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The GOP Tax Plan

It’s a tax plan for the middle class, the GOP says. But is it really? Dig a little further and that’s not what you will find. To pay for this boondoggle of a plan, the allegedly fiscally conservative Republicans are stripping away middle-class tax deductions for student loans, state and local taxes, capping mortgage deductions, as well as cutting Medicaid, Medicare and more. They end the estate tax that benefits the affluent, as if they cannot afford it. There are further erosions to the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Gone will be a provision that requires citizens to have health care or to pay a penalty. Some might say that’s good. Others will face doom and gloom. With millions of young, healthy people exiting the health care market, those who remain will pay even higher premiums, forcing them to possibly cancel their insurance. Public school teachers pay out of their own pocket for school supplies because the Republicans have stripped contributions to education. The current GOP will take away their ability to write off part of those expenses. And they won’t raise contributions to public education either. You can be assured they will, however, increase spending on war, prisons, and restrictions on abortion. The Republican party is on a roll to gut public education further by increasing vouchers to pay for charter schools, most of which are owned by wealthy Republicans. The plan to be voted on is a gift, as always, to the rich and to corporations who, you guessed it, are major donors to politicians. The Republican party is the recipient of many of these donations. The tax bill gives rights to the unborn, lets churches have the power to insert themselves into politics (now prohibited) and even more. Donald Trump is eager to score a win this year since so far, he’s accomplished nothing. No surprise here. The tax will add significantly to the multi-trillion-dollar deficit, a drag on our economy. I wonder why the Republicans are OK with deficits when they have the majority in Congress. If the Democrats proposed a similar spending bill that vastly increased the deficit they would surely vote it down. The Republicans are a party of hypocrites to say the least. They spend like drunken sailors then cut spending. It makes no sense whatsoever. Then of course there is defense spending and Donald Trump’s infamous wall at the southern border. He wants that wall built no matter the cost or the harm to the environment not to mention humans. He wants to spend more and more on the military. Where will all this money come from? Economists say his tax plan will not produce the results he promises. It is simply impossible. Unemployment is already at a historic low of 4%. Trump says it will produce more jobs. Where will the workers come from to fill those jobs since he doesn’t want immigrants? He’s already deporting immigrants by the thousands. Ending protection for Haitians, Nicaraguans and DACA recipients. The tax plan is a poorly thought out plan that even a high school economics class can figure out will not work. The American people deserve better. We are decent, hard workers who love our country. We care deeply about our families, our friends and neighbors. We work hard to clean up the environment with or without government help and lately it’s been without help from the Feds. We are concerned about the fate of unwanted animals and endangered species. We offer help to the needy. We pray well together. We want to live in peace. We don’t want more war. I love my country but am ashamed of my government and the people who helped elect Donald Trump. I wake up every morning praying and hoping he hasn’t started the end of the world. That’s a distinct possibility. As for the tax plan, it’s another of his fiascos that will not make America great. We already were without help from him.

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I haven’t said much about 45 lately

I haven’t said much about 45 lately although every day I am embarrassed by his words, deeds, and actions. My opinion of his supporters is about what I feel about for roach powder. I don’t like it and I don’t like them. I am still aghast that someone of lowest intelligence and with the morals of a flea is the president of the USA. I once thought of our country as the greatest in the world. Our president, Democratic or Republican, had the highest standing among world leaders. We were admired, even if we didn’t always deserve it. Now we are mocked, we are laughed at, made fun of for electing Donald Trump as president. Saturday Night Live and other comedians draw huge ratings for their hilarious portrayals of the clownish buffoon sitting in the oval office. Cartoonists depict him as the moronic figure he is. There are dozens of Facebook pages devoted to 45, calling him names like disgusting pig (which of course he is). Moving beyond his childish, immature behavior on Twitter where he makes a fool of himself daily, there are grave concerns. He is no doubt a dim-wit, we all know what. There are millions of idiots who still support him too for degrading our environment, for upsetting our social service network, for his assault on immigration, and I could do on, but what’s the point? Any literate person is aware of the serious injuries he’s caused not just to the USA but to the rest of the world. He’s held back money from valuable UN programs. He pulled the USA out of international treaties and there may be more to come (think of NAFTA). He is dangerously close to bringing death and destruction to millions in East Asia (the Korean Peninsula and Japan) because of his petulant and downright inane comments to North Korea’s leader. Granted, North Korea is a hermit kingdom with a wacky leader but Trump is pushing them closer to the edge. He doesn’t have to be such a bully. The whole world will suffer if Trump launches a nuclear bomb. Mrs. Clinton warned us of the catastrophic danger of putting the nuclear codes in Trump’s hands but voters didn’t seem to think that was a problem. I guess they never saw footage of the devastation caused by the hydrogen bombs that leveled Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I wish I did. To attain world peace, we need a leader with a strong, powerful voice to unite us. Sadly, that is not Donald Trump and never will be. The GOP, with the exception of a few, support this crazy man. Wow, are we in trouble. We Americans should worry about Trump’s tax plans ruining our economy. There is no logical sound way to slash taxes and spend like a drunken sailor on national defense and border as Trump and company continue to do. If Trump wants a border wall then let him pay for it. He’s allegedly a business man with connections. Let’s see them. I hope I live to see 2020, without nuclear devastation, and a new president in office, one who will restore sanity to America. We’ve lost our minds to think Donald Trump can do anything but continue to bring us more heartaches.

 

It’s not a disrespect to the flag

Former San Francisco 49-Niner Colin Kaepernick started the trend last year when he refused to stand for the traditional pledge of allegiance at the start of a football game. Why? He said it was in protest to police brutality and discrimination against African Americans. If Donald Trump won’t dismiss violence by neo Nazi’s then why can’t football players and other athletes take a stand against discrimination? None of the athletes, some of whom served in the military, said nothing untoward against the flag. They in fact support and love the USA. What they object to (and so do I) are the flagrant fouls committed by President Donald J. Trump who day after day, week after week, month after month, since his election, has committed against the USA. I need not repeat what they are. If you aren’t aware of them, shame on you. The unity demonstrated by the NFL on Sunday was impressive. It is a sign that the country can unite behind a common goal to demand decency from ourselves and respect from the president who governs us. We do not need a leader who sends out insulting tweets of a childish, boorish nature. We do not need a president who is unnecessarily taking us closer to nuclear Armageddon. We do not need a leader who insults our allies and pushes them further away from us. We do not need a leader who refuses to follow the rule of law. We do not need an impulsive leader who threatens to rip up treaties signed with other countries (that took years of hard work) because he deems them unfit. We do not need a leader who is dishonest, bigoted and thoughtless. Yet that’s what we have. Every day Trump tosses out a basket full of disgrace for us to sort through. As good decent people, we hold our heads high, try not to become too discouraged or angry, and make it through another day without breaking news that Trump started World War III. I am solidly behind the NFL and all other groups who stand up to the bully in chief. We’ve had enough. We are Americans who help each other in times of need. We are better than the America Donald Trump has given us. Remaining silent isn’t part of my nature. Speaking up and voting may be all I can do to stop the spread of Donald Trump’s misguided agenda but it’s worth my time. Maybe if more Germans had risen up against Hitler, he would’ve been stopped in his tracks. Maybe, I don’t know. I love the USA and if it means kneeling at a football game, then so be it.

America is already great Mr. Trump

 

I really hate writing about Donald Trump. Really, I do. There are other subjects so much more interesting to me than him. But for reasons I still don’t understand, he ended up as the 45th president. Gasp, gasp. From day one when he was inaugurated, he has not just disappointed me but he has frightened as well as revolted me. I fear his brash, reckless and impulsive behavior will ignite a major war, perhaps even a nuclear one, God forbid. As a nation, we are isolated from our once reliable allies, Germany, Mexico and Canada to name a few. Mr. Trump’s tweets are not fact based nor are the statements he issues. He continues his assault on the free press. There does appear to be solid evidence that he colluded with Russia to win the election. Some of his advisors have known ties to right wing neo Nazi organizations. Shame on this. His attacks on the environment are unprecedented. Climate change is real. He bashes Muslims, immigrants, gays Blacks, and others with a smirk on his face that shows a disgusting sense of misplaced pride. I could go on but what’s the point. America under Mr. Trump is scary. The government is in shambles. Late night talk show hosts often joke about Mr. Trump but in reality we should all be afraid, really afraid, for the health, safety and security of our country. His absurd ideas for tax reform are even rejected by Republican economists as unreasonable. He has no ideas for a sound replacement for the Affordable Healthcare Act. He talks about a public/private infrastructure partnership but offers not a single blueprint to make it work. The cost would be staggering and he has no idea how to pay for it. Business leaders beg for immigration reform and he comes up with nothing substantive, just punitive plans to satisfy the hard right. To all of you who voted for Mr. Trump, I ask you why? Why did you vote for him? Why? I believe in the two-party system. I look at Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea to reinforce my decision. But the only way to make government work is compromise. Compromise seems like a dirty word these days. Donald Trump prides himself as the ultimate deal maker. I hardly doubt that. His deal-making skills are crushing the very core of America. We are better than him and his supporters. We cannot let him and the unapologetic bigots who rally around him take down what we have worked so hard to build up. Ours is a country based on diversity, a sense of pride, giving and community. We don’t need him to make us great. We already were. His presidency offers us an opportunity to unite or be defeated by the poison he’s feeding us. Reject and resist the Trump agenda.

Homeless feeding program

Forty-five-year-old Lou worked as a handyman until he broke his arm. Without a steady income, he lost his apartment. His savings soon dried up. An eviction followed. He spent a few weeks here and there staying with friends. The cast came off but his arm wasn’t healed. He tried other jobs but with only high school education his options were few. He only knew how to be a handyman. Unable to find a decent paying job, he ended up on the streets.

Maritza, 29 years old and homeless, works as a housekeeper at a hotel. One day, she came home from work to find the apartment nearly empty. Her ex-husband left her a note along with divorce papers. He also emptied their bank account. Although devastated, Maritza tried to fight for what was hers. Unable to afford an attorney, she was left almost penniless. Relatives put her up for a few months offering her rides to work but soon their generosity fell through and she lost her bank job. Proud and determined, Maritza wouldn’t give up. She found a job at a Chandler hotel. Word about the church’s free lodging came from another maid. Maritza now has almost enough money saved for an apartment. Next, she hopes to save for a car. She is thankful for the kindness and mercy of the church.

Now and then, a guest shows up with a dog. Pets are an important part of people’s lives. During hard times, owners are reluctant to give up their beloved pets. The dog doesn’t understand why he lost his cozy place in the living room and his favorite snacks. Now he wanders from place to place, sometimes a flimsy piece of string serving as a leash. His paws may crack from walking for hours on the hot pavement but homeless people love their pets.

Every month, I volunteer with the American Muslim Women’s Association at a church in Chandler where we serve a hot meal to a group of single homeless men and women. I meet diverse homeless people like Lou and Maritza (not their real names). They range in age from early 20s to 60s. Some are veterans. A few are disabled. They arrive with all their belongings in backpacks, shopping bags or small suitcases. Faces are worn and tired. Still, they manage to greet us with smiles.

None of them chose homelessness. Job loss, divorce, fire, illness, car breakdown, bankruptcy, or bad personal choices can lead to homelessness. There is a nationwide shortage of affordable housing so says the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, a non-profit group with some areas harder hit than others. Instead of addressing the housing shortage, the current administration proposes drastic cuts to the nation’s safety net.

The nation needs low-wage workers such as maids, cashiers, baby-sitters, and cooks. Our economy cannot function without them. Sometimes people become sick and/or injured and cannot work. It happened to me in a pedestrian car accident. There should be no shame in expecting that our government provide safe, decent and affordable housing. Millions of us cannot afford to pay market-rate rents and never will be able to. If the US government can dole out millions in tax breaks for the affluent then why not help people who are struggling? If the US government can dish out tax cuts for corporations that earn billions in profits then why not give people a break who provide the backbone of the economy? If the US government so shamelessly turns its back on the poor, disabled, and elderly how can they continue to brag about being a Christian nation? Surely, this is not what Jesus would do. Jesus never turned His back on the poor. The Christians I serve with do not turn their back on the poor. As a Muslim, I am proud to serve with my Christian sisters and brothers at the feeding program and in any other capacity in which I am called. Maybe one day the US government will step up and end the war at home against their own citizens. Nearly all homeless people just want a helping hand, not a hand out.

Goodbye Ramadan 2017

Ramadan 2017 is over. No more daily fasting, no more praying for two hours at night in the mosque, no more iftars (breaking of the fast at sunset) and no more Eid al Fitr celebrations to end the holy month. Muslims around the world eagerly look forward to Ramadan every year even though for many it’s a time of hardship. For almost sixteen hours a day able-bodied adults abstain from food and water from sun-up to sundown. In hot, blistering climates like the Middle East and here in Phoenix that’s a notable accomplishment. Imagine yourself going through an entire work day and into the evening without a single drop of water or munching on a cracker. It’s not easy, right? Muslims do that for the entire month. Why fast? To understand what poor and disposed people go through. They’re hungry and thirsty all the time. The media portrays in vivid detail the flow of immigrants fleeing the savage Syrian war. Through day and night into the unknown, maybe under bombardment, they march ahead often without food and water hoping for safety. Fasting during Ramadan is a choice. Hunger and thirst for many Muslims though is not a choice. During Ramadan, there are fundraisers for worthy causes. We help each other. That’s what Islam teaches us to do. I will miss praying at the Chandler mosque. I will miss being invited for iftars. But the special closeness we all feel during this month doesn’t end. It only gets grows and becomes stronger. It makes us closer to Allah, it makes us better Muslims, better human beings, and better able to carry on our work to bring about positive change in our community and our world. In Surah 5, verse 93, “For God loves those who do good.” Ramadan is a time of doing good. After Ramadan, we carry those lessons learned and continue to do good with those around us. As the sheik said on the last day be proud of who you are. Go forth and show people why you are a Muslim. Show them the goodness and mercy of Islam. To all my brothers and sisters around the world, may Allah continue to bless us all. There’s a lot of hard work ahead. The world around is in turmoil. Hatred rears its ugly head not just at us Muslims but towards many others. Hatred is scary, it harms, and it is wrong in any community. We must stand strong with our neighbors and be united. Hilary Clinton’s campaign slogan was we are better together. She was right. We really are better together. I look forward to the next Ramadan and to serving our community in the best way I can.

Growing old and poor

At sixteen years old, I hustled to snag my first job. Known officially as a wrapper in the now defunct New York City department store, Alexander’s, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I removed the price tag after the cashier rang up the merchandise, stuffed the purchases into a paper bag (no plastic back then) and said thank you, with a smile of course, for shopping at Alexander’s. That was 1970, when the Viet Nam War raged, Richard Nixon was president, and the landmark TV series, All in the Family, premiered on CBS. Now it’s 2017 and life didn’t turn out as I’d hoped or planned. Does it ever for anyone? I didn’t become rich or famous, write a best-selling novel, or develop a cure for idiocy. Instead, a pedestrian car accident upended my life in 1994 and now I’m a disabled senior scraping by on a fixed income in a subsidized apartment in a building with neighbors who are often noisy, dirty, and selfish. Instead of depositing a crumpled tissue in the trash, they’ll leave it on the elevator floor. Disgusting. Many of them voted for Trump. Need I say more. Ugh. They rant over my feeding homeless cats in a nearby park, sometimes throwing away food I purchased. One old biddy lets her dog chase the cats. Nice people, aren’t they?

 

My roots are in a segregated White working class neighborhood. Neighbors didn’t welcome diversity although I did. That was too bad for me. No one in our community had money. We didn’t either. Sometimes, we ate sandwiches for dinner but there was always food on the table, even if it was unappealing or unhealthy like Spam or Vienna Sausages. Oh, how I despised dinners with canned salty meat. I wonder if that’s what led me to become a vegetarian? I thought everyone had pesky cockroaches and crooked ceilings. In the summertime, the apartment felt like a steam bath because there was no air conditioning. The old walk-up buildings lacked proper wiring so we sweated through hot summers by spending time outside on the front stoop talking to neighbors. If we were lucky our parents took us to the public pool. Families with cars headed to Rockaway Beach and came home with sandy clothes and sunburns. I grew up, got a full-time job and earned two college degrees part-time. I became a volunteer in a child abuse program and then a social worker. My eyes opened wide to class, race and age inequality among people I worked with. I never imagined that at age of 39 I’d be on government assistance too. Even though I am considered “worthy” because of my disability, collecting government assistance is still a blow. I hate it. You might too if you worked since the age of 16.

 

There were countless times I waited on lines at job fairs only to be told by prospective employers “we’ll call you” as they looked at my motorized scooter with dubious eyes. I never once got a call back so I stopped attending. Why get all dressed up only to end up at a Starbucks table lamenting over my losses? I had marginal success as a writer but literary agents and editors reacted in much the same way. We’ll call but few ever did. Apparently, they judged me by the presence of my scooter and not the quality of my writing. Most people on public assistance would rather work than to be subject to the sometimes unreasonable, inane and downright ridiculous demands of public agencies. Take housing for instance. I live in subsidized housing, not by choice but out of necessity. The building manager had to verify my meager bank account. The bank didn’t respond so instead of calling me they contacted their attorney who sent me a 10-day notice of eviction. If I had a heart condition, I could have gone into cardiac arrest. I questioned the building manager about taking such a drastic step and she said my boss made me do it. I brought the required copies the next day. Earlier, I asked the power company for assistance in paying my large air-conditioning bill when I lived in a trailer park. They rejected me. Why? They counted as income the amount I pay for Medicare, or government sponsored health insurance, that is deducted from my monthly check. I balked and said I don’t even see that money. That’s their policy. I did not qualify for assistance. To make ends meet when I paid a higher rent, I fished through public trash receptacles for aluminum cans to redeem for cash. In a good month, I’d make $30. Food stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods throw out decent food in the trash. I could never bring myself to eat flimsy produce from the garbage but I watched other people pack their bags with discarded apples, celery and potatoes. I did pick out dented cans, however. Chompie’s sells day old bagels for a great price. I water down shampoo, dish soap and laundry detergent to make them last longer. I buy nearly all my clothes in thrift shops. I am far from alone. There are millions of people like me. Single adults, veterans, and families who struggle to get by. Market rate rents are beyond the reach of a lot of Americans. Many pay more than half their incomes in rent. I did at one point. Food banks are stretched to meet demand. Even though unemployment is low, available jobs do not pay decent wages or benefits. Many of these jobs are temporary. The USA is shameless because the response is always tax cuts to corporations and the affluent. We’ll gladly build a new stadium for a football team but resist building housing for the poor or homeless, even veterans. Only in the USA is it a sin to be poor, sick, old or disabled. With the impending GOP plan for health insurance, millions will be without healthcare. I’ve been there too but that’s for another story. Have we lost our souls to let this happen? Donald Trump made promises for change but the only change I see is further deterioration of our social safety net, degradation of civil rights, attacks on free press, a steep increase in military spending, significant damage to the environment, no protection for animals or wildlife and hurtful lashing out against Muslims, Jews, immigrants, Latinos, Blacks, gays and anyone who disagrees with the Trump agenda. Fools believed he’d make a difference. I’m glad I wasn’t one of them.