Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Let's Give A Hand To Bernie Sanders

Mother Jones: What's your first-100-days agenda?

Bernie Sanders: The first thing I want to do is to force reality onto the floor of the Senate so that we can end this stupid discussion about how great the American economy is. The economy is not great. The economy is a disaster for the middle class.

Second, I want to focus on an issue that is almost never talked about on the floor — that is the power of big money. What are the moral implications? What do these people do when they have tremendous amounts of money? They use that money to perpetuate their own wealth and their own power. Every day, Congress works on behalf of big-money interests.

Third, I want to take a look at some of the good things that are being done around the rest of the world that are almost never discussed in the United States. How often is it discussed that the American people work the longest hours of any industrialized country in the world? The two-week paid vacation is almost a thing of the past; meanwhile in Europe you get four to six weeks vacation, and maternity leave with pay. We don't know about these things. I want to take a look around the world and see what workers are receiving, and compare that to the United States — from an educational point of view.

This is good. I'm sick and tired of the right wing spin machine that keeps telling the American public that this economy is just fabulous, baby, fabulous.

I am looking forward to seeing this new congress in action. There is so much work to do. The magnitude of this administration's pillage and plunder of the taxpayer's funds is mind boggling. And the secrecy! It's about time the people's business is before the people, damn it.


Bob said...

Bernie's one of those newly elected "conservatives" caucusing with the Democrats, haha.

Is Ought said...

I'm sick and tired of the right wing spin machine that keeps telling the American public that this economy is just fabulous, baby, fabulous.

Yeah, and how about that absolutely terrible news that the Dow hit another trading high of 12,355.23 today! And the US making for 21% of the worldwide economy, why, that's a disaster too! Is there a bridge nearby?

Carrie, Why don't you just go ahead and admit it. You're sick and tired of hearing that ANYTHING about America is just fabulous. C'mon, it's in you, just say it. You know you wanna.....


Carrie said...

McClatchy Newspapers

The U.S. economy is indeed strong. Although growth is slowing, it's essentially been steady since mid-2001. September's unemployment rate was a low 4.6 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached record highs last week.

But through September, the growth in hourly wages was flat or negative for 27 of the previous 29 months, according to Labor Department data. Wages for blue-collar and nonmanagerial workers - 80 percent of the work force - are growing at a 3.9 percent annual rate, the Labor Department reported in September. Consumer-price inflation, however, is rising at the same rate. That means prices are rising as fast as wages.

Workers are barely keeping up. Health care, wages and energy prices are consumers' top three economic concerns, according to a Gallup poll in September.

"That has to do with things like stagnant wages, fears of jobs being outsourced, income security. These are on people's minds, particularly in lower- and middle-income areas," said Dennis Jacobe, chief economist in Charlotte, N.C., for Gallup.

"I think it's quite clear to people that their paychecks are being squeezed when they try to meet their family budgets," said Jared Bernstein, the chief economist for the liberal Economic Policy Institute in Washington. "There's a disconnect between overall economic performance and paychecks of working families."

Here's how the hypothetical median-income family - half of four-member families earn less, half earn more - is being squeezed.

The typical family paid, on average from 1999 to 2004, about $865 a year to heat a home with heating oil or $586 with natural gas, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association.

Last winter, however, it cost $1,496 to heat a home with heating oil and $946 with natural gas. Those are increases of 73 percent and 61 percent.

Then there's gasoline. The nationwide average for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline was $2.22 on Monday, according to AAA. That's 57 percent higher than $1.41, the average price for a gallon of gas during the second week of October from 2000 through 2003.

Health insurance costs have risen even faster. The premiums workers pay for employer-provided health insurance rose an average of 7.7 percent this year - and have increased 84 percent since 2000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-issues research center.

Average employer-paid family-health coverage now is estimated to cost $11,480 annually, and workers pay about $2,973 of those costs in premiums, Kaiser said. That's $1,354 more per year than workers paid six years ago.

"Health-care costs outpace the cost of just about everything in our economy," said James Klein, the president of the American Benefits Council in Washington. "Most of that cost burden is increasingly shared with workers."

Some 66 percent of the nation's employers have higher employee co-pays this year, 56 percent raised premiums and 56 percent increased deductibles for participants, according to a recent survey by The Society of Human Resource Management.

"With (medical) costs going up, employers are going to be paying more and so are employees," said Lisa Horn, who manages health-care issues for the group.

Costs also are soaring for the 26.7 million Americans who pay for their health plans themselves. Cathy McKee is a North Carolina real estate agent. She's married to a freelance television producer. They have two children and no chronic health issues.

In 2001, the family paid $397 a month for health insurance. Today they pay $717 a month. They're hoping to cut that to less than $500 a month by taking a plan with higher deductibles for medical services.

"How do we afford it? Embarrassingly, we are not saving as much as we should and certainly not as much as we used to," McKee said. "I'm prepping my kids for scholarships, because the college fund is looking mighty lean."

The percentage of Americans with employer-provided health insurance dropped by 5 percentage points from 2000 to 2005, to 59.5 percent.

As insurance grows more expensive, the number of Americans without it keeps growing. Some 14.2 percent had no health insurance in 2000; last year, 15.9 percent lacked it.

As of Jan. 1, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will make its primary health coverage a low-premium, high-deductible plan. Wal-Mart, which employs more than 1.2 million U.S. workers and is an industry trendsetter, says it spends $4.7 billion a year on health care and retirement benefits for employees.

Under its new health plan, new hires will have small premiums deducted from their paychecks, about $10 a week, and will face higher deductibles when paying for medical care. They'll be offered special health savings accounts in which they can set aside money in interest-bearing accounts to save for medical needs.

"Wal-Mart would do well to better communicate to their employees the fact that health coverage is not free at any business. People pay for it," the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative research center in Dallas, wrote in an analysis of Wal-Mart's shift. "Unless the workers want their pay stubs to be smaller, the tradeoff they make is a less generous health plan."

And a tighter middle-class squeeze.

Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947." A majority of today's workers say the number one issue they face is that the wages they are paid are not keeping up with the cost of living. Aug. 20th marked 10 years since the last time the federal minimum wage has been raised. Frozen at an unlivable $5.15/hour, the minimum wage is at the lowest buying power it has been in 51 years. Workers earning above the minimum wage are struggling as well. According to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, "Real median earnings for men working full-time and year-round were lower in 2005 than in 1973. In inflation-adjusted 2005 dollars, a typical man working full-time in 1973 earned $42,573. Thirty-six years later, this figure has fallen to $41,386." Yet, productivity -- as President Bush likes to frequently point out -- remains high. "What jumps out at you is the gaping hole between productivity growth and earnings," said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). People are "working harder and smarter but not really seeing remuneration that they ought to be seeing." The wage crunch isn't affecting the entire labor force, however. The top one percent of earners -- including many corporate CEOs -- received 11.2 percent of all wage income in 2004, up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than six percent three decades ago.

'Nuff said.

Is Ought said...

You make some very good comments re wages to cost of living disparity for the average family.

Mostly, this is due to rising energy prices (as you said) caused by the instability in the chief oil producing countries. The root cause of this instability is directly due to the Islamist terror, and not caused by the US response to that terror (a response that --so far at least-- has been mild compared to what it could be/should be) The US had to respond, and quite frankly, I think this is the Islamic world's last (and best) chance to reform.

Even if these realities weren't upon us, various other economic conditions still remain cyclicle. For instance, (I'm not sure how old you are but) do you remember the opec oil crisis in the early 80's? Ordinary families lost their homes by the droves through the resultant high interest rates.

While health care costs may be rising, they pale in comparison to the effect that energy prices have on the US (and worldwide) economy.

While I agree with most of your commentary, I don't think that the US domestic policies will govern how the economy goes. Foreign realities will.

IMO, OBL wanted the US to overreact to 9/11 and invade Saudi Arabia thereby causing the world economy to collapse. (As I understand it) the purpose of most terrorism is to ellicit a heavy-handed response,. The US didn't invade. The economy didn't collapse.


Carrie said...

"Mostly, this is due to rising energy prices (as you said) caused by the instability in the chief oil producing countries. The root cause of this instability is directly due to the Islamist terror, and not caused by the US response to that terror (a response that --so far at least-- has been mild compared to what it could be/should be) The US had to respond, and quite frankly, I think this is the Islamic world's last (and best) chance to reform."

The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week.

Overall, the number of what the U.S. government considers "significant" attacks grew to about 655 last year, up from the record of around 175 in 2003, according to congressional aides who were briefed on statistics covering incidents including the bloody school seizure in Russia and violence related to the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir.


The controversy comes a year after the State Department retracted its annual terrorism report and admitted that its initial version vastly understated the number of incidents. That became an election-year issue, as Democrats said the Bush administration tried to inflate its success in curbing global terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing," said Larry C. Johnson, a former senior State Department counterterrorism official, who first revealed the decision not to publish the data.

Read the rest here.

And the jury isn't out just yet on the economic collapse. Only time will tell if what has been done by this administration can or cannot be reversed. If it is the latter, the collapse part will become quite evident.

Is Ought said...

Any economic collapse will be more likely to be caused by another large terrorist attack rather than by anything the US gov't does(domestically) This is a matter of when, not if.

I don't think there's a conspiracy afoot to hide terror data from the public, at least not a gov't conspiracy. If anything, it's the media that doesn't want you to know the extent of Islamist terror. Islamist terror is the elephant in the room for mainstream media with an anti-American agenda.

here's link to a site that documents Islamist terror attacks. The site lists the attacks chronologically and by location. As of today the number of individual Islamist terror attacks since 9/11 stands at an absolutely astounding 6693. That's attacks where at least one civilian has died (ie the Beslan, Bali, London, and Madrid attacks represent one attack each) Scroll down to see the various lists by the week, month and year. http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/