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Michael Miller

Viewpoint

By Michael Miller
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Focus, Hope and XM1044

1. S&P’s decision to downgrade federal bonds is boomeranging badly and remains ignored by the markets.

2. How many of our local governments still plan to hire S&P to rate our bonds?

3. Until 1968, S&P published ratings of public bonds at no fee, as a public service. S&P claimed at the time that providing the service cost them too much, at least $100,000 a year (about $620,000 in 2010 dollars).

4. European officials have been apoplectic about the American rating companies’ role in causing current crises and making things worse with seemingly arbitrary downgrades. Police raided agency offices in Milan and when Portuguese bonds were downgraded to garbage status, thousands of people in Lisbon marched with bags of trash and then mailed them to New York (“We are not garbage. We are people”).

5. Too many Americans still do not see a connection between events around the world and their own economic anxieties and struggles.

6. The recent violence in London is inexcusable. Thugs. The British government and some of their newspapers insist that this is just a matter of hooliganism and that water cannons and plastic bullets are the only acceptable answers. The police warn that this will make everything worse.

7. The neighborhood in which the riots started has the highest unemployment rate in London, especially among young people. In the last year, local youth centers have been closed and education allowances slashed or eliminated. A lot of young people have no place to go and nothing going for them. Here are what some rioters actually said in the BBC footage: “There’s nothing for us,” and “The politicians say that we loot and rob, they are the original gangsters.”

8. Needing some kind of positive inspiration, I found it in a woman I really knew nothing about until a friend told me to check out her obituary in last week’s Detroit papers. As Detroit was tearing itself apart in 1967, Eleanor Josaitis moved her family from the suburbs into the city and the next year co-founded a program called Focus: Hope.

9. Focus: Hope started as a small volunteer organization and has since grown to 15,000 volunteers and 280 professional “colleagues.” Originally founded to help keep peace between races, the organization expanded into food distribution to those in need, job training (11,000 program graduates and 11,000 successful job placements), safe pre-school and after-school programs for kids, and other services that kept thousands of families going.

10. Check out the video of large men tearing up in the street at news of Eleanor Josaitis’ death. This woman personally pushed thousands not to give up on themselves and to find a productive and peaceful place in the world. She was not soft; her biography on the Focus: Hope site said, “I will not be intimidated.” She was not obnoxious; she personally taught the business etiquette classes in the job training program. A deeply religious person who started each day with a half hour of prayer, she asked, “What can I do?” and did it. Edsel Ford II put it the best of anyone: “I would do anything for Eleanor Josaitis.”

11. The number of Americans relying on food stamps has increased 40 percent over the past two years. Just over 20 percent of American children live in official poverty, highest among industrialized nations.

12. Meanwhile, total federal income taxes for 2011 stand at 14.8 percent of GDP, the lowest level since 1951. Since 1946, the average has been 18.5 percent. It stood at 18.2 percent during the Reagan Administration.

13. We have three candidates for President who have condemned public schools. Not test scores or taxes. I mean the concept of universal tax-supported schools.

14. It’s hard to pin down poverty on Long Island, where appearance and status are so important that we have thousands of families in crisis who have learned to hide it very well.

15. Army officials confirmed earlier this year that they are perfecting new rapid-fire non-lethal ammunition for large-scale crowd control. All existing non-lethal ammunition is single shot only. The new XM1044 rubber bullets, about the size of a small toilet roll, can be fired at six shots a second.

16. What can we do?

Michael Miller is a freelance writer, designer and strategic consultant who has worked in state and local government. Email: millercolumn@optimum.net