Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

If You’re Reading this, You’re Part of the 99%

In Current Events, Economics, Education, Occupy Movement on February 22, 2012 at 21:47

We are the 99% from ohaflcio.blogspot.com

Many people online, in editorial pages, on television and in the streets are denying their membership in the 99%. Few if any of the people that fight against their membership to this not-so-elite group fully understand the concept of the “99%”.

Those who automatically reject anything they consider “liberal” will reject their membership in the 99% as a way to reject a group they falsely consider lazy, unclean Americans who want to blame corporations for all their troubles. However, Occupy Wall Street is not asking for you to agree with everything every member of their group believes. Admitting that you are part of the 99% does not require you reject your conservative, or other, principles.

What admitting you are part of the 99% requires is that you let go of your denial and acquire a modicum of class consciousness. First, you must let go of the myth that the richest 1% of Americans care about you and are job creators instead of job destroyers. Then you must develop an awareness that you are in the lower classes and the 1% determines, to a large extent, what happens in this nation.

Many people reject this idea because they think it means you have to be an anarchist, socialist, communist or some other ist to belong to the 99%. That’s a misreading of the metaphor. What’s more, they don’t even know it is a metaphor, a number that represents the inequality in our economic and political system but may not be literally accurate.

Even Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, showing how smart he is with numbers, took “99%” as a literal idea and corrected the notion several times in his post:

“Let’s be clear. This isn’t really the 99 percent. If you’re in the 85th percentile, for instance, your household is making more than $100,000, and you’re probably doing okay. If you’re in the 95th percentile, your household is making more than $150,000. But then, these protests really aren’t about Wall Street, either. There’s not a lot of evidence that these people want a class war, or even particularly punitive measures on the rich. The only thing that’s clear from their missives is that they want the economy to start working for them, too.”

Let’s be clear about Mr. Klein’s misreading of OWS: 99% is a metaphor that he takes too literally and thus misses the point that it’s about inequality, not exactitude. And it is about Wall Street. The protests are about Wall Street run amok, about how Wall Street gets a free pass when they break regulatory laws, about a Wall Street that is in large part responsible for our economic disaster we find ourselves in. But, it’s not only about Wall Street. The Occupy Movement is about banks, mega corporations like Monsanto that poison our food supply, BP and other large companies that pollute with impunity, the military industrial complex, and so forth. Just because it’s called “Occupy Wall Street” doesn’t mean Wall Street is their only concern, and it’s willfully ignorant to think that. Read their declaration and educate yourself about their issues.

Klein also echoes sentiments of Republicans and dismisses the movement as self-centered, only concerned about themselves, only wanting the “economy to start working” for them, thus he misses the point again. Sure, members of the occupy movement are concerned about their own welfare, and also their neighbors, their children, their family, their community, their teachers, their public servants, other workers, and all members of the 99% that might have had tough times because of the plutocracy we live under. Otherwise, why would so many employed, retired and financially secure people involve themselves in the movement?

Compassion for others is not a hard thing to understand. It’s too bad Klein’s analysis only skims the surface of what the Occupy Movement is about. If he can’t correctly interpret Occupy, he should stick to writing about the Republican primaries. There, he will see enough lies to write about, and he won’t have to write misinformation about the Occupy Movement.

You’re part of the 99% if:

  • Most of your income comes with a W-2 attached.
  • You have ever, or currently, received food stamps, unemployment, SSI, or other government assistance.
  • You don’t have an offshore bank account.
  • If you are not a financial manager or CEO of a major firm, you are part of the 99%.
  • You are also a member of the 99% if your income is less than $400,000 a year.
  • If you earn less than 25% of your income in rent and dividends, you are part of the 99%.
  • If you are one paycheck from being homeless, you are part of the 99%.
  • If you are not a manager, executive, or supervisor of a large firm, you are likely part of the 99%.
  • You are part of the 1% if you can donate millions to a political campaign.
  • You are part of the 1% if you can write laws for ALEC and thus Congress.
  • And if you’re reading this, you are a member of the 99%.

Here’s a demographic breakdown of the 1%:

Fact: the top 1% in the US control 42% of the nation’s wealth.

Rich Versus Poor demographics

Tex Shelters

Happy New Year, World, from Tex Shelters of Occupy Tucson

In Current Events, Economics, History, Occupy Movement on December 29, 2011 at 23:30

Occupy the World from flyingnorth.net

To: The World and all its residents
From: Tex Shelters of Occupy Tucson, speaking for himself and not the movement
Re: Current Conditions and prospects

Dear World:

Happy New Year, World. I know we have had a rough year and not treated you well. I hope you forgive humanity and realize that many of us see some of what you are going through and want to help. I also want to acknowledge that “New Year” is a human construct and that the world has a different concept of time, living eternally in the moment and constantly in forever.

Sorry about the global warming world. I know you try to accommodate humanity, but at this rate, I wouldn’t blame you if you threw us all off for our continued burning of your forests, coal and oil fields. And sorry about the BP oil spill in the gulf, world. I only wish that the corporations that caused the spill weren’t getting so little punishment and that we would use that disaster to change our energy policy.

We are worried about your 1.4 billion that live in extreme poverty despite your bounty. It’s not your fault, world, but we have created a system that allows such suffering and depravity. The one percent hoard more than they need, and most of us have been accomplices to this plunder.

We occupiers and others are disturbed that the United States leads the way in incarcerating its people, and that the world far too often sees prison as an answer to social problems. I know that’s not what you want us to do with your resources.

We are upset about the continued war economy that puts money into weapons and their manufacturers, weapons that are created for the sole purpose of killing. Sorry world. We occupiers do want to end wars and the use of these weapons that protect the wealth of the 1%. We occupy because we don’t think it’s too late to end this endless war.

We are upset about all the foreclosures on homes, especially those that could be saved with some creative refinancing. Bankers are very good at finding creative ways to make money, hide their lack of liquidity, create credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations and other financial instruments to make money off the hard earned work of others. But neither the banks nor the government have been willing to work creatively to help people from losing their homes. And the efforts that have been made are inadequate to meet the needs of homeowners. This is not what the world needs.

We are upset by CEOs that make millions even when their companies lose money. The world would be a better place without these greedy people.

We are upset about the Washington, DC revolving door in which Congress members can get jobs making millions at Wall Street firms as Washington insiders and use their Congressional contacts to help their new companies get contracts, tax cuts, reduced regulation, and other benefits. We are upset by Congress selling our democracy to the highest donor for a few dollars and thus sell out everyone’s future. They are no better than dictators who rob their national treasuries. Moreover, we are upset that Congress can in essence practice insider trading, further selling out our democracy.

World, we are upset that many in Congress would rather cut programs that help Americans in a time of need than work with the president to create jobs.

We occupy because we don’t think it’s too late to help create positive change. So please dear world, help us educate the populous about the greedy few who want to ruin the planet for all of us and for far too long have not been challenged.

Tex Shelters

Facts about Class, Poverty and Downward Mobility

In Current Events, Election Politics, History on September 28, 2011 at 00:26

BY BOB ENGLEHART from politicalcartoons.com

There is a group of citizens that steals from taxpayers so they can sit on their divans and watch their high definition 3D televisions, eat subsidized food products and sponge off the American people. I am of course talking about the ruling elites. Republicans, however, want you to believe it’s welfare recipients that have created our economic troubles when it is unrestrained corporate and bourgeoisie greed that has brought about the economic collapse of the United States.

People project personal and societal problems onto convenient, weak targets such as the poor who have been villainized by the mass media. They are also scape goats for people who still believe in the myth of the American dream. The “American dream” is the idea that if you work hard, you will succeed. Thus, you won’t need welfare; only the lazy and undeserving receive welfare.

The idea of the American dream is one of the most successful pieces of propaganda ever perpetuated. If we believe in the dream, we can dismiss or outright ignore economic, social, and demographic realities that have more to do with economic impoverishment than any supposed behavioral deficiencies on the part of welfare recipients.

You are more likely to fall form middle class to lower class than you are to rise from middle class to the upper class. “The Pew study looked at Americans who were between the ages of 14 and 17 in 1979, and living at home with their parents that year. For teenagers who were part of the middle class in 1979 — defined as the 30th through 70th percentile of income — about 28 percent of them had fallen out of it, meaning below the 30th percentile of income, by 2006.” (link)

Part of the cause of this downward economic movement has been a drop in real wages for all but the top economic earners during that time period. “The Center for American Progress reported how between 1979 and 2007 the average income of the bottom 50 percent of American households grew by 6%; the top 1% saw their income increase by 229 percent.”  (1979-2007).

During the same period, inflation went up about 118% (1979-2007), more than doubling prices. Real wages, wages compared to inflation, has been dropping. But you won’t hear the Republican presidential candidates mention this except as way to blame the poor and attack Social Security, Medicaid and other government programs to aid the lower and middle classes.

Economic class at birth determines your economic opportunities in life, or as Max Weber put it, your class is identified with your market position and it determines your “life chances.”

Those that attack welfare recipients as being lazy and not motivated ignore the reality of class and market position. Of course there are examples of people who have overcome poverty and become wealthy. However, a 2006 study funded by the Center for American Progress showed that there was only a 1% chance of a person in the lowest quintile (bottom 20%) of becoming a member of upper quintile, the top 20% of national incomes.

The Heartland Alliance creates an even bleaker picture of poverty. “Intergenerational elasticity in earnings is estimated to be around 0.6 – this is the correlation in earnings between parents and their children in adulthood. This means that for a hypothetical family of four whose current income is at the poverty line, it would take the descendants of the family 5 to 6 generations (125 to 150 years) before their income will be within 5 percent of the national average.18…African Americans and single mothers and their children are less likely to be upwardly mobile than other groups.20”  (link)

If it was just a matter of working hard, why is poverty rising and wealth more concentrated at the top than ever before? Is it that 80% of Americans are lazy? There is a given amount of wealth in a nation and thus when more wealth is concentrated at the top, there will be more poverty at the bottom.

According to Professor G. William Domhoff in his newly updated “Wealth, Income and Power” (2011), the top 1% wealthy people in the U.S. control 34.6% of the nation’s wealth and the next 19% highest control an addition 50.5%. That means the top 20% wealthiest people in the U.S. control over 85% of the wealth leaving 15% for the rest of us. It is clear that if the poor are stealing from us, they are inept thieves. With the top quintile currently hoarding their wealth, how is a poor person with insufficient education, living in a run down neighborhood with little in terms of “life chances” supposed to dig out of poverty?

Why don’t people hate the corporate criminals who created hedge funds to bet against mortgages Wall Street Banks and mortgages firms originated? Those same companies write tax codes for themselves so they pay little or nothing into our nations treasury. They are too strong and powerful, and if you want to get elected to state or national office, you dare not take them on.

We must dispel the myths perpetrated by the far-right and others that welfare recipients are all lazy, all greedy, all selfish and that they are all stealing from us.

Reason people are poor

It might be news to many people in America, and especially the far right, but people aren’t poor by choice. There are reasons for poverty.

Being poor is harder today, for the economic and political climate around poverty has changed dramatically since President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.  “Over the past 25 years significant structural changes have occurred in the United States that have influenced poverty, making current-day poverty different in some ways from poverty just a few decades ago. These structural changes include transformations in our economic structure such as the shift from manufacturing employment to service-sector employment; the de-institutionalization of people with mental illnesses into community settings; welfare reform, which resulted in a an emphasis on work over welfare; changes in immigration patterns; and skyrocketing rates of incarceration.” (link) Today there is no “War on Poverty”, just a war on the poor.

The current crop of the Republicans want to cut into the social safety net during a recession, a time when more people need help than any other. “Recessions…have a disproportionate impact on lower-income families because they cause rising unemployment, a reduction in work hours, and the stagnation of family incomes – all of which have the greatest impact for those with the least income to begin with.” (Ibid) But Republicans want to use the debt crisis to cut from and eliminate programs to aid the poor  and anyone that’s not a billionaire donor to their party.

Layoffs lead to poverty and government spending creates jobs and reduces poverty. But Republicans don’t deal with economic reality; they live in a realm of ideology devoid of facts. “Unemployment rates, wages, and inequality are used to measure the impact of economic performance on poverty, and all have rather consistently predicted poverty over the past two decades.22”  (Ibid)

Here are some of the reasons someone might enter into poverty or be poor, according to research by the Heartland Alliance.

1. “Individuals in households that experience a loss of employment are the most likely to enter poverty.”

2. A reduction in household earnings. “Almost half (49.3%) of poverty spells begin when the household experiences a decline in earnings.”

3. Low Wages. Having a job is not the answer if wages are too low. One quarter of all workers earn poverty wages.

4. Lack of high a school diploma. Despite the link to poverty, we have a high rate of high school drop outs in the United States.

5. Health care costs are a huge factor in poverty.

And the number one reason for poverty is…

6. lack of jobs.

Support President Obama’s jobs program and his attempts to raise revenue from the top tax brackets. That is one way they would become the “job creators” that they lie about being.

Links to ignorant hatred around welfare reform:

Supportive post on welfare lies:

Tex Shelters