Poverty In America

7 02 2012

 By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney made one of the dumbest and most insensitive comments that I have ever heard from an American politician since I became involved with politics:
You can choose where to focus.  You can focus on the rich; that’s not my focus.  You can focus on the very poor; that’s not my focus.  My focus is on middle-income Americans.

He went on to explain that “[w]e have a safety net for the poor.”  And “[i]f there are people that are falling through the cracks, I want to fix that.”[2]

However, the fact that America’s poorest citizens theoretically have access to food stamps, Medicaid and housing vouchers[3]—which Romney cited—does not constitute much of a “safety net” at all.  Some Americans, such as senior citizens, are too proud to accept any governmental assistance (other than Social Security and Medicare benefits) or handouts.  They have worked all of their lives; and to find themselves in poverty is embarrassing and deeply depressing.  They and others are often turned away or sanctioned by the government bureaucracy that can be brutal and cruel, especially to people who are truly in need.[4]

Those Americans who had moved into our “Middle Class” will lose their homes and everything else, which is happening already.  The idea that colleges and professional schools were guaranteed pathways to success will also evaporate.[5]  Our society and that of other countries will be upended.  And yes, there will be “class warfare,” which Barack Obama and his surrogates are fanning already.  Leave aside the fact that he will add more debt than all 43 prior presidents combined, demagoguery is in season and full swing.

When I worked in the U.S. Senate as a young lawyer with its Senate Banking Committee and later headed the Senate staff of Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass)—the first African-American in the Senate since Reconstruction following our Civil War, with Obama being the third—the senator and I met with Mitt’s father who was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (1969-1973)[6], and I was very impressed with him.  At that time, I was working on the passage and implementation of the Housing and Urban Development Acts of 1969 and 1970, which included the “Brooke Amendment” relating to public housing; and the national “Housing Allowance” program, which morphed into the Section 8 housing program that has helped millions of Americans.  The senator, George Romney and I talked about these programs at length.

On behalf of Senator Brooke, I also established a summer program for disadvantaged kids in Massachusetts, in conjunction with the Pentagon, which involved underutilized military facilities within the state (e.g., the Boston Navy Yard, Otis Air Force Base) and served approximately 100,000 kids during its first year alone.  Indeed, the senator and I traveled to Massachusetts with then-Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird in his private plane to review the program and its progress.

In making my observations, I am not singling out Mitt Romney for condemnation.  I have believed in Mitt for a long time now, and will vote for him—in no small part because I share most of his positions with respect to the economy and national security issues.  However, lots of politicians and other successful Americans are “tone deaf” when it comes to the needs of the poor.  They do not relate to them at all, and they cannot understand them.  To be poor is a sign of failure in our success-oriented and driven society.  Our advertising touts beautiful bodies and fancy cars and materialistic dreams.  In no way are the poor glorified, much less given dignity.  Shame is heaped on them, which is wrong.

When I was graduating from grade school in Los Angeles, my mother came to the ceremony in a wheelchair, and I was mortified.  No other mothers were present like that.  She had suffered the convergence of two debilitating illnesses, which robbed her of her beauty and almost killed her.  By the time that I was entering high school, her right leg had been amputated, which stopped the onslaught of what she had gone through; and during the Vietnam War, she walked with an artificial leg and was named the “Woman of the Year” by the local chapter of the Red Cross—for her outstanding volunteer work.

What all of this taught me was that her faith in God had sustained her, and given her courage, hope, joy and great love.[7]  And that stigmas and discrimination attach, especially in Southern California, to those people who are physically or mentally “challenged” or handicapped, the poor, and to those who are not “beautiful.”  Hollywood has gone nationwide and worldwide since then, with a vengeance; and life-threatening illnesses and poverty are not part of the “American dream,” which has been embraced by people globally.  As the U.S. economy declines more between now and the end of this decade—which will happen to an even greater extent in countries around the world—poverty, human suffering, misery and anger will increase dramatically.[8]

The core issues will be how Americans adjust to their poverty and hopelessness, which will be just as rampant in this decade as during the Great Depression of the last century that did not end until the onset of World War II, at the earliest.  There are no easy solutions to losing one’s job, home, car and everything else.  As State governments scramble to avoid bankruptcy, programs that might have helped the poor will no longer exist.  For example, in California, State parks are being closed; and the nightly price for staying at those that remain open equals the cost of a cheap motel already.  Where will the poor stay, especially if they have no family members who can—or are willing to—take them in?  How will they afford food to eat, and find transportation to get from one place to another (e.g., looking for work)?  When inclement weather sets in, how will they survive?

The published numbers of “poor” do not begin to tell their tragic stories; and the human suffering will increase and become unfathomable during the balance of this decade, whether Romney is president or not.  Pure economics will dictate this; and there is nothing that can be done governmentally, by any politician.[9]  And yes, many of those poor will be “middle-income Americans” or those who had been members of our Middle Class.  They will be devastated; suicides and divorces will increase[10]; and families will be torn asunder.  Mitt Romney and the wealthy of the United States—which includes Obama and most members of Congress—need to wake up now, and begin to demonstrate real compassion.  The problem is that they have no earthly idea of what it is like to be poor.

In Greece today, parents are giving away their children because they cannot afford them.  Kids are being dumped in streets or abandoned at shelters with notes attached to them, saying that one or both parents are at wits’ end.[11]  Poverty breeds inhumanity on a scale that is unknown to most Americans; and it also breeds crime (including massive Internet fraud[12]), which will increase in the United States as money for law enforcement declines and as our prisons are overcrowded and prisoners are released.  Reality is crashing down with a thud like never before in our lifetimes.

As I wrote almost three years ago:

America and other nations are in uncharted waters; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times. Also, the limits of godless secularism and paying homage to the false gods of materialism may become self-evident.[13]

The chickens are coming home to roost, in spades; and the “good times” are ending for vast numbers of Americans and their counterparts around the world.

Others will remain rich, or attain great riches[14]; and I do not begrudge it to them at all.  I do not envy or covet what another has.  I have never done so.  My parents taught me that, by their own words and actions.  In my lifetime thus far, I have had lots of money, and none.  I have friends with many millions, and one with several billions; and others who have nothing.  I have treated them all the same—with love, respect, dignity and compassion.

I lived in a tent for months at a time—with water everywhere inside it, during the rainy season—because that was all I could afford.  I have had two cars repossessed, as well as a boat.  I have been evicted; and lost my dream house, as well as most of the possessions that were important to me, including priceless family items that had been handed down over generations.  When I was in law school, I had a pair of shoes resoled so many times that I was told it could not be done anymore; and I have struggled to make ends meet for food.

I do not wish any of this on others.  However, I realize that many Americans have experienced losses, pain and suffering that are far worse than I ever have; and this is true today of people abroad who are dying of wars, diseases and malnutrition, and are being forced into slavery and prostitution.[15]  I have great faith in God, the United States, all Americans[16], and people everywhere.  I believe we will survive like my mother did.  However, we will be tested like never before.

© 2012, Timothy D. Naegele


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the United States Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass).  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates, which specializes in Banking and Financial Institutions Law, Internet Law, Litigation and other matters (see www.naegele.com and http://www.naegele.com/naegele_resume.html).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years (see, e.g.,www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles), and can be contacted directly at tdnaegele.associates@gmail.com; see also Google search:Timothy D. Naegele

[2] See http://edition.cnn.com/2012/02/02/politics/campaign-wrap/?hpt=hp_t1

[3] As discussed later in this article, “housing vouchers” are an outgrowth of the national “Housing Allowance” program that I crafted as a young attorney with the Senate Banking Committee—which was complementary to the “Brooke Amendment,” and morphed into the Section 8 housing program that has helped millions of Americans.

[4] As I have written:

[L]awyers who are prosecutors are often less interested in fairness and justice than they are in winning at all costs, and exercising their raw power and hurting others in the process—such as those who are innocent but are convicted anyway.

See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/

And I added:

A federal official with reason to know told me that between 15-20 percent of the indictees in federal courts are probably innocent.  Some are seniors who have been charged with cheating the Social Security program, and they are scared to death, so they agree to plea bargains rather than fight for their innocence.

See id. at n.8.  This is truly frightening, and cruel.  Also, those who are engaged in prosecutorial misconduct are “sheltered” by the government, which is a travesty unto itself.  Aside from any civil remedies against them, such prosecutors should be prosecuted and disbarred.

See, e.g.http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/story/2012-02-06/ted-stevens-prosecutors-justice-department/52922922/1 (“Taxpayers pay to defend prosecutors in Ted Stevens case”); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/#comment-1700 (“Perhaps the best remedy for such abuses is to have the ‘guilty’ prosecutors incarcerated; and let justice be meted out with respect to them, by those in prisons”)

[5] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/the-american-legal-system-is-broken-can-it-be-fixed/#comment-1977 (“Law School May Amount To The Worst Investment Of Her Life!”) and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/are-colleges-dinosaurs/ (“Are Colleges Dinosaurs?”) (see also the footnotes and all other comments beneath the article)

[6]  See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_W._Romney#Secretary_of_Housing_and_Urban_Development

[7] See, e.g.https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/what-and-where-is-god/ (“What And Where Is God?”) (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

[8] See, e.g., https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/the-economic-tsunami-continues-its-relentless-and-unforgiving-advance-globally/#comment-1960 (“Global Economy Could Endure Disaster For a Week”) (see also the article itself, as well as the footnotes and all of the other comments beneath it)

[9] See, e.g., http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html (“Greenspan’s Fingerprints All Over Enduring Mess”) and http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html (“Euphoria or the Obama Depression?”); see also http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/ (“Greenspan’s legacy: more suffering to come”)

[10] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2011/07/14/divorces/ (see also the footnotes and comments beneath the article)

[11] See, e.g., http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2085163/Children-dumped-streets-Greek-parents-afford-them.html (“Children ‘dumped in streets by Greek parents who can’t afford to look after them any more'”)

[12] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/lawyers-and-internet-scams/ (“Lawyers And Internet Scams”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)

[13] See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html

[14] See, e.g., http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2012/02/02/the-youngest-and-richest-people-in-america-from-mark-zuckerberg-to-sean-parker-photos.html (“The 10 Youngest Richest, From Sergey Brin to Mark Zuckerberg”)

[15] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/28/human-trafficking/ (“Human Trafficking”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)

[16] See https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/26/america-a-rich-tapestry-of-life/ (“America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life”) (see also the footnotes and all of the comments beneath the article)





America: A Rich Tapestry Of Life

26 02 2010

By Timothy D. Naegele[1]

What makes a country special and, yes, great?  Its land, its people, its history, its culture, its belief systems or its soul?  All of these, and so much more—including intangibles that most of us never think about.  The United States is that country, unlike any other on the Earth.  There is no need for Americans to flaunt it or be arrogant or condescending or aloof.  Those are not the American way.  Deep beneath the surface, there is love for people everywhere, and an appreciation of each person’s God-given gifts and uniqueness.  In a recent interview, I said:

I believe in this country, and I believe in Americans of all colors, faiths and backgrounds.  The United States is the only true melting pot in the world, with its populace representing a United Nations of the world’s peoples.  Yes, we fight and we even discriminate, but when times are tough—like after 9/11—we come together as one nation, which makes this country so great and special.  Also, all of us or our ancestors came here from somewhere else.  Even the American Indians are descended from those who crossed the Bering Strait—or the “Bering land bridge”—according to anthropologists.[2]

Most of us spend a lifetime dealing with issues and challenges that we believe, rightly or wrongly, are not of our own making; and we react accordingly.  Some are big, but most are small and petty, albeit each seems so important at the time.  For example, last night I bought a new Apple iPod on which I loaded music and other data from my laptop, but I could not find the icon on my desktop this morning.  I called Apple’s technical support line, and was routed to a fellow in India.  He was very nice and courteous, but I told him that I wanted to speak with someone in the United States.  When he said that he would let me talk with his supervisor, I thanked him but said no, and hung up and called Apple again.  The same thing happened, so I tried a third time and a very nice woman came on the line named “Abby.”  I detected a slight accent and asked where she was located, and she said the Philippines.  I thought about hanging up a third time, but decided against it.

Abby was delightful, and really tried to help.  Having been an Apple customer for about 20 years, I know how diligently she tried.  Finally, she routed me to “Amy,” who turned out to be located in Boise, Idaho.  Amy was delightful too; and we tried everything, but nothing worked because the “Made in China” iPod is apparently defective and needs to be replaced.  In the course of our discussions, I learned that Amy hailed from California, where I was born and raised.  Having had bad experiences with HP recently—where Amy’s husband has worked—in terms of its nonexistent customer support, I was pleased to tell Amy how I had gone through Apple’s ups and downs, but have been generally quite pleased with its telephone support.  It has kept me in the fold and a loyal Apple customer through thick and thin.  Something struck me in the gut though, about companies like Apple farming out calls to India, the Philippines and other countries.  It just seemed very un-patriotic.  It meant the loss of jobs that might have gone to Americans; and it was the first time that I found Apple doing it.

If I had purchased Apple stock at about $12 per share many years ago, I would have made out like a bandit.  If I had bought stock in Ford when it reached a low of $1.01 in November of 2008, which was not too long ago, I would done very well.  Ford has announced plans to hire more American workers; its new cars are great looking; and their quality is apparently superb.[3] Despite the fact that the U.S. may be in the “doldrums” for the rest of this decade, I have been pleased to tell friends and acquaintances that Ford is back, or so it seems, just like Apple came roaring back.  My first four cars were Fords, before I switched to foreign brands—with two Chevrolets thrown in—and it is nice to think about Ford once again and to have an American automaker to be proud of.  Lots of people are avoiding cars from Barack Obama’s “Government Motors” and Chrysler, and I share their views.

Whether it is a computer-related product or a car or almost anything else in life, there is a newfound pride in buying American that is surfacing in this country.  Will it result in harmful protectionism that sent the global economies into a tailspin during the 1930s?  I do not believe so because at the very least, complicated products like cars and computers often have parts that are made abroad.  However, as times get tougher, Americans and others may buy their own country’s products before turning abroad.  This is human nature; or their decisions may be dictated solely by price not sentiment.  Apple’s iPod and its computers are made in China, but even that might change—although it seems unlikely anytime soon.

In April of 2009, I wrote: “America and other nations are in uncharted waters [economically, politically, and in other ways]; and their politicians may face backlashes from disillusioned and angry constituents that are unprecedented in modern times.”[4] Even harder days are ahead, and politicians may experience electoral “bloodbaths.”  These will be years of taking stock, and of being thankful for the little things—for families and helping others.  The limits of hedonism, godless secularism, and paying homage to the false gods of materialism will become self-evident.  We may opt for simpler lives because we have to, and because we come to like and prefer a return to the basics.

When I decided that I wanted to work on Capitol Hill after spending two years in the Army, rather than rejoin a prestigious San Francisco law firm where I could make more money, I tried to get a job with then-U.S. Senator Alan Cranston from my home State of California.  To my surprise and disappointment, his staff was headed by a fellow from New York who apparently wanted to propel Cranston into the foreign policy arena, and was less interested in hiring Californians like me.  Hence, I pounded the Senate corridors and learned that then-U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke—the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War, with Barack Obama being the third—was hiring an attorney for the Senate Banking Committee.

I was hired by his chief of staff, Dr. Alton Frye, without ever having met the senator.  I was honored that a white man from California was working for a black man from Massachusetts, but that is how America works.  I went on to write the “Brooke Amendment” relating to public housing; and the national “Housing Allowance” that morphed into the Section 8 housing program, which has helped millions of Americans.  The nicest thing that some people might say about me is that I am “outspoken.”  Ed Brooke put it another way one day, when he said that I lacked “tact.”  Perhaps this is the beauty of being an American.  Each of us can speak our mind on any and every issue, without qualms about doing so.

I criticize President Obama regularly, often in scathing terms, but I almost voted for him.  Even though I disagree with almost everything he does, because I am much more conservative than he will ever be, I would prefer him any day of the week to a leader like Russia’s murderous dictator-for-life Putin.[5] Perhaps I will never forget the way Obama wrote lovingly about his mother and his maternal grandparents, “Toot” and “Gramps,” in his book “Dreams from My Father.”[6] Yet, after working in Washington, D.C. for 21 years nonstop, the one lesson I learned is that government does not work; and the Obama presidency is a shining example of that.  Only the Pentagon—where I spent two years as an Army Officer—and our military are remotely efficient and effective.  The rest of government is a vast “wasteland,”  even though there are good people working at all levels of government.

America is magnificent geographically, whether one thinks about the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite and other breathtaking parks, or its deserts, mountains, lakes, inland waterways and coastlines.  Its metropolitan areas are unparalleled, be it New York City or San Francisco, or thousands of cities and towns in between.  Its people are like a rainbow, with diversity undergirding all.  Its culture is rich because of the many cultures that have been blended into the American experience, which is unique in all the world.  Its belief systems are as varied as there are colors in the rainbow.  And its soul . . . ah yes, its soul . . . embraces the souls of more than 300 million people, woven together into a rich tapestry of life.

When we have decisions to make or feel that we are being called in a particular direction, our strength comes in putting our faith in God within and trusting the guidance we receive through prayer, intuition or love.  As individuals and as a country, we walk by faith not by sight.  Yes, America is great . . . from sea to shining sea—and deep in the Pacific where volcanic peaks of the Hawaiian Islands loom, and in the majestic northernmost reaches of Alaska’s tundra, and in the azure Caribbean too.  God blessed us beyond belief, although we take it for granted much of the time.  Everyone does.  This is human nature.  After all, we are not perfect.  Neither is America.  Only God is.[7]

© 2010, Timothy D. Naegele

Statue of Liberty


[1] Timothy D. Naegele was counsel to the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, and chief of staff to Presidential Medal of Freedom and Congressional Gold Medal recipient and former U.S. Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass), the first black senator since Reconstruction after the U.S. Civil War.  He practices law in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles with his firm, Timothy D. Naegele & Associates (www.naegele.com).  He has an undergraduate degree in economics from UCLA, as well as two law degrees from the School of Law (Boalt Hall), University of California, Berkeley, and from Georgetown University.  He is a member of the District of Columbia and California bars.  He served as a Captain in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon, where he received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.  Mr. Naegele is an Independent politically; and he is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Law, and Who’s Who in Finance and Business. He has written extensively over the years.  See, e.g.www.naegele.com/whats_new.html#articles

[2] See http://www.philstockworld.com/2009/10/11/greenspan’s-legacy-more-suffering-to-come/ and http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/2951-ilene/31177-interview-with-timothy-d-naegele

[3] See, e.g., http://finance.yahoo.com/q/hp?s=F&a=00&b=3&c=2008&d=01&e=2&f=2010&g=m; see also http://www.ford.com/about-ford/news-announcements/press-releases/press-releases-detail/pr-ford-kicks-off-2010-with-24-31945 and http://online.wsj.com/mdc/public/page/2_3022-autosales.html#autosalesE

[4] See http://www.realclearpolitics.com/news/tms/politics/2009/Apr/08/euphoria_or_the_obama_depression_.html; see also http://www.americanbanker.com/issues/173_212/-365185-1.html

[5] Compare https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/the-end-of-barack-obama/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/19/emp-attack-only-30-million-americans-survive/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/01/barack-obama-america’s-second-emperor/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/26/obama-in-afghanistan-doomed-from-the-start/ and https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/ with https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/russias-putin-is-a-killer/

[6] See Obama, “Dreams from My Father” (paperback “Revised Edition,” published by Three Rivers Press, 2004), pp. xii (“[S]he was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and . . . what is best in me I owe to her”), 89 (“[Toot and Gramps] had sacrificed again and again for me.  They had poured all their lingering hopes into my success.  Never had they given me reason to doubt their love; I doubted if they ever would”), 343 (“I looked out the window, thinking about my mother, Toot, and Gramps, and how grateful I was to them—for who they were. . . .”); see also https://naegeleblog.wordpress.com/2009/12/05/is-barack-obama-a-racist/

[7] Some years ago, I had a law student from UCLA who worked for me as a law clerk doing research and legal writing.  He made a small mistake in a brief, but one that I considered important.  I jumped all over him.  He had worked in Saudi Arabia as an engineer before coming to law school; and he stopped me, and asked if I knew how the Saudis made Oriental rugs.

Some were made by hand and others by machines, he said, but in every case there was an intentional mistake inserted somewhere in each rug.  He asked if I knew why, and I said no.  He said the Saudis believed that only Allah—or God—is perfect; and of course I believed that too.  Since then, when I have jumped all over myself for making mistakes, or thought about criticizing others, I have recalled his story.  None of us are perfect.  Only God is.