Time Is Money…

2016-12-11_08-43-41.png“Time is money” is a well known phrase in the world today. If we expend time on behalf of our employer we expect to be paid for it.  That seems to be a very American thing, my time is worth money is perhaps a bedrock of our capitalist society.

Another tradition is overtime pay.  That says that I will give you a certain number of hours a week of my time but if you intrude into my private life portion you must pay more for it.

One of the things the Obama administration did is to make sure that employers are paying people for the number of hours they work. In the past it was common to give an employee a fancy title and then call him/her manager and exempt from overtime pay. Fancy job titles seem to be so prevalent now days its hard to really tell what someone does via their job titles. But I am getting off point here. Getting back to the original thought. President Obama put out an executive order that said that anyone making less than $47,476 per year was entitled to overtime pay.

So what was the reaction by many employers who demand many extra hours from their workers. I think it is kind of like what my small town government did to our highway superintendent position (remember my job title words above) :

The council increased the vacant highway superintendent position salary from $42,573 to $47,481, just five dollars above the new threshold that will no longer materialize today.

As the quote above from my small town newspaper mentioned. The executive order was halted by a Texas judge ( yeah Texas has a reputation for that) so I guess they went back to the old pay scale.  Now that the self-proclaimed billionaire will occupy the Oval Office soon I’m sure this order  and many other like it will be quickly vacated.  I imagine that the next four years will be all about getting the 1% an even bigger piece of the already majority portion the the wealth pie.  But since no one, and I mean no one, really knows what is going to happen I hope I am pleasantly surprised by a different result.

Death of the American middle class??

2015-12-30_11-02-50.pngBut maybe the “death of the middle class” conclusion isn’t obvious at all. And perhaps there is more to the Donald Trump phenomenon. Yes, the modern left instinctively sees such studies as further confirmation that inequality is the nation’s premier economic challenge. Much of the media agrees. The rich are gobbling up more and more of the economy’s bounty, leaving less for everyone else. Case closed.

The Pew results are more complex and nuanced than that, however. One reason the middle class — say, three-person households making between $42,000 to $126,000 annually — share is declining is that the upper class is expanding. Back in 1971, 14 percent of households were upper class, and 61 percent were middle class. Today it’s 21 percent upper, 50 percent middle….

Now, none of this is to downplay the particular economic strain on lower-income Americans, especially those without a college degree. There is evidence that real wages for male workers without college degrees have been stagnant or falling for decades. And those are Trump’s biggest supporters. But the billionaire is competitive even among the better educated. When growth goes away or even recedes a bit, bad things happen to the American psyche.  Now combine that with fears college is becoming more necessary and more unaffordable in a time of expanding automation. The emergence of Trump or some populist like him seems inevitable.

SOURCE:  The American middle class is doing better than you think.

This is a very interesting Pew study that kind of confirms what I have thought all along. That is that there are still plenty of households who have more than enough discretionary spending to keep the economy going. If there wasn’t then who are the targets for all the extravagance shown by most cable TV shows.

If you are to believe what you see on TV then all of us should be striving or at least dreaming of backyards filled with fire pits, outside dining and living areas and covered with expensive slate. If there is no discretionary spending left then who are all these people? After all a billionaire only needs so many fire pits.

I have to admit that when I was making close to a six figure income I didn’t consider myself well off. Maybe that was because of my continuing penny pinching from my poorer years. I just couldn’t see constantly spending more and more.  When I retired in 2000 we bought a 1928 farmhouse that had gone through a couple of badly done rehabs. We spent about 70% of the original purchase price in renovations. Since that time our only expenses have been repairs. We are satisfied with the way things are and don’t have much desire for all the latest “improvement” so many say we must have.

Getting back to the original thoughts here, yes the middle class is definitely shrinking but still, as shown above, it accounts for half of all American families. Only about 20% of us really worry if we can put food on the nightly table but that is 20% too many. Then there is that 1% whose power has grown exponentially and have more money than they could ever spend but still savagely seek more and more.  And they are getting it thanks to decreases in taxes beyond sanity…

Poor Little Rich Kids…

RJC - Best of the best BannerI know I shouldn’t nominate myself for the best of the best list but when I ran across this post from October 11, 2011 I couldn’t resist.  It seems it is even more applicable today than it was four years ago.


This excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article peaked my senses. It seems the rich, who we give massive tax breaks,  are aware that their kids will probably blow through their inherited wealth after they are gone.  What a bind to be in!  I bet they take all this planning and  trustees as tax deductions. It seems very ironic that while most of us are just trying to stay out of the poor house, and in any other house at all, there are those who worry about the other end of the spectrum.

Instead of “cleverly written trusts” and “carefully chosen trustees” how about just letting them make their own way in life like the other 98% of us do? Who knows, maybe Paris Hilton would even be a productive member of our society if she had not inherited so much of granddaddy’s wealth. 🙂 Up until recently (the 1980s that is) the government taxed wealthy estates so that a significant part of the accumulated money could go back for the common good.  Our country was even established around the ideas that aristocracies are a drain on society. They thoroughly renounced the European version when we formed our country. In fact it was not long after our revolution that the French also rebelled against their aristocracy in a very bloody fashion.  So how is it now that we do so much to retain our version of aristocracy that makes up the top 1% of our population but controls almost 50% of the country’s wealth?

OK, here I go again with the “Walters plan” for accumulated wealth.  I know we can’t force the super rich to allow their children to make their own way in the world. But let’s treat the money they pass on to their children as “income” and therefore subject to the usual income taxes.  To me income is income no matter where it comes from. If you get money that you didn’t work for and you haven’t paid any taxes on  it is still considered income to you. Another part of the “Walters Plan”  is where we establish a more equitable income tax structure. Don’t tax the billionaires at a lower rate than the people who empty their trash. Let’s set a level of tax free income so that a person can get the basic necessities and then tax everything else at a certain rate and with no tax deductions. These big tax loop holes that congress seems to endlessly write for the rich, and for many others for that matter,  are one of the reasons we are in the deficit hole we are in.

But what do I know.

You Never Know….

 

“This is a great country. You never know where our heroes will come from.” – Will Rogers, 7 June 1933

One of the great things about this country is that anyone who is fortunately enough to have just the right circumstances come about can be a hero for future generations.  Many have sports heroes who they admire for their ability to do a particular thing like putting a ball into a hole, hitting it with a stick, throwing it to a teammate. I can’t say that any of those qualities make someone a hero to me. But to each his own when it comes to heroes.

My heroes are more of the intellectual or humanitarian nature. Obviously, to anyone who has read much of this post knows that Will Rogers, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson, John Steinbeck, and Gandhi are among my heroes. This group range across the spectrum as far as wealth and influence go. Some came from poverty, some from privileged  classes. Most just went about their daily business with other people’s welfare in mind. Those are my kind of heroes.

I, like many others, have become a big fan of the british TV series entitled “Downton Abbey”. It is a story about an early twentieth century aristocratic family and all the “commoners” who served them. The intertwining of all their lives is what makes the show endearing.  I must admit that I am an antagonist when it comes to a privileged classes especially inherited wealth.  So, it somewhat surprised me to be attracted to this show.

Even up until recently many of the countries in Europe were very class oriented. That is if you were born into a particular class that is where you stayed for your life.  Moving outside of your class was just unheard of in those days. I’m sure this continues to some extent even today but I think it is quickly disappearing; at least I hope it is.

The United States is a country that has always been about opportunity for all. Anyone can go as far as their drive, ambition, and intellect allow them. That is what makes this country great.  I am troubled by the current trends toward aristocracy in this country that is taking place due to inherited wealth. The top one-percent of the population control a very large percentage of the wealth of the country.  This troubles me greatly some times.

Taking It From Somebody….

 

The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. . . . A man can make a million over night and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who give up the million he got. You can’t get money without taking it from somebody. – 1 June 1930  Will Rogers

WealthAs Will points out here the difference between the rich and the poor has always been greater than many of us would like to see but I really don’t think in Will’s day it was even remotely as wide a gap as it is today.   The latest statistics show that there is about $58 trillion of wealth in the U.S.  But as the chart to the right shows 80% of the population  controls only 7% of the wealth. That is about $10,000 per person for 80% of us. The top 1% average $7,000,000/person.

But as Will further points out that there is just so much wealth that can be owned. There has been a twenty fold increase in billionaire in the last twenty years.  In order for the money to come to them it had to come from someone else. Of course we all know where it came from. It came for the wages and benefits of the 80% that have actually decreased over that same period of time.

I’m not a financial wizard but it really doesn’t seem like rocket science to me to understand that if we want to grow our GDP we must have citizens who have the money to buy additional goods and services. The 1% can only buy so many jets and yachts. 🙂   In fact most of their increased wealth is likely just sitting in off-shore accounts accumulating interest.  When the elite among us insist on stagnating wages there are no additional resources to grow our economy. It is a Catch-22 and that I can understand so why can’t the big shot economists in the gOp figure it out?

Why???….

I have always been a person who is constantly saying “Why?” Here are some whys that have been spewing off the top of my head lately.  🙂 They are too small for an entire post so I am just going to throw it out here and in no particular order:

  • Why do fifteen percent of the population think they are in the top 1%  ?— So there are fifty times more people worried that their taxes will go up if President Obama is re-elected.  We all want to believe that we are somehow special but 1/6 of the population just won’t fit in the one percent tub. No way, no how…..
  • Why don’t people understand that if you want to live like a Republican you must vote like a Democrat? —  It is a known fact that if you had invested $10,000 in only Republican administrations for the last eighty years it would now be worth $11,733.  If you had invested in only Democratic administrations it would be worth $300,671!  (source  Wolfram Blog : Stock Market Returns by Presidential Party.)  So why do all the money hungry  folks continue to align with the Republican party?
  • Why do so many women seem to want to be six inches taller than the height God gave them? –This trend toward wearing six-inch heels really confuses me. I believe that women have come a long ways in the past few decades. They have asserted themselves in the business world. They are now the primary earner in many families. There are now many shows on TV where they are in charge now. You certainly didn’t see that even a decade ago.  So why do so many women continue to fall in line with the latest fads no matter how absurd they seem to be? I want to predict a huge increase in demand for podiatrists in the future to treat all those future bunions out there. 🙂
  • The major focus of the country is currently on unemployment. It seems to be driving much of this political season. If you believe the hype everyone is either unemployed or underemployed in this country. But what happened this week seems to directly counter that belief.  Across the country were millions of people standing hours in lines to pluck down up to $600 for a new iPhone5?  It is obvious that not everyone has been affected by the economic downturn. Many if not most of the people in these long lines already have an iPhone 4 that is still very functional yet they have enough disposable income to update to the latest thing. I just don’t understand it?? But then again in reality only one out of every twelve of us can’t find a job….

Its About Time — Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S.

source: Whites Account for Under Half of Births in U.S. – NYTimes.com.

After years of speculation, estimates and projections, the Census Bureau has made it official: White births are no longer a majority in the United States.

I bet the racist blogs this morning are white-hot, pun intended, talking about this article! But for myself I say it is about time. I think that our strongest point as a nation is our diversity. We generally don’t have one segment of society having total say on the rest of us. Now I am not inferring that the tyranny of the majority doesn’t, or hasn’t, reared its ugly head in the U.S. but generally those periods are eventually overthrown by the vote.

Just look at other countries to see the fierce partisan divide between Sunni and Shiite, between Muslims and Jews, between this or that.  We in the U.S. are just too diverse now for that to happen. There is one caveat to that however and that is the growing disparity between the 1% who currently control the vast majority of the wealth and the other 99% of us.  I am confident that some day this grossly imbalanced fact will the ameliorated hopefully by the vote and not by violence.

We as a country celebrate our diversity as we rightly should. Let us pray that the partisan divide that is so visible in other countries never happens here again. Let us remember that we are now all minorities in our great country.

The Culture of Viciousness….

What is a culture, the non-medical kind that is? The best definition I could find in relation to this post is:

 a particular form or stage of civilization, as that of a certain nation or period

I was recently introduced to the term “the culture of viciousness” and was immediately struck by its seemingly accurate description of our current times here in the U.S.  and perhaps the world as a whole. The most appropriate term to describe what is going on in congress and in much of the country is viciousness. The way we seem to treat each other lately is very saddening indeed!  Have we turned permanently to the dark side of civilization?  I hope there is a way out of this current trend.

It is totally perplexing to me as to why we got to this state of affairs but I believe that it stems from the fact that the average everyday guy is just tired of running in place and still getting farther and farther behind.

  • He has not seen a real raise in his income for twenty years.
  • He sees the 1% get more and more each year while he gets less and less
  • He sees statistics that show that he will be laid off or have to change jobs seven time in his working years.
  • He wants to give his family many of the things he sees everyday on TV but can only do that by adding to his credit card debt and therefore digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole.
  • Maybe most importantly he looks at his kids and can’t see that they will be any better off than him.

I don’t know if our current congress is mirroring this viciousness or just maybe the cause of it. Either way they are not setting an example for how we should be treating each other.  The folks in congress are supposed to be our leaders and the wisest among us. Why aren’t they leading by example?

When Jesus, the foundation of our Christian establishment, was asked what is the most important he said to “Love God and to love your fellow man”. What we are doing today is the exact opposite of this. There seems to be very little love in any of us.  How did we get into this state? But maybe more importantly how do we get out of it????

Smart But Don’t Know Much…

There is something about a Republican politician, they are smart but they just don’t know much. – July 4, 1934  Will Rogers

I’m totally convinced that Will would also include most of today’s Democrat politicians in this quote. I’m sure those yahoos in congress, or at least most of them, are pretty smart fellas when it comes to book learning.  But when it comes to the everyday life of the common man I don’t think they know much.

I find it hard to believe that those in the top 1% , and that includes the majority of those in our congress, even have a clue as to what it feels like to have to choose between food and your medicine. They can’t begin to imagine the grief caused by being in the process of losing your home to the bank because you lost what you thought was a forever job. They can’t begin to understand what it is like to spend the rest of your life trying to pay the bills for just one major medical event when you don’t have, and cannot afford, insurance. Most of the folks who represent us in congress just have no idea of what our lives are really about.

The trouble is that it seems impossible to get anyone with any amount of understanding about our everyday issues into Washington DC.  The money required to buy an office in the Rayburn building is just beyond the means of most of us.

We have to realize that even though we rile against the rich that it is the rich who  for the most part control our destinies and that includes government actions. It used to be that one-man-one-vote evened the playing field a little bit but the recent Supreme court decision even took that away from us.  Now the one with the money controls the ballot box.

But what do I know….

The Cash Cow….

source:  Santorum Becomes Millionaire in Six Years After U.S. Senate Loss.

Since his 2006 re-election defeat, the former Pennsylvania lawmaker has gone from being one of the poorer members of the U.S. Senate to earning $1.3 million between January 2010 and August 2011. In 2007, he spent $2 million to buy a 5,000-square foot home in Great Falls, Virginia, according to property records.

Santorum’s financial rise was powered by consulting contracts with fuel producer Consol Energy Inc., faith advocacy group Clapham Group and American Continental Group, a Washington consultancy, as well as media engagements.

Is it really possible to diminish the influence of lobbies in our politics when so many in congress depend on them to get into the 1%? Take this example or if you like the $1.3 million paid to Gingrich for his history lessons. And of course if this isn’t enough you must remember that the Supreme Court in their conservative wisdom has decided that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money to insure that their chosen candidates get elected! So now “our” representatives in congress can be bought and paid for at both ends of the process. Does anyone else see how wrong this is and how threatening it is to our fragile democracy. Yes, all democracies are fragile.

But what do I know….