Monthly Archives: August 2014

Some Numbers for the “Entitlement” Bashers

by Paul Buchheit for Buzzflash at Truthout, mirrored from Truthout

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(Photo: 401(K) 2012 / Flickr)

Americans constantly hear about the threat of “entitlements,” which in the case of Social Security and Medicare are more properly defined as “earned benefits.” The real threat is the array of entitlements demanded by the very rich. The following annual numbers may help to put our country’s expenses and benefits in perspective.

$220 Billion: Teacher Salaries
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over four million preschool, primary, secondary, and special education school teachers in the U.S., earning an average of $54,740.

$246 Billion: State and Local Pensions
Census data shows a total annual (2012) payout of about $246 billion. Only about $100 billion of this came from state and local governments, with the remainder funded by employee contributions and investment earnings. A recent Pew study showed a little over $100 billion in annual state contributions to pensions, health care, and non-pension benefits.

$398 Billion: Safety Net
The 2013 safety net (non-medical) included the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Education & Training, and Housing.

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The Carnage of Capitalism

By Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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(Photo: flickr / cc / 401(K) 2012)

Capitalism is expanding like a tumor in the body of American society, spreading further into vital areas of human need like health and education.

Milton Friedman said in 1980: “The free market system distributes the fruits of progress among all people.” The father of the modern neoliberal movement couldn’t have been more wrong. Inequality has been growing for 35 years, worsening since the 2008 recession, as a few well-positioned Americans have made millions while the rest of us have gained almost nothing. Neconomicow, our college students and medicine-dependent seniors have become the source of new riches for the profit seeking free-marketers.

Higher Education: Administrators Get Most of the Money

College grads took a 19 percent pay cut in the two years after the recession. By 2013 over half of employed black recent college graduates were working in occupations that typically do not require a four-year college degree. For those still in school, tuition has risen much faster than any other living expense, and the average student loan balance has risen 91 percent over the past ten years.

At the other extreme is the winner-take-all free-market version of education, with a steady flow of compensation towards the top. Remarkably, and not coincidentally, as inequality has surged since the 1980s, the number of administrators at private universities has doubled. Administrators now outnumber faculty on every campus across the country.

These administrators are taking the big money. As detailed by Lawrence Wittner, the 25 highest-paid presidents increased their salaries by a third between 2009 and 2012, to nearly a million dollars each. For every million-dollar public university president in 2011, there were fourteen such presidents at private universities, and dozens of lower-level administrators aspiring to be paid like their bosses. At Purdue, for example, the 2012 administrative ranks included a $313,000-a-year acting provost, a $198,000 chief diversity officer, a $253,000 marketing officer and a $433,000 business school chief.

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A USS Liberty’s Hero’s Passing

Exclusive: Silver Star winner Terry Halbardier, the hero who got off the SOS that saved the USS Liberty from Israeli destruction in 1967, died last week in California, prompting ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern to recall the murderous attack and the cowardly cover-up that followed.

By Ray McGovern, mirrored from Consortium News

Terry Halbardier, who – as a 23-year old seaman in 1967 – thwarted Israeli attempts to sink the USS Liberty, died on Aug. 11 in Visalia, California. It took the U.S. government 42 years after the attack to recognize Halbardier’s heroism by awarding him the Silver Star, a delay explained by Washington’s determination to downplay Israeli responsibility for the 34 Americans killed and the 174 wounded.

On June 8, 1967, during the Six-Day War, the Israeli military attacked the USS Liberty, an American spy ship which had been monitoring Israeli transmissions about the conflict. Intercepted Israeli communications indicated that the goal was to sink the Liberty and leave no survivors.

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USS Liberty (AGTR-5) receives assistance from units of the Sixth Fleet, after she was attacked and seriously damaged by Israeli forces off the Sinai Peninsula on June 8, 1967. (US Navy photo)

Warplanes and torpedo boats had already killed 34 and wounded 174, when Halbardier slid over the Liberty’s napalm-glazed deck to jury-rig an antenna and get an SOS off to the Sixth Fleet. The Israelis intercepted the SOS and broke off the attack immediately. In effect, Halbardier prevented the massacre of all 294 onboard. Still, the infamy of the attack on the Liberty was two-fold.

First, the Liberty, a virtually defenseless intelligence collection platform prominently flying an American flag in international waters, came under deliberate attack by Israeli aircraft and three 60-ton Israeli torpedo boats off the coast of the Sinai on a cloudless June afternoon during the six-day Israeli-Arab war. Second, President Lyndon Johnson called back carrier aircraft dispatched to defend the Liberty lest Israel be embarrassed — the start of an unconscionable cover-up, including top Navy brass, that persists to this day.

Given all they have been through, the Liberty survivors and other veterans – who joined Halbardier to celebrate his belated receipt of the Silver Star on May 27, 2009 – can be forgiven for having doubted that the day of the hero’s recognition would ever come.

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Why a Basic Income will Eventually be Needed

By Bud Meyers, published August 16, 2014

Sometimes an entire region can have an economy dependent on one industry; and sometimes an entire town can be born of a single employer. And if the biggest job creator leaves town, so do most of the jobs. What happens to all those unemployed workers who were left behind? What happens after a factory closes (one that may have employed half the town) when the company’s production is moved overseas for cheaper labor? Who would be left to spend money at the local grocer, the gas station, the barber shop or at the local tavern? How do all those unemployed workers sustain themselves if no other employers move to town and rehire them? An entire town that was born of a single employer can also die because of a single employer.

Some people call this creative destruction — creating excessive wealth for a few by destroying sustainable wealth for the many. That’s why a Basic Income will eventually be needed. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from the first quarter of 2001 to the end of 2012, the U.S. has lost 64,037 manufacturing facilities. It’s no secret as to what happened to all these American jobs.

factories

There are two (of many) debates currently raging between economists right now. One is about quantitative easing and its effect on inflation and the labor market, and the other is about the possibly of a Basic Income proposed by a few Libertarians (and others) to replace our social safety nets (aka “welfare programs”).

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Some Facts that Poverty-Deniers Don’t Want to Hear

By Paul Buchheit, mirrored from Common Dreams

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Photo: U.S. Census Bureau

Three-quarters of conservative Americans say poor people have it easy.

The degree of ignorance about poverty is stunning, even for people far removed from the realities of an average American lifestyle. Both oilman Charles Koch and Nicole Miller CEO Bud Konheim have suggested that we should compare ourselves to poor people in China and India, and then just shut up and be happy. The Cato Institute informs Americans that “The current welfare system provides such a high level of benefits that it acts as a disincentive for work.” And entrepreneur Marc Andreessen explains, rather incomprehensibly, that “Technology innovation disproportionately helps the poor more than it helps the rich, as the poor spend more of their income on products.”

1. We Spend Relatively Little on Poverty Programs

The Economic Policy Institute stated, “The United States stands out as the country with the highest poverty rate and one of the lowest levels of social expenditure.” It’s a national disgrace that we allow just a few people to take more of the country’s wealth than the millions of productive people who can’t find living-wage jobs.

Just two men made more investment income in 2013 than the entire year’s welfare budget (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), commonly referred to as ‘welfare’).

Just 400 individuals made more investment income in 2013 than the entire safety net (SNAP, WIC (Women, Infants, Children), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, TANF, and Housing).

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