Monday, October 26, 2015

Goodbye Middle Class? (51% of American Workers Make Less Than $30K/Year)  The In-Crowd Forgets What the Great Depression Yielded  (Bernie Doesn't)  Ordinary Americans Pay More in Taxes Than Wealthy (No Matter What Propaganda You Heard)

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Goodbye Middle Class:  51 Percent of All American Workers Make Less Than 30,000 Dollars a Year

By Michael Snyder, Washington's Blog
24 October 15
e just got more evidence that the middle class in America is dying.  According to brand new numbers that were just released by the Social Security Administration, 51 percent of all workers in the United States make less than $30,000 a year.  Let that number sink in for a moment.  You can’t support a middle class family in America today on just $2,500 a month – especially after taxes are taken out. And yet more than half of all workers in this country make less than that each month.  In order to have a thriving middle class, you have got to have an economy that produces lots of middle class jobs, and that simply is not happening in America today.

You can find the report that the Social Security Administration just released right here.  The following are some of the numbers that really stood out for me…

-38 percent of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

-51 percent of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

-62 percent of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

-71 percent of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

That first number is truly staggering.  The federal poverty level for a family of five is $28,410, and yet almost 40 percent of all American workers do not even bring in $20,000 a year.

If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make approximately $20,000.  This should tell you something about the quality of the jobs that our economy is producing at this point.

And of course the numbers above are only for those that are actually working.  As I discussed just recently, there are 7.9 million working age Americans that are “officially unemployed” right now and another 94.7 million working age Americans that are considered to be “not in the labor force”.  When you add those two numbers together, you get a grand total of 102.6 million working age Americans that do not have a job right now.

So many people that I know are barely scraping by right now.  Many families have to fight tooth and nail just to make it from month to month, and there are lots of Americans that find themselves sinking deeper and deeper into debt.

If you can believe it, about a quarter of the country actually has a negative net worth right now.

What that means is that if you have no debt and you also have ten dollars in your pocket that gives you a greater net worth than about 25 percent of the entire country.  The following comes from a recent piece by Simon Black

Credit Suisse estimates that 25% of Americans are in this situation of having a negative net-worth.

“If you’ve no debts and have $10 in your pocket you have more wealth than 25% of Americans. More than 25% of Americans have collectively that is.”

The thing is – not only did the government create the incentives, but they set the standard.

With a net worth of negative $60 trillion, US citizens are just following dutifully in the government’s footsteps.

As a nation we are flat broke and most of us are living paycheck to paycheck.  It has been estimated that it takes approximately $50,000 a year to support a middle class lifestyle for a family of four in the U.S. today, and so the fact that 71 percent of all workers make less than that amount shows how difficult it is for families that try to get by with just a single breadwinner.

Needless to say, a tremendous squeeze has been put on the middle class.  In many families, both the husband and the wife are working as hard as they can, but it is still not enough.  With each passing day, more Americans are losing their spots in the middle class and this has pushed government dependence to an all-time high.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans now live in a home that receives money from the government each month.

Sadly, the trends that are destroying the middle class in America just continue to accelerate.

With a huge assist from the Republican leadership in Congress, Barack Obama recently completed negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Also known as Obamatrade, this insidious new treaty is going to cover nations that collectively account for 40 percent of global GDP.  Just like NAFTA, this treaty will result in the loss of thousands of businesses and millions of good paying American jobs.  Let us hope and pray that Congress somehow votes it down.

Another thing that is working against the middle class is the fact that technology is increasingly taking over our jobs.  With each passing year, it becomes cheaper and more efficient to have computers, robots and machines do things that humans once did.

Eventually, there will be very few things that humans will be able to do more cheaply and more efficiently than computers, robots and machines. How will most of us make a living when that happens?

The robopocalypse for workers may be inevitable. In this vision of the future, super-smart machines will best humans in pretty much every task. A few of us will own the machines, a few will work a bit… while the rest will live off a government-provided income… the most common job in most U.S. states probably will no longer be truck driver.
For decades, we have been training our young people to have the goal of “getting a job” once they get out into the real world.  But in America today there are not nearly enough good jobs to go around, and this crisis is only going to accelerate as we move into the future.

I do not believe that it is wise to pin your future on a corporation that could replace you with a foreign worker or a machine the moment that it becomes expedient to do so.  We need to start thinking differently, because the paradigms that worked in the past are fundamentally breaking down.

So what advice would you give to a young adult today that is looking toward the future?
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18 CEOs Called Out By Bernie Sanders For Taking Trillions In Bailouts, Evading Taxes and Outsourcing Jobs
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After the "Demo Debate" I was quite amazed that no one mentioned Bernie's truth-telling about the venality of the financialization guys - that's the banksters like Jamie Dimon and the investment guys like Lloyd Blankfein - and the destruction they wrought that has never been brought under control, let alone stopped; and the criminals involved punished.

Until now.

(Blankfein, the son of a secretary and a postman, was educated at public schools until he attended Harvard and graduated as a great success (and his lifestyle was rocket launched).)

The rich always get to leave with their winnings, you know. In Goldman Sachs' case, it was for 100 pennies on the dollar. Nice bailout, huh? Dat's all folks!

From our ever-watchful scouts at "Wall Street On Parade:"

During the recent Democratic Presidential debate that aired on CNN on October 13, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont said:  “Let us be clear that the greed and recklessness and illegal behavior of Wall Street, where fraud is a business model, helped to destroy this economy and the lives of millions of people.”
As we wrote at the time, when FINRA released its first dark pool data, we were stunned to learn that not only were affiliates of the insured banks engaging in dark pool activity but they were actually trading in shares of their own bank’s stock.
According to the Senate hearings conducted after the stock market crash of 1929, it was illegal then under the National Bank Act for commercial banks to trade in their own stock. Ferdinand Pecora, Chief Counsel to the Senate Committee that conducted an in-depth investigation of the corruption leading to the crash, told Hugh Baker, an officer of National City Bank, the precursor to today’s Citigroup:  “You know that a bank under the law cannot trade in its own stock, don’t you.” Baker answered:  “Yes, that is right.”
What National City Bank did instead was to form an affiliate to trade its own stock, as one of many other market manipulations. On January 11, 1928, National City Bank delisted its stock from the New York Stock Exchange. Subsequently, the stock traded over the counter with the invisible hand of the bank’s brokerage firm, the National City Company, guiding the market price ever higher. As a result, according to the Pecora report, in September 1929, the book value of National City Bank stock was $385 million. The market value was $3.2 billion.

Oct 24, 2015

Wealth Therapy Is An Insult To Us All:  Meet the 1 Percenters Finding Solace in Wealth Redistribution

Influenced by Occupy Wall Street, these 1 percenters aren't wallowing in self-pity. They're actually taking action
This piece originally appeared on Waging Nonviolence.

In a political and economic system seemingly tailor-made for the 1 percent, backlash against “wealth therapy” — the trend of moneyed Americans seeking counsel through their Occupy-induced feeling of shame and isolation — is well-placed. While the top 0.1 percent of families in the United States possess as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, money psychologist Jamie Traege-Muney moaned to "The Guardian" that the movement wrongly “singled out the 1 percent and painted them globally as something negative.”

But a growing cadre of this statistical owning class are now crafting a healthier relationship to the rabble at their doorstep. Responding to Occupy and other movement moments, young people with wealth are organizing the resources of their peers and families to level the playing field — and support one another in the process.

“It’s not that I disagree that having wealth in this society is uncomfortable,” said organizer and donor Farhad Ebrahimi. “But treating it is not about individual therapy or even engaging in philanthropy or charity. It’s about collective action.” As a teenager, Ebrahimi was gifted a pool of wealth from his high-tech entrepreneur father. Growing up Iranian-American during the Iran-Iraq war was part of a “perfect storm” that led him to punk rock and radical politics, though for years Ebrahimi continued to identify more as a musician than an organizer. It was only later that he would conjoin his background with his beliefs.

“I wasn’t even 100 percent sure they were compatible at first,” he explained. “I approached philanthropy pretty agnostically in the beginning.” Shortly after graduating from MIT in 2002, Ebrahimi founded the Chorus Foundation using $25 million of his personal money. Focused on funding projects to address climate change, Chorus is dedicated to “working for a just transition to a regenerative economy in the United States.” And unlike other foundations, Chorus has a built-in expiration date:  intending to spend out the entirety of its — and Ebrahimi’s — reserves by 2024. While he expects another gift from his father at some point in the future, he says it will go toward a “Chorus Foundation Round Two” with the same goal.

“I’m trying to put myself out of business,” Ebrahimi said. “And I’m trying to create a world in which someone would not end up in my situation of having been gifted more money than I possibly know what to do with.”

Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth, a bible of sorts for modern philanthropists, was penned at the height of the Gilded Age in 1889. Observing the continued accumulation and stratification of wealth that surrounded him, Carnegie declared it “a waste of time to criticize the inevitable,” seeing inequality — not unlike the contemporary economist Thomas Piketty — as a structural outcome of capitalism. He scorned the “socialists or anarchists who seek to overturn present conditions,” arguing that their plight “is to be regarded as attacking the foundation upon which civilization itself rests.”

Much like Hillary Clinton did in last week’s Democratic debate, Carnegie argued that the wealthy have to “save capitalism from itself,” ameliorating its worst excesses by choosing to redistribute their own surplus. In doing so, he called on his fellow industrialists to “consider how the foundation, as one of the [capitalist] system’s most prominent offspring, might act most wisely to strengthen and improve its progenitor.”

Organizer Abe Lateiner — who describes his giving as “spiritual and empowering work” — has a gospel that is noticeably distinct from Carnegie’s. Confronting the idea that society’s most well-off should pick which causes deserve funds, Lateiner warns that “Writing checks by yourself on New Year’s Eve is not liberating if you’re doing whatyou think is best — which is exactly what got us here.”

“The isolation thing is very real,” Lateiner said of his affluent bretheren seeking wealth therapy. “There are very specific, non-material, damaging things that come with privilege.” Excess resources, he explained, “are wonderful for our material well-being, but destroy the spirit [and] our ability to connect socially.”

Having grown up in a “solidly Democratic” household, Lateiner’s family never discussed money around the dinner table, and he struggled to explain his circumstances even to close friends.

“My inability to talk about money or class on a personal level has definitely ruined relationships and cut off opportunities for relationships,” Lateiner said. “I mean that as friendships and romantic relationships and everything in between.” Having taught for six years — something he described as “the best way, within my liberal framework, I could think of to give back” — Lateiner came across an article in the "New York Times" in 2012 about young, socially conscious heirs, including Naomi Sobel and Resource Generation executive director Jessie Spector.

“The ground started to shift under my feet,” Lateiner remembered. Not only were Sobel and Spector speaking openly about their wealth and about giving it away; they were happy about it. He looked Resource Generation up online and quickly became involved. This collective version of wealth therapy emerged from “being able to be with people who understand [the problems of having wealth] and can honor them to get past the guilt.” A national, chapter-based organization, Resource Generation serves as a space for both support and political education among young people with wealth. More recently, it has also become a platform for them to leverage resources toward “an equitable redistribution of land, wealth and power.” An initiative launched last year called “It Starts Today” collaborated with racial justice groups around the country to raise $1.4 million for the movement for black lives and other black-led organizing.

While Ebrahimi has worked with Resource Generation, he’s also been involved with the upstart funders’ network Solidaire, which looks to combine Resource Generation’s political analysis and support structures with a commitment to moving sizable resources toward burgeoning movements. Founded in the wake of Occupy in 2012, Solidaire’s grants have backed everything from the People’s Climate March to on-the-ground mobilizations in Ferguson, Missouri to work against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Three classes of grants support movements at different stages in their development, be it in “movement moments” like Darren Wilson’s non-indictment, or building out long-term infrastructure for when reporters stop calling.

Apart from Solidaire, Ebrahimi also noted that Occupy marked a kind of sea change among more mainstream funders’ circles, who are now more open than ever to cross-issue conversations centered on justice. Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, for instance, was invited to speak at the Environmental Grantmakers’ Association’s annual conference this year — a small step, but something Ebrahimi said would have been virtually unheard of just a few years ago.

Both Ebrahimi and Lateiner emphasized the importance of honesty when approaching movements as people with wealth. While he was involved in Occupy Boston, Ebrahimi walked around the Dewey Square encampment with a shirt bearing the words “I am the 1%… I stand with the 99%.”

“There was a time when I was scared that anybody with good politics would be inherently wary of somebody sitting on a pile of gifted money,” he recalled. But being clear about his background from the outset was met with more excitement than derision. Instead of worrying about being judged by his fellow occupiers, Ebrahimi “could focus on trying to support a political moment that I thought was important, making a bunch of new friends and having all sorts of crazy adventures. It really never had to be an elephant in the room that I was a rich kid with a foundation.”

Meanwhile, Lateiner has started dressing up rather than down in movement spaces, where being open about his wealth has enabled him to build trust with working class organizers. “I have to be careful about the way I choose to speak and behave in those spaces,” he said. “But I’m not going to deny who I am.”

While acknowledging the trials of extreme wealth, Lateiner, Ebrahimi and other forward-thinking heirs are turning to one another for support, not so-called money psychologists. They take solace, too, in putting their personal resources to work. “Under a scarcity mentality, we’re taught to see giving as losing something, rather than seeing it as getting to be part of justice,” Lateiner said. And for the wealthy, he added, being a part of justice means not getting to define it. “I think the best work happens when people who are funding it get the hell out of the way.”

For solutions, they turn to movements. As opposed to Carnegie, this new breed of philanthropists reject their so-called “obligations” to capitalism, and are eager to help build a fundamentally different economy. “When we respond to the crisis of income inequality, we’re really responding to the crisis of consolidated wealth,” Ebrahimi explained. “What that says to me is that we’re trying to create a world in which there is no radically consolidated wealth. Without that, you don’t have any foundations” — or, at least, any wealth therapists.
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Most other Americans pay a much larger percent of their pay in Social Security taxes than do wealthy Americans, because no income above $118,500 is subject to Social Security - while even the first dollar of income is subject to it (7.65 percent for an employee, 15.30 percent for the self-employed). And Social Security tax revenues go to the same general fund that income taxes go into and are used to pay all federal expenses.

Ordinary Americans Pay More in Taxes Than the Wealthy

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Facebook Page
25 October 15
his morning I had a radio debate with another Republican economist who trotted out the Republican's favorite statistic – that the top-earning 1 percent of Americans pays about 38 percent of all federal income taxes. Therefore, he argued, we shouldn’t raise taxes on the top. This argument is misleading, for five reasons.

1. The top 1 percent pulls in about 20 percent of all income. So in a progressive tax system, the top 1 percent would obviously pay a higher percentage than they’re raking in. The question is how much more. Between 1945 and 1980 the top rate was never below 70 percent. Now it's close to 39 percent.
2. Because we don’t have a wealth tax, the income tax is the only real vehicle we have for controlling vast accumulations of wealth – now accumulating far faster at the top than at any time in the last century. The richest 0.1 percent of Americans have now accumulated as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent put together.
3. Most other Americans pay a much larger percent of their pay in Social Security taxes than do wealthy Americans, because no income above $118,500 is subject to Social Security - while even the first dollar of income is subject to it (7.65 percent for an employee, 15.30 percent for the self-employed). And Social Security tax revenues go to the same general fund that income taxes go into and are used to pay all federal expenses.
4. Most other Americans pay a far larger percentage of their pay in state and local sales taxes than do wealthy Americans. Sales taxes are on the rise, reaching 9 percent in many states.
5. All told, the typical American now pays a larger percent of his or her paycheck in taxes than wealthier Americans. Yet the typical American has seen no increase in his or her incomes since 2000, adjusted for inflation, while those at the top have taken in almost all the economic gains.
It's important that you have this information to counter the Republican lies. Know the truth and spread it.

Your thoughts?

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