Monday, December 31, 2012

If You Make $250,000 a Year, You're Rich

And if you are rich in America, you are rich anywhere else in the world.

One of the most expensive places in the U.S. to buy a house is in Los Altos California, where homes averaged $1.7 million in 2012. With no money down, a 30-year mortgage at 5% on a home in Los Altos costing $1.7 million would cost you $131,000 a year (almost $11,000 a month for a mortgage payment).

That is less than half your annual income if you earned $250,000 a year; so you'd still have enough money left over for heat and food.

But I keep hearing the talking heads on TV saying that for someone living in a big city like L.A. or New York, $250,000 isn’t really all that much. Oh really?

I once lived in New York City and survived (though not very well) on a waiter's pay plus tips, living in a weekly rental apartment on West 42nd Street before Times Square was renovated. I later moved to Queens with a co-worker to rent a house for a lot cheaper (in middle-class neighborhood across the street from a school).

I also lived in a ritzy area of Philadelphia (Rittenhouse Square), and on a waiter's pay I managed to live in a very nice high-rise apartment called the Rittenhouse Claridge. I didn't starve.

$250,000 is 5 times the national average "household income”, when two people in a household usually work -- which squares with the Social Security Administration, which says 50% off all U.S. workers earn $26,966 a year or less --- and the Census Bureau that says 80% of all households have at least two income earners.

Obama wants households earning over $250,000 to pay a little more (the old tax rate under Bill Clinton); but everyone earning more than that (especially multi-millionaires) are kicking and screaming like they have it so damn bad.

"Ah-ha!" I can hear Bill O'Reilly saying, because in my little scenario I'm not figuring in to account federal, state, city, and FICA taxes into that $250,000 that someone is earning.

Well, in that case, instead of buying a $1.7 million house in Los Altos California, maybe if you earned $250,000 BEFORE taxes, you could afford one of these "slum" 2 & 3 bedroom condos in New York City for half the price --- or far much less.

FOR SALE: $898,000 - South End Ave & West St. - $5,756 a month with no money down at 5%.

FOR SALE: $799,000 - 250 Manhattan Ave - $5,121 a month with no money down at 5%.

FOR SALE: $755,000 - 375 East 68th Street - $4,839 a month with no money down at 5%.

FOR SALE: $350,000 Wadsworth & West 181st - $2,243 a month with no money down at 5%.

What? You can't afford to buy and can only rent? With $250,000 a year you can easily get one of these slummy crash pads...
Apartment for rent in Midtown - $3,275 a month
Apartment for rent in Midtown - $3,130 a month
If you lived in Midtown Manhattan, you might pay $3,000 a month for a nice one room apartment (that's $36,000 a year). But even after taxes, you would still be living on Easy Street if you earned "only" $250,000 a year. Most working people in America have to work at least 10 years to make $250,000, which is more than the median price of a home in the U.S.
But most people who work in NYC don't live there, they commute.
If you earned $250,000 in America, you are rich. If you earned that much money in the Democratic Republic of the Congo you could buy your own army.
And Bill O'Reilly could probably buy the whole country.
But never fear, because a deal was reached in the Senate tonight on the threshold for extending the Bush tax cuts, and it is now $450,000 a year. So if you earn that much money every year, and you live in Los Altos, New York, Boston, L.A. or San Francisco, you won't have to worry about where your next meal will come from, because your taxes won't be going up anytime soon.
Now we have to hope that the Republican idiots in the House will vote for it.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

If your taxes go up next year, you'd be lucky.

Think about this: There are more people in America today with NO INCOME AT ALL than there were net new jobs created since October of 2009 when the unemployment rate peaked at 10.2%.

Sure, since the Great Recession many of the older workers opted out for an early Social Security retirement at age 62 if they had to --- and single moms with children might have qualified for a meager welfare check. And many people even found low-paying temp jobs, only to be laid off again (and qualifying for less in an unemployment check).

And many people (if they were VERY lucky) after perusing a Social Security disability claim, finally were approved after suffering two or more years of worry and a mountain of paperwork.

But millions of others have already exhausted all their unemployment benefits over two years ago and never qualified for any other type of government assistance, and so had NO INCOME AT ALL (I am but one).

So what if people's payroll (and/or federal income) taxes go back to where they once were. Big deal. At least they have an income and a tax to pay. What about those who are unemployed, but yet are still obligated to pay federal income taxes on their unemployment checks?

Also, there's been a lot of talk in the media lately regarding the "fiscal cliff" and how 2 million people might have their extended UI benefits paid retroactively --- bla, bla, bla....

Millions of Americans have already been there, done that.

Exactly two years ago in 2010 the Republicans in Congress bickered over extending the Bush tax cuts (especially for the rich) in exchange for extending unemployment benefits and food stamps for the poor. Remember that?

That was the time when President Obama once said he didn't want to raise taxes on ANYBODY because of a "bad economy". (Meaning, "bad" for working and jobless people, but not "bad" for big corporations and banks, those who made record profits and whose CEOs made record salaries.)

But what about today, and the 7 million+ long-term unemployed people who have already exhausted all 99 weeks of their unemployment benefits and are still unemployed (and have been so for a very long time) and have tried living with no income at all?

What about those who couldn't find another job, especially if they're "50-something" -- those who are too old to hire and too young to retire?

What about them, and what about the "99ers"? Why is the media harping about those who are already blessed with jobs and an income, who might see their taxes go up, just a little. Bid deal. People like me WISH they could pay taxes!

The "99ers" have been literally swept under the rug. I've been out of work since 2008 and I can't collect a REDUCED Social Security payment until I'm 62 years old...that's 5 more years from now! And I'm quite sure there are many others in the same boat as I am.

God bless him, Ed Schultz, who used to mention the "99ers" on his TV show on MSNBC, but not lately.

The government's reported unemployment rate (the U-3 rate) was at 10.2% in October of 2009 when over 15 million Americans were unemployed. At least 8 million of them were laid off between 2007 to 2009 during the Great Recession.

Today the government says the unemployment rate is only 7.7% with 12 million unemployed; and that millions more just simply disappeared and "dropped out of the labor force". The government claims they stopped looking for work, as though, if they really were looking for that mystery job, they could actually find one.

NOTE: We had 12 million people consistently unemployed for a very long time, because the labor force's "participation rate" is reduced with all those "discouraged workers" who stopped looking for work. But then, how does the unemployment rate drop if 12 million is a greater percentage of the overall shrunken work force? I still don't understand the government's math.

Also, since the unemployment rate peaked:

  • How many NET new jobs were created since October 2009?
  • How may more layoffs and out-sourced jobs were there since October of 2009?
  • How many of those 8 million laid-off Americans found another job since October 2009?
  • How many young people who graduated from high school and college found a job since October of 2009?
  • How many "guest-workers" from foreign countries were granted jobs here since October 2009?

My unemployment benefits expired in June of 2010 when I was 54 years old. Now in December of 2012 I'm 57 years old and living on food stamps ---- and only food stamps. If it weren't for food stamps I'd be dead, but the Republicans want to cut food stamps too!

I guess the Republicans want me dead, because more jobs will go to Asia and more foreign "guest workers" will come here to work in America.

And all the NEW jobs, meaning, more low-paying jobs at places like Wal-Mart and McDonalds, will go to young college graduates --- and not to long-term unemployed old people with only a high school education (or less). They were the ones who used to get those jobs, them and the teenagers.

I can only hope that within the next 5 years the Republicans don't have their way and completely eliminate Social Security too --- or won't raise the eligibility age to 70. If that happened, I'd be more screwed than I already am.

If your payroll taxes and/or federal income taxes go up (just a little) next year, big deal. I can't pay taxes. I didn't have to file a federal income tax return for the first time in 40 years.

If your taxes go up a little next year, count yourself one of the lucky ones because you'll have an income and can pay taxes. Many can't, regardless of whether they wanted to or not.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Warren Buffett Wasn't Joking, We're Being Exterminated

Ever since the mid-70's, when America's middle-class had peaked, our "captains of industry" began suppressing wages until they remained stagnant, forcing millions of American workers to increasing rely on government entitlements --- while at the same time, also attempting to completely eliminate government entitlements.

Six years ago when Warren Buffett said: “There’s class warfare all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war --- and we’re winning," he wasn't exaggerating. The middle-class in America is literally being annihilated.

the_scream.jpg (929696 bytes)

Earlier this year history was made at Sotheby’s when Edvard Munch’s iconic masterpiece The Scream sold for $119.9 million in New York, marking a new world record for any work of art sold at an auction.(See my post: The "SWAG" Economy of the 1% )

Leon David Black, an American businessman and money manager that specializes in leveraged buyouts, bought the painting on May 2, 2012. Mister Black founded the private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

The painting reminds me of a middle-aged American worker witnessing the destruction of the middle-class before his very eyes.

The statistics that you are about to read below prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.

From Business Insider: "The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace.

So why are we witnessing such fundamental changes? Well, the globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather nasty side effects. It turns out that they didn't tell us that the "global economy" would mean that middle class American workers would eventually have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have increasingly found things to be very tough.

The reality is that no matter how smart, how strong, how educated or how hard working American workers are, they just cannot compete with people who are desperate to put in 10 to 12 hour days at less than a dollar an hour on the other side of the world. After all, what corporation in their right mind is going to pay an American worker ten times more (plus benefits) to do the same job? The world is fundamentally changing. Wealth and power are rapidly becoming concentrated at the top and the big global corporations are making massive amounts of money. Meanwhile, the American middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence as U.S. workers are slowly being merged into the new "global" labor pool.

What do most Americans have to offer in the marketplace other than their labor? Not much. The truth is that most Americans are absolutely dependent on someone else giving them a job. But today, U.S. workers are "less attractive" than ever. Compared to the rest of the world, American workers are extremely expensive, and the government keeps passing more rules and regulations seemingly on a monthly basis that makes it even more difficult to conduct business in the United States.

So corporations are moving operations out of the U.S. at breathtaking speed. Since the U.S. government does not penalize them for doing so, there really is no incentive for them to stay.

What has developed is a situation where the people at the top are doing quite well, while most Americans are finding it increasingly difficult to make it. There are now about 6 unemployed Americans for every new job opening in the United States, and the number of "chronically unemployed" is absolutely soaring. There simply are not nearly enough jobs for everyone.

Many of those who are able to get jobs are finding that they are making less money than they used to. In fact, an increasingly large percentage of Americans are working at low wage retail and service jobs.

But you can't raise a family on what you make flipping burgers at McDonald's or on what you bring in from greeting customers down at the local Wal-Mart.

The truth is that the middle class in America is dying -- and once it is gone it will be incredibly difficult nearly impossible to rebuild.

Statistics That Prove The Middle Class Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America

  • 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.
  • 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.
  • 66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.
  • 36 percent of Americans say that they can't afford to contribute anything to retirement savings.
  • 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.
  • 24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.
  • Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.
  • Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.
  • For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.
  • In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.
  • As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households only held about 7% of total liquid financial assets.
  • The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.
  • Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.
  • In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.
  • The top 1% of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.
  • In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.
  • More than 40% of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.
  • For the first time in U.S. history, more than 46 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go higher.
  • This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.
  • Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
  • Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States were living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.
  • The top 10% of Americans now earn around 50% of our national income.

The 9 Articles Below Also Makes Warren Buffett's Case (The headlines alone tell the whole story)

Corporate Profits Hit Record High --- Worker Wages Hit Record Low 

The Corporate Tax Rate Is Lowest in Decades 

CEO's in the S&P 500 Now Average $13 Million a Year, Year after Year 

Capital Gains Taxes for Rich CEOs at Historical Lows 

50% of all American workers earn less than $26,965 a year. 

Why the Rich Live Longer 

Every Year $1 Trillion Not Taxed on the Rich for Social Security or Medicare 

Murder, Greed and Betrayal of the Rich and Famous 

Every Year Billions of Dollars Lost to Tax Evasion 

*** Google "Bank fraud", "libor rate fixing scandal", "robo-signing mortgage foreclosures" (etc.) to complete this list.

Besides busting labor unions to suppress wages, the Republicans also want to suppress the vote to gain permanent political power. That way the Republicans can totally eliminate unemployment benefits, Social Security and Medicare. The GOP and the rich don't just want to conquer us (the enemy) in this "class war" that they've been waging, they want to completely annihilate us!

And just like Warren Buffett had said, they're winning. And there's not a thing you and I can do about it. If ignorant Republican voters remain ignorant, the middle-class is doomed forever.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to Bill O'Reilly

Today is the 5th consecutive Christmas I've celebrated since becoming unemployed after being laid off in October 2008, and the 3rd consecutive Christmas I've celebrated with no income at all since my unemployment benefits expired in June 2010.

Since then, I've lived on the generosity of another person for a spare room and food stamps from the government and Bill O'Reilly.

I no longer own a car, it was repo-ed. I'm living in the suburbs of Las
Vegas, one mile away from the nearest bus stop. But even if I had a car, I still couldn't go anywhere, because I can no longer pay for auto insurance or gas. I can't even pay for a bus ticket --- I'm broke.

I applied for Social Security disability in January 2011, but I was eventually denied benefits at a hearing in September of 2012 -- so now I'm waiting for an Appeal to Counsel for a government hand out entitlement.

I imagine people like Bill O'Reilly, safe and snug (and smug), and secure in a big warm 15-room house with a 10-foot tall Christmas tree with tons of presents underneath it, while nearby a fire roars in the fireplace as it's peacefully snowing outside his living-room windows.

I also imagine Bill O'Reilly has Christmas Day off (with pay) from Fox News. But people earning minimum wage don't usually get the holiday off with pay...that would be a union entitlement.

But for millions of Americans, today Christmas is just like any other day of the year, worrying about how to pay the rent, buy food, and put off paying their enormous heating bill. I for one can say, that if I had a Social Security "entitlement" check, my Christmas would certainly be much more merrier.

The first definition of an "entitlement", as defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract."

Their third definition of entitlement is "a belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges."

The first definition refers to people like myself, those who worked for 35 years paying Social Security taxes on 100% of their income before eventually becoming disabled and were no longer able to financially support themselves. They had an expectation that, just like with an insurance policy, they would be entitled to a disability income.

The third definition of entitlement refers to people like Bill O'Reilly, who makes millions of dollars every year, lives in a mansion on the beach, and threatens to quit their jobs if their taxes go up a measly 3% to help pay down our national debt.

These people, those who claim to be American patriots, would rather see other people's disability checks cancelled, while our government builds more war ships, rather than make any personal sacrifices themselves...a meager sacrifice that would in no way alter their standard-of-living.

It is people like O'Reilly who, just because of their own personal success, feel that it is they who are entitled to make judgments affecting other people's lives -- such as influencing government policy and public opinion --- with his daily diatribes, spouting lies that usually provokes decisions that affect people like myself in the most negative of ways.

Bill O'Reilly besmirched the 99ers, the poor, the working poor, single moms, single dads, the disabled, the elderly, war vets, the jobless, the mentally ill, and any other American that's had to rely on some form of public assistance.

Mitt Romney called them the "47%", and that's why he lost the election.

If Bill O'Reilly's huge mansion on the beach in Manhasset, New York had burned down, and his insurance company paid him off to rebuild it (and everyone else's insurance rates went up), could we accuse O'Reilly of getting "free stuff"? Did he feel entitled to a special privilege, or did he have a reasonable expectation that he'd be compensated because he had "a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract."

Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment checks are not government hand-outs to lazy people who feel that they are entitled to free stuff (And especially at Bill O'Reilly's own personal expense).

The reason why 46 million Americans rely on food stamps today is because Bill O'Reilly's much beloved corporations refuse to pay their workers a real living wage. Today the minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour. I earned that as a high-school drop-out 40 years ago in 1973. Hey O'Reilly, didn't you know? Most so-called "entitlements" are really "wage subsidies".

Bill O'Reilly is not concerned about the working poor, but he is very concerned about his stock prices. But millions of Americans are more concerned about paying for rent, heat, and food....stuff that Bill O'Reilly takes for granted these days.

Bill O'Reilly, his colleagues at Fox News, his Republican henchmen, his Tea Party thugs, and all the other conservative ideologues, are more concerned about themselves rather than this country as a whole. The national debt wasn't such a huge concern to them during the entire time George W. Bush was in office. But now they are using fear to say our children and grand-children are at risk to a national disaster if we don't get entitlement spending under control. (Read my post: Sons & Daughters of the Greatest Generation Struggle)

All of a sudden, the day after Obama was elected, they're saying that somebody's disability check is going to break the government's piggy bank; and Bill O'Reilly fears that someone like me will make America more like Greece. But hey...let's go back in to Iraq you say!!!

Meanwhile, people like Bill O'Reilly believe that they are entitled to make millions of dollars every year, and they believe that they are entitled to live in a mammoth beach-front mansion in a wealthy Long Island neighborhood. And they also believe they are entitled to call people like me lazy; and they believe they are entitled to pay a lower federal income tax rate on their "investment income" than somebody else does who breaks their back doing manual labor all their lives, or those who have to pay those same taxes on their unemployment checks.

When I hear people like Bill O'Reilly whine about quitting their jobs if their taxes go up, just a little, it reminds me of a rich spoiled child who believes that they are entitled to everything.

In reality, Bill O'Reilly is really an uber-rich con artist who pimps for large corporations. He's not a patriot and he's not lookin' out for you, he's only lookin' out for himself. Every night he pimps his books.

When I hear Bill O'Reilly disparage the working poor*, the abject poor (like myself), the elderly, the disabled, and our military veterans on his Fox News cable show (because they have to rely on government entitlements), I hope Bill O'Reilly goes to church today (on the day of the birth of the baby Jesus) and prays for those who don't have it nearly as good as he does.

* 50% of all American workers earn less than $26,965 a year. (Source: Social Security Administration) Could Bill O'Reilly live on that today without any government entitlements such as Social Security or Medicare?

And what about the millions of other Americans who don't work at all, don't file a W-4 form with an employer, are no longer obligated to pay any payroll taxes (FICA), and rely SOLELY on their government checks?

Last year, because my total income was ZERO, I wasn't even required to file a federal income tax return for the first time in 40 years!

I also hope that Bill O'Reilly thanks the good Lord that he doesn't need his Social Security checks that he is also currently entitled to, but that others desperately need just to survive on.

Merry Christmas to the ultra-wealthy people "job creators" like Bill O'Reilly, those who ruthlessly advocates for lower taxes for the rich, while at the same time, demanding huge cuts to entitlements for the poor.

Go ahead, send another good-paying job to China so as to fatten up Bill O'Reilly's stock portfolio! Go ahead, give the CEO another million dollars a year in his salary for doing it...he needs it!

I hope O'Reilly remembers to pray for those millions of other Americans who can't afford to celebrate this most joyful day of the year in the same fashion (and with the same peace of mind) that he can.

This year I asked Santa Claus for razor blades, tooth paste, soap, and socks...because food stamps (my government entitlement) doesn't cover non-food items.

And how did I spend my Christmas Day? In my room, blogging about Bill O'Reilly, stranded in the suburbs. I might as well be in the middle of a corn field. Pathetic.

Will I ever have "a life" again?

But people like Bill O'Reilly would most likely just say, "Bah humbug!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Social Security: Obama Needs to Stick it to the man...

...instead of sticking it to the poor, the disabled and the elderly.

But President Obama and Speaker Boehner may be close to reaching a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff", and the details are not good for old people.

First of all, there need not be any deal at all. Obama doesn’t have to “compromise”, the Republicans lost the election, the people have already spoken. Yet the president is reportedly willing to cut Social Security benefits for current and future retirees by reducing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) and make $400 billion in unspecified cuts to Medicare in exchange for a modest increase in tax rates on the wealthy.

Calculating COLA payments with a Chained-CPI would essentially reduce seniors income over time as their medical costs skyrocket. We must let our elected officials know that even benefit cuts hidden behind statistical manipulations like the Chained-CPI are unacceptable and that we will not support anyone who facilitates cuts to Social Security, Medicare of Medicaid.

There also are strong objections to using the chained CPI to set the annual COLA. Already, supporters argue, the CPI-W understates the impact of inflation on seniors. That's because it does not reflect their relatively heavy spending on healthcare. If a different index is going to be used, they say, careful study should be given to using an experiment index, the CPI-E, that measures price changes for elderly consumers.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, AARP, and most other seniors' organizations decry even including Social Security in the fiscal cliff negotiations, let alone cutting benefits. The program is self-funded and has not added to government deficits.

And if Social Security is included in the talks, then let's talk about Social Security taxes. Most people who rely solely on Social Security had worked 46 years or more and paid Social Security taxes on 100% of their life-time income.

But those earning $1 million a year pay no Social Security taxes at all after their first $112,000 in "regular" wages. But if someone ONLY earns income with investments (dividends, stocks, real estate, etc), even if they make $20 million a year, they pay NO Social Security or Medicare taxes at all, because "investment income" is exempt from any FICA taxes and is also taxed at a lower rate as "capital gains", rather than the higher "marginal" tax rate that most people pay.

Capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the regular marginal tax rates. Why do those on the Forbes Fortune 400 List get such a better tax deal then everyone else?

And when we cash out our 401ks and union pensions, even though our funds are invested in stocks, WE have to pay the marginal tax according to our annual income.

And why not eliminate the CAP on Social Security taxes entirely? The rich live longer, collect higher monthly SS benefits, and collect much longer than everyone else does.

And why not tax “investment income” for Social Security and Medicare taxes, just like everyone else who has to pay this tax on 100% of our “regular” wages? The tax system is rigged for the wealthy, and always has been.

But I digress, let's get back to the subject of Obama ripping off the poor, the disabled, and the elderly...

Predictably, Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi have already started falling in line behind this awful proposal. But recent polls indicate 60% of Americans oppose the Chained-CPI benefit cut, and even the AARP has come out strongly against it. That's because most people understand that, at a time when 15.1% of seniors are living in poverty, cutting Social Security benefits — which represent the primary source of income for many retirees — would only increase their suffering. If anything, our nation's strongest anti-poverty program needs to be expanded, not contracted. The reality is that seniors have a larger share of income devoted to medical expenses, and therefore are subject to higher rates of inflation than the general population.

By using a chained CPI, Social Security benefits will become increasingly insufficient as an individual ages — forcing severe austerity upon retirees as 401ks, pensions and home equity continue to dry up. Using this method is both cruel and manipulative and does little to strengthen Social Security or address the so-called deficit crisis.

 And, I’m missing the part where the Republicans give up something

Obama has already comprised before in 2010 by letting the rich have their tax cuts for two more years in exchange for funding extended unemployment benefits for those who were already suffering. This time, their is nothing to compromise on. This time around, Obama needs tax the rich their fair share and leave the old people  alone!

Obama needs to stick it to the man, instead of sticking it to us!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sons & Daughters of the Greatest Generation Struggle

Why are you only 50 years old and unemployed in 2012, especially when you live in the richest and mightiest nation on Earth? On the other hand, I could ask a 22-year college graduate that same question.

Why do the Republicans want American workers to work for less and work for longer before they can finally retire, especially if they have been doing labor intensive work for the past 40 or 50 years? Is that what they call  progress?

With the advent of new technologies, shouldn't we all be working less, earning more and living a better life in a more modern society? Or did computers over the last 20 years only make corporations richer, while their employees became poorer. These companies will hire robots before they hire you.

When U.S. companies aren't outsourcing jobs and moving factories overseas to other parts of the world (to further increase excessive company profits in exchange for exorbitant and obscenely high CEO pay) they're hiring foreign "guest workers" to work for much less, displacing American workers and overall lowering the domestic wage base.

When these U.S. companies were confronted about this, they have been claiming that Americans "lack the necessary job skills". (On-the-job training is also cheaper in China.)

This hiring practice has contributed significantly to the very high unemployment rate in America, with a U-6 rate of over 20%. And this is the biggest reason why America now has so few good-paying jobs for college graduates, and that's also why there's such fierce competition for low-paying jobs in the service industry at places such as Wal-Mart, Staples, Dominos, and McDonalds. These jobs can't be outsourced and these companies (so far) have successfully fought off unions that could have bargained for higher wages and healthcare benefits.

High-tech companies, such as Microsoft and Apple, are prime examples of misusing the guest worker program. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, has a pay package approaching $500 million; and Apple is on target to be the first company in the entire world to ever break the $1 trillion market cap, and they do this by using slave Chinese labor at Taiwanese companies like Foxconn, who has a million workers earning an average of $1 an hour.

The "Greatest Generation" were the people who had enabled these larger corporations of today; and like the Republicans, these corporate giants have been feeding the sons and daughters of the "Greatest Generation" (the "Baby Boomers") to the wolves. Yet at the same time, they claim to be so concerned about future of "our children and their grandchildren" when it comes to the national debt.

Those children and their grandchildren, the younger generation of Americans today and tomorrow, might not ever know and enjoy the once-middle-class America that people 50 years and older today once knew. That generation, the Baby Boomers, saw the rise and fall of the middle-class during their life-times.

I find it odd that the GOP is trying so hard to cut Social Security and Medicare (and Medicaid and food stamps to the unemployed) for the Baby Boomers, just to give more tax breaks to the rich, while showing little-to-no concern for the well-being of THAT generation (the Greatest Generation's children and grandchildren --- someone else's children and grandchildren).

The CEOs who are earning millions of dollars a year, year after year, aren't very concerned about the hypothetical children and their grandchildren, because THEIR children and THEIR grandchildren will
be well provided for in their inheritances.

The next time someone feeds you that line "America's best days are ahead", if you are in the top 1%, this might be true. But the Baby Boomers have already seen America's best days come and go. They were there, the day the music died.

READ: 50 and Unemployed: A Rock and a Hard Place

Must-See Video Below: Dan Rather Reports on Foreign Workers

50 and Unemployed: A Rock and a Hard Place

The GOP proclaims to be the experts at capitalism and accuses the Democrats of Socialism. But the GOP must not know beans about “supply-side economics” because they’re still preaching "trickle-down".
When people have extra money in their pocket and they spend it on stuff, then the "job creators" hire more people to accommodate the increase in "demand".
But when these supposed “job creators” ship jobs to China for cheaper labor, or have one employee do the work of two ("increasing worker productivity"), or instead, automate or hire robots to do the work of humans, then it means that less people are working --- and so therefore, they don't have extra money in their pockets to spend.
That sounds like perfect common sense, right? But not to multi-millionaires like Bill O’Reilly.
Most Republican politicians (receiving government salaries from government jobs) and those champions of  the “job creators” over at Fox News say there are plenty of jobs, and that Americans who are unemployed are just lazy and want a free ride.  (Just ask Mitt Romney, he’ll tell you.)
Republican politicians and Fox News commentators: Dumb and dumber. And many are millionaires, so how can someone so stupid become so wealthy, as opposed to some people who are very intelligent but remain so poor? One might think some good luck and God’s good graces might have something to do with it.
In an economic system that uses the principles of "supply and demand", the consumers provide the demand for goods and the "job creators" provide the supply. Simple. Sounds like perfect common sense, right?
Nick Hanauer, a multi-millionaire entrepreneur and venture capitalist, tried to explain this simple economic theory to Neil Cavuto at Fox News, but Nick Hanauer was rudely talked over by a know-it-all Neil Cavuto. (The video is here at my YouTube channel).
Just as Nick Hanauer once explained in a speech he gave at TED University, "Somebody like me makes hundreds or thousands as times much as the median American, but I don't buy hundreds or thousands of times as much stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and shirts a year like most American men. Occasionally we go out to eat with friends."
The Republicans hounded President Obama for the past 4 years: "Where are the jobs?" But why didn't they ask the "job creators"? They have over $2 trillion parked overseas from foreign profits and don’t want to pay the taxes.
I heard that the $600 billion-a-year defense budget creates a lot of jobs (and a lot of profits for defense contractors too). As a matter-of-fact, the government hires more people than Wal-Mart and McDonalds combined; so maybe "government” really does create jobs.
During the latest recession (the Great Recession) the "rebound" in employment has been weaker than the previous two recessions --- and G.D.P. growth in the current  "jobless recovery" has also been much slower.
Laura D’Andrea Tyson, professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley writes: "The loss of jobs in the most recent recession was more than twice as large as in previous recessions, meaning a slow recovery has also meant a much higher unemployment rate. Most economists believe that it's because of  weak aggregate demand."
What? Did she say "demand"? That makes too much sense!
The 2008 recession resulted from a systemic financial crisis rooted in banking corruption that resulted in an asset bubble that gripped the housing market with particular ferocity. So private sector demand contracted sharply.
The large and persistent decline in private-sector demand that began the 2008 recession explains why the painfully slow recovery is so apparent in the private-sector financial balance — net private saving — the difference between private saving and private investment.
The private-sector financial balance swung from a deficit of −3.7 percent of G.D.P. in 2006 (near the height of the last stock market boom) to a surplus of about 6.8 percent in 2010 — and about 5 percent today. This represents the sharpest contraction and weakest recovery in the private sector since post-World War II.
But the Republicans and those at Fox News ignore the facts and blame the jobless for being unemployed, rather than the banks or “job creators” who’d do anything to save or make a dollar.
Growth in private consumption has been especially slow in this recovery compared with the average for previous recoveries (meaning, far less demand = far less spending = far less hiring).
And weak investment demand cannot be explained by low profits and/or high taxes either. After all, corporate profits just recently hit another historic peak and taxes on investment income are now at historic lows. (Some guy who once ran for president once said, "I'm not concerned about the very rich, they're doing just fine.")
Another factor contributing to the slow pace of the current "recovery" has been the relatively weak growth of government spending on goods and services — by both state and local governments, and by the federal government. (The GOP has been ruthlessly whining about government spending and government employees ever since Obama was first elected.) And the contraction in government spending and decline in public-sector employment have also been major headwinds restraining G.D.P. growth.
Stronger demand now would encourage more private investment and stem the loss of skills and productivity resulting from long-term unemployment and the drop in the labor force’s “participation rate”. (More on that below.)
Add to that, all the spending cuts scheduled for next year — the so-called “fiscal cliff” —which would also have a large negative effects on demand, output, and employment.
Nancy Folbre, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts writes:“For the past four years, this nation has tolerated levels of unemployment that have essentially made it impossible for most of those seeking paid employment to find it, with a ratio of unemployed workers to job openings of more than three to one.”
Some Republicans have long insisted that many of the jobless, relaxing in a billowy social safety net, simply aren't trying hard enough to find a job.
New York Times Economix contributor Casey Mulligancontends that the poverty rate should have risen between 2007 and 2011, but didn't because public assistance was neutralizing the effect of job loss and undermining incentives to work. (WRONG!)
Shawn Fremstad of the Center for Economic Policy and Research challenges that methodology, pointing to measurements showing that the poverty rate did rise significantly among working-age adults over this period. Furthermore, increased unemployment contributed to economic stress across most of the social spectrum, not just among the poor and near poor.
Between 2007 and 2011, average household income declined in all of the four bottom quintiles. The most recent statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau shows America’s poverty rate had a huge spike, and that nearly 50 million Americans, more than 16 percent of the population, are now struggling to survive.
But it's worse than that. The U.S. Census Bureau'slatest poverty report is far from a complete picture. One problem with the Census report is that it uses the same income threshold to determine if a person (or household) is impoverished that has been in use since 1964. The only changes have been to adjust income levels for inflation. Currently, anyone earning less than $11,484 per year is considered to be living in poverty. For a family of four, the earnings threshold is $23,021 per year. Try living on that in 2013.
When Heather Boushey and Jane Farrell at the Center for America Progress reported that "in 2011 the typical U.S. household had an income of $50,054," they are painting a much rosier picture than most other economists.
I would have said it this way: "The Social Security Administration, in its latest report, shows that 50% of the entire American workforce (those that pay payroll taxes on a W-4 form for wages) earned less than $26,363.55 a year after taxes.  In other words, HALF of all Americans earn poverty or near-poverty wages.
When they (and everyone else) reports "a typical U.S. household", what they really mean is "two adults who have to work at two or more low-paying jobs at places like Wal-Mart with no healthcare insurance or pension plans --- just to pay the rent."
A single parent (with one income) would have an especially hard time...part of the 47%...those .who need food stamps (aka "free stuff").
And this really ruffles my feathers! Everybody in the media constantly parrots the same old government talking points without ever researching the real facts behind their numbers. A perfect example was AGAIN diatribed in the  New York Times:
"Paralysis by discouragement is a pretty good description of a growing segment of the United States population. In general, the higher the unemployment rate in a state, the higher the percentage of discouraged workers (those who did not search for work in the previous four weeks, for the specific reason that they believed no jobs were available for them) and the higher the percentage of marginally attached workers (those who did not search for work in the previous four weeks, for any reason)."
The myth of "discouraged workers" >>> After people run out of unemployment benefits, they have no one, no place, or no government agency to report to on their current status. In reality, they are just written off as "discouraged workers" --- as people who stopped looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. (I for one didn't drop out, I was forced out.)
I have been out of work since October 2008. The unemployment rate peaked at 10.2% in October of 2009 with over 15 million Americans unemployed at the time. My unemployment benefits ran out of June 2010. Today the unemployment rate is reported to be under 8% --- when less than 5 million jobs were created since the unemployment rate peaked in 2009. That's not even enough to keep up with natural population growth, let alone the re-hiring the 8 million people who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2009.  It’s called “math”.
Yes, a few went on disability or took an early Social Security retirement at 62, but…
And what about the 6 million high school and college grads from 2008 to the present, who just like the old folks, can't even get a lousy job at McDonald's? There are literally MILLIONS of Americans who have had no income  at all for two years and longer (like myself), and so therefore can't buy things to grow the economy.
Rich people aren't "job creators", people with good-paying jobs that spend money and create "demand" are the REAL job creators.
The "labor force participation rate" has declined significantly since the last recession began, especially among less-educated men like myself, those who were between jobs and didn't have enough seniority to avoid a layoff, and were too old to be re-hired somewhere else, but yet too young to collect a reduced Social Security check or pension.
If you unemployed today (especially long-termed unemployed) and you only have a high school education --- and are 50 years or older --- then you’re  competing with 22-year-old college graduates for a job as a Wal-Mart greeter for $8.50 an hour.
And like me, you are between a rock and a very hard place.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Is Mitt Romney Bent on Revenge?

As another Republican sore loser, it seems that Mitt Romney is bent on revenge, and getting even with a media that he perceived didn't give him favorable coverage during his miserable and mismanaged presidential campaign.

It's either that or, he just can't help himself, and has to obscenely profit from everything, including the press coverage of his failed campaign. News outlets are preparing to file formal complaints against the Romney campaign, contesting inflated charges that were billed to them from Romney's campaign trail.

It is standard procedure for presidential campaigns to arrange and prepay for meals, bus travel, and charter flights, then bill the news outlets afterward for their share of the cost. In order to travel with the candidate, reporters and their editors must agree upfront to pay for the cost of the determined by the campaign (not determined by fair market value or actual costs).

But many of the bills from the Romney campaign -- which have continued to trickle in since Romney lost on Election Day -- are far much higher than during other campaigns. For example, on Oct. 11, each reporter was charged $812 for a meal.

One Romney campaign aide said the bills were not artificially inflated, but rather the product of a generally mismanaged campaign. And the meals often went untouched by reporters and instead were consumed by Romney's campaign staff.  Full story at Buzzfeed

The Huffington Post's HuffPo Hill titled the story "ROMNEY CAMPAIGN GOING ALL BAIN CAPITAL ON NEWS ORGS".

If any of the campaign stops were at a Marriott Hotel, I wouldn't be surprised. Remember Mitt Romney and the Marriott Hotel's Son of Boss Tax Scam?

Willard Mitt Romney, who was named after the Marriott Hotel's founder J. Willard Marriott, was once the head of Mariott's audit committee when Marriott Hotels ultimately had to pay the IRS a $220 million fine for using the "Son of Boss" tax scam.

As an aside: The Hilton Hotel didn't charge the Justice Department $16 for a blueberry muffin. The price was $16.80 ($14 plus a 20% gratuity and "service fee", which is a rip off by the hotels). However, this wasn't for JUST a blueberry muffin, but for a continental breakfast, which also includes fresh fruits, juice, soda and coffee.

But even then...I worked at hotels for the past 40 years, and $16.80 is still an outlandish price for a continental breakfast. And the juice and fruit most probably wasn't "fresh" either. But Mitt Romney's campaign charged the reporters $812 per person for a meal that the campaign workers themselves most probably indulged in.

And so that's the proof: Whenever a millionaire is involved in any deal, there's most likely some kind of scam to be found. How else did they get sooooooooo rich in the first place, by pulling up their boot straps?

Earlier this year the executive chairman of Marriott International, Bill Marriott, said "I finally found a place to park [my "boat"] after about 20 minutes, and I pulled in. I said, 'Who's going to grab the rope?,' and I looked up and there was Mitt Romney. So he pulled me in, he tied up the boat for me. He rescued me just as he's going to rescue this great country." Huffington Post

And Mitt Romney would have also rescued us from all the corporate shysters who would have charged us $812 for an un-eaten blueberry muffin that they claimed was "fresh"......


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why Sheldon Adelson is Bad for America

Even though he is vehemently against President Obama, the Democrats and American labor unions, in a recent interview for the Wall Street Journal the infamous Las Vegas casino king-pin Sheldon Adelson claimed he was a "Social Liberal" --- and that he was pro-stem cell research, pro-choice, pro-Dream Act, and pro-socialized health care --- but yet he still gave $30 million to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign to squash a federal investigation against him and to lower his personal income taxes (revenues that are needed to fund "Social Liberal" programs). 

(Pictured below) Soon to be 80-year-old Sheldon Adelson with his 66-year-old Israeli physician wife Miriam Ochshorn......the top .0000000000001%

Good news for Sheldon Adelson: Growth in China's factory output and retail sales jumped to an eight-month high in November 2012 as Chinese wages have been rising (on average) at least 10 percent every year. (Source: Reuters)

This year, among the best-performing companies in China has been China Coal and Sheldon Adelson's Sands China.

In China, Singapore is poised to be the second largest gaming destination in the world after Macao. Strong gaming revenues from the two local integrated resorts might soon over-take Las Vegas by the end of this year. Singapore's two casinos grossed about 5.7 billion U.S. dollars. This is just shy of the total gaming revenues of 6.1 billion U.S. dollars collected from the more than 20 major casinos along the famous Las Vegas Strip.

Sheldon Adelson is the chairman and chief executive officer (and largest shareholder) of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (parent to the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino and the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada).

Adelson has waged some bitter anti-union battles in Las Vegas. I vividly remember the days when Sheldon Adelson clashed with labor unions at his Las Vegas properties (I had worked for Steve Wynn at that time, whose properties were all union).

Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democratic Party congresswoman, said Adelson told her that "old Democrats were with the union and he wanted to break the back of the unions", so consequently "he had to break the back of the Democrats".

Congresswoman Berkley also claimed that Adelson "seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money", a claim that was proven true in 2012 with Sheldon Adelson's donations to Mitt Romney's miserably failed presidential campaign. Adelson once told Forbes magazine that "I don't want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I'm proud of what I do."

On average, over the years, it's been mostly large corporations and Wall Street that has primarily funded the GOP's campaign efforts, whereas labor unions and mostly individual donations had funded the Democrat's political efforts.

Sheldon Adelson, sounding every bit as loony and moronic as a typical member of the far-right Tea Party, whined about Obama, saying "What scares me is the continuation of the socialist-style economy we've been experiencing for almost four years", even though Adelson has made BILLIONS of dollars during Obama's time in office.

Joseph Stalin or Chairman Mao would not have allowed Adelson's casinos to even exist. And on March 6, 2009 Las Vegas Sands stock was trading at a mere $1.77 a share.  Last Friday on December 7, 2012 Las Vegas Sands stock closed at $43.50 a share. (Source: Google Finance) Under President Obama's realm, Sheldon Adelson's stock is UP a whopping 1700% !!!

Today Sheldon Adelson pays much more in gaming taxes to the Chinese government than he does to the U.S. government -- Las Vegas has one of the lowest (if not lowest) gaming tax rates than anywhere else in the world. Adelson also pays a lower federal income tax rate on his capital gains than does an average American teacher earning $50,000 a year in regular wages. That's a FACT that the Tea Party and GOP constantly ignores, and who also refuses to tell the American public: corporate and capital gains taxes are currently at historical lows.

So what in the hell has Sheldon Adelson been bitching and whining about? Can't the American peons do ANYTHING to make an American multi- billionaire happy?

When Sheldon Adelson sells his shares of Las Vegas Sands stock, under the current tax law, he's only obligated to pay a 15% capital gains tax - the same tax rate as Mitt Romney and Warren Buffet pays. The difference is, Patriotic Millionaires and Warren Buffett proposed a 30% millionaire's tax (The Buffett Rule), whereas Mitt Romney wanted to cut all marginal tax rates another 20% --- and maybe even eliminating the capital gains tax entirely so that people like himself and Sheldon Adelson would not have to pay any federal income taxes at all....Holy tax rates Batman!!!!

President Obama "scares" Sheldon Adelson because, in Adelson's own words, "the redistribution of wealth is the path to more socialism". What Sheldon Adelson really meant was, his taxes would go up a little bit to help pay for the food stamps that poor people in America need to eat, and that "scares him". His under-paid employees, the masses, the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the Veterans, the ""47%" --- they scare him. An old billionaire scaredy cat...poor, poor thing.

Sheldon Adelson gave a total of $30 million to Mitt Romney's failed presidential campaign's Super PAC --- with $10 million of that being donated in the waning weeks just prior to the election, in a last minute and desperate attempt to over-ride the will of the majority of the American people. But Sheldon Adelson's $30 million investment is poultry compared to how much money he would have saved under Mitt Romney's tax plan.

Besides for the huge benefit of lower taxes, the top reason why Sheldon Adelson backed Mitt Romney was the investigation into Adelson's casinos by the U.S. Justice Department under Obama for bribery and money laundering. Sheldon's company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits the bribing of foreign officials. (I never thought that most billionaires could ever earn so much money legally. I often wonder how many lives people like Sheldon Adelson destroyed just to have their own way.)

Sheldon Adelson owns the one million-square-foot Sands Macao in Macau China and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore China, which opened in 2010 at a rumored cost of $5.5 billion. Chinese casinos have long had ties to China's organized crime and the criminal societies known as The Triads, and have been implicated in everything from drug smuggling to murder.

Sheldon Adelson also owns Israel HaYom ("Israel Today") an Israeli national Hebrew-language free daily newspaper first published on July 30, 2007. He has a very sharp disagreement with the Obama administration's position on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, most probably due to the influence of his Israeli wife.

As of October 2012, Sheldon Adelson was listed as the 24th richest person in the entire world --- with a population of over 7 billion human beings) --- with an estimated net worth of 21.8 billion. How much money and power in the hands of one man is too dangerous, especially for a greedy and radical ideologue? Especially when they are anti-democracy, anti-worker, and anti-tax fairness.

I also suspect that Sheldon Adelson's loyalties are more with Israel and not with America, and that he (like Mitt Romney) believes that anyone beneath his financial station in life (e.g. the "47%") are all low-life bugs that should be labor unions.

People with the most money always think they are entitled to rule the world.

Sheldon Adelson is bad for America. His gambling empire does more harm than good for a society as a whole. His casinos don't manufacture or produce anything, but only generate gambling revues for himself, at the expense of those who gamble with their money and lose.

The economic activity of the jobs that his casinos create (especially the jobs in China) doesn't justify the existence for someone as rich as Sheldon Adelson (as opposed to someone like Bill Gates, who changed the World).

The more money that people like Sheldon Adelson makes (and hoards), the more they extract from the economies of nations around the world. Tax Sheldon Adelson more, so that more good can come from his gambling revenues, such as helping the homeless, the hungry, those without healthcare, and the unemployed in Las Vegas...the town that made him so damn rich.

That way, someone such as myself, can continue to receive food stamps, because Sheldon Adelson's casinos in Las Vegas refused to hire me. I've been unemployed since late 2008 with 20 years of experience in bartending; but evidently I was too old to qualify for a bartending job at any of Sheldon Adelson's casinos. Just like at MGM's CityCenter (where I was also denied employment), younger people from out-of-state were hired instead. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, "Bona fide occupational qualifications" is a loophole that the casinos (and other corporations) use for age discrimination.

RELATED ARTICLE: Macau Police Raid Casinos After Deadly Attacks - (Don't cheat a casino owner. Instead of going to jail, you might just get yourself killed instead.)

Friday, December 7, 2012

My Once-Middle-Class America

When taxes go up on the top 2% after the end of the year, will Bill
O'Reilly be an honorable man, keep his promise, and quit his job at Fox News?

The Republicans, plutocrats, conservatives, oligarchs, right-wing-nuts, Christian evangelists, billionaires, secessionists, Tea Partiers, economic extremists, anarchists and Southern plantation owners (henceforth referred to as the GOP for the sake of this post) all say they want "smaller government" --- less taxes (on the wealthy), less spending (on the middle-class and poor), and less regulation (on banks and major corporations).

In July of 1973, when I had been a senior in high school, the U.S. population was almost 212 million. Now in November of 2012 the U.S. population has grown to almost 315 million. Over the last 40 years, while I was working hard for a living, the U.S. population has grown by over 100 million more people (more than 33%).

My first full-time job after high school in 1973 was at a sheet metal factory in Western Massachusetts, paying me $7.85 an hour (or $16,000 a year). That was considered to be a fairly decent wage, for that time and place, and for someone without a college education. I had belonged to a union, I had healthcare insurance, and I had a pension plan. I also had the opportunity to work on Saturdays for over-time pay if I ever wanted or needed a little extra cash in my pocket. My rent at that time, for an averagely-nice one bedroom apartment, was $200 a month. And at 18 years old, I could also afford to buy a very nice 6-year-old car, so I drove a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix.

40 years ago, it was mostly high school teenagers who worked at places like the A&W drive-ins, Dairy Queen or McDonalds. Now it's adults, trying to support a family. Back then, the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, just a little more than what Apple currently pays their employees at Foxconn in China in 2012. Apple's CEO Tim Cook has a pay package worth about $400 million.

My last job in 2008 was as casino bartender in Las Vegas earning $16 a hour (or $33,000 a year). I belonged to a union, had healthcare insurance and a pension plan. Over the past 40 years my wages barely rose 50%, but a similar one-bedroom apartment today costs $800 (four times more that what I paid 40 years ago). The rule of thumb used to be that what one earned in a week should be equivalent to what one
paid for rent or a home mortgage*. Now it's more like 50% of a household income, and that's why 80% of American households now need two income earners.

* Millionaires like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly don't worry about home mortgages; they can pay CASH for their beachfront mansions and don't need the home mortgage deduction on their tax returns. (Speaking of which, WHEN taxes go up on the top 2% after the end of the year, will Bill O'Reilly be an honorable man, keep his promise and quit his job? I sure hope so!)

The federal minimum wage in 2012 is only $7.25 an hour, less than what I earned at my first job 40 years ago. Two of America's largest employers, Wal-Mart and McDonalds, pay their employees slightly more than the minimum wage; and their employees don't belong to a union. And most of them don't have healthcare insurance or a pension plan either. And rarely can they ever work over-time to make extra money. Instead, and by design, most are only working part-time.

In 1973 the company I worked for was a small family-owned business with about 100 employees. Today Wal-Mart and McDonalds are multi-billion-dollar corporations, with about 2 million domestic employees between them in the U.S. The Waltons (owners of Wal-Mart) collectively have a net worth of over $100 billion. But a great many of their employees have to use food stamps and other government services (free stuff) just to survive, because $8.50 an hour is not a "living wage" today.

In 1973, most Americans didn't need a college education to find a half-way decent good-paying job...a job that paid a real living wage. And back then the CEOs still made money and corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonalds grew, prospered, and went global.

But since that time over 40 years ago, I've seen millions of the better-paying jobs in manufacturing go to places like China for cheaper labor. Since that time (when I got my first job and drove that nice 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix) we now have millions of college graduates that are either unemployed, or are forced to work in places like Wal-Mart or McDonalds for sub-standard wages.

The very first company I worked for in 1973 might have been bought by Bain Capital since that time, then shipped my old job to China, where Donald Trump makes his ties and where Apple builds their iPads.

Meanwhile, CEO Tim Cook of Apple makes millions of dollars every year while his manufacturing employees work in slave-labor sweat-shop conditions in China for an average of $1 an hour. Now think of something else that's almost as immoral - - - American slaves from Africa working 16 hours a day picking cotton  for $0 an hour in 1863.

The U.S. population has grown by 33% since I first started working for a living 40 years ago --- so I suppose "government" has gotten "bigger" as well, so now we have "big government". In 1941 the population was only 133 million when the "Greatest Generation" fought in World War II, so the GOP's pathetic argument about "big government" could also have been made 40 years ago back in 1973.

And because people have such a difficult time finding a job these days, especially a job that allows them to afford to pay for rent, food, heat, and clothing --- then I also suppose that many more people are also being forced into using more government services, such as food stamps and other "free stuff".

In other words, because the large corporate "job creators" refuse to pay fair wages (thanks in part to GOP union busting and the Republican sponsored right-to-work state laws) the government is morally and financially obligated into subsidizing those low wages with taxpayer-paid government services (such as food stamps) to compensate for all the corporate greed.

But the GOP wants less food stamps and less taxes, so the government could no longer provide food stamps to poor Americans who still need to eat. I just heard that food stamps went up, going from 30 million people under George W. Bush when the economy had just crashed in late 2008, to 45 million people in 2012 when we now have 30 million unemployed and under-employed Americans. But I'm not surprised. I was laid off in 2008 and I am also one of "47%" who is getting "free stuff" to keep myself alive.

And that really pisses off the, staying alive, by using food stamps.

Last year 75.5 million Americans (50% of the total U.S. workforce) earned less that $27,000 a year. A vast number are living in poverty...and many were once part of the middle-class. They weren't cradle-to-the-grave "welfare queens", just ordinary hard-working people who were either laid off from work, became disabled or ill, or were forced into taking low-paying jobs.

Today only 42% of private sector workers receive a pension (Re: Center for Retirement Research). As a result, 36% of all households end up relying solely on Social Security (averaging less than $15,000 a year). Most of these people had worked a life-time and paid FICA taxes.

Almost 9 million Americans are severely disabled, including military Veterans, and also rely on Obama's "free
stuff", averaging $13,572 a year in Social Security disability benefits.

But it was just reported that corporate profits are AGAIN at all-time highs in 2012, and the AFL-CIO reports that the average CEO on the S&P 500 now rakes in $13 million a year --- year after year
after year.

All this "free stuff" hasn't been hurting the "job creators" at all. So what has the GOP complaining about?

And various studies have also shown that income inequality and the disparity of wealth has never been wider than it is today since the early 20th century during the "Gilded Age".

Other studies gave shown, especially for the top 1% and large corporations, that taxes have been historically low (especially since the Bush tax cuts over a decade ago). But the GOP has been whining like stuck pigs over "high taxes", ever since President Obama was first elected in 2008, even though he never raised taxes,
but instead, EXTENDED the Bush tax for two more years.

Tax revenues built the national highway system in the 1950s. Taxes paid for the space programs that took us to the moon in 1969 and gave us the Space Shuttle missions. Taxes paid for much of the research and development that U.S. corporations use and profit from. Taxes fund the vast military industrial complex, a favorite for the GOP.

Now here we are again in 2012, one hundred years later after our "Captains of Industry" have AGAIN driven a great proportion of the American population back into poverty; but now we also have "bigger government". But the GOP says they want "smaller government".

Grover Norquist wants to "shrink government down to the size where he can drown it in the bathtub". I sincerely wish that people like Grover Norquist would drown.

When the GOP says "smaller government", do they really mean they want less people, or a lot more poor people? Because we are always going to have more people (especially if the GOP ever overturns Roe v. Wade). So I can only assume that the GOP wants a lot more poor people...such as the elderly and disabled. And the GOP also wants less "government", so that disadvantaged Americans get no help at all.

The GOP wants lower wages (with NO minimum wage at all), lower taxes (lower than they already are), and just enough government spending to fund the $600 billion-a-year defense industry. And the GOP wants no regulations at all on the banks that drove the economy over the cliff in 2008 and destroyed the housing market. And the GOP wants no regulations at all on the big corporations who continue to ship jobs overseas, pays a very low EFFECTIVE corporate tax rate, and pays their CEOs millions of dollars every year while only paying a very low capital gains tax on their compensation packages (just like Mitt Romney), while paying their employees minimum wages.

The GOP must think that all those disabled Veterans, all those old people from the Greatest Generation and all their children (the Baby Boomers) should all just shut the hell up so that all the huge multi-national corporate conglomerates such as Apple, McDonalds and Wal-Mart can earn more record profits and have more "certainty" in the "free markets", while paying their CEOs millions of dollars more next year.

The GOP doesn't think that the poor and middle-class in this country need any "certainty" at all in their lives. The GOP must believe that all those useless Americans (the "takers", the "47%") should pick themselves by their boot straps and just go away.

It's a pity that the younger generation of today may never know the prosperity that America once had from 1946 to 1979 (when the middle-class was born and when it had peaked). For the last 40 years, the politicians and their corporate sponsors have destroyed the middle-class --- the politicians for self-preservation (to keep themselves in office for the past 40 years), and the corporations, for old-fashion greed.

Now in 2012 we have "Black Friday" shoppers, people that the corporations turned into desperate animals, camping outside for a week in front of the store to save a few bucks. The trampling mobs, turning violent, fighting over trinkets and other cheap goods.

I was very lucky to have been born, raised, and lived most of my life at the peek of America's once-middle-class, when people seemed more civilized, less desperate, and had more hope, expectations, and aspirations for their future.

I miss my 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix. Today I live in Las Vegas. I'm surrounded by money, but I can no longer afford to own a car.

Thanks Wal-Mart. Thanks McDonalds. Thanks Apple. Thanks

CHART BELOW - GOOGLE FINANCE - This is the stock market over the past 40 years. Corporations grew and prospered while wages stagnated, as CEO pay skyrocketed, when the better-paying jobs were being sent overseas. During that same time period corporate taxes and capital gains taxes on their stock has steadily declined. Just like Mitt Romney said, "I'm not concerned about the rich, they're doing just fine." Over the last 40 years the rich got richer as the poor got the once-middle-class has declined.

P.S. - To all the Republicans, plutocrats, conservatives, oligarchs, right-wing-nuts, Christian evangelists, secessionists, Tea Partiers, economic extremists, anarchists and Southern plantation owners : The government DOES create jobs. The government is, and has always been the #1 "job creator" ever since 1941 --- ahead of Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Apple. Almost HALF the budget goes to defense spending, not to lazy people like myself relying on food stamps. This "big government" also pays the salaries of the GOP politicians who accuse me of being on the government dole, when they themselves are. And over the next 40 years, I expect our government will be much bigger, no matter what the GOP wants.

P.S.S. --- Today's minimum wage should be at the very least $14 an hour, almost double than what it currently is.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Banker Collects Unemployment Benefits While Touring Europe

And that's not the worse part. Then he's eventually hired to head the agency that cut jobless benefits for everybody else! And there's more! Read on...

Hunting Deutsch worked at Bank United for 35 years and was an Executive Vice president at the bank when it failed in May 2009.

Bank United was reconstituted by new investors with the help of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at a cost of $4.9 billion to the taxpayers, making it the second-costliest bank failure of the Great Recession.

At the time of his layoff in 2009, Hunting Deutsch owned a house in Santa Rosa Beach valued at $602,409 and a Miami condo worth $573,750.

While out of work Hunting Deutsch received unemployment compensation benefits from 2009 to 2011, collecting for 99 weeks. And while he was unemployed, he also traveled overseas to Europe.

Deutsch remained out of work until April 2012, until he was hired by Florida governor Rick Scott to head the DEO (Department of Economic Opportunity), a Florida state agency that's responsible for processing jobless benefits. Deutsch was hired for an annual salary of $140,000 a year.

Deutsch told the newspaper, The Florida Current, “I’m fortunate enough where I’ve worked for very successful companies for a long period of time and luckily sold all my bank stocks -- most of them at the right time and at the right price -- and quite frankly, I didn’t have to work. So my wife and I took time off and traveled a good bit; we were in Europe several times."

Florida Governor Rick Scott's DEO is call the stingiest jobless benefits system in the country. Florida lawmakers reduced the maximum number of weeks of jobless benefits from 26 to 23.

While under Hunting Deutsch's leadership, those receiving state unemployment checks will now max out at 19 weeks because joblessness has declined to 8.7 percent, from an 11.4 percent high in January 2010.

At the same time, state lawmakers reduced the taxes for unemployment insurance that businesses have to pay.

Other new changes enacted by the Florida state legislators include requiring most jobless applicants  to apply online, to take a "skills test", and to contact at least five employers each week to show they are looking for work.

Florida lawmakers also made it easier for employers to challenge unemployment claims. Florida now has a recipiency rate (the ratio of unemployed workers receiving benefits) of 16 percent, the lowest in the nation.

From the Huffington Post's DAILY DELANEY DOWNER, "After the Florida Current started asking how such a well-off guy could be such a loafer, and whether there was something weird about him overseeing a notoriously mean state unemployment system, the guy resigned. No word on whether he'll sign up for the reading and math tests his former agency now requires unemployed people to take in order to be eligible for benefits."

After the uproar, Hunting Deutsch handed in his resignation at the Department of Economic Opportunity on December 4, 2012. He shouldn't be eligible for unemployment benefits this time because he wasn't laid off.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Most so-called "Entitlements" are really "Wage Subsidies"

For the past 40 years our politicians in Congress have allowed the government (us) to subsidize the wages of workers at large corporations -- those companies who have refused to pay a fair living wage to their employees -- and it's mostly middle-class Americans who pay for this "wage subsidy" (food stamps, etc.) -- all that "free stuff" that is needed by poorer Americans. Read >>> The Makers and Takers: And Republican Bullshitters

Keep in mind, almost 50% of all Americans earn LESS than $27,000 a year (this is the 47% that Mitt Romney referred to). Those who rely ONLY on Social Security (etc) and don't pay FICA taxes, aren't included. See the data here at the Social Security website.

I'm guessing that it's almost closer to 60% of all Americans who have a "total personal income" of less than $27,000 a year (that's the poverty rate for a family of four). Compare that to the average monthly Social Security payment of $1,111 a month -- that's only $13,332 a year. The average military pension is much higher, and they receive Social Security too (as well they should). 

The Fiscal Cliff is a Man-Made Farce

House Republicans have made a $2.2 trillion counter-offer to the White House on the "fiscal cliff" negotiations that DOES NOT raise tax rates on the top 2% of households who earn over $250,000 a year.
The House Republican's Paul Ryan-Mitt Romney style plan DOES include:
  • their old plan of $800 billion in tax "reforms" (but won't give details, such as mortgage deductions);
  • their old plan cuts $600 billion in health care benefits to people (not providers);
  • their plan cuts another $600 billion in discretionary and mandatory spending;
  • and it doesn't include any cuts at all in defense spending.
In other words:
  • the House Republicans do not believe that Obama has won the election and has a mandate;
  • the House Republicans do not want to abide the will of the America people;
  • the House Republicans will do everything they can to protect the richest Americans and largest corporations:
  • the House Republicans will still throw the middle-class, working families, the unemployed, and the poor under the bus.
The House Republicans have made no sane, let alone credible, counter-proposal to Obama's plan.

The House Republicans are still saying that Obama's plan raises taxes on the "job creators", but the "job creators" have had the Bush tax cuts since 2001 and 2003 -- so where are the jobs? And Obama extended the Bush cuts for two more years in 2010. Obama didn't RAISE taxes on the rich, he allowed the Bush tax cuts to continue for everybody.

The Bush tax cuts were created by the Republicans, and the Republicans designed the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of 2010. Obama allowed the Bush tax cuts to continue for TWO more years in exchange for the funding of 99 weeks of extended unemployment benefits for ONE more year.

The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2012. This time around Obama wants to extend the Bush tax cuts only for those households who earn LESS than $250,000 a year (and for the top 2% up to their first $250,000) --- to help pay down the federal deficit that the Republicans say are so concerned about.

Let's look at a few basic facts as to the federal deficit: 

The History of Poor Working Americans: 1973 to 2012

Over the last 40 years, millions of good-paying jobs were out-sourced by large American corporations to places like China for cheaper labor. Their reason was, or so the CEOs claimed, was because they had to increase the value of the company stock for their shareholders. Most of the shareholders in the larger companies are big banks (and many are also on the board-of-directors of the company). And many people who sit on the board-of-directors of these large corporations also sit on the board-of-directors of the big banks. The top 1% has a very exclusive club.

The shareholders that the CEOs say they are so concerned about, aren't the average day-traders sitting at home on their computer; nor is it grandma, who holds 100 shares of APPLE in her IRA retirement account. The shareholders they are referring to are the big banks, hedge fund managers, and themselves!

Entitlements aka Wage Subsidies

The "entitlement" programs, such as TANF (welfare) and food stamps, have shot up because more and more
American workers find themselves working at lower-paying part-time jobs in the service industry, working at places like Wal-Mart and McDonalds; and they don't earn near enough to pay for the essentials of living (remember, the good-paying jobs were out-sourced to China by large American corporations.) 

Special Tax Breaks for the Rich

Large American corporations spend millions of dollars lobbying Congress for special tax breaks (instead of giving their employees fair raises) and for less government regulations (such as worker's rights). The Republicans also advocate ruthlessly for "Right to Work States" (to bust labor unions) to keep wages very low and to keep the minimum wage as low as possible (Who can live on the current $7.25 an hour?)

For the past 40 years many large American corporations on the Fortune 500 List have paid an average EFFECTIVE tax rate of only 18-22% on average (not the 35% STATUTORY RATE), and paid their workers sub-standard wages. They have the best of both worlds: They pay low wages and pay less taxes to help fund such programs as food stamps that low-wage earners need (I call this Wage Subsidies).

The Republicans also want to privatize Social Security, even though it doesn't contribute at all to the federal deficit (it's funded by FICA taxes). But the Republicans REFUSE to eliminate the $112,000 CAP that the top 2% doesn't have to pay in Social Security taxes. The rest of use pay this tax on 100% on ALL of our earnings. 

Who's at Risk? Old People or Rich People?

The Republicans don't want to tax income derived from stocks and dividends at the same rate as regular wages (currently the top 2% only pays 15% on their "investment income", even though for most, it's their ONLY source of income). Their argument is that "seniors citizens" would be hurt by higher taxes on capital gains and dividends if they relied on this income. Do you realize how much principal    (actual money in the bank or invested) that one would need to "rely" on this income to pay their monthly bills?!?!?!?

If the Republicans were sooooooooooooooooo concerned about ordinary old people, why do they want to cut their Social Security and Medicare "BENEFITS", and ALSO raise the age for eligibility? How may people in the top 1% will have to work until they are 70 years old, or until the day they die, just to pay for a roof over their head, heat, and food? Zero! And the rich live longer too!

The Republicans continue to protect the wealthy at the expense of the I always wonder why so many regular working Republicans always vote for Republicans candidates...WHY DO THEY ALWAYS VOTE AGAINST THEIR OWN SELF-INTEREST?!?!?

No one earning less than $250,000 a year should NEVER, EVER, vote for any Republican candidate at the local, State, or federal level of government. Why would they?

The Fiscal Cliff
The Fiscal Cliff is a man-made farce to scare regular working people into thinking that they must compromise with the ultra-wealthy "job creators" who have been raking in record earnings.

The Very Simple Solution

Jump off the fiscal cliff!

Just let the Republican-created Bush tax cuts expire, then someone in Congress can introduce a brand new spanking tax bill that LOWERS taxes for EVERYONE....up to $250,000 a year.

Then Obama won't be RAISING taxes on anybody, he'll be CUTTING taxes for everyone (up to $250,000). 

P.S. I used to think that Senator John McCain was once an honorable war hero. Now I think he's mean and selfish asshole.