Friday, August 15, 2008

Fault Lines

My thinking on something in the news, along with the program on Oprah today really has my mind in a whirl.

The Oprah show today was about poverty in America. She had Anderson Cooper as her special guest, along with video segments featuring Maria Schriver among others and the video segments were with people who are down and out, destitute in the land many regard as the
"Land of Plenty."

Many people living in the poorest town in America -and now, I can't for the life of me remember the name of the place, but it is about 70 miles from Chicago, don't even have the barest of necessities -running water in their homes. The village is too poor to get their water and sewage lines installed and/or upgraded. The monthly income some people in this town are living on is well below the national poverty standard -WELL BELOW! One lady can't afford the fees to tap into the water and sewage lines, which would cost her about $5,000. With what her income was, it would take her years and years to save that amount of money, assuming she even had an income high enough to allow for even $5 to $10 a month in savings.

Most of these people had been working before -some even owned homes -but because of a sudden illness, accident, death, they found themselves unable to keep up with the costs of rent/mortgage, utilities, gas and the other items that go along with renting or owning a home or apartment.

And then, following the Oprah on the news was a broadcast on the news following Oprah about the hardship currently being experienced by Ed McMahon in his struggle to stave off foreclosure of his six-bedroom home in Beverly Hills. However, the report stated that it looks like Donald Trump is going to come forward and be Ed McMahon's benefactor by purchasing the house and then, renting it to Ed and his wife.

A deal in the ballpark of $4.8 million dollars.

Now, it's not that I am so cold and callous -unfeeling, not sympathetic -about the bind Mr. McMahon has found himself to be in -not at all. I do feel terrible about all the many people who are currently facing foreclosure these days. Well, for the most part anyway.

According to the news reports, Mr. McMahon was unable to make his monthly payments after suffering a neck injury about 18 months ago which kept him from earning money for doing commercials.

Somewhere in all this mess -between poor people unable to find a decent job, housing that is affordable, to feed their families and this one man who surely had to have made a very substantial income over the years he worked as Johnny Carson's sidekick on the Tonight show, who has done commercial after commercial too before his run on the Tonight show ended and since then -I see gross incongruity here.

Because of his celebrity status, Mr. McMahon gets a favor from "The Donald." So he can continue to live in the lap of luxury. Meanwhile how many millions of people in this country can pay their monthly bills and still be able to buy food -or medicine?

If you or I have a mortgage -or we rent a house or apartment -and find ourselves unable to afford the bills associated with that housing on our income, we would be advised to downsize. Sell the house and get something smaller or move to a less expensive apartment. Right?

I understand the housing market today as far as real estate sales is concerned is down and not just a little, but a whole lot. So, if you have a house with a mortgage you are no longer able to make the payments on, the idea of selling to get out from under that expense can be a daunting one because for openers, you are still expected (you are LIABLE) for the mortgage payment until said property is disposed of to another individual.

And then, did you know if you do sell -or dispose of a property, taking a loss on it -you end up owing the federal government taxes on what amounts to being the difference between the amount owed and the amount the property sells for. Somehow, this seems grossly unfair to me too but what the hell do I know. Economics was my absolute worst subject in college.

I do feel sorry that Mr. McMahon has got himself in this tight spot -really I do. But somehow the amount of sympathy or pity I may feel for him is tempered a bit -okay, probably a lot -by the fact that he no doubt is able to collect social security and surely he had a retirement plan through NBC in place during all those years he worked with Johnny Carson, don't ya think?

Someone -a former classmate of mine -once told me that my problem with work and making a decent wage was that I didn't look hard enough, didn't wait for the best paying job to come my way but instead, took the first job that was offered to me. To some extent, that was true but gee, with the job market what it is here -and has been for many years -I might still be waiting for the "best job offer" to come along if I hadn't jumped at the job offered to me as a waitress 28 plus years ago! My kids would have long since starved by now and even though I didn't have a mortgage at that time, I could just as easily lost my home for non-payment of taxes way back then.

I've had lots of people criticize me because I have nothing save my social security check for my income now -no retirement or IRA checks coming in monthly here. Why is that? Mainly because most of the jobs I had over the past 28 years didn't offer any type of retirement plan you could buy into and the one job I did have that had an IRA available, well I had to cash that in when I was diagnosed with cancer in order to qualify for a medical assistance card at that time. Why did I need a medical card? Didn't I have the foresight to have a health insurance policy of my own? Who the heck can afford to buy their own health insurance when you income is unemployment insurance or for those in worse straits, having no income at all coming in to the home.?

My thoughts on these two issues is that Mr. McMahon try to downsize his spending to live within his means on the social security and the retirement funds I am assuming he can collect. And then, tell "The Donald" to take his money and put it to work to help lift some of the people out of the destitution they are living in.

Heck, between Mr. Trump, Oprah, Dr. Phil and a couple of the mega rock stars who do all these big benefits to raise money, couldn't they toss in a million or so, along with donations and at least install water and sewage lines for the people in that little town in Illinois?

Or is that a socialistic idea? Or am I just another bleeding heart dumbass liberal?

But somehow, thinking about the news report and the segments shown on Oprah today, the difference between the halves and have nots is way, way too wide so much so that the old expression of "Pull yourself up by the bootstraps" loses any meaning completely for many people in our society today.

Ok, that's my rant for today. Maybe even for the month, who knows. So go ahead now -take your best shots at what I've said but in doing so, please think about how easily a little disaster could come along and find you in the same boat as some of the people shown on the Oprah show. And, tell me too, what your solution would be while you're at it.


Palm Springs Savant said...

Well you do have some good points here. I remember when I lived in NYC and Chicago, back when I didn't have two nickels to rub together. I was working, but only just covering all the bills. I would routinely meet all kinds of poor people in the city, and would try to give a dollar here and there, when I could. I quickly learned that I couldn't help all the homeless and poor. I also distinctly remember the realization, years later that while there was a lot of good things I could do, I'd never make enough of a difference-there would always still be poor people. I was deflated. I still donate and do things today, but with the understanding that there will always be "the haves" and the "have nots", all relative too. So Ed McMahon or the homeless guy in the subway,they're both have nots...strange, isn't it?

Hammer said...

Excellent post.

Mcmahon had invested his entire fortune into that home and it's renovation..which was a good decision at the time... when the market went belly up and he broke his neck and couldn't work for nearly two years it threw him for a loop. McMahon has done a lot of good work for charities and has donated millions of dollars and countless hours for the sick and poor. So I am glad Trump helped him out.

Oprah failed to mention that the city offered to put those people on the water and sewage system several times since 1968 but each time the residents refused because they didn't want to pay the monthly bills and opted for their wells and septic tanks instead.

Now that they have let their wells and septics rot due to lack of maintenence it's now societies fault they made greedy and short sighted decisions for all these years.

Sandi McBride said...

Okay, I'm telling you if Ed McMahon hadn't been so busy marrying all those young money grubbing women young enough to be his granddaughters, he wouldn't be paying out so much in alimony...I have no sympathy for him whatsoever...and yes, it does look like Oprah could have found the wherewithal to help these people get hooked up to water and sewage...I hate that show on Sunday about the home makeovers with Ty Pennington for one reason...who is going to pay the taxes on these huge houses they build with all the fancy stuff like swimming pools and game rooms fit for a saudi prince? Because you know the value of the houses are more than quadrupled after they leave and of course taxes go up...I'd like to know how many people still have those homes today or did they lose them to the tax man? Okay, my rant is got my blood stirred up girlfriend!

Anonymous said...

the name of the town is hopkins park IL, which is near kankakee IL