A Debate About Minimum Wage: Who Are We Kidding?

News flash: The Republicans are still doing everything they can to self-destruct and to take the middle class, the working poor, and the poor with them.

Oh, and they’re taking those Americans who have been completely duped by their message and their ideology with them, too.

Democrats Assail G.O.P. After Filibuster of Proposal to Raise Minimum Wage

Senator Charles E. Schumer, center, with Senator Harry Reid, second from left, spoke Wednesday about the minimum wage bill. Credit Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times
Senator Charles E. Schumer, center, with Senator Harry Reid, second from left, spoke Wednesday about the minimum wage bill. Credit Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

 

Let’s review the facts and the math.

  • The official poverty line for a family of 4 is $23,850.00
  • There are 2080 working hours in a 40hour/week year
  • If you can even find a 40-hour/week job paying $23,850 a year, your POVERTY hourly pay rate is $11.47/hour.

Poverty.

Not struggling-to-get-by. Not skipping-the-beach-this-year or eating-out-less scrimping and saving. Not we’ll-have-to-sell-the-vacation-home or skip-putting-the-pool-in-this-year. Not even the ol’ hamburger-instead-of-steak kind of “poor.”

We’re talking about real poverty at an hourly rate ABOVE what the GOP is already blocking.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

“In 2012, 75.3 million workers in the United States age 16 and over were paid at hourly rates, representing 59.0 percent of all wage and salary workers. Among those paid by the hour, 1.6 million earned exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. About 2.0 million had wages below the federal minimum. Together, these 3.6 million workers with wages at or below the federal minimum made up 4.7 percent of all hourly paid workers.”

The GOP is blocking a pay increase for what amounts to about 5% of the hourly paid workers in America.

BTW, 49.4% of them are age 25 or older, so it’s not the conservative meme (lie) of just kids working part-time flipping burgers.

What are we to conclude? What does this bit of GOP obstructionism tell us? One of two things.

Either the 3.6million workers – only 4.7% of all hourly workers, after all – is such a small number of workers put at risk of losing their jobs due to an hourly minimum increase that it can’t possibly be worth doing because of the harm it could do to business
– or –
these people just don’t deserve to be paid more than $7.25/hour regardless of the job they have because “the market” has determined their worth, not to mention that business owners deserve to keep almost everything because, after all, employees like these are just raw materials to be used and replaced at the absolute lowest cost possible.

Both are extreme arguments, of course. Or are they?

Increasing the minimum wage will not cause all 3.6million workers to lose their jobs. I also don’t believe for one second that all business owners and every Republican are inhuman ogres who see people as raw materials.

What we should be is very clear about the facts, and we should not be afraid to talk about them as adults.

Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs. Republicans repeat this over and over as a means for keeping their constituents – especially those they can manipulate more easily and who are outside the top 2% – misinformed, scared, and voting for them, of course.

Their strategy relies almost entirely on perpetuating the lie that is trickle-down economics.

So, there are 2 things I think we all need to be talking more openly and honestly about.

1. Not All Businesses Are a Business

If your business can’t afford to pay your workers a wage that is ABOVE the poverty line, you don’t have a business. Well, you might have a business technically, but your business plan sucks and you’re not really operating a business. You have either a hobby or fiefdom.

What you are NOT is a job creator. Paying someone so little that they remain poor and at least partially dependent on public assistance is not a job.

If the profit you generate from your business doesn’t allow you to pay your workers a true living wage after you’ve taken your wage out, then your business model needs serious reexamination. It might be a hobby.

If, on the other hand, you’re making millions and even billions like the Waltons, and you still refuse to pay a living wage, not only are you a “taker” for forcing the rest of us to subsidize your workers AND your profits, you are also an uncaring, unfeeling, and incredibly greedy and abusive human being. You need to reexamine your morals, your ethics, and your humanity. You’re just a greedy SOB, and you’re still NOT a job creator.

These things need to be said. There’s nothing admirable or respectable about the Walton family or people like them. They are the Robber Barons of the New Gilded Age.

2. What’s Wrong With Voters?

If you’re not in the top 2% of income earners making $250K or more per year regardless of what you do for a living and you’re still voting for Republicans, you’re only hurting yourself and your fellow middle class, working poor, and impoverished Americans.

There’s no other way to put it.

You are voting against your own economic self-interests and the economic self-interest of everyone but the very wealthy. It’s obvious. The GOP is the party of trickle-down economics, and trickle-down economics is undeniably one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated on the world. If you refuse to see the facts and reality of the last 30+ years, then you’re just being stubborn or obtuse.

And, we haven’t even gotten to tipped workers yet.

So, as of today, H.R. 1010, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, has 196 cosponsors. They are all Democrats.

Where’s the debate?

We can punish Republicans in November, or we can keep punishing ourselves.

It’s a choice each of us gets to make come election time.

 

Unhappy Anniversary, Citizens United

Today is the 4th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous “Citizens United” decision.

Why should you care?

Watch the 2 1/2 minute video at…

http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/
http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/

http://unitedrepublic.actionkit.com/event/cosponsor/9815/ to get a sense of what money in politics is doing to us and to our government. I hope you’ll then decide you want to add your name as a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act. I hope you’ll want to tell everyone to do the same.

After that, visit…

https://movetoamend.org/
https://movetoamend.org/

https://movetoamend.org/ to understand what a bunch of concerned citizens are doing to push for an amendment to our Constitution, “… to firmly establish that money is not speech, and that human beings, not corporations, are persons entitled to constitutional rights.”

You can sign their petition, too.

Sounds pretty easy, right? It doesn’t take a lot, and every voice counts.

Look, if you don’t do something, who will?

And if you decide to do nothing? That’s your choice, of course.

The way I see it, though, is people who won’t take action – any action – really don’t get to complain about money in politics or the Democrats or the Republicans or the size of government or the size of the military or voter ID laws or how the 2-party system keeps independents from running and winning or fracking or climate science or Roe v Wade or the minimum wage or right-to-work states or class warfare or corporate welfare or Wall Street bonuses and bail outs or George Soros or Sheldon Adelson or Donald Trump or Fox News or MSNBC or Glass-Steagall or the Gilded Age or Obamacare or the NRA or immigration reform or lots of other things that corrupt our representative democracy.

Ask Your House Rep & Senators to "Be A Leader" on Overturning Citizens UnitedIt all boils down to money, and unless and until we – you and I and everyone we know – does something – ANYTHING – to get money out of politics while we get out and vote in every election, well then we shouldn’t expect much to change for the better.

We can do this. You can do this. Why not do it right now?

 

Republican Voters: You’re Shutting Down Yourselves and Your Neighbors

UncleSamWantsYou

Whether shutting it down temporarily or shrinking the government permanently, the facts are that doing so tends to hurt the people in Republican states more than other states and to greater degrees than Republican voters seem to realize or are willing to admit.

On Friday, September 27th, The New York Times published Off the Charts: Big Government States. The charts don’t lie, and the opening statement sums it up:

States with a larger government presence — as measured by either employment or economic impact — tended to vote Republican in the 2012 election, while states with a smaller government presence tended to vote Democratic.

It begs a couple of questions.

Do Republican voters understand that they are more often the greater beneficiaries of direct government employment? They and their neighbors are more likely to actually work for the government. When the government shuts down or shrinks, that hurts their neighbors and the economy in the same way that a layoff or business shutdown in their community does.

That’s the direct employment part. How about government spending?

Do our Republican family and friends not understand that the only true “trickle down economics” comes *FROM* government spending? Government agencies not only employ our fellow Americans, the government also spends money through private businesses. That spending creates private sector jobs and prosperity for themselves, their communities, their families, and their neighbors.

The state G.D.P. figures may well understate the importance of — and the decline in — government activity. That is because they are computed differently from the national G.D.P. number. The national number is based on spending, while the state numbers are based on profits and income of workers. As a result, if a government pays for the construction of something, whether a school or a fighter jet, that will show up as government activity in the national figure.

But for the state figures, it will show up as private-sector activity because the work was done by employees of construction or aerospace companies.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/business/the-most-republican-states-tend-to-rely-more-on-government-jobs.html)

Doesn’t that mean the government is a legitimate job creator? After all, who else is going to place orders with private companies for fighter jets, roads, bridges, and schools, not to mention the $517billion spent on outsourcing?

All of this adds up to a mystery.

Why do some middle class Americans insist on voting against their own economic self-interests? It makes absolutely no sense. For that kind of voting to be even more common in states where the economy is even more dependent on government makes even less sense.

Let’s not shy away from this fact, either. It is only Republican legislators who want to shrink government to the point that they can drown it in the bath. Middle class Americans who vote for them are voting to commit economic suicide.

FDR had this to say in his famous “I welcome their hatred” speech in 1936. It’s just as true today as it was back then.

The very employers and politicians and publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their battles for them. (http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od2ndst.html)

Let’s hope that our Republican friends, family members, neighbors, and strangers will come to their senses soon and stop allowing themselves to be deluded by the tyrants of their party.

Let’s #NeverForget915 and the Lies of Trickle-Down Economics

NeverForget915On this, the 5th anniversary of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, Americans should take time to pause and remember this as yet another heinous crime of historic proportions perpetrated on Americans on a day in September.

It wasn’t terrorists and it wasn’t Main Street who killed our economy. No, this crime was perpetrated on us by a conspiracy forged between Big Money on Wall Street and Small (not Big!) Government politicians who carry their water and actually pass rules and laws that make the crime legal.

That means we’re also to blame. Actually, it’s not all of us who must share the blame.

There’s no other way to say this. It’s Americans who vote for politicians who want to further deregulate all kinds of industries, including the financial services industry, who share in the blame. By electing people who work to shrink government and deregulate industries, we’re actually creating a “Socialism of Wall Street” where the gains of capitalism are privatized to an infinitesimally small number of people while all the losses are socialized to all the rest of America.

How much more proof is needed that deregulation, coupled with greed and power, leads to terrible outcomes for everyone except those with wealth and power? I consider myself to be a capitalist, but I also know from experience that corporations have proven time and again that they cannot be trusted to police themselves alone.

For an excellent accounting and timeline of events that led up to the crash of ’08, I recommend reading this 2011 Forbes piece, Lest We Forget: Why We Had a Financial Crisis.

In it, Steve Denning writes:

Many actors obviously played a role in this story. Some of the actors were in the public sector and some of them were in the private sector. But the public sector agencies were acting at behest of the private sector. It’s not as though Congress woke up one morning and thought to itself, “Let’s abolish the Glass-Steagall Act!” Or the SEC spontaneously happened to have the bright idea of relaxing capital requirements on the investment banks. Or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency of its own accord abruptly had the idea of preempting state laws protecting borrowers. These agencies of government were being strenuously lobbied to do the very things that would benefit the financial sector and their managers and traders. And behind it all, was the drive for short-term profits. <emphasis added>

I think “…being strenuously lobbied…” is too polite a euphemism.

It was the Big Money One-Percenters exercising their control over politicians who got agencies to do their bidding. 2008 was the result of the lies Reagan told America about trickle-down economics and the size of government, and the perpetuation of those lies coming from Republicans, extreme neo-cons, and the One Percent ever since. They are the ones who killed our economy in 2008, and they will do it again unless we do something to stop them.

Need more evidence?

Here are some facts about the 2008 bailout, courtesy of Public Citizen.

  • Amount the crash cost the U.S. economy: $22 trillion
  • How much everyone would get if that $22 trillion were divided equally among the U.S. populace: $69,478.88
  • Assets of the four biggest banks in America — JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Wachovia/Wells Fargo — when they were “too big to fail” in 2008: $6.4 trillion
  • Assets of those four banks today: $7.8 trillion
  • Of the 63 former Lehman Brothers employees identified by a bankruptcy examiner as being aware of an accounting scheme Lehman used to mask its true finances, number who are employed in senior financial services positions today: 47
  • Number of the 25 banks responsible for the bulk of risky subprime loans leading up to the crash that are back in the mortgage business: 25
  • Chances that an American voter thinks that regulating financial products and services is “important” or “very important”: 9 in 10
  • Chances that an American knows the Earth orbits the sun: 8 in 10
  • Amount spent in 2012 by Wall Street and other finance industry behemoths on lobbying to roll back, water down and weasel out of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: $487 million
  • Number of registered financial industry lobbyists in 2012: 2,429
  • Number of lawsuits filed as of April of this year by Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, to hold up implementation of Dodd-Frank rules on legal technicalities: 7
  • Rank of finance industry among all corporate election spending by sector in 2011 and 2012: 1
  • Amount the industry gave to political candidates in 2011 and 2012: $664 million
  • In 2012, rate at which revenues of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., matched Public Citizen’s operating expenses for the entire year: Every 80 minutes

To my friends on the right, isn’t it time to wake up to the reality that trickle-down economics is a lie? The One Percent don’t care about you, and you are extremely unlikely to ever become one of them.

Isn’t it time to join forces as average, middle class Americans to make our voices heard about getting big money and it’s corrupting influence out of politics, and to get our democracy turned back over to us ordinary citizens?

You can start by joining and supporting CoffeePartyUSA and by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the American Anti-Corruption Act.

UPDATE 9/16/2016:

I am no longer a supporter of any kind of Coffee Party USA. To understand why, click here.

http://anticorruptionact.org/
http://anticorruptionact.org/

“Bankers Are Balking at a Proposed Rule on Capital” Gretchen Morgenson – The New York Times

See on Scoop.itDidYouCheckFirst

“Over the next two months, the regulators proposing this rule will no doubt encounter a lobbying buzz saw. Mr. Hoenig (vice chairman of the F.D.I.C.) said he and his colleagues were bracing for that. Bankers, after all, prefer things just the way they are. They can load up on leverage to take risks and reap the rewards. But when losses abound? Well, they’re the taxpayers’ problem.” – Gretchen Morgenson, assistant business and financial editor and a columnist at the New York Times.

Greg Russak‘s insight:

Letting banks regulate themselves with what is called ‘risk-weighting’ didn’t work out so well in the past.

“This so-called risk-weighting approach was an abject failure. For example, the assumptions characterized the sovereign debt of Greece as risk-free, requiring that banks set aside no capital against those holdings for possible losses. The risk-weight system also determined, incorrectly, that highly rated mortgage securities fell low on the risk scale.”

Why shouldn’t banks be regulated up to their eye-balls? How can we think bankers can be trusted now?

Either they are horrible at analyzing risk and need lots and lots of oversight or, more likely, they know that in an under-regulated environment they can privatize any gains and socialize all their losses back to us through future federal bailouts.

See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/14/business/bankers-are-balking-at-a-proposed-rule-on-capital.html?ref=gretchenmorgenson&_r=0