www.mozilla.com Weather Central
Voices
Headlines

Water vision -7/29/2014, 9:48 AM

No longer a supporter -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

The power of punctuation -7/29/2014, 9:47 AM

Running for the wrong bus -7/28/2014, 9:04 AM

Old Old Mexico -- Culture and content -7/28/2014, 9:03 AM

The defining issue of economic recovery -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

In a world of sectarian violence, what can be done? -7/27/2014, 4:53 PM

Funding DHDC -7/27/2014, 1:18 PM

Endorsement for Shultz -7/25/2014, 3:28 PM

Against the wind -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Do blacks need favors? -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Vote Huelskamp out -7/25/2014, 4:23 PM

Open meetings -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Leadership change needed -7/24/2014, 8:07 AM

Vote for Huelskamp -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Protecting unborn children -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

Learning experience valuable -7/24/2014, 8:06 AM

False equivalence -7/23/2014, 8:07 AM

Measles' scary comeback -7/23/2014, 1:27 PM

The 'big data' deal -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

GOP can't get out of its own way -7/23/2014, 10:07 AM

War only will add to Middle East problems -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Avoiding taxes -7/22/2014, 8:10 AM

Take the win in Iran -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

The high court's high-handedness -7/21/2014, 8:57 AM

Up in arms in the Capitol -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Firefighters weigh in on pay raise -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Backpacks for Kids -7/20/2014, 4:52 PM

Our unwillingness to defend ourselves -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

Remembering a man who championed freedom -7/18/2014, 10:51 AM

GOP split -7/17/2014, 8:38 AM

New Kansas senator -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Who'll build the roads? -7/17/2014, 8:37 AM

Reagan: In or out? -7/16/2014, 2:45 PM

'Unbroken' WWII vet more than a hero -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Savor the fruits of your labor -7/16/2014, 2:44 PM

Erasing candidate's standards -7/15/2014, 11:36 AM

Returning to Trail Wood -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Leaving some in 'suspense' -7/15/2014, 10:13 AM

Strangers in a remarkable land -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Courageous or spineless? Our actions decide -7/14/2014, 9:11 AM

Ambition: An unlikely gift to Kansas voters -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Beyond the outrage -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Water watch -7/13/2014, 11:16 AM

Scenic outlooks -7/11/2014, 9:18 AM

China's research trumps teaching -7/11/2014, 9:17 AM

Important slow news -7/10/2014, 9:42 AM

We've got a promise to keep -7/10/2014, 9:33 AM

The white combine calls -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Vote for family values -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Politicians making a mockery of my faith -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Missing tribute -7/9/2014, 10:02 AM

Rural students deserve 21st Century education -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

The education table dance -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

A new virus -7/8/2014, 9:10 AM

Government as God -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

EPA affecting others -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

'Narrow' decision from the narrow-minded -7/7/2014, 9:38 AM

The tax trap -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Rulings produce 'First Amendment fireworks' -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Firefighter salaries -7/6/2014, 4:35 PM

Economic freedom -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Protecting our independence -7/4/2014, 11:54 AM

Dan Johnson, 1936-2014 -7/3/2014, 7:12 AM

New Iraq offensive backfires -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Setting things straight -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

'Crapitalism' -7/3/2014, 7:11 AM

Feeding peace throughout the world -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Half way is still only half way -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Sherow a better choice -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Fireworks, part II -7/2/2014, 9:01 AM

Reality show made in Topeka -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

The justices and their cellphones -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

LOB defeated -7/1/2014, 8:53 AM

Tragedy explored in 'Broken Heart Land' -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Mexico City: The adventure continues -6/30/2014, 9:14 AM

Even our youngest Americans are citizens -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

Ban on fireworks -6/29/2014, 12:58 PM

It's time to teach active citizenship -6/29/2014, 12:57 PM

The education establishment's success -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Piecework professors -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Marriage for all -6/27/2014, 10:39 AM

Prairie chicken madness -6/26/2014, 4:17 PM

Omission control -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Equal in the eyes of the law -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

Help wanted -6/26/2014, 10:12 AM

The old red barn -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Beware the unimaginable -6/25/2014, 9:19 AM

Early critic of school testing was right -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Finding something 'different' in Topeka -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Shopping small -6/24/2014, 8:53 AM

Into the classroom -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Wow! And thanks to you -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Fireworks double-standard -6/23/2014, 8:55 AM

Glass half full -6/22/2014, 5:57 PM

Brownback's experiment wallops taxpayers -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Examining the importance of 'where' we speak -6/22/2014, 5:56 PM

Slavery reparations -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

'Help me plagiarize' -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

Thank a farmer -6/20/2014, 8:33 AM

myTown Calendar

SPOTLIGHT
[var top_story_head]

A (not-so) Wonderful Life

Published on -12/16/2013, 9:32 AM

Printer-friendly version
E-Mail This Story

In the 1946 Frank Capra classic "It's a Wonderful Life," small-town banker George Bailey discovers what a disaster the town of Bedford Falls would have become, save for his 40-year presence as a decent, generous, selfless individual.

It's a timeless, romantic story, one that dignifies the worth of millions of similar folks, who have seamlessly affected the lives of those who surround them. As a Christmas movie, "It's a Wonderful Life" has no peer, as we find solace in the essential goodness of a man whose actions within his family and community benefit all those he touches.

The story is uplifting and moving, in large part because we know so many George Baileys, whose modest acts of kindness build one upon another.

But for many in our midst, the "what-could-have-been" lessons of the film operate in reverse.

Consider the hypothetical case of Bailey George, a young mother, living in Bedford Plains, Kan. Separated from her husband, who has been looking hard for work for more than a year, she has three children and holds down two jobs -- as a waitress and part-time janitor -- in her struggle to make ends meet.

She gets by, but barely. Her family has no health care, yet she earns too much to obtain Medicaid. She does qualify for food stamps, but those have been cut back and will be reduced further. Her two daughters and her son do receive reduced-cost lunches at the school cafeteria, but they often are hungry at month's end.

When her car broke down a few months ago, Bailey George took out a payday loan to cover the repairs. Now she owes more than she borrowed, even though she usually can make the minimum weekly payment. And when her rent check is a day late or her checking account is overdrawn by a dollar, she must pay a hefty penalty.

In "It's a Wonderful Life," an angel earns his wings by saving George Bailey. But who are the earthly angels who might save Bailey George?

In Kansas this year, she would need Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature to do some of the heavy lifting, most notably by agreeing to expand Medicaid so someone of her financial status could qualify. This would not take much from the governor and his legislative sidekicks. Accepting the federal government's offer, through the Affordable Health Care Act, would mean Bailey and her children could obtain reasonable health care and not fear being thrust into bankruptcy.

Moreover, the economic dividends of accepting federal Medicaid funding might well produce a stronger economy that would open up a better job for her.

The U.S. Congress also could help, by providing adequate SNAP (food stamp) assistance so Bailey could come closer to adequately feeding her family. Likewise, Congress could extend long-term unemployment benefits, so her husband could help with some bills. And it could raise the minimum wage, so her janitorial job might pay a few more dollars per week.

In addition, both federal and state lawmakers could do more to limit hefty fees and prevent usurious payday lenders from charging rates that drive desperate borrowers further into poverty.

All this could happen. Indeed, most of these measures either have been policy in the past (SNAP) or are policy outside Kansas (expanded Medicaid and higher minimum wages). Even so, this would scarcely constitute a "wonderful life," but it would be a bit more bearable.

In Bailey George's fictitious, but all too real, Bedford Plains, there is no angel, only the cloudy vision of a slightly better life that has been denied her and her family.

As we celebrate, again this Christmas, the heartwarming tale of the fictional George Bailey, we must keep all the real-life Bailey Georges and their hard lives in our hearts and minds.

Burdett Loomis is a professor of political science at the University of Kansas.

digg delicious facebook stumbleupon google Newsvine
More News and Photos

Associated Press Videos

AP Breaking News
AP Nation-World News

View this site in another language.

Kansas News