Credit Debt is the Enemy of Financial Health

by Shadra Bruce

Living in debt has become the norm. Credit has involved into one of the most profitable industries in the country. Credit card companies in particular prey on those who are least likely to be able to repay their debts as well as those who feel they must have what they cannot afford.

There is no doubt that accumulating credit debt is the enemy of financial health. Creditors make it possible to live above our means, spend what we don’t have, and create an illusion of wealth.

The path to true financial health begins with seeing through the illusion of credit.

  • We have to start changing the way we look at how we accumulate stuff. We must begin changing the reality of wealth in America.
  • We can’t lease BMWs when all we can afford is Hyundais
  • We can’t buy 50-inch big screen TVs with credit cards when all we can afford is 22-inch
  • We can’t charge $8,000 vacations and hope we get them paid off before we plan the next one
  • We have to change the way we live.

erCredit debt is the enemy of financial health.

The items you have hold no value because of the money you now owe (and the interest you now pay) to have them. You might have only charged $4,000 on your credit card, but if you make minimum payments on a card with 18% interest, you will end up paying $25,010 in interest – and it will take you 40 years to do so.

It is impossible to be financially healthy when you rely on credit. The steadily increasing rate of debt is part of why we were unable to survive the housing collapse and the recession.

To truly gain financial health, credit debt can’t be a part of your life. Any purchase is less inexpensive when it is done without loans or credit, avoiding the interest rates and fees. By living within your means rather than above them, you will be in a position to create financial health.

  • Live simply
  • Live within your means
  • Barter and trade
  • Ignore marketing ploys designed to part you from your money and make you want things you don’t need
  • Work only enough to survive; thrive by volunteering, being part of your community, and encouraging sustainability
  • Get rid of the extra cars, cable subscriptions, unlimited cell phone plans, and unnecessary debt
  • Pay off your credit cards and stop using them unless you pay off immediately what you charge
  • Leave big banks and move to credit unions
  • Donate extra money to Rolling Jubilee to help others
  • Teach your children to be smart consumers and self-sufficient citizens
  • Grow as much of your own food as you possibly can

Changing the Reality of Wealth in America

by Shadra Bruce

There was a time when we thought the growth would never stop. The housing market was thriving, jobs were everywhere, and money was plentiful. Unfortunately, we forgot that the economy is cyclical, and many of us did not realize (or did not pay attention to) how precariously we were balanced on the brink of ruin.

We pushed the limits of the American Dream, convinced that we needed to own more and more, bigger and bigger.

The United States  is considered one of the richest countries in the world, but underneath that thin sheen of wealth lies a thick layer of poverty. Even those considered part of the ever-dwindling middle class often have no source of savings. The American Dream evolved from the big house and the white picket fence to a big screen television and a BMW.

We have officially reached our spending limit, and the only direction that remains is down.

It is time to wake up and see reality.

Everything happens in cycles, and we are in the midst of the biggest financial crisis that this country has experienced since the Great Depression.

As a society and as individuals, we forgot how to be frugal. We love to have, and none of what we desire was or is sustainable. Middle-class America bought more house than they could afford, and now many are stuck with homes that will never regain their value. There are difficult choices to be made.

Our resources, both natural and artificial, are exhausting themselves.

 It’s not too late.

We haven’t completely failed yet, and we still have the means to recover. The biggest change that everyone must undergo is to realize that it is not about how much you earn. You have to change your mindset, because it’s really about how much you spend.

It used to be simple to have a home, buy a car, and to buy everything that piqued your interest. Everyone had lines of credit, because we never dreamed that we wouldn’t be able to fulfill our debts. But with nothing to fall back on, things have to change.

The reality of America’s wealth is that it is incredibly superficial.

You must start by clearing away the illusions and realize that the way forward begins with being smarter with the money you have now and realizing you don’t need to have it all.

  • Live simply
  • Live within your means
  • Barter and trade
  • Ignore marketing ploys designed to part you from your money and make you want things you don’t need
  • Work only enough to survive; thrive by volunteering, being part of your community, and encouraging sustainability
  • Get rid of the extra cars, cable subscriptions, unlimited cell phone plans, and unnecessary debt
  • Pay off your credit cards and stop using them unless you pay off immediately what you charge
  • Leave big banks and move to credit unions
  • Donate extra money to Rolling Jubilee to help others
  • Teach your children to be smart consumers and self-sufficient citizens
  • Grow as much of your own food as you possibly can
 
 

 

 

The Republicans Are After Your Money, Freedom, and Dignity

Especially if you are 50 or older, make less than $506,600 per year, or female.

by Shadra Bruce

2012-repugsThe Republican Party and Tea Party have declared an all-out war on Americans. In fact, it’s a bit ironic but most of their intended policies, legislation, and tax proposals would harm their own constituents as much as it would harm those who don’t swallow what they’re trying to peddle.

The three main attacks of their war are: Medicare, Taxes, and Healthcare, otherwise known as the war against the elderly, the poor, and women. Great way to protect their patriarchal, rich-man, corporations-are-people society, but bad for America.

The War Against Senior Citizens

As if it weren’t enough that Wisconsin is attempting to disenfranchise older voters and Missouri is trying to force the aged population to pay more taxes to provide additional cuts to corporations, but the Republican/Tea Party in general has targeted senior citizens – the same group who overwhelmingly voted them into power in 2010. First, Republicans voted down the $250 to adjust for no cost of living increase. Then, they started after Medicare – you know, that “entitlement” program that Republicans detest but that working Americans paid into for 20-30 years,  making false claims about the cost of the program and the savings provided under Obama’s healthcare plan. Their newest goal is to increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 and, in bed with for-profit insurance companies who would benefit from the plan, privatize the program.

The War Against the Poor

Cain, Perry, and other Republican hopefuls are all touting their flat tax plan. But according the Tax Policy Center, the biggest losers of a flat tax plan are the poor. Once again, the burden would be squarely placed on the backs of the poorest, hardest working Americans, while the rich would – you guessed it – get richer.

“Under the flat tax, low-income households would lose because they now pay no income tax and are eligible for a refundable EITC of up to $3,370. Although the flat tax is more progressive than a VAT, it is more regressive than the current system. A flat tax would provide huge gains for high-income households, both because their marginal tax rate would fall and because they consume relatively less of their income than do low-income households. As a result, if a flat tax were to raise as much revenue as the current one, the tax burden for the middle class would have to rise.”

The War Against Women

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this one. From attempting to defund Planned Parenthood to passing “personhood” laws that take away a woman’s choice by imposing a view that women are simply storage tanks for men’s babies to simply targeting women’s healthcare with outdated ideas and laws, the Republican Party and Tea Party have created a war against women that makes me wonder how any woman could choose to remain involved in the party.

While I’ve always been liberal, believing that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – not just the elite and corporations – I’ve never leaned so far left as I do today. I’m not a Democrat; I’m an uber liberal progressive (often referred to by those scared by their absorption of Fox News as the word of their God as a pinko commie insert expletives here). I lean further and further left by the desire to balance the pendulum that is trying so hard to swing so far to the right that the America I love will soon resemble countries we more closely associate with being targets of our special brand of democratic intervention.

If you are older than 50, make less than $506,600 per year, or female you should be thinking long and hard about who you want to represent you in Congress in 2012. Because the only “people” being represented by the Republican Party have the last name Inc.

Will the Real Rick Perry Please Stand Up?

by Shadra Bruce

Rick Perry announced he was dropping his hat into the large ring of Republican presidential candidates on August 11. Since then he has worked diligently to position himself as the perfect choice for the Republican extremists, currying the favor of the Tea Party at the expense of all other Americans. But then, this is the man who, as governor of Texas, vetoed a bill that would have prevented the execution of mentally retarded inmates.

If he doesn’t care for those most marginalized citizens of his own state (preferring instead to be the governor who has presided over the largest number of executions in Texas history), why would we ever believe he would care about the populace of the United States?

At one point, Rick Perry could have probably given many Democrats a run for their money. He was initially elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1984 as a Democrat. He supported Al Gore (not George Bush) in his 1988 presidential bid, serving as his Texas campaign chair. He pushed for increased healthy funding; he increased funding for education. He actually pretended, there for a minute, that he cared for the PEOPLE (you know, those he would lead, serve, and protect as President).

What happened?

As Billie Joe Armstrong sings in “Holiday,” he found out the money was on the other side.

In 1989 Rick Perry joined the Republican Party. Perry went from the champion of health care and education to cold-hearted, counterfeit authoritarian overnight because it made not sense, but CENTS.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Perry’s entire campaign has been backed by a small group of very wealthy individuals and couples who have bought Perry’s favor with more than $37 million in donations over the last ten years. In exchange, many these donors have been granted contracts, been given tax breaks, or have been appointed to positions in the Texas government.

Are a group of elites trying to buy their way into the oval office?

Combine this with the fundamental changes Perry wants to make to the constitution – changes that shift the balance of power considerably, attack equal rights, and further benefit corporations, big business, and big oil – it is clear in my mind that Perry has been bought and paid for.

The real Rick Perry (the son of a staunch democrat and laid-back partier who could barely eek a 2.5 GPA out of his animal science degree) is now a puppet on the string of the wealthy elite who care little for anything but themselves.

As citizens, we must carefully examine Perry’s job performance as governor of Texas and weigh the risks associated with giving this man power as Commander in Chief of the United States.  He will most certainly create a country in his own image.

America’s Uninsured May Be Healthier Behind Bars

by Shadra Bruce

jailDid you read about the guy who robbed a bank so he could go to jail and get the medical care he needed? The story was covered by Diane Turbyfill of the Gaston Gazette, and every time I read about James Richard Verone, I have a hard time not crying.

What really gets me is that somebody had to do this here, in America. If this guy lived in Canada (or nearly any other truly civilized country), his medical needs would be taken care of without him having to commit a crime and go to jail to see a doctor.

The robbery was planned carefully – the man only took a dollar; enough to get arrested, but not enough to make the act a felony. He didn’t hurt anyone or carry a weapon or do anything else that would cost him too much freedom.

No, this guy did a cost-benefit analysis and decided a bit of time in jail with free medical care was less expensive than trying to pay for the care he needed. And it worked – he is in jail, has been seen by a nurse already, and is scheduled to see a doctor.

I don’t necessarily condone what this man did, but there’s a little part of me that’s saying, “Right on!” because deep down inside, I’m mad as hell that we don’t all have the health insurance we need, that health insurance is still a for-profit endeavor in this country, and that health is a benefit for the wealthy – and the lucky – only.

I wonder how long our Congress would put up with the health care system the rest of us live with if we stripped them of their precious health plan?

You see, I’m one of those people who falls through the cracks. I actively contribute to the economy, working full time, paying my ridiculously high taxes and buying locally when I can afford to.  But I’m self-employed. At last check, the cost of insuring my family would be $700-950 per month. That’s more than I can afford, but getting a corporate job with benefits wouldn’t pay as much as I can earn from home, especially when you add in commuting, care for our disabled child, and other associated costs of working outside the home.

Every time I read about Verone, I think of my dad, who is ready to retire but scared to because he doesn’t think he can afford the medical care. My dad has worked almost 45 years, 39 of it for the same company. That’s almost twice as long as any military veteran has to work to receive full medical benefits and about 30 years longer than any Congressman has to work to be pampered for life.

Right now, people in jail have access to better healthcare than most. (Apparently, the doctors think it’s a pretty good deal too). How much longer must hard-working American’s be denied at least minimal healthcare at an affordable cost, before more of us become as creative as the gentleman from North Carolina?  Unless the healthcare playing field is leveled relatively soon, I’m thinking Verone’s health plan might just catch on.

History of Nuclear Weaponry Has Us Glowing – with Anger

by Shadra Bruce

nuclearIf the US had spent half as much money taking care of its people as it did developing and testing weaponry, we wouldn’t be worried about debt ceilings and deficits and poverty right now. This is sad. Perhaps Star Trek has it right – we aren’t going to learn anything until we blow ourselves sky high and have to start over from some small camp in Minnesota.

Why Abortion Must Remain Legal and Accessible

by David and Shadra Bruce

Mike Pence is anti-womenWe have put our support behind continuing to fund Planned Parenthood, and behind defeating H.R. 3, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” Regardless of anyone’s personal views on abortion, we remain firmly on the side of not having Congress legislate morality or interfere with a woman’s right to control her own body and her own life, and that is really what this bill and many of the others the Republican led House is pushing. We support the organization Stop the War on Women.

While the Republicans have removed the components from the bill (for now) that redefine rape [due to the enormous backlash] and back-pedaled on defunding Planned Parenthood, the Republicans are systematically making calculated moves to negate women’s rights by several decades. The only reason they are attacking Planned Parenthood because of 3% of their services are related to abortions and too many people are blindly repeating the rhetoric without even thinking about what this could mean to women’s rights, equality, and body control.

We are pleased to present this guest post that talks specifically to this issue.

Guest Contributor Corey Nasman

I’ll support Planned Parenthood especially because they offer that 3% service. There are plenty of situations where people are perfectly responsible but contraception is not perfect. There are also many situations involving rape where pregnancy is a result and NO woman should be forced to carry the child of the attacker. Even in cases where people are not safe, no one should be sentenced to something they aren’t ready for.

I know of too many situations where fetuses were kept and the lack of freedom to choose (mainly from overly zealous religious families or domineering boyfriends) resulted in women’s lives being, essentially ruined. Once the sperm leaves a man’s body he relinquishes his rights to anything resulting from it, so I am a firm believer that this is a fundamental right for a woman and what I see happening in this country saddens me.

People have become obsessive and crazed over so many things that don’t concern them. If people focused more on themselves, this would be a much happier country to live in. Unfortunately, far too many take it upon themselves to dictate what is right and wrong for the whole of society based purely on a religious basis and that just isn’t fair. No one searches for understanding. I challenge you to find one woman who is happy to consider an abortion. Most are probably scared to death, but the alternative is worse regardless of circumstances. And worst yet is that a woman who does have an abortion will more than likely be labeled as careless/irresponsible/slut/murderer for the decision. Yet the guy who knocks someone up is a ‘stud’.

When you sit back and think about the difference between being a man and a woman and it’s f’ed up how men are put on pedestals and women get totally screwed, yet again, when it comes to law making, work environment, pay, etc…

In most work places if a man and a woman gave the exact same sales pitch I guarantee the man’s will be given more validity simply for the reason that he is a man. Though nothing I’ve said, as a man, will amount to a hill of beans to anyone else, I would urgently ask men to reconsider what right they have to tell a woman what she can/cannot do with her body. Boys, we already make 25-30% more than the ladies, isn’t it time we give them a break? Unless one is against women working too… If one isn’t, will one get in the picket line to get them equal pay? It may seem that I’ve gone off on a tangent, but trust me, it’s all very deeply intertwined and the way things are looking, the future doesn’t seem to bright if we continue on current trends.

Abortion is not a flippant decision or topic. The need to control women NEEDS to stop. Services provided by organizations such as planned parenthood are ABSOLUTELY necessary in this country and if a situation occurs that results in an unwanted pregnancy, and it doesn’t directly involve you or your partner, I would urge you to not take away someone else’s freedom for the sake of your own beliefs and values. And please think twice before labeling someone who has gone through an abortion. Until one has literally walked in their shoes with the same set of worries and fears in their minds, one has no right to judge. There is a serious and ever-growing need of empathy in this country.

If you are interested in contributing to Ethical Revolutionist, please contact Dave and Shadra Bruce at daveandshadra@yahoo.com

War on Education

by Shadra L. Bruce

00military-economy-x-pslweb-org1Everywhere you turn in this country, teachers are getting a bad rap. In Idaho, they’ve passed a bill to cut teachers in place of laptops and online education. In New York, school districts are slashing teachers while paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for each small town to have is own Superintendent. The story is the same everywhere you turn: teachers have a tarnished image.

Wherever you live, whether you have kids in the school systems or not, you ought to be paying attention to what is going on with the education budget. Not only does education have an impact on individual health, there is no one thing more likely to stabilize and grow the U.S. economy than a well educated, competitive work force.

No, teachers should not get to keep their jobs just because they’ve been teaching for a long time and have earned tenure (which should go away). But implementing a high-quality, standardized national education system (no, we don’t have one now) is crucial.

What we are seeing on the national level with the budget, as the conservatives choose to target those least likely to be able to protect, defend, and advocate for themselves with cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other “entitlement” programs (we should be entitled to equal access to education, healthcare, and representation), is what we are starting to see at the local school district level as well.

Superintendents and school boards are building budgets that prioritize protecting their own high salaries, perks, and benefits at the expense of those who cannot fight back: students with special needs, students who benefit from arts and music programs, and teachers who perform but don’t have tenure.

We do have to make changes. If we have to make cuts, start looking at ways districts can be more efficient. Look at ways to combine small districts together. I think most parents wouldn’t even care if transportation budgets were targeted. Ten minutes longer on the school bus would be worth having a class size of 18 instead of 40, wouldn’t it?

Even though I’m not very good at math, I can do the math here:

  • From 2001 to 2010, we spent $1,291,000,000,000 on trying to recreate the world in our image in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • We have 3,823,142 teachers in the United States. Their average annual salaries are $44,053.55.
  • If we took the $1.291 trillion dollars that we spent on war and put it into education, we could pay every teacher in the United States their full annual salary for SEVEN full years.

It is time to stop prioritizing everything but the home front and start worrying about protecting democracy here.

Religion Does Not Equal Morality

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.

by Shadra Bruce

love-1221444_1280Our daughter is a college student and a part-time employee at a fast food restaurant. While at work the other day, she and a co-worker somehow got on the subject of religion. My daughter is an atheist. She does not believe in any god; she does not go to church. When one of her co-workers heard this, he confronted her and told her that her choice was wrong, that one had to be religious in order to be moral.

We have raised our children to have open minds and to be tolerant of others no matter what kind of belief system they have. We have taught them that they need to make good choices, be honest, and treat others kindly—not because their god demands it, but because that is what human beings do. While we have not raised them with a specific religion, we have encouraged them to explore all religions and to choose a path that is most meaningful to them, and we support whatever path they choose to follow as long as they are truthful to themselves and others and treat people with decency.

Kira may not always consider herself an atheist. She is only 19. She has a lot of life experience yet to gain. Luckily, her co-worker is also young. Hopefully he will learn that people are more than their faith.

The hypocrisy of this situation is that the message of Jesus was one of tolerance. My daughter is not immoral. She does not treat people badly or judge them for having a different set of beliefs than her own. She treats people with kindness, making friends easily and helping others in times of need.

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.  I believe that this willingness to judge those who are different from ourselves is what has brought us to the point of warring against each other instead of treating each other like global neighbors. Regardless of individual belief, we are all one society of human beings, sharing one small planet.

Politics in Social Media

… we forget the rules of civil engagement when we can hide behind our screen names and computer screens and lash out.

by Shadra Bruce

facebook-1558618_1280The other day, a friend of mine posted a short message on Facebook that said simply, “Rest in Peace TK” in reference to the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. A mutual acquaintance of ours on Facebook used that message as an opportunity to respond to the comment with a politically motivated (and insulting) message about Ted Kennedy, the Kennedy family, and Democrats in general.

The general belligerence of the message resulted in this man being removed from the friend list.

I don’t have a problem with political sparring. In fact, I think it is a healthy way to prevent myself from becoming so determined to keep my own point of view that I fail to see others. I love debating issues and learning new facts while defending my own beliefs and helping others understand why I believe the way I do. I thrive on the conversations I have with friends and family, no matter how differently they believe than I do, because we are all celebrating the freedom we have as citizens of the United States to have a voice.  I will even change my opinion based on new information.

Unfortunately, the Internet, particularly social media sites, has allowed us all to become insulated from the real people that exist behind the messages and icons we all have online. We forget that the people we talk to (or have on our list of friends) are more than just their daily comments, and we forget the rules of civil engagement when we can hide behind our screen names and computer screens and lash out.

If you feel passionately about something, engage people in discussion about it; volunteer with your political party or spend time being active in your community. If you have better solutions than the ones being offered, run for office or contact your representatives and make suggestions about ways to improve society.  But we need to stop this form of online guerilla warfare, in which one sneaks in, does what damage can be done and sneaks out without any real engagement, stripping us of the ability to have meaningful dialogue about important issues.