Capitalism, the greatest set of lies ever told…

Economic prosperity has been engineered out of our society except for the top .01% during the Lost Decade.

This article was written in response to this series of articles on Medium. You can follow the link for the main article thread. I took umbrage at this last assumption:

“The free market has lifted more billions out of poverty than any thing done by anyone in the past two thousand years. Governments, usually autocratic, sometimes despotic and occasionally democratic (see Greece, Venezuela etc) have caused far more harm to working people than supposedly evil capitalism.”

Yes, the “free markets” have lifted more billions (of dollars) out of “poverty that they created” than any other form of government in the history of the world. Yes, the engine of capitalism is only too happy to:

  • Destroy millions of lives to claim the land of early America in order to gain economic strength against the Old World. Native Americans are one of the first near-genocides which make the United States the economic powerhouse it is today.

  • Enslave Africans for free labor to power the economic engine of the early United States giving it access to economic leverage unable to be matched by any other nation. The US maintained this dominance for at least three hundred years by not having to pay wages for any of this economic power gained by slavery.

These first two stellar examples of capitalism create the foundation for the great economic advantage enjoyed by the United States for centuries.

  • This economic advantage is perpetuated by the United States economic dominance of other nations after World War II when most nations where war was held were forced to rebuild, the United States was happily able to profit because little or none of the war happened on US soil. Nor did the United States suffer the devastating losses in life that many other nations did during the war.

  • Manipulate the media to control what people know about how millionaires make their money and keep the general knowledge of money market manipulations, graft and corruption, insider trading, political machinations (See: ALEC) which enrich select members of our society.(See: Koch Industries, Walmart, Wall Street Banks)
  • Create economic engines using legislation to bust unions and prevent workers from having better pay, safer work environments and the ability to pay bills with only one full-time job (with benefits) rather than three part-time ones (without benefits)
  • Boast of their profit margins being the greatest in the history of the free world while paying their workers stagnating or even diminishing wages while the top .01% happily scamper away with billions of dollars in profit and unpaid taxes while storing their wealth in overseas banks.
  • Capitalize off of the cheapest labor it can find even if it has to first impoverish a nation so it can then profit from it. (See: most modern free trade agreements)
  • Create poverty in a system of government by creating false divisions between groups in order to profit from the dissent caused as a by-product (American GIs returning from World War II were given completely different opportunities depending on their race. White GIs could buy property in many major cities where Black GIs could not. Decades later that economic disparity allowed generations of Whites to leverage their homes as a means of sending their children to college and better economic opportunities for later generations while Black GIs had none of these options except in a few states of the union. Later these cities became areas of urban poverty such as Detroit.)
  • Manipulate markets in order to create profit using questionable ethics and mathematical models (see: 2008 economic recession, HSBC money laundering for criminal cartels, Wall Street Banks bailout and subsequent payouts to CEOs and executives)
  • Utilizing privatization of public services, resources, and land to profit from the commons being sold to the highest bidder while providing the lowest quality of care or support for said services. (See: Prison industrial complex and the trillion dollar waste of the War on Drugs.)
  • The greatest boondoggle of the free world is the US’s Military Industrial Complex (and the defense contractors who profit handsomely — See: Haliburton profits from Iraq War) from the United States preference for perpetual warfare, incursions into other nations (exploiting their natural resources, creating dissent, the support of dictators until they become inconvenient — See: Saddam Hussein) and military spending eclipsing all other forms of spending in the nation.

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All told, the U.S. government spent about $718 billion on defense and international security assistance in 2011 — more than it spent on Medicare. That includes all of the Pentagon’s underlying costs as well as the price tag for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to $159 billion in 2011. It also includes arms transfers to foreign governments. — Washington Post
  • And many, many other examples of exploitation, extermination, and big businesses ability to ignore externalities caused by their corporate and economic abuse of the capitalist model.

Yes, capitalism has done a lot for the world (and could have done a whole lot more) but not because it was benevolent or because it is an effective means of sharing the wealth because in most cases, as it is practiced in most of the world, it is neither.

Capitalism as a model is designed to keep fantastic wealth in the hands of few and varying degrees of poverty for everyone else.

Capitalism in its current form rewards those with money to leverage the system for their benefit, avoid any form of jurisprudence which might hold them accountable for the destruction of the environment, abuse of the people affected by their machinations or responsibility to anyone for the devastation left by the wars which enrich and power those elite enough to not have to worry about sending their children to war.

The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers $4 trillion to $6 trillion, taking into account the medical care of wounded veterans and expensive repairs to a force depleted by more than a decade of fighting, according to a new study by a Harvard researcher. – Washington Post

Let’s not brag about Capitalism as if it was some holy grail of goodness making the world a better place because when you look around, if you are rich enough, you know where the bodies are buried for your incredible wealth to exist. And have the money to keep the secrets necessary for it to be a success story claiming no one got hurt in the process.

Bison were hunted for their skins, with the rest of the animal left behind to decay on the ground.

<drops mike, walks away.>

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Net Neutrality: Being Neutered by the FCC

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IF YOU AGREE, I give you permission to send this letter to every Congressman and government official you can think of. Put your name at the beginning and the end and let them know how you feel. Go to the FCC site and make them aware of your feelings as well, while there is still time. Here is a link to finding the name and email of ANY Congressman:  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/.

GO FORTH AND FIGHT FOR THE FUTURE!

TO: Federal Communication Commission
FM: Thaddeus Howze

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has come to my attention you propose to alter the arrangement of internet delivery for the entire nation based on the presupposition that corporations such as Comcast and Time-Warner Cable have the best interests of the citizens of these United States.

Nothing has been further from the truth for quite some time.

Both of these companies have had nothing but contempt for the common user of their services, treating them as little more than a $200 a month bill that can neither be negotiated for (offering smaller bills or ala-carte services giving users the option to pay ONLY for what they want) nor providing them with bandwidth comparable with other nations where the US is considered not only the slowest, but the least technologically innovative of the developed countries.

Singapore for example:
In January 2001, the Broadband Media Association was formed to promote the broadband industry. By April the same year there were six broadband Internet providers, with the total number of broadband users exceeding 300,000. Pacific Internet introduced wireless broadband services in October 2001.

In December 2006, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) introduced a programme named “Wireless@SG”. It is part of its Next Generation National Infocomm Infrastructure initiative. It offers everyone free wireless access in high human-traffic areas, including the Central Business District, downtown shopping belts like Orchard Road, and residential town centres. The access speed has been doubled to 1 Mbit/s since 1 September 2009 and the free service will continue until 31 March 2013.

In early September 2010, internet service providers in Singapore rolled out the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) service plans. The Next Gen NBN is Singapore’s nation-wide ultra-high speed fibre network. It offers pervasive, competitively priced broadband speeds of up to 1 Gbps at comparable prices to ADSL and cable connection. Deployed 75% nationwide as of August 2011, Next Gen NBN is on track to achieve its target of 95 per cent coverage by mid-2012.

Singapore has NINE major cable company providers and the average internet speed is 100 Mbps. Citizens of this nation can get wireless communications for their technology almost anywhere. For free. They have some of the fastest connected services in the world for every citizen who has a place to live.

And just about anywhere outside of the US is faster than we are:

Net_Neutrality_US_MySpeed

Comcast is lucky when they can provide speeds at 1/10 that at anywhere near the same base cost. The government of Singapore ensures that internet monopolies like we see with Comcast and Time Warner (and their supposed merger) DO NOT HAPPEN, without giving the people of the nation an alternative. As government workers, it is incumbent upon YOU to protect the best interests of people in this nation from predation at the hands of corporations acting in collusion to exploit the vulnerability of a nation unaware of how corporate entities are able to buy access and control entities such as the FCC using lobbying.

From the point of view of common folk, it would appear that lobbyists have more say than citizens. More than 2 million citizens have spoken for Net Neutrality and yet it remains an issue for DEBATE, as if there was a MERIT TO EXTORTING THE CITIZENS OF THIS NATION for the profit of already fabulously rich corporations who act in collusion and are effectively a monopoly providing their services.

Let’s pause while we take a message from our sponsors:

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In the case of Time Warner and Comcast, both companies act as monopolies on their separate sides of the country, strangling out innovative smaller firms by tying them up in court until they can no longer compete with them. These companies have managed to lobby their way into the Congress preventing even basic intelligent discourse about the nature of the services they provide and the people who are unable to effectively voice their concerns regarding this issue.

I am a 30 year veteran of the Information Technology Industry. From telecommunications to computer system network design, I have seen it all and I have watched the systematic manipulation of the technological infrastructure of this nation fall under the dominion of large corporations slowly and steadily, particularly as their previous means of making money (Radio and later Television) have fallen from grace as the primary sources of information retrieval for the average citizen. Every time the Telecommunication industry finds itself about to regulated as Common Carriers, they find a way to manipulate the system preventing this from happening.

I am also a speculative fiction writer. I have already written a short story where the world I am watching is playing out. The creation of a process by which companies are forced to pay to have their data accelerated while other data is slowed intentionally eventually causes an imbalance to the Internet.

Programmer rage across the planet is unleashed and eventually the large corporations who strangle the internet are thus eventually strangled out of existence with denial of service attacks and other such network shenanigans. I don’t even want to imagine how the rest of the world will respond to the idea of balkanizing the Internet for the sake of PROFIT.

In that future, eventually the Internet becomes a place of sterile corporate control. Small voices are left to revive older technologies because they simply cannot afford to connect via the Internet. The Internet itself eventually fades as the voices that made it vibrant and alive lose connection, lose money, and lose interest in maintaining a structure they can no longer afford to use.

How many resources are we dependent on that are maintained strictly by people who would not be able to afford to work with due to rising costs with the overturn of Network Neutrality? Use Wikipedia lately? Maintain a blog? Like Youtube? How much of the web’s content is maintained by volunteers who would have none of the financial access this future speed-lane version of the Internet network would require?

The internet’s core principle (at least in theory) was that everyone who used it had the potential to use it at the same level. No one would or could control or dominate how information was seen, distributed, accessed or utilized; this gave the same amount of priority to a young web designer in Australia as to a large media firm in London. What you are proposing now says ISPs and Corporate Providers will control, throttle and decide WHO SHOULD BE SEEN AND HEARD based on their income and willingness to part from that cash.

Aren’t Americans already paying FAR too much for cable services? The average cable bill in the US is at least $100 and in some places as high as $200 a month for lackluster performance at best, promoting the idea that in America, WE PAY MORE AND GET LESS. Why should you now reward corporations who are NOT performing at their peak AND charging an outrageous fee already, to further abuse users of the internet and increasing their fees even further because when the content providers who are using this network have to pay more to get seen by through the corporate chokepoints, they will pass their costs onto their customers.

  • $200 a month for Comcast cable
  • $15 a month for Netflix riding Comcast Cable
  • $15 a month for Hulu riding Comcast Cable
  • $15 a month for Amazon riding Comcast Cable

So we are looking at $245 right now. You allow this NETWORK EXTORTION PROTOCOL to take place and here is what happens:

  • $220 a month for Comcast cable (they have no competition and now they control the providers too.)
  • $20 a month for Netflix riding Comcast Cable (pay more or be left behind, spread costs)
  • $25 a month for Hulu riding Comcast Cable (huge library, need to compete with Netflix, charges more)
  • $20 a month for Amazon riding Comcast Cable (not making money yet, wants to appear competitive)

In a month, my bill will shoot to $285 and I will have receive NOT A SINGLE BIT OF IMPROVEMENT IN SERVICE!

Since Comcast/Time-Warner has no competitors, in the next year they can and likely will raise my bill again, WITHOUT A NEED TO IMPROVE ANYTHING. Since by definition, they are a MONOPOLY and don’t have any competition to speak of. In the area I live in THERE IS NO COMPETITION for Comcast.

So in less than a year I can expect to pay even more for cable than I do already, see no improvement in my services, increase the cost of my service providers who are being forced to pay more by a company that is already so rich it can afford to tie its competition up in court using nuisance lawsuits until they go out of business.

This has become the mantra of these United State: PAY MORE, GET LESS.

THIS IS NOT A BUSINESS MODEL, IT IS AN EXTORTION RACKET. Is this the business of our government? Because if it is, you are setting not only a poor example for business, you are perpetuating a crime against the American people by allowing big business to dictate to YOU, what laws should exist and how YOU BETTER ENFORCE THE ONES THEY LIKE. Extortion is the process government is supposed to PREVENT, not abet.

It is possible you have forgotten what Net Neutrality was supposed to be doing. I have included a video in plain English of what you need to consider when you talk about this issue and its ramifications to the common man. The common man who is depending on you to PROTECT HIM FROM BEING EXTORTED UNDER THE GUISE OF BUSINESS. Watch the link, learn something you never considered and if you have, then why am I writing this letter? IT CAN’T BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN.

What Net Neutrality means in plain language:

http://bit.ly/1hS66sD

I say to you as the men and women who will direct the Congress’ decision on the need for Net Neutrality: While it is easy for you to look at the words of lobbyists and hear the dollars they offer you (however indirectly they may arrive at your doorstep) and feel you are making a good decision. I say to you, NAY. You have been lied to, with the blandishments of people who know more than they are telling you, are certain they are making the decision that will make THEM the most money, while providing the least quality service for everyone ELSE involved.

It is incumbent upon you all to go outside of your circles and ask not just the citizens, but the ISPs who are the middlemen in all of this, how they have been mislead and misused by telecommunication giants who, flexing their financial muscle control who sees what and why. Is this your fight? You betcha. You, as the FCC, are obligated to watchdog the foxes who are trying to take their place in the henhouses of American’s homes taking every last egg they can find while you stand outside wondering why don’t you see any foxes.

To be honest, I am ashamed of the corporate behaviors I see being enacted. They are short-sighted because when you look at the internet, the bounty it has given to everyone who has grown rich on it, has been because it has been CREATED EQUAL. That everyone using it, provided they can get access, has the same ability to communicate across it.

To undermine net neutrality is to tell everyone around the world, the alphabet may have 26 letters but you will only get to use half of them. Unless you pay us for the rest of the letters. How does America compete against a world where they have the rest of the alphabet and we don’t because Comcast, Time-Warner, Dish Networks, AT&T and any other major lobbying contributor thinks they should make money before the rest of the world should.

You want to change the world, ladies and gentlemen? You want to be remembered?

Then the decision you make today, must be the one that enables EVERYONE to continue to compete on an equal playing field with the entire alphabet, armed with the tools and the knowledge to shoot the foxes who might otherwise undermine our very nation’s future for the sake of profit.

Those corporations are unsustainable. They need an ever-increasing amount of cash to grow. Are you prepared to risk all of our futures on a corporation who by definition MUST DIE ONCE THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO EAT?

Consider the future, just this one time and tell these companies, our ability to communicate with each other, equally without being extorted, is simply not for sale EVER. At any price.

Thank you for considering my proposal. I would be happy to testify at any time if it would make this last bastion of communication able to remain free.

Sincerely,

Thaddeus Howze

22456 Sonoma Street,
Hayward CA, 94541,
510-910-3912,
ebonstorm@gmail.com

REFERENCES: WIRED Magazine: 

Websites Throttle FCC Staffers to Protest Gutting of Net Neutrality: http://www.wired.com/2014/05/fcc-throttling/

 

John Oliver will help you understand what is really at risk. Yes, you will laugh, but he is deadly serious. But go ahead and laugh. I wrote my article before he gave this skit BUT he agrees with me on almost EVERY POINT.

 

Media Consolidation Means Less Consumer Choices

MEDIA | INFOGRAPHICS | COMMENTARY | 

Comcast said Thursday it had agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in a deal that would combine the two biggest cable companies in the United States.

Yes, this was the news that shocked the nation and threatened to make Comcast one of the largest service providers in the United States, arguably the world. Somehow the media managed to convince people it was no big deal and nothing would change for people who used their services. But there was more to it than that. This consolidation would not only cause people to lose their jobs, it would also cause organizations to have to worry that they would not be able to provide their services over the internet services that Comcast would now have even MORE control over. This is not just a struggle over customers, it is a struggle over content and who provides it. Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t a problem. It is even bigger than it appears.

A few months ago, I wrote an article discussing the consolidation of media companies (Are You Still Looking for the Illuminati?) and how more and more of our media content is being generated and controlled by fewer and fewer organizations. I promised you an update to the graphic in the document so you could see how each of these mega-corporations  held dominion over what you saw and heard. Even this chart isn’t quite perfect but it is closer than the last one.

Media-Consolidation-Final

ULTRA CONCENTRATED MEDIA

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Open in new window for larger image.

 

REFERENCES

Who Owns The Media?

Federal Communications Commission

The Real Reason They Still Play Mrs. Robinson on the Radio

The FCC’s Big Move to Curb Media Consolidation

One big reason we lack Internet competition: Starting an ISP is really hard

Are you STILL looking for the Illuminati? Really?

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I say we organise a protest against how ineffectively the Illuminati secretly run the world.

Are you still looking through the internet at pictures and myths talking about the Illuminati? Are you still wondering about the triangular sign Beyonce made at some award ceremony?

Are you still hoping to discover facts about the mysterious shadow organization that is supposedly controlling the world’s resources for their own private amusement and domination over the human race and has done so for hundreds of years? Really?

If so, stop doing that. Stop right now. Why, you ask?

Because you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the Illuminati does not need to exist to do exactly what they are reputed to be doing. How about we look at what I call the Modern Illuminati and see what they’ve been doing RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES.

MODERN ILLUMINATI

We don’t need medieval shadow organizations to take over the world anymore. The world has already been taken over. If you want to see the architects of that world, take a look:

ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)

Yes, their name means absolutely nothing. The organization claims:

“With over 2,000 members, ALEC is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators. ALEC is one of America’s most dynamic public-private partnerships with nearly 300 corporate and private foundation members. ALEC provides its public and private sector members with a unique opportunity to work together to develop policies and programs that effectively promote the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.”

What ALEC really does is help corporations to determine how they may best avoid paying taxes, creating legislation to get around regulations and policies which control or mitigate the potential damage corporations may cause to people through their quest for profit.

If you want to look at an organization responsible for giving control of your world as you know it to people whose interest in the world is strictly profit-oriented, you need look no further than ALEC. ALEC and its backers are a direct pipeline to the world’s most powerful and elitist organizations, mega-corporations.

ALEC is the policy wing of the Modern Illuminati. They lobby government, they recruit and seduce legislators, they gather shadow monies and organize SuperPACs. ALEC holds councils where they create policy models which are beneficial to big businesses in a local region, and holding hands with legislators, they help craft legislation which often undermines unions, undermines the worker and their rights, and help corporations find new ways to avoid paying taxes or paying into the community adequate wages capable of sustaining a family.

BANKING AND FINANCE AND LEGISLATION (OH MY)

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Jamie Dimon (head of Goldman Sachs) before his testimony

The next member of the Modern Illuminati is the finance and banking architecture of the world at large. From creating money out of thin air to “reduce inflation” during the recession to making commodities out of junk in order to sell them to unsuspecting dupes at inflated prices.

These purchases were made with fraud in mind. Mind you we will never see anyone TRIED for fraud because what they did, these bundled commodities, violated no specific law on the books. However, no attempt was made to arrest the creators of these clearly bogus and overpriced “commodities” which drove the world into “austerity” which is another word for “screwing the poor while paying the rich”. This includes the mega-money corporations such as Morgan Stanley, Goldman’s Sach’s, HSBC, Bear-Sterns (RIP), who have been accused of a number of corporate crimes including insider trading, conflict of interest, fraud, money-laundering, price-fixing, and foreclosure abuses.

“In January 2013 the Federal Reserve announced that Goldman and Morgan Stanley would together pay $557 million to settle allegations of foreclosure abuses by their loan servicing operations (Goldman’s share was $330 million).”

That is a tiny bit of the giant pile of money spent by Goldman Sach’s in its predation on unsuspecting clients worldwide. Goldman Sach’s has billions in fees to avoid being held culpable for any wrongdoing. This is unfortunate because the message it sends is, if you have enough money and are in a position of economic power in the United States, you do not have to worry about going to jail. Your stay out of jail free card looks like a stack of Benjamin Franklins. All you need to be is “too big to fail” and you’re set.”

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Add to this mix, the lobbyists who work for major corporations, the Congressmen who become lobbyists before they return to being Congressmen only add to the confusion at figuring out whose on our side. The people who should be protecting your interests, since you voted to put them in office, are instead, making money serving as lobbyists which then empowers them to run for office. First they recommend the policy, then they clean up after it.

There are more millionaires in Congress than in the History of the United States. So if Congress isn’t looking out for you and the Supreme Court has basically been a tool of big corporations since the FEC vs Citizen’s United case which allows corporations to be treated a person with regard to how much money they can donate to a particular candidate. (But not when it’s time to throw someone into jail for assault, like when your unregulated, unmonitored silo dumps poisonous materials into your main water supply or coal ash, or oil spills…

So who is looking out for you and I?

The answer? No one. The Government is too divided, the people are too poor, and the rich just don’t give a damn. (Pass me some more of that Grey Poupon…)

MEDIA (BOUGHT AND PAID FOR)

Media Giants

Keep in mind, this chart is old…the landscape has changed quite a bit since it was first created.

Another leg of the Illuminati stool is the continued and pernicious attempts to control all forms of media communication and work toward complete domination of the Internet and all technologies connected to it. This battle appears to be all but won as Comcast recently purchased Time-Warner to become arguably the largest, most powerful and most influential cable company in America, having dominion over 30 million households cable options. Between Comcast controlling the cable-stream, NBC Universal (a subset of Comcast) and six major media houses owning the remaining 1200 media outlets in America, there is a complete lack of non-corporate, non-partisan news and reporting in the US.

We don’t need to look for the Illuminati.

They are already among us, putting people out of work, reducing their wages, increasing their prices, fostering dependency, manipulating media and mindsets, manipulating information, gathering data in order prevent any form of independent thinking.

Stop looking, we’ve found them. We know where they are. The question is: What are we going to do about them?

MbE9YolE

300px-Fnord_logo

Military Industrial Stupidity Complex

COMMENTARY | NATIONAL PRIORITIES | THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM.

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This picture and quote is from Sploid Magazine

“We’re not preparing to fight the aliens. This isn’t a scene from Independence Day 2. It’s just a throwback photo of 25—yes, twenty five—Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk black stealth fighter jets celebrating its 25th anniversary back in 2006. What a beautifully intimidating celebration of power it was.

According to The Aviationist, the jets flew over Heritage Park at Holloman Air Force Base. Code One Magazine recently put up the photo taken by Denny Lombard for Lockheed Martin on its Facebook page.”

Then I wondered…

How much this display of airpower cost? Exactly what does a stealth bomber go for these days? So I turned to everyone’s favorite information resource, Wikipedia. Wikipedia reveals the cost of the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk to be a cool $112 million dollars average cost, not including weapons payload or fuel costs…

Role Stealth attack aircraft[1]
National origin United States
Manufacturer Lockheed Corporation
First flight 18 June 1981
Introduction October 1983[1]
Retired 22 April 2008[2]
Primary user United States Air Force
Number built 64 (5 YF-117As, 59 F-117As)
Unit cost US$42.6 million (flyaway cost)
US$111.2 million (average cost)[3]
Developed from Lockheed Have Blue

[3] Aronstein and Piccirillo 1997, p. 267.

From the same Wikipedia article we see this nice picture of some OTHER F-117A Nighthawks on the ground in 1983 give or take…

F-117A aircraft from the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia, prior to being deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield.

What you are seeing is an average of $27 billion dollars flying overhead. Another $27 billion or so sitting on the ground, and let’s just overlook research and development costs (I could probably find it, but it would certainly be VERY expensive and not necessary for you to get my point.)

Gets your patriotism fires burning, doesn’t it?

Now let’s merge this with another news article and see if your patriotism is still stoked…

From the Atlantic Magazine 2014 – Here’s Exactly How Much the Government Would Have to Spend to Make Public College Tuition-Free:

“A mere $62.6 billion dollars!
According to new 
Department of Education data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. And I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans. 

If we were we scrapping our current system and starting from scratch, Washington could make public college tuition free with the money it sets aside its scattershot attempts to make college affordable today.”

Update—Friday Jan. 3, 3:45 PM: Just to clarify, because some readers have asked, making tuition free in 2012 would have required $62.6 billion on top of what state and local governments already spend subsidizing public colleges, as well as some of the federal spending that doesn’t go towards financial aid. Again, you can find a detailed breakdown of how our colleges are funded in theDepartment of Education’s data.

For anybody interested in reading more about the idea of making public college tuition free, and the vast array of economic considerations that would entail, here’s a lengthy piece I wrote last year.

Update—Friday Jan. 3, 4:31 PM: One more update to answer another good question I’ve received. Technically, you could say the additional cost of making college tuition free would be even cheaper than $62.6 billion. How come? Because most Pell Grant money is already spent at public colleges. In 2011 – 2012, state school students received $21.8 billion in grants. So, if you subtract that from the total needed to completely eliminate tuition, it the sum would be closer to $40 billion. (Apologies for not teasing that point out earlier. I’d noted it in a previous article and didn’t think to repeat it.)

So what have we learned?

For the cost of 50 stealth bombers, we could send every American who wanted it to college for no expense to the student! Imagine what we could do with the rest of the military industrial complex’s expense budget…Remember, these bombers aren’t the only thing the military produces.

Still feeling patriotic or just kind of dirty…

zuuADlj

The Hostages are Safe! (for six months…)

new_demands

144 House Republicans Voted to Destroy the American Economy. 

The Threat of the Default is Over!

Free the hostages! The Americans are free! The government will be operational again. There won’t be a default. The crisis is over, right?

Don’t hold your breath. We will see more BS grandstanding like this while Barack Obama is the President of the United States. They will make this debt debate go away for three to six months and then we are right back here again, screwing with the full credit solvency of the US and terrifying (or is that terrorizing) foreign nations that are dependent on the strength and liquidity of the American Dollar. Bridges? I doubt seriously if this Congress will even pass a single transportation support or jobs bill the entire time President Obama is in office. They haven’t yet.

I suspect this is only a respite while they figure out their next plan to avoid doing anything to help the President. The Speaker of the House, John Boehner, led the radical Tea Party campaign, along with the likes of Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachmann. Their goal was to tarnish President Obama reputation as a leader. This was ultimately to discourage people for voting for the Democratic party and especially to make the idea of another Black president the most unpalatable idea, ever. They will be able to look back and say, how he divided the government, prevented any acts of bi-partisanship, made the country a place that is less safe, more dependent on government, and increased poverty everywhere (even though it was most of their lack of leadership which actually caused most of these things).

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Season’s Greetings (Think that’s Ramadan, ain’t that the Muslim Christmas?) from the Tea Party.

The truth matters less than the result of what they have done. People have short memories and won’t remember the Tea Party almost causing them to lose their homes, be three weeks without pay, the hardship on the families of the government’s workers or on the military, or on people dependent on the EPA, FDA, USDA, or any other NECESSARY government regulatory agencies (which the Tea Party would abolish, if they could).

From their perspective, they have utilized the 24 hour news cycles desperation to fill their hours with conjecture, improperly vetted news, opinions and misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, the Debt Ceiling, the damage potential of a prospective Economic Default on both our economy and the worldwide financial state. This has made the United States appear dysfunctional, poorly governed and able to be controlled by a minority of the Congress. Our foreign allies are saddened by this lack of leadership and horrified that the US can be so easily terrorized (there goes that word again) by a radical minority.

I am not a liberal despite what you may think of reading this. I am simply not a fan of a screw job when I see one. The worst part of this event is that NOTHING will be done with these economic terrorists who saw fit to take the nation hostage, punishing the poorest and least able among us by taking away their food, resources, and work under the guise of keeping them from having any kind of affordable health care. Does anyone have a word for what this might appear to be? Funny, there is one.

Sedition.

But alas, no one is going to request it be used. Reasons include: Too much bad press; not how we do business; it is the President’s fault for not giving in to the Conservative demand to get rid of his signature legislation that everyone but the rich and powerful who stand to gain from the constantly growing economic divide, seem to want.

it would seem, not only is failure the outcome of this grandstanding by the GOP, but that no matter how it turns out, their goal has been accomplished. Make the president look weak and ineffectual (mostly through the use of rhetoric and sprinklings of the madness of people like Ted Cruz and Michelle Bachmann).

Brought to you by

Hey poor Americans, need food stamps? Don’t vote these people back in office. They sold you out to AGROBUSINESS!

Yes, Virginia there is an Apocalypse.

One brought to us by the Koch Brothers and other multi-billionaires who believe government’s real job is to subsidize their wealth (by paying their workers so little, the government is forced to pay out food stamps and welfare so they can have enough to eat) and undermine the effectiveness of government until those super-rich folk can buy the Commons right from under us and then they can divide it up and give us what they want us to have, for a price we, of course, cannot afford.

public_assistance_10_largest_fast_food_companies

This chart says, McDonald’s gets to pocket/steal/purloin $1.2 Billion dollars a year and we, the American Taxpayers get to pick up the tab assisting their poorly paid employees.

But its a good thing those billionaires own banks too, they can always lend it to us on credit…like they do right now.

Debt is as good as cash, or as a form of economic enslavement. Ask any college student, they know first hand.

No Time for Celebration

The Senate voted 81 to 18 Wednesday night on a bill to reopen the federal government and raise the nation’s borrowing limit, and the House followed suit, voting 285-144. President Barack Obama signed the legislation early Thursday.

Elizabeth Warren agrees with me regarding this chicanery and had this to say about the economic shutdown:

I’m glad that the government shutdown has ended, and I’m relieved that we didn’t default on our debt.

But I want to be clear: I am NOT celebrating tonight.

Yes, we prevented an economic catastrophe that would have put a huge hole in our fragile economic recovery. But the reason we were in this mess in the first place is that a reckless faction in Congress took the government and the economy hostage for no good purpose and to no productive end.

According to the S&P index, the government shutdown had delivered a powerful blow to the U.S. economy. By their estimates, $24 billion has been flushed down the drain for a completely unnecessary political stunt.

$24 billion dollars. How many children could have been back in Head Start classes? How many seniors could have had a hot lunch through Meals on Wheels? How many scientists could have gotten their research funded? How many bridges could have been repaired and trains upgraded?

The Republicans keep saying, “Leave the sequester in place and cut all those budgets.” They keep trying to cut funding for the things that would help us build a future. But they are ready to flush away $24 billion on a political stunt.

So I’m relieved, but I’m also pretty angry.

We have serious problems that need to be fixed, and we have hard choices to make about taxes and spending. I hope we never see our country flush money away like this again. Not ever.

It’s time for the hostage taking to end. It’s time for every one of us to say, “No more.”

 

Here go some other names you might want to keep an eye on.

$24 billion dollars lost by the people who claimed they wanted to balance the budget. I am naming names.

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Why is the Federal Poverty Line So Far Off? (via Moyers & Company)

John Light

Census data released this week show that after yet another year of anemic “recovery,” the number of Americans living in poverty last year remained stubbornly unchanged.

But what is “poverty” as measured by the federal government? Experts argue that the official measure is outdated, and doesn’t take important economic realities into account. Are those with incomes slightly above thepoverty threshhold not “poor people,” as most of us would understand it?

In 1999, a single mother struggling with this question sent an email to the Health and Human Services employee whose job it was to calculate the federal poverty line. She wrote:

I am a single Mother and work two jobs which equal about $18,000 per year. We barely afford rent, electric, cable, phone, water, food, taxes and vehicle expenses. [But] the federal poverty level is $11,060. My daughter and I have zero, no, zilch money left after paying the bills for medical or clothing. How on earth does the Federal Government expect us to pay for cars….There just is NOT enough money left at the end of the month for a car payment….Please tell me…how they expect people to live on under $20,000 per year.

The poverty line in the email, $11,060, was the federal poverty guideline in 1999 for a family of two. Today, that figure is $15,510 — still less than what the woman was struggling to get by at the time.

That raises a crucial question: why is the federal poverty cutoff so far off?

Origins of the poverty measure

From the early 1980s until last September, the Health and Human Services employee responsible for responding to that frustrated mother and others like her was Gordon M. Fisher. Fisher worked in the Office of the AssistantSecretary for Planning and Evaluation, where his job was to calculate the poverty guidelines — commonly referred to as the “poverty line,” used to determine benefit program eligibility — and to answer questions from the public.

“I was a civil servant, not a policymaker. I had to describe the policy — the level of the poverty line — that existed,” Fisher told Moyers & Company. “Although the people wanted that policy changed, I, as a civil servant, did not have authority to change it. At the same time, since they were members of the public, and I was a public servant, I wanted to respond to them with respect. There was not necessarily a good answer to their questions.”

When people called or — later in his career — emailed Fisher saying they were earning wages equal to the poverty line, or more, and still couldn’t get by, he “dealt with it very carefully,” he says. “When something like that becomes official policy, it can become difficult to change. When the people said, ‘I’m making more than that and I still can’t make ends meet,’ sometimes the only thing that I could say was ‘I can’t disagree with you, sir.’ or ‘I can’t disagree with you, ma’am.’”

Looking to more fully answer the questions put to him, Fisher went back to take a look at where the guidelines came from to begin with. “I found that there wasn’t a single good, detailed source on how the poverty thresholds were developed,” he says. So he took it upon himself to document it. “I made that sort of my second job in addition to my day job of putting out the poverty guidelines,” he said. Fisher became known by colleagues as the “unofficial” historian of America’s poverty measures.

The answer took him back to the mid-1960s, when Mollie Orshansky, a civil servant working for the Social Security Administration, needed to devise a way of measuring child poverty.

Orshansky herself had grown up poor, one of seven daughters born to a family of Jewish immigrants living in the South Bronx. She remembered waiting in food lines with her mother and how her family would decide to forgo important purchases in order to make the rent. In 1970, she told theNew York Post, “If I write about the poor, I don’t need a good imagination — I have a good memory.”

Orshansky worked as a government clerk and civil servant most of her life, starting at New York City’s Department of Health. By 1963, Orshansky was working for the Social Security Administration — the agency that oversees many social safety net programs — and was assigned to report on “poverty as it affects children.” But her team had no good measure of what constituted poverty — so Orshansky decided to develop her own.

She used a 1955 Department of Agriculture report which found that families of three or more spent about one third of their after-tax income on food. So, to calculate a poverty line Orshanksy decided to multiply a low-income household’s food budget by three, figuring that if a family was tightening its belt, it would cut all expenses by about the same amount, proportionately.

For the food budget itself, Orshansky used the Department of Agriculture’s “economy food plan.” It was the cheapest of four plans developed by the Department of Agriculture, and was designed to reflect what a family living for a short period of time on a severely constrained budget might need to get by. In 1962, it allotted $18.60 a week for a family of four with two school-aged children — or $143.47 in today’s dollars. It was even less costly than two other “low cost” plans the department had developed, and, as a 1962 report explained, “relie[d] heavily on the cereals, dry beans, peas, and nuts and potato groups, and on the selection of the less expensive items in each of the 11 food groups.” It was only for “emergency use,” and not intended to constitute a family’s diet over the long-term. In a 1965 article, Orshansky said her threshold, dependent on this budget, should be used to measure when a family had “inadequate” funds, not adequate funds.

Her new standard came at a fortuitous time. The Johnson administration had declared a “war on poverty,” and public agencies needed a way to measure the extent of the problem. In 1965, the Office of Economic Opportunity adopted Orshansky’s thresholds as their poverty cut-off, and in 1969, her thresholds were made the government’s official definition of poverty.

Also in 1969, a review committee made up of representatives from many government agencies decided the thresholds would be indexed to the Consumer Price Index, not to changes in the cost of food or the share of a family’s income spent on food. Since that time, the method for calculating the poverty thresholds has changed little.

The poverty measure today

America, however, has changed quite a bit since 1969 — and has changed even more since the mid-1950s, when the USDA budget Orshansky used for her thresholds was designed.

“The fact that other basic needs have increased in cost more rapidly than food is one reason why the old poverty line is out-of-date and, in fact, is too low: It hasn’t kept up with our new necessities, it hasn’t kept up with new ideas of what our basic needs are.”

“In some ways, the poverty measure such as it is today made a lot of sense in 1965, 1966, in the late ’60s. The problem is we haven’t really updated it in a meaningful way,” says Shawn Fremstad, a senior research associate at the Center for Economic Policy Research. “We’ve updated it for inflation, but that just means you’re measuring what it means to be poor today in what are essentially early 1960s terms.”

The share of a family’s income spent on food has changed dramatically — some recent studies place the share of a family’s income spent on food as low as six or seven percent of total household expenditures. That would mean Americans today are spending roughly 1/14th of their income on food, compared with the one-third figure used to calculate the poverty guidelines.

“A lot has happened to society and to families needs,” says Arloc Sherman, a senior researcher with the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Fewer people needed to drive to work — you could walk to work. People didn’t need to save the same for childcare, or for college. People could get away without having a telephone and still have a successful job search. It was just a very different world.

“The rise in families with children where all parents are working for pay is driving up the importance of paid childcare. Spending a few thousand dollars on childcare is fairly typical now. Childcare costs have risen faster than inflation. Healthcare spending is a growing part of family budgets just like it’s a growing part of the national economy.

“The fact that other basic needs have increased in cost more rapidly than food is one reason why the old poverty line is out-of-date and, in fact, is too low: It hasn’t kept up with our new necessities, it hasn’t kept up with new ideas of what our basic needs are.”

And the line doesn’t just omit key expenses — because it looks at a family’s before-tax cash income, it also ignores important sources of non-cash income for poor people such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). If the poverty guidelines don’t incorporate income from benefits, it’s hard to measure if these benefits programs are doing their job and lifting people out of poverty.

“This is relevant right now because there are bills moving through Congressthat would cut SNAP by tens of billions of dollars over the coming decade,” says Sherman. “And if you don’t know that SNAP is helping people, you’re more likely to say it doesn’t work.”

Alternate measures

“One of the challenges is the official poverty measure is still there and it ends up dominating the debate and confusing people and getting in the way, and that’s really unfortunate.”

Organizations that address poverty day-to-day have developed several alternative methods of measuring the number of Americans living in poverty.

“I think there’s a lot of great work going on, often in nonprofits. I think one of the challenges is the official poverty measure is still there and it ends up dominating the debate and confusing people and getting in the way, and that’s really unfortunate,” says Fremstad.

Moyers and Company has recently used a different threshold for a reasonable standard of living, calculated by the nonprofit group Wider Opportunities for Women. Their Basic Economic Security Tables, or BEST index, takes into account expenses that the federal poverty line doesn’t, including housing, utilities, child care, transportation, health care, household goods, emergency and retirement savings and taxes, and recognizes that each expense is different depending on the location in question. AcrossAmerica, the BEST index comes in at two to three times the poverty level — and in some cities, even more. The Economic Policy Institute has done similar research, and has a family budget calculator that you can use to find out how much it costs a family to live in every American city.

Anti-poverty advocates have also praised the U.S. Census for recently implementing a second measure of poverty, called the supplemental poverty measure, which, Sherman explains, “makes several changes. It counts those missing tax credits and non-tax benefits as income. It subtracts necessary, work-related expenses, such as childcare, and out-of-pocket medical expenses from income. It counts boyfriends, girlfriends, unmarried partners as part of the family. It adjusts the poverty line for local variations in cost of living, particularly in housing costs. And it uses a poverty line that is in other ways slightly updated from the old poverty line.” The regular measures yielded 46.2 million people living in poverty in America in 2011, but the supplemental measures yielded 49.7 million, many of them elderly.

A new measure?

Right now, many of those who study poverty are not overly hopeful that the U.S. will implement a new poverty measure in the near future. It’s a difficult topic, especially in today’s fraught political environment. Conservatives argue that the measures cover too many people, including many who are lifted out of poverty by government programs like the EITC. Liberals argue that the poverty measures don’t take expenses into account realistically.

Those who work with the U.S. poverty line often look to the U.K.’s system of measurement as an alternative model the U.S. might follow. There, federal agencies use multiple measures of poverty to create policy.

“It would be good for both the left and the right to say, ‘There is no single best way.’ And maybe we could adopt sort of a suite of measures along the U.K. line,” says Fremstad. “And some of those could be more conservative, more absolute, and some of them could be more relative, more liberal. And then we could argue about which ones are the best. But at least we’d have a few — three or four measures that were all good, that Census and thefederal government put out and that narrowed the debate.”

Even before her long career researching American poverty ended with her retirement in 1982, Orshansky was unsettled to see her poverty measure become outdated, but remain as federal policy. In 1969 — the year the poverty measure was adopted nationwide and tied to inflation — she expressed skepticism about its implementation. “The best you can say for the measure is that at a time when it seemed useful, it was there,” she wrote.