Class Warfare Blog

May 5, 2017

Egad, Economic Uncertainty is Real!

During the recent Democratic administration, Republicans often ranted about “uncertainty” with regard to investment. You see, the economy tanked in 2008 and the recovery was feeble (still is). Banks were given huge amounts of money at zero interest with the hope they would loan that money, cheaply but profitably, to businesses looking to expand. The key word was “hope” in that the government attached no strings to those zero interest loans. Consequently the banks bought securities with the money, causing the stock market to “recover” rapidly but no one else. When upbraided about this anti-social behavior, the Republicans countered with there was “too much uncertainty” in the market for business to expand. They rather should have stated there is too much bullshit in politics; that would have been closer to the truth.

The real reason businesses did not expand with all that cheap money around, is that they possessed even cheaper money (U.S. businesses had $2+ trillion dollars in cash reserves at one point.) and they weren’t spending that either. The reason? Simple: no demand. This is shockingly self-evident for people who know nothing about economics other than “supply and demand.” If there is no demand, supply is irrelevant (even though some economists tried to claim the opposite—see Say’s law). There was no demand because those business’s customers were broke, still are.

So, when Mr. Trump was elected and the GOP captured both houses of Congress, well … “Happy days are here again, the skies …” uh, no? No. Even though gasoline is quite cheap now, no one is buying much. Retail business are offering lower and lower pricing and still no surge in buying.

People are sitting on the sidelines economically because, well, they are uncertain about the future. When a person’s future is potentially very bad, they hunker down, save their money, and prepare for the worst the best they can.

Mr. Trump’s policies have never been particularly coherent, which was by design. When Mr. Trump claimed he was going to deport 11 million “illegals” from the country, many people translated that into “I will have more job opportunities.” (Right, by picking crops and doing day labor out of the local Wal-Mart?) When Mr. Trump claimed that he was going to transform Obamacare into something better, people applied their own definitions of what “better” meant. But healthcare is a complicated subject (“Who knew?”) and Mr. Trump’s party’s first effort at it was horrifically negative. (Hunker, hunker, hunker,…) Then there was the “tax reform” promised. People thought “my taxes will go down” and “I could use the money.” What they didn’t think of was that rich people’s taxes would go down much more, thus reducing government tax receipts, causing many government programs to be terminated, government programs that ordinary citizens are dependent upon, of course, not the rich. (Hunker, hunker, hunker,…) Then the current administration launches missiles in Syria and threatens nuclear war in North Korea. (Hunker, hunker, hunker,…) and….

The economic uncertainty of businesses as a reason for why they weren’t investing in their own businesses was pure political spin. They were anything but uncertain, in fact they were absolutely sure there was no demand, so no expansions. But the economic uncertainty of individual citizens is palpably real. We are not spending much money right now because we don’t know whether we will have affordable healthcare available, whether Social Security will still exist, or Medicare … all of these have been threatened by the GOP.

All of these threats are coming home to roost. We are in line for another recession, possibly as early as this summer. The ordinary tools used to combat recessions are not available (cut interest rates … why? … how?) and the GOP is dead set against deficit spending (the tool that really works) unless it enriches the rich or the military industrial complex.

Buckle your seat belts, folks. If you think things are uncertain right now, well, winter is coming.

July 30, 2016

WTF? Further Government Shilling for Tech Companies

I just got a message from the ’Merican Guvmint that they are required by Executive Action to provide an additional layer of security to my Social Security online account, my “my Social Security” account.

To access my account in the future, I must supply a cell phone number that can receive texts to which an automated code will be sent, which when entered will allow me to view my account. Then they dropped the hammer:

If you do not have a text-enabled cell phone or you do not wish to provide your cell phone number, you will not be able to access your my Social Security account.

In other words, if you are poor or elderly and not tech savvy, well FUCK YOU, write us a letter and drop in a post box (which we have eliminated) or hand it to your local postman (which we are in the process of eliminating) or take to your local post office (which we are in the process of eliminating). But, in any case, fuck you, fuck you very much. <signed> Your Federal Government

December 24, 2013

The New Racism

Since the delights of overtly demeaning those with skins darker than ours has become highly unacceptable, racism has had to go underground. It has gone underground so far that some refer to our now “post-racial” society, still others state that it is the talk of race that must stop to finally eradicate the last vestiges of racism.

O . . . M . . . G. . . .

The racism of today is on clear display and in some ways more cruel than that of the past. At least we aren’t lynching people right and left, instead we doom them to lives of poverty and frustration. African-Americans aren’t “niggers” anymore, they are just shiftless and lazy . . . and unemployed.

The major objection of the non-wealthy conservative set is that their tax monies are being redistributed to unworthy people, people who need to get out and get a job and support themselves instead of laying around living off of the dole. Of course, there is some truth connected to their fantasies, a few grains of sand on their beach that fit their criteria, but mostly they are flat out wrong.

How did this happen? Well, it didn’t happen by accident. Consider that when Franklin Roosevelt signed the unemployment insurance law into being, that agricultural wage workers and live-in domestic servants were excluded from such benefits. What rationale could be had for these exclusions? Do ag workers, working for pay, not work hard? Domestic servants who live with their employers lose their housing as well as their paycheck if they are “let go” (nice euphemism). Why were they excluded? Could it have been that somewhere near 80% of all such workers at that time were black and that Roosevelt needed his Southern Democrats (the “Dixiecrats,” a telling label) to get the law passed?

Is it an accident that white ex-cons are more likely to be hired for a job than African-Americans? Is it an accident that relatively minor non-violent lawbreaking comes with very long sentences, yet rich white kids who kill four people with a pickup truck get probation at what constitutes a resort? Is it an accident that white people can “stand their ground” and shoot and kill unarmed black people, people that they deliberately stalked to put themselves in harm’s way? Currently a greater number of African-Americans are in jail than were slaves in 1850. If you are black, you will get a sentence serving more years than if you are white, for the same crime . . . always.

Is it an accident that white millionaire farmers get large federal agricultural subsidies protected but poor people get their food stamps cut? Is it an accident that if the word “welfare” or “poverty” are mentioned on TV news shows, it is almost always accompanied by video footage of black people? Black people constitute on 9% of the U.S. population and if every single one of them were poor (they are not) they would not constitute a majority of the poor, so why are blacks shown many times more often than whites in such coverage?

The largest recipient group benefiting from the social safety net in this country is elderly white women (they live longer than men and are younger when married and live longer than black men and black women) but Social Security is still under attack, even though it has a 2+ trillion dollar surplus, is solvent for the next twenty years “as-is,” and simple adjustments could make it solvent for the foreseeable future. Why? Could it be the conservative view that all “welfare” is going mostly to unworthy black people? Could it not? I am not willing to concede that some of our conservative lawmakers have honest policy objections based upon reality; you may if you wish.

Racism is woven so tightly into the fabric of our culture that it is hard to see unless you look closely.

Look closely.

Act.

November 1, 2013

Weird Budget Negotiations

A Congressional committee has convened to try to come to agreement on a federal budget. Fat chance of that working. Republicans are adamant that there will be “no new taxes” and they consider taking away a tax loophole a tax increase. So, there will be no tax reform under the hands of these guys. In fact they really don’t want anything ordinary Americans want.

What many do not recognize is that the GOP has gotten its way since the Great Recession: the stimulus was so small it barely worked, there are many fewer federal workers now than before. Taxes are at the lowest rates since the 1950’s. The Sequester and other budget cuts have reduced the budget deficit to it’s lowest value in almost a decade.

And what has this gotten us? It has gotten us the slowest recovery from a recession in recorded history. Clearly the U.S. economy is one of the most robust in the world, yet we keep limping along at a minuscule rate.

Austerity is not the solution. It never has been. Repubs have been hysterical about the National Debt, currently about on par with our GDP (our national income). They also keep making comparisons with ordinary citizen’s household budgets, claiming “You wouldn’t do that.” I beg to differ. How many U.S. Household have less debt than their annual income? Unless you own your home and car outright, my guess is that your debt far exceeds what you make in a year. Let’s see, we owe $17,000 on the car and $238,000 on the house and the college loans for the kids, hmm.

The National Debt is not a big problem right now. The deficit is not a big problem right now. The big problem is righting the ship for ordinary Americans which means providing jobs through which they can pay their bills, including taxes that will lower the deficit.

We need to get past this bump in the road because if you think our problems are big now, consider what the near future looks like (and I am not talking Medicate and Social Security, they are just other bumps in the road). Capitalists of the Milton Friedman ilk have convinced us that the solution to all of our problems is “growing the economy.” This is necessary because the population is growing and we want our standard of living to be getting better rather than worse. Yep, growth is needed, absolutely.

But I have to ask, what happens if we just keep growing? If we were a person that just kept growing we would be considered diseased and would be treated by doctors. The same would be true for any animal. Can an economy “just keep growing?” An economy consumes resources. Take oil, for example; when I was a boy it was inconceivable that we would exhaust the supplies of oil in this country. Now, it is done, we have little left. And if you think tar sands, fracking proceeds, etc. are new sources of energy, think again. They are sources of fuel, transportable fuel, but each gallon of oil extracted from those tar sands, for example, consumes more energy than the oil provides. The more we take out the less energy we have available. These are not sources of energy, they are forms of energy. We are running out of cheap, transportable forms of energy. The Middle East oil producing countries (remember OPEC?) claim they have the same reserves that they had a decade, even two decades, ago. Is it any wonder, OPEC sets quotas on how much oil a country in their group can extract annually based on the amount of reserves they have. That their reserves haven’t changed year after year is physically improbably to the nth degree, so what are their real petroleum reserves? Nobody knows. Are they likely to be as high as they were 20 years ago? (Ask yourself.)

Economies extract resources from the world around us. As economies grow, they extract more resources. The end result of economic “Grow, Baby, Grow” is . . . diminished or even exhausted resources. And a basic rule of nature is as resources become exhausted, additional resources become harder and harder to come by. Hey, if we need metals, we can always mine asteroids! Yeah, sounds cost effective to me. The era of cheap resources is pretty much done, so what do we do next?

This is a big issue, it will take years and years to work out.

There are bigger problems on our horizon than the ones we face now. If we could only get the GOP’s backers to look beyond their quarterly financial statements, we might be able to make some real progress.

February 3, 2013

What is the Value of Your Safety Net Contributions?

A pundit on Bill Maher’s show (Real Time) last Friday claimed that the problem with the U.S. economy is basically due to “entitlements” meaning Social Security, Medicare, etc. (Can you hear the echoes of “We have a spending problem. . . .” Thank you , John Boener, thank you Mitch McConnell.) She stated that people pay in $150,000 over their working lifetimes but take out $300,000.

I found this claim interesting in that it was posited as a feature of an unsustainable system, a system like your wallet; you can’t take out more than you put in without big trouble.

Let’s look at this. Consider that an average (meaning median) income in the U.S. is a bit over $50,000. We’ll use $50,000 for simplicity (and we will make all calculations based on current values which will in essence account for inflation, etc.).

Current payroll taxes are 6.21% on the first $114,000 of income, so this covers our average blokes $50,000 worth of income. If our average bloke works for 40 years, his total income comes out to be $2,000,000 and his contributions to SS and Medicare would be $125,000, close to the $150,000 figure quoted. Given that the average income is over $50,000, that probably makes up the difference. I am going to go with the $150,000 figure as I am trying to see if her figures are legitimate.

Realize that those contributions were made over a 40 year period and that Congress requires that excess contributions be invested in Treasury bills that pay interest. So, the question is, what would be the future value of such contributions at the end of a 40 year period. Zip, I am off to the Internet and a Future Value Calculator.

If roughly $300 per month ($150,000/480 months) were invested at 3% interest at the end of 40 years one would have accumulated $278,000!

If roughly $300 per month ($150,000/480 months) were invested, at 6% interest at the end of 40 years one would have accumulated $600,000!

Currently Treasury bills aren’t at 6% or even 3% but it wasn’t that long ago that they were. Over a 40 year time span, those are not unreasonable averages.

Now, Congress has chosen to use my contributions to pay other people’s benefits rather than invest it, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t effectively contribute as much as I will take out.

A more sensible discussion of these systems would be to look at what they can provide, the various options to provide it, and then make our choices. Unfortunately, politics is the only basis upon which decisions are currently made.

For years and years, people have been crying “the Boomers are coming, the Boomers are coming!” and they (we) were going to lay waste to the economy, shred the social safety net, etc. I am part of the leading edge of the Baby Boom generation, the “Boomers” in question. I retired in 2006. The “Baby Boom” lasted from 1946 to 1964, 18 years. In other words, in 2024 (2006 + 18 years) the Boomers will have all passed into the system and the numbers of people entering will fall way off.

According to the SSA’s 2010 Annual Report, the Obamacare healthcare law has extended the exhaustion date of the Medicare trust fund from 2017 to 2029. The SS System would not be similarly depleted until 2037. This means that if nothing is done and the system and economy stay as they are projected, the SS System will have to cut benefits to roughly 75% of current amounts at that point.

In other words, there is no real problem with Social Security. Raising the amount that is taxed to higher income levels would solve all problems for the foreseeable future.

The real problem with Medicare is not in providing the services but that the costs of services keeps escalating. Interestingly enough, Medicare critics, aka Republicans, claim that Medicare isn’t holding down cost enough. Tell that to doctors who take Medicare patients. Most accept what Medicare pays as payment in full and Medicare pays a fraction of what those services are billed at (according to my small sample, between 50% and 75% of billed amounts). Medicare is the only public health service which is actually holding down costs. Private insurance companies have no interest in doing so as it would reduce their profits (which are based on the costs of services).

So, pundits sling figures around, self-serving figures which are often quite misleading. When listening to these folks, you have to ask whether they are trying to inform you with their comments or convince you. Someone trying to convince you is an activist who has a point of view they are trying to sell. Someone who is just trying to inform you is a safer source of reliable information.

January 13, 2013

The Modern Conservative Movement and Social Darwinism

Regular readers of this blog will recognize my claim (and that of others) that American conservatives are hell bent on destroying the remnants of the New Deal and the safety social net so many look to as a god send. Currently conservatives are shouting about the national debt as a reason that social welfare programs need to be reined in. These same folks, of course, couldn’t have been bothered with anything like the national debt just four years ago. It is being used as a “reason” to do what they want even though it is not a cause of a problem per se.

So, why are they doing this, other than from hatred of the New Deal and social programs memes, why does the hatred exist? My claim is that modern conservatives and most Republicans are Social Darwinists. Again, this is ironic because these selfsame folks also are science deniers, especially with regard to the theory of evolution, brilliantly begun by Charles Darwin. Hence, if you would accuse one of these conservatives of being a “Darwinist,” they would most assuredly take umbrage.

The form of Social Darwinism is actually pseudo science equating to “social survival of the fittest.” They believe that if all of the props were to be pulled out from the “underclasses,” they would surely sink to the bottom of the social strata where they belong. Fueling this is their belief that the “fittest” are most assuredly white and that the black and brown members of our society have been artificially raised up where they do not belong. (We want our country back! is not something blacks or Hispanics say.) It is no accident that these people also oppose any form of “affirmative action” in education or employment.

Their beliefs not only extend to the supposed superiority of white Americans over African-Americans and Hispanics, but also with regard to the superiority of men over women. These conservatives (they do not deserve a capital C) are traditionalists who think women have gotten far too uppity, especially sexually. So, they not only oppose equal pay for women, they oppose structural support for the sexual independence of women (e.g. Planned Parenthood, availability of abortions, even the availability of contraception). It may be an overstatement but they would prefer modern women to be closer to “barefoot and pregnant” than to any example of a modern woman, but I expect not.

So, how is the class/gender war being waged? These people, who are often already wealthy, have conspired to make sure that the laws of this country expand their wealth at a much greater rate than anyone else’s. They did this by buying “think tanks” to create battle plans and hired lobbyists to execute them (just twenty years ago there were merely hundreds of registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C. where there are thousands now). With that wealth, an indicator of their economic superiority in their minds (imagine the arrogance and sense of entitlement of any Wall Street mogul here), they have been buying political influence in the GOP, in the Democratic Party, and in the court system all the way up to the Supreme Court. The deck is well and truly stacked against: blacks, whites, women, and anybody in the middle class for whom Social Security and Medicare are bulwarks against poverty.

The question I have is: when will we begin to fight back? So far we have pretty much just rolled over and spread the orifices between our legs with lubricant.

January 8, 2013

Pay the People

Republicans continue to insist that we can no longer afford the public safety net, that we must reduce the effectiveness of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. What they refuse to see is how their sponsors contributed to the problem, which also contains a solution to the problems as they see them.

The problem is there are so many poor and working poor who need help. In 2010, the poverty level for one person under 65 years old was just over $11,000 per year. Assuming a work week of five days a week, 52 weeks per year (ignoring paid holidays as often these are not paid for not working), that works out to about $5.50 per hour. Obviously this is an average as many of these folks do not work full time. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, so also obviously this is not enough to live on. So, the working poor need food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid.

The problem is not the costs of these safety net services, but the demand for them. Scumbag employers like Wal-Mart employ people to show their employees how to apply for these safety net services because Wal-Mart has no intention of paying their employees what they are worth. Wal-Mart could afford to double the wages paid to its employees and not affect their prices at all. What they would have to sacrifice is their obscene profits. Doubling their wages would drop their profits out of the obscene level into the extremely, extremely good level, that is the only people affected would be extremely rich people who would end up still extremely rich.

The minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be $10.59 today when adjusted for inflation, instead it is $7.25. The reason? The “business community” doesn’t want to pay people what they are worth. “Oh, but that would make us uncompetitive. More jobs would be shipped to China,” they exclaim! Bugabugboo!

This is nonsense. We collectively are paying for the greed of these people in the form of the extra demands on the safety net. The working poor receive money from all of us in the form of housing vouchers, food stamps, and Medicaid and pay little, if anything in the form of federal taxes. In other words, the American tax payer is subsidizing obscene profits for these businesses. If they were to pay people what their labor was worth, the demand for those social safety net services would shrink, and the taxes those people would pay would reduce the federal and state deficits.

“We collectively are paying for the greed of these people
in the form of the extra demands on the safety net.”

And the argument that “high labor costs,” what we call “fair labor costs” would price us out of the market is ridiculous. There is no foreign competition for American service jobs. One doesn’t send one’s car to China to get it washed. And, in Germany where their labor costs are higher and their labor productivity lower than here, they have the second highest level manufactured goods exports in the world. How is it that Germany can do it and we cannot?

This sanctioning and subsidy of corporate greed has extreme costs: 22% of children are living in poverty is just one. The loss of dignity to the working poor will cost even more dearly in the future.

And the demand to cut Social Security is ridiculous. Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty program ever created. Even so, the median income of Americans over 65 is less than $20,000 a year. Nearly 70 percent of them depend on Social Security for more than half of this. The average Social Security benefit is less than $15,000 a year. This is not exactly largess. And, Social Security benefits are paid for separately out of payroll taxes and do not contribute to either federal deficits or the national debt. Currently Social Security has $2,600,000,000,000 surplus! There is no problem with Social Security and solutions to future problems are relatively simple, like removing the cap on earnings upon which the payroll tax is paid.

The Republican’s masters have created the problem with their unbridled greed by attacking labor unions, changing federal laws protecting workers, and bribing our public officials to create tax and environmental laws that favor the rich and corporations. Then, after creating the problem, they offer to solve it by reducing services to the poor and the elderly. And these scum sucking politicians are willing to do this for enough money to remain in power. Is it because they like doing the bidding of the rich masters? Is it because they like grinding the poor under their heels? Is this the legacy they want to leave behind?

Pay the people and many of these artificial problems disappear. Instead, I imagine these assholes want their salaries to be doubled because they not only have to solve the problems but create them too.

December 18, 2012

Let’s Go Over the Effing Cliff!

Once again, we are observing a false debate in Washington, D.C. (over the so-called pending “fiscal cliff”) and our elected representatives are arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin rather than tackle real issues. So, I say, let’s just go over the fiscal cliff.

If we do wait until the next term to do anything about our fiscal situation, I think some clarity can be had. First of all, the dire warnings of the pundit class are probably somewhat overblown. Our economy is more robust that many people think. Also, studies have shown, I have been told, that while there is an immediate impact from doing this, that out prospects a few years down the road are better than any of the other scenarios.

If we were to do this, to wait, then Republicans and Democrats would actually have something real to negotiate and would be in the position of trading off hits they took from falling off the cliff. The Republicans could restore some of the defense cuts, trading off some of the things Democrats want and maybe, just maybe, they would begin to do the people’s business. Plus, there would be some built-in urgency.

The Bush tax cuts were a bad idea in the first place, so seeing them go would be restoring some sanity. Then maybe the fervor for making the rich pay their fair share could switch to corporate taxes and estate taxes where it belongs, well and even higher tax brackets for those making over $10 million a year, $100 million a year, and $1 billion a year. Hey, they can afford it, those making over $1 billion a year are making over $500,000 per hour, and I don’t care what you do: brain surgeon, nuclear scientist, Large Hadron Accelerator Operator, etc., nobody is worth that much. (Of course, the only people making over a billion are hedge fund managers and all they do is push paper.)

This has been a false crisis from the get-go and hearing all of the hubbub about it is making me ill.

Now, some say that that this would play into the Republican’s hands (something, Dear Reader, I would never do) by allowing them to create another crisis from a debt ceiling debate.

This again is another false crisis. The Republicans say they must do this because otherwise they cannot get any meaningful cuts to government spending. Hello? Maybe somebody should tell the Republicans that it is the Congress that has the powers of the purse strings, at least according to, you know, the Constitution. That very same document says that all revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives, in which the Republicans have a substantial majority.

If the Republicans want spending cuts, all they have to do is pass bills for those cuts that will pass the Senate and be signed by the President and only the House can do this! Of course, they would actually have to drop the pens they are using to write yet more anti-abortion legislation and start talking seriously to the House Democrats to do so, but isn’t that what they were elected to do?

Over the cliff, I say! Tally ho!

December 10, 2012

Entitlements Under Attack by Entitled Class—WTF?

Republicans are keeping up their drumbeat that only by reforming Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare can we solve our financial woes. This, of course, is part of the game plan designed by conservative Think Tanks back in the 1970’s.

Consider what has happened to the Middle Class in that time. Here is what happened to wages.

Chart-wages-vs-productivity-1024x581

For a very long time, the social compact in this country was that if worker’s productivity went up, workers would benefit proportionately. The conservatives worked hard to decouple those two and they succeeded starting in . . . the 1970’s. If you look at the chart, you can see that if wages had kept paced with worker’s increases in productivity, wages would now be over twice as high as they are. Let’s say that translates into a median family income of not, roughly the $53,000 per year it is now, but almost $120,000 per year. So, conservatives have deliberately stolen tens of thousands of dollars out of your pocket. For the 40 years from roughly 1970 to 2010, this equates to roughly $1,300,000 of income lost on the average. This is each of us! With half of Americans losing more, half less.

How did they do this? One aspect, just one mind you, was to attack and disempower labor unions. Consider our northern neighbor, Canada, which is so much like us (except that they didn’t repeal their version of Glass-Steagall and they didn’t deregulate banks, so they didn’t have a financial collapse, nor did they have a bank bailout). Compare Canada’s proportions of union jobs to ours.

unions-canada-united-states-membershipCanada has a fraction of jobs that are covered by unions in the 30-35% range, just as we once had. But in this country that figure has slid to around 11% (higher in the public sector, lower in the private sector) starting in about . . . (wait for it) . . . the 1970’s. This wasn’t people voting with their feet, this was deliberate actions of Congress and the states to do so. (Did you notice Michigan just passed a “right to work” law. This is another of those misnomers. It is really a right to work for lower wages law in that it disempowers unions. They are still at it.)

“This was done deliberately. A deliberate act of class warfare.”

Who out there is watching out for workers? The government did for a while, but it succumbed to the whims of conservatives and has almost stopped, leaving only the unions to protect worker’s pay and benefits and rights. So, as union power declined, so did worker’s pay.

This was done deliberately. A deliberate act of class warfare. And to solve the current financial mess that Republican policies got us into (financial deregulation leading financial collapse, predatory lending on housing, the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not paid for, etc.) is for ordinary Americans to give up earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare. Why? Because the conservative attitude is: if I win, you lose and if I lose, you lose, too.

Interestingly it is the conservatives who use the words “entitlements” and “entitled” with scorn. The use of those words is loaded with implications that these are unearned, unwarranted, and profligate. You can hear the sneer when you close your eyes and just listen to Republicans speak. (Also part of the strategy.) These are really earned benefits. Do you not pay a payroll tax for years before you get any benefit? I paid a tax for Medicare for 35 years and then had to wait five more years before getting Medicare that I now pay even more for with a monthly deduction from my Social Security. While I was paying for Medicare for 35 years, I also had to pay for private health insurance because I got no benefit from that Medicare tax. Medicare is an insurance policy that you cash in when you are of an age, it is not a government giveaway.

And the people most adamant that these programs be done away with . . . don’t need these benefits as they are quite rich. Paying their share of the taxes is quite small (payroll taxes are capped, so Mitt Romney, for example, stops paying payroll taxes on Jan 4th or 5th every year.

How rich are they? Consider the following chart.

Chart-Middle-Class-Wealth-e1355118104304In 1962, the median net worth of Americans, a measure of our wealth, was $51,900 while our mean net worth was $194,100. What’s the difference? The median value is basically what you got if you lined all Americans up from poorest to richest and found the middle of that line. The mean, or average as it is commonly referred to, involves adding up our total wealth and dividing by the number of Americans. Basically it is what we would have if everybody had an equal share of the accumulated wealth (houses, cars, cash, etc.). In 1962 the mean was 3.74 times as large as the median (194.1/51.9). In 2010 it was 8.14 times as large(463.8/57.0)! The telling reason for how this happened is that the median net worth of Americans in 2010 is about the same as it was in 1962, 50 years earlier. Average Americans have not seen their wealth (corrected for inflation) change at all. So where has all the wealth gone? To the very, very wealthy and conservative few.

And these folks are the “real entitled.” The rich bankers feel they are entitled to bailouts if they get into too much trouble making super risky investments with other people’s money. The hedge fund managers (11 of whom made over $1 billion in 2011, that’s a minimum of $532,000 per hour if you were wondering) feel entitled that their income be taxed at a lower rate than teachers and policemen, because what they do is so, so much more important. These people feel entitled to tell us who to vote for because they have so much more money than us, therefore they are clearly superior people and should just know these things better.

I don’t know how close we are to the pitchforks and torches stage of revolt but we should be very, very close. If this were done to us by a foreign power we would consider it an act of war.

November 21, 2012

Republicans Launch Campaign Against White People

Brazenly ignoring the advice of Senator Lindsay Graham (“if you are in a hole, stop digging”) the Republican Party is doubling down in its effort to cleanse the party of pantywaists and ribbon clerks.

In the election, the Republicans did well only amongst white people. In every other category (Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, the young, and women in particular, along with the New Black Panthers and fraudulent voters) they got spanked.

In an effort to cleanse the party of everyone but the staunchest white voters, the Republicans have doubled down on their need to curb Social Security and Medicare, eliminate them if possible. Both of these programs are popular with “takers” and if you were to characterize the average recipient of the government’s largess, it would be as an old white woman. The vast majority of the recipients of these services are white, possibly because most minorities don’t live long enough to collect much from them (another reason to curse Obamacare!).

In this manner the Republicans hope to get down to a rock solid base of mostly white, mostly male party members from which to base future election bids.

We wish them well with that!

And if that doesn’t work, they might want to try to ask the American public what they are willing to spend for those services. You know, suggest a way of paying for them and then, like, ask people if it is worth that. Just a suggestion.

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