Article 43

 

Dying America

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Rigged Economy

image: dying america

The American Economy Is Rigged
And what we can do about it

By Joseph E. Stiglitz
Scientific American
November 2018 Issue

Americans are used to thinking that their nation is special. In many ways, it is: the U.S. has by far the most Nobel Prize winners, the largest defense expenditures (almost equal to the next 10 or so countries put together) and the most billionaires (twice as many as China, the closest competitor). But some examples of American Exceptionalism should not make us proud. By most accounts, the U.S. has the highest level of economic inequality among developed countries. It has the world’s greatest per capita health expenditures yet the lowest life expectancy among comparable countries. It is also one of a few developed countries jostling for the dubious distinction of having the lowest measures of equality of opportunity.

The notion of the American Dream - that, unlike old Europe, we are a land of opportunity - is part of our essence. Yet the numbers say otherwise. The life prospects of a young American DEPEND MORE on the income and education of his or her parents than in almost any other advanced country. When poor-boy-makes-good anecdotes get passed around in the media, that is precisely because such stories are so rare.

Things appear to be getting worse, partly as a result of forces, such as technology and globalization, that seem beyond our control, but most disturbingly because of those within our command. It is not the laws of nature that have led to this dire situation: it is the laws of humankind. Markets do not exist in a vacuum: they are shaped by rules and regulations, which can be designed to favor one group over another. President Donald Trump was right in saying that the system is riggedby those in the inherited plutocracy of which he himself is a member. And he is making it much, much worse.

America has long outdone others in its level of inequality, but in the past 40 years it has reached new heights. Whereas the income share of the top 0.1 percent has more than quadrupled and that of the top 1 percent has almost doubled, that of the bottom 90 percent has declined. Wages at the bottom, adjusted for inflation, are about the same as they were some 60 years ago! In fact, for those with a high school education or less, incomes have fallen over recent decades. Males have been particularly hard hit, as the U.S. has moved away from manufacturing industries into an economy based on services.

Deaths of Despair

Wealth is even less equally distributed, with just three Americans having as much as the bottom 50 percent - testimony to how much money there is at the top and how little there is at the bottom. Families in the bottom 50 percent hardly have the cash reserves to meet an emergency. Newspapers are replete with stories of those for whom the breakdown of a car or an illness starts a downward spiral from which they never recover.

In significant part because of high inequality [see “The Health-Wealth Gap,” by Robert M. Sapolsky], U.S. life expectancy, exceptionally low to begin with, is experiencing sustained declines. This in spite of the marvels of medical science, many advances of which occur right here in America and which are made readily available to the rich. Economist Ann Case and 2015 Nobel laureate in economics Angus Deaton describe one of the main causes of rising morbidity - the increase in alcoholism, drug overdoses and SUICIDES - as DEATHS OF DESPAIR by those who have GIVEN UP HOPE.

image: fading american dream

Defenders of America’s inequality have a pat explanation. They refer to the workings of a competitive market, where the laws of supply and demand determine wages, prices and even interest rates - a mechanical system, much like that describing the physical universe. Those with scarce assets or skills are amply rewarded, they argue, because of the larger contributions they make to the economy. What they get merely represents what they have contributed. Often they take out less than they contributed, so what is left over for the rest is that much more.

This fictional narrative may at one time have assuaged the guilt of those at the top and persuaded everyone else to accept this sorry state of affairs. Perhaps the DEFINING moment EXPOSING the lie was the 2008 financial crisis, when the bankers who brought the global economy to the brink of ruin with predatory lending, market manipulation and various other antisocial practices walked away with MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in BONUSES - JUST AS millions of Americans lost their HOMES and tens of millions more worldwide suffered on their account. Virtually none of these bankers were ever held to account for their misdeeds.

I became aware of the fantastical nature of this narrative as a schoolboy, when I thought of the wealth of the plantation owners, built on the backs of slaves. At the time of the Civil War, the market value of the slaves in the South was approximately half of the region’s total wealth, including the value of the land and the physical capital - the factories and equipment. The wealth of at least this part of this nation was not based on industry, innovation and commerce but rather on exploitation. Today we have replaced this open exploitation with more insidious forms, which have intensified since the Reagan-Thatcher revolution of the 1980s. This exploitation, I will argue, is largely to blame for the escalating inequality in the U.S.

After the New Deal of the 1930s, American inequality went into decline. By the 1950s inequality had receded to such an extent that another Nobel laureate in economics, Simon Kuznets, formulated what came to be called Kuznets’s law. In the early stages of development, as some parts of a country seize new opportunities, inequalities grow, he postulated; in the later stages, they shrink. The theory long fit the databut then, around the early 1980s, the trend abruptly reversed.

Explaining Inequality

Economists have put forward a range of explanations for why inequality has in fact been increasing in many developed countries. Some argue that advances in technology have spurred the demand for skilled labor relative to unskilled labor, thereby depressing the wages of the latter. Yet that alone cannot explain why even skilled labor has done so poorly over the past two decades, why average wages have done so badly and why matters are so much worse in the U.S. than in other developed nations. Changes in technology are global and should affect all advanced economies in the same way. Other economists blame globalization itself, which has weakened the power of workers. Firms can and do move abroad unless demands for higher wages are curtailed. But again, globalization has been integral to all advanced economies. Why is its impact so much worse in the U.S.?

The shift from a manufacturing to a service-based economy is partly to blame. At its extreme - a firm of one person - the service economy is a winner-takes-all system. A movie star makes millions, for example, whereas most actors make a pittance. Overall, wages are likely to be far more widely dispersed in a service economy than in one based on manufacturing, so the transition contributes to greater inequality. This fact does not explain, however, why the average wage has not improved for decades. Moreover, the shift to the service sector is happening in most other advanced countries: Why are matters so much worse in the U.S.?

Again, because services are often provided locally, firms have more market power: the ability to raise prices above what would prevail in a competitive market. A small town in rural America may have only one authorized Toyota repair shop, which virtually every Toyota owner is forced to patronize. The providers of these local services can raise prices over costs, increasing their profits and the share of income going to owners and managers. This, too, increases inequality. But again, why is U.S. inequality practically unique?

In his celebrated 2013 treatise Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty shifts the gaze to capitalists. He suggests that the few who own much of a country’s capital save so much that, given the stable and high return to capital (relative to the growth rate of the economy), their share of the national income has been increasing. His theory has, however, been questioned on many grounds. For instance, the savings rate of even the rich in the U.S. is so low, compared with the rich in other countries, that the increase in inequality should be lower here, not greater.

An alternative theory is far more consonant with the facts. Since the mid-1970s the rules of the economic game have been rewritten, both globally and nationally, in ways that advantage the rich and disadvantage the rest. And they have been rewritten further in this perverse direction in the U.S. than in other developed countries - even though the rules in the U.S. were already less favorable to workers. From this perspective, increasing inequality is a matter of choice: a consequence of our policies, laws and regulations.

In the U.S., the market power of large corporations, which was greater than in most other advanced countries to begin with, has increased even more than elsewhere. On the other hand, the market power of workers, which started out less than in most other advanced countries, has fallen further than elsewhere. This is not only because of the shift to a service-sector economy - it is because of the rigged rules of the game, rules set in a political system that is itself rigged through gerrymandering, voter suppression and the influence of money. A vicious spiral has formed: economic inequality translates into political inequality, which leads to rules that favor the wealthy, which in turn reinforces economic inequality.

Feedback Loop

Political scientists have documented the ways in which money influences politics in certain political systems, converting higher economic inequality into greater political inequality. Political inequality, in its turn, gives rise to more economic inequality as the rich use their political power to shape the rules of the game in ways that favor themחfor instance, by softening antitrust laws and weakening unions. Using mathematical models, economists such as myself have shown that this two-way feedback loop between money and regulations leads to at least two stable points. If an economy starts out with lower inequality, the political system generates rules that sustain it, leading to one equilibrium situation. The American system is the other equilibriumand will continue to be unless there is a democratic political awakening.

An account of how the rules have been shaped must begin with antitrust laws, first enacted 128 years ago in the U.S. to prevent the agglomeration of market power. Their enforcement has weakened - at a time when, if anything, the laws themselves should have been strengthened. Technological changes have concentrated market power in the hands of a few global players, in part because of so-called network effects: you are far more likely to join a particular social network or use a certain word processor if everyone you know is already using it. Once established, a firm such as Facebook or Microsoft is hard to dislodge. Moreover, fixed costs, such as that of developing a piece of software, have increased as compared with marginal costs - that of duplicating the software. A new entrant has to bear all these fixed costs up front, and if it does enter, the rich incumbent can respond by lowering prices drastically. The cost of making an additional e-book or photo-editing program is essentially zero.

In short, entry is hard and risky, which gives established firms with deep war chests enormous power to crush competitors and ultimately raise prices. Making matters worse, U.S. firms have been innovative not only in the products they make but in thinking of ways to extend and amplify their market power. The European Commission has imposed fines of billions of dollars on Microsoft and Google and ordered them to stop their anticompetitive practices (such as Google privileging its own comparison shopping service). In the U.S., we have done too little to control concentrations of market power, so it is not a surprise that it has increased in many sectors.

global inequality trends

Rigged rules also explain why the impact of globalization may have been worse in the U.S. A concerted attack on unions has almost halved the fraction of unionized workers in the nation, to about 11 percent. (In Scandinavia, it is roughly 70 percent.) Weaker unions provide workers less protection against the efforts of firms to drive down wages or worsen working conditions. Moreover, U.S. investment treaties such as the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement - treaties that were sold as a way of preventing foreign countries from discriminating against American firms - also protect investors against a tightening of environmental and health regulations abroad. For instance, they enable corporations to sue nations in private international arbitration panels for passing laws that protect citizens and the environment but threaten the multinational company’s bottom line. Firms like these provisions, which enhance the credibility of a company’s threat to move abroad if workers do not temper their demands. In short, these investment agreements weaken U.S. workers’ bargaining power even further.

Liberated Finance

Many other changes to our norms, laws, rules and regulations have contributed to inequality. Weak corporate governance laws have allowed chief executives in the U.S. to compensate themselves 361 times more than the average worker, far more than in other developed countries. Financial liberalizationחthe stripping away of regulations designed to prevent the financial sector from imposing harms, such as the 2008 economic crisis, on the rest of societyhas enabled the finance industry to grow in size and profitability and has increased its opportunities to exploit everyone else. Banks routinely indulge in practices that are legal but should not be, such as imposing usurious interest rates on borrowers or exorbitant fees on merchants for credit and debit cards and creating securities that are designed to fail. They also frequently do things that are illegal, including market manipulation and insider trading. In all of this, the financial sector has moved money away from ordinary Americans to rich bankers and the banks’ shareholders. This redistribution of wealth is an important contributor to American inequality.

Other means of so-called rent extraction - the withdrawal of income from the national pie that is incommensurate with societal contribution abound. For example, a legal provision enacted in 2003 prohibited the government from negotiating drug prices for Medicare - a gift of some $50 billion a year or more to the pharmaceutical industry. Special favors, such as extractive industries’ obtaining public resources such as oil at below fair-market value or banks’ getting funds from the Federal Reserve at near-zero interest rates (which they relend at high interest rates), also amount to rent extraction. Further exacerbating inequality is favorable tax treatment for the rich. In the U.S., those at the top pay a smaller fraction of their income in taxes than those who are much poorer - a form of largesse that the Trump administration has just worsened with the 2017 tax bill.

Some economists have argued that we can lessen inequality only by giving up on growth and efficiency. But recent research, such as work done by Jonathan Ostry and others at the International Monetary Fund, suggests that economies with greater equality perform better, with higher growth, better average standards of living and greater stability. Inequality in the extremes observed in the U.S. and in the manner generated there actually damages the economy. The exploitation of market power and the variety of other distortions I have described, for instance, makes markets less efficient, leading to underproduction of valuable goods such as basic research and overproduction of others, such as exploitative financial products.

image: global inequlaity 2018

Moreover, because the rich typically spend a smaller fraction of their income on consumption than the poor, total or “aggregate demand” in countries with higher inequality is weaker. Societies could make up for this gap by increasing government spending = on infrastructure, education and health, for instance, all of which are investments necessary for long-term growth. But the politics of unequal societies typically puts the burden on monetary policy: interest rates are lowered to stimulate spending. Artificially low interest rates, especially if coupled with inadequate financial market regulation, often give rise to bubbles, which is what happened with the 2008 housing crisis.

It is no surprise that, on average, people living in unequal societies have less equality of opportunity: those at the bottom never get the education that would enable them to live up to their potential. This fact, in turn, exacerbates inequality while wasting the country’s most valuable resource: Americans themselves.

Restoring Justice

Morale is lower in unequal societies, especially when inequality is seen as unjust, and the feeling of being used or cheated leads to lower productivity. When those who run gambling casinos or bankers suffering from moral turpitude make a zillion times more than the scientists and inventors who brought us lasers, transistors and an understanding of DNA, it is clear that something is wrong. Then again, the children of the rich come to think of themselves as a class apart, entitled to their good fortune, and accordingly more likely to break the rules necessary for making society function. All of this contributes to a breakdown of trust, with its attendant impact on social cohesion and economic performance.

There is no magic bullet to remedy a problem as deep-rooted as America’s inequality. Its origins are largely political, so it is hard to imagine meaningful change without a concerted effort to take money out of politics - through, for instance, campaign finance reform. Blocking the revolving doors by which regulators and other government officials come from and return to the same industries they regulate and work with is also essential.

image: widening wage gap

Beyond that, we need more progressive taxation and high-quality federally funded public education, including affordable access to universities for all, no ruinous loans required. We need modern competition laws to deal with the problems posed by 21st-century market power and stronger enforcement of the laws we do have. We need labor laws that protect workers and their rights to unionize. We need corporate governance laws that curb exorbitant salaries bestowed on chief executives, and we need stronger financial regulations that will prevent banks from engaging in the exploitative practices that have become their hallmark. We need better enforcement of antidiscrimination laws: it is unconscionable that women and minorities get paid a mere fraction of what their white male counterparts receive. We also need more sensible inheritance laws that will reduce the intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage.

The basic perquisites of a middle-class life, including a secure old age, are no longer attainable for most Americans. We need to guarantee access to health care. We need to strengthen and reform retirement programs, which have put an increasing burden of risk management on workers (who are expected to manage their portfolios to guard simultaneously against the risks of inflation and market collapse) and opened them up to exploitation by our financial sector (which sells them products designed to maximize bank fees rather than retirement security). Our mortgage system was our Achilles’ heel, and we have not really fixed it. With such a large fraction of Americans living in cities, we have to have urban housing policies that ensure affordable housing for all.

It is a long agenda - but a doable one. When skeptics say it is nice but not affordable, I reply: We cannot afford to not do these things. We are already paying a high price for inequality, but it is just a down payment on what we will have to pay if we do not do something - and quickly. It is not just our economy that is at stake; we are risking our democracy.

As more of our citizens come to understand why the fruits of economic progress have been so unequally shared, there is a real danger that they will become open to a demagogue blaming the country’s problems on others and making false promises of rectifying “a rigged system.” We are already experiencing a foretaste of what might happen. It could get much worse.

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Posted by Elvis on 10/18/18 •
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Monday, October 15, 2018

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 35 - Censorship

An internal company BRIEFING produced by Google and leaked exclusively to Breitbart News argues that due to a variety of factors, including the election of President Trump, the “American tradition: of free speech on the internet is no longer viable.

Despite leaked video footage showing top executives declaring their intention to ensure that the rise of Trump and the populist movement is just a :blip” in history, Google has repeatedly denied that the political bias of its employees filter into its products.

But the 85-page briefing, titled THE GOOD CENSOR admits that Google and other tech platforms now control the majority of “online conversations” and have undertaken a shift towards “censorship” in response to unwelcome political events around the world.

Examples cited in the documentinclude the 2016 election and the rise of Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) in Germany.

Responding to the leak, an official Google source said the documentshould be considered internal research, and not an official company position.

The briefing labels the ideal of unfettered free speech on the internet a “utopian narrative” that has been “undermined” by recent global events as well as “bad behavior” on the part of users. It can be read in full below.

It acknowledges that major tech platforms, including Google, Facebook and Twitter initially promised free speech to consumers. This free speech ideal was instilled in the DNA of the Silicon Valley startups that now control the majority of our online conversations,Ӕ says the document.

image: social media censorship

The briefing argues that Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are caught between two incompatible positions, the unmediated “marketplace of ideas” vs. “well-ordered spaces for safety and civility.”

image: social media censorship2

The first approach is described as a product of the “American tradition” which prioritizes free speech for democracy, not “civility.” The second is described as a product of the “European tradition,” which favors “dignity over liberty and civility over freedom.” The briefing claims that all tech platforms are now moving toward the European tradition.

The briefing associates Googles new role as the guarantor of “civility” with the categories of “editor” and “publisher.” This is significant, given that Google, YouTube, and other tech giants publicly claim they are not publishers but rather neutral platforms ԗ a categorization that grants them special legal immunities under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Elsewhere in the document, Google admits that Section 230 was designed to ensure they can remain neutral platforms for free expression.

Trump, Conspiracy Theorist

One of the reasons Google identifies for allegedly widespread public disillusionment with internet free speech is that it breeds “conspiracy theories.” The example Google uses? A 2016 tweet from then-candidate Donald Trump, alleging that Google search suppressed negative results about Hillary Clinton.

image: social media censorship3

t the time, Google said that it suppressed negative autocomplete suggestions about everybody, not just Clinton. But it was comparatively easy to find such autocomplete results when searching for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Independent research from psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein also shows that Google search results (if not autocomplete results) did indeed favor Clinton in 2016.

Twice in the document, Google juxtaposes a factoid about “Russian interference” in American elections with pictures of Donald Trump. At one point, the documentadmits that tech platforms are changing their policies to pre-empt congressional action on foreign interference.

The documentdid not address the fact that, according to leading psychologists, the impact of “foreign bots” and propaganda on social media has a negligible impact on voters.

From Suggestions to Company Policy

It is unclear for whom the Good CensorӔ was intended. What is clear, however, is that Google spent (or paid someone to spend) significant time and effort to produce it.

image: social media censorship4

According to the briefing itself, it was the product of an extensive process involving several layers of research,Ӕ including expert interviews with MIT Tech Review editor-in-chief Jason Pontin, Atlantic staff writer Franklin Foer, and academic Kalev Leetaru. 35 cultural observers and 7 cultural leaders from seven countries on five continents were also consulted to produce it.

What is also clear is that many of the briefings recommendations are now reflected in the policy of Google and its sibling companies.

For example, the briefing argues that tech companies will have to censor their platforms if they want to ғexpand globally. Google is now constructing a censored search engine to gain access to the Chinese market.

The documentalso bemoans that the internet allows ԓhave a go commenters (in other words, ordinary people) to compete on a level playing field with ԓauthoritative sources like the New York Times. Google-owned YouTube now promotes so-called ԓauthoritative sources in its algorithm. The company did not specifically name which sources it would promote.

Key points in the briefing can be found at the following page numbers:

P2 Ԗ The briefing states that users are asking if the openness of the internet should be celebrated after allӔ and that free speech has become a social, economic, and political weapon.Ӕ
P11 The briefing identifies Breitbart News as the media publication most interested in the topic of free speech.
P12 ֖ The briefing says the early free-speech ideals of the internet were utopian.Ӕ
P14 The briefing admits that Google, along with Twitter and Facebook, now ֓control the majority of online conversations.
P15 Ԗ Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is linked to Googles position as a platform for free expression. Elsewhere in the document(p68), Google and other platformsҒ move towards moderation and censorship is associated with the role of publisherӔ which would not be subject to Section 230֒s legal protections.
PP19-21 The briefing identifies several factors that allegedly eroded faith in free speech. The election of Donald Trump and alleged Russian involvement is identified as one such factor. The rise of the populist Alternative fur Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party in Germany ֖ which the briefing falsely smears as alt-rightӔ is another.
PP26-34 ֖ The briefing explains how users behaving badlyӔ undermines free speech on the internet and allows crummy politicians to expand their influence.Ӕ The briefing bemoans that racists, misogynists, and oppressorsӔ are allowed a voice alongside revolutionaries, whistleblowers, and campaigners.Ӕ It warns that users are keener to transgress moral normsӔ behind the protection of anonymity.
P37 The briefing acknowledges that China ֖ for which Google has developed a censored search engine has the worst track record on internet freedom.
P45 ֖ After warning about the rise of online hate speech, the briefing approvingly cites Sarah Jeong, infamous for her hate speech against white males (Google is currently facing a lawsuit alleging it discriminates against white males, among other categories).
P45 The briefing bemoans the fact that the internet has until recently been a level playing field, warning that ֓rational debate is damaged when authoritative voices and have a goђ commentators receive equal weighting.
P49 Ԗ The documentaccuses President Trump of spreading the conspiracy theoryӔ that Google autocomplete suggestions unfairly favored Hillary Clinton in 2016. (Trumps suspicions were actually correct Җ independent research has shown that Google did favor Clinton in 2016).
P53 Free speech platform Gab is identified as a major destination for users who are dissatisfied with censorship on other platforms.
P54 ֖ After warning about harassmentӔ earlier in the document, the briefing approvingly describes a 27,000-strong left-wing social media campaign as a digital flash mobӔ engaged in friendly counter-commenting.Ӕ
P57 - The documentjuxtaposes a factoid about Russian election interference with a picture of Donald Trump.
P63 - The briefing admits that when Google, GoDaddy and CloudFlare simultaneously withdrew service from website The Daily Stormer, they were effectively booting it off the internet, a point also made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the FCC in their subsequent warnings about online censorship.
P66-68 = The briefing argues that Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are caught between two incompatible positions, the “unmediated marketplace” of ideas vs. “well-ordered” spaces for safety and civility. The first is described as a product of the ԓAmerican tradition which ԓprioritizes free speech for democracy, not civility. The second is described as a product of the “European tradition,” which ԓfavors dignity over liberty and civility over freedom. The briefing claims that all tech platforms are now moving toward the European tradition.
P70 - The briefing sums up the reasons for big techs ғshift towards censorship, including the need to respond to regulatory demands and ԓexpand globally, to ԓmonetize content through its organization, and to “protect advertisers from controversial content, [and] increase revenues.”
P74-76 - The briefing warns that concerns about censorship from major tech platforms have spread beyond the right-wing media into the mainstream.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

National (In)Security

image: dying america

Economic recovery is now treated as consistent with declining standards of living. Lowered expectations and acquiescence in long term working-class hardship are now built into what we are told to regard as recovery.
- Still Trapped in Unemployment

The United States Has a National-Security Problemand It’s Not What You Think
Conflict abroad is not the biggest threat to most Americans lives.

By Rajan Menon
Tom Dispatch
July 16, 2018

So effectively has the Beltway establishment captured the concept of national security that, for most of us, it automatically conjures up images of terrorist groups, cyber warriors, or “rogue states.” To ward off such foes, the United States maintains a historically unprecedented CONSTELLATION of military bases abroad and, since 9/11, has waged wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere that have gobbled up nearly $4.8 trillion. The 2018 Pentagon budget already totals $647 billionfour times what China, second in global military spending, shells out and more than the next 12 countries combined, seven of them American allies. For good measure, Donald Trump has added an additional $200 billion to projected defense expenditures through 2019.

Yet to hear the hawks tell it, the United States has never been less secure. So much for bang for the buck.

For millions of Americans, however, the greatest threat to their day-to-day security isn’t terrorism or North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China. It’s internal - and economic. Tha’ts particularly true for the 12.7 percent of Americans (43.1 million of them) classified as poor by the government’s criteria: an income below $12,140 for a one-person household, $16,460 for a family of two, and so on until you get to the princely sum of $42,380 for a family of eight.

Savings aren’t much help either: A third of Americans have no savings at all and another third have less than $1,000 in the bank. Little wonder that families struggling to cover the cost of food alone increased from 11 percent (36 million) in 2007 to 14 percent (48 million) in 2014.

The Working Poor

Unemployment can certainly contribute to being poor, but millions of Americans endure poverty when they have full-time jobs or even hold down more than one job. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are 8.6 million “working poor,” defined by the government as people who live below the poverty line despite being employed at least 27 weeks a year. Their economic insecurity doesn’t register in our society, partly because working and being poor don’t seem to go together in the minds of many Americansand unemployment has fallen reasonably steadily. After approaching 10 percent in 2009, it’s now at ONLY 4 PERCENT.

Help from the government? Bill Clinton’s 1996 “welfare reform” program, concocted in partnership with congressional Republicans, imposed time limits on government assistance, while tightening eligibility criteria for it. So, as Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer show in their disturbing book, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, many who desperately need help don’t even bother to apply. And things will only get worse in the age of Trump. His 2019 budget includes deep cuts in a raft of anti-poverty programs.

Anyone seeking a visceral sense of the hardships such Americans endure should read Barbara Ehrenreichs 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. ItҒs a gripping account of what she learned when, posing as a homemakerғ with no special skills, she worked for two years in various low-wage jobs, relying solely on her earnings to support herself. The book brims with stories about people who had jobs but, out of necessity, slept in rent-by-the-week fleabag motels, flophouses, or even in their cars, subsisting on vending machine snacks for lunch, hot dogs and instant noodles for dinner, and forgoing basic dental care or health checkups. Those who managed to get permanent housing would choose poor, low-rent neighborhoods close to work because they often couldnt afford a car. To maintain even such a barebones lifestyle, many worked more than one job.

Though politicians prattle on about how times have changed for the better, EhrenreichԒs book still provides a remarkably accurate picture of Americas working poor. Over the past decade the proportion of people who exhausted their monthly paychecks just to pay for life’s essentials actually increased from 31 percent to 38 percent. In 2013, 71 percent of the families that had children and used food pantries run by Feeding America, the largest private organization helping the hungry, included at least one person who had worked during the previous year. And in Americas big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families. In New York City, no outlier when it comes to homelessness among the working poor, in a third of the families with children that use homeless shelters at least one adult held a job.

The Wages of Poverty

The working poor cluster in certain occupations. They are salespeople in retail stores, servers or preparers of fast food, custodial staff, hotel workers, and caregivers for children or the elderly. Many make less than $10 an hour and lack any leverage, union or otherwise, to press for raises. In fact, the percentage of unionized workers in such jobs remains in the single digits - and in retail and food preparation, its under 4.5 percent. That;s hardly surprising, given that private sector union membership has fallen by 50 percent since 1983 to only 6.7 percent of the workforce.

Low-wage employers like it that way and Walmart being the poster child for this - work diligently to make it ever harder for employees to join unions. As a result, they rarely find themselves under any real pressure to increase wages, which, adjusted for inflation, have stood still or even decreased since the late 1970s. When employment is “at-will,” workers may be fired or the terms of their work amended on the whim of a company and without the slightest explanation. Walmart announced this year that it would hike its hourly wage to $11 and that’s welcome news. But this had nothing to do with collective bargaining; it was a response to the drop in the unemployment rate, cash flows from the Trump tax cut for corporations (which saved Walmart as much as $2 billion), an increase in minimum wages in a number of states, and pay increases by an arch competitor, Target. It was also accompanied by the shutdown of 63 of Walmart’s Sams Club stores, which meant layoffs for 10,000 workers. In short, the balance of power almost always favors the employer, seldom the employee.

As a result, though the United States has a per-capita income of $59,500 and is among the wealthiest countries in the world, 12.7 percent of Americans (thatҒs 43.1 million people), officially are impoverished. And that’s generally considered a significant undercount. The Census Bureau establishes the poverty rate by figuring out an annual no-frills family food budget, multiplying it by three, adjusting it for household size, and pegging it to the Consumer Price Index. That, many economists believe, is a woefully inadequate way of estimating poverty. Food prices havenҒt risen dramatically over the past 20 years, but the cost of other necessities like medical care (especially if you lack insurance) and housing have: 10.5 percent and 11.8 percent respectively between 2013 and 2017 compared to an only 5.5 percent increase for food.

Include housing and medical expenses in the equation and you get the Supplementary Poverty Measure (SPM), published by the Census Bureau since 2011. It reveals that a larger number of Americans are poor: 14 percent or 45 million in 2016.
Dismal Data

For a fuller picture of American (in)security, however, its necessary to delve deeper into the relevant data, starting with hourly wages, which are the way more than 58 percent of adult workers are paid. The good news: Only 1.8 million, or 2.3 percent of them, subsist at or below minimum wage. The not-so-good news: One-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42 percent earn less than $15. That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

The problem facing the working poor isnt just low wages, but the widening gap between wages and rising prices. The government has increased the hourly federal minimum wage more than 20 times since it was set at 25 cents under the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Between 2007 and 2009 it rose to $7.25, but over the past decade that sum lost nearly 10 percent of its purchasing power to inflation, which means that, in 2018, someone would have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

Workers in the lowest 20 percent have lost the most ground, their inflation-adjusted wages falling by nearly 1 percent between 1979 and 2016, compared to a 24.7 percent increase for the top 20 percent. This can’t be explained by lackluster productivity since, between 1985 and 2015, it outstripped pay raises, often substantially, in every economic sector except mining.

Yes, states can mandate higher minimum wages and 29 have, but 21 have not, leaving many low-wage workers struggling to cover the costs of two essentials in particular: health care and housing.

Even when it comes to jobs that offer health insurance, employers have been shifting ever more of its cost onto their workers through higher deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses, as well as by requiring them to cover more of the premiums. The percentage of workers who paid at least 10 percent of their earnings to cover such costs - not counting premiums - doubled between 2003 and 2014.

This helps explain why, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11 percent of workers in the bottom 10 percent of wage earners even enrolled in workplace healthcare plans in 2016 (compared to 72 percent in the top 10 percent). As a restaurant server who makes $2.13 an hour before tipsand whose husband earns $9 an hour at Walmartחput it, after paying the rent, it’s either put food in the house or buy insurance.

The Affordable Care Act, or ACA (aka Obamacare), provided subsidies to help people with low incomes cover the cost of insurance premiums, but workers with employer-supplied healthcare, no matter how low their wages, weren’t covered by it. Now, of course, President Trump, congressional Republicans, and a Supreme Court in which right-wing justices are going to be even more influential will be intent on poleaxing the ACA.

Its housing, though, that takes the biggest bite out of the paychecks of low-wage workers. The majority of them are renters. Ownership remains for many a pipe dream. According to a Harvard study, between 2001 and 2016, renters who made $30,000-$50,000 a year and paid more than a third of their earnings to landlords (the threshold for qualifying as rent burdened) increased from 37 percent to 50 percent. For those making only $15,000, that figure rose to 83 percent.

In other words, in an ever more unequal America, the number of low-income workers struggling to pay their rent has surged. As the Harvard analysis shows, this is, in part, because the number of affluent renters (with incomes of $100,000 or more) has leapt and, in city after city, they’re driving the demand for, and building of, new rental units. As a result, the high-end share of new rental construction soared from a third to nearly two-thirds of all units between 2001 and 2016. Not surprisingly, new low-income rental units dropped from two-fifths to one-fifth of the total and, as the pressure on renters rose, so did rents for even those modest dwellings. On top of that, in places like New York City, where demand from the wealthy shapes the housing market, landlords have found ways - some within the law, others not - to get rid of low-income tenants.

Public housing and housing vouchers are supposed to make housing affordable to low-income households, but the supply of public housing hasnt remotely matched demand. Consequently, waiting lists are long and people in need languish for years before getting a shot - if they ever do. Only a quarter of those who qualify for such assistance receive it. As for those vouchers, getting them is hard to begin with because of the massive mismatch between available funding for the program and the demand for the help it provides. And then come the other challenges: finding landlords willing to accept vouchers or rentals that are reasonably close to work and not in neighborhoods euphemistically labelled “distressed.”

The bottom line: More than 75 percent of “at-risk” renters (those for whom the cost of rent exceeds 30 percent or more of their earnings) do not receive assistance from the government. The real risk for them is becoming homeless, which means relying on shelters or family and friends willing to take them in.

President Trumps proposed budget cuts will make life even harder for low-income workers seeking affordable housing. His 2019 budget proposal slashes $6.8 billion (14.2 percent) from the resources of the Department of Housing and Urban DevelopmentԒs (HUD) by, among other things, scrapping housing vouchers and assistance to low-income families struggling to pay heating bills. The president also seeks to slash funds for the upkeep of public housing by nearly 50 percent. In addition, the deficits that his rich-come-first tax reformғ bill is virtually guaranteed to produce will undoubtedly set the stage for yet more cuts in the future. In other words, in whats becoming the United States of Inequality, the very phrases “low-income” workers and “affordable housing” have ceased to go together.

None of this seems to have troubled HUD Secretary Ben Carson who happily ordered a $31,000 dining room set for his office suite at the taxpayers’ expense, even as he visited new public housing units to make sure that they weren’t too comfortable (lest the poor settle in for long stays). Carson has declared that itҒs time to stop believing the problems of this society can be fixed merely by having the government throw extra money at themunless, apparently, the dining room accoutrements of super bureaucrats aren’t up to snuff.

Money Talks

The levels of poverty and economic inequality that prevail in America are not intrinsic to either capitalism or globalization. Most other wealthy market economies in the 36-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have done far better than the United States in reducing them without sacrificing innovation or creating government-run economies.

Take the poverty gap, which the OECD defines as the difference between a countrys official poverty line and the average income of those who fall below it. The United States has the second-largest poverty gap among wealthy countries; only Italy does worse.

Child poverty? In the World Economic ForumҒs ranking of 41 countriesfrom best to worstҗthe United States placed 35th. Child poverty has declined in the United States since 2010, but a Columbia University report estimates that 19 percent of American kids (13.7 million) nevertheless lived in families with incomes below the official poverty line in 2016. If you add in the number of kids in low-income households, that number increases to 41 percent.

As for infant mortality, according to the governments own Centers for Disease Control, the United States, with 6.1 deaths per 1,000 live births, has the absolute worst record among wealthy countries. (Finland and Japan do best, with 2.3.)

And when it comes to the distribution of wealth, among the OECD countries only Turkey, Chile, and Mexico do worse than the United States.

It’s time to rethink the American national security state with its annual trillion-dollar budget. For tens of millions of Americans, the source of deep workaday insecurity isnt the standard roster of foreign enemies, but an ever-more entrenched system of inequality, still growing, that stacks the political deck against the least well-off Americans. They lack the bucks to hire big-time lobbyists. They can’t writelavish checks to candidates running for public office or fund PACs. They have no way of manipulating the myriad influence-generating networks that the elite uses to shape taxation and spending policies. They are up against a system in which money truly does talk - and that’s the voice they don’t have. Welcome to the United States of Inequality.

SOURCE - SOURCE 2

Posted by Elvis on 10/09/18 •
Section Dying America
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Sunday, October 07, 2018

True Evil Redux

greedy-exec.jpg

“What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way?--dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must.”
- Mark Twain, 1871

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
- Edmund Burke

Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.
- Rich And Spoiled, Science Magazine, February, 2012

Did you see the Brett Kavanaugh SPECTACLE last week?

Can you believe he’s now a SUPREME COURT JUDGE?

Umair over at Eudamonia NAILED IT:

He flipped, in this strange, polarized, binary way, between extreme narcissistic rage - shouting, red-faced, about his many accomplishments, thundering how he’d been first in his class, and so on - and just as extreme unctuous self-pity, in great broken sobs “how can they have done this to me?”

Violence is the only language such men really understand

What was it that we saw Senators - at least the male conservative ones, who are part of these structures - doing in response to Kavanaugh’s classic pattern of borderline narcissistic flipping between extreme rage and extreme self-pity? A little pecking order of violence was being established, wasn’t it? In that very room, you saw the enactment and creation of the very social structure were talking about - the threat of violence, dominance, creating a little hierarchy. Senators at the bottom, Kavanaugh at the top. Through a kind of ritualistic gang violence - which was a double abuse, because it was conducted upon a woman who had already been assaulted - the group bonded, formed a tribe, and sorted itself into strongest and weakest, top, middle, and bottom, with the most vicious and threatening man at the top.

Why do American men of this kind, or men in these systems more generally, prey on people, so constantly, perpetually, relentlessly?

Good question.

The Kavanaugh appointment may be one small expression, but shines a light on the bigger picture of a society run by the PUREST OF EVIL:

Malignant narcissists are the personification of human evil. Well-known psychologist and author, Erich Fromm, coined the phrase “malignant narcissism” back in 1964 and characterized it as the “quintessence of evil.”

THESE PEOPLE:

have no boundaries, no sense of shame, no limits to what they are willing to do to get what they want.

Next time you see politicians or corporate CEOs conduct themselves, watch how they act and RECOGNIZE the patterns.

More:

TRUE EVIL

THE SCIENCE OF EVIL AND ITS USE FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES

THE POLITICS OF CRUELTY

BULLY ECONOMY

SPIRITUAL CRISIS

Posted by Elvis on 10/07/18 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America • Section Spiritual Diversions
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Monday, September 10, 2018

Fake Recovery

image labor force participation september 2018

See that chart above?  It’s not a pretty picture.

It’s the CIVILIAN LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATE that shows in one easy-to-understand graph the PERCENTAGE OF AMERICAN adults that are working.

Remember the JOBLESS RECOVERY they pushed on us five years ago? What the heck is THAT supposed to be?

Today we may as well call it a fake recovery, because there still is no recovery, yet it’s all over the news that the economy has NEVER BEEN BETTER.

It’s more of the SAME FICTION I’ve been reading and reporting about for years - PROPAGANDA AMERICAN STYLE.

Check out some of the headlines.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:

“Great financial numbers being announced on an almost daily basis. Economy has never been better, jobs at best point in history.”

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR:

“The August jobs report shows continued, strong job growth with 201,000 jobs created and an unemployment rate holding at 3.9%.  More than 4 million jobs have been created since November 2016.  Since 1970, the unemployment rate has registered below 4% just nine times; four of those months have been recorded during 2018.

“It is remarkable to see steady positive news regarding job growth month after month.”

REUTERS:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment aid fell to near a 49-year low last week and private payrolls rose steadily in August, pointing to sustained labor market strength that should continue to underpin economic growth.

WALL STREET JOURNAL:

Now, recruiters say, the tightest job market in decades has left employers looking to tamp down hiring costs with three options: Offer more money upfront, LOWER THEIR STANDARDS or retrain current staff in coding, procurement or other necessary skills.

Let’s look at some more charts BEFORE WE BELIEVE the DOL and Reuters news reports.

LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT is still over 20% of the total unemployed - that’s almost one in four unemployed that’s jobless over 27 weeks.  (Soon after that they STOP LOOKING, AREN’T COUNTED as unemployed anymore, and move into the NOT IN THE LABOR FORCE category)

image: BLS table a-12 September 2018

The LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT rate is easy to calculate because the BLS breaks down the statistics each month in the EMPLOYMENT SITUATION SUMMARY. The number of people who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more is in TABLE A-12. It also calculates the percentage they make up of the total unemployed. This table gives you the data for the previous three months, seasonally adjusted. It also allows you to compare the last two months and year-over-year, not seasonally adjusted.
- Failure, March 15, 2018

How many are out of work (and counted as not in the labor force) that want a job?

More than 20 years ago:

image: bls chart people that want full time job

IF JOBS WERE SO PLENTIFUL - long-term unemployment wouldn’t even be a vocabulary word, never mind over 20%, and employers would be banging on our doors begging us to work for them.

We need over 200k new jobs per month to keep up with POPULATION GROWTH. And DECENT jobs to be reasonably happy.

image: gig economy

I didn’t even touch on the GIG ECONOMY that’s turning us all into SERFS - on track to be near HALF OUR WORKFORCE in a few years.

As usual - the complete story isn’t what THE NEWS is telling us.

image: no longer counted as unemployed

More Jobs Fictions

By Paul Craig Roberts
September 7, 2018

According to today’s payroll jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created 200,000 new jobs in August. These jobs, assuming that they exist, are reported to be in low paid domestic service jobs such as transporting and selling goods, ambulatory health care services, and waiting tables and mixing drinks. There are none in manufacturing or in the “high tech” clean fingernail jobs that neoliberal economists promised the American work force in exchange for letting the industrial and manufacturing jobs go to Asia.

The great mystery is how these jobs can possibly have been created when the Bureau of Labor Statistics HOUSEHOLD DATA (TABLE A) reports that the civilian labor force declined by 469,000 in August from the level in the previous month (July); that employment declined by 423,000 in August from the previous month; and that 692,000 Americans dropped out of the labor force in August. Year over year (August 2017-August 2018) 1,531,000 Americans have left the labor force. This is inconsistent with a booming economy at full employment.

It is not explained how during August the Household Survey found unemployment to rise by 423,000 and the work force to shrink by 692,000 for a total of 1,115,000 missing working people, but the economy created 200,000 new payroll jobs.

According to the financial presstitutes, we have a booming economy and labor shortages stemming from a 3.9% unemployment rate, which if it were real would probably be the lowest in my lifetime. Economists are puzzled why there is no upward pressure on wages when there are not enough workers to go around. All of this mystery is due to the fact that the unemployment rate does NOT COUNT workers who CANNOT FIND JOBS and have dropped out of the work force. If an unemployed person has not looked for a job in the past four weeks, the unemployed person is NOT COUNTED as unemployed.

The EMPLOYMENT SITUATION SUMMARY states that there are 4.4 million workers who are involuntary part-time workers because they cannot find full time jobs. So we have a booming economy in which there are more workers than full time jobs!

The Employment Situation Summary also says that there are 1.4 million workers who are not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

The financial presstitutes are not doing their job. All the financial presstitutes do is to print the headline on the press release that is handed to them - 200,000 new jobs in August.

Consequently, considering all the contradictions in the BLS data and the inaccurate measure of unemployment, we really have no idea of the STATE OF THE ECONOMY.

SOURCE

---

Labor has lost much in past four decades: Fed threatens recent gains

By Mark Weisbrot
Tribune News Service
September 8, 2018

The vast majority of Americans who need to work for a living still have a long way to go before they recover what they have lost over the past four decades.

The real inflation-adjusted median wage is only about 10 percent above what it was in 1979.

As economist Dean Baker has noted, we can also see part of this transformation of the United States into a more shamefully unequal society if we look at the distribution of national income between profits and labor.

If not for this redistribution from wages to profits from 2000-2016, the average worker today would have an additional $4,000 per year in annual income.

This historic redistribution of income and wealth was the result of choices made by our political leaders and decision-makers. Among them:

They chose to maintain higher levels of unemployment and interest rates than necessary.

They subjected workers to increasingly harsh international competition while protecting highly paid professionals and CEOs.

They increased protectionism for patent holders, including pharmaceutical companies who charge tens of thousands of dollars for cancer drugs that would sell for a small fraction of these prices in competitive markets.

They changed labor law so that unions bargaining power would be reduced to levels not seen for most of the 20th century.

The Trump administration claims that workers’ long night is over, as evidenced by the current headline unemployment rate of 3.9 percent; and that it is responsible for the historically low unemployment.

But this reduction in unemployment is the continuation of an economic recovery that began under the Obama administration, and is overwhelming the result of policy decisions by the Federal Reserve, not the president or Congress.

Beginning in December 2008, the Fed kept short-term interest rates near zero for seven years and also created trillions of dollars during much of this period to push down long-term rates.

The Fed is the main determinant of the rate of unemployment; but what the Fed giveth, the Fed taketh way. The Fed began to reverse these policies in 2015; it has raised rates twice this year and is expected to raise them two more times before the year is over.

The Fed has had no valid reason for these interest rate hikes. The Fed targets an inflation rate of 2 percent, but its preferred measure of inflation is still at 1.9 percent. And inflation has been below target for almost all of the past 9 years.

Most Americans dont know this, but when the Fed raises interest rates it is intentionally slowing the rate of job creation, in order make unemployment higher than it would otherwise be; and thereby putting downward pressure on wages.

Since World War II, the Fed has caused all of the recessions in the US except for the last two, which were caused by the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000 and then the housing bubble in 2007.

Most immediately, the Fed threatens to reverse much of the gains in employment that we have made in the current economic expansion, even though real wages did not even grow over the past year.

For the longer term, Trump and his congressional allies have moved to continue the march towards greater inequality: for example with the tax give-away to corporations and the rich and Trump’s selection of anti-labor and right-wing judges for the federal courts, increasing inequality in education, and other policies.

Reversing labors losses over the past four decades will therefore require blocking the Fed from increasing unemployment - or worse, tipping the economy into recession and then undoing some of the structural changes that have created such obscene levels of inequality.

SOURCE

---

Trump’s Fake Boom: Growing Despair Amidst Insecure Economic Recovery

By David Rosen
Counterpunch
August 31, 2018

It’s now almost a decade since the last fiscal crisis, launching what was dubbed the “Great Recession.” It wreaked havoc on the U.S. banking system and the housing market, leaving millions of Americans is desperate free-fall.  While many conventional economic indicators suggest that the economy has rebounded, a significant portion of the American public feel stuck, their futures looking bleak.

On August 6th, Pres. Trump tweeted, “Great financial numbers being announced on an almost daily basis. Economy has never been better, jobs at best point in history.” So, with such good news, why do an increasing number of Americans feel un-well?

Two recent studies point to the deepening despair shared by many Americans and unacknowledged by Trump and the mainstream media. The Federal Reserve study, REPORT IN THE ECONOMIC WELL_BEING OF U.S. HOUSEHOLDS IN 2017 [LOCAL COPY] and the GALLUP-SHARECARE WELL-BEING INDEX - detail this despair in complementary ways.  Taken together, they paint a disturbing picture of the suffering being endured by Americans, especially the nations most vulnerable.

While Trump seeks to dismiss all challenges to his empty bluster as “fake news,” there is a growing perception among Americans that the once proudly proclaimed “American Dream is over.” This perception is shared by critics of capitalism and some mainstream pundits as well as (incoherently) by those who back Trump and his call to “make America great again” - with its emphasis on “again,” a wish for what was once but nevermore.

The Federal Reserve report champions the slow economic recovery that’s marked the decade following the Great Recession. It notes that “fewer people are finding it difficult to get by, or just getting by, then was the case five years ago.  This decline in financial hardship is consistent with the decline in the national unemployment rate over this period.”

However, it warns - two in five Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency expense, and one in four don’t feel they are “at least doing OK financially.” It adds, more than one in five said they weren’t able to pay the current months bills in full, and more than one in four said they skipped necessary medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it.  These are signs of the decline in well-being.

The Gallup-Sharecare study was initiated in 2008 to gauge the overall well-being of adult Americans.  It’s a comprehensive poll involving interviews with more than 160,000 adults from all 50 states.  Its most recent 2017 survey found that between 2016 and 2017, the overall well-being score dropped 0.6 points, to 61.5 from 62.1.  As Gallup declares, “this decline is both statistically significant and meaningfully large.”

The Gallup-Sharecare study identifies a range of factors that make up its well-being metrics, including: experiencing significant worry, little interest or pleasure in doing things, clinical diagnoses of depression, daily physical pain, a decline in having someone who encourages you to be healthy and dissatisfaction with ones standard of living (compared to peers). Other symptoms of decline in well-being include unmanageable debt as well as increased obesity, drug addiction (e.g., opioids) and alcoholism.

Both the Fed and Gallup-Sharecare studies identify those suffering the greatest loss of well-being. The Gallup-Sharecare study notes: “Women have had a substantial 1.1-point drop in their Well-Being Index score, while the score for men is unchanged.”

The Fed adds: “Across the four major racial and ethnic groups, well-being has dropped the most among blacks and Hispanics, although it has also come down to a lesser degree among whites and Asians.” And it warns: “Americans living in lower-income households saw a significant drop in well-being, while their higher-income counterparts saw a smaller decrease, no change or a slight increase.”

The Fed furthers this perception, arguing, “The overall positive trend in self-reported well-being masks some notable differences across groups.” Adding, “More education is associated with greater economic well-being; however, at each education level, blacks and Hispanics are worse off than whites.”

Most revealing, the Fed finds that whites with only a high school degree are more likely to report doing okay financially than blacks or Hispanics with some college education or an associate degree. It concludes, “this pattern, combined with the fact that blacks and Hispanics typically have completed less education, results in substantially lower overall economic well-being for black and Hispanic adults.”

Gallup-Sharecare report makes sadly clear that many of those experiencing the decline in their sense of well-being are supporters of Trump and the Republicans.  Some 21 states witnessed significant declines in their relative well-being, including many Ӕred states strongly supportive of Trump.  Among those suffering the largest declines in the ostensible well-being are Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and West Virginia; West Virginia had the lowest level of well-being.

Not asked by either the Fed or Gallup-Sharecare studies was what are the consequences of the loss of well-being?  In particular, whether the decline in well-being breads rage, a deeply-personal sense of revenge toward those who ostensibly ended their American Dream?

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 09/10/18 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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