Article 43

 

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Bad Moon Rising Part 69 - The End Of Empire

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“I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
- Abraham Lincoln

“The economic anarchy of CAPITALIST SOCIETY as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the EVIL."
- Albert Einstein - Why Socialism, 1949

“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”
- John Maynard Keynes

“I wouldn’t call it fascism exactly, but a political system nominally controlled by an irresponsible, dumbed down electorate who are manipulated by dishonest, cynical, controlled mass media that dispense the propaganda of a corrupt political establishment can hardly be described as democracy either.”
- Edward Zehr Columnist, 1936-2001

The Death Spiral Appears Unstoppable

By By Chris Hedges
TruthDig
October 1, 2017

The American empire is coming to an end. The U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe. It is burdened by growing deficits, along with the devastating effects of deindustrialization and global trade agreements. Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by CORPORATIONS that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and IMPUNITY from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, ALL THE WHILE looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of BAILOUTS. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia. Overseeing this DESCENT at the highest levels of the federal and state governments is a motley collection of imbeciles, con artists, THIEVES, OPPORTUNISTS and WARMONGERING generals. And to be clear, I am speaking about Democrats, too.

The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.

Short of a sudden and widespread popular REVOLT, which DOES NOT SEEM LIKELY, the death spiral appears unstoppable, meaning the United States as we know it will no longer exist within a decade or, at most, two. The global vacuum we leave behind will be filled by China, already establishing itself as an economic and military juggernaut, or perhaps there will be a multipolar world carved up among Russia, China, India, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa and a few other states. Or maybe the void will be filled, as the historian Alfred W. McCoy writes in his book “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power”, by “a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral military forces like NATO, and an international financial leadership self-selected at Davos and Bilderberg” that will “forge a supranational nexus to supersede any nation or empire.”

Under every measurement, from financial growth and infrastructure investment to advanced technology, including supercomputers, space weaponry and CYBERWARFARE, we are being rapidly overtaken by the CHINESE. In April 2015 the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggested that the American economy would grow by nearly 50 percent over the next 15 years, while Chinas would triple and come close to surpassing America’s in 2030, McCoy noted. CHINA became the world’s second largest economy in 2010, the same year it became the world’s leading manufacturing nation, pushing aside a United States that had dominated the world’s manufacturing for a century. The Department of Defense issued a sober report titled “At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World.” It found that “the U.S. military no longer enjoys an unassailable position versus state competitors,” and it no longer can automatically generate consistent and sustained local military superiority at range. McCoy predicts the collapse will come by 2030.

Empires in decay embrace an almost willful suicide. Blinded by their hubris and unable to face the reality of their diminishing power, they retreat into a fantasy world where hard and unpleasant facts no longer intrude. They replace diplomacy, multilateralism and politics with unilateral threats and the blunt instrument of war.

This collective self-delusion saw the United States make the greatest strategic blunder in its history, one that sounded the death knell of the empire - the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war in the George W. Bush White House, and the array of useful idiots in the press and academia who were cheerleaders for it, knew very little about the countries being invaded, were stunningly naive about the effects of industrial warfare and were blindsided by the ferocious blowback. They stated, and probably believed, that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, although they had no valid evidence to support this claim. They insisted that democracy would be implanted in Baghdad and spread across the Middle East. They assured the public that U.S. troops would be greeted by grateful Iraqis and Afghans as liberators. They promised that oil revenues would cover the cost of reconstruction. They insisted that the bold and quick military strike “shock and awe” - would restore American hegemony in the region and dominance in the world. It did the opposite. As Zbigniew Brzezinski noted, “this unilateral war of choice against Iraq precipitated a widespread delegitimation of U.S. foreign policy.”

Historians of empire call these military fiascos, a feature of all late empires, examples of “micro-militarism.” The Athenians engaged in micro-militarism when during the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) they invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain did so in 1956 when it attacked Egypt in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and then quickly had to withdraw in humiliation, empowering a string of Arab nationalist leaders such as Egypts Gamal Abdel Nasser and dooming British rule over the nation’s few remaining colonies. Neither of these empires recovered.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military master strokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power”, McCoy writes. “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

Empires need more than force to dominate other nations. They need a mystique. This mystiquea mask for imperial plunder, repression and exploitation - seduces some native elites, who become willing to do the bidding of the imperial power or at least remain passive. And it provides a patina of civility and even nobility to justify to those at home the costs in blood and money needed to maintain empire. The parliamentary system of government that Britain replicated in appearance in the colonies, and the introduction of British sports such as polo, cricket and horse racing, along with elaborately uniformed viceroys and the pageantry of royalty, were buttressed by what the colonialists said was the invincibility of their navy and army. England was able to hold its empire together from 1815 to 1914 before being forced into a steady retreat. Americas high-blown rhetoric about democracy, liberty and equality, along with basketball, baseball and Hollywood, as well as our own deification of the military, entranced and cowed much of the globe in the wake of World War II. Behind the scenes, of course, the CIA used its bag of dirty tricks to orchestrate coups, fix elections and carry out assassinations, black propaganda campaigns, bribery, blackmail, intimidation and torture. But none of this works anymore.

The loss of the mystique is crippling. It makes it hard to find pliant surrogates to administer the empire, as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The photographs of physical abuse and sexual humiliation imposed on Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib inflamed the Muslim world and fed al-Qaida and later Islamic State with new recruits. The assassination of Osama bin Laden and a host of other jihadist leaders, including the U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, openly mocked the concept of the rule of law. The hundreds of thousands of dead and millions of refugees fleeing our debacles in the Middle East, along with the near-constant threat from militarized aerial drones, exposed us as state terrorists. We have exercised in the Middle East the U.S. military’s penchant for widespread atrocities, indiscriminate violence, lies and blundering miscalculations, actions that led to our defeat in Vietnam.

The brutality abroad is matched by a growing brutality at home. Militarized police gun down mostly unarmed, poor people of color and fill a system of penitentiaries and jails that hold a staggering 25 percent of the worlds prisoners although Americans represent only 5 percent of global population. Many of our cities are in ruins. Our public transportation system is a shambles. Our educational system is in steep decline and being privatized. Opioid addiction, suicide, mass shootings, depression and morbid obesity plague a population that has fallen into profound despair. The deep disillusionment and anger that led to Donald Trump’s election - a reaction to the corporate coup d’tat and the poverty afflicting at least half of the country - have destroyed the myth of a functioning democracy. Presidential tweets and rhetoric celebrate hate, racism and bigotry and taunt the weak and the vulnerable. The president in an address before the United Nations threatened to obliterate another nation in an act of genocide. We are worldwide objects of ridicule and hatred. The foreboding for the future is expressed in the rash of dystopian films, motion pictures that no longer perpetuate American virtue and exceptionalism or the MYTH OF HUMAN PROGRESS.

The demise of the United States as the preeminent global power could come far more quickly than anyone imagines,” McCoy writes. “Despite the AURA OF OMNIPOTENCE empires often project,” most are surprisingly fragile, lacking the inherent strength of even a modest nation-state. Indeed, a glance at their history should remind us that the greatest of them are susceptible to collapse from diverse causes, with fiscal pressures usually a prime factor. For the better part of two centuries, the security and prosperity of the homeland has been the main objective for most stable states, making foreign or imperial adventures an expendable option, usually allocated no more than 5 percent of the domestic budget. Without the financing that arises almost organically inside a sovereign nation, empires are famously predatory in their relentless hunt for plunder or profitwitness the Atlantic slave trade, Belgiumӗs rubber lust in the Congo, British Indias opium commerce, the Third ReichҒs rape of Europe, or the Soviet exploitation of Eastern Europe.

“When revenues shrink or collapse,” McCoy points out, “empires become brittle.”

ҔSo delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly wrong, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, eleven years for the Ottomans, seventeen for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, just twenty-seven years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003 [when the U.S. invaded Iraq], he writes.

Many of the estimated 69 empires that have existed throughout history lacked competent leadership in their decline, having ceded power to monstrosities such as the Roman emperors Caligula and Nero. In the United States, the reins of authority may be in the grasp of the first in a line of depraved demagogues.

ӔFor the majority of Americans, the 2020s will likely be remembered as a demoralizing decade of rising prices, stagnant wages, and fading international competitiveness, McCoy writes. The loss of the dollar as the global reserve currency will see the U.S. unable to pay for its huge deficits by selling Treasury bonds, which will be drastically devalued at that point. There will be a massive rise in the cost of imports. Unemployment will explode. Domestic clashes over what McCoy calls Ӕinsubstantial issues will fuel a dangerous hypernationalism that could morph into an American fascism.

A discredited elite, suspicious and even paranoid in an age of decline, will see enemies everywhere. The array of instruments created for global dominance, wholesale surveillance, the evisceration of civil liberties, sophisticated torture techniques, militarized police, the massive prison system, the thousands of militarized drones and satellites - will be employed in the homeland. The empire will collapse and the nation will consume itself within our lifetimes IF WE do not WREST POWER from those who rule the corporate state.

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Posted by Elvis on 10/05/17 •
Section Bad Moon Rising • Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression
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Monday, October 02, 2017

The New Reality Of Old Age In America

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By Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post
Sept. 30, 2017

Richard Dever had swabbed the campground shower stalls and emptied 20 garbage cans, and now he climbed slowly onto a John Deere mower to cut a couple acres of grass.

"I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour.

Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip - a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America.

People are living longer, more expensive lives, often without much of a safety net. As a result, record numbers of Americans older than 65 are working now nearly 1 in 5. That proportion has risen steadily over the past decade, and at a far faster rate than any other age group. Today, 9 million senior citizens work, compared with 4 million in 2000.

While some work by choice rather than need, millions of others are entering their golden years with alarmingly fragile finances. Fundamental changes in the U.S. retirement system have shifted responsibility for saving from the employer to the worker, exacerbating the nation’ s rich-poor divide. Two recent recessions devastated personal savings. And at a time when 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, Social Security benefits have lost about a third of their purchasing power since 2000.

Polls show that most older people are more worried about running out of money than dying.

“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement,” said Teresa Ghilarducci, a labor economist who specializes in retirement security. “People are coming into retirement with a lot more anxiety and a lot less buying power.”

As a result, many older workers are hitting the road as work campers also called “workampers” - those who shed costly lifestyles, purchase RVs and travel the nation picking up seasonal jobs that typically offer hourly wages and few or no benefits.

Amazons “CamperForce” program hires thousands of these silver-haired migrant workers to box online orders during the Christmas rush. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Walmart, whose giant parking lots are famous for welcoming RV travelers, has hired elderly people as store greeters and cashiers. Websites such as the Workamper News list jobs as varied as ushering at NASCAR tracks in Florida, picking sugar beets in Minnesota and working as security guards in the Texas oil fields.

In Maine, which calls itself “Vacationland,” thousands of seniors are drawn each summer to the state’s rocky coastline and picturesque small towns, both as vacationers and seasonal workers. In Bar Harbor, one of the states most popular tourist destinations, well-to-do retirees come ashore from luxury cruise ships to dine on $30 lobsters and $13 glasses of sauvignon blanc җ leaving tips for other senior citizens waiting on oceanfront tables, driving Olis Trolley buses or taking tickets for whale-watching tours.

The Devers have noticed this economic divide. They found their campground jobs online and drove here in May, with plans to stay until the season ends in October. On a recent day off, they took a bus tour near Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, where the tour guide pointed out the oceanfront Rockefeller estate and Martha StewartҒs 12-bedroom mansion.

The ones who go on these ritzy, ritzy cruises to all these islands in Maine, “I don’t know how they got all that money. Maybe they were born into it,” said Jeannie, 72. “And then you see this poor little old retired person next door, who can hardly keep going. And hes got his little trailer.”

On Election Day last November, the Devers expressed their frustration. For more than 50 years, they had supported mainstream candidates in both parties, casting their ballots for John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. This time, they concluded that the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, would be no help to them. And they found the Republican standard-bearer, Donald Trump, too mouthy.Ӕ

So, for the first time in their lives, they cast protest votes, joining legions of disaffected voters whose aversion to Clinton helped propel Trump into the White House. Richard voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Jeannie left her presidential ballot blank.

We are all talking about this, but not politicians. Helping people build a nest egg is not on their agenda,Ӕ Jeannie said. We are the forgotten people.Ӕ

This job is a blessing

The Devers first hit the road in their 33-foot American Star RV when Jeannie turned 65. Since then, they have worked jobs in Wyoming, Pennsylvania and now Maine. In addition to their $10-an-hour paychecks, the couple receives $22,000 a year from Social Security, an amount that has barely budged while healthcare and other costs have soared.

If we didn’t work, our money would run out real quick, Richard said.

On a recent Friday, the Devers met for lunch back at their RV, Richard’s plaid shirt and suspenders dusty from mowing the drought-dried grass. Jeannie had spent the morning working the front desk in the campground office, where she checks people in and sells bug spray, marshmallows and other camping essentials.

As usual, she had arrived a half-hour early for her 9 a.m. shift to make sure everything was tidy for the first customer. Full of cheer and wearing white sneakers, she shies from talking about her macular degeneration and arthritic knuckles. “This job is a blessing,” she said.

“President Trump is one year younger than Jeannie and, she said, has more money than we can even imagine.” She muses that he probably will hand a lot down to his kids - another generation of rich people who, Richard and Jeannie believe, tend to be born that way.

The Devers know how hard it is to make it on your own.

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running for president, Richard started repairing homes and Jeannie made root beer floats in a drugstore back home in southern Indiana, near the Kentucky border. Later, they ran a business that put vinyl siding on homes and a little start-up called Southwest Stuff that sold Western-themed knickknacks.

They raised two children and lived well enough but never had much extra cash to put away. After a lifetime of working, they have a small mobile home in Indiana, a couple of modest life insurance policies and $5,000 in savings.

The Devers are better off than many Americans. One in 5 have no savings, and millions retire with nothing in the bank. Nearly 30 percent of households headed by someone 55 or older have neither a pension nor any retirement savings, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

From the camper’s compact refrigerator, Jeannie pulled a tub of meatloaf she had cooked in her crockpot a couple of days earlier.

“Are you good with just a sandwich?” she called to Richard.

“Just a sandwich, thanks,” he said, emerging from the bedroom in a fresh plaid shirt, bought for $2 at Goodwill. His blue-striped suspenders dangled below his waistband.

Without a word, Jeannie leaned over and slipped them over his shoulders a daily task that keeps getting harder for the man she married 55 years ago.

A Wall Street gold mine

While most Americans are unprepared for retirement, rich older people are doing better than ever. Among people older than 65, the wealthiest 20 percent own virtually all of the nations $25 trillion in retirement accounts, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Employers have gradually shifted from traditional pensions, with guaranteed benefits for life, to 401(k) accounts that run out when the money has been spent. Those accounts work best for the wealthy, who not only have the extra cash to invest but also use 401(k)s to shelter their income from taxes while they are working.

People with little financial know-how often find 401(k)s confusing. Millions of people opt not to participate, or contribute too little, or take money out at the wrong time and are charged huge fees.

Even people who manage to save for retirement often face a grim calculation: Among people between 55 and 64 who have retirement accounts, the median value of those accounts is just over $120,000, according to the Federal Reserve. So people are forced to guess how long they might live and budget their money accordingly, knowing that one big health problem, or a year in a nursing home, could wipe it all out.

The system has been a gold mine for Wall Street. Brokerages and insurance companies that manage retirement accounts earned roughly $33 billion in fees last year, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Ted Benna, a retirement consultant who is credited with creating the modern 401(k), called those fees ғoutrageous. Many people ԗ especially those who need the money the most donגt even know they are paying them, he said.

Compared with the old system of company pensions, the new retirement system does not serve the average American well, said Ghilarducci, the labor economist, who teaches at the New School in New York.

It’s as if we moved from a system where everybody went to the dentist to a system where everybody now pulls their own teeth, she said.

The rich help the rich

A few miles up the road from the Devers, Joanne Molnar, 64, and her husband, Mark, 62, live in their RV and work at another campground.

For 21 years, Joanne worked as a manager for a day-care company in Fairfield, Conn. She said she paid regularly into a 401(k) account that, at one point, was worth more than $40,000.

By the time she left the company in 2008, however, its value had fallen to $2,000.

Molnar said the company’s owner thought he was doing his 100 employees a favor by managing their retirement accounts. But he didn;t know what he was doing, she said. Instead of being angry with him, sheҔs furious with the 401(k) system.

“It stinks,” she said.

As Joannes retirement account was further battered by the Great Recession in 2008, the Molnars sold Mark’s share of his piano-restoration business and their home in Connecticut, which had lost value but kept attracting higher and higher property tax bills.

They bought a 25-foot RV for $13,000 and started looking for work near their three sons, one of whom lives near Bar Harbor, and their six grandchildren. After finishing at the Maine campground this fall, they plan to look for work in Texas or Wisconsin, near their other children.

Like the Devers, the Molnars say they are frustrated that the problems of older Americans do not seem to register in Washington.

The little people are drowning, and nobody wants to talk about it,” Joanne said. “Us middle-class, or lower-class, people are just not part of anything politicians decide.”

Last year, the Molnars grew more optimistic when they heard Trump promising in campaign speeches to help the “forgotten people.” Like a majority of older voters, Joanne voted for Trump. She said she thought maybe a businessman, an outsider, would finally address the economic issues that matter to her.

But the Molnars said that with each passing week of the Trump presidency, they are growing less hopeful.

“We’ll see. I’m just getting a little worried now,” Joanne said. “I just think he’s not going to be helping the lower class as much as he thought he would.

The recent battle to repeal Obamacare was “kind of scary,” she said, noting that Trump supported legislation that would have slashed Medicaid and left more people without government-subsidized insurance. Although the effort failed, Joanne and Mark remain nervous.

“The rich help the rich, and I’m starting to think that not enough will fall down to us,” Mark said, as he methodically bolted together one of 170 new picnic tables.

Mark signed up to begin collecting Social Security this summer. Even with those monthly checks, he figures hell have to work at least 10 more years.

FORGET THE GOVERNMENT. It’s got to be ‘We the People,’ he said. ”WE’RE ON OUR OWN.” You have to fend for yourself.

It’s not fun getting old

At the end of a long day at work, Richard and Jeannie Dever met back at their RV. After mowing the grass in the hot sun, Richard, who is just shy of his 75th birthday, was sweating under his baseball cap. He was tired.

It’s not fun getting old, he said.

Asked whether he was more worried about dying or running out of money, Richard thought about it, then said with a shrug, “I guess its a toss-up.”

Jeannie took off her sneakers and rested her swollen ankles. Richard recently cut back to 33 hours a week, but she was still working 40 hours, sometimes a few more.

A few days earlier, she had spent four hours cleaning a trailer where the guests had used a fire extinguisher to put out a small stove fire. She got down on the linoleum floor and lay on her stomach to reach the dust under the stove.

In the years ahead, Jeannie said, she hopes to find a job where she can sit down.

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Posted by Elvis on 10/02/17 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Personal
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Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day 2017

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The Vanishing American Dream

By Paul Craig Robrerts
September 4, 2017

Today is Labor Day, a difficult day to celebrate now that American labor has been cast aside and US jobs offshored and given to foreigners. The remainder of the jobs is slated to be replaced by robotics.

Fridays payroll jobs report was full of bad news. Full-time jobs declined by 166,000. The meager 156,000 new jobs claimed are really only 115,000 net of the prior month;s revision, and this 115,000 jobs estimate is within the range of statistical insignificance. In other words, there is no confidence that the jobs are actually there.

The US work force continues to develop a Third Word complextion of lowly paid part-time domestic service employment. The American Dream continues its closedown.

Meanwhile the government tells us that we are at full employment with an unemployment rate of 4.4%.

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Trumps Labor Day
Nearly one out of every five American workers is in a part-time job. Two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck

By Robert Reich
September 4, 2017

This will be the first Labor Day of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who came to office riding a wave of anti-establishment anger from average working people. No one can say they didnҒt see it coming.

By the time Trump was elected, the typical American household had a net worth 14 percent lower than the typical household in 1984. The richest 1 percent owned more than the bottom 90 percent.

Last years annual Wall Street bonus pool alone was larger than the annual year-round earnings of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

While 90 percent of US adults born in the early 1940s were earning more than their parents by the time they reached their prime earning years, only half of adults born in the mid-1980s are earning more than their parents in their prime earning years.

Most also have less economic security than their parents.  Nearly one out of every five American workers is in a part-time job. Two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck.

Most are working more hours than they worked decades ago and taking fewer sick days or vacations.

The gap in life expectancy between the nation’s most affluent and everyone else is also widening.

Increasing numbers of Americans on the downward economic escalator are succumbing to opiods, chronic liver cirrhosis, and poisonings that include drug overdoses.

The standard explanation for why all this has occurred is that most American workers are no longer “worth” as much as they were before digital technologies and globalization. So they must now settle for lower wages and less security.

Rubbish.

This doesn’t explain why workers in other advanced economies facing similar forces haven’t succumbed to them nearly as dramatically as have workers in the United States.

Or why the pay of top executives at big companies has soared from an average of 20 times that of the typical worker 40 years ago to almost 300 times now.

Or why the denizens of Wall Street, who in the 1950s and 1960s earned comparatively modest sums, are now paid tens or hundreds of millions annually.

And it can’t account for the decline in the starting wages of recent college graduates. A college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class but no longer a sure means for gaining ground once admitted to it.

To attribute all this to the impersonal workings of the market, and assume it’s because most workers arent “worth” as much as before, is to ignore the increasing ability of moneyed interests to alter the system for their own benefit - demolishing trade unions, turning full-time employees into contract workers, and monopolizing industry.

America’s economic and political elites could have used their growing political and economic clout to help workers get ahead - through better schools and more affordable college, comprehensive job retraining, wage insurance, better public transportation, and expanded unemployment insurance.

They could have pushed for universal health insurance.

They could have paid for all this by accepting, even lobbying for, higher taxes on themselves.

They could have sought to reduce their own political clout by demanding limits on campaign spending.

But they did the reverse: They spent more and more of their ever-growing wealth and power to rig the game to their own advantage.

As a result, trust in all the major institutions of our society has plummeted.

In 1964 more than 60 percent of Americans thought government was run for the benefit of all the “people” while just 29 percent said government was pretty much run by a few big interests “looking out for themselves.”

Nowadays the numbers are almost reversed, with 76 percent believing government is run by a few big “interests” and just 19 percent saying government is run for the “benefit of all.”

In the early 1960s most Americans said they had a great deal of confidence in the nations major companies, banks, and financial institutions.

Now just one in ten has a great deal of confidence in them.

In his first seven months as president, Trump has done nothing for American workers. In fact, his attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act, his retreat from Labor Department regulations boosting overtime pay, and his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations will make most workers worse off.

But he is in office because of their anger and distrust, and he’s still feeding off it. “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country,” Trump said in his inaugural address. “Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”

Tragically, Trump was right.

Now all of us are paying the price.

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Posted by Elvis on 09/04/17 •
Section Dying America
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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is There an Age Discrimination Epidemic?

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Is There Age Discrimination In Hiring?

By Edith S. Baker
BLS
April 2017

AGE DISCRIMINATION has long been a PART OF THE LANDSCAPE of the U.S. workplace, with countless studies examining the problem over the decades. In AGE DISCRIMINATION AND HIRING OF OLDER WORKERS (Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Economic Letter, no. 2017-06, February 27, 2017), David Neumark, Ian Burn, and Patrick Button add to the literature on the subject. Their work confirms what many studies have found: age discrimination in the workplace exists, and it is worse for older women than older men. Neumark, Burn, and Buttons research, however, stands out in that its scope is especially comprehensive, covering more than 40,000 job applicants for more than 13,000 job positions in 12 cities spread across 11 states.

The authors begin the discussion by stating this fact: the aging of the U.S. population, together with the lower labor force participation rate of older people (those 65 years and older) compared with that of their younger counterparts (ages 25 to 64 years), is inevitably leading to a sharp rise in the dependency ratio, the ratio of nonworkers to workers in the U.S. population. In other words, fewer and fewer workers will be available to support more and more nonworkers. To remedy this situation, policymakers have attempted to boost the labor supply of older workers. Policies aimed at doing that have centered around reforming the Social Security program: reducing benefits for those who retire as early as age 62 or at any time before reaching full retirement age; increasing the full-retirement age; and taxing Social Security benefits at a lower rate, for both those who continue working while receiving benefits and those who retire and receive benefits (a double-edged sword in that, at the same time that it will induce some older workers to keep working, it will encourage others to retire and receive the lower taxed benefits). But age discrimination in hiring has the potential to thwart all these reforms.

To learn how pervasive this age discrimination is, Neumark, Burn, and Button conducted a “correspondence study” - a study in which they created job applicant profiles that they sent in response to advertisements for positions. They then measured the number of callbacks each age group of otherwise identical applicants” received for a subsequent interview. Positions applied for were administrative assistant and secretary (female applicants), janitor and security guard (male applicants), and retail sales (both genders). Their results confirmed existing research findings.

First, the authors found that, across all the applications, the callback rate for interviews was uniformly lower for older applicants - a finding that they describe as “consistent with age discrimination in hiring.” With regard to specific job positions and specific genders, older (64 to 66 years) female applicants for administrative assistant jobs had a 47-percent lower callback rate than young (29 to 31 years) female applicants and older female applicants for sales jobs had a 36-percent lower callback rate than young female applicants, with the gap being statistically significant in both cases. Similarly, for male applicants for security and janitor jobs, the callback rates for older men were lower than those for young men, but the pattern was “not as consistent or pronounced” as that for the women applying for administrative assistant and sales jobs, and in some cases the gap between young and old was not statistically significant. In the one case in which a direct comparison could be made = sales positions - the 30-percent gap in the callback rates between young and older men was statistically significant, but was still smaller than the 36-percent gap in the rates for young and older women.

In sum, three findings stand out in the study reported in this article. First, the sample of more than 40,000 job applicant profiles offers statistical evidence that there is age discrimination in hiring - discrimination against both women and men. Second, older applicants - those 64 to 66 years of age - experience more age discrimination than middle-age applicants ages 49 to 51. Third, women - especially older women, but even those of middle age - experience more age discrimination in hiring than men do. Although the study did not look at why older women experience the worst degree of age discrimination, the authors suggest that it may be because appearance matters in the low-skilled administrative and sales jobs that they chose to examine and PHYSICAL APPEARANCE is evaluated more harshly for women than for men.

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An Epidemic of Age Discrimination

By Patricia G. Barnes
Aging Today
January 21, 2015

Many of the ills facing older Americans today began years ago, when they were victims of age discrimination in the workplace, resulting in terminations and layoffs, chronic unemployment and, ultimately, a financially impoverished early retirement.

In my book, Betrayed: The Legalization of Age Discrimination in the Workplace (2014), I argue that age discrimination is epidemic in America because the law prohibiting age discrimination, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), was weak to begin with, and has been further weakened by the U.S. Supreme Court. The lack of effective legal recourse leaves older workers vulnerable to unfounded and harmful age discrimination, a problem that was greatly exacerbated during the Great Recession.

Almost 50 years ago, Congress based the ADEA on a faulty theory that age discrimination is different from other types of discrimination and that it is, to some extent, justified by inevitable agerelated declines. Congress inserted loopholes into the ADEA and omitted major penalties found in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion and national origin.

The Court then issued rulings that make it far more difficult to win an age discrimination lawsuit. For example, in 2009, it established a higher level of proof in ADEA cases than in lawsuits alleging race or sex discrimination. The Court accords its lowest level of review to laws that discriminate on the basis of age, as opposed to race and sex.

Discrimination Increases with the Great Recession

The Great Recession only served to increase the incidence of age discrimination, causing a damaging ripple effect that led to employers seeking to cut costs to target older workers, who then became
mired in long-term unemployment. Meanwhile, older workers lost investment savings and equity in the housing foreclosure crisis. They then were unable to rebound financially because of rampant age discrimination in hiring.

ACCORDING TO RESEARCH by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that conducts research on unemployment, older workers experienced the greatest percentage increase in the size of their unemployment population from 2007 to 2011; it more than doubled from 1.3 million in 2007 to 3.2 million in 2011.

Evidence of age discrimination can be seen in a 29 percent jump in age discrimination complaints filed in 2008 with the U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENY OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, almost double the increase for other types of discrimination complaints. The EEOC reports there were 24,582 age discrimination complaints filed in 2008, compared to 19,103 in 2007. The EEOC received 21,296 age discrimination complaints in 2013.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Dept. of Labors Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that older workers suffer disproportionately from long-term unemployment (unemployment lasting 27 weeks or more.) NELP reports that more than half of older jobless workers were out of work for at least six months in 2011-2012. AARP’s analysis of non-seasonally adjusted BLS data from February 2014 shows that, on average, workers ages 55 and older were unemployed for 45.6 weeks, compared with 34.7 weeks for workers younger than age 55.

Why is this? Mainstream media commentators often blame jobless older workers for lacking skills, while ignoring evidence of pervasive age discrimination in hiring. Many employers (including the federal governments Pathways Recent Graduate Program) unabashedly advertise for “recent graduates” who are, overwhelmingly, younger than age 40.

So older workers suffer: jobless older workers can’t find jobs or are relegated to poorly paid part-time work. Meanwhile, a 2013 Urban Institute report found that 63 percent of long-term unemployed or underemployed workers in 2011 skipped dental visits, 56 percent put off healthcare and 40 percent did not fill medical prescriptions. Many older adults who have jobs are vulnerable to bullying or mistreatment, realizing if they quit, they face joblessness, loss of health benefits and poverty.

Early Retirement Impoverishes

The governments rosy October 2014, 4.1 percent employment rate for workers age 55 and older ignores the millions of older workers forced into poorly paid part-time or temp work and, finally, into an unwanted and ill-advised early retirement.

Between March 2008 and March 2013, about 1.4 million more Americans opted to draw on Social Security than were expected, according to Matthew Rutledge, an economist with Boston CollegeҒs Center for Retirement Research. At the height of the recession, he says as many as 53,000 extra Americans retired early each month. A 2013 survey by the Associated Press NORC Center for Public Affairs found that 33 percent of retired Americans felt they had no choice except to retire, and 54 percent of retirees younger than age 65 felt they had no choice but to retire.

Workers who retire at age 62 suffer a 25 percent cut in their monthly Social Security benefit for the rest of their lives compared to workers who retire at age 66, and a 32 percent decrease when compared to workers who retire at age 70.

Older workers who are systematically stripped of their jobs due to age discrimination CANNOT PREPARE for a financially sound retirement. Research by the Retirement Security Project shows that part-time workers lack sufficient income to contribute to 401(k) retirement plans. Many were forced to spend down whatever savings they had left after the recession. In retirement, they will be unable to cover medical expenses not covered by Medicaid, rising housing costs and other cost-of-living increases. Human toll aside, age discrimination costs society billions in lost productivity, higher medical and social welfare costs and higher Social Security premiums.

To improve the lives of American in their old age, society needs to stop the epidemic of age discrimination in the workplace. Congress should repeal the ADEA and add age as a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act so that older workers receive the same level of protection as other victims of illegal discrimination. And it must heed the warning of experts at the CENTER FOR ECONOMIC POLICY RESEARCH that cutting Social Security spells disaster for millions of older Americans who already are impoverished through no fault of their own.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 08/29/17 •
Section Dealing with Layoff
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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Deaths Of Despair II

image: man about to kill himself

Just because a person attempts suicide doesn’t mean they want to die. Rather, often they have lost what I call the, “power of hope”.  When faced with a BAD SITUATION that has NO END IN SIGHT, coupled with the helpless feeling that NOTHING YOU CAN DO will make a difference, it’s all too easy to LOSE HOPE. AT SOME POINT suicide for some becomes a viable option, rather than CONTINUNG TO FACE the constant pain and suffering that life has become. If you can give someone who is contemplating suicide merely the glimmer of hope, that is often enough to get them through the rough patch to consider other options.
- White, Middle-Age Suicide In America Skyrocket

This May Be Responsible for the High Suicide Rate Among White, American Men

By Philip Perry
Big Think
July 2, 2017

TODAY, being white and male are the two single greatest risk factors for suicide in the US. That’s according to the authors of: EXPLAINING SUICIDE:  PATTERNS, MOTIVATIONS WHAT NOTES REVEAL. Psychology professor Cheryl Meyer, is among them. She says “hegemonic masculinity is what’s killing these men. They try to live up to a social stereotype no one could measure up to. Not only that, their model doesn’t square with today’s world.

In 2015, two Princeton economists found that the death rate among white, middle-aged men, rather than falling, like with most other groups, was instead rising. The mortality rate for working class white men, between the ages of 45 and 54 had been steadily rising since 1999.

According to suicide prevention expert, Dr. Christine Moutier, white, middle-aged men account for 70% of deaths from suicide each year. Nine-tenths of them are from a lower socioeconomic class. 

“These are being called deaths of despair.” Harvard public policy professor Robert D. Putnam, told the BBC, “This is part of the larger emerging pattern of evidence of the links between poverty, hopelessness and health. Veterans are often one of the largest segments within this group. According to a 2014 Veterans Affairs (VA) report, 20 commit suicide each day. 65% of them are age 50 or older.

A larger segment of this group has chosen the slow suicide route. Many are succumbing to things like alcohol liver disease or a drug overdose. So what;s causing this? White men without a college degree have seen their employment prospects dwindle in the last few decades, mostly due to mechanization.

Their mental health has withered as a result. In terms of economics, globalization and income inequality have worsened the problem as well, though most economists agree mechanization is the biggest cause. However, middle-aged black and Hispanic men at the same education level, have also been impacted by these same economic forces. Yet, the suicide rate among these groups hasn’t risen.

Besides ECONOMIC WOES, some experts point to the heightened divorce rate among men in this age-range. Whether married or single, women tend to open up to friends and family about their troubles and build a strong network of support. Whereas men generally don’t. If they open up at all, its usually to their partner. But for the divorced or single, there’s no such outlet.

Hegemonic masculinity, according to Meyer, is the idea that ones machismo must be broadcast constantly, no matter what he is dealing with or how he feels inside. It’s stoicism taken to the nth degree. Several studies have found that hegemonic masculinity is detrimental to mens well-being and health outcomes, including Sabo & Gordon, 1995; Courtenay, 2000; and Lee & Owens, 2002.

Psychotherapist Daphne Rose Kingma is the author of the book, The Men We Never Knew. She said, “Because of the way boys are socialized, their ability to deal with emotions has been systematically undermined. Men are taught, point-by-point, not to feel, not to cry, and not to find words to express themselves.” Everyone needs to be vulnerable sometimes, and to have someone to confide in and gain support from. Yet, men are taught to feel ashamed or even guilty for doing so.

The customary outlook on masculinity has been shaken to its core by the realities of today’s labor market. Men were traditionally seen as providers. But today, many women earn more than the men in their lives. American women for the first time are more likely to earn a college degree than men. A ”FEMINIZATION” of the labor market has begun as well, offering far more positions where traditional female-oriented skills are valued.

Caucasian men have enjoyed white hegemony in the US. That’s changing. As the “Browning of America” takes shape, whites will become a minority, projected to take place by 2045. Although this may usher in more social equality, the loss of a given-at-birth superiority will chafe a certain segment of the Caucasian community.

Besides the changing status of white men with no college degree, there’s a problem with how we view masculinity in general. It stands in the way of those who are in trouble, getting the help they need and in fact, it isn’t healthy for men or society as a whole, either. In most cases, men are suffering from an eroded sense of self and identity.

They are trying to fit into a role that’s no longer supported by the real world. One way to overcome this, is to update our definition of masculinity for the 21st century. Another would be to build a more gender neutral society, where everyone is looked upon on an individual basis, despite their gender. Regardless of the path we take, men and society as a whole, must become less rigid regarding It’s outlook on masculinity and somehow adopt a more pluralistic view.

To learn more about the suicide epidemic and you can do about it, click HERE

SOURCE

DEATHS OF DESPAIR

Posted by Elvis on 08/12/17 •
Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions • Section Personal
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