Thursday, December 29, 2011

The One Percent Has Its Say (For A Change?)

In the December 29th Chicago Tribune, Dawn Turner Trice reports on a study by  Northwestern University researcher Fay Lomax Cook of the attitudes and practices towards charity, volunteering, and the government’s role in rectifying poverty. In this survey, 100 Chicago families in the 1% are interviewed. (According to the IRS, a family is in the 1% if its adjusted gross income is $343,927 or its net worth is at least $8.7million.)

Part of the motivation for doing the survey was to facilitate a dialog between the 1% and all the rest of us so that there can be some resolution of our nation’s problems of income inequity. It seems that we have been harboring false stereotypes about them – boohoo – and they’re hurt and somewhat miffed. No, they are not all selfish and greedy. Some of them are very generous in their charitable giving and their time.

The attitudes reported in the article of the 1% did not particularly surprise me. Of course, some wealthy people are generous with their time and money – although giving an average of 4% of their income isn’t especially magnanimous. Most seem to feel that the government should have a limited role in adjusting the income inequity in our country. Is the corollary that it should be up to the largesse of those who can afford it?

Americans in general are a very generous people when it comes to giving on an individual basis or volunteering and the 1% is no different than the rest of us in that respect. The problem is that this isn’t working nor has this ever worked. Before our social safety net was in place, during the Great Depression, people depended on the kindness of others and ended up selling apples in the street. Many starved and there were many evicted when they couldn’t pay their rent or mortgages. We need to have a much more systematic approach to deal with United States' income inequity which is now the most unbalanced in the world. We have a 1% who has 36% of the nation’s wealth. More and more people are becoming unable to pay for their basic needs and are finding it increasingly difficult to send their children to college or to think of being able to retire. I think that this is what the Occupy Movements have been trying to say. The issue isn’t the individual attitudes of a few people; it’s about the system. And something besides a few well meaning people has got to give.

Let’s hope that in the New Year we can get beyond all our large and small differences and arrive at some kind of resolution. Happy New Year everyone! May it be a happy, healthy, and more prosperous year for EVERYONE.

I’ll be back next year with more easy, economic recipes along with my stories and ideas. See you soon!  

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The American Girl Turns 25

This interesting year 2011 that is almost over thousands of women marched in Egypt’s Tahrir Square protesting brutality committed against them. Five Saudi women were arrested for driving cars. Women have been elected heads of states. In Myanmar formerly known as Burma, one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi leads a movement for democracy.

In America, the American Girl doll had her 25th birthday. It’s time for her to call herself a woman and get involved in world events. For the uninitiated, the American Girl is a set of dolls with accompanying books, clothes, and furniture representing many of America’s subcultures and ethnic groups. These dolls with accompanying books are priced at $105 each rendering them inaccessible for many children of the 99%; but that’s another topic that I’ve dealt with in previous posts. 

Perusing the American Girl catalogue, I see that many girls are missing. American is such a huge, diverse country that I guess that's easy to do. There are no mixed race girls on the list. Or how about one who is in third grade and in the top of her class in math and wants to be a doctor someday? Somehow they forgot about Linda whose family came from Asia and is now working hard while she studies to go to college. What about Maria who can’t go to college because she was snuck into America when she was a baby and being here illegally, campaigns for Congress to pass the Dream Act? There are so many types and stereotypes that should be included. We'll have to have some Middle Eastern dolls who came here as war refugees. Where is Susan who is named after her great-great-great aunt Susan B. Anthony and is now joining in the latest wave of feminist thought? Speaking of that, I wonder what the original Susan B. Anthony would think were she alive to see the current American girl with all of her achievements and retreats.

So American Girl, let’s get it together in 2012. At 25, you’re a woman now. Happy Birthday. I hope that you achieve your dreams in the next year or at least begin to work toward them.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanzaa to all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

New Year Hope from the New Foundation Center

I have good news to share with you for a change: The New Foundation Center, which serves more than 250 men and women with serious mental illnesses who live in the north and northwest metropolitan Chicago suburbs, has received a $15,000 challenge grant to continue its important work.

Janet C. Parker, the vice president of the organization’s board of directors, shares information about the group.  "We partner with people who have a mental illness to support their recovery and their pursuit of lives with meaning and purpose. People go for support and companionship with their peers through support groups and drop-in centers. They can also access case management services, job referral, and supported housing there. The challenge grant has come at a crucial time when many groups are losing funding.

The New Foundation Center provides members with many services including recovery programs, permanent supportive housing, supported employment, and health and wellness programs, all within a community that encourages sharing, independent living, friendship, personal responsibility, and family participation. We believe that people can recover."

The New Foundation Center provides a lifeline to many of the members who come there. They helped Mike get the medical care he needs to regulate his diabetes. Before connecting with the New Foundation Center, his diabetes was so out of control that he wasn’t able to function. They helped Debbie and her five children to obtain permanent housing. Before that, Debbie and her family were being tossed between shelters and other temporary housing. Now with stable housing, this family can establish a good life.

“Every $1 from new donors and every $1 of incremental donations from current donors will be matched by the foundation. Your gift will have double the impact. You can give by logging onto the New Foundation Center site through the following web address: then click on the “Giving” hyperlink in the upper right hand corner of the website page and follow the directions for making a donation."

"Thank you for donating!"

Janet C. Parker
New Foundation Center board of directors

Janet says “thank you” and so do I. The New Foundation Center is doing important work to help people to help themselves. Thank you for your support.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Anti-Shopper Gets Ready for the Season - With Resolutions and Vegetarian Eggplant Parmesan

Everyone who knows me well knows how much I hate to shop. Thus, in more ways than one, I feel like what Temple Grandin terms "an anthropologist on Mars.” Just finishing watching Modern Family on TV frantically getting ready for Christmas on December 16th, the only date available for their extended family to get together, I realized that it was that time of year once again. Since we’ll probably do the modern Jewish Christmas (movies, Chinese food, and some volunteering), I’m grateful that I’m not obliged to join in the Christmas season shopping fray. I hope this Modern Family and all the families they are an exaggeration of gets together and stops worrying so much about the gifts. They spent so much time shopping and wrapping and worrying about them that they must be exhausted to a frazzle by the time Christmas arrives. The way they’re celebrating doesn’t look like fun to me, but I’m on the outside looking in. As I said, I’ve always been the Anti-shopper. Fortunately, no one is depending on my shopping to spur an economic recovery. If they are, the whole free world is in even bigger trouble than it thinks.

Instead, I have already started contemplating what comes next – the resolution making for the New Year. While I’m hoping the powers that be make some important ones – To do what’s best for the people of this country even at the risk of making their opponents look good –for myself, I’m starting small. I already started power walking almost daily and eating healthy food. Let’s see how long it lasts.

In keeping with these resolutions, here’s a recipe for vegetarian eggplant parmesan. It’s less fattening than the one with meat and can be prepared in about 20 minutes. It serves 4.

                                                       Vegetarian Eggplant Parmesan
1 eggplant cut in slices
¼ pound Swiss cheese or mozzarella cheese diced small (I use the low fat cheese)
1 yellow onion sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
oregano, basil, ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese grated

Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
Put the sliced eggplant in a pot with water to cover. Steam until soft or about 10 minutes.
While the eggplant is steaming, slice the mushrooms and onion and sauté in the olive oil.
Put the tomato sauce in a pot and add the mushrooms and onions and the seasoning.
When the ingredients are ready, assemble as follows: a layer of eggplant, a layer of cheese, a layer of tomato sauce mixture, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Put in the oven on a bottom rack and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes.

Happy Holidays everyone. Whichever way you enjoy celebrating, I hope you have a healthy and happy season.