Category Archives: Bud Meyers

Cut Defense Spending to Save Social Security, or Raise Taxes

by Bud Meyers, published April 4, 2015

Some people are saying we’ll need to either make cuts in defense spending or Social Security, and that those are our only choices if we don’t raise taxes. But with a GOP-dominated Congress, it won’t mean increasing revenues by raising taxes on those who are most able to afford an increase.

Even though the rich live longer than the rest of us, the Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson (like most Republicans) says we should raise eligibility ages for Social Security beneficiaries to reflect longer life expectancies, perhaps to 69 or 70. In other words, they want most of us “working stiffs” to work until the day we drop dead (most probably, while we’re still at work). That’s a very painless plan to implement — especially if you’re a member of Congress. According to Fact Check:

Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service. The amount of the pension depends on years of service and the average of the highest three years of salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.

These people, who want to raise our retirement age and cut our benefits, also get Social Security — but then again, they don’t pay this tax on 100% of their earnings — not like the bottom 97.7% of all other wage earners — because with a salary of $174,000 a year and a cap on Social Security taxes at $118,500 — members of Congress only pay this tax on 61.1% of their government taxpayer-paid salaries. Shouldn’t they lead by example?

Continue reading Cut Defense Spending to Save Social Security, or Raise Taxes

Inequality, Tax Breaks and Cement

by Bud Meyers, published on April 2, 2015

Some passages from some recent posts I read (The last link I find particularly interesting).

Economic Inequality: It’s Far Worse Than You Think (Edited from Scientific American)

Chris Rock said, “If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.”

The findings from three studies published over the last several years suggests that Chris Rock is right. Most people have no idea how unequal our society has become. The average American believes that the richest 20% own 59% of the wealth and that the bottom 40% own 9%.

Continue reading Inequality, Tax Breaks and Cement

Preying on the Ignorant

by Bud Meyers, published April 3, 2015

The Republican party’s leaders (and the conservative media) uses moral issues and religious beliefs to divide voters to push their economic agenda of taxation, government spending and worker’s rights — getting people to vote against their own best economic interests.

The Republican leadership knows that if someone believes birth control is immoral, and that abortion is murder (but that the death penalty is divinely sanctioned and perfectly justified), the voters will vote for Republicans, allowing them to lower tax rates on the rich, make cuts to food stamps for the poor, and pass labor union-busting laws — because for many Republican voters, that would be the lesser of two evils.

The Republican party uses wedge issues such as gay marriage, civil rights and immigration, (preying on homophobia, racism and bigotry) to divide the voters to get laws passed that primarily benefit the super-rich and the largest multi-national corporations. The Republican leadership will advocate old-fashion and superstitious beliefs (and sell snake oil if it could) to promote their economic agenda.

Continue reading Preying on the Ignorant

24 Million Long-term Unemployed are M.I.A.

by Bud Meyers, published April 1, 2015

First, let’s look at some numbers for a moment. They are just for last year — from December 2013 to December 2014.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 10.48.18 AM

We’ll be visiting those numbers again later in this post.

Currently nearly 3 million Americans —or about one-third of all of the jobless — have been out of work for over 6 months or longer. In past recessions, a far smaller share of the jobless had been out of work for so long.

In the last two years, seven states have reduced regular State benefits from 26 to 20 weeks (14 weeks in Florida and 15 weeks in North Carolina). During that time, federal extended benefits for the long-term unemployed were allowed to expire at the end of 2013. The unemployed will find little sympathy with a Republican legislator and/or Governor, even though the job market has not vastly improved since the Great Recession ended in June 2009 (despite what the mainstream media and the White House reports).

A Princeton University study last year (72-pages in PDF) showed that after 15 months, the long-term unemployed were more than twice as likely to have withdrawn from the labor force than the short-term unemployed. But if most of them weren’t ever rehired, then where did they all go?

Some found jobs. Most didn’t. Those over 62 may have taken Social Security retirements. And if someone had medical evidence of a disability (and was lucky enough to have had an empathetic judge), they may have went on disability.

Continue reading 24 Million Long-term Unemployed are M.I.A.

The Little People and the Estate Tax

by Bud Meyers, published March 29, 2015 (via The Economic Populist)

the-little-peopleThe GOP-dominated House Ways and Means Committee just voted to repeal the federal estate tax, which the Republicans, Libertarians and Tea Partiers have been labeling as a “death tax” that unfairly steals the family jewels from ordinary hard-working Americans.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the committee’s chairman, claimed: “This tax doesn’t just hit the big guy, it hits the little guy — like the small business and the family farm.” But as Congressman Jim McDermott, a Democratic member of the Ways and Means Committee, had pointed out, “You cannot call twenty-three-thousand acres a family farm.”

It should also be noted that when Republicans refer to “small businesses”, they aren’t talking about the local “five-and-dime” store or a “mom-and-pop” business — they mean hedge funds and private equity firms. These financial gurus are the people the GOP wants to lower business taxes for, not for the neighborhood deli. And the same applies to the estate tax.

The New Yorker: “The facts? The estate tax now applies only to inheritances valued at more than $5.4 million [$10.8 million for two parents]. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, about 0.2 percent of estates owed the estate tax.”

Continue reading The Little People and the Estate Tax

Job Polarization and Wages (A Visualization)

by Bud Meyers, published on March 29, 2015

Economists refer to “job polarization” in the labor force when middle-class jobs (requiring a moderate level of skills) appear to disappear relative to those at the bottom (requiring fewer skills) and to those at the top — requiring greater skills; or those who are better networked and know people in a position of influence. (Below is a simple animation to show how job polarization might look).

Latest wage data from the Social Security Administration for 2013 showed an annual median wage of $28,031 — and at 40 hours a week for 52 weeks would be $13.48/hour. But FiveThirtyEight.Com reports the median worker earned $17.09 an hour in May 2014 — or $35,547 for a typical full-time job.  Middle-Class Jobs Are Still Lagging (March 26, 2015 by Ben Casselman):

“As has been true for much of the nearly six-year-old recovery, hiring was strongest at the top and bottom of the pay scale. Overall, jobs at the extremes of the pay distribution — those where median pay falls in the top or bottom 20 percent of all occupations — have surpassed their prerecession peaks. Jobs in the middle 60 percent experienced slower growth and are still deep in negative territory … Some economists have argued that longer-term forces, particularly automation and outsourcing, are having a polarizing effect on the job market, with high- and low-skilled jobs growing as those in the middle disappear.”

Assuming (at very least) that $50,000 a year (before payroll taxes) is a true middle-class wage in 2015, then 72.7% of all wage earners make less than that today. If the middle-class were defined by individuals (not multiple-income households) who had incomes of between $50,000 and $100,000 a year, then less than 20% of all wage earners make a middle-class wage.

Continue reading Job Polarization and Wages (A Visualization)

Medicare Doc Fix is Fixed — Sort of — for Now

by Bud Meyers, published March 26, 2015 (via The Economic Populist)

The House overwhelmingly approved sweeping changes to the Medicare program (voting 392 to 37) which would establish a new formula for paying doctors and increasing premiums for Medicare beneficiaries.

The John Boehner-Nancy Pelosi measure would replace a 1997 formula that linked doctor pay to economic growth with a new one that is more focused on “quality of care and performance” by rewarding them for higher-quality work, rather than on the volume of their services.

According to Forbes (who isn’t happy with the plan):

“Medicare payments to doctors would rise by 0.5% in each of the next four years—a rate that is likely to be well below inflation. Then, payments would be frozen for the next six years. After that, physicians would get modest annual increases again. After 2019, doctors would receive financial incentives to participate in two alternative payment systems that would tie their compensation to performance. Potentially, this could improve the quality of care for seniors. That, in turn, could reduce their acute health episodes and hospitalizations and might even save Medicare money.”

Continue reading Medicare Doc Fix is Fixed — Sort of — for Now

The GOP’s Bloody Budget Axe

by Bud Meyers, published March 26, 2015

Unlike politically incorrect journalists in the mainstream media (including Fox News), one can’t accurately report on the GOP’s proposed bloody budget cuts — and then, just to appear non-partisan, say it’s “Congress” who’s proposing the cuts — when it’s the Republicans within Congress who are the ones proposing all these bloody budget cuts.

OK — maybe “bloody” might have been an unfair adjective to use. So instead, let’s use the word barbaric, bitter, brutal, brutish, callous, cold-blooded, cold-hearted, cruel, harsh, inhuman, immoral, grievous, harrowing, heartless, merciless, painful, pitiless, remorseless, ruthless, sadistic, savage, severe, traumatic, unkind or just plain vicious. There’s no other way to sugar-coat the facts.

President Obama, recently remarking on the GOP’s new budget proposals, said: “The budget that [the House Republicans] are putting forward and the theories they’re putting forward are a path to prosperity for those who have already prospered”.

As the New York Times had observed, “Obama cast Republicans as naysayers clinging to the idea of tax cuts for the wealthy financed by slashing programs for everyone else. Obama said that they were doubling down on trickle-down economics while pretending to care about the middle-class.” So finally, at least the President of the United States is no longer being politically incorrect (after years of playing nice and trying to “compromise” with Republicans).

But first, one question needs to be asked: Why do the Republicans always insist on passing legislation that they know Obama will always veto, rather than attempting to draft more palatable and bipartisan proposals — something that actually has a chance of passing — rather than grid-locking all government functions? Is it in the hope that something else (like an abortion amendment) might slip through the cracks when the Democrats aren’t paying attention or caught napping?

Continue reading The GOP’s Bloody Budget Axe

The Robots are Coming! The Robots are Coming!

by Bud Meyers, published March 20, 2015

I don’t believe that (in my lifetime at least) a robot will displace the bartenders at our local bars. But that’s not to say that one day (soon after I’m gone) it couldn’t happen. They say the Apollo computers that got our first man to the moon in 1969 had less computing power than our cell phones do today. But since that time, technology has incrementally been displacing a lot of middle-wage workers, and leaving a lot of low-paying jobs in their wake.

Robert Reich, the former secretary of labor, makes an interesting analogy: “Imagine a small box – let’s call it an iEverything – capable of producing everything you could possibly desire, a modern day Aladdin’s lamp. You simply tell it what you want, and – presto! – the object of your desire arrives at your feet. The iEverything also does whatever you want. It gives you a massage, fetches you your slippers, does your laundry and folds and irons it. The iEverything will be the best machine ever invented. The only problem is, no one will be able to buy it. That’s because no one will have any means of earning money, since the iEverything will do it all.”

Continue reading The Robots are Coming! The Robots are Coming!

Funky Media Hucksters: How does one “Re-enter” the Work Force?

by Bud Meyers, published March 19, 2015

[* Editors note: This could be considered “Part Two” or an “update” to a previous post I did on this subject.]

Bill Anderson, chief economist of Nevada’s Department of Employment says: “We are starting to see more people re-enter the labor force” — and that’s the reason why the Las Vegas unemployment rate jumped UP from 7.0 to 7.5 percent.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval also said the increase in the unemployment rate was “a reflection of more Nevadans re-entering the workforce and seeking suitable employment” — and that employers are “regaining confidence, and are steadily adding jobs to the economy”.

How does one determine that more people “re-entered” the labor market — either nationally, or on the state or city level? How does the government (or anyone) know that tomorrow, after being unemployed for the last 6 years, someone will wake up and start looking for a job — thereby, re-entering the labor market?

Continue reading Funky Media Hucksters: How does one “Re-enter” the Work Force?