Cognitive Dissonance

"Democracy! Bah! When I hear that I reach for my feather boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

Posts tagged Economy

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On the topic of government assistance

I’m tired of the idea that people on different types of government assistance are shiftless layabouts who are thrilled to receive it.

I don’t want to be poor enough to qualify, but guess what? I’m thrilled to receive it, not because it’s OMG FREE MONEY, but because it allows me to exist without fear of hunger and as a healthy, functioning human being who contributes to society, and would love to make enough income to pay taxes to help others do the same. Never mind those who aren’t able-bodied, children, and the elderly — who actually make up the bulk of recipients and are the most vulnerable to any sorts of cuts or reductions. We all deserve basic sustenance and health care as a human right.

So stop acting like everyone’s just SO STOKED to get welfare. Yeah, maybe they are, but it’s because those few hundred dollars mean maybe, possibly, barely surviving, you judgmental fucks.

Filed under rant welfare snap food stamps politics economy

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Catholic Bishop's Labor Day Statement 2013

Every human being enjoys a basic right to be respected, not because of any title, position, prestige, or accomplishment but first of all because we are created in the image and likeness of God. From an ethical and moral perspective we embrace the exhortation of St. Paul “to anticipate one another in showing honor” (Rom 12:10). Today’s competitive culture challenges us to strive for victory and advantage, but for St. Paul the challenge is to build each other up and honor one another’s innate dignity.

Labor Day is an opportunity to take stock of the ways workers are honored and respected. Earlier this year, Pope Francis pointed out, “Work is fundamental to the dignity of a person… . It gives one the ability to maintain oneself, one’s family, to contribute to the growth of one’s own nation.” Unfortunately, millions of workers today are denied this honor and respect as a result of unemployment, underemployment, unjust wages, wage theft, abuse, and exploitation.

Even with new indicators of some modest progress in recovery, the economy still has not improved the standard of living for many people, especially for the poor and the working poor, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed. More than four million people have been jobless for over six months, and that does not include the millions more who have simply lost hope. For every available job, there are often five unemployed and underemployed people actively vying for it. This jobs gap pushes wages down. Half of the jobs in this country pay less than $27,000 per year. More than 46 million people live in poverty, including 16 million children. The economy is not creating an adequate number of jobs that allow workers to provide for themselves and their families. Jobs, wages, and poverty are interrelated. The only way to reduce the widening gap between the affluent and the poorest people in our nation is by creating quality jobs that provide a just compensation that enables workers to live in the dignity appropriate for themselves and their families.

Right on. It’s not often I praise the Catholic Church for anything, but it’s lovely to see the Catholic Bishops moving back towards a message of social justice, versus one of exclusion. Not that I think this speaks for the church as a whole, but praise when it’s due, y’know? Pope Frank ain’t perfect, but he’s better than Emperor Palpatine Pope Benedict.

Filed under Catholic Church labor Labor Day organized labor dignity economy economic crisis economic violence politics news religion

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Homelessness is not a crime. I’ve got to have the legal right (to question or take anyone into custody). We can’t just take people to somewhere they don’t want to go. I can’t do that. I won’t do that.

Interim Police Chief Ruben Santiago taking a stand on the city council’s plan to criminalize homelessness in downtown Columbia, S.C. by pushing the homeless to a shelter just barely in the city limits. 

According to The State, Santiago also said his department cannot transport homeless adults to the riverfront shelter to get services nor will police tell them they would be charged with a nuisance offense should they refuse. The law, which is likely unconstitutional, aims to bus the homeless out of the downtown area to a shelter that would have infrequent transportation services and require signing in and out. 

Filed under South Carolina Homelessness economy politics news Ruben Santiago Police law lawblr poverty discrimination injustice

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Hawaii has a serious homelessness problem—so now it wants to pass that problem off to the rest of the country. Having reached the highest rate of homelessness in the U.S., lawmakers in paradise have decided to try a new tactic for getting people off the streets: flying them to the mainland. Yes, instead of setting aside money for more shelters or outreach programs, Hawaii’s state legislator has approved a $100,000 fund to offer about 17,000 homeless people one-way tickets off the islands.

The “return-to-home” program is idealistically billed as a way to help people stuck on the island reach family or job opportunities. The program may be labeled “voluntary” but, as in other cities with similar programs, like New York and San Francisco, homeless people who get arrested could wind up faced with the option of jail or the one-way flight, regardless of whether that person has better opportunities elsewhere.

Hawaii Flies Its Homeless Away and Other Ideas from the Fringe" | The Daily Beast

Because a one-way plane ticket is easier than addressing structural inequality and poverty, amirite?

Filed under homelessness hawaii poverty politics news inequality economy structural crisis

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As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

Peter Buffett, “The Charitable Industrial Complex" | The New York Times, July 26, 2013

This thought-provoking editorial about the ultra-rich reinforcing global inequality by supposed “charitable” endeavors is a must read.

Filed under Charity Guilt Inequality wealth accumulation 1% one percent politics economy poverty

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Yeah, but instead of signing away your voice for a dude, you’re signing away your your future paychecks for a piece of paper that theoretically qualifies you for said paycheck. 

Of course, when you’re drowning in student loan debt, you have absolutely no right to speak up because you took out those loans dammit, and it’s not like credentialism and economic inequality, coupled with rising higher ed costs had anything to do with your choice because reasons and bootstraps. And a crippling recession that has you competing with a whole different class of older, experienced, more educated workers for entry level jobs, well, them’s the breaks, kid. Also, the depressed wages of the bottom 80% of Americans definitely didn’t influence your inability to pay on this debt with a higher interest rate than what the big banks pay for their bailouts. Nope. Not at all.

In a sick way, I suppose you’re signing away your voice in order to place a bet on a rigged roulette wheel overseen by plutocrats drunk on crony capitalism, who, while on an epic bender with the political class, managed to socialize the house’s risk and privatize its profits. Sorry, plebes.

At least the eternity part is 100% correct. Sallie Mae will follow you to the grave. Shit, they’d probably put a lien on your headstone and the plot in which you are buried.

Yeah, but instead of signing away your voice for a dude, you’re signing away your your future paychecks for a piece of paper that theoretically qualifies you for said paycheck.

Of course, when you’re drowning in student loan debt, you have absolutely no right to speak up because you took out those loans dammit, and it’s not like credentialism and economic inequality, coupled with rising higher ed costs had anything to do with your choice because reasons and bootstraps. And a crippling recession that has you competing with a whole different class of older, experienced, more educated workers for entry level jobs, well, them’s the breaks, kid. Also, the depressed wages of the bottom 80% of Americans definitely didn’t influence your inability to pay on this debt with a higher interest rate than what the big banks pay for their bailouts. Nope. Not at all.

In a sick way, I suppose you’re signing away your voice in order to place a bet on a rigged roulette wheel overseen by plutocrats drunk on crony capitalism, who, while on an epic bender with the political class, managed to socialize the house’s risk and privatize its profits. Sorry, plebes.

At least the eternity part is 100% correct. Sallie Mae will follow you to the grave. Shit, they’d probably put a lien on your headstone and the plot in which you are buried.

Filed under student loans student loan debt politics economy capitalism crony capitalism socialized risk profit

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For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay.

But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

The New York Times, "Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees" | June 30, 2013

Colleges are doing this as well with financial aid and veteran’s benefits refunds. I wasn’t taxed by the U.S. government on my education benefits, but Higher One sure took a chunk with all their fees.

Filed under Politics Economy poverty banks banksters Wall Street war on the poor

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“American Dream”: Food loaded into Dumpsters while Hundreds of Hungry Americans Restrained by Police

Hundreds of poor people waiting outside of a closed grocery store for the possibility of getting the remaining food is not the picture of the “American Dream.” Yet on March 23, outside the Laney Walker Supermarket in Augusta, Ga., that is exactly what happened.

Residents filled the parking lot with bags and baskets hoping to get some of the baby food, canned goods, noodles and other non-perishables. But a local church never came to pick up the food, as the storeowner prior to the eviction said they had arranged. By the time the people showed up for the food, what was left inside the premises—as with any eviction—came into the ownership of the property holder, SunTrust Bank.

The bank ordered the food to be loaded into dumpsters and hauled to a landfill instead of distributed. The people that gathered had to be restrained by police as they saw perfectly good food destroyed. Local Sheriff Richard Roundtree told the news “a potential for a riot was extremely high.”

And what would be more likely to cause a riot? Hungry, desperate people denied the food they were told they would receive, or distribution of said food? I’d be tempted to say that this is capitalism at its most dysfunctional, but it’s actually functioning as it is supposed to here. If a commodity can’t turn a profit for a capitalist, the capitalist is encouraged by the profit motive to dispose of the good quickly. As the author, Sarah Carlson, writes:

In a capitalist society, the motive behind the production of food is not to feed people, housing is not made to give them shelter, clothing is not made to keep them warm, and health care is not offered primarily to keep people healthy. All of these things, which are and should be viewed as basic rights, are nothing other than commodities—to be bought and sold—from which to make a profit. If a profit cannot be made, usually due to overproduction in relation to the market, the commodity is considered useless by the capitalist and destroyed.

Disgusting and heartbreaking. This is not an economic crisis — this is economic violence.

Filed under Capitalism hunger poverty Georgia SunTrust Bank inequality politics policy economy

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After Watering Down Financial Reform, Ex-Senator Scott Brown Joins Goldman Sachs’ Lobbying Firm

OMG, I’m just so shocked y’all! </sarcasm>:

During his nearly three years in the U.S. Senate, Scott Brown (R-MA) frequently came to the aid of the financial sector — watering down the Dodd-Frank bill and working to weaken it after its passage — and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from the industry. Now, the man Forbes Magazine called one of “Wall Street’s Favorite Congressmen” will use those connections as counsel for Nixon Peabody, an international law and lobbying firm.

As for Brown, bqhatevwr. Because now, we have Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Bless her. May she continue to irk Brown and his cronies.

Filed under Scott Brown Goldman Sachs Politics financial reform economy lobbying Nixon Peabody Massachusetts

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This is America, Now: The Dow Hits a Record High With Household Income at a Decade Low

From The Atlantic:

Stocks surpassed the nominal record set in 2007, while the last recorded real median US household income was 8% lower than its 2007 peak.

This is where we are, in picture form:

image

image

Please, explain to me why this is good for the majority of people. Go ahead. Try. I’ll wait.

[ETA]: A sharp-eyed reader noticed the alignment of the graphs is wonky. Here’s the alignment corrected as best as I can manage

Filed under inequality income Politics Economy Dow Jones median income income inequality class war

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When you receive your check or direct deposit this month, you may notice an increase in the taxes you pay, which means a decrease in your net pay. Due to the expiration of the payroll tax cuts that reduced the employee paid portion of Social Security from 6.2% to 4.2% in 2011 and 2012, you should expect at least a 2% decrease in your pay.

The impact of those taxes will vary among individuals, as it’s dependent on your particular tax bracket. The positive news regarding the tax tables is that certain brackets were not eliminated as originally proposed.

Here’s the email I received from payroll today. All of us are going to see roughly a 2% decrease in our pay, but the good news is that the brackets originally proposed for elimination — the $250,000+ brackets — didn’t see an increase ‘til $400,000-450,000.

So good for you guys! 

I can’t really explain why this email irritated me as much as it did, other than the 2% decrease in net pay is going to hit non-benefited, part-time employees like myself the hardest, and it didn’t have to happen as a part of the fiscal cliff “compromise.”

These are the very real consequences of the U.S. Congress playing politics with our paychecks, and it will have economic consequences, particularly for low wage workers in a stalled economy.

Filed under payroll taxes social security politics employment economy