America: The Best Country in the World at Being Last — How Can We Change That?

"The group of twenty advanced democracies—the major countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, the Nordic countries, Canada, and others—can be thought of as our peer nations. Here’s what we see when we look at these countries. To our great shame, America now has

• the highest poverty rate, both generally and for children;

• the greatest inequality of incomes;

• the lowest social mobility;

• the lowest score on the UN’s index of “material well-being of children”;

• the worst score on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index;

• the highest expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP, yet all this money accompanied by the highest infant mortality rate, the highest prevalence of mental health problems, the highest obesity rate, the highest percentage of people going without health care due to cost, the highest consumption of antidepressants per capita, and the shortest life expectancy at birth;

• the next-to-lowest score for student performance in math and middling performance in science and reading;

• the highest homicide rate;

• the largest prison population in absolute terms and per capita;

• the highest carbon dioxide emissions and the highest water consumption per capita;

• the lowest score on Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (except for Belgium) and the largest ecological footprint per capita (except for Denmark);

• the lowest spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as a percentage of national income (except for Japan and Italy);

• the highest military spending both in total and as a percentage of GDP; and

• the largest international arms sales.

Our politicians are constantly invoking America’s superiority and exceptionalism. True, the data is piling up to confirm that we’re Number One, but in exactly the way we don’t want to be—at the bottom.”

Wall Street Bonus Withdrawal Means Trading Aspen for Coupons

This entire article is trying to get me to feel sorry for those poor little rich folk and their heavy, heavy issues. See the poor rich man, unable to pay for his third home! Had to sell two motorbikes he never used anyway! And now he can’t afford a $500,000 tuition per child for private school? Cry me a river, maybe now you’ll put some tax money towards public ones.

See this? This is the world’s tiniest violin and it’s playing just for you!


"Executive-search veterans who work with hedge funds and banks make about $500,000 in good years, said Arbeeny, managing principal at New York-based CMF Partners LLC, declining to discuss specifics about his own income. He said he no longer goes on annual ski trips to Whistler (WB), Tahoe or Aspen.

He reads other supermarket circulars to find good prices for his favorite cereal, Wheat Chex.

“Wow, did I waste a lot of money,” Arbeeny said.”

The trouble with the 99 per cent

I don’t entirely agree with their attack on the rhetoric of Occupy, as they seem determined to use a literalist interpretation of it, instead of exploring the spirit. However, outside of that, this has some really superb things to say.

"Inequality, at root, is not an aberration of capitalism; it is a function of capitalism. While the assault on the post-war social compromise has led us back to social inequality at levels akin to those of the "Gilded Age" of the 1920s, the inequality inherent to capitalism never went away. And it won’t, without changing the fundamental nature of capitalism’s economic relations.

As the reversing of the economic aspects of the social gains of the 1945-1980 period clearly shows, cosmetic changes, while they have a real impact on people’s lives and on our social cohesion, can be undone by shifting the terms of the ideological debate.

This is indeed something the Right has done rather successfully. The debate has been so successfully shifted that all major political parties in North America accept the fundamental premises that led us here.”

We are ALL better off than starving children in Africa, get over it.

Occupation and Motivation

I really can’t add too much to what he said. Let me just quote his words, and end it with a “Hell, yeah!”:

"I understand the frustration that so many people only open their eyes to injustice when it affects them. But what should we do? Do we dismiss people because their awakening is belated? If we want things to change, we need most people on board. Maybe some of those people will sell out, just like a lot of former hippies did. But not all of them will. Once you have experienced police  violence, you aren’t likely to forget it. Once you expand your knowledge and circle of relationships, that is not so easy to undo.

What else does that picture say?

It says that poor, POC are just sitting helpless? They are just waiting for someone to come and rescue them? Horseshit. Have you seen the Bolivian protestors who stopped a government planned road through their land? Have you seen the pink gang in India? Or how about the women’s only village of Umoja. Why do people feel the need to portray the poor without any agency? Why do people feel the need to draw a line between the struggles of the poorest and those of the relatively comfortable?

The other thing that this picture says it that, unless you are truly “the wretched of the earth” you have no business advocating for yourself. It says that acting in your self interest is wrong. It says that people who have never starved should act only out of selflessness.

Does a rich, black person not get to advocate for an end to racial injustice? Does a privileged, white woman not get to advocate for an end to gender discrimination? Does a prisoner who hasn’t been raped not get to advocate for an end to the prison system? Are we all to seek out the most oppressed and only advocate on behalf of them? Doesn’t that indicate our belief that they can’t advocate for themselves? When does one cross the line from helping to having a messiah complex?”

Hell, yeah!

The Myth of Hard Work

Everything You Need to Know About Wall Street, in One Brief Tale

One example of the mortgage fraud that is “not the banks’ fault.” Those poor blameless rich folk, giving out crap bonds, reaping a fortune, and then being asked to give up that money because it was illegally gotten—what is this world coming to when rich men are not respected?

I swear, even medieval serfs had enough wit to know when to revolt against tyrants. Us? We worship ours. We love looking at (and mocking) their excessive lifestyles, long to be just like them, but never say “boo” when they get that money by stepping on our heads. They “worked hard” for that money, don’cha know?

Well, you bet your ass a burglar works hard getting into our houses and carrying our electronics and other valuables out, but we don’t cut them any slack. Maybe we would if they wore more expensive suits?

I refuse to receive more emails from [Verchleiser] (or anyone else) questioning why we’re not funding loans every day. I’m holding each of you responsible for making sure we fund at least 500 each and every day… I was not happy when I saw the funding numbers and I knew NY would NOT BE HAPPY… I expect to see 500+ every day. I will do whatever is necessary to make sure you’re successful in meeting this objective.  

Whenever any right-wing loon, or Bloombergite, tries to tell you the mortgage crisis was caused by the government forcing the poor banks to lend to broke black people, please direct them to this [email] passage. The banks not only wanted to give out these loans, they wanted to give them out at the speed of light. They wanted to crank them out so fast that their own auditors literally couldn’t read the writing on the loan applications. This was greed, not policy. Anybody who says anything else is high on something.”

Propoganda at it’s finest

For God So Loved the 1 Percent …

If you ever wondered why God and Cash—two mutually exclusive concepts—are so inextricably entwined, this is why. Businesses in collusion with either power hungry or misguided evangelists put a lot of money and notoriety into a campaign to make it part of our public consciousness. And it worked. The damage from that campaign is so extreme that the ideology is threatening to end America as we know it, but it continues to be pushed.

The next time someone tells you it’s “ungodly” and “un-Christian-like” or “unAmerican” to help the poor, the weak, the defenseless, the very old, or the very young, remember that it’s a lie. Remember where it comes from, and why.

Then ask yourself, are you more than a product of an eighty year old advertising campaign? Well, are you?

"During the Great Depression, the prestige of big business sank along with stock prices. Corporate leaders worked frantically to restore their public image and simultaneously roll back the “creeping socialism” of the welfare state…Realizing that they needed to rely on others, these businessmen took a new tack: using generous financing to enlist sympathetic clergymen as their champions. After all, according to one tycoon, polls showed that, “of all the groups in America, ministers had more to do with molding public opinion” than any other.

    …Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, [The Rev. James W. Fifield, pastor] and his [corporate] allies advanced a new blend of conservative religion, economics and politics that one observer aptly anointed “Christian libertarianism.” Mr. Fifield distilled his ideology into a simple but powerful phrase — “freedom under God.” With ample support from corporate patrons and business lobbies like the United States Chamber of Commerce, his gospel of godly capitalism soon spread across the country through personal lectures, weekly radio broadcasts and a monthly magazine.”

Cooties Free Zone, Women and Poor People Not Allowed

How Male Global Elites Work Hard to Fix the Economy – In Their Favor

“Davos Man” is a nifty term that refers to the global elite of wealthy men whose members feel themselves to be part of a cozy fraternity where national affiliations mean little next to their membership in monied circles (see helpful phrenological chart for additional information on this species). Arriving from Zurich by private jet, the typical Davos Man enjoys the high altitude as a great place to look down upon the world’s woes — and have another glass of bubbly.

You would not be surprised to learn that the foundation that puts on the WEF is funded by its 1,000 member companies, the typical firm being a global enterprise with over $5 billion in turnover. Representatives of small businesses and cooperatives, which constitute much of the global economy, are naturally unwelcome in Davos Man’s habitat. You will be even less shocked to know that all of the 30 video messages from Davos co-chairs and partners posted ahead of the meeting featured men, most of them western and white. Columbia University’s Anya Schiffrin commented on the notable lack of female participants, saying, “I understand there are not a lot of women running hedge funds, but in that case change your category, maybe don’t only have CEOs.” A bold idea. But a bit too innovative for Davos Man.”

"Cash Poor" When Receiving a $500,000 Salary

When $500,000 is “cash poor,” you’re doing something wrong. And cry me a river over those poor, poor private school kiddies.

“We had an individual who was making $1.5 million total compensation with $1 million in cash,” the executive, Michael Carpenter, said. “Cutting this person’s salary to $500,000 cash resulted in the person being cash poor. This individual is in their early 40s, with two kids in private school, who is now considered cash poor… We were concerned that these people would not meet their monthly expenses due to the reduction in cash.”

$500,000 Salary Just Not Enough For Execs At Bailed Out Bank, Left Them ‘Cash Poor’

Nearly Half of Americans Poor or Low Income

U.S. Poverty: Census Finds Nearly Half Of Americans Are Poor Or Low-Income

There is no way to open this post except a quote:

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans – nearly 1 in 2 – have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

One in two. Half of America. Ponder that a moment. If you are standing with one other person in a room, there’s a pretty good chance one of you is living at or below the poverty line. In the Land of Opportunity. If you’re wondering what happened to us, you aren’t the only one.

But it’s easy to see what happened to us. In fact, this man sums it up neatly, echoing what so many of a conservative bent tend to say:

Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far, citing poor people who live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.

First of all, someone needs to describe to me what a “decent sized” home is. Is it a trailer? A two bedroom home? One of the McHouses in the suburbs? Once we have that definition, then I’d like to know where these homes are located. I don’t care if you live in a five bedroom mansion, if you’re living on a side of town where you take your life in your hands just stepping out the front door, you’re probably not paying much in rent.

Also, when they look at the homes these people live in, do they compare how many people are living in the home? I’ve lived five to a two bedroom before, and I’ve seen families double or even triple up in larger places. But if you ask them, family by family, how large their place was, it could sure sound roomy if you don’t try to find out about little things like roommates.

As for cars—in many places cars are necessary. I know city folk tend to forget this, but for people in small towns, suburbs, and other locations, if you don’t have a car you don’t eat. Period. Zoning removed the ability to have a small neighborhood, one where you could walk to a baker, a grocer, a clothing store, a hardware store, and every other necessity you can think of, all within one to three city blocks. In fact, often they were on the same street. Instead we have what they call “food deserts,” miles of city or country where people have no access to grocery stores and so have to buy overpriced junk from convenience stores. You can also lay the obesity issues of the poor at the feet of this trend.

Small towns are even worse. Rentals inside a small town are high, a hardship for the poor. Outside town the price drops, making it affordable, but only if a vehicle is owned. Without a vehicle you have no job, no food, and eventually, no home.

Plus, simply stating one owns a car is something of a straw man argument. What kind of car, what condition is it in, how much did they pay, when was it bought (for instance, in a time of plenty?), was it bought for convenience or necessity…all of these questions and more would be pertinent. Trying to imply that a $500 shitmobile that breaks down every hundred miles is the same as owning a $400,000 Lamborghini is just sleazy.

As for a big screen TV…has the man never heard of Freecycle? How about Craigslist? Has he never done work for a neighbor specifically to get an item like a TV, instead of money? Has he never bartered at all? Has he never lived in a college town where students—especially well off ones—have been known to place on the curb functional and sometimes expensive appliances, electronics, and furniture rather than pay moving and storage bin costs? Has he never gone dumpster diving? Has he not picked a broken appliance set out for garbage and brought it home to fix himself? Because that is how poor people get big screen TVs. We have the a society that considers everything disposable, including last year’s electronics—it’s hardly surprising that as the rich toss them out, the poor gobble them up.

But hey, they aren’t selling their own spleen just to survive, so they must be better off than they’re letting on. One in two Americans, riding the benefits train to happy town!

So what is more believable, half of Americans are crooked criminals milking the teat of of the Social Security system, or this man (and many more like him) have no idea what being poor is like, and have no compassion for things they don’t understand?

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold – roughly $45,000 for a family of four – because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job. Housing and child-care costs are consuming up to half of a family’s income.

Yep, milking that teat hard, aren’t they?

Paychecks for low-income families are shrinking. The inflation-adjusted average earnings for the bottom 20 percent of families have fallen from $16,788 in 1979 to just under $15,000, and earnings for the next 20 percent have remained flat at $37,000. In contrast, higher-income brackets had significant wage growth since 1979, with earnings for the top 5 percent of families climbing 64 percent to more than $313,000.

Yep, really hard. Bunch of liars, every one.

So what happened to us? Lack of compassion. Victim blaming. Bullying.

We have idealized the rich to the point of them being untouchable. We are the Egyptians of the past, worshiping at the feet of the rich and believing those who are poor are that way through some sort of sin. This is the ‘Land of Opportunity,’ so if someone is failing then they just aren’t trying hard enough, that’s how the argument goes. Forget the fact that half of America would have to be “not trying hard enough,” forget unemployment statistics, wage gaps, economic stagnation, or all factors that conspire to keep the poor in poverty, they “just aren’t trying hard enough.”

And those who are supposed to speak for us are bullies, planting thousand dollar boots on the necks of the elderly, the disabled, the powerless, and children. They step on people who can’t fight back, and we cheer them on, even while we have a story about one, two, five, twenty people who don’t deserve the draconian policies they’re enacting or the names they’re calling the poor. We cheer them because, out there somewhere, there might be one person, a criminal, who does deserve such slander, and persecuting that one criminal is more important to us than saving a thousand lives.

Instead of lifting each other up, helping one another succeed and fighting for our fellow man, we tear each other down. We scrabble like half starved dogs after a scrap, ripping each other to pieces to be the one to snap it up. And when the well fed curs pad into the yard, we show our bellies and run away.

I once thought we were better than feral strays.

These days I’m not so sure.