Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Barbara Ehrenreich on poverty

Brilliant video here. Social critic Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickeled and Dimed: on not getting by in America, talks about how expensive it is to be poor, how the poor have been systemically victimized, and how the poverty rate has risen over the last 30 years. I don't have the tools to embed it into my post as it is not a youtube video, but please watch and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Horror Care: How Private Health Care Is Shortening Our Lives | Common Dreams

Horror Care: How Private Health Care Is Shortening Our Lives | Common Dreams

The US has the most morally bankrupt, inefficient, corrupt and greed-infested system of "health care" among developed nations. Real health care is the last priority when private corporations and shareholders are involved.

We need to continue to advocate for Single Payer, or expanded Medicare for all.

everybody in. nobody out.

think about it

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” 
― Nelson Mandela

golden age for corporate profits

"Golden Age for Corporate Profits" As Workers Get Whacked

Naomi Klein: "For workers, the 'recovery' looks more like a stick-up."

- Jon Queally, staff writer of Common Dreams

As across-the-board federal budget cuts go into effect and the "real pain" predicted by economists and policy experts begins to creep into the lives of everyday people—namely US workers—investors on Wall Street are saying: "bring it on."

Quoted in a New York Times article on Monday that describes the current economy as a "golden age for corporate profit," Savita Subramanian, who heads the equity and quantitative strategy for Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said that despite the terrible times for working people and warnings that nearly three-quarters of a million jobs could be lost this year in the US, "the market wants more austerity."

Responding directly to Subramanian's remark that a market push for "austerity" was a good thing for the overall economy, Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said such a comment made "no sense at all."

And Weisbrot agrees with Klein's observation that what's being observed should be broadly seen as a robbery by profit-bloated corporations of what should be economic gains more equitably shared with working people.

Though the "sequester" cuts are predicted to cut the growth rate this year by as much as .5 or .7 percent, what economic gains are made, Weisbrot says, "will likely continue to go to the rich, as they have for the past three decades."

As the Times points out, most of the profit gains made by multinational corporations since the 2008 crash have come because of increased productivity and government-backed lending that only larger firms can leverage. Neither of these gains, however—or the profits derived from them—are being shared with workers or lower-income, struggling Americans.
According to the Times:
As a percentage of national income, corporate profits stood at 14.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012, the largest share at any time since 1950, while the portion of income that went to employees was 61.7 percent, near its lowest point since 1966.
And as Travis Waldron at ThinkProgress points out:
From 2009 to 2011, 88 percent of national income growth went to corporate profits while just one percent went to workers’ wages, and hourly earnings for workers actually fell over that time. And while they aren’t investing in job growth, corporations are also paying taxes at a rate that hit a 40-year low in 2011.
But what's the answer to fixing this continued trend where the gains steadily flow to the top?
According to Richard Eskow at the Campaign for America's Future, it begins with acknowledging the clear disparities and ends with actually introducing policies beneficial to working people. As he wrote recently in a piece titled the "Great Wealth Robbery":
The real “job creators” aren’t the ultra-wealthy. If they could create jobs with all their added wealth, they would have done it already. The real job creators are working people with jobs.
They don’t invest their money in hedge funds or stash it in offshore accounts. They spend it: on food, transportation, their kids’ education, maybe a night at the movies … And then other people get jobs making those things possible.
We have a working model to follow: The USA in the 35 years after World War II. As Paul Krugman says, “To the extent that people say the economics is confusing or uncertain, that’s overwhelmingly because people want it to be.” We know how to do this.
Raising the minimum wage is a start. A maximum wage would help, too, by reducing CEOs’ incentives to emphasize quarterly gains over long-term growth and leaving more to be shared with employees.
We also need a national strategy for regaining the more reasonable distribution of income this country had in the 1950s. We need to ensure that the door of opportunity, which is closing every day for millions of young people, is opened again. And we need to ask the wealthiest to really pay their fair share – at something closer to the top tax rates of the 1950’s or 1960’s. [...]
Most of all, we need to educate those around us so they understand what’s happening. That includes the well-intentioned well-to-do, who might do more to end the problem if they knew it existed. After all, you can’t stop a robbery until you know it’s happening.

wealth inequality in 'mmurrika

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Job Creators"

Video from the econ4.org website.


It ain't rocket science, folks. Inequality is increasing. More people are falling into poverty every single day. It's coming close to a day when, if economic justice for the people does not emerge, there's going to be frontier justice for the 1%.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

'bout sums it up


Life still provides daily amusements, even as things become more desperate in my personal situation. I'm running out of energy with my endless job search. I'm weary of spending three hours on a cover letter and tailored resume for a $10/hour part time job. I'm discouraged by the total lack of response or acknowledgment to the hundreds of resumes I've sent out, unless it's by the craigslist scammers who prey on the poor and unemployed by placing fake job ads and insisting that you pay upfront for a credit check before you can get an interview. I'm angry about an economic environment that allows an employer to post a job requiring both swing and graveyard shifts, walking a total of 8 to 12 miles per shift, and availability seven days a week — for the princely sum of $9.50 an hour (security guard). This is fucked up, seriously fucked up.

I've been at this for well over two years now, and at this point I'm about ready to give up — and start working in the 'underground/unsavory trades', or jump on the disability bandwagon. I recently read that new disability claims are waaaaay up. There are no jobs, or jobs that pay a living wage. People are out of options, and survival mode starts to kick in. This is one of the unintended consequences of what the 1% have done to our economy, and if I can go either of these routes, trust me, I'm not going to feel bad about it. Never would have considered either ten years ago.

Remember the great lyrics from Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera (I personally like the Marc Blitzstein 1950s translation), in What Keeps a Man Alive, "for even honest folks can act like sinners, unless they've had their customary dinners" and try not to judge the impoverished class for trying to stay alive.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

a lone voice of sanity

Take the time to watch this; it's one of the most important speeches I've heard in years. Bernie Sanders is one of the few honest politicians in this country.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

catching up + big birthday "celebrations"

Yes indeed, it has been a long time and a lot has happened since the last post. Lost my home, business, life-as-I-knew-it, and went on the road in a vintage rv, which is now my home. I am not cursed with a boring life, thank goodness :)

In other news, it's time to break out the cake and champagne if you can afford it, because it's Walmart's 50th birthday. Time to celebrate the destruction of small businesses all over the country, heck, all over the world, for the benefit of the six happy heirs and the people here in the US who are so shortsighted that they think only with their pocketbooks.

Time to celebrate outsourced crap from China! Time to celebrate those low, low prices and low, low wages!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

crony capitalism

The unbridled greed of our "leaders" and their revolving corporate-to-government-and-back-again door is corrupt beyond words. To learn more, watch this Bill Moyers video featuring David Stockman. The full version is here.

It's time for the American people to take back our country from the thieves and liars on Capital Hill. Crony capitalism must end for our country to survive.

Moyers also has a great interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning NY Times business reporter Gretchen Morgenson, the author of Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

the real risk takers

In the conservative ideology, the wealthy "titans of business" are the "risk-taker" heros of the economy. In reality, the further you get to the top of the economic scale, the fewer risks you have to take to churn more and more personal wealth.

Even with crash and burn business failures, these CEOs are walking away with millions in their golden parachutes, while the working class is bearing more and more risk in their daily lives.

My only hope for the US economy rests on the fact that this man exists and writes frequently with such rationality and eloquence on the reality of how the economy works — Robert Reich.

Hopefully, someone will listen before it's too late.

Monday, October 31, 2011

and now Bank of America is financing PAYDAY LENDERS???

Seeking their own moral level, Bank of America — among other major banks — is financing payday lenders, probably the lowest predator scum on the planet.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

happy halloween

From the morally bankrupt corporate culture of the Steven J. Baum foreclosure mill.

If this woman was my employee, I would place her in some sort of counseling, and have her work with the homeless as a condition of her further employment. She and many of the others in this company need to learn a little empathy and compassion.

Of course, those who work in the "vulture trades" need to distance themselves from humanity, or they couldn't do what they do. They could never envision themselves in the position of those they mock.

It's sickening, and they should be deeply ashamed of themselves.

The amazing story is here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

simple, direct action

I've created two petitions on the White House "We the People" website. The first calls for a moratorium on all foreclosures until unemployment stabilizes at 4%.

The second calls for an honest accounting in the unemployment numbers. Currently, large groups of unemployed workers are not counted.

I am largely self employed, and am without work. I receive no federal unemployment benefits and am at very high risk for homelessness right now.

Please consider signing these, creating your own petitions, and becoming active with feedback directly to the White House.

The last 30 years of apathy have contributed to the situation we are in now. We can no longer afford not becoming individually involved.

Friday, October 14, 2011

the personal cost

This is my personal take on an issue that's seldom covered by the media — the crushing emotional toll of living in this economy without having work.

Imagine a continuous panic attack, high anxiety that just won't go away and being unable to sleep, night after night. Imagine having to balance completely inadequate financial resources every month with bills that can never be paid. Imagine hurtling towards a cliff and seeing that there is nothing you can do to stop going over into total destruction.

Imagine living that, knowing that nobody in your local or national government gives a damn or is going to offer any help — not, of course just for me, but for the millions upon millions sinking into poverty every day. We are truly on our own out here. I grew up believing the lie that there were always safety nets for the poor. I grew up believing that if you were just smart, honest and hard-working, everything would be fine.

My anger and rage at what is happening to this country is consuming. I now truly understand how bloody revolution is born. Career politicians who voted for "free trade" policies, including the brand new Korean FTA have raped our country of jobs. They need to GO, but they also need to be held accountable. The destruction of our middle class and working class isn't something we can recover from in the time-frame of a few years. It will take decades — if it ever happens.

My anger and rage is sometimes directed inwardly. I think about dying — all the time. But more and more, my anger is directed at its rightful source, banks, corporations, politicians and wall street. I feel that with all the people who are in this same situation, at last we have a voice with the Occupy movement.

The partisan bickering, blaming and gaming that's happening in my home town, Washington DC is intolerable. The people who live and work there are truly sheltered from reality. America burns while the fools in congress obstruct and play their political left/right games. This crisis of an economy has shown me how little relevance our federal government has, and how little my vote counts. Without massive, sweeping change of the players, there will be no change in this country.

I'm not nearly as poor as a lot of people in this country. But I'm finding it more and more difficult to get up each day and be positive about finding work of any kind. My true feeling is that I will never have work again. I'm in my late 50's and nobody is hiring anyone in that age range that I can see. If you think this doesn't eat into your sense of self worth, you haven't been there — yet.

I've left behind a few friends in this personal crisis — most just do not understand what it is like to be in this vulnerable state and are in total denial about how bad our economy is.

A "friend" ask me what I'm doing to prepare. She said I should have seen this coming for awhile, implying, I suppose, something about my abilities or lack thereof. The very question enrages me. It's as if this is my problem alone. I'll tell you this now: there is no roadmap for homelessness. How can a person possibly prepare for that? Nothing in my life up to this point has prepared me to even think about something so catastrophic. I can prepare for hard times (and have) by growing my own food, canning, dehydrating, learning farm skills, doing without, etc. I can't prepare for not having a place to put all those preps. I can't prepare for not having land to grow on.

So, small steps, because it's all I can think of to do: I'm shredding (laboriously by scissor) about 10 years worth of old paperwork, taxes, bills, etc. I'm teaching the cats to live outdoors. I've called a breed-specific rescue about my dog. I'm selling off my life's possessions, some things that have been in my family for many years at yard sales. For pennies of their worth. Sold a few things on ebay. I'm trying to sell my house. I'm trying to give away or sell most everything I own, and should be living in an almost-empty house by the spring.

Andrew Mellon once notoriously proclaimed, “During depressions, assets return to their rightful owners.” The (criminal) repossession of real estate and other assets is happening all over this country, to the satisfaction of the wealthy.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

pin money

A possible source of occasional income for people who "own" a home is entering into room-sharing or short term rental ventures such as roomorama, airbnb, or wimdu. 

I recently signed up with one of these and almost instantly got three separate bookings. My experience has been very positive. I just jumped in, figuring that if it was out there and thousands of people were doing it, it must be okay.

Maybe, maybe not.

There is a whole lot of tension brewing regarding these informal overnight rentals with some of the "official" innkeeping population.

To put it mildly, they aren't too happy. They want it all to go away, and many are seeking out these listings and ratting out the hosts to local governments for being unlicensed.

Are they afraid of the competition? We aren't offering the same kind of accommodations in most cases, so we're not really in the same market. I don't think the $30 room in someone's house is any competition for what a fancy b and b has to offer on any level. People with jobs and paid vacation time are going to go for something a heck of a lot more upscale than my second bedroom. I think we might be competing with the fleabag $29 motels, and I like the fact that this alternative is out there — from my consumer-point-of-view. 

With the economy like it is, the opportunity to make a little cash is very appealing to people with an extra room in their house. On the flip side, it's appealing to people who don't have money for recreational traveling and need something basic and inexpensive. Taking my teenager to college this past week, I stayed in 3 informal bnbs as well as couch-surfed on my trip — and the alternative would have been sleeping in the car or tent camping in RV parks.

It seem impossible that this is something that could be contained, given the internet and the explosion of the peer-to-peer sharing movement.

In many ways this parallels all the other "open source" stuff that is happening now, where people are providing goods and services without the benefit of being in an umbrella organization, or without "official" sanctioning. In other words, the whole "peer to peer" movement. A lot of this is new and maybe is in a gray area. And local governments all over are trying to figure out how they can own it and tax it.

Of course, folks in my position see no need for regulation. This isn't what we are doing for a living. We aren't professional innkeepers. This might be once a month, or once a season. Is it reasonable to require licensing and inspections and tax reporting (in some jurisdictions this can cost quite a lot) for something that has such a small impact in the local community, economy and personal income? These are truly desperate times — isn't it better to have people earn grocery money and make it possible to pay their bills rather than shutting them down when there are no jobs to be had?

Doesn't our government already regulate the heck out of everything now? I don't mean hotels, where many people are coming and going on a daily basis and food is served and there are employees, but Aunt Jenny's house down the block, where maybe once or twice a month she gets $50 for someone staying the night.

A retail comparison would be ebay, etsy, 1000 Markets, craigslist, yardsellr and the many other internet sales venues. It's pained the government for years that they can't [currently] collect sales tax on individual internet sales and, more importantly, regulate and track these sellers. They would eventually like to have total regulatory control over weekend yard sales.

The whole world of commerce is changing. New ways of flying under the radar are developing all the time, and in my opinion as a libertarian, that's a great thing.

Friday, August 12, 2011

mortgage counseling

In financial trouble? There's a wealth of programs that provide debt management and counseling; it appears to be a growing industry. These companies are staffed by nice, caring people who have very little power to actually help in a lot of cases.

Access to these programs is not hard to get. You can contact them on your own. Your state or local politicians, should you choose to inform them of your plight, can refer you to them, or write a letter to your mortgage holder — this is called Constituent Services, and they love doing it. It's really a last-ditch effort though, and in my experience only makes them feel like they are being useful, without actually being useful.

I don't want my state pols to feel satisfied, because they haven't accomplished anything really useful — and it distracts them from the larger problem — lack of real jobs, caused by their world trade and tax loophole policies. But I do want them to see the face of downhill mobility.

Without the ability of these counseling companies to offer you a meaningful source of income — a job — there really isn't a thing in the world they can offer with the exception of false hope. I've been down that road barefoot about a thousand miles already.

You know what would really help? Lets give the consumer credit folks the power to negotiate with the banksters to lower our mortgage balances to their true un-inflated levels. Their "loans" are not real money — understand how the fiat currency system works and you will understand this. Let's give them the power to find us jobs, even if they have to create them. I'd be happy to sweep streets or pick up litter for a living wage. It wouldn't have to be permanent. How about making the banksters part of the solution by encouraging mortgage forgiveness after a certain level of equity over value is reached?

While I'm on this utopian rant, let's end corporate overseas outsourcing for higher profits. Now. Let's throw the fucking criminal class of banksters and their paid-for politicians who brought us to this place in jail for life. Have I mentioned my anger today? I'm not the only one.

But hey, there's a bright side for me! Once I'm homeless, I'll qualify for even MORE social services, Section 8 housing vouchers, energy assistance, Medicaid, and full-on Welfare. Does this really make any sense as federal policy? Is it really smarter than ending "free" trade agreements, higher tax rates to corporations who don't hire US workers, higher import tariffs, and bringing back real opportunity?

I'd much rather just have a job.

Dubya returns (in spirit, at any rate)

So. I got my "official" foreclosure notice today.

Elsewhere this week—

The White House says Obama will vacation in Martha's Vineyard soon.

How very, very Dubya.

I do so hope he enjoys his vacation. How delightful a little get-away is! In the midst of all these pesky annoyances he really could use a little light fun. I hope he gets a chance to catch up with his buddies like Jamie Dimon and Brian Moynihan.

I personally hope to catch up with Brian for a nice long visit, when I will be camping out on his lawn in North Carolina after I get kicked out of my home. Or Wellesley, MA. Or Boston, or New York, or one of the other places he lives. Heck, with a nice little yearly compensation package of just under 2 million, and a net worth of god-only-knows-what, I'm sure he has a few other place he can call home.

Here's an interesting little tidbit from Forbes:

Bank of America Sold Mortgage Pool
To Fannie Mae

08.10.11, 11:50 AM EDT

WSJ says bank agrees to sell 400,000 home loans to government-backed firm.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Bank of America has agreed to sell a portion of its home loan portfolio to Fannie Mae. The Journal said the deal to sell a pool of 400,000 loans to the government-sponsored mortgage holder was finalized last Friday.

The purchase price for the pool of loans, with an unpaid principal balance of $73 billion, is more than $500 million, according to one of the unnamed sources cited in the report.
The paper said the move is part of Bank of America's strategy to sell noncore holdings to rid itself of mortgage problems and preserve capital.

Nice little cash infusion, and I'm sure they need it. We wouldn't like BofA to feel the pain of being low on cash, would we? I know they are having a rough time with that nasty little fraud lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the Emergency Homeowner's Loan Program, AKA, the Totally-Random-Lucky-Duck-Lottery, which will assist a very small percentage of homeowners in foreclosure is now closed. Yes, it was actually a random lottery drawing, with lucky winners receiving up to 2 years of help on forestalling foreclosure. As we know, "too big to fail" only applies to the banksters, not the millions of Americans soon to be homeless.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

payday loans

Our of curiosity and financial desperation, I've done a little research into the "payday loan" industry.

Here's a little fine print for one company, who claims to make loans for much much less!! than typical payday loan companies. Let's explore their generosity:
  • First time XXX XXXX Loans customers typically qualify for an installment loan of $250 to $800 with an APR of 360%, or 40% less than the average 602% APR for a payday loan. For example, a $600 loan from XXX XXX Loans at 359.01% APR would require 12 bi-weekly installment payments of $105.11. After the 12th successful payment, your loan would be paid in full. An average payday loan of $600 with an APR of 602% and a fourteen (14) day term would require one payment of $738.54.
  • Average payday loan pricing is based on Texas-originated loans from CashNet USA (664%), ChecknGo (661%) and MyCashNow (485%) as of February 22, 2011.
Talk about predatory lending — and they are bragging about how nice they are for only ripping people off with 360% interest. Say it again — three hundred and sixty percent interest. That's the good rate.

Anyone who is teaching their children that people are "basically good" is doing them a serious disservice. My parents taught me this. My schools and churches taught me this. As a consequence, I waste a lot of time and emotional energy being shocked when it is proven to be, time and time again, wrong.

People are basically scum.

 Satire! Don't hurt me!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

look back at the original WPA

Anger is growing that the US government has not recreated some version of the WPA to help the millions and millions of unemployed workers — the rapidly growing poverty class. The US is in an economic death spiral due to greed and corruption at the top. The loss of these millions of jobs is directly due to corrupt and ill-advised "free trade" abominations like NAFTA among other travesties of "governing". Maybe if our politicians were not owned by the banksters and corporations things would be different.

The reality is that the wealthy are NOT producers. They don't create jobs. They should not be a protected class. They need to be taxed. Their corporations need to be taxed. They need to bring jobs back to US workers or be taxed into oblivion.

Immoral republication wealth-protectionism will have consequences — just keep cutting those social safety nets, boys. The nouveau-poor are a growing part of the population, have less and less to lose, and they are angry and starting to organize. Business as usual — that day is over.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

visuals help...even when they are overwhelming

Here's a great visual representation of the US debt right now.

How anyone can be complacent about this is beyond me. I have two simple solutions: PURGE the Senate and Congress — START OVER with a whole new cast of characters who have no ties to banksters and corporations, and END THE FEDERAL RESERVE. You may say I'm a dreamer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

join me?

Unemployment increased yet again this month. I think it's time to ramp up the action on outsourcing American corporations, with boycotts of imported products and services.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

US foreclosure update

Interactive map showing the current foreclosure rates by county, available here. Note the tabs to check out corresponding visuals regarding unemployment and median household income.