Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Do They Call a President Who Happens to be Black? If You Are Fox News You Call Him a "Ghetto Crackhead"

FromWe Are Respectable Negroes:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011
What Do They Call a President Who Happens to be Black? If You Are Fox News You Call Him a "Ghetto Crackhead"

Malcolm X famously asked, "what do you call an educated negro with a B.A. or an M.A., with a B.S., or a PhD?" The answer? "You call him a nigger, because that is what the white man calls him, a nigger."

Decades later, his wisdom endures.

Malcolm's observation captures the pain experienced by many African Americans, when during their coming of age moment (either before or after the talk about how not to get shot by the police during a routine traffic stop), they realize that being "young, gifted, and black" is not, all things being equal, sufficient for success in America. Malcolm's words also capture the sentiments felt by any black person whose confidence has been described by their managers or peers as "threatening" or "arrogant."

His wisdom also explains the moment when black professors walk into a room for the first time and their students look at each other in shock, wondering if this teacher is "qualified" to teach them; Malcolm's wit also captures the frustration and insult felt by any black or brown person who has been presumptively assumed to be a janitor, maintenance worker, or mail clerk at their job, when in fact, their titles are actually "manager," "director," or "vice president."

Malcolm's comment on the arrogance of white racism also speaks to collective memory: it conjures up family stories of men and women trained as doctors, engineers, and lawyers, but who had to work as Pullman Car porters, maids, and home health attendants because Jim and Jane Crow America was by definition, a system designed to choke out the social and economic mobility of the African American community. Both then and now, white racism does the work of class inequality.


It is a given that Fox News has no love for President Obama. To point, on the Hannity show last week (and without retraction or apology after the fact), Eric Bolling described President Barack Obama, "as a skinny, ghetto, crackhead."

This moment was an object lesson on the white racial frame in action, and the truth of Brother Malcolm's deep understanding of the pathologies of white racism, where any black person, however accomplished, intelligent, and gifted, is de facto seen as "less than," a "nigger," as a person who is not equal to even the most mediocre and lowest of white people.

Black people and black humanity are forever suspect, under watch, and viewed as less than by many in White America. To the white gaze channeled by Eric Bolling, we are perpetual criminals, deviants, over-sexed, libidinous, dangerous, and pathological. These sentiments are a function of the "wages of whiteness," the psychological investment in white supremacy, and white superiority, spoken to perhaps most famously by W.E.B. DuBois more than a century ago.


My surprise at the claim that President Obama shares anything in common with a "skinny, ghetto, crackhead" is rooted in its absurdity. Obama is human. He is imperfect. I often disagree with his politics. Obama is a man. He is nothing more, nothing less. But a crackhead? Impulsive drug user? A hype? Nope. Not ever. Obama's personhood and habitus, his relaxed and effortless black cool pose (even if some do not possess the cultural framework and lens necessary to perceive it) is obvious--and unapologetic.

The inability by some on the Right to see Obama's full and dignified black humanity, as opposed to a default of black drug use, criminality, and omnipresent, irrepressible "niggerdom," is the source of my hurt. I must ask: If the white conservative imagination can frame a man of Obama's abilities, poise, intelligence, genius, life accomplishments, and talent as a skinny, ghetto, crackhead, how do they see the rest of us?

And we wonder why the colorline persists.

Read the entire article at the link above.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why I Despise Modern Black Culture #951

That's the nicest way that I could put it. Had to delete the original title.

I don't want to make this a 'why I hate being Black' rant... but i'll just remind people again that Cosby was right.

The results of Black social & moral degeneration keep piling up.
The Mall of America was trashed this week by thugs who started a brawl that took an hour and dozens of police officers to bring under control. Reportedly the urban terrorists were in a frenzy over rappers. Huh?

Zombies also started riots across the Country during a stupid shoe promotion. These people can spend in the neighborhood of $200 for a ------- pair of shoes and can camp out at 3 or 4am but many are SOME of the same jackasses who won't spend money to buy a book, refuse to show that kind of dedication when it comes to maintaining a job, and won't spend the money for the basic necessities for their children (authorities have to go looking for them for child support). But a stupid pair of shoes... made overseas by other poor people? No problem. The irony there is hard to miss.

Why is it that so many of the mores associated with strong families, & strong communities seem to be situated almost in reverse order in Black society? The lower rate of marriage, the rate of children out of wedlock, the importance of education not as valued, the more knuckle-headed, thuggish & criminalistic a man is... the more value he has as a partner and member of the community... black women (very large portion.... not all) desire them even more. The values are backwards. This race for material possessions over making sure souls, minds and children have what they really need is beyond bizarre, especially during an economic slump that is hitting minorities the hardest.

25-30 years ago I can recall how youth culture was dominated by who had the top name brands. I bought into that nonsense for a couple of years (didn't know any better), especially when I was in middle school. But luckily I got rid of that curse by the time I was 14 years old. As I got older, my original feelings/instincts began to take hold again - the feeling that this brand worship and idiocy from Hip Hop culture didn't make any sense to me. I allowed peer pressure and the need to fit in to stop me from being who I really was. I got rid of that poison along with Rap culture.

These folks are lost sheep. And they make every aspect of life harder for those who look like them.

This stuff drives me crazy.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Our President and First Lady of the United States give a holiday greeting and show appreciation for the troops and their families

From all the bloggers here at MOA...


I hope you're spending a wonderful day with family and friends.

A few of my favorite Christmas videos.

Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How Do You Maintain Your Manhood and Dignity While Living Underemployed?

Another rejection letter came in the mail today. This one from a local government agency, for a job only requiring a High School diploma. I am already doing more challenging and stressful work in my current position. Yet, someone couldn't see my potential worth. While in the lobby area waiting to be interviewed for the position, I can recall sitting across from a scruffy white male wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans (at an interview). He was competing for the same position. I cannot help but think that the job went to a less qualified candidate. The rejection letter before that came from a major University in St. Louis. I won’t name the University…but I will say that it is the oldest Catholic University west of the Mississippi river. Again, I applied and was interviewed for a position that only required a High School diploma. The pay was very modest…but was a little more than I what currently earn, and it would have allowed me to tackle student loan debt and stay above water. Just as important, the job would have provided excellent benefits. Earning less than what I consider to be a livable wage and having no real health benefits (my plan basically only covers checkups) I thought this position would be a step up.

Despite nailing the interview and being well qualified for the position, management went with a less qualified candidate. When I called to follow up with the HR representative, I wasn’t told that I was not among the most qualified - she admitted that there was no way that she could tell me that. I have an advanced degree and almost twenty years of experience in the field applied for, with roles ranging from line employee, trainer, and supervisor. Instead I was told that I “was not the best fit”. Not the best fit? I am not used to the code language that has emerged since the economy tanked. I thought to myself, what in the world does that mean? Unbeknownst to the HR representative and the interview panel I had a source inside the department who was able to confirm that the people they hire pretty much had qualifications well below my own. I took this as a sign that it was not meant to be. I resolved that if they aren’t able to see the worth in a good applicant, then it was probably not the best place for me.

This is a situation that has replayed itself at least half a dozen times since the Spring of 2011. I have gotten these for years, but lately, as my job search has intensified, so have the rejections. The rejection letters seem to come by the bucket load, sometimes several a day. So I am used to it at this point. But the stress of it all has reached levels that I could not have imagined 10 years ago. I am not sure what role, if any, race may be playing in my struggle to find meaningful employment, but I suspect being a Black American male plays some role. It definitely isn’t an asset, just as in other parts of my life. Never has been an asset. I see it as a hindrance in many situations - social and professional. But I am also one who believes that hard work, education and a good work history should overcome all those barriers. I hate to use race as an excuse, although the numbers on minority unemployment and under-employment are real and consistent. Instead I have been looking at other things that may be the cause of so much difficulty.

Despite being a strong-willed, hard working, go-getter since the age of sixteen, I have recently hit a brick wall. I realize that even a hard working, go-getter spirit has its limits and can only take you so far in an economy like this one. I have been chronically under-employed for several years, but I have never dealt with the kind of adversity that has come my way recently. My student loan debt has skyrocketed to at least $75,000 (more by now with interest) and the creditors want their money. I have no way to pay them, although I have a desire to pay…and I am someone who has always paid his debts. Add to that, there have been major staff shake-ups at work. I have survived the ax so far, but my position is not as secure as it was before. Far from lazy… I landed my first job days after my 16th birthday in a Federal government Summer work program when I lived in Europe. I have worked continuously for the past 20 years. I toiled for years working full-time while going to college, taking classes both full-time and part time. I am used to taking care of my financial obligations. So this experience is wrecking my psyche. Not having a good family bond or support network has made things even worse.

Over the past few months I have hit bottom. I’m not talking about a normal case of reckoning. I’m talking about hitting bottom like the Will Smith character in the film ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’, based on the life of Chris Gardner. I have had my subway station bathroom moment, although I am not homeless. The fear and hopelessness…the idea that I have run out of options, having no idea what to do next and what will come next… I have punched walls, fallen to my knees and had that same kind of moment. For a strong man who is used to finding solutions to problems, it has been strange being on the side where solutions aren’t always available. I have stared death in the face a couple of times in my life. Survived abuse in my youth. I can recall going to bed cold and hungry in my early childhood, and not having a competent sober mother to take care of me. Survived an experience with a kidnapper - successfully talking him out of getting rid or me - and had at least one other close brush with death in my lifetime. But I can honestly say, the past several years, particularly the last three, have been the worst years of my life.

Being under-employed for so long has had a negative impact on every aspect of my life. I have become even more withdrawn from family and from life for that matter. I was always the withdrawn family member… but I have added more layers to my shell. I haven’t spoken to my brother since September 12th, 2001, and have not seen him in 19 years. I have two sisters who I have not seen or spoken to in at least four years. There is a step mother (only surviving person besides my grandmother, who has taken any part in raising me) who I have not seen or heard from in years. And my grandmother… the woman who basically raised me until age 11, I haven’t seen since approximately 2004. I rarely see my own relatives right here in my home town of St. Louis. Part of this has to do with the fact that my relationship with family is dysfunctional, and I have a job that does not afford me the opportunity to get time off for myself. But a large part of it has to do with shame. I am ashamed that I have not succeeded in accomplishing most of my life goals and I don’t have a successful career. I am ashamed and embarrassed to the point where I have begun to hate myself and hate to see my reflection in the mirror everyday. My step-mother and other relatives came to visit other family members in St. Louis over the past July 4th Holiday…and I did not go to see them (relatives who I have not seen in years) because I was too ashamed. I did not want them to see me this way. I did not want them to see the under-employed failure. I did not want them to know that I had not moved on from the same crappy job that I had the last time they saw me. I am the only one out of four children who went to college after high school and the only one so far with degrees. I expected to be a success story at this point in my life… a positive example to others in the family. But I have even failed at that. It turns out, I am doing no better financially than they are. In fact, a few are doing better than me. I used to preach the importance of education to my two younger siblings, and now I feel like a fool.

Being under-employed has challenged my life in other ways. It has made me feel less than a man. During the recent Arab Spring protests… the common theme among young men being interviewed seemed to be a sense of profound hopelessness, a struggle with poverty, the lack of employment opportunities for college graduates and the inability to find a partner and start a family as a result. Basically their lives were on hold….frozen as they sought work, leaving them unable to enjoy the rites of passage of manhood. I found myself empathizing with that sentiment. For much of the past decade, my life has been on hold for many of the same reasons. I have been unable to step into my manhood. Being under-employed has meant that dating, finding a suitable mate and starting a family have not been options for me. I have not had a date in over eight years, nor have I sought one. I had never dated before that. I just don’t see any point in even trying to enjoy that part of life because my financial situation creates so many limitations. The kind of partner that I want would require a man who is more financially secure.

The inability to claim my manhood, enjoy dating and build a family in my prime years is probably the hardest thing that I am dealing with at the moment. I get a sick feeling in my stomach whenever I see men in their mid to late 30’s out with their beautiful families. It makes me sick because a part of me wants what they have, but it is out of reach for me. I cannot have what they have. I know that I am not likely to ever find a partner and start a family because soon I will be too old for even child bearing partners once I enter my 40’s, (something that will happen in just a few short years).

For men, under-employment also has a negative impact on intimacy. At least this has been the case for me. Intimacy is something that I have never been able to experience. This is another part of manhood that I have not been able to claim. At age 38, I have never asked a woman out… because I never saw any point in doing so. Rejection fears aside, I have always understood that even if she says yes… my financial position would only allow me to carry things so far. I am old fashioned in the sense that I believe lives of men should be built in a certain order - high school, college, job/career, financial security and stability, date, get married/engaged/or at least maintain a long term responsible relationship, then build a family. Things just have to go in that order. As I mentioned, under-employment and unemployment strikes a blow to every aspect of life, especially for men. It prevents you from developing the kinds of social circles that you want (which often lead to finding partners). It limits the kind of networking that you can do. It ultimately limits your dating options…. All of the things important to manhood are negatively affected.

This is why economic downturns hit men much harder than women. As a man, your whole identity and sense of manhood are tied so closely to your ability to provide financially. Men are so often judged and measured by what they do for a living. A man’s worth is tied directly to what he earns and how he earns it. When women are searching for a mate, the ability to provide is among the top two or three issues on her list…. That is the case for the vast majority of women. Those who tell you otherwise are probably lying to you. So men face unbelievable pressure to earn money at a certain basic level. The provider role is part of the male dna…and if you can’t do it, then you are considered less than a man. It is part of manhood in the same way that the ability to bear and raise children is part of womanhood. When women are unable to have children, there is a tremendous feeling of emptiness, hopelessness and worthlessness that some feel, because they cannot carry out this basic human role. The hopelessness and worthlessness is similar for men who are unable to step into their manhood and take on their role as provider. I would even say that in some cases, the struggles are even harder for men. In many cases, our self-worth is literally tied to what we do for a living and what we earn. Few women will want to deal with a man who lacks a certain level of income and who cannot provide enough to build and sustain a family. Certainly few quality women will want to deal with a man like that. It doesn’t matter how good the guy may be in terms of character… most women put job/career/earnings…looks and superficial trappings above the character of a man… unfortunately.

Women judge a man’s worth by what he earns. I’ll just be blunt here - women generally date for money and they like to date up. This is not true for every woman…but this is the case for a large portion of women. This is an unfortunate truth about American society…and to a large degree…Western society. If you don’t earn a certain income you are often considered a loser. The income to be considered a “good man” is probably in the vicinity of 45-50k. Who knows the what cutoff is.... The point is, if you don’t meet that cutoff, you are not considered a viable, marriageable mate. This is the world I am forced to navigate through….a society full of superficial relationships, Hollywood weddings, and women who are a reflection of the shallow, meaningless culture in which we live. And I hate every minute of it. My hopes for the future have been scaled back quite a bit. I now realize that a wife and family, or even a normal relationship, will probably not be a part of the picture, at least not anytime soon. Unless I can build a middle class life for myself, my dreams will have to wait, and they will probably die when I die. I may not necessarily want to get married anytime soon. What eats at me is the fact that I don’t have the option to explore marriage and family because of financial limitations & the lack of adequate employment.

Kate Bolick, the author of the Atlantic magazine article “All The Single Ladies“, basically describes men who are in their 30’s and still single, and those who have fallen on hard times, as unmarriageable leftovers. They are the men that she encourages women not to “settle” for. Her idea of a “good man” or a “marriageable” man is one who’s worth is quantified almost exclusively in financial terms. For many women, character doesn’t seem to be on the same terms as money or class status when they are sizing up potential mates (this may partially explain why most women are notoriously bad when it comes to judging character...and often end up w/ bad men). Men impacted by the economy are seen in her eyes as losers…despite the fact that a good match may be found among men who are underemployed or temporarily unemployed, many through no fault of their own. This is something I see with most women… the tendency to measure a man’s worth in terms of economic status. Bolick goes on to actually make some good points on how cultural changes have altered gender roles and marriage in American society. Since there is more economic parity between the genders, women don’t have to marry men for economic security, and women don’t have the same need to marry up. This is probably true in some cases, but even women who are financially independent tend to want men who earn more money. The ‘marrying up’ idea didn’t die over the past few decades as women have seen their fortunes rise. Women who have their own careers at least want a financial equal. One would think that more economic parity would make it easier for men to date and marry, but that hasn’t been what I have seen.

Dating for men is more complicated than ever. With incomes rising for women and stagnating for men, it is harder to meet financial expectations. The pressures on men have gone up, not down. Men now have to earn more money to match what women earn. A decent job 20 years ago, earning 30-35k with decent health benefits would probably be enough to meet the “good man“ standard. That is not necessarily the case today. Women (generally) look down on the idea of marrying or dating someone who earns less than they do. In fact, they often look down on the men themselves….not just the idea of dating a man earning less. They don’t see it as a situation where they are dating a “good man”, they see it as compromising and in their minds “settling”. They also call it “dating down” or “marrying down”. Again the context in which many women make dating decisions so often seems to be a financial context. Men tend to be completely different in that realm… Personally, I would be looking for someone beautiful inside and out, someone comforting & pleasant to be around, someone considerate, someone who isn’t completely vain, someone with brains, and someone who would make a good life partner and a good mother to my offspring. It’s just that simple for me. No financial deal breakers… no financial minimums.

I wish I lived in times that were less complicated, and where relationships with the opposite sex were built on love, trust, companionship, and character. Dating today is mainly class based, with larger barriers between levels as you move up. With a working class income, I am locked out of middle class & upper middle class social circles, and that includes dating. American life is starting to resemble the social systems in parts of the developing world such as the caste system in India, where social mobility is very difficult and people are relegated to certain socio-economic groups. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly nothing wrong with the working class, but such circumstances mean that dating options are extremely limited.

Needless to say my quality of life has been dismal. There have been many instances where I just wanted to give up. Sleep is a luxury - I usually get two, maybe three hours of sleep at a time. I wake up several times during the night and struggle to get back to sleep. I’m constantly worried about what the next day will bring… what will happen at the crappy job…what bill will arrive that I can’t pay… or what kind of catastrophe will come out of Washington DC…which politician will screw up today. My view of life, my country and the world has changed profoundly over the past few years. I no longer believe in “The American Dream” as it was packaged and sold to me earlier in life. It’s a fairy tale at best. I once believed that through hard work you could achieve anything and you could be successful. But no one told me about all the other variables involved for which you have no control. No one told me about the big role that luck plays in turning “The Dream” into reality. No one told me about the role of family legacy in reaching success… how some people are able to benefit from their family’s economic and social position and how the playing field of life is not the same for everyone. Somehow all of that was left out of the “American Dream” storyfairy tale. And like most Americans, I became conditioned and fell for the notion that “The American Dream” was something obtainable, as long as I kept up my end of the deal. I was basically sold a lie. I also no longer believe in the value of a college education. Unless you can afford to attend an Ivy League University, or unless you are studying medicine or law, then it may not be worth it.

In terms of career and financial security, we are supposed to do better than our parents. At least this is what we are told. But I am doing far worse than my father when he was my age, and he never graduated from high school. How can that be? I am worse off even with a Masters degree. I’m sure that part of the reason has to do with my father’s tenacity. I got my go-getter spirit from him. He left school at eighteen to join the U.S. Army in the mid 1960’s, during the Vietnam War. He would later earn his G.E.D. He became an Army Ranger, was a door gunner, and jumped out of helicopters in Vietnam, surviving two tours. By the time he reached my age, he was a drill sergeant and was just about to meet his second wife. He built a life for himself and his family through the military - a route that he said he took, so that his children wouldn’t have to. At least two of his children didn't listen...since I have a brother and baby sister who entered the military. But how could it be that I am having a more difficult time? Certainly I should have more options. Carrying tens of thousands in student loan debt and having nothing to show for it has caused me to doubt and second guess all of the decisions I made regarding my education. I think I am beyond doubting. I think I am flirting with regret at this point. With a Master’s degree, I should be earning at least 45k, but instead I earn what a high school graduate earns. I don’t even earn 30k. I feel like a piece of  s--- every single day. I am not the only one in my age group who feels that they won’t have a better life than their parents. Fifty five percent of respondents in an April 2011 Gallup poll believed that it was unlikely that their standard of living would be better than that of their parents.

Some of my co-workers believe that having college degrees and a good work history means that job hunting should be easy. But there are tons of people in my hometown of St. Louis who have BA’s and Master's degrees who are waiting tables. St. Louis is a great town, but there is very little industry here. St. Louis met the same fate that Detroit and other industrial cities have met. In fact, St. Louis was once the second Motor City in the nation, behind only Detroit, and was a defense industry behemoth. This is the city that produced the F-4, F-18, the legendary F-15, the nations first "Air Force One" planes, and played a key role in the Manhattan Project. But over the past 20 years or so, St. Louis has seen the loss of over a half dozen Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies and the loss of corporate headquarters including TWA, McDonnell-Douglass and Anheuser-Busch to name a few. There are just not as many options for College graduates today as there were in the past. This is a situation playing out all over the Country.

So how does a man maintain his manhood and dignity while living under-employed, especially when manhood and dignity are tied to “work“ and being the provider? How do you do it when unemployed for that matter? I don’t know. I have not found the answer. I have not been able to claim my dignity in the way that I should and I certainly have not been able to claim my manhood. But I believe in picking myself up and dusting myself off no matter how many times I get knocked down. Keeping myself busy seems to be an effective way to cope. You have to find what works for you.


Changing strategy.

I have focused my job search primarily on government positions. I would like to work in the Federal government, or for a State government in the area of administrative (internal) security, investigations, probation/parole, inspections/compliance, entry level management, FBI analyst, background investigator, security specialist, public policy analyst, DHS analyst… etc. However, I would be willing to work in some parts of the private sector as well, for colleges & Universities, for defense contractors, or for law firms as a legal/investigative assistant.

If you aren’t familiar with the federal hiring system, it is a dismal failure and can be a huge waste of time. Has anyone tried using USAjobs lately? Good luck with that. The federal employment system is not a system that recruits and develops new talent very effectively. In fact, little time and effort is directed towards hiring, training, and developing college graduates who have no prior federal work experience. Instead, the federal government tends to recycle current and former federal workers. If you don’t have federal work experience, and you don’t know someone within the federal government who can make something happen for you, it is extremely difficult to even get an interview for a federal position. Veterans are placed in line ahead of other applicants, regardless of qualifications. I believe Veterans should be rewarded for their service, but I also believe I should be able to compete as well. There should be a fairer way to recruit.

The other problem that I am encountering is increased competition because of the economic situation. Federal and State agencies are dealing with a glut of applications from people who have seen their private sector jobs disappear during the recession. Many of those resume’s are more impressive, because of the experience factor. A federal hiring manager will always choose someone who was a CEO or middle manager over someone with less experience. Education is also an issue. There is a sort of classism in higher education that has developed in this Country. Not surprising in this status driven society, but troubling nonetheless if you are a recent college grad trying to figure out why you are not even being called for an interview. If federal hiring managers have a choice between someone from Harvard, Yale or Princeton, and someone like me from a non Ivy League institution… well, I will always lose that battle. The federal government also lacks entry-level developmental programs, where you could receive training for your first six months or first year. Out of 800-1000 applications that I have submitted in the last few years, my positive response rate has been less than 1%. In other words, it has been a frustrating waste of time.

I am now directing my efforts towards networking. A large portion of people who have been able to find quality work during this economic crisis have done so through networking, not through traditional job searches. I will try to make good use of connections that I have allowed to go dormant. I will also try to post my resume and sign up for a LinkedIn account. Another strategy that I began to use over the past year or so has been to apply for jobs far below my abilities, but so far that has not worked as I had hoped. In this case, I have been told that removing educational achievements might help. I am also about a year and a half away from earning another Master’s degree. Six months from earning a graduate certificate. I am hoping that a combination of these new approaches will yield better results in the coming new year. Failure is not an option.

This is the original, full version of my commentary for The Good Men Project. See the edited version at GMP. Also see the twitter trackbacks. Noticed a few errors in the GMP article. Most are a result of the editing process. 

Related Links 

John Stossel’s 20/20 report on the worth of a college education. 
MSNBC Dylan Ratigan report on job prospects for college graduates 
BBC report on The American Dream 
Guardian report on the death of the American Dream 
Atlantic Magazine article “All The Single Ladies” by Kate Bolick 

The Payroll Tax and the GOP

I found this over at

What Does $40 Mean To You:

Tell us what $40 per paycheck would mean for you and your family. What would you have to give up? We'll highlight your stories publicly so that they're part of the debate here in Washington.

If Congress fails to extend the payroll tax cut, the typical family making $50,000 a year will have about $40 less to spend or save with each paycheck. Over the year, that adds up to about $1,000.

Opponents of the payroll tax cut dismiss its impact by insisting $40 isn’t a lot of money, but that’s not the case for many families who are already working hard to make ends meet. Forty dollars buys a tank of gas or a fridge and pantry full of groceries. It covers a water bill or the cost of a prescription.


More ways you can tell Washington what $40 a week means to you

Use the hashtag #40dollars on Twitter. Tweet Your Message

There are several ways you can send a message on Facebook:

•Update your status with a message that explains what $40 a week means to you.
•Share your message to the White House Facebook page.
Post a video response explaining what $40 a week means to you and your family with the title "This is what $40 means to me"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The New Portrait of the First Family

The New Official Portrait of the First Family, taken by Pete Souza

President Obama and Mrs. Obama Welcome Home The Troops

hat tips-The Obama Diary, 3CHICSPOLITICO:

The President and First Lady welcome home the troops at Ft. Bragg.

President Obama and the First Lady Speak to Troops at Fort Bragg

Christmas in Washington 2011

US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and their daughters, Sasha (2nd L) and Malia (2nd R), after Obama spoke during the taping of "Christmas in Washington," at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC, December 11, 2011. The show, hosted by Conan O'Brien, features performances and appearances by Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, Jennifer Hudson, Victoria Justice and The Band Perry and airs on television December 16.
-----SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Les McCann, Michael Kiwanuka, & J. Blackfoot (RIP)

RIP John Colbert (J. Blackfoot) 1946-2011

Sounds from Mixcloud

Part of my rotation lately...

Still Around

Going through trials and tribulations at the moment.... (have been for the past year) and not doing well... so I have not had the time to do much writing at all. I have also had a lot of trouble concentrating & focusing - vital if you want to write something coherent.

In the new year I hope to do more personal and creative writing. I also want to have more of my writing I will be submitting more work to other websites and publications.

I also want to completely revamp the blog. Have wanted to do this for a couple of years... but I can't afford it. I want to put this on the level of our friends over at JJP or the Blacksnob. I want a more pro look/feel. The kind of upgrades I want (including possibly leaving blogspot...although id like to find a way to work within it) would probably set me back at least $300-$500 (minimum).

I hate not being able to do something because of money.

But i'm always looking to do something better with this experiment. Can't believe I have been doing this for 6 yrs. Luckily other bloggers/writers have been able to help... otherwise there would be nothing but cobwebs here. I appreciate every post.

Sums It Up

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping you up to speed on Voter Suppression 2012

These videos are all about GOP Voter Suppression.

From PoliticusUSA:

Keith Olbermann Tears ‘Fascist Bastard’ Scott Walker A New One

On his Worst Persons segment, Keith Olbermann called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a “fascist bastard” for suppressing the vote of citizens of his state under the guise of fighting voter fraud

Olbermann told the story of 84 year old Ruthelle Frank who won’t be able to vote for the first time since 1948 due to Scott Walker’s voter ID law. Olbermann said, “So even though Miss Frank has a certificate of baptism and her Social Security card, she cannot get one of those new state issued IDs that was foisted on Wisconsin by that fascist bastard Scott Walker, and the criminal gang put in control of the state by the blood money of the Kochs. The register of deeds in Wisconsin does have a record of her birth, but her maiden name was misspelled by the doctor in 1927. So to get an actual birth certificate so she can her Walker approved identity papers, she has to petition the court to get the mistake made in 1927 corrected in 2011. Total cost could easily exceed two hundred dollars. To prevent the almost non-existent crime of voting when you’re not supposed to, two hundred dollars to get an ID for a woman who has voted in every election since 1948. And before you say well, that’s asinine, but that’s just one woman, one study estimates that there are 177,399 residents 65 and older who don’t not have state ID in Wisconsin alone.”

Rev. Al has spent the week on voter suppression.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rev. Al speaks with the head of the League of Women Voters in Florida, which has suspended voter registration in that state because of the new Voter Suppression laws enacted there.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Oldest Woman in Osawatomie: Obama Visit Fulfilled Dream



Oldest Woman in Osawatomie: Obama Visit Fulfilled Dream

Ruth Wench was 2 when Teddy Roosevelt rolled into this rural prairie town in 1910, and she hadn’t seen a president in the flesh in the 100 years since. But today, with President Obama’s visit here, the oldest woman in Osawatomie had her dream fulfilled.

“It was very important and exciting to me of course to see one alive,” said Wench, a retired African-American school teacher who has spent the past two decades volunteering as a foster grandparent for elementary school children in Osawatomie. (Her great-granddaughter says she’s the oldest foster grandparent in the United States)

“I’ve seen pictures and TV of course, but to see one who has much interest in middle-class people in little Osawatomie. That God impressed on him to come to Osawatomie and encourage us –” She was speechless.

Donning a white head-wrap and pink nursing home vest, Wench clutched a soft-cover copy of “Dreams of My Father” – Obama’s memoir – that had been wrapped in a ragged plastic bag as she craned her neck to see the president through the crowd.

As Obama spoke about fairness and equal opportunity, she nodded in agreement, gingerly applauding with the crowd. And after the speech, she still nodded, slowly and steadily in continued approval.

“He was very encouraging to me and Osawatomie,” Wench said. “I learned a lot about him and the importance of smaller communities to him and that education and the need for cooperation by all of us to work together.”

Wench said even though she hasn’t always been a Democrat – “That’s a long time to be of either kind of party” – she does hope to cast a ballot for Obama next fall.

“If I’m still alive, I will,” she said.

103-yr-old Ruth Wrench Hears President Obama's Speech

2012 Hanukkah at the White House

hat tip-The Obama Diary:

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive for a Hanukkah reception on December 8, 2011 in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington.
--- MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

2012 Hanukkah at the White House

The crookedness in the Michigan Emergency Managers Law

In case you didn't know, the Governor of Michigan and the crazy GOP there has instituted the ' Emergency Managers' Law. Basically, it strips the citizens of Michigan of the right to have their own locally elected governments.

Keith Owens has been reporting on the happenings in Michigan. Here is his latest on what the Governor is trying to do:‘Helpful’ Republican Gov. Rick Snyder eyeing Detroit for holiday meal.

The blogger Eclectablog has been doing a yoeman's job covering this story also.

December 3, 2011
Emergency Manager near for Inkster. With Detroit and Inkster, OVER HALF of Michigan blacks disenfranchised.
Lost in the media hubub regarding the possibility that Detroit may be put under the control of an Emergency Manager (EM) was related news about Inkster, Michigan. I reported in October and then again in November that Inkster is on a glide path toward a take over by an EM. The penultimate step toward that final outcome was taken this week as Governor Snyder established a team to review Inkster's finances.

The state took a big step today towards making Inkster the next Michigan city to fall under the oversight of an emergency manager.

Governor Snyder has appointed a seven-member review team to delve deep into Inkster’s city finances. A preliminary review has already found the city is in ‘probable financial stress’.

The city has struggled to deal with a multi-million dollar deficit. This week, the city laid off 20 percent of its police officers and the police chief announced he’s leaving too.

If the review team finds Inkster is facing a ‘financial emergency’, the governor may appoint an emergency manager to solve the problem.

Emergency managers are already in place in Flint, Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools.

If Inkster and Detroit are added to the list, the chart from my previous post will look like this:

City Population % African American # of African Americans
Benton Harbor 10,038 89.2% 8,954
Detroit 713,777 82.7% 590,294
Ecorse 9,512 46.4% 4,414
Flint 102,434 56.6% 57,978
Inkster 25,369 73.2% 18,570
Pontiac 59,515 52.1% 31,007
Total 711,217
[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Again, Michigan had 9,883,640 residents in 2010, 14.2% of whom were African Americans for a total of 1,403,477. With the addition of Detroit and Inkster, the percentage of African Americans in Michigan without representative local government will be 50.7%.

Over half.

Both Rachel Maddow and Ed Schultz have done pieces recently on the happenings in Michigan.

Rachel Maddow's segment, which she calls the most underreported story of the year.

I still believe the story of Michigan's Emergency Manager law -- of what's being done to democracy in the name of fixing Detroit and Flint and Pontiac and Inkster and Benton Harbor -- I still believe that this could be the most important and under-covered story of the year. I know my colleague Ed Schultz feels the same way.

It's because along with the national story of Republican legislators making it harder to vote in this country, Republican lawmakers in Michigan have declared that your local vote could be rendered moot if your town falls on hard enough times.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The President's Interview on 60 Minutes

hat tip-The Obama Diary:

60 Minutes Part 1

60 Minutes Part 2

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

'The Obama Doctrine'? - The President's Speech in Kansas Today

The President gave a speech today in Osawatomie, Kansas about Economic Philosophy....

"Look at the Statistics" : Obama Lays Down Marker On Income Inequality


Good afternoon. I want to start by thanking a few of the folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor of Osawatomie, Phil Dudley; your superintendent, Gary French; the principal of Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam. And I’ve brought your former governor, who’s now doing an outstanding job as our Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius.

It is great to be back in the state of Kansas. As many of you know, I’ve got roots here. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Obamas of Osawatomie. Actually, I like to say that I got my name from my father, but I got my accent – and my values – from my mother. She was born in Wichita. Her mother grew up in Augusta. And her father was from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep.

My grandparents served during World War II -- he as a soldier in Patton’s Army, she as a worker on a bomber assembly line. Together, they shared the optimism of a nation that triumphed over a Depression and fascism. They believed in an America where hard work paid off, responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried -- no matter who you were, where you came from, or how you started out.

These values gave rise to the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known. It was here, in America, that the most productive workers and innovative companies turned out the best products on Earth, and every American shared in that pride and success -- from those in executive suites to middle management to those on the factory floor. If you gave it your all, you’d take enough home to raise your family, send your kids to school, have your health care covered, and put a little away for retirement.

Today, we are still home to the world’s most productive workers and innovative companies. But for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefitted from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and investments than ever before. But everyone else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t – and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up.

For many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over the harsh realities of this new economy. But in 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or sometimes even understand them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets – and huge bonuses – made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t have the authority to look at all.

It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with irresponsibility across the system. And it plunged our economy and the world into a crisis from which we are still fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs, homes, and the basic security of millions – innocent, hard-working Americans who had met their responsibilities, but were still left holding the bag.

Ever since, there has been a raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness. Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements – from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it’s been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.

But this isn’t just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.

Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.

Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.

You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: would we settle for a country where most of the new railroads and factories were controlled by a few giant monopolies that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the privileged few? Because some people thought massive inequality and exploitation was just the price of progress.

Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know is true today: that the free market is the greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.

But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free license to take whatever you want from whoever you can. It only works when there are rules of the road to ensure that competition is fair, open, and honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies to compete for customers with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children, or selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.

In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and laid out his vision for what he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said, “…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy…of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him.”

For this, Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist. But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.

Today, over one hundred years later, our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and made it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.

Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas, where the workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100, so that layoffs were too often permanent, not just a temporary part of the business cycle. These changes didn’t just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession replaced by ATMs or the internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to countries like China and India. And if you’re someone whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer when it comes to asking for better wages and benefits – especially since fewer Americans today are part of a union.

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.

It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.

Remember that in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history, and what did they get us? The slowest job growth in half a century. Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the investments that built this country and provided the basic security that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class – things like education and infrastructure; science and technology; Medicare and Social Security.

Remember that in those years, thanks to some of the same folks who are running Congress now, we had weak regulation and little oversight, and what did that get us? Insurance companies that jacked up people’s premiums with impunity, and denied care to the patients who were sick. Mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes they couldn’t afford. A financial sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.

We simply cannot return to this brand of your-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country. We know that it doesn’t result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little in its people and its future. It doesn’t result in a prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.

Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average income of the top one percent has gone up by more than 250%, to $1.2 million per year. For the top one hundredth of one percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her workers now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade, the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about six percent.

This kind of inequality – a level we haven’t seen since the Great Depression – hurts us all. When middle-class families can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are selling, it drags down the entire economy, from top to bottom. America was built on the idea of broad-based prosperity – that’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars they made. It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.

Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. And it leaves everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is rigged against them – that our elected representatives aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans.

More fundamentally, this kind of gaping inequality gives lie to the promise at the very heart of America: that this is the place where you can make it if you try. We tell people that in this country, even if you’re born with nothing, hard work can get you into the middle class; and that your children will have the chance to do even better than you. That’s why immigrants from around the world flocked to our shores.

And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class.

It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It’s wrong. It flies in the face of everything we stand for.

Fortunately, that’s not a future we have to accept. Because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country – a view that’s truer to our history; a vision that’s been embraced by people of both parties for more than two hundred years.

It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.

So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s economy?

It starts by making sure that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is, we’ll never be able to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting their businesses pay the lowest wages or pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win – and shouldn’t want to win. Those countries don’t have a strong middle-class. They don’t have our standard of living.

The race we want to win – the race we can win – is a race to the top; the race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers; the most advanced transportation and communication; the strongest commitment to research and technology.

The world is shifting to an innovation economy. And no one does innovation better than America. No one has better colleges and universities. No one has a greater diversity of talent and ingenuity. No one’s workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or daring. The things that have always been our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of this moment.

But we need to meet the moment. We need to up our game. And we need to remember that we can only do that together.

It starts by making education a national mission – government and businesses; parents and citizens. In this economy, a higher education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a college degree or more is about half the national average. Their income is twice as high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. We shouldn’t be laying off good teachers right now – we should be hiring them. We shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools – we should be demanding more. We shouldn’t be making it harder to afford college – we should be a country where everyone has the chance to go.

In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to science, research, and the next generation of high-tech manufacturing. Our factories and their workers shouldn’t be idle. We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and training at community colleges, so they can learn to make wind turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries. And by the way – if we don’t have an economy built on bubbles and financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate towards careers in banking and finance. Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of those young people in science and engineering. This country shouldn’t be known for bad debt and phony profits. We should be known for creating and selling products all over the world that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.

Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers, and communicate with the rest of the world. That’s why the over one million construction workers who lost their jobs when the housing market collapsed shouldn’t be sitting at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and bridges; laying down faster railroads and broadband; modernizing our schools – all the things other countries are already doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their shores.

Yes, businesses, not government, will always be the primary generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we have always come together, through our government, to help create the conditions where both workers and businesses can succeed. Historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt worked with Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II, including my grandfather, the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. It was Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas, who started the interstate highway system and doubled-down on science and research to stay ahead of the Soviets.

Of course, those productive investments cost money. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking everyone to do their fair share. If we had unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we’d never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values. We have to make choices.

Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law, and proposed trillions more – including reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid.

But in order to actually close the deficit and get our fiscal house in order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Most immediately, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. If we don’t do that, 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000, and it would badly weaken our recovery.

But in the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make the investments we need in things like education, and research, and high-tech manufacturing? Or do we want to keep in place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we can’t afford to do both. That’s not politics. That’s just math.

So far, most of the Republicans in Washington have refused, under any circumstances, to ask the wealthiest Americans to go the same tax rates they were paying when Bill Clinton was president.

Now, keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early 50s, when the top tax rate was over 90%. This isn't even like the early 80s, when it was about 70%. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than you, millions of middle-class households. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent.

This is the height of unfairness. It is wrong that in the United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or a construction worker who earns $50,000 should pay a higher tax rate than somebody pulling in $50 million. It is wrong for Warren Buffett’s secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. And he agrees with me. So do most Americans – Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success possible.

This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get to the middle class, and the economy as a whole.

Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. As infuriating as it was for all of us, we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full blown financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this country.

But part of the deal was that we would not go back to business as usual. That’s why last year we put in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial sector on this core purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing to millions of families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college. We’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us every inch of the way. But already, some of these reforms are being implemented. If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you’ll have to write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes. There are also limits on the size of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle a firm that goes under. The new law bans banks from making risky bets with their customers’ deposits, and takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive salaries.

All that is being put in place as we speak. Now, unless you’re a financial institution whose business model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers, or making risky bets that could damage the entire economy, you have nothing to fear from these new rules. My grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life, and I know that the vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals want to do right by their customers. They want to have rules in place that don’t put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing. And yet, Republicans in Congress are already fighting as hard as they can to make sure these rules aren’t enforced.

I’ll give you one example. For the first time in history, the reform we passed puts in place a consumer watchdog who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage of by mortgage lenders, payday lenders or debt collectors. The man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former Attorney General of Ohio who has the support of most Attorneys General, both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country.

But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anyone here think the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Of course not. Every day we go without a consumer watchdog in place is another day when a student, or a senior citizen, or member of our Armed Forces could be tricked into a loan they can’t afford – something that happens all the time. Financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it is to look out for them. I intend to make sure they do, and I will veto any effort to delay, defund, or dismantle the new rules we put in place.

We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening them. Here’s another example. Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll be calling for legislation that makes these penalties count – so that firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of doing business.

The fact is, this crisis has left a deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close that deficit. At minimum, they should be remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis, and working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their house. The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who have yet to benefit from historically low interest rates. And they should recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the broader economy, they will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest.

Investing in things like education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure everybody follows the rules. That’s what will transform our economy. That’s what will grow our middle class again. In the end, rebuilding this economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see the stake we have in each other’s success. And it will require all of us to take some responsibility to that success.

It will require parents to get more involved in their children’s education, students to study harder, and some workers to start studying all over again. It will require greater responsibility from homeowners to not take out mortgages they can’t afford, and remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

It will require those of us in public service to make government more efficient, effective, and responsive to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting programs we don’t need, to pay for those we do. That’s why we’ve made hundreds of regulatory reforms that will save businesses billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just throwing money at education, but challenging schools to come up with the most innovative reforms and the best results.

And it will require American business leaders to understand that their obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel put it best: “There’s another obligation I feel personally,” he said, “given that everything I’ve achieved in my career and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment climate provided by…the United States.”

This broader obligation can take different forms. At a time when the cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States – not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the country that made their business and their personal success possible.

I think about the Big Three Auto companies who, during recent negotiations, agreed to create more jobs and cars in America; who decided to give bonuses, not just to their executives, but to all their employees – so that everyone was invested in the company’s success.

I think about a company based in Warroad, Minnesota called Marvin Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s competitors closed dozens of plants and let go hundreds of workers. But Marvin didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand or so employees. In fact, they’ve only laid off workers once in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even kept his eight employees during the Depression.

When times get tough, the workers agree to give up some perks and pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said, “You can’t grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood – and that’s the skills and experience your workforce delivers.” For the CEO, it’s about the community: “These are people we went to school with,” he said. “We go to church with them. We see them in the same restaurant. Indeed, a lot of us have married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere. But we are in Warroad.”

That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the greatest nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest companies understand. Our success has never just been about survival of the fittest. It’s been about building a nation where we’re all better off. We pull together, we pitch in, and we do our part, believing that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; and that our children will inherit a nation where those values live on.

And it is that belief that rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie – maybe even some of your ancestors – on a rain-soaked day more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on buggy, bicycle, onfoot, they came to hear the vision of a man who loved this country, and was determined to perfect it.

“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common interests are as broad as the continent.” In the final years of his life, Roosevelt took that same message all across this country, from tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing that no matter where he went, or who he was talking to, all would benefit from a country in which everyone gets a fair chance.

Well into our third century as a nation, we have grown and changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster. The playing field is larger. The challenges are more complex.

But what hasn’t changed – what can never change – are the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the words of the man who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago, “The fundamental rule in our national life – the rule which underlies all others – is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.”

I believe America is on its way up. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

2011 Kennedy Center Honors

The 2011 Kennedy Center Honors took place this past weekend. The Honorees for 2011 are: Broadway actress Barbara Cook, singer and songwriter Neil Diamond, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, jazz musician Sonny Rollins and actress Meryl Streep. CBS will broadcast the program on Dec. 27th, 9:00-11:00 PM ET/PT.

US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrive in the East Room of the White House to attend a reception for Kennedy Center Honorees in Washington, DC, on December 4, 2011.
----- JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The First Lady is wearing Vera Wang.