Nel's New Day

September 7, 2020

Labor Day: DDT Makes Almost Everyone a ‘Loser’

Last week, an Atlantic article addressed Dictator Donald Trump (DDT in his description of captured, wounded, and killed military members as “losers” and “suckers.” Today, the fourth Labor Day since DDT was inaugurated, over 90 percent of the people in the United States are “losers.” Labor Day is meant to celebrate but under DDT:

Workplace safety has been destroyed: OSHA’s website no longer provides names of people dying in workplace accidents, and safety protections are rolled back for oil rig and coal industry workers.

The number of workers eligible for overtime pay has been cut in half, and workers are losing the ability to unionize and collective bargain.

Only half of workers for companies employing fewer than 50 people has access to 401(k)s, belying DDT’s claim that the stock market helps workers.

COVID-19 can’t be blamed for all the bad economy: the recession, defined by two quarters of negative growth, began last February before the virus’ onslaught. DDT also did nothing to stop the pandemic for months. He used the infections and deaths in blue states, hoping the problems would help him get elected. The economy was already too weak to overcome the pandemic’s effects, especially with a collapsing healthcare infrastructure. The tie of people’s health insurance to their employment devastated the economy after almost one-third of workers lost their employment or were furloughed.

The RNC attempt to “sell” the economy failed:

Employment: The stable economy in 2017 taken over by DDT in 2017 had a good record for consecutive monthly job growth, compared to Barack Obama’s assuming the presidency at the worst of the Great Recession. Almost 7 million jobs were created during Obama’s last three years in office; DDT’s first three years shrank 394,000 jobs to 6,585,000 jobs. Job growth in July, 4.7 million new jobs, shrank to 1.7 million in July and 1.4 million August, many of them temporary census takers to be laid off in a month or two. The number of permanently laid-off workers instead of temporary layoffs or furloughs increased to 3.4 million in August from 2.9 million in July. Of the 25 million jobs lost in the spring, only 10 million returned through July, a loss of 5.7 new jobs since DDT was inaugurated.  

Monthly unemployment numbers: In his ongoing attempts to pretend the economy is better than it is, DDT is “adjusting” the monthly unemployment figure by publishing the “additive” seasonal adjustment for first time unemployment claims. The change lowering numbers by about 21 percent. For example, the 881,000 claims for the last week of August, the first to use the system, would normally have been the usual over one million figure. About 29 million workers currently receive weekly unemployment out of a past workforce of approximately 154 million.

Economic growth: In Obama’s final three years, the economy (inflation-adjusted gross domestic product) grew 2.5 percent in 2014, 3.1 percent in 2015, and 1.7 percent in 2016—an average of 2.43 percent per year. DDT’s first three years showed an average of 2.5 percent per year—2.3 percent in 2017, 3.0 percent in 2018, and 2.2 percent in 2019. He had promised 4 percent or more per year.

Wage growth: Hourly earnings adjusted for inflation grew 3.3 percent during Obama’s final three years. DDT’s first three years were slightly less in the hourly earnings increase at an average of 3.2 percent. Any spike in wage growth now comes from disproportionate job losses for low-wage workers. Workers in the bottom 25 percent were half of the job losses whereas the top half of earners comprised one-third of the layoffs. Meanwhile, the ratio of CEO compensation to worker pay rose from 293 to 1 in 2018 to 320 to 1 in 2019.

The system may reverse as millions of lower-paid employees are being brought back, and the well-paid jobs, including those at tech companies, are disappearing. In the last four weeks, almost seven million people filed initial unemployment claims while the number of people on unemployment insurance dropped by four million, from 31 million to 27 million. Many of the people who got their jobs back, however, are in retail, restaurants, and lodging—the lower-paid end of services. It’s the next disaster.

Stock market: DDT’s S&P 500 climbed 51 percent from the day of his inauguration to August 25, 2020. It has gone down since then. The S&P 500 rose 182 percent during Obama’s two terms—about 52 percent during his second term.

Gains for the wealthy: The “K-shaped recovery,” a sideways “V” giving money to the rich and taking from the other 99 percent, was worsened by DDT’s 2017 tax cuts in which over half the people made less money in 2018 than in 2016. The almost 87 million taxpayers making under $50,000 lost $307 compared to President Obama’s last year. DDT’s policies benefit the top 7 percent: households with incomes over $200,000 rose by over 20 percent, and those making over $10 million skyrocketed by 37 percent to 22,112 households. Losing revenue from the tax cuts mostly for the wealthy adds at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt. During the pandemic, the combined wealth of more than 600 billionaires in the U.S. jumped by $792 billion, taking their collective net worth to $3.7 trillion.

National debt: The federal accumulated debt is projected to be larger next year than the overall economy for the first time since 1946—107 percent of the 2023 gross domestic product. This fiscal year’s debt ending this month expected to be $3.3 trillion reaches 16 percent of GDP, a level not seen since 1945. Federal spending skyrocketed to 32 percent of GDP for the current fiscal year. Tens of millions of people unemployed and countless businesses struggling or gone dropped revenues, down 16.3 percent from last year and 18 percent from 2015. The Congressional Budget Office estimates declines in both revenues and spending for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning October 1 with an expected 8.6 percent of GDP next year.

Deferred payroll taxes: If businesses defer the 6.2 percent employee portion of taxes for Social Security and Medicare, workers will see more money in their paychecks until the end of the year before they are forced to pay double that amount—12.4 percent—for over three months until the “deferment” is repaid. Ideally, people could save the overage in their paychecks for repayment, but realistically, many of them won’t. The needy unemployed won’t have any extra money from the deferred payroll tax because they have no paychecks. DDT is ordering this deferment for the 4.5 million federal employees, both civilian and military. Businesses describe DDT’s plan in his signed measure as “unworkable” and don’t plan to implement the order. Workers may also be able to opt out of the deferral program although the possibility is uncertain. More problems come from situations in which employees no longer work for the company as well as the government struggling to collect back-due tax balances next year.

DDT has said, if reelected he plans to eliminate the payroll tax entirely. If he carries through with his threat, the Social Security Trust Fund will be empty by 2023. The question is whether he can carry through with his plan without congressional approval. 

High U.S. trade deficit: On the campaign trail, DDT promised to produce a speedy decline in the U.S. trade deficit. July saw a 12-year high in this deficit after a surge in imports, the largest since July 2008. The negative trade balance in 2020’s first seven months is $340 billion. Over 300,000 U.S. jobs have been lost to outsourcing and imports since DDT’s inauguration, perhaps more because the figure reflects only job losses approved for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) retraining and other benefits. The Economic Policy Institute reported DDT’s trade agenda and handling of the pandemic “wiped out much of the last decade’s job gains in U.S. manufacturing.” Robert Scott, EPI senior economist and director of trade and manufacturing stated, “Nearly 1,800 factories have disappeared under Trump between 2016 and 2018.” He added the annual increase in the U.S. trade deficit since 2016 reduced GDP growth by about 0.25 percent annually for each of the three years.

New stimulus bill: One reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refuses help for states and cities during the pandemic comes from not “bailing out” blue states having budgetary problems from the pandemic. Deep-red Louisiana has a 46 percent decline in revenue and asked for $500 billion, $350 billion more than DDT offered. If McConnell sticks to his guns, the U.S. economy could contract by three percent and lose another four million jobs.

The Federal Reserve has decided to keep interest rates low, benefiting banks and allowing people to borrow more money while putting more people in debt and raising inflation. The higher prices and lower savings rates will hurt many people, especially elders. The delinquency rate for mortgages just hit the biggest quarterly rise in the history of surveying. More facts about the collapsing economy here and here

During his inauguration speech, DDT promised to provide for the “forgotten men and women of our country. These are some of the results. DDT now says a Biden/Harris administration would destroy the U.S. economy. It’s too late; people are already losers.  

April 20, 2016

John Kasich, Not ‘Mr. Nice Guy” or Moderate – Part Two

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 8:08 PM
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New York’s primary is finished, and Donald Trump was declared the winner at 9:01 EST, one minute after the polls closed. With the predicted 25 percent of the New York vote, John Kasich has still won only one state, and he’s sensitive about it. Asked if he is qualified to be the nominee if he’s won only one state by the Cleveland convention, Kasich claims that “there’s not ‘if’ in there.” The reporter politely presses him for an answer, and Kasich grabs the voice recorder out of the recorder’s hand and snaps, “What do you think?” The reporter calmly answers, “I think you should answer the question.” The video of the exchange is here.

Considering Kasich’s policies about women and blacks, it’s amazing that any of them vote for him. Three years ago, Kasich could have continued a federal waiver to not reinstate work requirements for the poor that would provide jobs so that they would keep welfare benefits. He kept the waiver in 16 of 88 counties—the rural areas with white populations that largely voted for him. The poor in the remaining 72 counties, including eight counties that hold 75 percent of black residents, lost their wavers. As soon as waiver expired, 134,000 people showed up at the food pantries.

In another policy change, Kasich cut the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies program that provides in-home visits to poor women throughout their pregnancies and for the first two years after they give birth. Ohio ranks 45th nationally in infant mortality rate and has one of the highest rates of infant deaths for black mothers in the country. In the most recent GOP debate, Chuck Todd asked Kasich about Cleveland being one of the most segregated cities in the country, Ohio being the sixth worst state in which to raise a black child, and the $20,000 income gap between black and white families. Kasich said he didn’t know about these statistics but did respond to the issue of infant mortality. According to Kasich, the white community is doing much better, and “the [black] community itself is going to have to have a better partnership with all of us to begin to solve that problem.”

Kasich’s defunding health programs offered by Planned Parenthood shows another lack of concern for infant mortality. By pulling money from PP, Kasich has increased unplanned pregnancies and domestic violence, two causes of infant mortality, and decreases prenatal care. The 65 percent of his state’s population opposed to defunding Planned Parenthood didn’t stop Kasich from eliminating health care for thousands of residents. Most of the $1.3 million that Kasich denied Planned Parenthood in Ohio comes from the federal government.

Ohio is known throughout the nation for unchecked police brutality. Tamir Rice was killed in Cleveland, John Crawford III near Dayton, and Sam Dubose in Cincinnati.

In the area of women’s reproductive rights, Ohio is a horror story. Last June, Cosmopolitan magazine ran the article “How Ohio Became One of the Worst States for Reproductive Rights in the Country,” and that’s hard to do in the United States! The state has a gag order on rape crisis counselors mentioning abortion, a “heartbeat bill” banning abortions after 20 weeks, a forced waiting period and counseling before an abortion giving alternatives to abortion, a “medical emergency” law to delay abortions even if a woman may die from continuing the pregnancy, and mandated court approval for minors getting abortions if they lack parental consent. Among Kasich’s 17 anti-abortion measures are banning abortions from public hospitals and drastically reducing the number of women’s clinics. Kasich funded so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” fake health clinics that provide false information about abortions such as it causes cancer, instead of real women’s clinics.

In 2012, Kasich appointed former Ohio Right to Life Executive Director Michael Gonidakis to the state medical board. Gonidakis admitted that he wanted the position to further his anti-choice, anti-woman agenda, including denying transfer agreements from abortion clinics to public hospitals. Clinics that perform abortions must look to privately funded hospitals which tend to be Catholic or otherwise Christian and will not sign transfer agreements. By late last year, over half of these clinics were forced to close. Kasich’s laws forced one woman to drive 300 miles to deliver her stillborn child because no doctors would perform an abortion on the woman at 22 weeks.

In addition to taking reproductive rights from women, Kasich consistently makes offensive sexist remarks. In Fairfax (VA), he praised women for their bravery in leaving their kitchens to help elect him. One woman responded, “I’ll come out to support you, but I won’t be coming out of the kitchen.” (One could ask why she would vote for him!) Later he gave the standard non-apology, saying he’s “more than happy to say, ‘I’m sorry’ if I offended somebody out there.” He finished by saying, “Everybody’s just got to relax.”

At the same meeting, a young nursing student asked, “Could you please tell me the economic and public health benefit of defunding an organization that has treated of four million people for STD services just in the past year?” He began by falsely claiming that Planned Parenthood had “discredited itself,” ignoring the “discredited” videos, the indicted leaders of the scam, and the absolution of any PP wrongdoing from Ohio’s Harris County grand jury. The bill defunding PP denies services like cancer screenings to over 50,000 Ohio women.  Kasich’s segue went to his claim of having “robust women’s health funding in Ohio” which led to the disastrous topic of high infant mortality.

Kasich not only thinks that his supporters had to come out of the kitchen to work for him but also believes that wives of politicians are “at home doing the laundry.” He made this comment while trying to give thanks for GOP candidates’ spouses, such as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s wives, and added that they are “at home taking care of the kids.”

Last November he asked a woman in Iowa, “Have you ever been on a diet?” He was trying to compare budgets to diets, but the use of the metaphor fell flat. When student paper columnist Kayla Solsbak at the University of Richmond raised her hand, he said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any Taylor Swift concert tickets.” He didn’t even ask her what she wanted. Later she explained in her article that she went to see Kasich “because it’s my civic duty to be an informed voter. Please start treating me like one.”

Asked about the gender pay gap, Kasich responded to a woman, “Do you not have the skills to be able to compete?” Addressing spousal rape referenced in a disposition by Donald Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, he said that “everyone should simply “move on. Talk about something else.” During a campaign event last week, a young woman, asked about Social Security. Kasich inquired, “Did somebody tell you to ask this question?” She said, “No. I think for myself.”

In what might be his most shocking example of misogyny, Kasich addressed a question about what he would do about the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses. He told the female questioner not to “go to parties where there’s a lot of alcohol.” He follows the conservative philosophy that assault victims are to blame for the crime, and the perpetrators have no responsibility. This attitude shows how he would govern if elected president.

Kasich’s tax plan decreases taxes for the wealthy by one-third and eliminates the estate on wealthiest 0.2 percent of taxpayers, lowing $246 billion in the next decade. He also wants to lower the tax rate on investments to 15 percent rather than reducing tax rates for wages. Seventy percent of the taxes saved in investments would go to the top 1 percent while the bottom 80 percent would get seven percent. Kasich also wants corporate taxes to be decreased by almost one-third.

Kasich wants to freeze all non-defense discretionary spending for eight years while boosting military spending by 17 percent. His solution to education, transportation, and job training is block grants which greatly reduce these. Winners: wealthy people, corporations, and military. Losers: veterans, students, disabled, poor, women, people suffering from disasters because of much less money for food, housing, education, health, job training—anything that provides opportunity and security for working families.

John Kasich doesn’t have the delegates going into the GOP convention, but he knows how much the Republican establishment hates Trump Cruz. His expectation is that all the delegates will rally around him by the second or third vote of the convention. Stranger things have happened.

April 20, 2015

Wisconsin Senator an Example of Uncaring Rich

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who used $8.8 million of his own money to get elected in 2010, was then the tenth wealthiest congressional member with almost $50 million, up from almost $20 million the previous year. By now, he’s gone down to thirtieth wealthiest in Congress but remains in about the top 5 percent within a group of very wealthy people.

One could call Johnson a “self-made” man because his wealth comes from his marriage to University of Minnesota sweetheart, Jane Curler. Her father, Howard Curler, started a company in 1958 with Robert Woods that developed innovative packaging—shrink-wrapped cheese and meat packaging, films for coffee and other products, etc. Almost 40 years ago, Curler created a business, PACUR, for son Patrick that sold its products exclusively to Dad. Son-in-law Ron Johnson joined the company in 1979.

Johnson’s wealth, and the way that he procured it, is not the problem, however. It’s his indifference to the other 95 percent of the people in the United States who haven’t found a wealthy spouse to give them the same opportunities. Recently he agreed with radio host Jay Weber in criticizing the use of “sad sack stories about who’s dying from what and why they can’t get their coverage” to promote “Obamacare.”

For the second time, Johnson has lost a lawsuit to stop congressional members and their staff from getting health insurance subsidies by arguing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required them to get insurance on their own. In the first judgment against Johnson, U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that Johnson and his aide, Brooke Ericson, lacked standing to bring the suit because they had not been injured under an equal protection theory. Griesbach wrote, “The Constitution wisely cabins judicial authority by forbidding judges from deciding disputes unless the plaintiff is actually injured in some concrete, discernible way.” The George W. Bush-appointed judge added:

“The nation’s system of government doesn’t allow every controversy to play out in court. There is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true.”

A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals concurred with Griesbach after Johnson appealed the decision. “Respectfully, we do not see how Senator Johnson’s reputation could be sullied or his electability diminished by being offered, against his will, a benefit that he then decided to refuse,” Judge Joel Flaum, a Reagan appointee, wrote for the panel. The other two judges were appointed for Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton.

Johnson is frustrated because the judge failed “to address the important constitutional issues at hand” although addressing from these plaintiffs would be unconstitutional. After two failures in the courts, Johnson is reviewing the decision before deciding whether to drop the matter, ask the full appeals court to review the decision, or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called the lawsuit “an unfortunate political stunt” that would cause top congressional staff to quit if Johnson won.

Three years ago, Johnson tried to convince voters of the ACA’s evils by claiming that his daughter’s heart surgery would not have been possible with ACA as the law. He claimed that he ran for the Senate to replace the “healthcare freedom” prior to the ACA. Dr. John Foker disagreed with Johnson’s story. On the other hand, the man who saved the life of Johnson’s daughter is “generally supportive” of the ACA but thinks it doesn’t go far enough. He said, “Unfortunately it was written by the insurance and drug companies, so not so great.” In addition, the surgery was performed at a government-funded medical institution and was developed under the socialized healthcare systems in Brazil and France.

After a GOP president lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and insisted on a multi-trillion-dollar war, Johnson wants to privatize medical care for veterans and run the VA at a profit. This was after he accused President Obama of not keeping enough troops in Iraq. With the Republicans in control of Congress, Johnson’s plan is moving toward fruition after Concerned Veterans for America, funded by the Koch brothers, released a report supporting privatization. Veterans would have a private insurance option, and one-fifth of future veterans might not be eligible for care under tougher enrollment standards. Real veterans’ groups oppose the plan, and this clip from the The Rachel Maddow Show discusses why privatization would be a disaster.

Health insurance isn’t the only thing that Johnson wants to take from people; he wants to force single women to marry. The new chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said that a single woman who wants to “increase her take-home pay” instead of having yet “another child out of wedlock” to increase her welfare windfall should instead “find someone to support her.” He may be projecting his personal experience on the poor.

The idea that women have more children to get more government benefits has been debunked by both Politifact and Washington Post because food stamps, health care and other government assistance don’t come close to covering all the expenses that come with having a child. Johnson also ignores the fact that almost half the children in the current generation will spend at least part of their childhood in single-parent household, most of them headed by women and most not receiving “welfare.”

A recent study shows that almost as many poor or near-poor children are in two-parent families as in single-parents ones. In addition, countries such as Iceland, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain all have higher nonmarital birth rates than does the United States, yet they all have far lower rates of child poverty. As author and activist Barbara Ehrenreich has argued, poverty is not a lack of character, it is a lack of money. The number of “traditional families” idealized by well-funded organizations and Christian ministries is rapidly shrinking although it dominates the U.S. imagination. Johnson and his fellow Republicans are contributing to the number of “poor single women” through their support of rising economic inequality, diminishing numbers of blue-collar jobs, lowered wages, and unbelievably high levels of incarceration in poor communities.

Dozens of studies with thousands of participants throughout the United States show that people’s feelings of compassion and empathy go down as their level of wealth increases. At the same time, higher levels of wealth lead to feelings of entitlement, deservingness, and self-interest, according to Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. Some of these studies are described here. One reason may be that wealth provides the luxury of less dependence on others, thus desensitizing a sense of empathy.

UC-Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has found that this deficit physically appeared through the vagus nerve which is activated by caring. Images of suffering produced a vagus nerve response in lower-class people that didn’t appear in upper-class individuals. These are the people increasingly making decisions for society as over half the members of Congress are millionaires.

Conservatives who get very riled about these studies could look at the Republicans in Congress. Ron Johnson is just an example of conservative members who take from the poor and give to the rich.

Johnson, the senator who sued to stop ACA for congressional staff and sneered at the “sad sack” stories, is the same person who is afraid of backlash against the GOP if the Supreme Court gives the GOP what they asked for in stripping health care subsidies for millions of people in the United States. The biggest election disaster for the GOP would be in the red states where conservatives can’t—or won’t—set up state-run insurance exchanges if the Supreme Court refuses to recognize the federal exchange for those who live in poverty.

Also in Wisconsin, state representatives Jesse Kremer and Steve Nuss want food stamp recipients to show ID to eliminate the non-existent waste and fraud, forcing them to identify themselves as a lower class. The elderly can forget about asking someone to get groceries for them. Kremer also wants special government-run food pantries for people with food stamps.

The best Wisconsin story from the week: Gov.Scott Walker explained that the U.S. role in the world is “what makes us arguably the greatest nation in history.” This from the party and the person who questions President Obama’s “love for his country.”

February 3, 2014

Conservatives Need to Understand Income Inequality

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:01 PM
Tags: , , ,

Two pieces in today’s newspaper caught my eye because they discussed the growing income inequality throughout the United States. One article described the disappearance of the middle class through the growth of high-end and fast-food restaurants. Those in the middle such as Olive Garden and Red Lobster (that belong to the same company) are losing customers.

John Maxwell, head of global retail and consumer practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, explained, “You don’t want to be caught in the middle.” And the situation is getting worse. In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners did 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995. That’s a rise of 30 percent in less than 20 years. Between 2009 and 2012, 90 percent of the increase of consumption came from the top 20 percent of households.

Even conservatives are recognizing the inequality, as demonstrated by a column from far-right Robert Samuelson. His rationale for the gap, however, is not the gluttonous rich. “The poor are not poor because the rich are rich. The two conditions are generally unrelated.” According to Samuelson, people are wealthy because they run successful businesses or have professional careers. He argues against raising the minimum wage because the poor are “not in the labor force.”

Samuelson does confess that pretax incomes of the top 1 percent did increase 190 percent between 1980 and 2010. Since 2009, however, the top 1 percent grabbed 95 percent of the post-recession growth at a time when 90 percent of people in the United States grew poorer. Samuelson  blames the bottom 95 percent for borrowing during the 1980s when “income growth slowed.” Because “debt led to a consumption boom that was unsustainable,” people suffered—but it was their fault. Samuelson claims that the rich aren’t to blame for the income gap.

A recent Oxfam report, “Working for the Few,” on global wealth inequality shows the seriousness of the income inequality. Around the world, 85 people own as much as half the world’s population. That’s 3.5 billion people. The richest 1 percent in the world has $110 trillion, 65 times the total wealth of those 3.5 billion people who collectively own about $1.7 trillion—about 0.7 percent of the world’s wealth.

The U.S., with 5 percent of the world’s population and 30 percent of the wealth, is largely responsible for the disparity because the net worth of 30 people in this country equals that of half the U.S. population—157,000,000 people. China, India, and Africa combined have about half the world’s population and just 12% of the wealth.

With its 1.1 percent of the nation’s wealth, that same bottom half of people in the U.S. own a smaller percentage of the country’s wealth than almost all other countries and continents. In Asia, the poorest half of the country owns 1.3 percent of the wealth, in Africa 2.1 percent, in Latin America 3.2 percent, in India 4.5 percent, in the United Kingdom 7.6 percent, and in China 9.6 percent.

People in the United States also have much less chance of moving up to a higher level of income than in any other place in the world. Seven of ten in poverty will stay there. The conservative politicians who lowered the food stamps for the poor while maintaining farm subsidies for the wealthy (including themselves) keep arguing that people are poor because they aren’t willing to work hard. If that were true, many of the poor would climb up the ladder. The Global Wealth Databook reports:

“North America is…less mobile than other regions, especially over longer time horizons. Europe is next in line, followed by the middle group of Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa. The most mobile regions are China and India.”

Almost everyone in the United States suffers from the income inequality not seen in this country for almost 100 years. Income inequality is at its highest since 1928, the year before the Great Depression began. The U.S. media of $44,911 is only 15 percent of the $301,140 mean (greatly skewed by the richest 10 percent). That ratio is less than any other of the 27 developed countries in the Databook and far less than the average OECD ratio of 35 percent.

People in the United States do have a growing awareness of the increase in the income gap; 65 percent of them think that this gap has increased in the past 10 years. In the United States, 70 percent of the people want the government to reduce the gap; 43 percent of them say that the government should play a large role in doing this. Another 82 percent say that the government should do “a lot” or “some” to reduce poverty. The minimum wage should be raised to $10.10, according to 73 percent of respondents, and another 63 percent want the emergency unemployment insurance extended for another year. Even 54 percent of the people would raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

One effect of extreme income inequality is illness. During the past 30 years life expectancy of workers retiring at 65 increased by six years in the top half of income distribution but only 1.3 years in the bottom half. Because poorer communities have fewer health care providers and lack education about health care, people living there are much more likely to have chronic medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Lack of safety is another issue with rising economic inequality. Homicide rates increased at the same rate as the income gap according to studies in 1999 and 2002. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported that “a twenty percent drop in wages leads to a 12 to 18 percent increase in youth crime.”

With higher inequality comes lower levels of representative democracy—and a higher probability of revolution. Poorer citizens believe—sometimes accurately—that government serves only the rich. According to the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal, “The top 0.01 percent of campaign donors—one percent of the one percent–contributed more than 40 percent of all the money spent in the 2012 elections.” In 1980 the political contributions from the top 0.01 percent was under 15 percent. The 17 groups funded by the Koch brothers raised at least $407 million for the 2012 campaign, more than both major parties spend during the 2000 election. The influence from special interest groups causes greater income inequality.

On one winter day in 2012, over 633,000 people were homeless in the United States. Providing shelter at $558 per month, these people could have shelter for a little over $4 billion. Last year, the stock market grew by $4.7 trillion. A wealth tax of just one-tenth of 1 percent (one dollar per thousand) would provide this $4 billion. And the wealthiest people keep getting wealthier.

A huge problem with income inequality is the resulting difficulty to achieve long-term economic growth. The International Monetary Fund concluded that societies like the United States suffering from a huge gap between the wealthy and everyone else “are more vulnerable to both financial crises and political instability.” If hit by external shocks, these societies “often stumble into gridlock rather than agree to tough policies needed to keep growth alive.” It’s a circular situation: gridlock causes greater economic problems, and more economic problems causes more gridlock.

The indictment of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and his wife symbolizes the cause of income inequality. Politicians sell out the people who elect them for personal wealth as millionaires and billionaires buy deals, policies, and laws. Tax breaks, bailing out Wall Street, refusal to regulate industrial chemicals that poison drinking water—all these are bought by the wealthy to benefit themselves and impoverish the rest of the population.

After World War II, legislation increased economic opportunity and decreased income inequality through high income and inheritance tax rates for the wealthy, support for labor unions to bargain for living wages, and a culture that does not support a CEO’s wage for an hour equaling a worker’s salary for an entire year. Three decades later, the success of the nation began to disintegrate, and a half century after the success of the mid-twentieth century, millionaire Mitt Romney pays a lower income tax rate than middle-class people.

The wealthy are the cause of the income gap. The question is whether they will change the country’s culture before the bottom 90 percent declares a revolution.

December 27, 2012

If Six People Had Lost the Election …

One example of what the Republicans wanted to do in the 112th Congress came from Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) who lost his campaign to switch to the Senate. Earlier this year, he proposed a “license to bully” amendment to the defense budget guaranteeing blatant discrimination against harassed LGBT people in the military because there could be no discipline for this action. The House even passed the amendment. The Senate didn’t consider the amendment, but the lame-duck Senate is trying to put it back into the bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is working with Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), both with anti-gay records. McKeon had pledged to pass clean defense bills that were “not weighed down” by social issues but has done just the opposite.

Imagine if the Republicans had taken over the Senate and the presidency as well as the House. Only six elections made the difference—five Senators and one president. If President Obama had lost and if six more Senate seats had gone to the GOP, both the legislative and administrative parts of the government would have been Republican joining a highly conservative Supreme Court.

Michigan is an example of how destructive this could have been.

Worried about the loss of his super-majority in the legislature, Gov. Rick Snyder pushed through 282 laws since November 6 during the lame-duck session. The law that got the greatest media notice was the union-busting “right-to-work” bill that Snyder put through the legislature after he said he had no interest in taking away union rights. No warning, no hearings, no public input, no floor debate—just two days between its passage and Snyder’s signing.

All private-sector and public-sector unions—except firefighters and police—are blocked from their rights. Maybe because the two exempted unions have a large number of Republicans? The law requires that employees cannot be required to pay union dues. The process not only weakens bargaining for better wages and working conditions but also limits the unions’ participation in elections.

The Koch brothers political machine and the conservative lobby group ALEC, which write bills for legislators, had been planning this action for months. The non-profit Mackinac Public Policy Center spent $5.7 million in 2011 alone to fight unions. The two major financiers of the company are Charles Koch and Dick DeVos, son of Amway’s founder and loser to Democrat Jennifer Granholm for governor in 2006.

Mackinac was also a major supporter of the “financial martial law” allowing “emergency financial managers” to take over municipalities and drive out the elected officials. Upset by this law, voters removed the Republican super-majority in the November election and overturned this law, forcing Snyder to work fast. After the people overturned the law, the legislature put it back—again including the managers’ ability to void union contracts and labor agreements.

These bills are harder to overturn with a ballot referendum because both are attached an appropriations measure.

Not content with attacking workers and elected officials, Snyder attacked women’s rights. The so-called “Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act” states that “[h]ealth care providers could refuse to perform certain medical procedures, and employers could opt not to provide coverage for certain medical services as a matter of conscience.” The 1978 state law allows any medical professional and institution to refuse to perform abortions. Now they can refuse to provide contraception and “other services and medications that they oppose as a matter of conscience.”

Just in case the “Protection Act” doesn’t stop enough abortions, Michigan also passed an anti-abortion law which has been called “the nation’s worst.” Ms. reported, “HB 5711 requires that clinics meet the same standards and regulations as surgical centers and that fetal remains are to be treated the same as a dead human body, including authorization from the local or state registrar before cremation. The bill also requires that doctors provide a written ‘risk assessment’ to patients at least 24 hours before having a procedure and prohibits the use of telemedicine to prescribing abortion-inducing medication. Doctors will also have to certify that a woman is not being coerced into having an abortion by asking probing and invasive questions as a result of HB 5711.”

One House bill that failed was barring the use of “foreign laws that would impair constitutional rights”—the “anti-Sharia” bill.  The courts had already overturned a similar Oklahoma law that specifically mentioned Sharia. Some Michigan Republicans are still convinced that President Obama is a Muslim, bad because Rep. Dave Agema thinks “just about every terrorist is a Muslim.” Agema’s bill was similar to model legislation produced by David Yerushalmi, the conservative attorney who once urged the U.S. to declare war on Islam and referred to liberal Jews as “parasites.”

Other religious groups in the state, such as the Michigan Catholic Conference, opposed the bill because it might affect any religious group that chooses to enter into a contract based on their religious beliefs. After all, the Pope doesn’t live in the United States.

The only bill that Snyder vetoed was the right to carry concealed weapons in schools. He probably would have signed that one too if not for the 26 people killed in the Newtown (CT) school.

Snyder still has 23 months before his next election, but his popularity is plummeting, down nine points since the sweeping legislation. His disapproval rating is up 19 points. The question is how long the voters’ memories are.

Governors across the nation will undoubtedly follow Snyder’s actions during the last month. The result:

  • Severe economic problems because lower wages from union-breaking means that people will have less spending ability;
  • Fewer elected officials retaining the right to perform their responsibilities because governor-appointed managers will take over towns and cities;
  • More deaths from illegal abortions because of the severe restrictions on legal abortions;
  • A greater number of unwanted pregnancies from severe restrictions on clinics limiting contraception for poor women.

This next year, the Michigan House still has a GOP majority but not a super-majority. The irony is that Michigan has more Democrats than Republicans. It is the gerrymandering of districts following the 2010 census that  allowed the GOP majority to continue.

gerrymandering

 

The same thing happened in the U.S. House where the GOP controls almost 54 percent of the seats in the 113th Congressional House although they lost the popular vote by at least 1.2 million.

Some Republicans in the House report that they are willing to let taxes on the wealthy increase. They’re coming back to town in three days; we’ll see what they do then with one day left to overturn the law they passed 18 months ago.

March 2, 2012

Study Shows Wealthy Less Ethical

After decades of trusting banks, Alan Greenspan finally admitted that he was mistaken: “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.” Rough translation—he thought that the financiers were ethical. Too bad he didn’t have access to a recent study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the “upper class,” words, are more likely to behave unethically than those of us with less money.

Paul Piff, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues explored the ethics of the upper class and found that they were more likely to break the law while driving, lie in negotiation, and take candy from children. According to Paul Piff, the pursuit of self-interest is a “fundamental motive among society’s elite, and the increased want associated with greater wealth and status can promote wrongdoing.” Their experiments suggest that some wealthier people “perceive greed as positive and beneficial.”

The tests used in the study ranged from studying video to seeing whether people obeyed traffic laws. In the traffic tests, about one-third of drivers in higher- status cars cut off other drivers at an intersection monitored by researchers, about double those in less costly cars. Additionally, almost half of the more expensive cars didn’t yield when a pedestrian entered the crosswalk while all of the lowest-status cars let the pedestrian cross.

Another test had participants playing a game in which a computer rolled dice for them, for a chance to win a $50 gift certificate. Wealthier participants were more likely to lie about their score. “A $50 prize is a measly sum to people who make $250,000 a year,” said one the study authors. “So why are they more inclined to cheat?” According to Piff, poorer participants must rely more on their community and therefore adhere more to community standards. “Upper-class individuals are more self-focused, they privilege themselves over others, and they engage in self- interested patterns of behavior,” he said.

Erik Gordon, a business professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said, “Greed has been on the upswing for 20 years. Wealth or power that comes with high socioeconomic status means you are indeed enabled to ignore other people and might think that rules that apply to other people don’t apply to you.”

The study doesn’t state that all wealthy people believe in one way and all poorer people behave differently. But it does show that many of the rich are more likely to lie and cheat for a small prize. The Wall Streeters who helped crash the economy probably knew they are doing something wrong. Or maybe not, if they this that rules don’t apply to them and greed is good. Earlier research has shown has shown that students who take college economics classes are more likely to describe greed as good.

Alan Greenspan learned his lesson too late for the nation’s well-being. It’s time for the bottom 99 percent to teach the rest of the wealthy this lesson.

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