Tera Burbank: The Real, Untold Story

On March 8, 2011, in Muth's Truths, by Chuck Muth

An Associated Press story last weekend headlined “Nevada Family Fights For Survival In Down Times” was a real tear-jerker that went viral and national. It’s the story of an unemployed construction worker named Tera Burbank, 34, her family, and the hardships they’re facing thanks to the ongoing Obama-Reid recession.

Poor Ms. Burbank wears a “frayed robe.” She’s only able to provide “meager lunch box offerings” for her kids to take to school, “just one of many painful struggles that the mother of three encounters every day while living under the weight of long-term unemployment and threats of foreclosure, hunger and loss.”

The story maintains that Tera and her husband “epitomize the dreadful economic situation these days in Nevada.”

According to the story, the pair “have been out of work for more than a year. They live off unemployment and student loans. Bills go unpaid and minor spats escalate into tense threats of divorce. Their daughters are performing poorly at school, and guidance counselors and teachers blame stress.”

The story also notes that Tera is a high-school drop-out from California who got married, had kids, then got divorced. She moved to Las Vegas in 2004 at the height of Nevada’s building boom, but was nevertheless having trouble paying her bills when she met another construction worker, John Clark, 24, in 2007.

The two hooked up and bought a house in May of 2009 – the same month they married – in an upper-middle class neighborhood in Green Valley. They reportedly bought it in John’s name because her credit sucked. And for some reason, despite the pair earning a combined annual income of $75,000, they were unable to put doors on the children’s bedrooms and instead use sheets for curtains.

Five months later, Burbank lost her job; ditto Clark the following month. In 2010, the couple reportedly “earned” $38,000, “mostly on unemployment.” They also racked up $6,700 worth of credit card debt and another $22,000 in student loans for nursing classes for Clark and accounting classes for Burbank.

The stress has reportedly resulted in poor little Tera getting “chest pains” and not having any patience with her kids. The oldest daughter, 14, is flunking in school and Clark has threatened to leave Burbank “three times in the past year, including the week before Valentine’s Day.”

Like I said, a real tear-jerker. Boo-hoo. Boo-hoo. Boo-hoo. Hand me a hanky.

Now would you like to know the rest of the story?

OK, but first, it’s important to click here and look at the photos that accompanied the AP story. As you’ll see later, some of them are worth a thousand words.

Tera Burbank, by the way, is actually Teralee Burbank. And according to the Clark County Election Department, she and her husband are both registered Democrats – a fact that will also prove more relevant later.

But here’s something else of interest we got from the Election Department: There’s a third voter, Cherrie L. Spencer, a non-partisan, who is also registered at their (address deleted on 3/10/11 a 5:16 pm at Ms. Burbank’s request) address. Hmmm. We’ll get back to that.

What really got me interested in this Tera Burbank sob story was a series of emails I received over the weekend from someone who personally knows the woman. We’ll call him “Mr. X” to protect his anonymity at his request. Here are some excerpts compiled from what he sent me in response to the AP story…

“There are many photos associated with this story, as it’s now all over the place. See if you can get the AP version with about 20 photos. You have to see all the photos. Can you say ‘white trash’? Find them, you won’t believe it. All those sheets on windows; anyone can go to Wal-Mart for $20 to get drapes. The house is a mess.

“That’s their new Toyota SUV in front of the house, as I have seen the cars. This is why unemployment should be stopped. Instead the lame reporter makes this woman a national representative of what is wrong with Vegas and the USA; as if Tera Burbank and her family are the victim when in reality we who are paying for this and are being taken advantage of.

“Think about it. They drive an expensive car. They’re being given $38,000 per year to take a vacation for two years, plus $22,000 in student loans they’ll most likely never pay back. Credit cards they won’t likely pay back. My guess is that Tera has had additional income as well, and received additional services and benefits at no charge. She has more than likely not paid taxes on any of those things, which brings her ‘real income’ to a MUCH higher figure.

“Where has all the money mysteriously gone? Her children are having a tough time in school, yet she and her husband are at home full time. The house is a mess, yet she and her husband are at home the whole time. Tera and her husband are the problem! People like this abuse the system. Yet this somehow escaped the author.”

A pretty damning assessment of somebody the media would love for us to empathize with. But don’t worry, it gets better.

I’m told that Tera’s aunt lives with the family. Maybe that’s who Cherrie Spencer is? In any event, that’s another household income that surely is putting the combined total well over $50,000 a year. Many families of six get by on less than that.

And what more can we learn from those photos?

First, yeah, these people are slobs. My mom would rightly characterize their home as a proverbial pig sty. Sorry, but folks who are too lazy to pick up their stuff even knowing a reporter and a photographer are coming over probably possess a similarly lazy work ethic. No wonder no one wants to hire them.

Secondly, recall that the family is supposedly facing “hunger.”

Really? ‘Cause it sure looks to me in one of those photos that Tera’s shopping at high-priced Smith’s rather than a discount supermarket like Food-4-Less. And I wonder if she’s getting food stamps? Sure sounds like she qualifies.

Oh, and I wonder how many more groceries she could purchase to sate the family’s “hunger” if she traded in that expensive cell phone (I can’t tell; but it might even be an iPhone) she’s photographed using for a much cheaper land line from Ma Bell?

By the way, John and Tera are both construction workers. You mean to tell me that between them neither knows how to hang a door? Or has a friend in the construction industry who does?

I’m guessing they’re using sheets for doors, not because they can’t afford doors, but because….well, they’re lazy, low-class, white trash who take no pride in the condition of their home. But again, that’s just a guess.

And speaking of the home, the AP story says Tera and her husband face “threats of foreclosure.” Which means, of course, they aren’t making their mortgage payments. Which means, of course, they’re living in the house for free. Which means, of course, they should have several hundred dollars “extra” a month for things like, you know, food and stuff.

But let’s get back to the home purchase. The story says Tera and John bought the house in May of 2009. You remember May 2009. Unemployment in Las Vegas was continuing to skyrocket, ESPECIALLY in the construction industry, where unemployment was approaching 50 percent. Indeed, there was, with the exception of completing the Cosmopolitan and CityCenter, virtually no significant Strip construction business on the horizon.

This was no secret. It was in all the papers. And we know Tera reads the papers…which I’ll get to in a minute.

So why, pray tell, did two construction workers in Las Vegas decide that May 2009 was a smart time to buy an 1,800 square foot, 4 bedroom house? What in the world were they thinking?

Also, Mr. X believes, but can’t confirm, that John bought his expensive new Toyota SUV after they closed on the house. But even if he bought it before buying the house they couldn’t afford, that’s another unnecessary household expense sucking up money that otherwise could be used to buy, you know, baloney sandwiches for the kids to take to school and stuff.

It all sounds so…irresponsible.

Then again, Clark is only 24 years old…and we already know that Tera, a divorced high school dropout, hasn’t exactly been known for making wise life choices; including borrowing money to go back to college when she has a house payment, a car payment and three children rather than picking up the Help Wanted section in the newspaper and seriously looking for a job….ANY job.

Oh, yeah. That’s right. I almost forgot about that newspaper thing.

Yes, Tera does read the paper. In fact, not only does she read it, she finds time between doing interviews for this AP story, not working, not cleaning the house, going to school, fighting with her kids and husband, shopping at Smith’s, talking on her cell phone and whining about her sorry lot in life, to post comments about newspaper stories online, I’m assuming using that expensive laptop computer shown in those photos.

In fact, on February 3, 2011, Tera commentated on a Las Vegas Sun story about the fight between Harry Reid and Senate Republicans over a possible government shutdown.

“a nice fat cut to the nation defense funds, ala the wars in afganistan, would certainly help right the financial ship, yet no one seems to want to discuss that,” Teralee Burbank wrote on the paper’s website the next day at 8:44 a.m., I’m assuming shortly after sending her kids off to school with yet another “meager lunch.”

Nice grammar, too. If she’s helping her kids with their English homework, no wonder they’re flunking in school.

One day later, at 2:50 in the afternoon, Tera took time off from her busy job non-hunting schedule to weigh in on another Las Vegas Sun story; this one about a political organization founded by Karl Rove which was coming to Rep. Joe Heck’s defense in response to a “media blitz” that had been launched by Democrats against the freshman Republican.

A conservative named Richard Hopkins posted the following comment in response to the story:

“Any astute observer can see that it is the liberals who are willing to attack anyone and everyone who will not capitulate to their radical socialist agenda. Then they attack the defenders of the people who they originally attacked. So, let’s see now, the libs attack Heck. Rove defends Heck. The libs then attack Rove. And Rome burns while the libs are fiddling.”

To which the Teralee Burbank responded:

“Way to use played out talking points, Hopkins, you sound like a fox news sound bite. Joe Heck is on record saying he voted against mandated cervical cancer vaccines for young women because of the cost to the insurance companies, rather than being concerned for the safety of young women who die regularly as a result of cervical cancer. When he was asked about it during a debate last year, he flat out lied. Fortunately Titus had the transcripts from that vote and called him out on it. Needless to say, Joe had no response. Even John Ralston was speechless. So while you continue to see how many times you can use communist, socialist, liberalist, obamaist or whatever other new catch phrase the likes of Rove and the GOP can dream up in your postings, I will be working dilligently to educate myself about the real motives of the people who run for office. Joe Hecks motive is obviously in line with the record profit making insurance companies.”

Are you starting to get the FULL Tera Burbank picture now?

OK, one more. Here’s a Jittery.com post by Ms. Burbank on February 14th. That would be Valentine’s Day and, reportedly, just one week after her ten-years-younger stud-muffin Ashton Kutcher-wannabe husband threatened to kick her to the curb for the third time in the past year.

“joe heck will be at gvhs at 5 tonite (2/2/11) for a town hall mtg. anyone who wants to show up to support us while we call him out on his recent vote to repeal healthcare reform and question his voting record that protects insurance companiress rather then struggling neadans would be welcomed allies!!”

So she doesn’t have time to look for a freaking job, but she has time to organize a protest against Congressman Heck?!! And we’re all supposed to feel sorry for this lazy, sorry-*ssed, bleeding heart liberal slob? I don’t think so.

By the way, did I mention that I drove by the house over the weekend and noticed that Tera’s car in the driveway was adorned with Rory Reid and Dina Titus stickers?

Do I feel sorry for Teralee Burbank? Hell, no. I feel sorry for her kids. Their mom is an uneducated, misguided liberal activist who thinks the world owes her something. She’s made, and continues to make, lousy choices in life and expects us not only to sympathize with her mistakes, but to subsidize them.

“Two and a Half Men” celebrity Charlie Sheen, the silver-spoon son of a liberal Hollywood actor, has discovered Twitter and is now busy sharing his deep, philosophical Dalai Lama-like insights on the human condition. Last week, he tweeted his latest slogan which he says “Applies to everything where an excuse now sits. Try it. U won’t be wrong. Ever.”

“PLAN BETTER.”

Does it apply to Tera Burbank? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!!

I mean, how pathetic of a loser do you have to be to be chastised by the likes of whacked-out, alcoholic, drug-addict Charlie Sheen? Or to paraphrase the immortal words of Melvin Udall in “As Good As It Gets,” go sell woe-is-me someplace else, Tera; we’re all stocked up here.

 

31 Responses to Tera Burbank: The Real, Untold Story

  1. Tarra Randazzo says:

    Wow! Way to take things out of context! I am acquainted with Tera, and can honestly tell you that she is highly educated, and continues learning at every opportunity!!! She is a hard worker. Does hard worker always translate to good house-keeper? Who’s to say?!? Did you miss the part where she is a student? Not necessarily an easy task under the best of circumstances, yet she does so, maintaining a very respectable GPA, parenting her 3 kids, dealing with financial stress, which leads to physical stress and typically lends to depression as well. So, while all those are issues she is facing, some writer chooses her as the topic and YOU choose to see it as a bleeding heart story. I may not have sheets over my windows, per se, but we all have our issues, I guess your better at hiding them. Or maybe its that you divert your attention to others in order to take the spotlight off your inadequacies. Regardless, you’ve made a lot of wrong presumptions about someone who only has the best intentions in mind!!! You neglected to point out her efforts towards fighting for students and womens rights! That takes time. As well, at the end of our lives, do we really care if our house was clean enough for some lame reporters standards or if we changed the world for the better? I choose the latter!!!

  2. Roger This says:

    Thanks for the back story.

    And a special thanks to Tarra for confirming you are correct with your analysis.

  3. marcus says:

    I would define myself as neither a liberal nor conservative. My knee-jerk reaction to the original AP story was that Tera and her husband don’t plan well and they handle what resources they do have extremely poorly. This opinion prompted me to research their story more, so when I saw a link promising “the truth”, I was anxious to read it.

    There is no new information in your story. There are no new facts. An anonymous source saying that he feels she has additional income or that she won’t pay her debts in the future means nothing. The story as originally written simply presented facts, and I felt it was relatively impartial in that it gave the reader the choice to sympathize or not. Nowhere did it say that we should feel badly for the family, and lots of people (myself included) do not feel bad for the parents. At least we can all agree that the children warrant sympathy.

    And to end with quoting a known abuser such as Charlie Sheen is just a perfect finale for a pointless article.

  4. Tarra Randazzo says:

    Ummm Roger… work on your reading comprehension.

  5. Tarra Randazzo says:

    I concur!

  6. Jennifer Tabor says:

    Had I know to be a journalist all you need is to quote someone not even willing to be named (is this person even real or a figment of your imagination?) and a thesaurus, I would have done it years ago.
    Your inability to use facts instead of some second party opinion and a bunch of maybes and I thinks makes me question why you would bother with someone who is obliviously beneath you. Do you feel more of a man to express your hate on someone who doesn’t fall into your realm of reality?
    To express conjuncture as fact is a lazy middle school essay done at the last minute. Do you know for fact this third person lives there? Or did you just assume? Did you stake out the house to know that these people are home all day as you state, or did you just assume? Us it a fact these people aren’t looking for work? Not paying the morgage? Etc? Or did you just assume? Was that computer purchased recently? Or back when they were working? Did they purchase a house that needed work done, there for was cheaper? Where are your facts?

  7. cynthia ryan says:

    Well, Mr. Muth, that was certainly a laundry list of cheap shots, conjecture, lazy reporting and gross assumptions. Your parsimonious world view certainly seems to color your observations about people you don’t know and don’t seem to want to invest much energy in finding out about first hand.

    Gee, you might have to get off your ass and out of your comfy chair.

    You should remember that rumor and innuendo do not necessarily equal reality or truth. Neither does the use of emotive language. Additionally, since you have raised so many interesting – if false/misleading/red herring – questions about Ms. Burbank, you have essentially assumed a rather hefty burden of proof. When will you be forthcoming with this proof?

    Your over-reliance on statements about Ms. Burbank by persons that cannot be verified independently is suspect, and resorting to Ad Hominem attack as well as a particularly nasty sort of circular reasoning is troubling for a person in your position.

    But I would guess in this instance you are ‘playing’ to your fan base – the ignorant and easily fooled.

    I concur with others on the comment page, that the original AP piece simply reported conditions as they are, and left judgment to the reader – or to you and your holier-than-thou god complex.

    If it was your intention to appear foolish, then I congratulate you, sir.
    A hearty ‘Well done!”

  8. CFehl says:

    WOW, dude that was awesome.

    I really liked the no punches pulled attitude of this letter and I am going to forward this on to all that I know…. Way to go Chuck!!! This is what America needs, tough love! What good is it going to do any of us to sit around and “boo hoo” about our pathetic situation IE (poor personal choices) and wait for Uncle Sam to rescue you/bail you out… Get up off your duff and do what it takes to provide for your self and your family. Move out of the 1800 sq ft house and get something YOU can actually AFFORD (not what unemployment or any other social services pays). They can’t afford the house but she refuses to move out. Gee Alice, how is the weather there in Wonderland…. And instead of borrowing MORE money to go to school. Going to school does not pay your bills. WORKING DOES. Work a job, any job and school your self in your off hours. Pay your 5 (FIVE) credit cards off and tear four of them up and save one for Emergencies only, ONLY.

    Enough of you weak crying liberal babies saying “Oh it’s not their fault, it’s the economy or what ever. Of coarse it’s their fault. I am quite sure the economy didn’t break down their door and make them do anything against their will! Yes I said that, POOR decisions still (fortunately) lead to conseqences (mostly) in America, like, forclosure, hunger, and the like. As much as you socialists want to remove conseqences from life for bad decisions you will never change the immutable laws of nature (as bad life choices should also carry consequences) if you stick your hand in a fire, you will surely get burned……………………. Take fire/nature to court you leftists, and sue nature for not being FAIR! Let me know how that works out.

    And one last thought for you. If you are offended by what has been said here. I am offended that you are offended.

    Now what! :P

  9. Tarra Randazzo says:

    This would be better titled…. “The Un-Real Told Story”. Where are the facts?!?

  10. Jennifer Tabor says:

    That is so true! We shouldnt give trillions of dollars to bail out those that made poor choices that would be unthinkable! Let those that are going bankrupt just deal with it! Suffer as you should for spending more then you have! So glad we didn’t get a government handout to ANYONE that threw away all their money in poor choices!!

  11. David McKee says:

    According to AP reporter Cristina Silva, the Toyota SUV in question belongs to an AP photographer. So Muth, are you going to issue a correction of your drive-by “truths”? Also, “commentate” is not a verb, as you’d know if you’d been paying attention in school. Oh, and “wannabe” isn’t spelled “wannbe.” I guess the American educational system really is broken if you’re the best it can offer the world.

  12. Chuck Muth says:

    Really, this is the best you can do, David? Pretty lame.

    I never wrote that the SUV that appears in the picture was John’s SUV. I reprinted the report from my source that John owns a new SUV that my source has seen in their driveway. You don’t think, by any chance, that’s it’s possible that both John and the AP photographer might, somehow, by some strange coincidence, BOTH own SUV’s? I mean, what are the odds?

    com·men·tate[ kómmən tàyt ] INTRANSITIVE VERB
    1. report or interpret: to provide a commentary, either in radio or television broadcasting or on texts

    You could look it up.

    Thanks for making yourself look like a complete ass, David.

  13. december says:

    A “real hard worker.” You’re right; I can tell…

  14. december says:

    Of course you do ;-)

  15. december says:

    Please, punctuate! If nothing else, punctuate randomly- if only to keep your readers eyes from crossing…

  16. december says:

    Are you serious? Reading what you just wrote is like watching a blindfolded, de-clawed cat swipe at a badger.

  17. december says:

    That was meant for David!

  18. december says:

    I don’t see how these people could try any harder to be White Trash. I think it’s particularly delightful to see a five-year-old being sent off to catch a school bus, while mom has nothing else to do in the AM but go inside and drink coffee. Life is so hard…

  19. Chuck Muth says:

    Oh, please, Marcus. You’re a liberal. It’s OK to come out of the closet.

  20. Paul Battis says:

    Am I the reader suppose to feel angry because this women has the audacity to voice her opinion in print in regards to her objecting to the mass slaughter going on in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and soon to be Libya in our name? And how does one support this waste of money and energy and yet consider themselves a Conservative? There is nothing conservative going on in these wars. I am a Conservative. And yes it’s quite possible that Tera is lazy, misguided, sloppy etc. But she and others like her are not the problem to our downturned economy. Tera didn’t take trillions of dollars in free money from our government in the form of a bailout and then stand in front of Congress and say that she did not have to disclose where they money ended up. Tera isn’t at the airports sticking her hands down out pants in the name of our own security. Tera isn’t running guns down to Mexico in a scheme to get the blood bath more bloody and our second amendment revoked. Tera didn’t conspire to knock down the buildings on 9/11, fly a missile into the Pentagon, put three 12 hundred pound bombs in the Oklahoma Federal Building, burn down that Waco compound, dump thousands of tons of dispersant on oil that she didn’t spill in the Gulf, ship all of our jobs overseas via NAFTA and GATT. Nope, all she did was buy when the money was rolling in and get stuck when the money dried up. She’s not the problem; she’s the result of the problem.

    So yes you may be right about this women, but so what. Its a non-story. Please put your focus and energy where it belongs.

  21. Chuck Muth says:

    Thank you, Paul. I will give your opinion exactly the attention it deserves.

  22. Kevin Mc Donald says:

    I see that Tera’s story was on the first page of today’s RJ Business Section. Is that noise the sound of your head exploding? ;-)

  23. Brooke Burbank says:

    Excuse me sir but thats my mom your talking shit about back the hell off I’ve been with her for 14 years and you dare say that about her you dont know jack about her she is sweet and loving. The reason I was failing school was because I have ADHD and John Clark is a selfish jerk who I never cared about. If you are going to post something then get the facts we are not white trash and I will not here and hear you say these about me and my family you tea party bastard. Dont you EVER talk about my family this way again I am 14 years old and I abviously have a problem with your article my family is amazing. Oh and “Mr.X” who ever you are John got that truck before he even met my mom my mom loves coffee her house her family and her politics was a huge mistake making a mockery of all of those things. Goodbye I dont need to waste my time on you anymore.

  24. Brooke Burbank says:

    Oh and Chuck why dont you show all of the comments instead of just the ones you wanna see afraid that your readers will notce that you are a jack ass??

  25. Brooke Burbank says:

    Why dont you show all oif your comments?? Are you afraid Chuck that you readers will relize that your a total asshole?

  26. Brooke Burbank says:

    ….. your lucky I’m 14 because i would honestly say to you 8 horrible words

  27. Brooke Burbank says:

    Please read
    Mr. Muth I am writing this comment to apologize for my language and reaction to this post. I do not agree with what you are writing but as part of the first ammendment you have your freedom of speach and criticizing is speech. I read that comment and I’ll admit I did not sound very well educated. My family is in a hard time and the whole world knows about my families life. I will admit you are a talented writer but while your “facts” are somewhat correct you don’t know the full story. The story of my family is a sad story- but how you put it in the blog made it seem even sadder. I relize that as my friend put it “life is like highschool” and while I am in highschool I can say I know what its like to be the kid who goes in a bathroom and cries because of the insults of “popular” kids. You are one of those “popular” kids you thrive off of the pain and reactions of the people you insult. I cried over this article and now I relize that it was a waste of my time. I dont mean to be rude again but you don’t deserve my tears because I am only giving you more power over me. My family is at peace and we are all happy I would much appreciate it if you respected a fellow human enough to either not write about the people who don’t get the luxury of having a steady job. While some are lazy others are not. People don’t deserve your heartless blogs posts and criticizem. You could try only speak the truth and instead of twisting things to make it seem like your right. You should of gotten my famillies side of this story. While I the potty mouth tike of Tera Burbank did not swear in this comment (except the word tike, but you specificaly said it) I do wish that you respect humans enough to consider our feelings. We all have our flaws some more some less your flaw is the ability to be a heartless man. The curse of the people who you write about is that while you are a heartless man you’re a heartless man with a talent of writing. If you write a book I would probably read it. (yes I can read so CCSD has not failed yet.) And yes I am a suck up but if I wasn’t then I would not have the courage to write this to you. I do not respect but I hope one day I will. Please sir except my apology because I do mean it.

  28. Chuck Muth says:

    Apology accepted. However, please understand that once your mom became a left-wing political activist attacking allies of mine, not to mention advocating for raising my taxes, she brought this kind of scrutiny onto herself.

  29. brooke burbank says:

    I understand and thank you. You have a right to your opinions as well as my mother and I have a right to ours. Thank you for your time and have a good day.

  30. Ob-servant says:

    As far as drawing lines I am very conservative but I am ashamed to be associated with your harsh judgment of this lady. I do not agree with her choices, her views or much of anything else about her. Mandated cervical cancer vaccines? I have 5 daughters and nobody is going to force an unneeded vaccine on any of them just because many in our culture do not teach their children sexual responsibility or general morality. However this woman seems intelligent and passionate about her liberalism and well informed on liberal talking points. I know financially irresponsible liberals and conservatives. I could give this family 2 months of financial counseling and if they follow my advice they will be debt free in a few years and never owe anyone anything for the rest of their lives. Sheets over doorways; who cares? Some people use veils or beads. There is an oppression that comes with unemployment that does not allow you to see clearly. Volunteer work can help (and can actually lead to job opportunities). A few changes and they can be ‘respectable members of the society’. But what can be done to change a heartless conservative?
    I tell you I much would rather have a conversation with a sold out (but intelligent) bleeding heart liberal than a heartless judgmental conservative. Remember sir, whatever judgment you use will be used to judge you. Lighten up.

  31. Chuck Muth says:

    Hey, “Ob-servant,” why don’t you come down off your self-righteous high horse and bite me.

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