All posts by Mad Hemingway

Baby Boomers not to Blame for lack of Jobs

by Bud Meyers | December 16 2016

Baby Boomers are not to blame for the dramatic rise in the number of people “not in the labor force”. Retirees and those on disability are making for a smaller and smaller share (on a monthly basis) as to the number of people “dropping out” of the labor force.

A little over half (56.8%) of those in the U.S. who are not employed and “not in the labor force” receive some form of Social Security. To date (12/16/2016) 54 million working-age American adults are receiving Social Security benefits (retired, disabled, widowed, etc.) out of a total of 95 million working-age American adults who are not in the labor force.

Only 18% of the additional people who the Bureau of Labor Statistics added to the category of “not in the labor force” since last month had retired on Social Security (as the number of those receiving disability DECREASED); the other 82% of those who were added to the category of “not in the labor force” are just without jobs, but are not counted in the 7.4 million who are “unemployed”. From November 2016 to December 2016 (over the past month alone) the U.S. had an additional 366,275 people NOT IN THE LABOR FORCE that did NOT retire or go on disability.

41,174,259 Nov.
41,082,060 Oct.
92,199 MORE people retired

8,833,909 Oct.
8,821,435 Nov.
12,474 LESS people on disability

A difference of 79,725 who are now on Social Security since last month and are no longer in the labor force — from a total of 446,000 additional people who are now “not in the labor force” from Nov to Dec. Over time, more and more people “not in the labor force” have been exceeding the number going on Social Security because there has not been enough job creation to keep up with those graduating from school (not comparing to population growth or the employment-to-population ratio because of foreign-born workers: Foreign-Born New Hires Outpace Native-Born)

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By the numbers: Barack Obama’s contribution to the decline of US democracy

John Weeks | November 26 2016 | openDemocracy

How neoliberal doctrine undermined the Obama administration and ushered in the age of Trump
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Obama meets Trump. Press Association/Pablo Martinez Monsivais. All rights reserved.

Yes, we can!

The iconic slogan “Yes, we can!” inspired the wave of enthusiasm that swept up millions of Americans during the presidential election of 2008 and carried Barack Obama to the White House. If that slogan epitomized the beginning of the Obama presidency, he had an equally iconic ending: the first African-American president shaking hands with the first president-elect in at least 100 years endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan.

In November 2008 Barack Obama won the presidency with almost 53% on a voter turnout of 58%. The winning percentage was the highest since 1988 and the turnout the largest for 50 years. The first non-white president took office on a surge of enthusiasm exceeding any since Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 (by comparison John Kennedy went to the presidency with less than half of total votes and a winning margin of 0.2 percentage points).

The enthusiasm for Obama arose from fervent hope for specific changes: 1) a universal, affordable health system; 2) the end of two disastrous wars (Afghanistan and Iraq); 3) economic recovery from the worst collapse in 80 years; and 4) action against banks and bankers to prevent a recurrence of the collapse.

To fulfil these hopes, Obama had majorities in both houses of Congress, 58 of 100 Senators (largest majority of any party in 30 years) and 257 seats in the House (most since 1992). By any measure the new president enjoyed an overwhelming majority.  Under some circumstances the Republican minority in the Senate could prevent voting, but a determined and bold president could force votes within the arcane Senate rules.

No he didn’t!

It quickly became obvious that Obama would be anything but determined and bold; on the contrary, avoiding conflict through compromise would guide his presidency. In face of a solidly right wing Republican opposition, attempting to compromise was recipe for failure, a disaster foretold and fulfilled.

Despite the large House and Senate majorities a litany of failure dogged the first two Obama years, some partial and others presented as success. Extension of the popular Medicare programme offered the obvious method of achieving a national health system (confusingly dubbed “single payer” by its adherents). Obama yielded before opposition from private “health care” corporations and drug companies.

Continue reading By the numbers: Barack Obama’s contribution to the decline of US democracy

How a Disappearing and Deluded Middle Class Awaits the New President

Paul Buchheit | November 07 2016 | Common Dreams

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Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making a pitch for the votes of an activist middle class. (Hollywata/Flickr cc 2.0)

Disturbing truths about the wealth gap in America have surfaced in recent months. Our nation is breaking in two. Yet downtrodden Americans are hoping for a fairy-tale ending to their misery, instead of demanding the progressive measures that would empower them.

Collapse of the Middle Class

For every $100 owned by a middle-class household in 2001, that household had just $72 in 2013.

Half of us are barely surviving, and it may be more than half. A J.P. Morgan study concluded that “the bottom 80% of households by income lack sufficient savings to cover the type of volatility observed in income and spending.”

More Rich, More Poor, Less Empathy

Nearly two-thirds of American families were considered middle class in 1970. Today it’s half or less. The rest of us have gone up or down, mostly down.

Continue reading How a Disappearing and Deluded Middle Class Awaits the New President

New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

Paul Buchheit | October 24 2016 | Common Dreams

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Charter schools have turned our children into the products of businesspeople. Enough. (Photo: AgainstAusterity.org)

An earlier review identified the “Three Big Sins of Charter Schools”: Fraud, a Lack of Transparency, and the Exclusion of Unwanted Students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom.

The Wall Street Journal, in its misinformed way, says that the turnaround of public schools requires “increasing options for parents, from magnet to charter schools.” Wrong. As theNAACP affirms, our nation needs “free, high-quality, fully and equitably-funded public education for all children.” For ALL children, not just a select few.

The NAACP has called for a moratorium on charter schools. And Diane Ravitch makes a crucial point: “Would [corporate reformers] still be able to call themselves leaders of the civil rights issue of our time if the NAACP disagreed with their aggressive efforts to privatize public schools?”

Here are the 4 Big Sins of Charter Schools, updated by a surge of new evidence:

1. Starve the Beast

Corporate-controlled spokesgroups ALEC, US Chamber of Commerce, and Americans for Prosperity are drooling over school privatization and automated classrooms, with a formula described by The Nation: “Use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools ‘persistently failing’; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters.” But as aptly expressed by Jeff Bryant, “As a public school loses a percentage of its students to charters, the school can’t simply cut fixed costs for things like transportation and physical plant proportionally…So instead, the school cuts a program or support service.”

Continue reading New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools

William K. Black — Hillary: The “Good News” is That China is “Forcing Down Wages”

William K. Black | October 24 2016 | Mike Norman Economics

Champion of the people, or slave driver? Sheriff Bill is on Hillary’s case.

The general media has been treating the WikiLeaks disclosures of the Clinton campaign documents, particularly the transcripts of her lucrative talks with Goldman Sachs as much ado about nothing. I have not found any article about the disclosures, however, that reported on the extraordinary statements she made in her talk with Goldman Sachs on June 4, 2013.

Hillary told the Vampire Squid that the “good news” was that China was removing workers’ (meager) legal protections so that their employers could “forc[e] down wages” in order to increase corporate profits. She used China’s (pathetically weak) legal protections for workers as her exemplar of China’s “structural economic problems.”

Thirdly, they seem to — and you all are the experts on this. They seem to be coming to grips with some of the structural economic problems that they are now facing. And look, they have them. There are limits to what enterprises can do, limits to forcing down wages to be competitive, all of which is coming to the forefront…

Clinton’s support for “forcing down wages” by removing China’s meager protections for workers reveals that her (leaked) admission that she is increasingly “far removed from the struggles of” the working and middle-class is a grave understatement. She is not simply “far removed” from their “struggles” – she continues when speaking secretly to Wall Street to attack workers’ interests.

Department of Education Cooperates with ALEC to Privatize Education

Project Censored | October 4 2016

The Department of Education and school districts throughout the US are working with billionaire families such as the Waltons and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to undermine public education, Dustin Beilke reported for PR Watch in January 2016. Instead of defending public education in pursuit of equity for all students, the Department of Education (DoE) is working with organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—an alliance of corporate lobbyists and state legislators—as well as local chambers of commerce to encourage the conversion of public institutions into private charter schools.

A December 2015 DoE presentation showed that the federal government had spent over three billion dollars of tax-payer money to boost charter schools, supporting an uncritical assessment of how effective charter schools actually are. Beilke described the 25-slide overview of the DoE’s charter schools program as “an uncritical PR document embracing a magical idea of charter schools.”

According to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), although many charter schools have failed and closed in the last twenty years, the DoE continues to provide significant funding to promote them. An October 2015 CMD investigation, “Charter School Black Hole,” uncovered how much the federal government has invested in charter schools, as well as the DoE’s ties to ALEC. As Beilke reported, a slide from the December 2015 DoE overview of its charter school program acknowledged that it had spent $3.3 billion to “fund the start-up, replication and expansion of public charter schools.” However, Beilke reported, “CMD was unable to extract this number from DOE despite inquiries and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests since 2014.” The actual figure may be higher, because the list of charter schools receiving DoE funding appears to have been incomplete. Overall, the DoE overview suggested that it functions as a “propagandist” for charter schools, Beilke wrote.

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‘Evicted’ probes the multiple dimensions of the housing crisis

BY YUTAKA DIRKS | OCTOBER 27, 2016 | rabble.ca

Illuminating a grave yet solvable human crisis

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Once bursting with well-paying jobs in the brewing and manufacturing industries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is now the second-poorest city in America. Over 170,000 people, including 41 per cent of the city’s African-American and 32 per cent of the city’s Hispanic residents, are living in poverty.

Between 2009 and 2011, one in eight Milwaukee residents were forced from their homes by eviction or foreclosure. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City tells their stories. Written by Matthew Desmond, now a Harvard sociologist, the book follows eight families, Black and white, who struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

The reader meets Arleen and her two boys, Jori and Jafaris, after their rented house is condemned as “unfit for human habitation” by the city. After several short stays in apartments across the inner city, she finds a duplex unit for $550 a month, 88 per cent of her welfare cheque. Desmond introduces us to other Black Milwaukeeans, mostly women, in similar straits, and recounts the stories of a smaller number of poor white residents facing eviction: people like Scott, a young nurse who lost his license when he was overtaken by his drug addiction.

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Iowans on their wages: ‘I’m not stupid or lazy. It’s just not there’

Mike Kilen | October 21 2016 | Des Moines Register

FORT MADISON, Ia. — After being laid off from her factory job in 2008, Becky Haage took a job at Dollar General.

She started out making $8.50 an hour and moved up to $11 an hour as an assistant manager, but says she knew that was as much as she could make at the retail job.

“Retail is almost sickening to me, how much corporate America makes and throws peanuts to their workers, who are working so hard,” she said. “So you just have to fight for yourself, is what it’s come down to.”

The anemic rise in wages over the past five decades is one factor stirring unease among voters as the Nov. 8 election nears.

In Iowa, wages for low- and middle-income workers have not increased as much as for high-income earners.

And Iowa workers have seen even slower wage growth than their counterparts across the country. In the past 35 years, their wages dropped to 81 percent of the U.S. average, while the cost for Iowans to purchase all goods and services is roughly 90 percent of the U.S. average, said economist Dave Swenson of Iowa State University.

In other words, it’s cheaper to live in Iowa, but average wages of about $42,000, which have increased only $2,300 in seven years, don’t necessarily cover living costs

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both supported spending on infrastructure to create jobs and a boost in the minimum wage — Clinton to $15 an hour and Trump to $10 — but they differ on other strategies to boost wages. Trump, the Republican nominee, supports cutting taxes and reducing costly regulations, while Clinton, the Democratic nominee, has promoted plans to grow the economy through investment in manufacturing and clean energy.

Some economists see recent signs of improvement, including last month’s Census Bureau national data that showed a 3.8 percent gain in real median household income in 2015.

That’s little comfort to employees like Haage, who has struggled to find better-paying work since her layoff eight years ago, amid the Great Recession, and now makes $11.50-an-hour at a Fort Madison factory.

The factory worker

“I’m not a genius. I haven’t gone to college,” Haage said. “But I’m not stupid or lazy. It’s just not there. Used to be, you work at a factory, and you have it made. With two of us working factory jobs, we should have it made. We don’t. We’re paycheck to paycheck.”

Both Haage, 41, and her husband, Dan Haage, 47, were laid off from factories in Missouri during the recession. They moved to Fort Madison four years ago with their three children.

She eventually left Dollar General for a temporary job at Silgan Containers, slipping plastic sleeves over can lids in the canning factory, for $11.50 an hour. Her husband found a job at a nearby factory starting at $20 an hour, and with union backing has been able to move up to $25 in the last four years.

“It’s not like we are starving, but we could be better off,” Becky Haage said.

They have student loans from when her husband returned to college after his layoff and are trying to buy a house on contract. The house needs a new roof, windows and a bathroom remodel.

Continue reading Iowans on their wages: ‘I’m not stupid or lazy. It’s just not there’

Somehow This Jarritos Ad Is the Most Unifying Moment of the Presidential Election

Zachary Harris | Oct 25, 2016 | FirstWeFeast

Video via Jarritos/YouTube

Packaged in brightly colored glass bottles, and available in almost every Mexican restaurant and grocery store from California to New York City, Jarritos has become a staple on soda shelves both in the U.S. and Mexico. Now, with a powerful new TV ad titled “The Journey,” the soft drink company is positioning itself as a voice in American politics, and a strong supporter of immigration reform.

According to Remezcla, the new commercial is directed by Diego Luna—the Mexican-born actor best known for films like Y Tu Mamá También, as well The Terminal and Milk—and takes viewers on a trip to America through the eyes of an immigrant.

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Blackstone’s Tony James Touting What Looks Like Hillary’s Scheme to Gut Social Security

Yves Smith | October 19 2016 | Naked Capitalism

Readers may recall that Bill Clinton planned to privatize Social Security in the second term of his Presidency. The Monica Lewinsky scandal derailed his plan.

As the Clintons knew, only a Democrat can dismantle Social Security. Hillary looks to be picking up where Bill left off. As David Sirota describes in a must-read story, Hillary is planning to introduce mandatory retirement accounts, a scheme that Hillary has mentioned in high concept form earlier. As details emerge, this “enrich Wall Street at the expense of everyone else” program is even more attractive to pet Democratic party constituencies than the 1.0 version of going after Social Security directly. No one in the Clinton or George W. Bush administration was so audacious as to cut in private equity and hedge funds in the way this variant would.

But Hillary, and her major advisor on the plan who is also on her short list of Treasury Secretary candidates, Blackstone CEO Tony James, are too adept to label these required savings accounts as a stealth replacement for Social Security.The plan, as described in Sirota’s article parallels the way the contributions are made now to Social Security, with both employers and employees required to put aside a percentage of payroll…but not in the form of Social Security taxes, but in individual retirement accounts that in turn are put in “pooled plans run by professional managers”.

If you look at James’ speech, what he is proposing sounds innocuous, a supposed additional 3% of worker savings. But that is a nearly 25% increase over what workers are paying into Social Security now. Moreover, most experts agree that to the extent that Social Security needs fixing (30 forecasts are fraught), some not very onerous tweaks would do the trick. First and foremost would be to eliminate the payroll tax ceiling.

Continue reading Blackstone’s Tony James Touting What Looks Like Hillary’s Scheme to Gut Social Security