Archive for category Economy

‘Hard work, and I don’t got a lot of money to show for it’

The 2016 election is different. Donald Trump is running as a Tea-GOP populist, and he has a lot of support from large numbers of Americans that elite politicians do their best to ignore in favor of the rich.

Via The Guardian:

Over the past 35 years the working class has been devalued, the result of an economic version of the Hunger Games. It has pitted everyone against each other, regardless of where they started…

…In Ohatchee, Alabama, Larry, taking a day off work to take his son fishing, is gracious but frustrated: “I have worked in foundries all my life, since I was 15. Hard work, and I don’t got a lot of money to show for it.”

The frustration isn’t just misplaced nostalgia – the economic statistics show the same thing.

Over the past 35 years, except for the very wealthy, incomes have stagnated, with more people looking for fewer jobs. Jobs for those who work with their hands, manufacturing employment, has been the hardest hit, falling from 18m in the late 1980s to 12m now.

The economic devaluation has been made more painful by the fraying of the social safety net, and more visceral by the vast increase at the top.

Earlier this month MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough (who I often disagree with) offered this simple explanation for Trump’s groundswell of support:

“The problem with the Republican Party over the past 30 years is they haven’t — and I’ll say, we haven’t — developed a message that appeals to the working class Americans economically in a way that Donald Trump’s does,” the former Republican lawmaker explained. “We talk about cutting capital gains taxes that the 10,000 people that in the crowd cheering for Donald Trump, they are never going to get a capital gains cut because it doesn’t apply.”

“We talk about getting rid of the death tax,” he continued. “The death tax is not going to impact the 10,000 people in the crowd for Donald Trump. We talk about how great free trade deals are. Those free trade deals never trickle down to those 10,000 people in Donald Trump’s rallies.”

“You sound like Bernie Sanders,” NBC’s Chuck Todd pointed out.

“But herein lies the problem with the Republican Party,” Scarborough complained. “It never trickles down! Those people in Trump’s crowds, those are all the ones that lost the jobs when they get moved to Mexico and elsewhere. The Republican donor class are the ones that got rich off of it because their capital moved overseas and they made higher profits.”

There it is. Bernie Sanders is leading a “political revolution” from the left. Trump is leading another revolution in the Tea-GOP.

More info:
Mocked and forgotten: who will speak for the American white working class?
Joe Scarborough gives up the game: After 30 years, the GOP base realized ‘it never trickles down’

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Faux News Blames The Victims – Again

Via Media Matters.

In an open letter to the Yelp CEO last week, a 25-year-old woman who identified herself as Talia Jane explained that she could not afford groceries and rent on her minimum wage pay at Yelp’s Eat24 food delivery network in San Francisco. Most of her co-workers were living with their parents, and one guy was apparently homeless. The whole thing is worth reading.

I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you’ve got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we’re not allowed to take any of that home because it’s for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?

…I got paid yesterday ($733.24, bi-weekly) but I have to save as much of that as possible to pay my rent ($1245) for my apartment that’s 30 miles away from work because it was the cheapest place I could find that had access to the train, which costs me $5.65 one way to get to work. That’s $11.30 a day, by the way. I make $8.15 an hour after taxes. I also have to pay my gas and electric bill. Last month it was $120. According to the infograph on PG&E’s website, that cost was because I used my heater. I’ve since stopped using my heater. Have you ever slept fully clothed under several blankets just so you don’t get a cold and have to miss work? Have you ever drank a liter of water before going to bed so you could fall asleep without waking up a few hours later with stomach pains because the last time you ate was at work? I woke up today with stomach pains. I made myself a bowl of rice.

Look, I’ll make you a deal. You don’t have to pay my phone bill. I’ll just disconnect my phone. And I’ll disconnect my home internet, too, even though it’s the only way I can do work for my freelance gig that I haven’t been able to do since I moved here because I’m constantly too stressed to focus on anything but going to sleep as soon as I’m not at work…

Let’s make sure I have the facts in order, here. When this young woman took a new job she was under the impression that she wouldn’t have to get a second job to cover basic expenses like food, rent, and utilities. We now live in a low-wage economy where entry-level employees are expected to work overtime and weekends without proper compensation. And by the way, Talia Jane’s letter concludes with an update that says she was fired the same day she wrote to the CEO.

Instead of expressing sympathy, most people commenting on the letter criticized Talia Jane for whining and feeling “entitled.” Faux News Channel just piled on, basically claiming that employees have no right to expect any kind of living wage – especially not in San Francisco. Faux News host Sandra Smith is a wealthy former hedge-funder. Stefanie Williams is just clueless.

The MM story got picked up by Raw Story, and here is a choice comment:

Wow … a 29 year old who still lives at home with her parents and works as a bartender lecturing a 25 year old college graduate who is living on her own about entitlements and bootstraps and personal responsibility…

More info:

Talia Jane: Yelp employee speaks after being ‘fired for posting open letter about living wage to CEO’

Two hours after the letter was posted online, she was fired. The company said her termination was not related to the letter, however Ms Jane claimed that she was told by Yelp’s HR department that her letter violated company terms of conduct.

Business Insider: Competent, hardworking millennials are getting shafted by older employees who feel they deserve bigger salaries

Bashing millennials and shaming those who claim to be struggling financially has grown in popularity, seemingly in response to public attention on income inequality.

UPDATE:
Tell Me More About How Much You Hate Millennials, You Old Fart

I have a shiny degree with my name on it, lots of knowledge about things I’m passionate about, and a whole lot of debt.

…When some people see things like Talia Jane’s piece about Yelp, they basically orgasm with self-righteousness. It gives them an excuse to hate on millennials and talk about what hard workers they are and how lazy everyone else is.

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Why We Must Have a Revolution This Year

Not personal its business

Today we learned of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which immediately prompted Tea-GOPers to threaten what amounts to a shutdown of the SCOTUS. President Obama responded by announcing his intent to nominate a new justice anyway.

Tonight there was another Tea-GOP debate, in which Donald Trump absolutely reamed John Ellis (Jeb!) Bush and Marco Roboto on the subject of George W. Bush’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq fiasco/war of aggression. If anybody’s interested, Iraq is one of several issues where Trump has positioned himself to the left of Hillary Clinton. So-called “free trade” is another. He is winning the race for the Tea-GOP presidential nomination.

Enough about the politicians! Last Wednesday something happened that’s more significant.

The past few years have been very good for United Technologies. The contractor does billions of dollars a year in business with the federal government. CEO Gregory Hayes pulled down nearly $10 million in 2014, and over $20 million the year before. On Thursday, the company reported $7.6 billion in profits, up from $6.2 billion the year before, and $5.7 billion the year before that. In October, United Technologies even expanded its stock buyback program to $12 billion. Spending the company’s money to purchase its own stock elevates the value of its share prices. United Technologies was so flush with cash that it could burn money to boost returns for its investors.

Surely this largesse would trickle down to its rank-and-file employees, right?

Not exactly.

On Wednesday, Carrier, the air conditioner manufacturing wing of United Technologies, told workers at its Indianapolis plant that it would be outsourcing their jobs to Monterrey, Mexico.

“Throughout the transition, we must remain committed to manufacturing the same high-quality products,” an executive can be heard insisting in a video of the announcement.

“Yeah, fuck you!” a member of the crowd responds.

“Please quiet down,” the official says. “This was an extremely difficult decision.”

“Was it?!”

“I want to be clear. This is strictly a business decision,” the corporate spokesman says on the video.

The only thing Americans can do is vote in unprecedented strength and elect Bernie Sanders to the presidency. It might be our last chance to save ourselves.

More info:
Watch Corporate America Turn A Room Full Of Workers Into Bernie Sanders And Donald Trump Supporters

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A Day Late And A Dollar Short

My favorite song turned 45 yesterday:

Darn Muslims!

Look here.

5 Comments

Trump: Your Wages Are Too High!

Trump

Last night’s Tea-GOP presidential debate was a miserable slog through two hours of lies, myths, and disinformation. I gave up after the first hour. But Donald Trump set the tone right away with the very first question from Neil Cavuto. And the Wisconsin audience must have been composed almost entirely of millionaires, because they applauded for every one of the deeply unpopular proposals coming from the eight candidates.

[Emphasis added]

CAVUTO:

…And so we begin. Candidates, as we gather tonight in this very august theater, just outside and across the country, picketers are gathering as well. They’re demanding an immediate hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Just a few hours ago, near Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed doing the same for all state workers, the first governor to do so.

Mr. Trump, as the leading presidential candidate on this stage and one whose tax plan exempts couples making up to $50,000 a year from paying any federal income taxes at all, are you sympathetic to the protesters cause since a $15 wage works out to about $31,000 a year?

TRUMP:

I can’t be Neil. And the and the reason I can’t be is that we are a country that is being beaten on every front economically, militarily. There is nothing that we do now to win. We don’t win anymore. Our taxes are too high. I’ve come up with a tax plan that many, many people like very much. It’s going to be a tremendous plan. I think it’ll make our country and our economy very dynamic.

But, taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world. I hate to say it, but we have to leave it the way it is. People have to go out, they have to work really hard and have to get into that upper stratum. But we can not do this if we are going to compete with the rest of the world. We just can’t do it.

CAVUTO:

So do not raise the minimum wage?

TRUMP:

I would not do it.

(APPLAUSE)

We all laughed when John Ellis (“Jeb!”) Bush told Americans to forget about a raise, just “work longer hours.” Last night, Trump said roughly the same thing.

Americans work an average of 47 hours a week. Our wages have stagnated since 1979. None of the Tea-GOPers on stage last night offered any help at all for the struggling middle class or entry-level workers. Nor did they address the injustice of the low-wage business model, which forces taxpayers to subsidize some of the nation’s most profitable corporations when their employees are not paid a living wage.

More info:
Unemployment keeps going down. So why aren’t wages going up?
Overworked America: 12 Charts That Will Make Your Blood Boil
Americans are spending $153 billion a year to subsidize McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s low wage workers

8 Comments

Tea-GOP Predictions of Economic Collapse Overtaken By Events

Romney promises 6% unemployment

Via Think Progress.

When he ran for President in 2012, Willard (“Mitt”) Romney claimed that by repealing Obamacare, replacing Dodd-Frank, reining in the EPA, and cutting government spending — he could reduce unemployment to 6 percent by January 2017.

The top-line unemployment rate currently stands at 5 percent, which is close to what economists call “full employment.” Wages for most Americans remain flat, however, and there is significant under-employment.

Today, the Department of Labor announced that 271,000 jobs had been created in October. Overall, there have been 68 straight months of job growth creating 13.5 million new jobs. It is the longest streak of job growth on record in American history.

In 2011, former Speaker John Boehner predicted that Obamacare “will bankrupt our nation, and it will ruin our economy” during a press conference where he used the phrase “job-killing” once every two minutes.

All the Tea-GOP wailing about the Obama administration’s supposed “job-killing” policies seems to have been an exercise in projection or wishful thinking, because it was actually the Tea-GOP committing economic sabotage at every opportunity.

More info:
4 Predictions Republicans Made About The Economy That Are Really Embarrassing Now

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The 4 Big Lies About Immigrants

Via HuffPo.

Don’t listen to the demagogues who want to blame the economic problems of the middle class and poor on new immigrants, whether here legally or illegally. The real problem is the economic game is rigged in favor of a handful at the top, who are doing the rigging.

2 Comments

VIDEO: Watch Three Former U.S. Treasury Secretaries Laugh About Income Inequality

Robert Rubin, Hank Paulson and Timothy Geithner yuck it about income inequality…
Thanks to Sam Seder and AlterNet.

2 Comments

President Obama’s Labor Day Speech

Watched this on TV live yesterday. I know President Obama has been a disappointment for Americans who work for a living. He definitely never walked a picket line as President, like he promised in 2007. But he sure gave a great speech on the one day a year when Dems come out to defend labor unions.

More info:
Obama Thinks You Should Have The Right To Take A Sick Day
Labor Unions: The Folks Who Gave You the Weekend

5 Comments

‘Extreme Poverty’ – Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) Didn’t Work

Money is for rich people

This is part of the Clinton administration’s legacy. In a new book, Kathryn J. Edin concludes the number of Americans living on $2 a day or less has “more than doubled since 1996, placing 1.5 million households and 3 million children in this desperate economic situation.”

$2 per person per day, or $2,920 per year for a family of four. is an income category that the World Bank refers to as “extreme poverty.”

1996 is an important marker, because that’s the year the Clinton administration, working alongside Republicans in Congress, eliminated the Aid for Families with Dependent Children program, which provided a guaranteed safety net for the poor. In its place they created Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), a much more meager and temporary safety net.

…In 2012, only one-quarter of poor families received TANF benefits, down from more than two-thirds in 1996, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. According to $2.00 a Day, the welfare program reached more than 14.2 million Americans in 1994, but by 2014 only 3.8 million Americans were aided by TANF.

The failure of TANF, like the decline of the American middle class, is barely mentioned in the media. Nobody is asking presidential candidates about this. Instead we get Donald Trump’s daily insult-fest and the great gefilte fish e-mail flap.

More info:
Could You Survive on $2 a Day?

9 Comments

Robert Reich: Spot-Auction Labor Market Replacing Steady Work

Robert Reich describes how more businesses are skirting labor laws by employing so-called “independent contractors” working irregular hours for unpredictable pay.

It’s the biggest change in the American workforce in over a century, and it’s happening at lightning speed. It’s estimated that in five years over 40 percent of the American labor force will have uncertain work; in a decade, most of us.

…Whether we’re software programmers, journalists, Uber drivers, stenographers, child care workers, TaskRabbits, beauticians, plumbers, Airbnb’rs, adjunct professors, or contract nurses – increasingly, we’re on our own.

And what we’re paid, here and now, depends on what we’re worth here and now – in a spot-auction market that’s rapidly substituting for the old labor market where people held jobs that paid regular salaries and wages.

Bottom line: the 1 Percent want to rake in nearly all the profits from this economy while shifting a much bigger proportion of the risk onto workers. They have combined 21st Century information systems with 19th Century labor practices. So far, they are getting away with it.

23 Comments

John Ellis (‘Jeb’) Bush: Blame the Victims For Bad Economy

What’s wrong with the American economy? If you ask presidential candidate John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, it has nothing to do with the Great Recession of 2008 during the most recent Bush administration — which put 8.7 million of us out of work. Nothing to do with Tea-GOP economic sabotage during the long, slow recovery that replaced many middle-class jobs with low-wage and part-time employment.

Our friend “Jeb! 2016” says all that’s needed to fix the economy is for more people to work longer hours. Apparently he is not aware that productivity and worker compensation have been decoupled for about 40 years now. Working harder gets us nowhere, and makes CEOs and the 1 Percent richer.

The relationship between American workers’ industriousness and their economic security has eroded so severely in recent decades that the two concepts aren’t even on speaking terms these days.

Workers were a staggering 25 percent more productive in 2012 than they were in 2000. But over the same period that bosses started getting a full quarter more work out of their employees, the median wage grew exactly zero percent. Even those with college degrees saw their pay stagnate over the past decade. Over the five-year stretch encompassing the Great Recession and the first few years of the slow recovery Bush is criticizing, workers gave their bosses an 8 percent jump in productivity – and got back an outright decline in earnings.

Tea-GOP prescriptions like “work harder for less pay” don’t deserve to win any votes. Americans who work for a living are not at fault. We’re the victims of a financialized, de-unionized, 1 Percent economy that’s reaching Gilded Age levels of wealth inequality.

UPDATE:
Newsweek: Does Jeb Bush understand economics?

Bush’s full statement was: “My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4% growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.”

This word salad mixes together different economic terms as if they mean the same thing and reaches for statistics that are, quite simply, ridiculous. Perhaps Bush was just sloppy in his language, but whatever aide is prepping him on economics needs to do a better job–maybe by working longer hours.

…When it comes to productivity, American workers have been doing a great job. Productivity, which is the economic output per worker, has grown relentlessly since 1947 in almost a straight upward line. Implying that Americans aren’t being productive enough is about the same as saying McDonald’s doesn’t sell enough hamburgers. How much is enough to Bush? If record productivity–with a cumulative growth of almost 300% since 1947–doesn’t cut it, what does?

There is no context where “we have to be more productive” means anything other than “push yourselves past record levels, workers!” That is, unless Bush doesn’t know what the word means.

But with this full statement, he has also demonstrated that he has no idea of the real problem facing American workers. No doubt, he is blaming them for their stagnant wages–all that’s needed is more hours of work, and wages will improve significantly.

As history proves, that’s hokum. America went through nearly a century where the profits generated by growth in worker productivity was shared–the more they produced, the more money everyone made. What Bush and far too many Republicans refuse to acknowledge is that wages and productivity became uncoupled around 1973: Productivity goes up, corporate profits go up, the rich get wealthier, but the financial benefits don’t trickle down to workers.

…American history’s most productive workers are not responsible for the fact that they aren’t paid enough. Do Bush and his GOP cohorts really believe that the wealthy are sitting in their offices, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for workers to demand more money that will then be handed over gladly? Wages are growing at their lowest level since World War II. In fact, income inequality is worse today than it was in 1774, even when slavery is included in the numbers, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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