always thought that our constitution was supposed to enshrine our rights as citizens of this state and this country. So when I heard that the Minnesota Legislature was attempting to pass a bill that would put marriage rights of gay and lesbian couples up to a vote during the 2012 election, effectively making a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, I thought that was pretty strange. More specifically, I thought it was outrageous!

First of all, and I see this as something that is very difficult to argue with, it is an incredible waste of time. As it currently stands, same-sex marriage is not legal in the state of Minnesota. The legislative session ends before Memorial Day weekend, and there is still a $5 billion deficit that needs dealing with, but instead the Senate and House are wasting their time debating and having public hearings on whether or not something that is currently illegal should be REALLY illegal.

What’s more unfortunate is that, regardless of the precedent of 28 other states passing similar constitutional amendments, our governing bodies would actively pursue the wanton discrimination of a large percentage of the population of the state, not to mention a member of the State Senate itself.

During the Senate hearing on the bill, Senator Scott Dibble held up a picture of he and his husband on the floor of the Senate on the first day of session, and he asked “What’s so different about us? What’s so dangerous about us?”

Same-sex marriage is allowed in five states in this country. So the question has to be; how has this negatively impacted states such as Massachusetts and Iowa?

But above I disregarded the 28 states that have passed similar amendments, so let’s just never mind what other states are doing. With that in mind, I would ask; how will this bill help Minnesota families?

Will it help create jobs? Will it balance the budget? Will it curb bullying in schools? The answer to those first two questions is ‘no’. There is no data that suggests that making something that’s already against the law against the law forever will have any sort of change on matters it didn’t affect anyway. But how about bullying? Anyone who isn’t aware of the high number of gay and lesbian teens who have committed suicide because of the negative ways they’ve been treated simply because they are gay (and others who were simply perceived to be gay), is either in denial or has been hiding under a rock. So honestly, what do you think this amendment is going to say to the next generation?

Senator Warren Limmer, the author of this bill, has said that the people of Minnesota have a right to vote on this issue, and that with a year and a half between now and the election, they will have the opportunity to have a conversation about it. I personally think Senator Dibble responded to this best, so I’ll just quote him:

“We’re not going to have a conversation. We’re going to have an ugly, angry, divisive campaign… And you know what that campaign is going to look like? It’s going to be about creating disinformation, about half-truths and mis-truths, and complete outright lies about what my family is all about… It’s going to create conjecture, fear, and will divide Minnesotans during this critical time in our economy when we need to be pulling people together.”

The proponents of this bill are quick to say that the people have a right to vote on their definition of marriage. First of all, I call bologna on that. There’s no choice here. The percentage of Minnesotans who think that marriage should be inclusive to all consenting adults have no box to check. The options are simply the status quo or the status quo forever. And that is beside the point that this argument is discrimination disguised as liberty. Limmer and the other proponents of this bill talk about the rights of the people to decide, but they’re deciding on the rights of others. So what about the rights of those whose personal lives are infringed with this vote? If this isn’t making sense, imagine if your marriage or your relationship with your significant other was put up to a vote by those who don’t even know you?

Our country has a history of bigotry against various types of couples, whether they be Lutherans and Catholics marrying, or whites and blacks marrying. It wasn’t that long ago that it was illegal for a black man to marry a white woman in a large number of states in this country. And people were just as adamant about that concept as they are today about same-sex marriage. So what has changed? We’ve simply picked a new group to look down upon; a new group on which to attempt to deny rights.

The argument for same-sex marriage isn’t anything new or bizarre. It is simply asking that consenting adults, who would be allowed to marry someone of the opposite sex, be allowed to marry someone of the same sex, because they found a special person that they want to spend the rest of their lives with. No one is looking for extra rights. Just the same rights as anyone else who found that person who completes them, who will stick with them through good times and bad.

As of this writing, the House has yet to vote on the bill. By all speculations, it seems as if it is going to pass. I hope it doesn’t. I think it would be a shameful mark on the state’s history; a state that has a long history of compassion and inclusiveness. And the ensuing “conversation” will only create more hate and discrimination, because our government has decided that this particular group of Minnesotans aren’t deserving of equality.

Healthcare Passed. Yay… but is it enough?

March 24, 2010

Well, it’s done. Hurrah hurrah! Healthcare reform passed and now we can finally enslave conservatives and abort their babies with federal dollars so as to start our Socialist world order. Whew, it’s about time.

But to be fair, that’s not entirely accurate. Healthcare reform did pass, but everything after that is taken from bits and pieces of right wing fear-mongering talking points. So now that we’ve had a good laugh, let’s get real for a bit.

On the whole, I’d say that it’s a good thing this bill passed. People can no longer be turned down for having a pre-existing condition, and anyone who’s considered “at risk” is still able to get some sort of insurance. What’s more, the particular demographic that’s had the hardest time having a health policy (those who aren’t poor enough to have a government policy like Medicaid, and who aren’t rich enough to afford a private policy when their employer doesn’t offer it) will be able to have access to more programs because of subsidies.

And even though this is of less concern to the general public than the actual benefits created, our government spent the last year hammering through this thing. To ultimately end up with absolutely nothing would’ve been shameful at best. And to get even more superficial, for the Democrats to have failed at this attempt to make good on healthcare promises would’ve left them looking like a pile of incompetent fools who’d rather curry favors with the opposition party than to try to enact the will of their constituents (but since we’re being honest here, I think they’ve managed to do both fairly well).

But one of the big problems with this bill is that it’s called ‘reform.’ At best I’d call it a regulatory bill. All those benefits of the bill amount to the government telling private insurance companies that they can’t discriminate against the unhealthy. If you ask me, that’s just common sense. But there’s a reason why so many people for so long have called for reform, if not a complete overhaul, of the healthcare industry in this country: the whole thing is in the hands of a few corporations who make exorbitant amounts of money by paying as little as they can but charging as much as they can. This bill may help a great many people, but it doesn’t tackle the primary problem. The fact still remains that our health is still in the hands of people who will make more money if we die.

That may sound melodramatic or conspiratorial, but it’s really just the basic structure of corporate policy. By law, a corporation must do everything within its means to raise the bottom line. If you take money in on the promise of helping someone once they’re sick, you’ll make more money by finding any crack in the paperwork to pay as little as possible, if anything at all. And this bill actually assists that basic structure. We’re now mandated to have insurance.

A public option was kicked out of the bill a long time ago. If it remained, a mandate for insurance would seem like less of a burden, because there would be more options to choose from. A government run policy that would be nationwide, that you could take with you if you move or change jobs, that isn’t for profit so you wouldn’t have to worry about rates being raised so the CEOs of said corporation can afford their bonuses, is the type of policy that many Americans want. Before last year’s August recess, numerous polls showed that at least 60% of the population wanted a public option. But alas, all things must die.

Wait a minute! Government run policy that’s nationwide that isn’t for profit? Haven’t I heard of that before? More importantly, hasn’t Congressman Alan Grayson heard of that? Oh yeah, it’s called Medicare.

The original talk of a public option was about creating an entirely new entity, that would’ve cost billions of dollars to set up. In the long run, this program would’ve paid for itself and actually decreased the deficit, because people would pay into it. But there would’ve been an initial start up cost that many people were uncomfortable with in this time of economic strife.  But the congressman from Florida, Representative Grayson, has drafted a bill that would allow anyone, of any age, to buy into Medicare at cost. We’ve already spent billions of dollars creating this nationwide network so that people 65 and older have access to healthcare. The groundwork already exists. What Grayson’s bill will do is give every American a chance to have a public option, without any of the extra costs that the original public option would have.

The fact that we have this system in place that can only be used by a small percentage of the population seems incredibly wasteful. And ask any senior citizen out there; they LOVE Medicare. Why not let everyone else have a chance at it? This would be a real reform bill if it passes. Finally there would be some real competition for private insurers, who would be forced to lower costs in order to remain competitive. That is the basis of capitalism, right?

Journals of a Job Junky

March 18, 2010

Employment is the topic gracing many lips all across the country this year, but it’s nothing new to me. For some undiagnosed reason, I’ve found myself the owner of many different jobs throughout my life, with all of them ending for about as many reasons as you can imagine. There’s a story behind all of them, but it’s important to stay on track. So let’s just see how my life in jobs has been since I moved to Grand Rapids nearly two years ago.

After getting a degree in English Literature from the University of Minnesota, I had sampled a few different jobs around the Twin Cities, none of which were ideal, but they paid the bills. Such a degree is interesting to have. Because depending on how you look at it, you can use it for anything or for nothing. And I was rapidly using it for nothing. So when my wife suggested we move to Grand Rapids where she was offered a job at her aunt and uncle’s medical billing business, I figured why not. It was the Spring of 2008. I was 26 at the time, well educated, and changing tires at a garage. Change of scenery from Minneapolis might just be a good thing.

Once here, with my wife working, I had to figure out something to do. With my education, coupled with the luxury of having some time to experiment, it was the perfect time to try out online freelance writing! There was only one problem: we were living with my wife’s grandparents at the time, who did not have internet access. I did what I could with stray signals that occasionally swung by the computer, primarily in the hope of having some resources set up for when we moved and got a real connection. But as it turned out, I was offered a job at Mednorth, the billing service where my wife already worked. I accepted.

It really was an obvious move. Mednorth was a family run business, and I was part of the family. What’s more, I was part of the family who needed a job. It was an office of mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, and now a son-in-law! So as my time there progressed and I had a few more responsibilities, I mostly forgot about my idea of freelancing. I mean, here I had a steady paycheck, and the work wasn’t so bad. If I found something better, I’d take it, but I wasn’t too thrilled about being back on the job hunt.

With freelancing, most jobs would be a one time deal. I would constantly be on the job hunt. That was another thing to think about.

It was around this time that my wife and I bought our first house. The time for employment experimentation was rapidly coming to a close, so we were both happy to have the jobs we did. But we knew it wasn’t the end all. Actually, I’ll rephrase: I knew it wasn’t. My wife was quite happy at Mednorth. But she knew that I wouldn’t be content with that for the rest of my life. So when we were approached to be part of an arts co-op as a used book vendor, we said, “Great!”

A long story short, we amassed a huge inventory of thousands of books, and the co-op fell apart due to lack of participation, with none of the remaining members able to afford the overhead of the rental space. But whereas the situation didn’t work out, it was certainly educational. Between the hands-on experience and with some information from the IEDC (Itasca Economic Development Corporation), I was able to learn just what was involved in starting a business. First thing I learned: it’s daunting, but it’s very possible. And so concluded my first real encounter to the world of self-employment.

I have yet to decide whether or not self-employment is what’s best for me. For the size of town Grand Rapids is, there’s certainly room for a few more small businesses. When it came to books, I looked around at the options this town of 8,000 had, and I thought to myself, “How can we lose?” Had we done things differently and actually gotten off the ground, it could’ve been a huge success.

Whereas self-employment sounds great, I’ve learned that it takes a certain type of person to make it happen (that is, make it happen successfully). Much like a career in sales, it takes great a dreamer with enormous tenacity. I’m certainly a dreamer, but my tenacity needs some work. So as of right now, that avenue is ‘to be continued…’

But where a door is shut, often a window is opened. Not long after the co-op dream fell apart, I heard that the Herald Review was looking to hire a part-time, freelance writer. This is almost exactly what I was looking for! And even though it was freelance, I wouldn’t have to be continuously looking for new jobs! I applied, and a short time later was hired, and covering my first story.

Since it was only part-time, I couldn’t afford to leave my job at Mednorth. Not with a mortgage to pay! Juggling two jobs can be problematic, as many of you know, but when one is as flexible as being a freelance writer with no office hours, it could certainly be worse. This was a fantastic time. I was finally making good use of my education. Financially, we had never been better. We owned a home, had two cats, three fish, and a smiling future. I had heard that my part-time freelance position had the possibility of becoming full-time staff.

A few months into 2009, things appeared to be less optimistic. Newspapers across the country were feeling a pitch, and the Herald Review wasn’t exempt. Due to budget cuts, I was laid off. We were still fine financially because of Mednorth, but it was a step in the opposite direction all the same. Several months later, I found some part-time work doing technical writing for a software company, but it had no future. I knew then that it was only good for a limited period of time.

And then came the big hit.

Due to personal issues, my wife and I decided to separate. Obviously, considering my work situation at Mednorth, my returning there the following week would’ve been problematic at best, since not only did my wife work there, but so did her mother and a few of her aunts. Amidst everything else, I found myself employed only with a 10 hour/week commitment to this remote software company. Recently, that too appears to have come to a close.

As of right now, I’ve managed to do some book reviews and essays for KAXE radio, a few pieces once again for the Herald Review, all financially supplemented by part-time employment as a cook at Pizza Hut. But this isn’t the end of my story. Not by a long shot.

In looking back, I realize that with the various opportunities I’ve had, things certainly could’ve been done differently. That’s what hindsight is good for; to learn from your errors. I blame myself as much as I do circumstance for several shortcomings in the recent past, but I choose not to dwell on any of that very much. Only to the point where I hopefully won’t repeat any mistakes. But where I go from here, time will tell. There are still worthwhile opportunities out there around the area. And of course, I can’t forget about self-employment as a freelancer. That avenue just might be opening up again.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

February 22, 2010

Isn’t it an exciting time to be alive in this country? By this I mean, whether you like it or not, things are changing…

We’ve got national healthcare in our collective consciousness, with heated debates on the manner of its reform, or if it even needs it.

We’ve got GLBT rights activists up front protesting for marriage equality, and with that some very confusing mixed-messages all the way from the President himself on when said rights will be enacted.

We elected the first African-American President.

We’re fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we were originally led to believe that they were one in the same.

There’s climate change, and even though the debate as to whether or not its real has pretty much been wrapped up, a unified solution to this world-wide problem has everyone torn on just what type of sacrifices need to be made.

And to top it all off, we’re experiencing an economic recession that was a baby’s breath away from being a depression, and still could go that way if we’re not careful.

Whew!

All my life, I’ve heard about the type of revolutions that were happening in the ‘60s, how nothing was the same after that. There are endless documentaries on everything cultural that took place; Women’s Lib, Woodstock, the Civil Rights Act, the moon landing. But cultural progression isn’t something that lays stagnant for a generation or two only to launch forward on a given decade; it truly is simply ongoing. But every now and then, we reach a place in history where we find ourselves springing forward, for better or for worse, and afterward we look back in amazement of the times.

I believe we’re living one of those moments right now. And I bet I’m not alone. The real question is then: What comes next? Are things starting to simmer down, or are they just heating up?

I think about the people who experienced the ‘60s sometimes, those who remember where they were when JFK was shot, what they were doing when the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution took place which made our war with Vietnam official. And I wonder what their mindset was on these events? What was their position on theses momentous issues? What their involvement was in shaping that time?

So with that in mind, when we find ourselves, many years from now, looking back at the end of the first decade of the 21st century in the form of a PBS documentary, how exactly will we feel about our contributions when we say to ourselves, “Hey, I was there.”? I personally look forward to regaling grandchildren with my exploits someday. And I look forward to them being proud of me for my role in the times.

It would be presumptuous of me to assume that all my ideas and ideals will be shone upon positively by all in the annals of future history. But being opposed to wars that are documented to have been started for the wrong reasons, and being for the rights of an oppressed segment of the population, I feel fairly confident that I’ll have no need to be embarrassed. If looking back at the ’60s can teach us anything, I believe those are two lessons to not take for granted. So the question is: What do you think your future will hold about the current times?