• Poor Folks

    February 24, 2019 // 21 Comments »


     
    A guy on Facebook I don’t know wrote a version of what has become a kind of set-piece article in today’s America. Here’s a portion:

    Losing The War of Attrition or How To Turn Any Normal Person Into A Broken, Angry Radical

    You are one of the millions who are employed at minimum wage. Or you are one of the millions who are euphemistically called underemployed, or you are one of the millions with no job and no prospects. You are retired- how did that happen?- or disabled- why did that happen?- and trying to survive on Social Security.

    You reach a point when you realize that getting ahead is no longer possible. After that you reach a point when you realize that holding on to what you have is no longer possible. Then you reach a point when you realize that replacing what has been lost or depleted is no longer possible.

     

    I wrote a book about this five years ago called The Ghosts of Tom Joad. No one read it. Publishers in the process of turning me down mocked me for writing about “poor people” and seemed surprised there were poor people in America who weren’t black and living in ghettos. Well, hell, then Trump happened. Because people watching a way of life — a middle class existence where the rich have more but we had some — fall away are easy targets for demagogues. Always have been. Because before we dismissed things as whataboutism we used to study them as lessons from history. Other people’s’ mistakes. History shows very clearly this economic game we’re playing ends with everyone but a small handful at the top losing badly.

    I concluded five years ago the game was already decided. Our society was already then like those photos of railroad tracks, where in the distance it seems like the two rails come together in a single point. That point is essentially feudalism, where a tiny minority owns almost everything and everyone else lives off whatever scraps they let us have. Like in the Middle Ages, where everyone farmed for the king as serfs. It’s worse than slavery, because slaves at least know they’re slaves and have the possibility, however small, of freedom. Maybe for their kids if not for themselves.
     
    We are not at the singularity, but we are inexorably headed toward it. Five additional years of data has only made that clearer; five years ago we spoke of the 1%. That number no longer matters. The new figure is .1%, an even smaller group who owns even more.

    And no, none of this is new Because Trump. Since 1980, the incomes of the very rich (the .1%) have grown faster than the economy, for about a 400% cumulative increase in wealth. The upper middle class (the 9.9%) has kept pace with the economy, while the other 90% of us, the middle class and the poor have fallen behind.

    By the way, it is these numbers which sent Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 campaign to both use $250,000 as the upper limit of the middle class. They sounded misguided, but it was sort of true. They just were still lumping what we’re calling here the “Upper Middle Class” and the “Middle Class” together. Just words. At present in the U.S. we have three-and-a-half classes: The .1%%, the 9.9%, everyone else hanging on, plus some people way at the bottom with basically nothing.

    But bad news for the 9.9% Since the they the most (the most the .1% does not yet have) they have the most to lose. At their peak, in the mid-1980s, people in this group held 35% of the nation’s wealth. Three decades later that had fallen 12%, exactly as much as the wealth of the 0.1% rose. And do understand the people at the top are constructing walls and throwing nails off the back of the truck to make sure no one can catch up with them. The goal of .1% is to eliminate the competition, the 9.9% below them. They’ll only effectively have it all when the ratio is down to two classes, the .1% and the 99.9%

    We are kept in place via shiny objects (500 channels, more movies and Apple watches and drugs!) and curated divisions. The ever-increasingly sharp lines between say blacks and whites are a perfect tool. Keep the groups fighting left and right and they’ll never notice the real discrimination is up and down. Some groups just found down earlier and harder, but as long as a poor white man in south Kentucky thinks he has nothing in common with a poor black man in the South Bronx they will never work together, never even see the massive economic forces consuming both equally. Forces are even now hard at work to tell us the Republican party is for whites, POC head Democrat, and any third party is a Russian shill in place to hurt the candidate you favor.

    Whether your housing is subsidized via a mortgage and that tax deduction or Section 8, you’re still on the spectrum of depending on the people really in charge to allow you a place to live. I do not see a way out of this, only maybe steps that can slow it down or cause it to speed up.
     
    Very short version summary: People like you and I fell through the cracks; we weren’t supposed to end up here but the .1% hadn’t worked out the details so they got as much as they do now and we basically ended up with bigger crumbs than we should have, especially me lucking into a “career” with no real skills.

    Our own kids may do OK with what we leave for them, but only if your son is a medical doctor will he have a decent shot at our lifestyle and only because of the “cartelization” of the profession by the AMA. The rest of our kids are unlikely to have any shot at what we ended up with.

    Sorry, I’m not a more cheerful guy but these conclusions are based on a fair amount of honest study.

     
     

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    Christmas Spirit

    December 25, 2015 // 12 Comments »

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    I was eating in the food court below Grand Central Station in New York. There was a cold rain outside, and a good portion of the people around me appeared to be homeless.


    Many were making the rounds of the trash cans and tables, eating the food they found. There were cops nearby, as well as National Guardsmen on terror watch duty. There seemed to be a sort of understanding at work, such that the cops left the homeless alone as long as the homeless left the paying customers alone.


    I wasn’t going to finish my meal. There wasn’t much left, but some. What was the right thing to do?

    A) Leave the meal. A mouthful for someone hungry is better than nothing;

    B) Throw it away. It would have been embarrassing to offer a small amount available only because I’d already gorged myself;

    C) Go buy another full meal (I could afford it) and give it to one of the hungry people;

    D) Demand my government stop spending 54% of my taxes on war (actually more, if you consider black budgets, paramilitary forces, and intelligence costs) and start taking care of its own people. I have the resources to feed one person, but we have the resources to feed all Americans. If only we were willing. I don’t always know what’s right, but I know what is wrong.





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    Kansas Bans Poor People from Spending Welfare on Cruise Ships

    October 3, 2015 // 17 Comments »

    child

    There is a myth that welfare is a good deal, money for nothing.

    Maybe to some it works that way, but in Kansas a family of three gets a maximum of $429 a money in cash, about $35 bucks a person a week. I don’t know, I guess that is one way to live, but not a way too many people want to live.

    But if you are one of the people who thinks that is still too generous, boy has Kansas got some new laws for you.


    Haters Gonna Hate Once Elected

    Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to withdraw more than $25 per day in benefits under a new law sent this week to Governor Sam Brownback by the state legislature. Like most states, Kansas distributes benefits via a debit card.

    The bill also prohibits welfare recipients from spending their benefits at certain types of businesses, including liquor stores, fortune tellers, swimming pools and cruise ships.

    “We’re trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended,” one state representative said. “This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life.”

    Under the new rule, a family receiving the maximum benefit would have to go to the ATM more than a dozen times to get the full benefit, which would be whittled away by an 85 cent fee for each withdrawal after the first one. And since many recipients do not have bank accounts, they will pay an ATM fee on top of that for each withdrawal. If you figure $3 (+.85) a transaction, times 12 pulls, that’s about $46 a month, a de facto reduction of benefits of more than ten percent for no real reason whatsoever.

    The federal welfare reform law of 1996 gave states significant leeway to design their own programs. Missouri, for example, is considering a bill to forbid food stamps from being spent on steak or seafood. No more cheap fish heads for you! But even welfare advocates were taken aback by the $25 daily limit in Kansas, something that has not been implemented in any other state.

    “This provision makes it nearly impossible for a recipient who does not have a checking account to pay rent,” said Liz Schott of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The Kansas provision originally would have limited daily benefits to $60, but that was reduced through an amendment.


    The Questions

    We’re left with some questions.

    I’m pretty sure no one thinks it would be right for welfare recipients to spend benefits designed to feed hungry people at liquor stores, fortune tellers, swimming pools or cruise ships. One wonders, however, at the codification of that into law. Do the Kansas benefit cards even know they are in an ATM on the Love Boat versus one at the grocery store? Is there in fact even one case of a welfare receipt spending his money on a cruise? At a maximum of $429 a month, it seems hard to save up the thousands of dollars cruises cost, especially given the airfare from Kansas to the nearest ocean. And since you can withdraw cash and then spend it on booze or fortune telling if you really want to, isn’t the whole thing pointless?

    The $25 daily limit is also a bit unclear. That amount of money doesn’t get you very far at the grocery store, so it translates into little more than multiple trips each week plus the costs of ATM fees. That alone is at variance with trying to find or work a job, and child care. It does not seem to benefit anyone.

    So what is the point? Well, politics for sure. Nothing says Republican in Kansas apparently like being needlessly mean to poor people. A lot of votes in that hater demographic. Right along side that is the idea that poor people deserve to suffer somehow.

    So, Kansas, why not go for it? Why not just have welfare recipients publicly have to beg for money? Maybe something on TV, like American Idol, where the best beggar as voted on by the home audience gets an extra jar of peanut butter, or, as a special reward, a quick trip to the fortune teller?

    “The magic cards tell me your future looks… very bleak…”



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    Poverty is Good Business: The Economics of Food Stamps (SNAP)

    May 9, 2015 // 9 Comments »

    The Republican House and Democratic Senate reached a compromise last year that cut Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP; what food stamps are now called.) Republicans initially called for $40 billion in cuts, kicking millions of people out of the program altogether, including 170,000 veterans. The compromise cut $8 billion, which affects 800,000 households, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

    Dollars and Sense

    Dollars first. That $9 billion saved on SNAP would have paid for only 12.5 days of the Iraq War. For the Afghan War, $9 billion would pay for about one month (and that war is now in its thirteenth year, do the math.) America’s newest aircraft carrier cost $13 billion, not including development costs.

    And now sense, or lack of it. A typical family on SNAP/food stamps gets $133 monthly. For three meals a day, $133 breaks down to $1.47 per meal; it is from that amount that the cuts will be taken. Almost 22 percent of American children under age 18 lived in poverty in 2012. The percentage of children under age five living in poverty is over 25 percent. Almost 1 in 10, or 9.7 percent, live in extreme poverty. Number of Americans on food stamps doubled in the last ten years. 47 million Americans now live in poverty, the highest number in two decades.

    Cheaters? A Department of Agriculture report on “trafficking” in the food-stamp program found that only 1.3 percent of benefits were traded for cash.

    Your takeaway: We have the money. We just don’t want to spend it on feeding Americans.

    Poverty is Good Business

    Cops investigating a crime often refer to the Latin term, cui bono, or, “who benefits?” The idea is to find out who has the most to gain from Colonel Mustard’s death in the Drawing Room and start the hunt there.

    So if most Republicans, and many Democrats, want to cut food stamps, who does not want to see the cuts?

    The food business loves food stamps. Wal-Mart, Target and Kroger have made huge profits of $75.2 billion off of food stamp purchases, setting a new record in 2012. And that’s not counting other purchases recipients may make with their own money.

    Never mind how food stamps and other benefits are used by those same retailers to subsidize the low wages they pay their workers. Or how the same bill that would cut food stamps pays out farm subsidies to America’s billionaires, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Charles Schwab and S. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A.

    The American Beverage Association, a lobby group that includes Coca-Cola, strongly opposes restricting soda purchases by food stamp recipients. Why? Recipients spend from $1.7 to $2.1 billion annually for sugar-sweetened beverages purchased in grocery stores. Never mind that while alcohol and other unhealthy items are restricted for purchase with stamps, soda stands available.

    Pepsi, candy-maker Mars and the Snack Food Association all registered to lobby the House of Representatives on food stamp restrictions.

    Your takeaway: Mega-corporations are profiting off poverty, with their profits heavily subsidized by taxpayer dollars.


    So who benefits? Not hungry people. Do the math. It’s all about dollars and cents.



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    Fact-Checking North Korea Propaganda about America (They’re Right)

    October 14, 2014 // 6 Comments »




    While we wait on more news of now-you-see-him, now-you-don’t Kim Jong Un, let’s peek into his country. What kind of world is it when North Korean propaganda about the United States is more correct than crazy? Let’s fact-check and see how the Northerners did.

    The Korean Central News Agency Schools You

    North Korea isn’t known as a big internet kind of place, but they do have a propaganda/news agency in Japan that stays busy. The funny ties between North Korea and Japan are always worth a look; Japan imported vast numbers of Koreans during World War II as slave labor. Many ended up staying as the Korean War broke out, and divided themselves into groups supporting the North and South. There are now some 600,000 Koreans in Japan, many of whom are second- and third-generationals born in Japan.

    So, the Korean Central News Agency, run by sympathtic Koreans working out of Japan, had some issues with the U.S., excerpted here. Let’s see what they have to say using their original English, with the fact-checking part in [brackets]:

    Model for Human Rights
    As the world’s worst human rights abuser, it [the U.S.] pretended to be a “model” in human rights performance. [Note: See “a shining city on a hill” claims by presidents from Obama back]

    Racism
    Racialism is getting more severe in the U.S. The gaps between the minorities and the whites are very wide in the exercise of such rights to work and elect. The U.S. true colors as a kingdom of racial discrimination was fully revealed by last year’s case that the Florida Court gave a verdict of not guilty to a white policeman [sic] who shot to death an innocent black boy. [Note: See Michael Brown, Donald Sterling, Trayvon Martin or this.]

    Unemployment
    At present, an average of 300,000 people a week are registered as unemployed, but any proper measure has not been taken. [Here the North Koreans are wrong; the Labor Department reported 377,000 people filed for initial unemployment benefits in the week ended January 21, up 21,000 from a revised reading of 356,000 claims the week before.]

    Housing Prices
    The housing price soared 11.5 percent last year than 2012 and 13.2 percent in January this year than 2013, leaving many people homeless. [Close; prices in 20 cities rose 12.9 percent year over year.]

    Poverty
    The number of impoverished people increased to 46.5 millions last year, and one sixth of the citizens and 20-odd percent of the children are in the grip of famine in New York City. [North Korea nailed it! In 2012, 46.2 million people in the United States lived in poverty. The nation’s official poverty rate was 15.0%. By the way according to the U.S. government, if you as a single person earn more than $11,344 you are officially not impoverished. The bar seems pretty low– the average one-bedroom apartment rent in Tulsa, Oklahoma is about $7500 a year, leaving you as a non-poverty person with a sweet, sweet $3800 to eat, pay utilities, car, clothes, etc. Most places in America have higher costs of living than Tulsa.]

    Crime
    All sorts of crimes rampant in the U.S. pose a serious threat to the people’s rights to existence and their inviolable rights. [North Korea again! Here’s a map showing crime in the U.S. outstrips most of its peers in Europe and elsewhere.]

    Surveillance
    The U.S. government has monitored every movement of its citizens and foreigners, with many cameras and tapping devices and even drones involved, under the pretext of “national security”. [Don’t make me Google Snowden and NSA for you on this one please.]

    Murder
    Meanwhile, bills on easing arms control were adopted in various states of the country, boosting murderous crimes. As a result, the U.S. has witnessed an increasing number of gun-related crimes in all parts of the country and even its military bases this year. In this regard, the United Nations on April 10 put the U.S. on the top of the world list of homicide rates. [OK, the North Koreans are a little fuzzy on this one, depending on how you define homicide. For large swaths of the MidEast and the developing world, people get killed all the time, in great numbers. Here’s the data. I was unable to tease out any broad statistics that separate a criminal kind of murder like on TV from war and suicide bombs kind of murder. But here’s one stat that supports the North Korean assertion: in 2006 in the US, there are roughly 17,000 murders, of which about 15,000 were committed with firearms. By contrast, Britain, Australia and Canada combined saw fewer than 350 gun-related murders each year. In the year that the U.S. saw 17,000 murders overall, there were only 794 in Germany.]

    Prisoners
    The U.S. also has 2.2 millions of prisoners at present, the highest number in the world. For lack of prisons on the part of the government, individuals are providing detention facilities to make money. [Wrong! The U.S. has 2.4 million people behind bars, about one percent of our entire population. The most serious charge against 51 percent of those inmates is a drug offense. Only four percent are in for robbery and only one percent are in for homicide. Racism? Black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated.]

    Hail to the Chief
    Its chief executive, Obama, indulges himself in luxury almost every day, squandering hundred millions of dollars on his foreign trip in disregard of his people’s wretched life. [Gotta call this one for the North Koreans. While the White Houses never discloses costs for trips because “so much of the money is for security,” Air Force One, the president’s personal 747, costs $228,000 an hour to operate. A typical overseas trip involves eleven or more aircraft, including C-5 transports, aerial refuelers and small passenger jets that fly along with Air Force One. The president also likely enjoys fighter air cover and AWACs support, costs unknown.

    About a decade ago, the General Accounting Office released two fairly detailed reports on President Bill Clinton’s foreign travels (here and here). Secret Service costs were omitted as classified, but other government expenses were tallied up. A Clinton trip to six countries in Africa in 1998 rang up at $42.8 million, most of that for military aircraft costs. A trip to Chile came in at $10.5 million. A trip to China that year cost $18.8 million.

    Details are hard to find online, but my own experience with presidential visits from 24 years in the State Department is that typically entire floors of hotels or more are booked “for security,” hundreds of local cell phones are purchased and usually the president’s food is flown in, sometimes the water he’ll drink as well. One unsubstantiated report said Obama’s party booked over 500 hotel rooms on a trip to India.

    (Former Foreign Service Officer John Brown has a detailed, funny, from-the-ground account of a presidential visit)



    (North Korea is an awful place with horrendous human rights abuses. This article is about the U.S., not North Korea.)




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    Mississippi Cares More about the Politics of Unborn Children, than Unborn Children

    May 10, 2014 // 4 Comments »

    As conservatives attempt to criminalize a broader range of actions in attempts to grant legal personhood to unborn children, and thus create a stronger argument against safe, legal abortion, a case in Mississippi is at center stage.

    Prosecutors there charged a 16 year old unwed mother with the crime of “depraved heart murder” because she allegedly ingested cocaine at some point in her pregnancy. The child was stillborn. The sentence that hung over the 16 year old mother was life in prison.

    The Facts

    “Depraved heart murder” is a unique crime that requires murder committed with a “callous disregard for human life.” The mother allegedly used coke at some point in her life. Prosecutors never proved exactly when, or how much, of the drug was used. There was no proof that coke had anything to do with the child being stillborn– experts who examined the medical records concluded the child’s cause of death was the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. The state’s medical examiner came to a different conclusion after tests turned up traces of a cocaine byproduct in the baby’s blood, and declared her death a homicide, caused by “cocaine toxicity.” There was presented no scientific proof that cocaine can cause lasting damage to a child exposed in the womb. No cocaine traces were found, simply a by product that could have been introduced by coke usage.

    The judge unfortunately only dismissed the charges on a legal technicality, and so prosecutors plan to try the case again with slightly different charges. And why not? The taxpayers of Mississippi have funded this pseudo-legal conservative push to establish “personhood” for fetuses as part of a broad-based strategy to weaken abortion laws for seven years. The mother was charged in 2006, and the case took until now just to reach what some might call a mid-point.

    Not Unique

    Sadly, the case in Mississippi is not unique. A National Advocates for Pregnant Women study identified hundreds of criminal and civil cases involving the arrest and detention of pregnant women since the decision in Roe v. Wade was issued in 1973. State authorities have used post-Roe measures including feticide laws and anti-abortion laws recognizing separate rights for fertilized, eggs, embryos and fetuses as the basis for depriving pregnant women – whether they were seeking to end a pregnancy or go to term – of their liberty.

    Broader Issues

    This case also brings up equally serious issues. African Americans, who suffer twice as many stillbirths as whites (the Centers for Disease Control report that infant mortality rates in Mississippi were 7.07 percent for white children but 13.82 percent for black children), could once again in Mississippi find themselves disportionately prosecuted.

    In the larger picture, even as Mississippi spends taxpayer money on prosecutions such as this, the state has one of has one of the worst records for maternal and infant health in the U.S., as well as some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. Factors that have been proven to cause stillborns and infant deaths, such as poverty, poor nutrition, and lack of access to healthcare, remain unchecked in favor of legal actions against teen mothers. Indeed, Mississippi has both the highest poverty rate, and the highest infant mortality rate, in the United States. The state also has the highest premature birth rate in America.

    It’s almost as if Mississippi cares more about the politics of unborn children, than unborn children.




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    Walmart Supports Raising Public Food Benefits– For Its Own Profit

    April 9, 2014 // 15 Comments »

    They say politics makes strange bedfellows. They also say poverty is just another profit opportunity, at least over at Walmart.

    Walmart supports an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, i.e., food stamps) benefits, to erase the cuts Congress voted into place last fall. Does Walmart really care more about the fate of about hungry children than does Congress? Um, not really. Walmart has instead acknowledged publicly that federal cuts to food stamps are a threat to its bottom line.

    Poverty Pays

    In its required 10K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Walmart was oddly blunt about what the SNAP cuts may do to its bottom line:

    Our business operations are subject to numerous risks, factors and uncertainties, domestically and internationally, which are outside our control. These factors include… changes in the amount of payments made under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan and other public assistance plans, [and] changes in the eligibility requirements of public assistance plans.

    According to Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley, the company didn’t anticipate how much cuts to such programs would affect it. Reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that went into effect on November 1, 2013, ironically first day of Walmart’s fourth fiscal quarter, led to a between $1 and $36 reduction in SNAP benefits per household, or up to $460 a year. Walmart knows its customers– poor people with even less money simply can’t buy enough to keep corporate profit high.

    Follow the Money

    How much profit? While Walmart does not break out sales paid for with SNAP, it looks like big bucks.

    In a study entitled “FOOD STAMPS: Follow the Money,” researcher and public health attorney Michele Simon established:

    — In one year, nine Walmart Supercenters in Massachusetts together received more than $33 million in SNAP dollars—over four times the SNAP money spent at farmers markets nationwide;

    — In two years, Walmart received about half of the one billion dollars in SNAP expenditures in Oklahoma;

    — One Walmart Supercenter in Tulsa, Oklahoma received $15.2 million while another (also in Tulsa) took in close to $9 million in SNAP spending.

    (Simon’s research also found out that bank JP Morgan Chase is also profiting heavily off the electronic bank transfer-based SNAP program. Morgan has contracts for the SNAP electronic benefits transfer services in 25 states. In Florida, Morgan Chase has a five-year contract worth about $83 million. In New York, a seven-year deal that originally paid Morgan Chase $112 million for services was recently amended to add another $14.3 million, a nice 13 percent increase.)

    All this money in play affects a lot of Americans. 2011 saw a new record enrollment in SNAP, 1 of every 7 Americans.

    Walmart Want to Keep Selling Sugary Soda as Food

    But back to Walmart. Not only does Walmart want SNAP money, it also wants to keep as many of its products SNAP-eligible as possible. The Department of Agriculture must certify an item as available for purchase with food stamps; some long-term no-no’s include alcohol, tobacco and many prepared foods. Yet the top three food vendors in terms of SNAP-money received are Coca-Cola (who makes Coca-Cola), Kraft (of highly processed foods fame), and Mars (the candy and snack food maker.) Walmart has joined those companies to lobby the Department of Agriculture, and Congress, against any measures that would restrict SNAP use to more healthy food choices.

    Since Congress has been debating the soda-food stamps question on and off since 1964, it seems unlikely Walmart and the others have much to fear.


    SNAP Funds Your Everyday Low Prices at Walmart

    As reported previously, one of the main reasons why Walmart can sell things cheap is that it gets away with paying below a living wage because you, the taxpayer, subsidize the employees’ wages. The gap between what the majority of employed people earn through the minimum wage at places like Walmart, and what they need to live a minimum life, is made up by federal and state benefits. Nearly three-quarters of enrollments in America’s major public benefits programs are from working families. They work in jobs that pay wages so low that their paychecks do not generate enough income to provide for life’s basic necessities.

    And it is not just Walmart. The cost of public assistance to families of workers in the fast-food industry alone is nearly $7 billion per year. That money, which might rightly be paid by McDonald’s and Burger King and KFC, is instead paid by the taxpayers, money lenders to a government that is far more interested in subsidizing business than in caring for the nation as a whole.

    This Land is Your Land

    America is indeed the land of opportunity; where else in the world can the collusion of government and corporate interests create both a major lobbying effort to increase food aid to America’s poor, while at the same time fleecing taxpayers so that large corporations can further monetize poverty? Exceptional, indeed.



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    An Apartheid of Dollars: R.I.P Our Government

    October 1, 2013 // 21 Comments »

    If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Federal worker sent home because your employer, our government, ran out of money to pay you.

    Welcome to our world.

    The scene in Congress is as ugly as it has been in some time, perhaps resembling the ultimate breakdown of our system of government last seen in the days before the Civil War. At that point the lines had been drawn and were no longer negotiable, literally black and white. There were no compromises left to explore as Congressmen acted simply out of self-interest (“I wish to support using human beings as livestock”) with no regard for the nation as a whole.

    The issue today is selfishly drawn– Congress acts simply based on a cold calculus of what it thinks will increase chances for reelection. No one seems to care a touch for the nation. This demonstrates the extent of our failure. Even as the U.S. is trending toward our own form of fascist exceptionalism, where real power is controlled by industry with the complacence of government, backed up by a surveillance state that views citizens as the enemy, we can’t even get the damn trains to run on time.

    Meanwhile, some 16 million of our children, 22 percent, live below the federal poverty level. That line is set at $23,550 a year for a family of four. Anybody out there with enough scratch for a computer and an internet connection want to try that on? In fact, on average, a family of four needs at least double the money just to cover basic expenses. Using that standard, actually 45 percent of our children live in low-income families. Meanwhile, our Secretary of Labor spends his time concerned about kids in other countries being forced to work to survive.

    While we spend lavishly on schools, bridges, roads and utilities in Afghanistan (the latest is over $100 million so a few kids can go to college in Kabul for free) and previously in Iraq, our own infrastructure is crumbling.

    I could easily cite similar facts on education, crime, incarceration rates, employment and the like showing the growing disparity not just of income, but of life, between our tiny rich and our growing poor. It is almost as if our government is actively seeking to create a permanent underclass to drive down wages. We are witnessing an apartheid of dollars.

    I will admit to not yet knowing enough about Obamacare to offer an intelligent opinion on its likely effectiveness. But I know this: My family lived in the UK for a few years, where free healthcare was available to every person. While there are criticisms about that system, I can only say the care we received was extraordinary. We lived also in Japan, where healthcare is available to all at very low cost. While there are criticisms about that system, I can only say the care we received was extraordinary. A comprehensive health care system can indeed work. In fact, in the dozens of countries where we lived or traveled, healthcare was available at costs far below the U.S. In any of the first-world places, no child was left to suffer for lack of money. In the third world, that was not the case. It is obvious which pole the U.S. is tumbling toward.

    Federal workers, welcome to a taste of our world, where everything is uncertain and your life is on the line if you lose your job. Now, I understand that whenever Congress eventually gets around to re-funding the government you’ll be back at your jobs-for-life, with nice benefits. More power to you. But, if you can, take these days of pseudo-unemployment to spare a thought for what is going on in our country outside the Beltway.

    I enjoyed all that job security and good benefits too, in my more than twenty years working at the State Department. I live now on a retiree’s Federal pension. But none of that precludes me from thinking about others. In fact, I feel it requires me to do so.

    What I’d like to end with is to say that as long as we don’t have a working government, providing us the services we paid for via our taxes, we should not have to pay those taxes. Unfortunately, that would result in me going to prison, a service that is still quite robust. Instead, for us the living, the immediate task is simple. Congresspersons are acting in their own self-interest, hoping to get reelected, and our own lives be damned. Do this: vote for anyone except an incumbent. If a noticeably large number of incumbents never see office again, perhaps– perhaps– someone in our own government will remember us out here.

    Alone.



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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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    Posted in #99Percent, Economy, Post-Constitution America