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Sunday, October 30, 2011

When 1% is Bigger than 99%

What I love most about stats and math is that they are apolitical (or at least they used to be). They care not for party affiliation, for whom you vote, or where you get your news.

To wit.....
....If your household income isn't at least $386,000 a year you're in the 99%, not the 1%
....14,000 American families make up the top 0.01% and AVERAGE $31million a year

0.01% is 1 out of every 10,000 families. They earn 5%, or 5 out of every 100 dollars, of all income earned in America. That leaves the other 95 to be split up among the remaining 131,986,000 American households(1).

Is it any wonder poverty in America is now at 14.3%(2)? That's 14 out of every 100 people. 14% is just over 2 out of the 17 people listed in the To: field of the original email from which this post was created. Think about that. 2 people out of every group this size in America lives in poverty. Not working poor. Not middle class. Not having to sacrifice that European vacation or third car in the driveway this year. Not cutting back on eating out or trading in filet mignon for ground chuck at the grocery store.


What is poverty? Poverty defined for a family of 4 is earning $22,314/year(3). That's $10.72/hour if it's full-time work; 40 hours a week, 2080 hours a year, at $10.72 per hour.

The second largest single employer in the U.S. (behind the federal government which, btw, includes everyone in the military before anyone starts ranting about the size of government) is, you guessed it, Wal-Mart. Average employee take home pay at Wal-Mart is $250 a week, or $13,000 a year if they actually work all 52 weeks. Wal-Mart's "full-time" employees average $6 - $7.50 an hour for working 28 - 40 hour weeks(4)

The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour(5).

Am I the only one who thinks it's madness for companies to be required by law to pay $3.50 an hour LESS than the poverty rate?

I'm not against wealth or the wealthy. I am not a communist.

I'm all for a strong, vibrant, and sustainably-consuming middle class because we are the true engine of the economy. Without us, there are no markets to whom corporations can sell their goods and services, make a profit, and create more wealth for themselves and their shareholders. I am perfectly fine with that.

Something has gone terribly wrong, though, over the last 30 years or so and we need to get back to what we know works.

I'm no big devotee, but for all his faults and his anti-union stance Henry Ford seemed to understand how things could work for himself, his company, and his workers. He knew that in order to build a big, successful company he had to:
a) build a product people would want,
b) price that product (based on cost and a reasonable profit) so enough people could actually afford to buy it and,
c) create a big enough and sustainable market to buy his cars, partly by paying his workers enough to actually buy the damned things.

Like I said, there's a lot about Ford's business methods I don't like, but what confuses me now is how we seem to be living in an age when some of us in the middle class have forgotten this "symbiotic" reality between producing goods and services that markets want and can afford versus how much the people at the top want to earn from that buying and selling.

In other words, without all of us in the 99% underneath the 1% from where is their wealth supposed to come?

Oh, yeah. Wait. That's right.

Their wealth can still come from record-level profits derived at least in part from continuing to outsource what we used to call middle class jobs to the absolute cheapest overseas labor markets. The government isn't forcing them to do that. In fact, "free trade agreements" help to facilitate that. It's a P&L decision made easier by government removing regulation.

If that's not enough, their wealth can still come from duping some of us into believing that what we need to do is elect people who will bring "certainty" to their business, as if that's ever supposed to be a component of a free market and capitalism. Exactly how does government provide certainty to those poor, abused, and fearful titans of industry and commerce? I thought government was supposed to get out of their way, not do things for them?

From what we're being told by one party in particular (and only to a lesser degree by the other), certainty would come if only the following could be realized:

1) Deregulation
If corporations - and especially the financial services sector - were utterly and completely deregulated, the economy would just grow like crazy because who needs a watchdog when you have the "invisible hand" to guide you? We've seen - and even Greenspan has admitted - that hasn't worked out all that well, but what does he know?

2) Lower - even zero - taxes
If only the wealthy "job creators" and corporations - which, when it comes to corporations, we are now told by the Supreme Court and certain GOP candidates are people just like us - could just pay even less - better yet, no - taxes they could hoard even more cash until "certainty" finally arrived. Then they would have the confidence they need to create all those wonderful minimum wage and non-union jobs, and everyone could stop all their occupying and whining about not being able to find a job and get back to work.

3) Fear-driven cuts and bailouts
And if all else fails? Well, the powerful elite will still have their bought-and-paid for minions in Big Government in both parties who will be more than happy to cut social programs for the poor (who have no power anyway) while they take that money - our tax dollars - and distribute what's left to banks and private companies as tax breaks and bailouts for the mistakes they made because, as we all know, a free market based on libertarian principles and pure capitalism cannot afford to fail.

(1) Where the One Percent Fit in the Hierarchy of Income, New York Times, 10/28/2011.

(2) U.S. Census Bureau Quick Facts.

(3) U.S. Census Bureau Poverty Data.

(4) Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town, PBS.

(5) U.S. Department of Labor; Wages.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

CHARTS: Here's What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About...

I think this Business Insider article is one of the best collections of facts I've ever seen assembled about the economy.

Each graph is linked to its source or has the source stated as part of the chart image. Most come from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Others are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CIA (yeah, that CIA), UC Santa Cruz, Institutional Risk Analytics, Reuters, and the New York Times.

It is apolitical. It is simply historical data in graphical form about unemployment, corporate profits, banking, and the like. It doesn't project or forecast anything. It does offer brief descriptions about what that data means to everyone, not just the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The author, Henry Blodget, is no left-wing loon. Besides being CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider, he has firsthand and what some might call a "colorful" history in the financial services industry.

On a related note, I also thought that the image above was telling. It comes from The Atlantic

Was hoping we all might borrow this idea from that article:
"The greatest threat to our economy is neither corporations nor the government. The greatest threat to our economy is both of them working together," Sinclair writes. "There are currently two sizable coalitions of angry citizens that are almost on the same page about that, and they're too busy insulting each other to notice."

"If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause we'd better reexamine our reasoning."
Robert McNamara, former president of Ford Motor Company, Secretary of Defense to JFK and LBJ, and former president of the World Bank in the 2003 documentary, "The Fog of War", on America's involvement in Vietnam and the fact that we, as a nation, are not and never have been omniscient or perfect.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reagan--No Loopholes For Millionaires

So if the holy man of the GOP said it, and the holy man of the Democrats (who ain't so much what was hoped for after all) is saying it, how come the resistance is almost exclusively from just one side?

Hint: It has nothing to do with facts.

59 seconds of undeniable reality at

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Inconvenient Truths About the Economy and the GOP

First Trust chief economist Brian Wesbury's 2nd Quarter GDP research reports...

"Corporate profits were also revised up slightly, to a new all-time record high. Profits were up at a 13.7% annual rate in Q2 and are up 8.5% versus a year ago."

How's that for an inconvenient truth for the GOP, for their big business puppet masters, and for the inexplicable non-two-percenters who defend them both?

So where are the jobs?
Where's the recovery?
Anyone? Anyone?

Greta? Gretchen? Shawn? O'Reilly? Anyone?

Herman? Michele? Rick? Mitt? Sarah? Anyone?

How come none of them talk about this?

Corporate profits are at historic levels, as is the wealth gap. Taxes are already at historically low levels, as are interest rates on credit for those rich corporations and individuals who have access to it and the neo-cons, Randians, tea baggers and the GOP want to blame all of our problems in our economy on, what, overpaid civil servants, the 11% of American workers still in a union, illegal immigrants, and the poor and working poor?

Isn't that just a little bit ridiculous?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

While it does sometimes seem like things never change, I still hope for something different in my lifetime.

During my daily commute I've been listening to the book "Don't Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned" (

It's amazing how similar the times we live in now resemble the Gilded Age's concentrated corporate wealth dictating to government the policies and laws that only increased the imbalance and led to economic collapse.

My kids understand the the lunacy of our generation better than we do. They know how badly some of us have gone astray and screwed things up. I'm encouraged by their morals, ethics, and sense of right and wrong.

What's happening on Wall Street now and in places elsewhere in the country is another positive sign. Here's Lee Camp's take on it:

The invitation is still open if anyone wants to meet up in DC on Oct 29.