Monday, August 29, 2011

American wage slavery hits a new low

I've been working for two companies that send temporary servers and bartenders to catered events, usually weddings, university and corporate events. Sometimes private homes. Lately the amount of work has dwindled to one or two shifts per week, and now like many Americans I'm having trouble paying my mortgage.

I'm already a frustrated worker, was displaced by Bank of America when they took over Lasalle Bank in 2008 and have been underemployed since. I'm noticing that employers are taking full advantage of the competitive job market by offering only part time and/or temporary work. Corporations are cutting costs and avoiding paying medical and other benefits. And as usual, our government is entirely pro-corporatocracy and hates poor and working Americans ...

But the powerlessness that I feel culminated in panic when I went to a job interview with a catering company a couple of days ago and was told that because they have a contract with one of the employment agencies that I work for where they're not able to take employees from them, that they're unable to offer me work. The contract includes a buy-out clause which makes it expensive for them to buy me out so that they can employ me.

After realizing that he had just informed me that I'm, well, a slave, that my labor and my person is entirely OWNED by a company that only offers me one shift per week, if that, and will not allow me to gain the dignity of a living wage through another employer, my interviewer felt uneasy and perhaps guilty about this arrangement that the two employers have and informed me that one way to get around it is to still hire me for the position we were discussing, but to do so through the employment agency, as a temp.

What this means is that they would more likely be paying MORE money for my labor, since instead of paying me directly they have to pay a portion of my labor to the temporary agency ... who, without performing any work, exploits my labor and takes a portion of the fruits of my hands. I signed away my labor when they hired me.

I imagine that if I hear back from this catering company, it will most likely be for a part time job through my temp agency, since other employees will constitute even cheaper labor by virtue of being hired directly and not through an agency.

And so in this new American labor culture of cutting costs and paying slave-masters for the wage of poor workers, I am basically fucked.

I don't know what it's gonna take for this country to get straight, for the American poor and working class to get its fair share of the pie. I'm so demoralized, so down, feel so betrayed by my corporatocratist government and the way it hates the poor and working American.

It's such a huge insult to our intelligence when the Republicans and capitalists in this country speak o 'trickle down economics' and all their rhetoric and propaganda. Wealth has NEVER trickled down. Those 'up there' are too greedy to let the trickle get to those of us 'down here'. They want more and more, and they're getting more because they OWN our government. For the last four decades, the wealth of the rich has literally multiplied while the wealth of the poor has remained static.

I recently read that a full third of the new home purchases were the result of foreclosures. There are numerous ways that the banking cartel and the wealthy are ensuring that more wealth passes from the hands of the poor, even the new poor who can't afford our homes, to the hands of the already wealthy who are still now able to buy new homes. The foreclosure craze is big business for long-term investors.

So is war. Costly as it is for the taxpayer, we know full well the connection between oil investors, military investors, and the Bush presidency. We know full well that Cheney used to be on the board of Halliburton and gave this corporation most contracts in Iraq. How much money was transacted in all this, that we'll probably never know. It may be so vulgar a truth, that it better stay hidden.

But this we allowed to happen because we thought ourselves powerless, and because so many ignorant and/or religious voters allowed themselves to be hypnotized and ensnared by media and by their leaders and voted against their own class interests.

Dear Fellow Americans: please realize that if you are living from paycheck to paycheck, YOU ARE NOT MIDDLE CLASS. YOU ARE POOR. You belong to a class of people who are voiceless, nameless, and when you watch the news, realize that they're being packaged by a particularly greedy breed of parasites that keep you poor.

I remember watching a news channel after the Japan earthquake earlier this year where, rather than a humanitarian crisis the discussion revolved around what stocks to buy in order to turn a quick profit: timber, they said, was to be the next bubble because of all the construction that was needed. Yesterday, hurricane Irene had not even left the northeastern tip of the U.S. and they were concerned for stockholders who held insurance stock. The news ended on a positive note, because only 40 % of the damage was covered and the insurance industry would not be hit so hard. How do these people sleep at night? Where are the values of those who watch and really believe this to be 'the news'?

They feed us so much bullshit! There's even a career description for capitalist propagandists, which was concocted specifically in order to avoid the word 'propaganda': Public Relations. This 'career path' was proposed by none other than the nephew of Freud, Edward Bernays, who effectively taught companies to use Freudian ideas regarding appealing to unconscious desires of people in order to sell them products and even ideas. This is a vast and interesting subject that I won't delve into, but anyone interested in pursuing will find much information online.

I refuse to close with a positive note. Things are not okay. I'm so ashamed of how my American dream was stolen. I don't know if I can recover it. I don't know what else to say. Or do. In my eyes we are, officially, a poor country plagued by a minority of powerful, vocal, wealthy, greedy pigs.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich is a letter written by the third richest man in the world, Warren Buffet, and published today in the New York Times.

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.

-William James

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Barsoom will come to life!

I just finished watching the Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which I must say, is a great movie and now am looking forward to John Carter ...

Thursday, August 4, 2011


More than 29,000 children under 5 have died from starvation over the last 90 days in Somalia due to a drought. This song is dedicated to our shared humanity.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Banking on Heaven

A film that raises serious concerns about polygamy, as it is practiced by fundamentalist Mormons today.