Tag Archives: Truth

The Politics of Division

I don’t think anyone would deny that the country is very divided on a number of political issues.  The odd thing is this, I can talk to my liberal friends and my conservative friends, and this “gap” in general viewpoints is really pretty small on most matters.  So, what’s the deal?

For the past several election cycles, both major parties have hit hard on dividing people, usually on ideological social policy issues.   Using the vast power of all forms of media, they have convinced the public that these are huge issues, that the people should be divided over them, and that the point of view held on the issues defines what party you should vote for.  They have even convinced most voters that this handful of issues are more important than going to war or ballooning the deficit to give select portions of the populous, the 1%ers, a huge tax break.

Why?  By polarizing the country on such issues, and by screaming about them, they beat the drums to get their voters, their “believers,” out to the poles to vote for them.  They drive the heard.  And then once elected, if you have noticed, neither party tries to eliminate these issues or solve them politically.  Why?  Because they need them for the next election cycle.

Abortion, gay or transgender rights, and immigration are three primary examples.  Of course, guns are in the mix too.  Looking at abortion for an illustration, under the second Bush administration, there was a four to five-year block (2003-2007) where the Republicans had control of all three branches of government.  Both houses of Congress, the White House, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Yet, they didn’t outlaw abortion, or even try to, although they claim that as one of their party’s major platforms.  They had the power to do that, but they would not have been able to use this issue in the next election cycle if they made it go away.  The Democrats, equally, play the same game.  Amazing how there is no “solution” for immigration, or was there ever really a problem to begin with?

They manipulate these issues, and the people, to get votes on issues they do not intend to fix.  Once in power, they follow their own agenda, which is usually doing things to help out their biggest campaign contributors and, of course, themselves.

The problem for the politicians that I don’t believe they saw coming, is they were too successful.  They have truly divided the country in ways that now threaten the existence of democracy.

Fear-mongering with false information is a primary tactic used to divide.  Beating the drum of White, European, Christian Nationalism is perhaps the scariest tactic I’ve seen of late.  Things are getting really ugly.  The flaming I see on the Internet is shocking.  We’ve had violence in the streets.  We have threats on the free press.

The government is militarizing the police, not just because criminals are using more advanced weapons, but because they are preparing for civil unrest.  If this purposely generated division spills into too much street violence, beware of Martial Law.

In the background of this purposely orchestrated hatred, the wealthy just received a huge tax cut at the cost of ballooning the deficit by 1.4 trillion dollars – even though 78% of the public opposed it.  Congress also just gutted the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Again, to benefit business interests over people.  It’s rolling back environmental regulations, allowing short-term corporate profits to take precedence over poisoning the planet and the people.  Wow!  You see, the dial hasn’t moved either way on abortion, immigration or guns – the issues people think they are voting on.  Once in office, the politicians ignore the public’s wishes completely and give themselves and corporate America huge payouts.

I could list out more issues in detail and offer data now, but I’ll save that for some individualized posts.  I realize people can have strong views on many issues, but I’d ask people to really stop and analyze situations and contexts, not just issues in isolation.  Examine how those in power might be manipulating.  I never expect complete agreement on such controversies, but I do appreciate civility and intelligent thought and discussion.  I like to have my thinking challenged.  It is even good for all of us to be proven wrong on occasion – just to get our minds to open.

Enlightenment comes in many forms.  Hating or vilifying others because they believe differently is not one of them.  We must learn to think, analyze, converse and compromise.  We can’t let sound bites, buzzwords and incendiary catch phrases divide and conquer.  The nation is stronger united.

***

Broken

** My prose was just published in The Urban Howl under the title: “I am Broken – Only to be Reintegrated Anew.”  It is wonderful to be a part of this inspiring publication !

 

I am broken.

Not in a bad way.

Not in a way that needs to be “fixed.”

Mangled, crushed, fragmented, contorted, pulverized, disintegrated,

But only to be reintegrated anew.

 

It has happened before.

So many times no memory can capture.

 

I do not wish to lose what is unique and pure,

The spark.

There are parts of light and wisdom I wish to regain,

Once held,

Having slipped away,

Under the continual weight of the illusion surrounding us.

Stripped away by those that try to consume us,

To break our hearts,

To kill our spirits.

 

No one is coming to rescue us.

No clichés with meaning can solve any problems.

No platitudes of value provide any answers.

No therapist can fix such fractures.

 

But there is within us a type of magick that can be reached,

If we can find it.

To break out, cut free, re-form, start again,

With clarity of vision,

Led by heart and soul.

 

And not waste a second but,

Instead,

Living every moment here and now. . .

***

 

Photo:  Some cottonwood trees stretch to the sky and the photo editor turns it surreal 🙂

“Angel Dusting”

I remember when all employment practices, like hiring, firing, policy formation, etc., were handled in the “Personnel” office.  And then the wave of new management-speak began and the name was changed to “Human Resources.”  My colleagues and I were quite offended.  To us, we had gone from being “persons” to “resources.”  Just another log to throw on the corporate fire to be burned out, burned up, and our ashes discarded.

Then all of us employees became “Human Capital.”  Now management was using banking terms to describe people.  This was, perhaps, a little better in that the connotation was that employees were an “investment.”  This term evolved when employers realized half of their workforce was getting ready to retire, and they needed to invest in new logs to burn.  Some employers may have actually valued the loss of institutional knowledge that was going to be exiting when all those bodies walked out the door, never to return.  I can’t say for sure.  The places I’ve worked always seemed to value replacing long-term employees with unskilled cheaper ones.

I always love it when new terms like this are coined.  Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they are bad, but they are almost always entertaining because those creating the new terminology don’t always understand the messages they are conveying.  But I also love it because I can see other applications of the new phrase.  That’s where some of the real fun begins.

The one I heard yesterday was “Angel Dusting.”  And I absolutely love this one, seriously.  The context in which it was applied was in the way manufacturers of body-care products mask the toxins they are conning us into spraying on ourselves.  Or maybe “masking” is not the proper term, maybe “hyping” is better.  You see, these manufacturers put all forms of toxic compounds in things like lipstick, body wash, fragrances, sun screen, shaving cream; you name it.  Beauty products manufacturers don’t even have to disclose what all is in their concoctions and potions. They get to hide the bulk of their ingredients in the name of preserving “trade secrets.”  Tune in to the Heavy Metals Summit if you’d like to learn more about these toxins.

The “Dusting” occurs when the companies add a dash of vitamin A or E, or oatmeal, or vanilla, maybe an essential oil, and even yogurt.  But that’s all they add – a dusting.  These additives are in such small quantities that they have no beneficial value at all.  It’s a great marketing ploy, and it steers you away from all the bad stuff in there like parabens, synthetic colors, undefined fragrance, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde, and toluene.  Check out this article: “10 Toxic Beauty Ingredients to Avoid.”

The connotation of “Angel Dusting” is that they give just a minute amount of the good, to get you see past or accept the huge quantity of bad.  And, I can see this term being applied in all sorts of situations.

How many of us have put up with an extremely bad job, or bad boss because of the small perks that come around every once in a Blue Moon.  Or personal relationships.  They could even be abusive relationships, but we get a “dusting” of good, just enough to keep us holding on.  Believing that things are all right or that they will get better.  Flowers after a verbal or physical assault.  Promises of treating us better, of respecting our needs or desires.  The narcissist that dominates and controls while gaslighting you (another fun term) into believing they are the nice, sane partner in the relationship.  All the while, we are being poisoned.  Having the energy drained from our bodies, our spirits crushed.

Perhaps it’s a phony spiritual leader, dusting us with promises of acquiring wealth, happiness and spiritual union, all for a donation of $99.99.  The language sounds so sweet, so believable.  There are testimonials from saved souls – more dusting phonies on the payroll.

How about legislation that is named in the opposite of what it actually does.  My favorite is the Patriot Act.  It allows highly questionable government intrusion into personal privacy, basically violating constitutional rights in exchange for a mere dusting of the idea of increased security.  Maybe it has worked in small measure, but at what cost to liberty – but angelically, you are a “patriot.”

Unfortunately, it takes time for the toxicity to increase to the point where we finally realize we are poisoned.  Detoxing is extremely difficult and the long-lasting effects of the toxins can be catastrophic.

In terms of environmental pollutants this can lead to the devastation of entire landscapes, displacement of families, and the need for Superfund cleanups.

In terms of personal exposure to toxic chemicals, it can manifest as autoimmune diseases, severely impairing the quality of life and leading to early mortality.

In terms of spirituality, well just remember Jim Jones, Jonestown in Guyana, and the poison Kool-Aid.

In terms of lawmaking or executive action, it can be when we realize the action taken was all to benefit a special interest at the expense of everyone else – the public treasury already raided, billions of tax-payer monies gone, like the banking bailout.  Too big to fail, right?

In terms of relationships, it can destroy trust and self-esteem and set us up for a life of loneliness and alienation – and that’s if the poisoning was mental.  Physical abuse, perpetuated and repeated with doses of retaining Angle Dust, can be fatal.  The victim wasn’t able to escape in time.

“Angel Dusting.”  What a concept.  A way to profit off of poisoning the healthy by adding a minuscule speck of honey to entrap us . . .  I bet you can think of some more applications of this term.

***

Photo:  A beautiful lake in northern Montana.  It was one of the most amazing places I’ve visited.

Balance

I’ve noticed on social media that the hosts are doing things to try to keep their participants engaged.  It makes sense, there is so much going on and we all can’t be tweeting, linkingin, facebooking, instagraming, blogging, emailing, texting, etc., all at the same time. There simply isn’t enough time in the day; at east not if you expect to take a deep breath once and a while, or keep your life in balance.

When I lapsed in making posts on Twitter they began sending me summaries of my followers’ tweets.  I guess to try to pull me back into interacting on their forum.  “Come back, come back,” they cried.  They probably have advertising dollars at interest – more viewers, more money for them.  Sorry, that’s the cynic in me.

On LinkedIn, I suddenly began receiving notifications called “Daily Rundown.”  Now these I actually like, because they give brief synopses of trending news stories in the business world.  You can skim them fast and be on your way.  And, two of these posts caught my attention in the past couple of days.

First, I learned that: “The world got a new billionaire every two days last year — a new record, according to a report from Oxfam International. Wealth is “increasingly concentrated” at the top, the charity says, with 82% of money generated last year going to the richest 1%. The world’s 2,043 billionaires saw wealth surge $762 billion in 2017, and billionaire wealth has grown an average 13% per year between 2006 and 2015.”

Second, in America: “We don’t have a shortage of jobs, but we might have a shortage of employers — and that could explain why wages aren’t rising. Hourly pay, adjusted for inflation, has grown by a meager 0.2% a year since the early 1970s. A group of economists argue in a working paper that limited competition between employers — due to mergers and other forms of industry consolidation — may be a prime culprit, reports Slate. The economists found that, between 2010 and 2013, local job markets were dominated by a disconcertingly small number of employers. It’s called a monopsony: A situation where a company is pretty much the only game in town, giving them major sway over suppliers, business partners, and employees.”

So it seems that 1% of the people world-wide control 82% of the world’s entire wealth, and their wealth grows at the current rate of 13% every year.  And I’m not sure what wages look like in other countries, but in America, wages have only been growing at the rate of 0.2% a year for the past almost 50 years – that’s 10% growth over 50 years.  Wow!  What a disparity.  Things certainly seem out of balance, especially from a socioeconomic humanitarian point of view.

It seems, at least in some circles, there is more concern for consolidating individual wealth and power than there is for helping our fellow humans or contributing to the growth of community.

I remember back to my senior year of nursing school.  I was in a professional development course and the topic was centered on socioeconomics and health.  I don’t remember how the conversation started but I remember adding that I would be willing to lower my standard of living to help improve the standard of living of others.  The instructor asked the class if anyone else agreed with me.  Not a single student raised their hand.  And perhaps there is an illustration of the problem.  I don’t blame the individuals, it is the way people are socialized and the values they are taught.

We can all do things, even small things, to help achieve balance.  Balance in ourselves, balance between work and home, balance between taking and giving.  While certainly not in all sectors, the scales seem to have tipped away from humanitarianism.

Thoughts?

***

Photo:  From a Japanese Garden in Idaho.

Update: Some new numbers to mull over, but I wouldn’t let the numbers get you down.  I put a premium on happiness and peace of mind.  They aren’t measuring these when they take these surveys.

From LinkedIn this morning (Jan. 27th, 2018) – a success survey to show what Americans think defines “Making It.” “For the average American, the picture of success is about $150,000 in annual income, marriage, a couple kids, a 10-minute commute, and a generous amount of vacation time, reports MarketWatch, citing survey data from ThermaSoft.”

Last time I checked the average income for a family of four was around $50K, but that number included benefits. And over half of Americans had only $1000 or less in savings. It looks like the materialistic brainwashing is way out of step with reality, or basically, very few people are “Making It.”

From the article: “This is what success looks like to the average American” in MarketWatch.

Making It Graph

Another Update – March 11, 2018: We now have a dollar amount of what equates to “happiness.” It apparently takes earnings of $60 to $75k a year to be “happy.” But you have to earn $95K to achieve “fulfillment.”  See the full article: “How Much Money Do You Need To Be Happy? More Than Most People Are Making.” Again, I don’t believe happiness is measured in terms of material wealth, but we do live in a society that does.

Another Update – March 15, 2018: I try to keep updating this post with relevant material and another piece of the puzzle came along today.  This one is about health care and what happens to our income if we need to be hospitalized.  I’m quoting from the article “Getting Sick Can Really be Expensive, Even for the Insured.”  “On average, people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years. Over all, income losses dwarfed the direct costs of medical care.”  Also:  “A 2015 survey conducted by The Upshot and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, among people struggling to pay medical bills, 29 percent said their illness or injury had led to a drop in household income.” It seems, the US is behind other advanced countries that offer some form wage insurance.  Since the leading causes of bankruptcy in this country are divorce and a single serious illness, medical treatment represents a huge factor in individual wealth and security.  A healthy lifestyle and insurance goes along way to help maintain economic “balance.”  These are strong arguments for a universal health care program.

Update – March 26, 2018: The average Wall Street bonus in 2017 was $184,220, according to the Washington Post.  This represents a 17% increase from the previous year.  It is also the closest the industry has come to its pre-2008-crisis high of $191,360 in 2006, according to data from the New York State comptroller. The financial industry’s revenue increased 4.5% last year to $153 billion. Wall Street accounts for less than 5 percent of local jobs but 20 percent of private sector wages in the city.

Update – May 17, 2018: I think this study sums up something I’ve been saying for a very long time.  The stock market is not an actual measure of the wealth of the average American.  Historic stock market highs only mean a few selective people are getting wealthy.  The study found that 34.7 million working U.S. households live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses.  That is double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty.  “These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full time.”

You can find the summary of the results of the study here: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics, and the full report here: Do You Know Alice?  As with all web links, they are subject to “link rot” and the article may not be there forever.  “Alice,” by the way, stands for “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.”

Update – May 23, 2018: Well the economic data just keeps coming.  This time it is from the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017.  I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves, but it looks as though few Americans are going to be able to afford retirement.

Economic Well-Being

A large majority of individuals report that financially they are doing okay or living comfortably, and overall economic well-being has improved over the past five years. Even so, notable differences remain across various subpopulations, including those of race, ethnicity, and educational attainment.

• When asked about their finances, 74 percent of adults said they were either doing okay or living comfortably in 2017—over 10 percentage points more than in the first survey in 2013.

• Individuals of all education levels have shared in the improvement over the past five years, though the more educated still report greater well-being than those less educated.

• Over three-fourths of whites were at least doing okay financially in 2017 versus less than two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics.

• Three in five urban residents describe the economy in their local community as good or excellent versus two in five rural residents who offer this positive of an assessment of local conditions.

The latest SHED interviewed a sample of over 12,000 individuals—roughly twice the number in prior years—with an online survey in November and December 2017. The anonymized data, as well as a supplement containing the complete SHED questionnaire and responses to responses to all questions in the order asked, are also available at http://www.federalreserve.gov/ consumerscommunities/shed.htm.

In an effort to understand how the opioid crisis may relate to economic well-being, the survey asked questions related to opioids for the first time. About one-fifth of adults (and one-quarter of white adults) personally know someone who has been addicted to opioids. Exposure to opioid addiction was much more common among whites—at all education levels—than minorities. Those who have been exposed to addiction have somewhat less favorable assessments of economic conditions than those who have not been exposed.

Income

Changes in family income from month to month remain a source of financial strain for some individuals. Financial support from family or friends is also common, particularly among young adults.

• Three in 10 adults have family income that varies from month to month, and 1 in 10 adults experienced hardship because of monthly changes in income.

• Nearly 25 percent of young adults under age 30, and 10 percent of all adults, receive some form of financial support from someone living outside their home.

Employment

Most workers are satisfied with the wages and benefits from their current job and are optimistic about their future job opportunities. Even so, challenges, such as irregular job scheduling, remain for some. Three in 10 adults work in the “gig economy,” though generally as a supplemental source of income.

• Less than one-fifth of non-retired adults are pessimistic about their future employment opportunities, although pessimism is greater among those looking for work or working part time for economic reasons.

• One-sixth of workers have irregular work schedules imposed by their employer, and one-tenth of workers receive their work schedule less than a week in advance.

• For many, stability of income is valued highly. Three-fifths of workers would prefer a hypothetical job with stable pay over one with varying but somewhat higher pay. Those who work an irregular schedule in their actual job are somewhat more likely to prefer varying pay in the hypothetical choice than those who work a set schedule.

• Three in 10 adults participated in the gig economy in 2017. This is up slightly from 2016 due to an increase in gig activities that are not computer or internet-based, such as child care or house cleaning.

Dealing with Unexpected Expenses

While self-reported financial preparedness has improved substantially over the past five years, a sizeable share of adults nonetheless say that they would struggle with a modest unexpected expense.

• Four in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. This is an improvement from half of adults in 2013 being ill-prepared for such an expense.

• Over one-fifth of adults are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full.

• Over one-fourth of adults skipped necessary medical care in 2017 due to being unable to afford the cost.

Banking and Credit

Access to bank accounts expanded further in 2017. However, substantial gaps in banking and credit services exist among minorities and those with low incomes.

• Nearly 95 percent of all adults have a bank or credit union account. However, this varies by race and ethnicity. One in 10 blacks and Hispanics lack a bank account, and an additional 3 in 10 have an account but also utilize alternative financial services, such as money orders and check cashing services.

• One-fourth of blacks are not confident that a new credit card application for them would be approved—twice the rate among whites.

Housing and Neighborhoods

Satisfaction with one’s housing and neighborhood is generally high, although notably less so in lower income communities. Renters face varying degrees of housing strain, including some who report difficulty getting repairs done or being forced to move due to a threat of eviction.

• While 8 in 10 adults living in middle- and upper income neighborhoods are satisfied with the overall quality of their community, only 6 in 10 living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are satisfied.

• Nearly half of adults age 22 and older currently live within 10 miles of where they lived in high school, but those who have moved farther from home are more likely to be satisfied with the overall quality of their neighborhood.

• Three percent of renters were evicted or moved because of the threat of eviction in the past two years.

Higher Education

Economic well-being rises with education, and most of those holding a postsecondary degree think that attending college paid off. The net benefits of education are less evident among those who started college but did not complete their degree; the same is true among those who attended for-profit institutions.

• Two-thirds of graduates from bachelor’s degree programs feel that their educational investment paid off, but less than one-third of those who started but did not complete a degree share this view.

• Just over half of those who attended a for-profit institution say that they would attend a different school if they had a chance to go back and make their college choices again. By comparison, less than one-quarter of those who attended not-for-profit institutions would want to attend a different school.

Student Loans

Over half of college attendees under age 30 took on some debt to pay for their education. Most borrowers are current on their payments or have successfully paid off their loans, although those who failed to complete a degree and those who attended for-profit institutions are more likely to have fallen behind on their payments.

• Among those making payments on their student loans, the typical monthly payment is between $200 and $300 per month.

• Nearly one-fourth of borrowers who went to for-profit schools are behind on their loan payments, versus less than one-tenth of borrowers who went to public or private not-for-profit institutions.

Retirement

Many adults feel behind in their savings for retirement. Even among those who have some savings, people commonly lack financial knowledge and are uncomfortable making investment decisions.

• Less than two-fifths of non-retired adults think that their retirement savings are on track, and one-fourth have no retirement savings or pension whatsoever.

• Three-fifths of non-retirees with self-directed retirement savings accounts, such as a 401(k) or IRA, have little or no comfort in managing their investments.

• On average, people answer fewer than three out of five basic financial literacy questions correctly, with lower scores among those who are less comfortable managing their retirement savings.

Update – May 28, 2018: A new survey by the Pew research center that examined issues facing rural and urban households found many similarities.  A couple of the interesting responses are that some 60% of the respondents say they cannot afford the life they want, and that workers across all areas in the US have seen their wages drop by 1 to 3%.  You could compare that with the wage stagnation cited above when I made the original post.  The Pew report is here:

Five charts prove urban and rural Americans have the same problems

Update – June 24, 2018:  Home prices and mortgage rates have outpaced wages so fast that now 75% of US wage earners cannot afford the median price of a home, which has risen to a record $264,800.

U.S. Homes Prices Least Affordable in Almost a Decade

Update – August 12, 2018: The 2018 World Inequity Report

So here are some of the take-aways from this report with respect to the U.S.

2.4 Income inequality in the United States

Information in this chapter is based on the article “Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States,” by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman, forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics (2018).

Income inequality in the United States is among the highest of all rich countries. The share of national income earned by the top 1% of adults in 2014 (20.2%) is much larger than the share earned by the bottom 50% of the adult population (12.5%).

Average pre-tax real national income per adult has increased 60% since 1980, but it has stagnated for the bottom 50% at around $16 500. While post-tax cash incomes of the bottom 50% have also stagnated, a large part of the modest post-tax income growth of this group has been eaten up by increased health spending.

Income has boomed at the top. While the upsurge of top incomes was first a labor-income phenomenon in 1980s and 1990s, it has mostly been a capital-income phenomenon since 2000.

The combination of an increasingly less progressive tax regime and a transfer system that favors the middle class implies that, even after taxes and all transfers, bottom 50% income growth has lagged behind average income growth since 1980.

Increased female participation in the labor market has been a counterforce to rising inequality, but the glass ceiling remains firmly in place. Men make up 85% of the top 1% of the labor income distribution.

Income inequality in the United States is among the highest of rich countries
In 2014, the distribution of US national income exhibited extremely high inequalities. The average income of an adult in the United States before accounting for taxes and transfers was $66 100, but this figure masks huge differences in the distribution of incomes. The approximately 117 million adults that make up the bottom 50% in the United States earned $16 600 on average per year, representing just one-fourth of the average US income. As illustrated by table 2.4.1, their collective incomes amounted to a 13% share of pre-tax national income. The average pre-tax income of the middle 40%—the group of adults with incomes above the median and below the richest 10%, which can be loosely described as the “middle class”—was roughly similar to the national average, at $66 900, so that their income share (41%) broadly reflected their relative size in the population. The remaining income share for the top 10% was therefore 47%, with average pre-tax earnings of $311 000. This average annual income of the top 10% is almost five times the national average, and nineteen times larger than the average for the bottom 50%. Furthermore, the 1:19 ratio between the incomes of the bottom 50% and the top 10% indicates that pre-tax income inequality between the “lower class” and the “upper class” is more than twice the (1:8 ratio) difference between the average national incomes in the United States and China, using market exchange rates.

Income is very concentrated, even among the top 10%. For example, the share of national income going to the top 1%, a group of approximately 2.3 million adults who earn $1.3 million on average per annum, is over 20%—that is, 1.6 times larger than the share of the entire bottom 50%, a group fifty times more populous. The incomes of those in the top 0.1%, top 0.01%, and top 0.001% average $6 million, $29 million, and $125 million per year, respectively, before personal taxes and transfers.

As shown by Table 2.4.1, the distribution of national income in the United States in 2014 was generally made slightly more equitable by the country’s taxes and transfer system. Taxes and transfers reduce the share of national income for the top 10% from 47% to 39%, which is split between a one percentage point rise in the post-tax income share of the middle 40% (from 40.5% to 41.6%) and a seven percentage point increase in the post-tax income share of the bottom 50% (from 12.5% to 19.4%). The trend is also of relatively large proportionate losses in income shares as one looks further up the income distribution, indicating that government taxes are slightly progressive for the United States’ richest adults.

Update – August 19, 2018: This one is on CEO compensation, and it comes to us from Pacific Standard and their article titled: “CEOs Got a Big Raise in 2017.”  We can sum this one up with a few quotes from the article.

“In 2017, the ‘average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the United States received $18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6 percent increase over 2016,’ the report states. (By another measure, which includes stock options granted, average CEO compensation rose from $13.0 million in 2016, to $13.3 million in 2017.)”

“Between 1978 and 2017, CEO compensation (including stock options realized) increased by 1,070 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute report. During this same time period, compensation for the typical American worker increased by 11.2 percent.”

“Today, as a result of this surge, the average CEO’s compensation (including stock options realized) is 312 times that of the typical worker, a ratio that’s dramatically higher than the 1980s (although still not quite as high as in 2000).”

“The Trump administration maintains that wage growth for average Americans will come, although even fans of the tax reform legislation suggest it may not be ‘immediate.’ In a report released yesterday, the Tax Foundation, a center-right think tank whose modeling of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s effects has typically been more optimistic than most other models, projected that long-term wages will increase by 1.5 percent. Nicole Kaeding, the Tax Foundation’s director of federal projects, told the Washington Post that they ‘definitely think it’s going to take a few years for this to obviously manifest.'”

So there you have it.  The CEOs win the lottery every year while the average wage earner’s income can’t even match inflation.

Update – December 18, 2018: Even rent is becoming unaffordable and contributing to the growing housing crisis. “Since 2001, gross rent has increased 3 percent a year, on average, while income has declined by an average of 0.1 percent annually, falling from $56,531 in 2001 to $56,516 in 2015.  This widening gap between rent and income means that after paying rent, many Americans have less money available for other needs than they did 20 years ago.” See the PEW research article American Families Face a Growing Rent Burden for more.

Update – January 27, 2019: I came across two articles of interest today.  One discusses how the super-rich are becoming younger, not by working and earning wealth but through inheritance.  The big take-away from this study is not about the wealthy, the big news is that typical Americans saw their net worth plunge 41% between 2007 and 2016.  From the article:

Even as more young people entered the top 0.1 percent, most of their Millennial and Generation X compatriots were struggling. Americans 75 and older are the only age group whose median net worth rose from 2007 to 2016, according to the Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer of Finances released in July 2018. Typical Americans age 35 to 54 saw their wealth—heavily concentrated in housing—plunge by more than 41 percent in that time frame.

Source is Bloomberg News:  Super Rich Americans Are Getting Younger and Multiplying

The next article addresses the issue of how older Americans can no longer afford to retire.  The factors contributing were: (1) the financial crisis in 2008 that wiped out many nest eggs; (2) the inability to save for retirement, i.e., low wages and wage stagnation; (3) children no longer earn enough to help support their parents; (4) the shrinking birth rate resulting in less paying into Social Security and Medicare; and (5) the decrease in immigration due to current White House policy.  The lack of low-wage earning immigrants means child care costs are higher, which discourages population growth.  And less immigration also means there are less immigrants that pay into our safety net systems because they pay more in to it than they receive in benefits.

Source is Bloomberg News: Too Many Americans Will Never Be Able to Retire

Update – December 19, 2019:  “Almost half of all American workers are stuck in low-wage jobs that often don’t pay enough to support their lives, lack benefits and sit squarely inside the automation bullseye.” *

Source: An Unsettling Future for Millions of American Jobs

Update – January 7, 2020:

“In the United States, a legion of administrative healthcare workers and health insurance employees who play no direct role in providing patient care costs every American man, woman and child an average of $2,497 per year.

Across the border in Canada, where a single-payer system has been in place since 1962, the cost of administering healthcare is just $551 per person — less than a quarter as much.

That spending mismatch, tallied in a study published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, could challenge some assumptions about the relative efficiency of public and private healthcare programs.”

Sources: US Health System Costs Four Times More to Run Than Canada’s Single-Payer System

and

Health Care Administrative Costs in the United States and Canada, 2017/

Update – January 8, 2020:  The only way fro workers to get a meaningful raise is to quit their jobs and take new ones.
“Companies are willing to pay about 15% more for new employees, but they’re only willing to give their current employees about a 2% or 3% annual raise,” he explains, citing Gartner’s research. “So to get ahead financially, what a lot of employees have realized is that in today’s tight labor market, the best thing to do is to go to another company to get more money rather than trying to get more money by staying at your current company.”

Update – January 22, 2020: “Nearly 10 million American kids live in low-opportunity neighborhoods, with limited access to good schools, parks and healthy food.”

Source: America’s Hardest Places to Grow Up

Update – February 10, 2020:

“Over the last 40 years, wage growth for typical American workers has been extraordinarily weak,” researchers from the Brookings Institution noted in a recent paper.

Their data shows many Americans have not seen a significant raise in that time, with hourly wages at the middle of the income distribution having grown only 12% between 1979 and 2018 when adjusted for inflation.

Economic growth has slowed since 2018 and is expected to continue to do so, with the Congressional Budget Office predicting an average of 1.7% annual growth over the next 10 years.

When GDP growth slows, wages generally slow as well.

Source: Historically Weak Wage Growth May be the Best We Get

Update – February 11, 2020: “American households added $193 billion of debt in the fourth quarter, driven by a surge in mortgage loans, and overall debt levels rose to a new record at $14.15 trillion.

Mortgage balances rose by $120 billion in the fourth quarter to $9.56 trillion, the New York Fed said in its quarterly report on household debt. Mortgage originations – pushed up by an increase in refinancing – also rose to $752 billion in the fourth quarter, reaching the highest volume since the fourth quarter of 2005, the report found.

Student loan balances grew by $10 billion in the fourth quarter, a slower pace when compared to five years ago. However, the total $1.51 trillion outstanding in student loan debt could be holding back young consumers trying to build up credit, the researchers found.

Credit card debt, which typically rises in the fourth quarter when consumers are doing their holiday shopping, rose by $46 billion last quarter, an amount economists said was larger than usual.”

Source: US Household Debt Tops $14 Trillion and Reaches New Record

Update – February 12, 2020:  This marks the first time the Fed has intervened in repo markets since the Great Recession, and the central bank currently has $229 billion in outstanding repos on its balance sheet.

Since September, the Federal Reserve has pumped $500 billion into the overnight money market, directly financing repurchasing agreements meant to help banks meet reserve requirements at the end of each business day.

The overnight money market is “a short-term lending market where banks borrow cash from each other,” which becomes necessary due to regulations with strict cash reserve requirements and banks’ tendency to push the limits on leveraging their assets.

In September, the interest rate for such short-term loans soared to 10 percent, as banks became less willing to lend out their own capital to hit the Fed’s target interest rate of two percent.

So the Fed stepped in — and has yet to step back out.

Source: Banking Crisis:  The Fed Has Spent $500 Billion Bailing Out the Overnight Lending Market

Update – February 19, 2020: In a recent analysis, we found that 53 million workers ages 18 to 64—or 44% of all workers—earn barely enough to live on. Their median earnings are $10.22 per hour, and about $18,000 per year. 

  • Two-thirds (64%) of low-wage workers are in their prime working years of 25 to 54.
  • More than half (57%) work full-time year-round, the customary schedule for employment intended to provide financial security.
  • About half (51%) are primary earners or contribute substantially to family living expenses.
  • Thirty-seven percent have children. Of this group, 23% live below the federal poverty line.
  • Less than half (45%) of low-wage workers ages 18 to 24 are in school or already have a college degree.

These statistics tell an important story: Millions of hardworking American adults struggle to eke out a living and support their families on very low wages.

Source: Low Unemployment Isn’t Worth Much if the Jobs Barely Pay

Measured by poverty status: 30% of low-wage workers (16 million people) live in families earning below 150% of the poverty line. These workers get by on very low incomes: about $30,000 for a family of three and $36,000 for a family of four.

Measured by the presence or absence of other earners: 26% of low-wage workers (14 million people) are the only earners in their families, getting by on median annual earnings of about $20,000. Another 25% (13 million people) live in families in which all workers earn low wages, with median family earnings of about $42,000. These 27 million low-wage workers rely on their earnings to provide for themselves and their families, as they are either the family’s primary earner or a substantial contributor to total earnings. Their earnings are unlikely to represent “nice to have” supplemental income.

Source: Low Wage Work is More Pervasive than You Think and there Aren’t Enough “Good Jobs” to Go Around

Update – March 2, 2020: The majority of US workers can no longer afford to pay for the four major annual living costs (housing, healthcare, transportation, and education) on their annual salaries.

“The median male US worker now has to earn more than a year’s salary to afford the annual expenses for a family of four, according to “The Cost of Thriving Index” published by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, and previously reported by The Washington Post.

In 1985, the typical male worker needed 30 weeks’ pay to cover the $13,227 required for a family of four’s major living costs: housing, healthcare, transportation, and education. As of 2018, those expenditures had risen to $54,441, and the typical male worker has to work 53 weeks to get there (shown in the chart below). “This is a problem, as there are only 52 weeks in a year,” Oren Cass, the report’s lead author, wrote.”

Source (Business Insider): The Typical US Worker Can No Longer Afford a Family on a Year’s Salary, Showing the Dire State of America’s Middle Class

78% of Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck.  While this is old news from January 2019, it popped up today in another article.  It certainly makes one wonder what this statistic would be today.

According to the 2017 survey, CareerBuilder, a leading job site, found some startling statistics related to debt, budgeting and making ends meet.

For example, here are some findings from the survey:

  • Nearly one in 10 workers making $100,000+ live paycheck to paycheck
  • More than 1 in 4 workers do not set aside any savings each month
  • Nearly 3 in 4 workers say they are in debt – and more than half think they always will be
  • More than half of minimum wage workers say they have to work more than one job to make ends meet
  • 28% of workers making $50,000-$99,999 usually or always live paycheck to paycheck, and 70% are in debt
  • The survey also found that 32% of the nearly 3,500 full-time workers surveyed use a budget and only 56% save $100 or less a month.

Source (Forbes): 78% of Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck

 

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