The coming GOP austerity-induced economic cliff dive

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2011/12/13/the_coming_gopausterity_induced_economic_cliff_dive/

A perfect recipe for an election year: Government spending cuts boost unemployment and freeze the economy

By Andrew Leonard
Tuesday, Dec 13, 2011

The Black Friday spending spree turns out not to have been so great, after all. The rate of retail sales growth in November actually slowed down. But no matter, private economic forecasters are still giddily revising their estimates for economic growth in the fourth quarter upwards. If they’re right, the current quarter is experiencing the fastest economic growth in well over a year.

But then what happens? According to a dispiriting Goldman Sachs research report relayed by Jared Bernstein, there’s a big Christmas hangover coming. The economy, says Goldman Sachs, is about to flatline again. Even worse, their forecast has unemployment rising throughout all of next year.

Goldman Sachs cites a likely recession in Europe as one reason for the downbeat assessment. But the policies enacted by the U.S. government are equally important.

Second, we expect the pace of fiscal restraint to pick up in early 2012. We estimate that fiscal policy at the federal, state and local level subtracted about half a percentage point from real GDP growth in the middle of 2011, but we expect this drag to increase to around 1 percentage point in early 2012. Even this assumes an extension of the temporary payroll tax cut currently scheduled to expire at end-2011. If it lapses, there would be an additional hit of one-half to three-quarters of a percentage point to GDP growth in early 2012.

Continue reading at:    http://www.salon.com/2011/12/13/the_coming_gopausterity_induced_economic_cliff_dive/

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Kids Struggle on the Streets

From ABC NEWS:    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/national-report-16-million-youth-homeless-experts-40/story?id=15147566&singlePage=true#.TuflPPLrHA6

Dec. 13, 2011
Tiffany “LIFE” Cocco has been homeless for seven years, living on park benches, stoops and New York City’s A train.

Her parents died of AIDS in the 1980s and so Cocco was raised by an aunt and uncle who disapproved of how she dressed and led her life — as a lesbian.

“I was kicked out of the house at 15,” said Cocco, a poet whose chosen middle name means “literary, intelligent, forward, engaged.”

She dropped out of high school after being bullied, rebelled and was forced to keep her sexuality a secret. Cocco slipped into a depression so deep she nearly killed herself on an overdose of pain killers, NyQuil and Tylenol PM.

“I didn’t trust anyone at all,” said Cocco, who is now 24. “I tried to tell myself I was strong, but deep down inside I was falling apart.”

A report released this week by the National Center on Family Homelessness, “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” finds one in 45 American children 18 and under — 1.6 million — live on the street, in homeless shelters, motels or with other families last year.

Continue reading at:   http://abcnews.go.com/Health/national-report-16-million-youth-homeless-experts-40/story?id=15147566&singlePage=true#.TuflPPLrHA6

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment, Gay, Homelessness, Kids, Lesbian, LGBT/T, Poverty. Comments Off on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Kids Struggle on the Streets

IMF slashes growth forecast for Greece

From The Guardian UK:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/13/imf-slashes-greek-growth-forecast

MF report likely to fan financial market fears over debt default as Greece struggles to cope with austerity and recession

, economics editor, and in Athens
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 December 2011

The International Monetary Fund slashed its growth forecasts for Greece and warned that ever-deepening recession was making it harder for the debt-ridden country to meet the tough deficit reduction targets under its austerity programme.

In a report likely to fan financial market concerns about a possible debt default, the regular health check by staff at the Washington-based Fund said the situation in Greece had “taken a turn for the worse”.

Poul Thomsen, deputy director of the IMF‘s European department and its mission chief to Greece, said: “We have revised growth down significantly to -6% in 2011 and -3% in 2012. We expected 2011 to be an inflection point when the recession bottomed out, followed by a slow recovery. But the economy is continuing to trend downwards. The hoped for improvement in market sentiment and in the investment climate has not materialised.”

The IMF, together with the European Union and the European Central Bank has imposed tough conditions on Greece as the price of financial support that has allowed the government in Athens to continue paying its bills. In the fifth report carried out since the start of the crisis 18 months ago, IMF officials suggested that the austerity programme might need to be eased in view of the damage being caused to the economy by the recession.

“Discussions [at the IMF] focused on recalibrating the programme’s macroeconomic framework and adapting the implementation of reform and adjustment policies to an appropriate and feasible pace.”

Continue reading at:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/dec/13/imf-slashes-greek-growth-forecast

Posted in Anti-Globalization, Economic Issues, Globalization, Social Justice. Tags: , . Comments Off on IMF slashes growth forecast for Greece

Report: Child Homelessness Up 33% in 3 Years

From Reader Supported News:  http://www.readersupportednews.org/news-section2/320-80/8889-report-child-homelessness-up-33-in-3-years

By Marisol Bello, USA Today
13 December 11

One in 45 children in the USA – 1.6 million children – were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

The numbers represent a 33% increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children, according to a report the center is releasing Tuesday.

“This is an absurdly high number,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the center. “What we have new in 2010 is the effects of a man-made disaster caused by the economic recession. … We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing.”

The report paints a bleaker picture than one by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which nonetheless reported a 28% increase in homeless families, from 131,000 in 2007 to 168,000 in 2010.

Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor of social policy, says HUD’s numbers are much smaller because they count only families living on the street or in emergency shelters.

Continue reading at:   http://www.readersupportednews.org/news-section2/320-80/8889-report-child-homelessness-up-33-in-3-years

Posted in Civil Rights, Class War, Classism, Economic Issues, Homelessness, Poverty, Social Justice, Workers. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Report: Child Homelessness Up 33% in 3 Years

The Health of Children and Consumers is Threatened by Conservative Push for Corporate Speech Rights

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/story/153408/the_health_of_children_and_consumers_is_threatened_by_conservative_push_for_corporate_speech_rights/

Some pro-business federal judges have shockingly approved a constitutional right for big companies to avoid revealing product dangers on labels.

By Steven Rosenfeld
December 12, 2011

In recent years, corporate lawyers representing industries whose products touch millions of American lives have stopped numerous government efforts to better inform the public about possible health risks with an eyebrow-raising legal strategy. They have asserted a constitutional right not to speak, or say more than they want on labels and advertising, and pro-business federal judges have agreed, rejecting the public’s right to know.

In cases involving manmade hormones fed to dairy cows, heart and lung disease caused by tobacco, the nutritional value of foods contributing to childhood and teenage obesity, and even radiation emitted by cell phones, the industries keep returning to court until a business-friendly judge or majority on an appeals court rules that the First Amendment includes the corporate right not to ‘speak’ if it could harm profits.

“They invoke the Amendment’s protection to accomplish exactly what the Amendment opposes,” wrote U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Pierre Leval, in a lengthy dissent in an early case in which his peers sided with industry and cited the First Amendment to overturn a state law labeling hormone-containing milk products. “The majority’s invocation of the First Amendment to invalidate a state law requiring disclosure of information consumers reasonably desire stands the Amendment on its ear.”

The labeling cases are not the only way corporations have been seeking to enlarge First Amendment speech rights outside the political arena.

This past June the Supreme Court ruled that drug makers’ constitutional speech rights included ‘selling’ patient records, overturning a Vermont law that sought to keep the files private. Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent said the Court was setting a dangerous precedent by allowing the First Amendment to be used to avoid reasonable government regulation.

“At best the Court opens a Pandora’s Box of First Amendment challenges to many ordinary regulatory practices that may only incidentally affect a commercial message,” he warned. “At worst, it reawakens Lochner’s pre-New Deal threat of substituting judicial for democratic decision making where ordinary economic regulation is at issue.”

Continue reading at:   http://www.alternet.org/story/153408/the_health_of_children_and_consumers_is_threatened_by_conservative_push_for_corporate_speech_rights/


Posted in Anti-Globalization, Economic Issues, Questioning Authority, Social Justice. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on The Health of Children and Consumers is Threatened by Conservative Push for Corporate Speech Rights

Bank Of America Makes Millions Charging Fees To Withdraw Unemployment Benefits

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/11/14/367467/bank-of-america-unemployment-benefit-fees/

By Marie Diamond
Nov 14, 2011

Late last month, a national backlash forced Bank of America to abandon its plan to charge customers $5 a month to use their debit cards. But Huffington Post reportsthat the corporation has quietly been mining other sources of fees, preying on its most vulnerable customers to rake in millions in revenue:

Shawana Busby does not seem like the sort of customer who would be at the center of a major bank’s business plan. Out of work for much of the last three years, she depends upon a $264-a-week unemployment check from the state of South Carolina. But the state has contracted with Bank of America to administer its unemployment benefits, and Busby has frequently found herself incurring bank fees to get her money.

To withdraw her benefits, Busby, 33, uses a Bank of America prepaid debit card on which the state deposits her funds…Busby visits the ATMs in her area and begrudgingly accepts the fees, which reach as high as five dollars per transaction. She estimates that she has paid at least $350 in fees to tap her unemployment benefits. […]

In short, the same banks whose speculation delivered a financial crisis that has destroyed millions of jobs have figured out how to turn widespread unemployment into a profit center: The larger the number of people who are out of work and dependent upon the state for sustenance, the greater the potential gains through administering their benefits.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/11/14/367467/bank-of-america-unemployment-benefit-fees/

Posted in Class War, Discrimination, Economic Issues, Hard Times. Comments Off on Bank Of America Makes Millions Charging Fees To Withdraw Unemployment Benefits

Senator warns of layaway’s cost

I am never surprised by how low the rich and their corporations will go in exploiting the poor.

First credit cards with usurious interest rates, pay day loans, rent to own stores that sucker people in by offering a low price and then doubling the actual price with the fine print, interest and carrying charges.

Here’s a revolutionary proposition for this years annual orgy of ritualized gift giving.  Boycott the chain stores, the big box stores. Regift.  Give the gift of time or actual money.  Buy something made in the USA from an independent merchant.  Buy something used or hand made. Shop at flea markets and antique stores.

Or ask family and friends to contribute to a cause in your name.

Fuck the chain stores and the corporate masters.

Just say no to Xmas shopping.

From Yahoo News:  http://news.yahoo.com/apnewsbreak-senator-warns-layaways-cost-131026072.html

By MICHAEL GORMLEY – Associated Press
November 14, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The return of layaway plans this holiday shopping season is raising concern that the break from credit cards might actually cost consumers far more.

For example, a rock ‘n’ roll Elmo doll that requires a $5 layaway fee and a 10 percent down payment for a month can equal a credit card that charged more than 100 percent interest, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Sunday.

Schumer is asking major retail associations to direct their members to more clearly present their layaway fees to customers. The Democrat says the ultimate cost of a layaway with a $5 fee can equal 40 percent interest over a month or two for many common purchases compared to the annual rates of most credit cards.

He said if stores don’t better present the cost of layaway purchases, he will ask the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether the increasing use of layaway is a deceptive or misleading business practice. Historically, stores started dropping layaway plans in the 1990s in part because of these costs and inconveniences.

But it’s wrong to compare layaway fees to credit cards and the fees are already clear, a major retail association says.

“It is a leap to suggest that $5 on a $100 purchase is twice the going rate on credit cards, which today averages 14.99 percent nationwide,” said Brian A. Dodge of the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Continue reading at:  http://news.yahoo.com/apnewsbreak-senator-warns-layaways-cost-131026072.html

Posted in Class War, Discrimination, Economic Issues, Hard Times. Comments Off on Senator warns of layaway’s cost

Why I Voted No on the Deficit Deal

From Reader Supported News:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/279-82/6911-why-i-voted-no-on-the-deficit-deal

By Sen. Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News
05 August 11

$2.5 trillion deficit-reduction deal brokered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker John Boehner, and President Barack Obama is grotesquely unfair. It also is bad economic policy. In the midst of a terrible recession, it will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

At a time when the wealthiest people in this country are doing extremely well, and when their effective tax rate is the lowest in decades, the rich won’t contribute one penny more for deficit reduction. When corporate profits are soaring and many giant corporations avoid federal income taxes because of obscene loopholes in the tax code, corporate America will not be asked to contribute one penny more for deficit reduction. On the other hand, working families, children, the sick and the elderly – many of whom are already suffering because of the recession – will shoulder the entire burden.

The corporate media – which, by and large, covered this debate as if it were a baseball game with political “winners and losers” – mostly glossed over the real-life implications of $917 billion in cuts over the next 10 years. Nobody can predict exactly what programs will fall under the knife or say how much they will be cut. Those decisions will be made over the coming months and years by the appropriations committees. But here’s what’s at stake:

  • At a time when there are long waiting lists for affordable childcare and Head Start, it is likely that these programs will be cut significantly.
  • At a time when the United States is falling further and further behind other countries in the quality of our education, it is likely that tens of thousands of teachers and school personnel will be laid off.
  • At a time when working families are finding it harder to send their kids to college, it is likely that there will be cuts in federal student aid programs.
  • At a time when hunger among seniors and children is rising, it is likely that there will be cuts in various nutrition programs.
  • At a time when 50 million Americans have no health insurance and many of them are utilizing community health centers for their medical needs, it is likely that there will be cuts in primary healthcare.
  • At a time when states, cities and towns already laid off over 500,000 public service employees, it is likely that there will be even more police and firefighter layoffs and large reductions in federal support for roads, bridges, water quality, sewage and public transportation.

That’s just for starters. There likely will be cuts in home heating assistance, affordable housing, support for family-based agriculture, and research in finding cures for cancer and other diseases. There likely will be major staffing reductions in agencies charged with protecting the physical health and economic well-being of our people. It is quite likely that the EPA, which enforces clean water and clean air rules, will be cut. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates Wall Street, will be undermined. It is also very possible that the Social Security Administration, which assures that seniors and the disabled receive the benefits to which they are entitled in a timely manner, will also be cut.

That is just the first round of $900 billion in cuts.

In the second phase of the $2.5 trillion package, sweeping new powers are given to a 12-member, evenly-divided House and Senate super committee. The panel’s mandate is to look at every federal government program and come up with $1.5 trillion more in savings. With Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats calling for major cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, all of those programs will be in jeopardy.

If the committee is unable to agree, cuts will happen anyway. A sequestration process would require $500 billion in cuts to defense spending and $500 billion more in across-the-board cuts to domestic discretionary spending. In that scenario, Social Security, Medicare benefits and Medicaid would be spared, but even more draconian cuts would occur in programs that sustain working families.

There is a great irony in all this. The deficit deal does exactly the opposite of what the American people wanted. In poll after poll, the American people said they believe in shared sacrifice. Instead of putting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education and environmental protection on the chopping block, overwhelming majorities say the best way to reduce the deficit is to end tax breaks for the wealthy, big oil, and Wall Street and take a hard look at military spending. What President Obama and Congress did, however was to let the wealthy and large corporations contribute nothing while making major reductions in services for working families and the most vulnerable people in our country.

Enough is enough! The American people must fight back. We need a government which represents all the people, not just the wealthy, campaign contributors and lobbyists. In these tough and discouraging times, despair is not an option. This fight is not just for us, it is for our children and grandchildren and for the environmental survival of the planet.

Posted in Class War, Economic Issues, Employment, Social Justice. Comments Off on Why I Voted No on the Deficit Deal

The Recovery Is Dead, Long Live the Recovery

From Truth Dig:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_recovery_is_dead_long_live_the_recovery_20110803/

By Robert Scheer
August 3, 2011

The die has been cast. Obama’s “nearly complete capitulation to the hostage-taking demands of Republican extremists,” as an editorial in the normally sedate New York Times described the deal to raise the debt ceiling, is a disaster in the making. It rules out a vigorous government response to the persistent economic stagnation in which joblessness, housing foreclosures and an ever-widening gap between the top 2 percent and the rest of Americans have become the norm.

But to use the word “capitulation” is too kind, since this president, as was Bill Clinton before him, is clearly one of those “New Democrats” who welcomes the opportunity to jettison the legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as outmoded political baggage. Otherwise, why would Obama have reached for a “grand bargain” in which he even put Social Security and Medicare cuts on the table before the Republicans rolled him?

That same opportunistic reasoning got us into the Great Recession, thanks to President Clinton joining with congressional Republicans to destroy the sensible controls on Wall Street greed that FDR had put in place in order to prevent a repeat of the Depression. That was also the rationale of the Clinton alums that Obama appointed to clean up the mess they themselves had created. Instead of worrying about jobless workers and swindled homeowners, they bailed out the swindlers, following the example set by George W. Bush.

Those policies caused the 50 percent run-up of the national debt between 2007 and this week, when the debt ceiling had to be raised. While the trillions wasted made the bankers whole, it did nothing for the 50 million Americans losing their homes or the 20 percent of the workforce that can’t find the full-time employment for which they are qualified. The economy has zeroed out in the past six months, relative to population growth, and in June consumer spending had its biggest drop in two years. The fundamentals are rotten, as reflected in the steep descent of the stock market despite the raising of the debt ceiling.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_recovery_is_dead_long_live_the_recovery_20110803/

Posted in Economic Issues. Comments Off on The Recovery Is Dead, Long Live the Recovery

United States loses AAA credit rating from S&P

From Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/06/us-usa-debt-downgrade-idUSTRE7746VF20110806

By Walter Brandimarte

NEW YORK | Fri Aug 5, 2011 9:47pm EDT

(Reuters) – The United States lost its top-notch AAA credit rating from Standard & Poor’s on Friday in an unprecedented reversal of fortune for the world’s largest economy.

S&P cut the long-term U.S. credit rating by one notch to AA-plus on concerns about the government’s budget deficits and rising debt burden. The move is likely to raise borrowing costs eventually for the American government, companies and consumers.

“The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government’s medium-term debt dynamics,” S&P said in a statement.

The decision follows a fierce political battle in Congress over cutting spending and raising taxes to reduce the government’s debt burden and allow its statutory borrowing limit to be raised.

On August 2, President Barack Obama signed legislation designed to reduce the fiscal deficit by $2.1 trillion over 10 years. But that was well short of the $4 trillion in savings S&P had called for as a good “down payment” on fixing America’s finances.

Continue reading at:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/06/us-usa-debt-downgrade-idUSTRE7746VF20110806

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The Super-Rich Get Richer, and Everyone Else Is Going Down the Drain

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/148294/the_super-rich_get_richer%2C_and_everyone_else_is_going_down_the_drain/

By Robert B. Reich

Only twice before in American history has so much been held by so few, yet they’re going to keep their fat tax cuts.

September 24, 2010

The super-rich got even wealthier this year, and yet most of them are paying even fewer taxes to support the eduction, job training, and job creation of the rest of us. According to Forbes magazine’s annual survey, just released, the combined net worth of the 400 richest Americans climbed 8% this year, to $1.37 trillion. Wealth rose for 217 members of the list, while 85 saw a decline.

For example, Charles and David Koch, the energy magnates who are pouring vast sums of money into Republican coffers and sponsoring tea partiers all over America, each gained $5.5 billion of wealth over the past year. Each is now worth $21.5 billion.

Wall Street continued to dominate the list; 109 of the richest 400 are in finance or investments.

From another survey we learn that the 25 top hedge-fund managers got an average of $1 billion each, but paid an average of 17 percent in taxes (because so much of their income is considered capital gains, taxed at 15 percent thanks to the Bush tax cuts).

The rest of America got poorer, of course. The number in poverty rose to a post-war high. The median wage continues to deteriorate. And some 20 million Americans don’t have work.

Continue reading at:   http://www.alternet.org/economy/148294/the_super-rich_get_richer%2C_and_everyone_else_is_going_down_the_drain/

Posted in Class War, Economic Issues, Employment, Human Rights, Labor, Social Justice. Comments Off on The Super-Rich Get Richer, and Everyone Else Is Going Down the Drain

That ‘Official’ Poverty Rate? It’s Much Worse than You Think

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/148255/that_%27official%27_poverty_rate_it%27s_much_worse_than_you_think/

The shocking poverty statistics released last week tell only part of the story.

By David DeGraw, AlterNet
Posted on September 23, 2010, Printed on September 23, 2010

While the shocking new poverty statistics from the Census Bureau indicating that a record 43.6 million Americans lived in poverty in 2009 emphatically demonstrates the severity of the economic crisis, the Census is drastically undercounting this demographic. Apparently the government’s poverty statistics are as accurate as its unemployment statistics.

I have read many reports that simply restate what the government has said without questioning the fact that the metrics it uses to calculate poverty are extremely outdated.

News reports say that in 2009 the poverty rate “skyrocketed” to 43.6 million — up from 39.8 million in 2008, which is the largest year-to-year increase, and the highest number since statistics have been recorded — putting the poverty rate for 2009 at 14.3 percent. This is obviously a tragedy and horrific news. However, this is also the result of lazy reporting.

Let’s revisit the 2008 Census total stating that 39.8 million Americans lived in poverty. It turns out that the National Academy of Science did its own study and found that 47.4 million Americans actually lived in poverty in 2008. The Census missed 7.6 million Americans living in poverty that year.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/148255/that_%27official%27_poverty_rate_it%27s_much_worse_than_you_think/

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment. Comments Off on That ‘Official’ Poverty Rate? It’s Much Worse than You Think

Bitter Tales from the Massive White Underclass in Joe Bageant’s “Redneck” Memoir

I write more about class than most LGBT/T folks do.  That’s because I grew up poor and working class.  Awareness of my working class roots is why I am a leftist.

When I come across a book that relates to the class structure and class oppression, well that’s a book I’m going to want to read.  Joe Bageant’s book isn’t out yet here in the US and the link on Alternet takes you to Amazon UK.

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/books/148237/bitter_tales_from_the_massive_white_underclass_in_joe_bageant%27s_%22redneck%22_memoir/

“Economic, political, and social culture in America is staggering under the sheer weight of its white underclass, which now numbers some sixty million.”
September 20, 2010 |

The following is an excerpt from the introduction of Joe Bageant’s new book Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir (Portobello Press, 2010).

The United States has always maintained a white underclass — citizens whose role in the greater scheme of things has been to cushion national economic shocks through the disposability of their labor, with occasional time off to serve as bullet magnets in defense of the Empire. Until the post-World War II era, the existence of such an underclass was widely acknowledged. During the U.S. Civil War, for instance, many northern abolitionists also called for the liberation of ‘four million miserable white southerners held in bondage by the wealthy planter class’. Planter elites, who often held several large plantations which, together, constituted much or most of a county’s economy, saw to it that poor whites got no schools, money, or political power. Poll taxes and literacy requirements kept white subsistence farmers and poor laborers from entering voting booths. Often accounting for up to 70 per cent of many deep-southern counties, they could not vote, and thus could never challenge the status quo.

Today, almost nobody in the social sciences seems willing to touch the subject of America’s large white underclass; or, being firmly placed in the true middle class themselves, can even agree that such a thing exists. Apparently, you can’t smell the rabble from the putting green.

Public discussion of this class remains off limits, deemed hyperbole and the stuff of dangerous radical leftists. And besides, as everyone agrees, white people cannot be an underclass. We’re the majority, dammit. You must be at least one shade darker than a paper bag to officially qualify as a member of any underclass. The middle and upper classes generally agree, openly or tacitly, that white Americans have always had an advantage (which has certainly been the middle- and upper-class experience). Thus, in politically correct circles, either liberal or conservative, the term ‘white underclass’ is an oxymoron. Sure, there are working-poor whites, but not that many, and definitely not enough to be called a white underclass, much less an American peasantry.

Economic, political, and social culture in America is staggering under the sheer weight of its white underclass, which now numbers some sixty million. Generally unable to read at a functional level, they are easily manipulated by corporate-political interests to vote against advances in health and education, and even more easily mustered in support of any proposed military conflict, aggressive or otherwise. One-third of their children are born out of wedlock, and are unemployable by any contemporary industrialized-world standard. Even if we were to bring back their jobs from China and elsewhere — a damned unlikely scenario — they would be competing at a wage scale that would not meet even their basic needs. Low skilled, and with little understanding of the world beyond either what is presented to them by kitschy and simplistic television, movie, and other media entertainments, or their experience as armed grunts in foreign combat, the future of the white underclass not only looks grim, but permanent.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/books/148237/bitter_tales_from_the_massive_white_underclass_in_joe_bageant%27s_%22redneck%22_memoir/

Posted in Class War, Discrimination, Economic Issues, Employment, Poverty. Comments Off on Bitter Tales from the Massive White Underclass in Joe Bageant’s “Redneck” Memoir

For the Unemployed Over 50, Fears of Never Working Again

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/business/economy/20older.html?_r=1&hp

By MOTOKO RICH

VASHON ISLAND, Wash. — Patricia Reid is not in her 70s, an age when many Americans continue to work. She is not even in her 60s. She is just 57.

But four years after losing her job she cannot, in her darkest moments, escape a nagging thought: she may never work again.

College educated, with a degree in business administration, she is experienced, having worked for two decades as an internal auditor and analyst at Boeing before losing that job.

But that does not seem to matter, not for her and not for a growing number of people in their 50s and 60s who desperately want or need to work to pay for retirement and who are starting to worry that they may be discarded from the work force — forever.

Since the economic collapse, there are not enough jobs being created for the population as a whole, much less for those in the twilight of their careers.

Continue reading at:   http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/20/business/economy/20older.html?_r=1&hp

The Revolution will not Enjoy Corporate Sponsorship

The Revolution  absolutely will not be brought to you by Absolut

The Revolution will not give the leaders of the revolution passes to fly on American Airlines as long as they wear a corporate pin

Working Assets may fund a lobbyist to kiss up to some congress person but it will it put some one on a picket line?

Wearing a rainbow pin while waving a rainbow flag sucking down the beer that is sponsoring this years Pride Festival will give you neither freedom nor Pride

Do you really think corporations will sponsor workers rights to a fair share?

A living wage?

Or will they maybe try to buy you off  by helping you focus all your energy on getting a bill passed that will help you enjoy equal access to being a 9.00 dollar an hour barista with a college degree.  A job where you get to pee in the bottle for the manager of the Starbucks that under pays you and over works you.  You know the one that came in and drove the neat funky coffee house where they had poetry readings out of business.

I may be wrong but I sure wouldn’t count on Starbucks sponsoring the revolution.  Because when push come to shove Starbucks is just another Walmart.

Corporations will not sponsor your fight to end NAFTA/CAFTA/GATT or the off shoring of all the jobs that paid a decent wage.

I’ll tell you an open secret about corporation… The only purpose of a corporation is to make a profit for their executives and shareholders.  The corporations do not give a flying fuck about your gender identity or your sexuality.

They will throw you under the bus if some Christer doesn’t like your looks and complains.  If you are not in a union and have the misfortune to live in a so called “right to work” state they do not need a reason to fire you and see to it you do not get un-employment.  And ENDA won’t do a damned thing about that.  If you think otherwise look at the rate of un-employment for people of color.

Corporations do not have your best interests at heart.  You are a human resource to be used to increase the one thing that a corporation exists for, the bottom line.  They care only about money.

When they say something different they are lying.

There will be a revolution when and only when people stop arguing over bull shit like identity and unite to say they are tired of being collectively fuck by corporations that don’t give a rats ass about their lives.

The revolution will start when people start saying no to advertising.  When people stop buying stuff they don’t need but are brainwashed into wanting.  Or if they do buy it they pay cash and say no to paying the banks usurious piles of interest charged for using credit cards.

Because the only real value we have to the rich, to the corporations is  in buying, consuming, endlessly…

If we picked just one or two corporations at a time and stopped buying from them until they start treating workers with respect, permitting unions, paying a living wage etc…  That would be revolutionary and I guarantee that revolution will not have corporate sponsorship.

Posted in Anarchism, Civil Rights, Class War, Economic Issues, Employment, ENDA, Frugal Living, Human Rights, Labor, Police State, Social Justice, Unions. Comments Off on The Revolution will not Enjoy Corporate Sponsorship

Fox News bullies organized labor in run-up to Labor Day

From Media Matters for America

http://mediamatters.org/research/201009030041

Fox News figures have attacked labor unions in the days leading up to Labor Day, a national holiday originally created to honor the victories of the labor movement and the achievements of American workers.

Fox News figures assail organized labor

Beck: “I think the unions are like Biff,” the bully from Back to the Future. During the September 2 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said, “You know what I think of some of the unions? I actually think of Back to the Future. I think the unions are like Biff.” Beck showed a clip featuring Biff Tannen, the bully in the film, and added, “But in the end, once you really realize who they are and you’re not afraid anymore, it always turns out exactly the same way for the bully every time.” Beck then showed a clip of Biff working for the man he originally bullied.

Malkin accused unions of embezzlement, violence, and corruption. During the September 2 edition of Fox News’ America Live, Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin accused labor leaders of “embezzlement,” “violence,” and “corruption.”

Varney: There will be “[t]wo more union outrage stories to bring to you in our next half-hour.” During the September 2 edition of Fox Business Network’s Varney & Co., guest Joseph Caruso criticized a Securities and Exchange Commission rule that would allow more shareholders of public companies to use proxy votes to nominate board members. Caruso claimed that unions would use the rule to “wreak havoc” by nominating labor-friendly board members. In response, Fox Business’ Charles Payne suggested, “So, this will be used more as a tool of intimidation than anything else.” In a subsequent tease, Varney said, “Two more union outrage stories to bring to you in our next half-hour.”

Cavuto likened unions to Hurricane Earl on a “collision course on our towns.” During the September 2 edition of Fox News’ Your World, host Neil Cavuto compared unions to Hurricane Earl, saying, “The monster and the mess. Your World on top of Earl’s collision course with our coast and what could be unions’ collision course with our towns.” Cavuto added: “And get ready for Earl’s wallop and, to hear some state and local governments tell it, unions’ direct hit on their wallet.”

Carlson: How much of the cost of a Chevy Volt is “because you have to pay the unions so much money?” During a discussion of the Chevy Volt on the September 2 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked, “How much of that money … is because you have to pay the unions so much money?”

Beck: Labor hero is “indoctrinating children.” During the September 1 edition of his Fox News show, Beck accused Dolores Huerta, an 80-year-old labor activist who co-founded the United Farm Workers with César Chávez, of “indoctrinating our children” because she spoke at a high school. Beck also criticized the Labor Department for spending money on what he called a “catchy tune” that included Labor Secretary Hilda Solis saying, “You work hard, and you have the right to be paid fairly,” and, “[I]t is a serious problem when workers in this country are not being paid every cent they earn.”

Labor Day honors the progress of the labor movement

DOL: Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s “History of Labor Day,” Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

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Posted in Class War, Discrimination, Economic Issues, Employment, Hard Times, Labor, Unions. Comments Off on Fox News bullies organized labor in run-up to Labor Day

How to End the Great Recession

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/opinion/03reich.html?ref=opinion

By ROBERT B. REICH

Berkeley, Calif.

THIS promises to be the worst Labor Day in the memory of most Americans. Organized labor is down to about 7 percent of the private work force. Members of non-organized labor — most of the rest of us — are unemployed, underemployed or underwater. The Labor Department reported on Friday that just 67,000 new private-sector jobs were created in August, while at least 125,000 are needed to keep up with the growth of the potential work force.

The national economy isn’t escaping the gravitational pull of the Great Recession. None of the standard booster rockets are working: near-zero short-term interest rates from the Fed, almost record-low borrowing costs in the bond market, a giant stimulus package and tax credits for small businesses that hire the long-term unemployed have all failed to do enough.

That’s because the real problem has to do with the structure of the economy, not the business cycle. No booster rocket can work unless consumers are able, at some point, to keep the economy moving on their own. But consumers no longer have the purchasing power to buy the goods and services they produce as workers; for some time now, their means haven’t kept up with what the growing economy could and should have been able to provide them.

This crisis began decades ago when a new wave of technology — things like satellite communications, container ships, computers and eventually the Internet — made it cheaper for American employers to use low-wage labor abroad or labor-replacing software here at home than to continue paying the typical worker a middle-class wage. Even though the American economy kept growing, hourly wages flattened. The median male worker earns less today, adjusted for inflation, than he did 30 years ago.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/03/opinion/03reich.html?ref=opinion

Posted in Economic Issues. Comments Off on How to End the Great Recession

Another Bleak Jobs Report as Unemployment Edges Up to 9.6 Percent

This report by Dean Baker supports the case that unemployment is cyclical, not structural. It originally appeared at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.6 percent in August as the economy shed 54,000 jobs. The decline was entirely attributable to the loss of 114,000 temporary Census jobs. Excluding these jobs, the economy created 60,000 jobs. With job growth for the prior two months revised up by 123,000, excluding the Census jobs, the August pace is roughly even with June and July.

The largest increases in unemployment were among African Americans who saw their overall rate rise 0.8 percentage points to 16.3 percent, near the recession peak. The unemployment rate for black teens jumped 4.8 percentage points to 45.4 percent. Unemployment for Hispanics edged down to 12.0 percent, a full percentage point below its year-ago level.

jobs-2010-09
Involuntary part-time employment rose by 344,000, reversing declines in the prior two months. All the duration measures of unemployment fell, but this likely reflected the long-term unemployed dropping out of the workforce as their benefit period ended. The percent of the unemployed attributable to voluntary quits fell 0.3 percentage points to 5.9 percent, which is near its low-point for the downturn.

Posted in Economic Issues, Employment, Uncategorized, Workers. Comments Off on Another Bleak Jobs Report as Unemployment Edges Up to 9.6 Percent

New Feature: Survival Hints

I wear whole lots of different hats which is one major reason I feel extremely constrained by identity politics.  None of the neat identity packages really fit.

Over my life time I’ve picked up whole bunches of skills from cooking and sewing to page layout and computer construction.

Many people whose lives have been impacted by trans-prefixed words are facing hard times economically.  Un-employment and under-employment particularly if one is older or not so passable are  real facts of life.

Identity be damned though… It isn’t just being trans ******… Many other formerly middle class people are facing the same problems thanks to Extremist Capitalism and the Free Market waging class war on the working classes.

Hence… The new column “Survival Hints”…  I want this to be a co-operative effort…  Especially on the part of people outside the US.  There is an e-mail address for this blog suzan.wbt@gmail.com I’ll run articles submitted by others that address this topic.  Some suggested topics might include negotiating Name Changes, free or low cost medical care etc. Others could include tips on turning various skills into income producing endeavors that do not require conforming to some sort of corporate standards.

If you have a blog and have posted articles on these themes this is an opportunity for links and a link back to your blog or website.

Today I am featuring an article I found on Alternet.  It particularly hit home as I have spent a great deal of money on glasses this year that I am not all that happy with.

The following is reposted with the permission of Anneli Rufus.

She has written several interesting appearing books and has the following sites:

http://www.annelirufus.com/

http://scavenging.wordpress.com/

Wow — the Eyewear Industry Is an Incredible Ripoff, But There Are Alternatives

By Anneli Rufus, AlterNet
Posted on August 31, 2010, Printed on August 31, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148024/

Those of us who need prescription eyewear need prescription eyewear. Are you wearing yours to read this? Imagine if you weren’t. Imagine life without your glasses for a year, a week, an hour. Yet many health insurance plans, especially for the unemployed or self-employed, don’t cover them.

Mine doesn’t.

Last year, I went shopping for no-line progressive bifocals in small oval metal frames. Name brands mean nothing to me. Price does. My high astigmatism and need for bifocals disqualify me from those buy-one-get-one-free deals, which almost always involve only single-vision specs.

In store after store, megachains and optical boutiques alike, small oval metal frames fitted with lenses matching my prescription started at $300. One popular shop quoted me $582 for the lenses alone.

I bought a pair of no-line progressive bifocals in small oval metal frames for $44 online. I’m wearing them right now.

Perhaps because prescription glasses are where medicine meets fashion, they’re among the world’s most overpriced merchandise. Imperfect eyesight isn’t your fault: You can’t make yourself nearsighted by eating too much fudge. Yet if your health plan excludes vision care, you’ve spent years at the mercy of a $64 billion industry characterized by 500-percent markups.

This has begun to change over the last few years. A knowledge-is-power, power-to-the-people, Web-driven DIY wave is rocking the optical industry’s very foundations. Dozens of companies now sell prescription glasses online, frames and lenses included, for as little as $7.95.

It works like this: Google “cheap glasses” to find a frame you like at a price you like at a site you like. (Among the most popular are 39DollarGlasses, ZenniOptical — where I bought mine — and Goggles4U.) Use the virtual fitting mechanism to “try it on.” Type in your prescription (obtained from an actual eye doctor), pupillary distance (aka PD, derived by measuring the space between your pupils with a ruler), address and payment information. Send.

It’s a virtual myopian/hyperopian/presbyopian Tea Party, led largely by Minnesota software engineer Ira Mitchell, who launched his revolutionary GlassyEyes blog (its motto is “Saving the World from Overpriced Glasses!”) in 2006. Packed with forums, product reviews, discount deals, and tips for buying specs online, it’s the vision-impaired version of Yelp.

“There is no appreciable functional or material difference” between prescription eyewear bought online and bought in brick-and-mortar stores, Mitchell tells me, but in stores “the cost to the consumer is anywhere from four to ten times more. It turns out that they’re making ridiculous margins on the frames, the lenses and the coatings.”

Complete with antiscratch coatings and other pluses, his own glasses cost between $30 and $60 per pair online. Over the last three years, he’s bought around 40 pair — because, at that price, he can.

Mitchell was appalled when he first began researching wholesale prices for optical merchandise and realized that opticians acquire lenses for as little as $3 each. “I’ve easily paid twenty times that when I didn’t know any better,” he says.

Granted, these glass, plastic, polycarbonate or polymer blanks must be ground to fit frames and prescriptions, and this takes work, but it’s not rocket science. Typically, lens grinding is done by optical laboratory technicians. According to PayScale.com, OLTs in the United States earn between $9.73 and $14.40 per hour. Most learn on the job, and have only a high-school diploma or a GED. No specific certification is required.

The fleecing, Mitchell says, is just as bad on frames.

“A consumer-level frame costs significantly less than $10 to manufacture. The rest is operations, licensing and profit. Think about that the next time you pick up an average $150 frame. These aren’t markedly different or superior to the $30 glasses available from reputable online dealers — and those include lenses, probably the same ones you were just about to pay $200 for in the store.”

A key to the industry-standard overpricing is the fact that a single corporation — Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear firm — owns many retail eyewear chains and many popular eyewear brands. Based in Milan, Italy, Luxottica owns and operates LensCrafters, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Ilori, and other chains in the United States, along with yet more chains throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, India, the Antipodes and the Middle East.

Luxottica owns Ray-Ban, Oakley, Oliver Peoples, Vogue, and other brands, and makes glasses under license for over a dozen designer labels including Versace, Prada, Bulgari, DKNY, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Dolce & Gabbana, Donna Karan, Tiffany, and more. As if that isn’t enough, Luxottica is also the parent company of a vision-care benefits program, EyeMed.

Eyewear prices in brick-and-mortar stores stay artificially high, Mitchell says, due to “the lack of real competition, inasmuch as Luxottica owns massive manufacturing, licensing, retailing and insurance interests” — albeit EyeMed is “not so much insurance as a marketing ploy to get people to buy from their stores at a discount and to force the remaining independent stores to buy Luxottica controlled frames. But, again, most people are unaware of this.”

Because one company holds a near-monopoly on brick-and-mortar eyewear stores, “pricing models are somewhat static across the lot of them. They also have a knack for using the mattress sale model … constantly running sales that seem too good to pass up when in reality they’re still making enormous profits.”

“Semi-Annual 50% Off Sales Event,” reads a current LensCrafters ad. But the frames in question range from around $100 to around $300, and that’s without lenses.

“People pay what the brick-and-mortars are asking, primarily because the vast majority don’t know there are better, cheaper options,” Mitchell says.

As with any purchase — in fact more than with most purchases, as this involves eyesight — it pays to research each company’s delivery and return policies, Better Business Bureau status, and accessibility. Does its Web site list a phone number? If not, why not? If so, call it. Can you reach live people? Are they knowledgeable about your prescription? Does the company have its own in-house optometrists? It should. If you care about brand names, can you ascertain that the logo-bearing frames sold by any given company aren’t counterfeits? Factories churn out fakes.

While many online outfits sell real and bogus designer frames, the least expensive frames available online are unapologetically nameless generics: current and classic styles, sans logo. As is true with most consumer products, they’re not necessarily worse than their name-brand counterparts. After a year-plus of daily use, my $44 generics still look new. (That being said, I should have paid a few dollars more for higher-quality polycarbonate lenses and I should have sought bifocals with a wider middle-vision band, but these errors were my own, not the company’s.)

“Very high-priced frames may have somewhat better materials,” Mitchell says, “but from my experience, the no-names have been very well made.” Having owned dozens of generic pairs, he’s experienced “no more issues with them than with the name brands from LensCrafters. I think they’re pretty much on par.”

These days, he notes, “there are a lot more online retailers now than at the end of 2006. There aren’t a whole lot more reputable ones, however. I’ve shopped at over a dozen, and narrowed things down to about three or four that I feel comfortable recommending to others. As this is a fully custom market, mistakes can enter the process anywhere from the initial customer entering prescription information to the production process. I’ve found that a few of the sites do a better job than others at fixing mistakes. Some do better at this than the traditional stores.

“Prices haven’t dropped at all in the traditional brick-and-mortars, but downward price pressure from Wal-Mart will undoubtedly start to make an impact in certain parts of the country. I saw a sign in a
Wal-Mart recently for $38 glasses. The selection was tiny, but we’re starting to see a price intersection.”

The first online eyeglasses company was Houston-based FramesDirect. In 1992, optometrists Dhavid Cooper and Guy Hodgson closed their several Texas brick-and-mortar shops, then pondered their future.

“We knew that we wanted to sell eyewear in all fifty states 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” Hodgson says. “We had no idea how to do this.” Renting a small office, they installed computers.

“When you talked about the Internet in those days, no one knew what you meant. Search engines were in their absolute infancy. We thought a 56k modem was blisteringly fast.”

Cooper had won a Surgeon General’s Commendation Award in his native South Africa for creating a program providing the poor with recycled glasses for free. Hodgson specialized in treating the nearly blind. Barely fluent in email, the pair created a basic Web site, offering designer glasses at low prices because, unlike brick-and-mortar opticians, they needed to pay neither storefront rent nor employees’ salaries, nor did they need to keep large quantities of merchandise in stock.

“Everyone around us thought we were completely mad: Eye doctors, giving up their lucrative practices to go into this weird thing,” Hodgson laughs. But once orders started pouring in, “The whole optical industry completely shunned us. They said we were ruining them.”

At eyewear conventions, he and Cooper wore their nametags backward to avoid verbal abuse. Since then, dozens of imitators have emerged, many based overseas and most able to offer even lower prices because they sell generics. Buying prescription eyewear is like buying prescription drugs: It’s cheaper online. It’s cheaper when it comes from outside the U.S. GlassesUnlimited, for instance, can afford to sell hundreds of different stylish frames fitted with prescription lenses for only $9.99 because its entire operation is based in Thailand.

“We don’t have big margins here. That’s how we are serving our clientele. That’s why we’re getting hundreds of orders on a daily basis, 70 percent of which come from the U.S. and Canada,” GU manager Sam Davis tells me. “We have virtually no expenses. We have our own home brand and do our own production. We don’t outsource anything.”

Based in the U.S., FramesDirect still undercuts retail-store prices for guaranteed designer goods.

“What we sell and what the brick-and-mortar stores sell are the exact same products,” Guy Hodgson says. “How can they afford to charge the prices they charge?”

Anneli Rufus is the author of several books, most recently The Scavenger’s Manifesto (Tarcher Press, 2009). Read more of Anneli’s writings on scavenging at scavenging.wordpress.com.

Posted in Economic Issues, Frugal Living, Hard Times. Comments Off on New Feature: Survival Hints

We are Experiencing a 1930s Style Depression

From Alternet: http://blogs.alternet.org/grantlawrence/2010/08/24/we-are-experiencing-a-1930s-style-depression/

By Grant Lawrence

Bodhi Thunder

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. I will keep telling you so in hopes it sinks in with somebody. Over the last couple of years we have been through ‘green shoots’ and a supposedly slow recovery. Well as I said often, there wasn’t any green shoots and their was never a recovery. Unless you want to call bail outs for bankers and corporations a recovery.

So the news out now is the housing market just dropped 27% in July. It probably dropped more. We know, or should know, we can’t trust government numbers.

Now many economists are beginning to rethink their double dip recessions and call the economic disaster what it is–a Depression.

The US economy is in a 1930s-style Depression, Gluskin Sheff economist David Rosenberg said Tuesday….The 1929-33 recession saw six quarterly bounces in GDP with an average gain of 8 percent, sending the stock market to a 50 percent rally in early 1930 as investors thought the worst had passed….(source: cnbc)

The economy is in a depression and the government has used all of its resources bailing out the big banks which means there is little for the people.

Continue reading at: http://blogs.alternet.org/grantlawrence/2010/08/24/we-are-experiencing-a-1930s-style-depression/

Posted in Economic Issues. Comments Off on We are Experiencing a 1930s Style Depression