Talk To Me
Ask anyone who knows me, I'd stop St. Peter's roll call to start a conversation. I'm a longtime Florida resident blessed with the gift of gab. Get settled behind your keyboard. Let's talk local, state and national and if that's not enough to get your fingers tapping, check out my satire.
Labels: weekend zen Labels: wealth tax Labels: social security Labels: weekend zen Labels: American Jobs Axt Labels: income disparity
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Back to School, Back to School
Three years ago, all heck broke loose over President Obama's to school children.
Wednesday afternoon, not one peep.
This year, the President extended his words of encouragement past the desks to those in front of the class.
"Now, teachers are the men and women who might be working harder than anybody. Whether you go to a big school or a small one, whether you attend a public, private, or charter school – your teachers are giving up their weekends and waking up at dawn. They’re cramming their days full of classes and extra-curriculars. Then they’re going home, eating some dinner, and staying up past midnight to grade your papers.
"And they don’t do it for a fancy office or a big salary. They do it for you. They live for those moments when something clicks, when you amaze them with your intellect and they see the kind of person you can become. They know that you’ll be the citizens and leaders who take us into tomorrow. They know that you’re the future.
Read the President's complete remarks here.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
To Be or Not to Be a Job Creator
I beat a path to the office printer several times a day.
After hitting print on my computer, I head up, punch in my access code and run my copies.
It's an irritating method to cut down costs, especially when the click count runs out mid-copy, the print request doesn't send from point A to point B (causing yet another trip back to point A) or the shoes worn to work that day aren't the best for the print power walk.
Most irritating of all is the laser printer that served me well all last year, now sits idle, just a simple reach back from my zebra office chair. Problem being, the print cartridge is empty and the school budget no longer covers the $140 price tag.
Therefore, I waste a lot of time trotting back and forth.
I passed by a gentleman on a recent midday run. He carried a bag full of print supplies--apparently offered at reduced costs to individual educators--and was headed to install print cartridges in other printers also sitting idle throughout the building.
A job created from the demands of the marketplace. In this case, his own small business.
Is a small business considered a "job creator" if only one job is created?
Economist Justin Wolfers--professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania--recently discussed the facts behind the political rhetoric associated with small business on NPR.
Wolfers observed that many small businesses are a one man or one woman show with no further ambition other than to bring home the bacon. No thought is given regarding the hiring of additional employees.
In other words, the printer guy is a job creator who creates no jobs.
Listen to the Wolfers interview in its entirety here.
Monday, September 26, 2011
Overheard Sunday at the Melbourne Main Street Fall Festival:
"All in the same weekend, the Buffalo Bills beat the Pats, Herman Cain wins the Straw Poll in Florida and a six ton satellite falls to Earth."
"The stars are not aligned as I thought they would be."
Discuss among yourselves.
Then come back and Talk to Me.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Money don't get everything it's trueBut what it don't get I can't use
I want money
That's what I want.
Money. That's What I Want.
The Flying Lizzards. 1979.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
How Troy Davis May Impact Gov. Rick Perry
What if an innocent man or woman is put to death?
Seven witnesses who gave testimony during the Davis trial have since recanted. Public servants associated with the case have come forward to ask Davis be granted a stay, haunted by the real possibility an innocent man is scheduled to be put to death, concerned the case is riddled with inconsistencies and procedural irregularities.
As the state of Georgia permitted the scheduled hour for execution to come and go, Barry Scheck, co-founder of The Innocence Project, discussed the freeing power of DNA with Hardball host Chris Matthews. DNA has exonerated many persons on death row, more than 130 people since 1976.
But also offered by Scheck during the interview was a review of due process that--when pursued with rigor--ensures the possibility of innocence vs guilt be visited and revisited and revisited yet again before a death sentence is carried out.
Coincidentally, also on Wednesday, the state of Texas carried out the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer, one of three men convicted for the dragging death of James Byrd. As expected, the conversation turned toward the Texas execution rate and Gov. Rick Perry's oft heard remarks about it's efficacy.
"The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required.
"But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."
Those words may come back to haunt Perry during his run for the GOP nomination for President.
The thoughtful clear Texas process of which Perry played a part may have absolutely sent an innocent man to his death.
Trial by Fire--written by David Grann for The New Yorker--details the conviction of Cameron Todd Willingham for the horrific death of his three children, who died in a house fire a jury determined was set by their father. As in the Davis case, glaring errors and a conviction based on "junk science" became evident years afterwards, but the process stopped at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, who declined to hear Willingham's case.
His last recourse was to appeal to Gov. Rick Perry for clemency.
Perry refused. "A spokesperson for Perry (said), “The Governor made his decision based on the facts of the case.”
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Financial Woes of Rep. John C. Fleming
John C. Fleming (R-LA) clears about $600,000 of his $6.2 million income.
After reinvesting $400,000 in his Subway and UPS franchises, he only has around $200,000 left to feed his family.
Once Fleming made the financial reveal during a recent interview, beginning teachers all over Brevard County rubbed forefingers against thumbnails in circular fashion, suggestive of a tiny record player playing "My Heart Bleeds for You." (Starting salary for a first year teacher is $36,000 annually).
Yet, I remain uncertain as to what family members Dr. Fleming is feeding (yes, he is also a physician) as his bio reads he has four grown children. Perhaps like the 8,000 grandparents in Brevard caring for their own grandchildren, it's possible Fleming and his wife contribute financially toward their own two grandkids.
His barely-able-to-make-it income certainly explains why the Heritage Foundation picked up the tab for Fleming's round trip to Charlottesville, Va and back to Washington DC made January 14-16, 2010.
Also listed on the Representative's 2011 personal financial disclosure: several rental properties, where I imagine the costs for upkeep and maintenance continually pull the green from the good doctor's hip pocket.
Guess we will never know for sure.
After the televised display of his total disconnect from Middle Class America, Fleming's not talking.
He's too busy dislodging his foot out of his mouth.
Register to read to good doctor's personal financial disclosure over at Legistorm.
Keeping in mind the poverty level for a one person family is designated as $10, 890, follow up with a review of salaries earned by the Subway employees. The average starting salary of an assistant store manager is $16,941.
These workers are just a single example of Americans who barely have enough left over after the bills are paid to feed their families.
Talk to Me.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
The Wealth Tax
"Rather than draconian cuts to Medicaid or Medicare, why not a wealth tax?"
"President Obama is right to insist on the "Buffett rule": Millionaires should not be paying income tax at a rate lower than their secretaries'. But correcting this inequity is only a small step toward fairness.
The more serious inequality problem facing the United States involves overall wealth, not just income. While the top 1% of Americans earned 21% of the nation's income, they owned a staggering 35% of the wealth in 2006-07, the most recent year for which statistics are available. We should be taxing that wealth directly, and not merely focusing on million-dollar incomes.
We propose a 2% annual wealth tax on households owning more than $7.2 million in net assets. Such a tax would target the 0.5% of Americans at the top of the pyramid, and would yield at least $70 billion a year. This calculation is based on Federal Reserve data that we have updated to take into account the recession's impact on housing and stock prices to 2009. Because we have used very conservative assumptions, the revenue yield could well be higher.
Obama's operational proposal for a "Buffett tax" is vague, so it's hard to predict how much it would raise. But our initiative would generate at least half the $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction that Congress' super-committee is aiming to achieve over the next decade. And the burden would fall on the Americans who have suffered least from the economic downturn.
There is more at stake than fairness. Our proposal would address a deeper issue. There comes a point at which extreme wealth concentration threatens the very existence of democracy, and we are reaching that point."
Read how the United States ranks as far as the degree of inequality in the distribution of family income over at the CIA.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Bill Clinton on Meet the Press
Former President Clinton met with Meet the Press moderator David Gregory on Sunday, September 18.
Enjoy my favorite highlights of that interview.
MR. GREGORY: ... First, let me get your response, however, to Leader McConnell. You warn now in this economic climate against cutting too much or raising taxes too much, either dealing with the long-term deficit or jump-starting the economy. What do you think is possible now when you hear what you just heard?
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: Well, I don't know. You know, I'm not in Washington, and I don't have a feel for it. I will say this, if you look at the independent economic analysis of the program the president outlined, a broad range of economists say that if it's adopted then, in 2012, GDP growth will be somewhere between 1.3 and 2 percent higher than it otherwise would be. Unemployment will drop a percent, maybe more than a percent lower than it otherwise would. Looks to me like that's a good thing for America.
But I, I doubt that the, that the Republicans want it to happen in 2012, but it's the right thing to do. This--the, the average family would get a $1500 tax cut. That would stimulate consumption. And the employers would get significant tax benefits to hire new people. So I think--and there'd be $50 billion more put out through the existing government channels for infrastructure projects, mostly to fix roads of all kinds, and they would seed an infrastructure bank at $10 billion and then get private investors, which the Republicans normally like, and even foreign investors could invest in this so we could grow the economy. So I thought it was a good plan that he outlined, and I still hope that quite a lot of it will pass because I think it would put Americans back to work.
MR. GREGORY: But you've heard Democrats who are concerned about the impact on taxes, raising taxes in this economy. That's the kind of sustenance that Republicans will feed on and say, "We just can't do it, and you've warned against it as well." Do you think there's too much emphasis on taxing the rich?
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: Well, first of all, I believe that the--that as you look at how we're going to balance this budget and get ahold of the debt over the long run, clearly everyone who's looked at it, all the bipartisan commissions--the one that Senator Domenici and Alice Rivlin held, the extremely good work done by Alan Simpson and Erksine Bowles and their commission--they all say you've got to have spending cuts and revenue increases and economic growth if you ever want to bring the budget back into balance. You have to have all three. And the least harmful tax increases are the ones that Senator McConnell and people who agree with him hate the most, and that is restoring the tax levels that existed when I was president for those of us in high income groups--levels. That's, that's the one that does the least harm. I agree we ought to have corporate tax reform. I agree that in this world, where there's a lot more competition for new manufacturing jobs, we've got to lower the rates and broaden the base. I think that I would support Senator McConnell's call for a, a reform of the individual income tax system. Right now we don't need to do what the Republicans want to do either, which is to cut a lot of government spending that is keeping the economy going. Right now, what we need to do is put Americans back to work, get growth growing, and then bring this debt down. And that's what I think. I think they ought to be cooperating, but conflict seems to be better politics. Cooperation's better economics.
MR. GREGORY: It would be malpractice on my part, Mr. President, if I didn't ask you about politics. You know a thing of two about political leadership and about how to get re-elected. So I have to show you what your good pal and old political hand, James Carville, is saying about this president and his troubles. I'll put it up on the screen.
"What should the White House do now?" he writes. "One word comes to mind: Panic.
"This is what I would say to President Barack Obama: The time has come to demand a plan of action that requires a complete change from the direction you are headed. Number one, fire somebody--No, fire a lot of people. This may be news to you but this is not going well."
What's going wrong for this president?
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: Well, first of all, he became president just a few months after the financial crash. Now, keep in mind, even before the financial crash, in the eight years before the financial crash, we had almost no new jobs. Only 10 percent as many as we had when I was president. Real family income was lower than it was the day I left office. The economy was weak as could be. Then you had this financial crash. Historically these things take five years to get over. And a year after the president took office, the final figures came in, and it turned out that the crash was even worse than anybody thought. So we don't feel fixed yet. And that's never good for an incumbent president. And Americans, there's no American live, except to people who are old enough to remember the Great Depression, there are not many of them, who remember what it's like to go through a financial crisis, which normally takes four to five years to get over. So he's got a very difficult hand to play.
But if you look at this proposal he's put forward to the American people and to the Congress, all the economic studies say that it will add basically 1.3 to 2 percent to GDP growth next year, it'll lower unemployment by 1 percent or more, it'll create a million to two million jobs. I think he's got a plan now. I think he's on the right track. And I, I think the poll numbers don't mean much now. Right now, he's out there running against himself and running up against the American people's disappointments and frustrations. Look, you--this is an agonizing time for millions of Americans, not just the unemployed, but the people who aren't in the figures because they've gotten so discouraged they quit looking for work, or the people in part-time jobs that need full-time jobs to support their families. So I, I, I think that this is all perfectly predictable and finally he's got a plan that he can push. And if he pushes it, the American people can make their own judgments about how the Congress responds and who's responsible from here on in.
MR. GREGORY: But should...
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: But I think he's got a--he's finally got a plan that people can gravitate to.
MR. GREGORY: Should he follow Mr. Carville's advice?
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: No, because he's got a good economic plan. I, I don't--you know, the president never does the country much good by panicking. I know what James meant. James meant that we need a political turn. But the truth is, what we need is to create a climate where the American people can think instead of just vote their frustrations. And as long as he's got a specific plan out there and the American people can evaluate it compared to what the Republicans want and see what they do, I think that politically that's the best you can do. He's been dealt a tough hand. And the, the American people are not used to waiting five years for anything good to happen, but that's what we're facing. And if you want to speed it up, we got to do things in the government. So now we've got--we're going to have a real debate with real specifics. I think that's encouraging. He's going to come out with his long-term deficit reduction plan. I think that's a good idea. But he's going to make clear that you can't balance the budget on the back of no growth.
MR. GREGORY: To that point, if unemployment does not come down significantly from 9.1 percent, you know the history, can this president be re-elected?
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: Yes, if people believe that he had a credible plan and the Republicans thwarted it, either because they were wrong or they just wanted to beat him. That's the problem they're facing. And I noticed a story in the press today saying that, that the House was going to offer to pass about 2 1/2 percent of what the president asked for, about 2 1/2 percent if the story in the paper's right. And if that's true, they put themselves in a perilous position. They are now opposing the payroll tax cuts that they have always been for. They had to figure out why they were against that. They're, they're against then for wanting to offset the cost of this with raising taxes on upper income people. If they don't want to do that now, they should say, "This is an emergency, and we'll just pass the tax cuts right now." It is an emergency.
FMR. PRES. CLINTON: They didn't have any problem at all for seven and a half years funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan off budget and doubling the debt of the country. And all of a sudden now they can't bear to spend a little money to give the average American a payroll tax cut and the average small business person a payroll tax incentive to hire new people. I think that, you know, we need to clarify the choices here and settle down.
Sharp ideology and all this stuff, that's been very successful politically, but it's lousy for economic policy making. If you look at the places that are really successful in America today--look at Silicon Valley, look at the, the computer simulation boom in Orlando and lots of other examples--they--in those places, without exception, you have cooperation between a vibrant private sector and a smart government. And cooperation is great for the economy, but it doesn't work as well politically. So we've got this big connect--disconnect between politics and economics; and, until we close it, we're going to have a hard time coming back.
View the interview in its entirety here.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
The Power of Union
I drove to work this morning in fairly good spirits, proud to be one payment shy of paying off a $30,000 obligation to Bank of America.
As on every Thursday, I tuned in WMMB 1240 to catch the conversation between host Bill Mick and FLORIDA TODAY Public Interest Editor Matt Reed.
My good mood quickly dissipated.
I'll let the podcast below speak for itself. (Marker 4:54 through the first break).
To his credit, Mick attempted to interject over Reed's surprising diatribe demeaning union power with a didn't they (the FEA) file a suit yesterday against merit pay?
Simple truth. The power of a union lies in the ability to organize as a single power. Membership dues pay for legal representation otherwise not afforded a single individual.
Florida is a right to work state. State and public employees are not required to unionize, but do benefit from legal challenges filed and won in the courts.
Therein lies the power of collective union.
"The Florida Education Association sued Wednesday to overturn a new state law ending teacher tenure and introducing merit pay based in large part on how students perform on standardized tests.
The lawsuit comes as thousands of school district employees have lost jobs across the state in recent weeks, as schools officials deal with a $1 billion cut in state funding by a Republican-ruled Legislature struggling with a feeble economy....
The new merit pay measure was approved in a party-line vote this spring and became the first bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.
That law violates constitutional collective bargaining guarantees, the state's largest teachers union contends in its lawsuit. Terms of employment are to be settled through negotiations between teachers and county school districts -- not state lawmakers, said Ron Meyer, attorney for the FEA, which filed the suit in Leon County Circuit Court on behalf of six school teachers.
"Collective bargaining requires an effective opportunity for the local teachers and the local school boards to sit down and discuss what's best for the school children in their local district," Meyer said. "It strains credulity to believe that the people in Tallahassee, over in the Capitol building, know better than the people on the ground in the school district as to what the needs are for public education.""
Here's the best part, well, besides the fact that the right to collective bargaining is protected by the Florida Constitution. (Article I, section 6 says the right to bargain collectively shall not be abridged or denied).
"...While lawmakers cast the changes as intended to reward high-performing teachers, the Legislature included no extra cash for school districts to hand out higher pay."
Honestly, I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
Read more about the FEA lawsuit over at the Palm Beach Post.
With ten lawsuits already filed against Guv. Rick Scott or his policies, hey, what's one more?
The FEA has filed suit challenging Scott's new Florida law requiring merit pay and ends what politicians incorrectly call "tenure" for new hires. Secondly, the law violates teacher rights to collective bargaining as held by the Florida Constitution.
Article I, section 6 says the right to bargain collectively shall not be abridged or denied.
Specifically, the FEA says the law prohibits the use of degrees in setting salary schedules in most instances, mandating base salary levels for performance salary schedules, and requiring school boards to release teachers with the lowest performance evaluations in times of staff cutbacks, among other complaints.
"These are all either denials or abridgements of this fundamental right that's provided in the Constitution," Meyer said.
Union officials said they will not ask for an injunction to halt the implementation of SB 736, as districts have already begun developing the new evaluation system as required by the new law. But they do want the state Department of Education to lift a Sept. 30 deadline for local districts to determine how those changes will be done.
The new evaluation system has been a sore point of contention for educators throughout the state. The problem being, expectations have not been made clear due to the rush by school districts to be in compliance with the state law. My own attempt at writing what is referred to as a PGP (Professional Growth Plan) remains stacked on the corner of my kitchen table. I no sooner get started, only to later learn some element has been added or changed.
One prong of the law remains crystal clear. To earn merit pay, a teacher must give up his or her contract and rejoin the ranks of those holding annual contracts. Fare poorly on the evaluation instrument for two years, teachers will be involuntarily stripped of their professional contracts without recourse.
Ironic isn't it, that for an anti-regulation Governor, Rick Scott doesn't think twice when regulating teachers.
Read the legal over at The Orlando Sentinel.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Two words that once upon a time no politician would ever say out on the Florida campaign trail without first bowing his or her head.
My, how times have changed.
University of South Florida political analyst Susan McManus notes that, even in the graying sunshine state, nearly half of the voters are now younger than 50. And she says many of them don't believe they'll be getting Social Security.
"It used to be in Florida, you didn't dare come in here and say anything negative about Social Security or Medicare," McManus says. "Now, of course, with the changing age demographic, it seems politicians that are willing to say something about Social Security's possible problems down the way may just get the attention of some of these younger voters."
The Cut Social Security war cry played well during the Republican Tampa debate as noted by the hooting, hollering Tea Party crowd.
Let's get passed the canned noise. Young people my kids age want an answer. Will Social Security be there for me?
But defenders say fears about Social Security's long-range finances are exaggerated.
"The reason younger Americans do not believe it will be there is there's been a drumbeat of people like Gov. Perry and others who've been saying for many years the system doesn't work," says Eric Kingson, co-director of the Strengthen Social Security campaign. "It's not going to be there. The fact is Social Security is quite sustainable [and] it requires very modest adjustments."
Indeed, the latest trustees' report says that even without any changes, Social Security could keep paying all of its bills for the next 25 years and fully three-quarters of what retirees expect after that. Kingson suspects Perry's real aim is to dismantle the program and discredit the politics of its creation. In his book, Perry calls Social Security a "a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal."
Read more about the Strengthen Social Security campaign here.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Rick Perry's biggest worry is not Mitt Romney.
It's the gentleman who stood to his left during last night's Tea Party Republican Debate--fellow Texan Rep. Ron Paul.
Paul does not let Perry get away with much, tearing into and stripping away the Texas governor's record at every chance, both as a competing candidate and a private citizen.
During a recent debate, Paul gave the viewing public a head's up on Perry's controversial decision to issue an 2007 executive order requiring sixth grade girls be vaccinated against the HPV virus, a sexually transmitted disease that is the leading cause of cervical cancer. The order did not include parental opt out.
Paul--a physician--called the decision "... bad medicine and bad social policy." (Perry's order was later overridden by the Texas legislature and the governor now rear view mirrors his decision as a "mistake").
Tonight in Tampa, Paul ripped into Perry gubernatorial record, ending with the quip: "I don't want to offend the governor because he might raise my taxes."
With Paul's first punch, the other candidates were all over Perry, all but proving a point made by the late (great) political commentator Molly Ivins.
"Good thing we've still got politics in Texas -- finest form of free entertainment ever invented."
Talk to Me.
Monday, September 12, 2011
102 Minutes that Changed America
For those who didn't catch 102 Minutes that Changed America--aired the evening of the tenth anniversary of 9/11--be sure to catch the documentary when rerun, when available on demand or better yet, watch online here.
People with on-hand access to video and camera equipment found themselves thrust into the position of citizen photojournalists, bearing and documenting witness to a day beyond all comprehension.
Viewer discretion is advised.
102 Minutes that Changed America
Friday, September 9, 2011
I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you.
Jimmy Durante. I'll Be Seeing You.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The American Jobs Act
Less than one hour from now, President Obama will address the American people with his plan to put America back to work.
President Obama is unveiling his $450 billion jobs plan Thursday night in a highly-anticipated speech to a joint session of Congress.
The American Jobs Act contains a blend of infrastructure spending, tax relief, unemployment assistance and other aid. All the proposals are paid for with spending cuts although the president isn’t expected to detail them until next week.
“There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation,” in an excerpt of his speech that was released ahead of his address. “Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by both Democrats and Republicans – including many who sit here tonight."
“The purpose of the American Jobs Act is simple: to put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of those who are working,” he said.
Obama is expected to speak for up to 45 minutes, beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
I'll be live-blogging through the President's address to our nation.
The President's speech in its entirety here.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Short Shorts Wednesday
Spotted over at The Recovering Politician--
- A Tampa, Fla. based Tea Party organization, The Tampa 912 Project, will begin offering Saturday morning classes for children. The Liberty School, as it is called, seeks to instruct its students in the principles of freedom and liberty in the context of the American experience and this country’s founding, and is run by an offshoot of Glenn Beck’s 912 Project, one of the first Tea Party groups. [St. Petersburg Times]
The New Republic asks "Why are the Children of the 'Greatest Generation' So Selfish?"
THE SIXTIES GENERATION, our generation, taught the world that much good can come from organizing groups in support of causes for the greater good. Somewhere along the way, the greater good has been ignored, while organizing for self-interest continues to have great success. The information age has made it much easier to organize, influence, and empower narrow self-interest groups.
Politicians, for their part, have always promised much more than they could deliver, but now it appears that something has changed. Political leaders on the left and right are finding it much harder to compromise, while those in the middle (think Senator Evan Bayh) lose interest in fighting a losing battle. Few people are aware that Ronald Reagan raised taxes more than 10 times, while welfare reform was accomplished under Bill Clinton. The downside of the communication age is to make it difficult for today’s politicians to close the doors and deal with each other for the greater good.
In the end, however, we remain optimists. Eventually, some leader will emerge who understands and can communicate that:
1. Free enterprise (with reasonable tax rates and limited regulation) produces the largest and fastest growing economic pie; and
2. Unless a vast majority of Americans have a stake in our economic system (some combination of safety net and equal opportunity), our political system will eventually undermine and emasculate our free enterprise economic system.
It is not too late. We need leaders willing to appeal to our best, not our worst, most selfish instincts. We must reject leaders from either political extreme who seek advantage by pitting one economic class against another. Our parents left us with the legacy of The Greatest Generation. It would be ironic for our generation, which has profoundly influenced social change for the greater good, to leave a legacy of self-centeredness that leads our nation to financial and social ruin. A bit of that self sacrifice that our parents showed would go a long way to ensure a different historical judgment.
Michele Bachmann has lost two members of her campaign staff. Well, call that one and half. Campaign Manager Ed Rollins has taken on a "reduced role".
“I am tired and am concerned about my health,” Rollins said. “Managing a campaign is tough for a young man, and I am 68 and battered by many years of campaign combat.” There was no word on who will replace him.
Read more over at The Washington Post.
And much to the dismay of organizations like the aforementioned Tampa 912 Project, President Obama continues to draw a crowd.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Sink or Swim
Very few discretionary dollars remained for unexpected expenses once the bills were paid. Yet, when I pulled out the plastic to pay for the latest car repair or emergency vet fee or home repair or simply to bridge the few bucks needed until pay day with a cash advance, I would remind myself that my salary was decent, my job was stable and my kids and I were so much more fortunate than others.
I earned a decent salary at a stable job. My family had medical, dental and vision insurance. How others were making it on far less without benefits was beyond my comprehension.
And although I refinanced the house at least twice, borrowed against my car and became way too familiar with consolidation loans, I convinced myself that the next raise would springboard me past the shadow of debt trailing me.
After all, I did everything the right way, heeding the advice of grandparents who had survived the Great Depression: graduated from college and graduate school in order to ascertain I would be capable of financial independence, bought a home, two sets of braces and Florida Prepaid College Plans for both kids, even managing to put a little away each month for retirement, an annuity from which I took a loan against more than once.
I was fooling myself.
My income was simply not keeping up.
Over the years, I've thought more than once that the middle class was sold a bill of goods.
But as the economy weakened and anyone and everyone who headed out to work everyday felt the disparity grip tighter than ever before, I knew something more dire, more orchestrated was at work and had been for some time.
I was correct.
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich offers his explanation for The Limping Middle Class.
THE 5 percent of Americans with the highest incomes now account for 37 percent of all consumer purchases, according to the latest research from Moody’s Analytics. That should come as no surprise. Our society has become more and more unequal.
When so much income goes to the top, the middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without sinking ever more deeply into debt — which, as we’ve seen, ends badly. An economy so dependent on the spending of a few is also prone to great booms and busts. The rich splurge and speculate when their savings are doing well. But when the values of their assets tumble, they pull back. That can lead to wild gyrations. Sound familiar?
The economy won’t really bounce back until America’s surge toward inequality is reversed. Even if by some miracle President Obama gets support for a second big stimulus while Ben S. Bernanke’s Fed keeps interest rates near zero, neither will do the trick without a middle class capable of spending. Pump-priming works only when a well contains enough water.
Look back over the last hundred years and you’ll see the pattern. During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income — as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977 — the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged. We created a virtuous cycle in which an ever growing middle class had the ability to consume more goods and services, which created more and better jobs, thereby stoking demand. The rising tide did in fact lift all boats.
During periods when the very rich took home a larger proportion — as between 1918 and 1933, and in the Great Regression from 1981 to the present day — growth slowed, median wages stagnated and we suffered giant downturns. It’s no mere coincidence that over the last century the top earners’ share of the nation’s total income peaked in 1928 and 2007 — the two years just preceding the biggest downturns.
Starting in the late 1970s, the middle class began to weaken. Although productivity continued to grow and the economy continued to expand, wages began flattening in the 1970s because new technologies — container ships, satellite communications, eventually computers and the Internet — started to undermine any American job that could be automated or done more cheaply abroad. The same technologies bestowed ever larger rewards on people who could use them to innovate and solve problems. Some were product entrepreneurs; a growing number were financial entrepreneurs. The pay of graduates of prestigious colleges and M.B.A. programs — the “talent” who reached the pinnacles of power in executive suites and on Wall Street — soared.
The middle class nonetheless continued to spend, at first enabled by the flow of women into the work force. (In the 1960s only 12 percent of married women with young children were working for pay; by the late 1990s, 55 percent were.) When that way of life stopped generating enough income, Americans went deeper into debt. From the late 1990s to 2007, the typical household debt grew by a third. As long as housing values continued to rise it seemed a painless way to get additional money.
Eventually, of course, the bubble burst. That ended the middle class’s remarkable ability to keep spending in the face of near stagnant wages. The puzzle is why so little has been done in the last 40 years to help deal with the subversion of the economic power of the middle class. With the continued gains from economic growth, the nation could have enabled more people to become problem solvers and innovators — through early childhood education, better public schools, expanded access to higher education and more efficient public transportation.
THE real reason for America’s Great Regression was political. As income and wealth became more concentrated in fewer hands, American politics reverted to what Marriner S. Eccles, a former chairman of the Federal Reserve, described in the 1920s, when people “with great economic power had an undue influence in making the rules of the economic game.” With hefty campaign contributions and platoons of lobbyists and public relations spinners, America’s executive class has gained lower tax rates while resisting reforms that would spread the gains from growth.
Yet the rich are now being bitten by their own success. Those at the top would be better off with a smaller share of a rapidly growing economy than a large share of one that’s almost dead in the water.
Moreover, an economy is not a zero-sum game. Even the executive class has an enlightened self-interest in reversing the trend; just as a rising tide lifts all boats, the ebbing tide is now threatening to beach many of the yachts. The question is whether, and when, we will summon the political will. We have summoned it before in even bleaker times.
We meaning all of us as one people from all walks of life working together towards our own definition of The American Dream.
Talk to Me.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Florida Sightings: Last One In
My name is Sheree.
I'm a Bad TV Addict.
As my mind swims all day treading the difficulties brought by others into the public school system, I imagine my addiction waterwings my everyday reality via view of the produced "reality" of the world of others, acting as sort of a stress reducer.
TV reality problems always appear so much more difficult than my own.
A recent viewing of Celebrity Rehab featured the follow-up recovery segment of several infamous personalities, one who was the Casey Anthony of her time almost twenty years ago.
Part of her post-recovery plans included ending a lucrative adult film career and the sale of her California home, followed by a move to Florida, a decision--in my opinion--reminiscent of diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool.
Privacy here in the Sunshine State is all but nonexistent for the majority of Floridians, excluding of course, those members of Florida Guv. Rick Scott's "deleting emails" transition team.
I found myself treading water between my reality and hers. Why in the world would she move here?
FT Sunday Debater Charles Parker cannonballed the answer home via his column Lower rate will spur economic growth (8/3/11).
Simply, "Florida has no state income tax..."
And Florida is so much more warmer than her northern no-state-income-tax sister, New Hampshire.
The celebrity is not the first to enjoy the tax benefits enjoyed by Florida's wealthy.
Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge and Bill Maher all call South Florida home.
Proving once again, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
(Wishes towards successful recovery to all persons battling an addiction, one day at a time).
Friday, September 2, 2011
Labels: weekend zen
Labels: wealth tax
Labels: social security
Labels: weekend zen
Labels: American Jobs Axt
Labels: income disparity