A Task for the Vice President

It’s about time I give Vice President Joseph Biden, Jr. some play. The man from Scranton is now heading up a new task force focusing on issues affecting the middle class. During the campaign, some people felt throwing a bone out “exclusively” to the middle class neglected or ignored the struggles of people living in poverty. And yes, those struggles and circumstances are real in a country of means. But as the economy tanks, more and more people in the middle are finding themselves sliding down into the basket with the poor. Unemployment benefits are starting to max out certain states, and food stamp applicaitons are going up. And what about the poor? What are they sliding into…poverty? Where do you go from there?

Years ago, a former Howard University president came to my church and talked about his mother’s criticism of a speech he made in which he described his family’s circumstances as “poor.” His mother chided him – “We weren’t poor; we just didn’t have any money.”

When you have no home, no means of employment, no food, no heat in winter, you have less than no money. You have the makings for a poverty of spirit which is probably what the University professor’s mother was trying to make the distinction to her son.

The trickle down economics of the past are not working. At this point they resemble a serfdom model instead of a healthy robust citizenry. IMO, if anything has to change in these times is values. And what is the for real value of those things we’ve designated as assets. Or are they more valuable than good health, quality education, clean environment, affordable housing, healthy food, and a responsive government and supportive community. Can we make those things that nurish the body, mind, and spirit attainable and accessible?

In high school, when we “didn’t have any money,” I made a promise that I would never rent. I would own. I kept my promise. But the times were on my side and I made the sacrifice to stick around at home longer than what was then considered normal to save for a downpayment and pay off my student loan. During the real estate boom, whenever I got a property assessment on the value of my little condo (based on sales in my neighborhood), I’d just laugh and throw the assessment in the trash. I knew it was inflated profit, not the real value. However, I’m not laughing at the property taxes I’m paying on inflated values.

So I’m going to check out the VP’s task force, and the website: www.astrongemiddleclass.govwww.astrongmiddleclass.gov. And they’re taking suggestions.