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Atlanta Journal-Constitution Debt Shames Georgia Governor Candidate Stacey Abrams

[Source] Screenshot from Economic Security for Every Georgian | Stacy Abrams YouTube Channel

Apparently, you need to be a wealthy elite to run for governor in Georgia – at least that’s what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution seems to be suggesting in the latest hit piece on Stacey Abrams.

Georgia 2018: Abrams owes more than $50K to IRS, an entry in the Political Insider Blog,  wastes precious space discussing the fact that Abrams like many Georgians, has debt.  SHOCKING. These efforts to attack Abrams’ competency for leadership through pieces criticizing her campaign spending and her finances are whack.

Someone should explain to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and whoever is pushing this narrative, that higher-net-worth does not translate to better governance. From reading the Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece, it would seem that Abrams is a reckless spender who has issues paying her bills. Per her Financial Disclosure, Abrams has student loan debt and personal debt (including credit cards). She also discloses that she owes money to the IRS.  The article glosses over Abrams’ explanation that some of her debt, including her payments owed to the IRS, relate to helping her parents financially. She deferred tax payments and is on a payment plan. Where’s the fire?

*GASP* SHE HELPS HER PARENTS. What kind of person would do such a thing?

In this day and age, unexpected hospital bills or any other emergency can disrupt a family’s financial ability. Ask yourself two questions. 1) Does making payments on financial obligations make one less qualified to run or serve as Governor? And 2) Should Abrams have merely shrugged and let her parents struggle instead of having compassion for their financial situation?

If you answered “NO” to both questions, congratulations, you’re a human being with compassion. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution should take note.

Contrary to coverage of Abrams, she is a person. People have issues and struggle that they work to overcome. Passion, drive, and the struggle motivate Abrams as she continues to lead us toward a better Georgia. Families across Georgia struggle financially, while others are a small emergency away from slipping further into debt. Surprise expenses are plunging families into debt, with more than half of Americans unable to cover a $500 unexpected expense. Now, imagine how families struggling at the margins and beyond are doing.

Last month, Abrams posted a first-hand account regarding her challenges and experiences with Family Economic Security. In her account, Abrams walks through her own story from being handed credit cards as a college student to acquiring student loan debt.  It wasn’t until the passage of the 2009 Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act that there was some reform in the way credit cards could be marketed to college students.

While she has benefited from having good paying jobs, Abrams wisely notes the difference between wealth and income. Graduating and starting her career pre-financial crash put her in a much better position than many of us, and yet she still has financial challenges to manage. She describes having to take over virtually as head of the household for her parents post-Hurricane Katrina. Abrams has paid for her parents’ health insurance and financially supported them as they raise one of their grandchildren.

From her disclosure, Abrams drives a 14-year-old car, while paying off a car for her parents. It is not an easy task to pick up the slack for others financially. At one time or another, it is likely that similar to Abrams voters have had to make tough financial decisions. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution doesn’t seem to understand the difference between being financially irresponsible and making hard choices to help her family.

Why are we attacking candidates for responsibly handling financial challenges? Notably, at a time when we are celebrating the wave of everyday average people rising up from the ranks to run for office. If someone like Abrams is going to be attacked for her financial choices, what about those of us who do not have her good fortune? Having a major paper trounce on those with financial challenges is not a good look. Absence some showing of bad acts or wrongdoing, we should not tolerate elites shaming candidates for doing what it takes to live.

Folks can snicker if they want upon reading the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s hack story about Abrams’ reported debt, but it only shows she is a real person like many of us. Many of us have supported parents, younger siblings, and cared for children who are not our own. The continued financial strain on families across Georgia and the country is something that needs our attention. Debt alone does not make someone less capable as a candidate.

Reading and listening to Abrams’ testimonial, I reflected on my background.  Also coming from a family that was working poor, I did not have a strong financial knowledge before getting enticed with credit cards and saddled with loan debt.

After I read Abrams’ account, I feel less like a failure because I’m not farther along financially. Coming out of law school in the midst of the financial crash, my preferred area of practice and location of choice was taken from me. Along the way, different situations occurred that saw me deeper in debt.  I financially supported my mother and my siblings at various points in time. It’s real life.

If we don’t embrace this commitment to family and community how do we move the state and the nation forward? As an adult having navigated these complexities, Abrams has the first-hand experience of running a household and managing competing financial interests.

If one applies the financial litmus test implied by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in this article would, in effect, create a higher threshold to “qualify” for office that many candidates could not meet. What’s next, the return of the poll tax? We should be evaluating candidates on their commitment and platform, not whether they have as much as the next person in their accounts.

Whatever the Atlanta-Journal Constitution was trying to accomplish with this latest piece, it is clear that Abrams understands the challenges of working Georgians first hand. Sadly, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution does not.


This article was published on PeachPerspective.com.


Written by Anoa Changa

Mom 1st, Lawyer 2nd. Anoa Changa is Director of Political Advocacy and a Managing Editor of Progressive Army, as well as a member of its Editorial Board. She hosts The Way with Anoa, Wednesdays at 9pm ET on YouTube . Follow her on Twitter @TheWayWithAnoa. "Never tell me the odds." - Han Solo

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution Debt Shames Georgia Governor Candidate Stacey Abrams