Work Until You’re Dead?

From Alternet:

Millions of older Americans say they will never be able to retire. They simply don’t have the savings.

By Mike Whitney
January 3, 2014

Millions of older Americans say they will never be able to retire. They simply don’t have the savings. According to CNN, “Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings…50% have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all….” (“ 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck“, CNN Money)

“No savings at all”?

That’s right. So retirement is out of the question. A sizable chunk of the adult population is going to punch a clock until they keel-over in the office parking lot and get hauled off in the company dumpster. And those are the lucky ones, the so called baby boomers. By the time we get to the millennials it’ll be even worse because the economy will have been ravaged by 25 or 30 years of austerity leaving the proles to scrape by on hardtack and gruel. Pensions are already being looted, Social Security is under fire, and any small stipend that supports the poor, the unemployed, or the infirm is going to be terminated. That’s why everyone is so down-in-the-mouth, because their expectations of the future are so bleak. Check this out from Business Insider:

“For millennials, the situation is even more grim. Compared to their parents at their age, the under-30 set is worth only half as much. And while this is a sobering reminder of the scale of the Great Recession’s impact on younger generations, it’s not the whole story. These households were actually falling behind even before the stock market and housing crash, researchers found.

Young people not only saw their wages stagnate or drop but also suffered a rise in fixed costs. They leave college with an average $27,000 debt load and have a harder time finding jobs that pay well, while facing more expensive health care and housing costs.

“If these generations cannot accumulate wealth, they will be less able to support themselves when unexpected emergencies arise or when they eventually retire,” the study authors said. “This financial uncertainty could reverberate throughout the economy, since entrepreneurial activity, saving, and investment tend to build on a base of confidence and growing wealth.”(“ AMERICA IN DECLINE: Young People Are Much Worse Off Than Their Parents Were At That Age“, Business Insider)

An entire generation of young people have been raped and discarded by their government and all the author cares about is the impact it will have on personal consumption.

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Porno Peter LaBarbera and Christian radio host: Trans people are ‘satanic’ circus freaks

Why, oh why are we supposed to treat these neo-Nazi scumbags like they are people with a valid opinion about anything?

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Friday, January 3, 2014

In a radio interview, longtime anti-LGBT crusader Peter LaBarbera disparaged “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts’ decision to come out of the closet, called transgender people “satanic” and called the “homosexual so-called marriage movement” a force of “evil” designed to “corrupt children.”

“Right Wing Watch” reported that the interview took place on Vic Eliason of Voice of Christian Youth (VCY) America’s radio show on Thursday. Eliason joined in on the bigoted rant, calling transgender people “circus freaks” and agreeing with LaBarbera that “Satan” is working through them.

“Every coming out is a tragedy,” LaBarbera — the director of the group Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality — lamented.

“And how sad that our First Lady and the White House in general and President Obama as well, all celebrate homosexuality,” he continued, referring to a statement of support by First Lady Michelle Obama on the social medium Twitter.

Later in the interview, he cribbed from former President Ronald Reagan, calling the push for marriage equality an “evil empire.”

“The homosexual so-called marriage movement is evil,” he said. “We need to do what Reagan did with communism, we need to come right out there and say: this movement attaching the God-ordained good of marriage to an abomination which is homosexuality, calling that marriage, that’s evil, it’s an evil movement.”

Furthermore, he said, “the homosexual so-called marriage movement has become a huge platform to corrupt children.”

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Conservatives are losing their minds over economic reforms that already exist

From Salon:

When reforms like a universal basic income are proposed, the right claims they’re crazy. Milton Friedman disagrees!

Monday, Jan 6, 2014

Jesse Myerson has a piece at Rolling Stone detailing five economic reforms he believes Millennials should be fighting for. His proposed reforms are a job guarantee, a universal basic income, a land value tax, a sovereign wealth fund, and state banks. I do not generally care for framing that talks about what Millennials should be fighting for because it does not really make any sense, but the five reforms he lists are basically doable and have been written about here and elsewhere before.

Nonetheless, a massive conservative backlash ensued on Twitter in response to the piece. On some level, this kind of reaction is to be expected. Conservatives prefer our institutions as they exist and the way they distribute power, income, and wealth in society. But the conservative backlash did not center around how they just prefer another system. Instead, it was almost universally premised on the idea that these reforms are fundamentally impossible. This is a popular conservative rhetorical move because declaring impossible all of the things that are so much more appealing than what they have to offer is the only real way to advocate the terrible things they support.

Nonetheless, with the exception of Myerson’s call for a job guarantee, all of the other reforms he proposes—a universal basic income, a land value tax, a sovereign wealth fund, and public banks—are clearly possible because they already exist in the world.

Universal Basic Income

The U.S. already has a basic income system called Social Security. Every month, a check is sent to every qualifying elderly person in the country. The program pulled 22 million people out of poverty last year and overwhelmingly accounts for the 71 percent reduction in elderly poverty we have seen in this country since 1960. It is the most successful anti-poverty cash transfer program in the history of the country. There is no reason why you cannot, at least on some scale, replicate this program in the country as a whole. Just as the federal government can send checks to elderly people each month, it can send checks to everyone else each month.

I think Myerson may overstate how far we can actually push such a program when he suggests we could construct in a way that allows a lot of people to drop out of the formal labor force. Too big of a reduction in the size of the paid labor force would cause a UBI program to descend into a death spiral and unravel. But this a quibble about how big to make the UBI, not with the UBI itself. At some UBI benefit level, the program is entirely doable. To avoid pushing it too far and causing a labor supply death spiral, I have advocated starting such a program at a relatively modest benefit level and then building it up from there.

Although the ignorant but deep bench of conservate Twitter users reacted to this proposal as if it is some sort of manifestly absurd impossibility, conservative superstars Charles Murray, Milton Friedman, and F.A. Hayek have registered support for it in the past.

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Ask Well: Is Nail Polish Harmful?

From The New York Times:

January 2, 2014

Is nail polish harmful?

The idea of nail polish as a risky substance gained traction in 2006 when public health advocates began a nationwide protest concerning three compounds — often referred to as “the toxic trio” — in leading nail polish brands.

The trio consisted of a known carcinogen, formaldehyde, used as a hardening agent, and two materials linked to developmental defects: toluene, to evenly suspend color, and the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, to add flexibility and sheen.

Since then, many companies have voluntarily removed these compounds from their products, although, as a 2012 investigation by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control found, some simply changed their labels while continuing to use them. While the European Union has banned the use of DBP in cosmetics, the United States Food and Drug Administration has not taken any comparable regulatory action.

Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an advocacy group, said the concern was that trace amounts of these materials would be absorbed through the skin or nail or that vapors would be inhaled. “No one is saying that occasional application of nail polish will cause long-term health consequences,” she said. But certain groups may be at higher risk.

Researchers have raised direct health concerns for those who work in nail salons, for instance, leading salon operators to organize for better regulation.

Children, too, may be particularly susceptible to phthalates like DBP that pose developmental risks, and some pediatricians now warn against letting young girls, especially those young enough to chew on their fingers, wear polish.

For dedicated polish enthusiasts, Ms. Nudelman recommends doing research to find the safest brands. The Environmental Working Group maintains a searchable cosmetics database at

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Alabama preacher arrested for his wife’s murder as he boarded overseas flight

From Raw Story:

By Scott Kaufman
Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Baptist preacher from Homewood, Alabama was arrested for his wife’s murder minutes before he was to board a plane bound for Germany.

Richard Shahan was attempting to board a flight out of Nashville when customs officials, who had been alerted by Homeland Security to watch for his passport, pulled him out of line.

Homewood Police Chief Jim Roberson told ABC News that they had to act quickly, because “[o]nce he got over to Germany or Russia, the chances of extraditing him are pretty nil.”

“We can’t get Snowden back,” Robertson said, “so we probably wouldn’t get him back either.”

On July 23, 2013, Shahan’s wife Karan was found stabbed to death in the couple’s home. Shahan was taken into custody, but released 48 hours later, as investigators couldn’t find any solid leads. Police say they now have a solid motive, but declined to shared it with reporters.

Wendell Sheffield, Shahan’s attorney, said that both the charges and the claim that he was trying to leave the country are unfounded.

“All that would have had to been done is to tell us that there’s a warrant,” Sheffield told ABC News. “We would have turned him in. Heck, we would have turned his passport in.”

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Why Aren’t Big Bankers in Jail?

From Truth Out:

By Janine Jackson, FAIR Blog
Saturday, 04 January 2014

The man in charge of a bank that engaged in massive mortgage fraud chatted with a corporate media host (CNBC Squawk on the Street, 7/12/13) about the fact that virtually none of those who enriched themselves while eviscerating the life savings of many blameless people, derailing the US economy along the way, have faced criminal prosecution:

Jim Cramer: Shouldn’t they have indicted somebody who actually did bad things in banking?

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon: I think if someone did something wrong, they should go to jail.

Cramer: Well, who did? Who went to jail?

Dimon: One of the great things about America, failure is not illegal or wrong. You can’t just say it failed. But I do think America looked at the crisis—and this is too bad—and there was no, anywhere, Old Testament justice. What they saw is people got overpaid—and some of these people lost all their money, their reputation, all that. If someone did something wrong, they should pay. You’ve got to be specific. Did they do something wrong, or you just don’t like the fact that they failed? You make investments. They don’t always pay off. It doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.

Cramer: Right.

Granted, Cramer is no one’s idea of a serious interrogator of the financial system (FAIR Blog3/13/09). But much journalism on the question of criminal prosecution of industry leaders amounts to similar apologia.

While there have been substantive inquiries into the wrongdoing of investment banks and auditors, those calling for jail time are often dismissed as irrational, driven by “blood lust” (Washington Post, 9/12/13), “anger” (Chicago Tribune, 11/30/13) or “vengeance” (Washington Post, 11/18/13).

We’re told such calls come from the margins: That no “financial industry types” have been jailed is “a recurring theme among Occupy Wall Street protesters and some Democratic politicians” (Christian Science Monitor, 10/11/11) or “the Occupy Wall Street crowd” (New York Times, 3/1/13).

People who believe bankers should go to jail are deflecting blame—from the people: “The real scandal,” explained the Washington Post‘s Charles Lane (“Banks Aren’t the Bad Guys,” 11/18/13), was “Americans’ shared, erroneous belief in ever-rising housing prices and corresponding mania to profit from them.”

And maybe they need to move on: “This all happened a really long time ago. What-ever happened to the statute of limitations?” the Washington Post (11/19/13) asked itself in a recent Q&A.

Above all, to advocate prosecution is to be simple-minded, to believe that “public revulsion indicates likely culpability” (Bloomberg Businessweek, 5/12/11) and to “reduce complex historical processes to the machinations of an evil few” (Washington Post, 11/18/13).

Wiser heads must prevail. “The meltdown was multi-causal,” concluded Businessweek‘s Roger Lowenstein. “That explanation will be unsatisfying to armchair prosecutors, but it has the virtue of answering the complex nature of the bubble.”

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