Monday, April 7, 2014

Bill Maher: The Disappearing Middle Class

From New rules -- Real Time with Bill Maher -- April 4, 2014

And finally, New Rule: now that the media is done freaking out about the missing jetliner, how about going on a search for America's vanishing middle class? (audience cheering)

Now I say this because the number of Americans who identify as middle class has never been lower. And if you don't believe me, just go shopping. The stores like Sears and Penny's that always catered to the middle market are dying. But you know who's doing great? Tiffany's and Gucci and Cartier for the Marie Antoinette crowd. And the dollar store for people who don't see a problem with Halloween candy in June.

I mean, just think of how many dollar places there are now. The Dollar Store. Dollar Tree. Dollar General. Dollar Giant. Family Dollar. The 99¢ Store. The 98¢ Store. (audience laughter)

Bill Maher: The Disappearing Middle Class

Where does it end? Just a homeless guy handing out expired toothpaste for free? (audience applause) But that's our economy now. You're either buying Rembrandts or Chinese cosmetics made from dirt. But in the middle, tough times. True of restaurants as well. The moderately priced ones, like Applebee's, Red Lobster, and Olive Garden, are all in trouble because they've lost their best customers — people with a little money who fill up on bread. (audience laughter) They're the restaurants that say, "I still love you, baby, but just barely."

50 years ago, America's biggest employer was General Motors, where workers made the modern equivalent of $50 dollars an hour. Today, America's biggest employer is Walmart, where the average wage is $8 dollars an hour. Which means you can share a room in a transient hotel with a drifter who cuts his toenails with a machete. (audience laughter)

And Walmart released their annual report this month, and in it was the fact that most of what Walmart sells is food. And most of their customers need food stamps to pay for it. Meanwhile, Walmart's owners are so absurdly rich that one of them, Alice Walton, spent over a billion dollars building an art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, 500 miles away from the nearest person who ever would want to look at art.

And she said about it, "For years I've been thinking about what we can do as a family that can really make a difference." How about giving your employees a raise, you deluded nitwit? (massive audience cheering and applause)

And what we are seeing now as the income inequality increases is a lot of Americans who work hard and play by the rules starting to not play by the rules. At a McDonald's in Pittsburgh, an employee was arrested for selling heroin packed right in with the Happy Meals. And she didn't do it because she likes heroin — although it's probably no worse for you than the filet o' fish. She did it because you can't raise two kids on $7.72 an hour. (audience applause)

And for those who say she shouldn't have had two kids then, well, maybe. But she did. So what's she supposed to do now, give them away in front of the Petco on Saturday? (audience laughter)

Or take the case of Belle Knox. She's the Duke University freshman who was recently outed as a porn star. But she doesn't have the typical porn star biography — abused by an uncle, addicted to coke, locked in a closet by Charlie Sheen. (audience laughter) No, she's a level-headed articulate 18-year-old majoring in women's studies, just like I did.

So people are saying, why the porn? Because Duke costs $61 grand a year! (audience applause) Since 1980, college tuition has increased 600% above the inflation rate. I'm surprised they're not all doing porn. And even if Miss Knox wanted to pay her way through school serving hot dogs at Wienerschnitzel, there are no jobs at Wienerschnitzel! So instead she occasionally takes a wiener in the schnitzel. (wild audience laughter and applause)

And this is what the Paul Ryans of the world don't understand — that this is not a country of lazy people and good people, so much as it is a country of rich people and desperate people. Do you know how much Americans owe in student loans? $1.3 trillion dollars. We're going to have to sell a lot of ass to pay that tab. Yeah, I'm afraid we're treading water and losing ground. And if you just said, hey that's a mixed metaphor, congratulations, that's your English degree in action. (audience applause)

Now lube up, it's time to do some porn!

Money, Money, Everywhere (by Rep. Alan Grayson) a good article, but we pretty much know all this (as does Congress). We can't do anything about it except depend on members Congress to change things. But for the past 40 years Congress has done pretty much the exact opposite, no matter who The People vote for. And the Supreme Court says corporations are people and money is speech. America needs a dictator, because Congress and the Supreme Court is destroying our democracy, our nation and The People.

* I believe corporations are hoarding much more cash than Rep. Alan Grayson mentions (and that doesn't include billions more in tax evasion). 

And the annual "median wage" is much less than the "average wage" of $24-an-hour he cites from the labor department. That would be almost $50,000 a year (based on a 40-hour week) The "median household income" is only $51,017 a year (with multiple earners).

AVERAGE vs. MEDIAN INCOMES: If 25% of the work force earned $0, and 25% earned $25,000, and 25% earned $50,000, and 25% earned $400,000 --- the average yearly wage would be a little over $100,000 --- but the median wage would only be $37,500 (meaning, half earn less and have earn more.)

But the actual annual median wage in the U.S. is currently only $27,500 a year >>> SOURCE: Social Security Administration


  1. And meanwhile .. US companies are bring pushed by shareholders to move their headquarters overseas in order to escape high taxes ...

  2. Free trade was marketed to American voters in the late 1980s under Reagan and pushed into law under Clinton. Although it promised better living standards, free trade has largely been responsible for the widening wealth and income gap between America’s wealthy and working class. The real winner of free trade has been corporate giants and their wealthy shareholders.

    Free trade has been a complete economic disaster. It has cost Americans millions of good jobs. It has led to the disposition of a substantial amount of critically important US assets and intellectual property. It has lowered the competitive stance of the US economy. It has diminished the scientific research capabilities of the US. It has wasted enormous amounts of human capital. It has led to misappropriation of tax payer funds. It has lowered the quality of manufactured goods which increases the average lifetime cost of durable goods per consumer.
    Finally and perhaps most important of all, free trade has stripped away the political and economic autonomy of the United States. But it has achieved its real objective; delivering excessive profits to shareholders.

    Prior to the introduction of free trade, engineers and scientists were highly valued professionals. Today the US economy is pushing these professionals out of their traditional roles as creators and innovators of new products and novel ideas. With few alternatives, many scientists have defected for lucrative careers on Wall Street. There, they help investment firms and hedge funds scalp assets from investors. This represents a tremendous loss of human productivity and adds to the criminality of the nation’s financial system. America’s modern day mafia recruits PhDs in physics, chemistry, engineering and math. Instead of guns and bullets, they are armed with complex algorithms and computer programs specifically designed to extort money from stock, bond, foreign currency and commodity markets, robbing the wealth and retirement of millions of people.

    Prior to free trade, the fruits of the nation’s productivity were being more evenly distributed to workers, executives and shareholders. As a result, the United States offered an ample supply of good, secure jobs with generous employee benefits. These jobs were funded by strong export trade, which also fueled domestic demand. Today, the vast majority of wealth gained from the nation’s productivity is funneled to corporate executives and shareholders.
    Numerous changes in economic policy over the past several decades have done much to transform the nation into a two-class society. In exchange for its former manufacturing base, the United States is now home to an army of valets who will park your car when you go to a restaurant, mall or hospital; fitness trainers who will help you lose weight or stay in shape; massage therapists who have added to the nation’s healthcare bubble; landscapers, who will tend to your lawn; personal chefs, nannies, maids and pet sitters/handlers.

    These occupations don’t offer job security. And they certainly don’t provide employee benefits. But these are among the more legitimate careers in the United States. Many of these occupations are also found in third world nations. Such economies are focused on domestic labor for criminals, otherwise known as the “wealthy elite.” The vast majority of these individuals obtained their wealth through bribery, theft and extortion. I suppose the definition of “opportunity” depends on one’s frame of reference and moral compass, or lack thereof.