The power of media

I will preface this by saying that I am not a Miami Heat fan, I do not have a favorite NBA team just love watching it and following certain athletes. Two players I rather enjoy watching are Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. I don’t care about their lives off the court as so many do, but they are two of the best players in the world. Most people, even avid basketball fans, have an opinion of these two based on how the media talks about them. I avoid reading or watching any basketball analysis after a Heat game, because the media covers it in such extremes.  When they win, everyone loves them and talks about when they both are at the top of their game, they should never lose.  When they lose, their off the court habits get discussed, their perceived lack of commitment gets discussed, and you would think they are the two worst people in the world on and off the court.

This media dance has made these two of the most hated athletes in the world.  The fact that the greatest player ever only won 6 championships despite playing 15 seasons in the NBA.  I know six is a lot, but if the greatest player ever could not win every year, neither can Lebron and Wade.  I am not defending either of them, but want to make a larger point about the media and how it dictates our thinking.

The same concept translates to politics and the news media.  The lack of unbiased reporting has contributed mightily to the political divide of this country.  We have the extremes like Fox News for the right and MSNBC for the left. CNN has extremes within its own host.  What none of these stations offer is an unbiased viewpoint on any issue.  Everything is to the extreme one way or the other and there is no middle ground.  When our media is that extreme, the truth often gets shaded to make their viewpoint more appealing to their audience which gets them bigger ratings.  The end result is a divided country whose views are to the extremes with no middle ground, and yet we wonder why our politicians can’t get anything done.

I think the biggest way to have an informed country is for more unbiased media.  We need to have the issues discussed with no bias, and then let the people make the decisions for themselves.  As of now, the extremes in our media already dictate where people stand.  Let’s remove the bias from both sides and let people make their own conclusions.


Are career politicians the problem?

One think I enjoy doing in debating.  Politics, sports, food, anything really is fair game for a debate in my book.  This weekend as I had another “discussion” on Facebook, whose views are often at the other end of the spectrum, we had a rare moment of having something in common. Term Limits.  As we went back and forth about over two days and a range of topics from size of government, racist history of political parties, government programs versus private sector programs we had nothing in common.  Which is not unusual.  That all changed though when we got on the topic of politicians representing this country correctly.

One of my big issues with politicians, is that today’s political leaders seemed to have forgotten the most important piece about governing the country.  That they represent the people who voted them in and not their own self interests. Nothing seems to happen in Washington these days, because a line has been drawn in the sand and neither party is willing to cross that line to get anything done.  They seem to have forgotten history, where people could reach across the aisle and do what is right for the country. Republicans like to tout Ronald Reagan, but seem to forget that he publicly admitted the need to compromise for the good of the country.

Why has this become a problem? There could be many reasons, but to me a glaring issue is career politicians. Without term limits, elected officials with standing virtually have a career locked down.  So much about election success is name recognition and fundraising. Current Congressperson and Senators have the name recognition when it comes to ballot days.  Also, because they have already worked with the various industries on a many different pieces of legislation, they also will have the inside track on fundraising.  This makes it nearly impossible for challengers to be successful at the polls.  Career politicians have become comfortable, the position is no longer about representing the people, instead it has become about their own self interests.

To me the solution to this is term limits.  We need people in office who will always represent the interest of the people, and eliminating career politicians is a clear solution to me.  Surprisingly enough, it was also a solution of my conservative friend. Will politicians ever go for it, no.  But if enough of us from all political view points can begin pushing this, at some point they will have to listen. However, if we continue to be afraid to speak up, because we fear debate or open discussion about real solutions to our problems nothing will change.

When we open ourselves up to debate and discussion, we will be surprised at how much we can agree on ways to change the system for the better.

Amendment One: The Morning After

This morning as I woke up and put my plan in place to get some work done and visit my son in the hospital, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Since I moved to NC I have often be proud of the state, but last night was not one of them.  I will never understand why we had to go over and beyond what was already illegal.  Gay marriage was already illegal according to the state constitution.  Why did we have to go over and beyond that.  Is there that much hatred towards our gay brothers and sisters, that we had to go so far to discriminate against them?  Is the hatred so much that we needed to harm straight couples who don’t believe in marriage, or weaken protections for victims of domestic violence who aren’t married, or potentially harm children of unmarried couples.

That is what makes this so hard for me.  The state didn’t just further prevent gay marriage, instead it stripped the rights of tens of hundreds of people and children in the state.  I can’t imagine what it must feel like for any of those impacted to wake up this morning and know that over 1 million people in their home state voted against them and their rights.  How do we explain to our children that hatred won out?  How can we expect our future generations to not be driven by hate, if we can’t lead by example.  North Carolina had another chance to lead the south by example, only this time we failed.  I hope every couple gay and straight, and their children will take solace in the fact that over 800,000 people stood with them, and that they do have support here.  I hope that those same couples who live in other states, who once considered moving here, will not be discouraged and change their minds, and realize that there are people here who will stand and fight with them.  I hope that the coalition of people who stood together to fight this hateful amendment will continue to work together to keep the fight going, and show those impacted that we love and support them and will stand with them to the end.

The quote that I live my life by forbids me from believing that hate will win out in the end.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why I oppose Amendment One

I know it has been a long while since I wrote a post.  My last post gave some insight to what is going on in my life that has kept me from blogging.  However, as I sit here this morning trying to mentally prepare for my son to have his sixth surgery in under six months, I believe this is an issue that I must write about.

While I know that this amendment is about more than gay marriage, despite what supporters want you to think.  That is what I want to focus on.  I can’t bring myself to believe that supporters of this amendment really want to prevent children from healthcare, or protect people from domestic violence, or discriminate against their straight brothers and sisters who believe in relationships not defined by marriage. Instead, this amendment is rooted in hatred of people who love differently from what society deems as normal.

I was raised in what most Christians would say was a good Christian home.  My parents were loving parents who were fundamental Baptists and took the King James Version as the only true Bible.  The churches we attended were always very conservative in their politics and anything that strayed from the teachings of the Bible were not looked at favorably.  One result of that was being raised in a very homophobic environment.  Until I went to college, I never had any real interactions with the gay community.  My only view on the situation was that they were sinners destined for hell unless they changed their immoral lifestyles.

It wasn’t until college, when I made friends with people who were not anti-gay, and friends with people who were gay, that my view began to change.  I started to see that they were no different from me other than who they chose to love. The big lesson I learned though, was that I had no reason to hate them, and that who they loved had no impact on who I wanted to love.  My love for my girlfriend was in no way diminished by their love.  One friend in particular, Jason Willis, was very passionate with his boyfriend at the time, and that passion was no different from the passion I wanted in my relationship.  Other than the fact the he was with a man and I wanted to be with a woman, we were no different.  Those nights of hanging with him and his significant other and our mutual friend Terica West changed my perspective on the whole situation.

Fast forward to today.  I am married with three children and in no way feel threatened by gay marriage.  Even if this amendment was only about gay marriage (which it isn’t), I would still oppose it.  My marriage is in no way threatened by gay marriage, I don’t believe the sanctity of my marriage changes one bit.

Even though I do not attend church on a regular basis, I still am a Christian.  I don’t understand how my other Christian brothers and sisters who speak about loving their neighbor as themselves, or who talk about the love Jesus showed for everyone, could support this.  I will not believe for one second that Jesus’ message of love included stripping the rights of people we are supposed to love.  How can people see the love of Christ in us when we want to take away their rights and attack them for who they love.  I don’t think we can.  And I don’t think one can preach about the love of Christ, while demonstrating hate at the same time.

This is simply about love versus hate.  I for one stand for love and hope that others including my fellow Christians will stand for love. If we truly want to carry out the love of Jesus, we can’t vote for hate.

Is simply being angry enough

Unless you live under a rock you know about the Occupy Wall Street movement that is spreading from Manhattan to cities across the country.  This weekend there were events in Raleigh and Charlotte this weekend.  What is clear from these events is that people are angry.  Not just about banks, but many other issues facing our country.  But is simply being angry enough?

As a former organizer and still an activist, it fires me up to see so many people fired up and hitting the streets.  I worry though is being angry and hitting the streets enough? I’ve always believed in organizing with a purpose and not just organizing to organize.  I fear that some of what is driving this Occupy Wall Street is organizing to organize.  Every serious organizing movement in this country was about more than just being angry, it was being angry with a purpose.

I am not sure if this current movement is going to go anywhere or gain any victories without a purpose to the marches. As more groups and people join the movement, I hope that some organization comes to the movement. I would hate to see the masses of people who are hitting the street to go to waste. Let’s be angry with a purpose and not just angry to be angry.

Policies to Help Address Income Inequality

This is an article I wrote that originally appeared on PolicyMic. It was part of a debate about Income Inequality in this country.  You can read the other side of the debate here.

With the recent news that the poverty numbers in this country have risen, combined with earlier reports of a widening wealth gap, it is clear that we have an issue with income inequality in this country.

Some will argue that the income inequality is overstated. Others will say that policies designed to minimize the inequality do the exact opposite and negatively impact the poor. However, the real problem is a lack of both financial literacy and the right policies. While income inequality is a product of our system and will always be here, if we couple financial literacy with good policy, then the impact of this inequality can be minimized and have a positive impact on the poor.

The widening wealth gap and the poverty numbers are enough evidence to show that income inequality in this county is not overstated. I want to focus on the policies that are designed to minimize their impact. I will admit that every policy may not be a good thing, while others are debatable. For example, I don’t think the government should be in the business of supplying cell phones, and policies like the minimum wage are debatable.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax credit for low-income families that was enacted in 1975. In a nutshell, this is a program that is designed to incentivize work. It accomplishes this by decreasing the tax burden on wages and also serving as an income supplement through the refundable portion.

Recent numbers show that this program pumped nearly $59 billion back into the economy through low-income families. Even with the poverty numbers rising, the numbers would beeven worse without the EITC. This program is further enhanced by 23 states that have varying state versions of the credit, meant to increase the positive impact on low-income families.

While this program has been proven to help people stay above the poverty line, it also shows a glaring weakness in the system. Simply providing an incentive to work through refundable tax credits is not enough. A glaring problem in this country is the lack of financial literacy. The lack of literacy can also be felt in our housing crisis. Families looking to purchase homes compensated for their lack of financial wherewithal by trusting brokers to help them wade the waters. These brokers were focused on their bottom line and not on educating the borrower. This led to loan steering into sub-prime mortgages, because once the loan closed, the broker was off the hook.

An increased investment in financial literacy would have not only helped in avoiding the sub prime crisis, it would also help make successful programs like the EITC even better. The credit maxes out at $5,666, and for a low-wage worker, that is more than they bring home in several months. With little emphasis on financial literacy, it is unrealistic for us to expect every dollar to be spent wisely. However, with a greater emphasis on financial education, families could learn how to better utilize these dollars to minimize the impact of their lack of income.

In North Carolina, the state version of the EITC came under attack during the budget debates. However, even Republican house members had a hard time advocating for the elimination of the refundable portion of the credit, because they had to admit it was an incentive to work. Even those that think eliminating the wage floor and paying lower wages to increase employment would benefit from a program like this as an additional incentive for people to accept these lower wage jobs. I am still not advocating for eliminating the minimum wage but instead want to show the versatility of good policy designed to help the poor.

One thing that all sides of this debate can agree on is that there is income inequality in this country. Even if one side will not admit it, the wealth and poverty numbers support the fact that this inequality is real and not overstated. The fact is that income inequality will always be here and is a product of the capitalistic nature of our society. Even with some questionable programs out there, policies are needed to help limit the impact of the earning disparities that exist.

The EITC is an example of good policy that helps disprove the theory that policies designed to minimize the impact of wealth disparity hurt the poor. When we incorporate financial literacy with programs like the EITC, we won’t eliminate income inequality, but we can help to minimize the impact on low-income workers.

In the Heat of the Night: NC Begins Assault on Gay Rights

Update: 9/13/11 – Senate passes it as well 30-16


I have previously written about the possibility of NC succumbing to southern peer pressure on same-sex marriage.  Well the process is off to a good start for supporters of the constitutional amendment. In a move that will surely upset opponents of this, about 5 hours after the bill was introduced it had passed the house by a vote of  75-42.  It now heads to the senate where passage is a little harder to determine.  While there is support in the senate the question is whether they have enough votes to get it through.

The real tricks in the night are about how they got the votes in the house.  This bill would make the constitutional amendment a ballot initiative and let the NC voters determine its fate.  They wanted to get support from some house democrats and so they made a slight change in the details.  Some of the house democrats supported the measure, but thought that putting on the November 2012 ballot, was a way to increase voter turnout in a presidential race for conservative republicans.  State republicans though, know it was less about voter turnout in a presidential election and more about pushing same-sex couples out of this state.  So they gladly moved it to the May primary ballot, which got them enough support from house democrats.

The majority of people voting in the May primary will be republicans since they are the only ones with a contested race.  This move virtually guarantees that the ballot initiative will get the votes it needs.  Pending what happens in the senate, opponents are going to have to do GOTV efforts to people who would not ordinarily vote in the May primaries to push this back.  It was a sneaky move done in the night hours.

You already know my feelings on the issue of same-sex marriages, so I won’t go into those details again.  But for a state with high unemployment this is a great way to welcome new people and businesses to our state.  Go ahead and tell the gay community they are not welcome in this state.  Don’t move here, don’t spend money here, don’t open a business here, don’t raise children here because you are not welcome.  Also, what a great way to show support for those already living here.  What message are you sending them?  You can live here and spend money here, but we won’t allow you the same rights as others.

Sad day for the state of North Carolina!