Regina Drake, who moved back to Port Arthur, Texas © Microsoft

Regina Drake, who moved back to Port Arthur, Texas

Regina Drake believes the American dream is alive and well. It just depends on where you live.

The country as a whole gets a grade of A for providing ample opportunity to succeed.

"There are still people who are living comfortably, able to vacation, living in a nice neighborhood," she said. "They can afford to send their children to college; they can afford to go to the doctor."

Her hometown of Port Arthur, Texas, gets a D.

Drake, 45, left this oil-refinery town after putting in two years at the local community college following high school. Then it was off to Houston and, ultimately, a master's degree in sociology. After 18 years, and a solid job with Prudential HealthCare, she returned to Port Arthur in 2007 to help raise a teenage niece following a death in the family.

Once here, she was hit with unemployment -- after a full-time but temporary gig at a refinery ended -- and blindsided by apathy and a dearth of options. She found a job teaching part time at a nearby college but has never been so broke. To keep busy, she serves on the PTA and the beautification commission, and helps to register voters.

Drake wishes that President Barack Obama had spent more time concentrating on the economy and on providing jobs.

An independent who voted twice for both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, she favors Mitt Romney in this November's election. In 2008, she voted for the Green Party candidate.

"My concept now is to vote for the lesser of two evils, get some things overturned that Obama did," she said.

She cited the Affordable Care Act, Obama's health care plan; his policy that allows gays to openly serve in the military; and his executive action that allows certain illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S.

"His focus doesn't seem to be on the real issues but on other issues that don't directly impact our economy or our way of life," she said. Those real issues? The economy and "bringing jobs back to America.

"We've seen what Obama can do, and we've seen his efforts and how he hasn't been able to really turn the economy around."

Drake is currently uninsured and has Type 2 diabetes, which she manages through diet and exercise. She had employer-sponsored health insurance for 20 years, but during that period, before the diabetes diagnosis, she required only routine, preventive visits.

"To think I paid all that money when I didn't need insurance, and now, when I need it, it's not available to me," she said.

Drake would like to see the government strive to lower medical costs. Then people like her could afford to pay the doctor directly and, she said, we wouldn't need insurance at all.

But she doesn't see the new health care law as lowering medical costs. She sees it as threatening to further reduce poor people's incentive to work, because they won't need to pay to see a doctor.

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"Welfare started out in the same way. It was supposed to assist people who were having a hard time. Now we're taking care of people. That's their way of living," she said. "In five, 10, 15 years, this is going to be just like our welfare system. People are going to find a way to stay on it.

"In the United States we encourage people to become dependent on aid and free services rather than encouraging people to have a job and to improve their way of life by education, by going to school, so that then you can afford things."