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Sun Mar 02, 2014 at 06:31 PM PST

I Lost my Family to Fox News

by Bud Meyers

When I couldn't find work again after being laid off during the Great Recession, my mother thought there were plenty of jobs to be found, if only people like myself would look for a job or accept a lower-paying job. She watches Fox News all the time.

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Ever since President Obama first took office, from 2008 through 2013, we've had 15.4 million high school graduates.

During that same period of time we've also had an additional 6.8 million retired and disabled people. In other words, the U.S. has had more "non-starters" than "quitters" in the labor force.

Baby Boomers were born from 1946 and 1964 --- and the first Baby Boomer didn't even retire until last year --- but the labor force has been in decline for the past 14 years.

So it's numerically impossible to blame the Baby Boomers for a declining labor force participation rate. Now the Wall Street Journal has (again) been debunked. (Read on for details)

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The situation for the long-term unemployed, especially for older workers, has gone from being very painful to extremely desperate.

Annie Lowrey, in an excellent New York Times article titled Caught in a Revolving Door of Unemployment, notes that long-term joblessness is now one of the defining realities of the American work force. She described long-term unemployment as a trap that becomes more and more difficult to escape with each passing month.

She also points out that "a newly jobless worker has about a 20 to 30 percent chance of finding a new job. By the time he or she has been out of work for six months, though, the chance drops to one in 10, according to the research by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco." Can you imagine the odds for someone who's been out of work for 5 years --- since the crash in 2008 ---especially if they're over 55 years old?

Megan Woolhouse at the Boston Globe: "Rand Ghayad is a Northeastern University researcher and visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston who has published groundbreaking work on long-term unemployment. Ghayad mailed 4,800 fictitious resumes and recorded employer response rates, and concluded that companies frequently screen out applicants who are unemployed for more than six months.

Ghayad found that employers showed four times more interest in candidates unemployed for six months or less — even if they had less experience and fewer qualifications than those experiencing longer bouts of joblessness. Older unemployed workers, he found, were most frequently passed over, viewed as having outdated skills or as being “damaged goods.”

“I believe workers aged 55 and older are not only suffering from unemployment discrimination, but also age discrimination, which is making it nearly impossible for them to find work in this sluggishly growing economy,” Ghayad said. “Long-term unemployment among older workers should be our priority as a nation.”

A great many of the long-term unemployed have been ultimately forced out of the labor force, with no place to turn, depleting retirement savings, or collecting Social Security early, or turning to public assistance. Many also suffer debilitating depression, and in the worst cases become suicidal, feeling as if they have failed or no longer have value.

Right now, there are few services and institutions dedicated to helping the long-term unemployed, heightening the isolation they likely feel.

A research paper by Ghayad and William Dickens (Federal Reserve Bank of Boston) showed that the long-term unemployed are struggling to find work, no matter how many job openings there are. In an interview for the Wall Street Journal Ghayad says, "Once you are long-term unemployed, nobody calls you back."

In an exposé by The Atlantic, they found that employers intentionally screen out the long-term unemployed, even if their résumé has the same work experience as someone unemployed for less than six months.

Josh Boak, and AP economics writer, says "For people who've been out of work for more than six months, the outlook has gone from painful to desperate. More than four years after the last recession ended, long-term unemployment remains near record levels, with 4.1 million Americans out of work for more than six months and still struggling to find jobs. What makes the problem so vexing is these workers, typically older, have qualifications that should provide the path to employment, namely experience, accomplishment, and college degrees."

Aldo Svaldi at The Denver Post writes, "More than 6 million workers had exhausted their unemployment benefits at the end of last year, with a disproportionate share of that group over age 50. Employers don't readily admit to discrimination, but it shows up in not-so-subtle ways --- such as job postings that say "must be currently employed". The longer someone stays unemployed, the more depleted they become — financially, professionally and mentally."

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office released last year, workers 55 and older have experienced consistently longer periods of unemployment than younger workers, as employers seek cheaper labor and look to skirt potentially higher health care costs.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study identified employer reluctance to hire older workers as a key challenge that older workers face in finding reemployment. The GAO also found that the number of workers age 55 and over experiencing long-term unemployment has grown substantially since the recession first began in 2007. Other findings from their report:

  • Individuals age 55 and over have consistently experienced longer durations of unemployment than younger workers.
  • The median length of unemployment has more than tripled for older workers.
  • Several experts interviewed said long-term unemployment diminishes the likelihood that older workers will ever be re-employed.
  • Long-term unemployed older workers who exhaust unemployment benefits before turning 62 are particularly at great risk.
  • The effects of job loss are likely to be longer-lasting for older workers, including them being more likely to lose subsequent jobs and experience additional unemployment spells.
  • Losing their jobs has taken a toll on their sense of self-worth, reduced their standard of living, and put them at risk of long-term financial hardship.
  • Long-term unemployed older workers struggled to pay health insurance premiums and some said they had found it difficult to secure private insurance because of high costs or preexisting conditions. Many had forgone seeking medical care altogether, and stopped taking prescribed medications because they could not afford them.

A study by the Urban Institute also reported that older adults took longer to find work when they lost their jobs; and that wage losses were especially steep for unemployed workers in their fifties who managed to become re-employed:

  • Adults in their fifties spent more time unemployed than their younger counterparts.
  • Half of workers age 50 to 61 who became unemployed spent at least six months out of work.
  • It took more than nine months of job search for half of unemployed adults age 50 to 61 to find work
  • Unemployed adults in their fifties were about a fifth less likely than their counterparts age 25 to 34 to become reemployed. (See conclusions on page 5)

A newer study from the Urban Institute shows that even if the economy returns to full employment, many workers are still likely to face long-term unemployment --- 40.5 percent of long-term unemployed job seekers are age 16 to 25. This suggests that the youngest job seekers are likely to experience shorter spells of unemployment.

According to an op-ed by economists Dean Baker and Kevin Hassett in the New York Times (which was also referred to in a congressional hearing for older workers*) a worker between the ages 50 and 61, and who had been unemployed for 17 months or longer, only had about a 9 percent chance of ever finding a new job. And the longer they were unemployed, the lower their chances for ever finding work again.

Andrew Sum, director of Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies, concurs: "The longer you’re unemployed, the more likely you are to leave the labor force, and the more likely it’s an early retirement for you.”

* A few statements made at the Congressional hearing last year for older workers who were long-term unemployed:

  • Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) "While Americans were hit hard by this recession, the ramifications for older workers are particularly severe. Once older workers lost their jobs, they struggled far more than other groups to find work again."
  • Charles A. Jeszeck at the U.S. Government Accountability Office: "An October 2011 AARP survey of workers age 50 and over found that nearly a quarter said that they had used all of their savings during the past three years. Further, long-term unemployed workers nearing age 62 may opt to claim benefits earlier than they would have if they had still been working. Claiming benefits early, particularly for life-long low earners, can increase the risk of poverty at older ages."
  • Joseph Carbone, President and CEO of The WorkPlace: "It's compounded for older workers. They're dealing with the stigma of being older. They're dealing with the prejudices that come with it, with the discrimination that comes with it [and the] perception that lots of folks have that you're looking for something for nothing --- or your skills are too dull to be of help to anybody. It's a challenge if you're under 50. It's a category 5 hurricane if you're over 50." (In an interview for PBS Carbone also said "They're carrying a double whammy, not just the long-term unemployment, but they're 50 and older.)
  • Christine Owens - Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project: "When they [older workers] become unemployed they are more likely to remain so and to remain so for longer periods of time. Moreover, older unemployed workers are three times as likely as younger unemployed workers to become unemployed because they have lost their jobs."

Carl Van Horn, director of the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey says:

"There is really no demographic age group that has as much difficulty getting back in the job market if they lose a job. There is definitely bias against older workers, even if you have skills. They are depressed. They can't deal with rejection anymore. Many of them are requiring food stamps and Social Security Disability Insurance. There has been a high early-enrollment in Social Security, which is a lifetime punishment for people who are forced to do this, because many are taking roughly one-third less at 62."

AARP's Public Policy Institute surveyed unemployed baby boomers and found that while 71% blamed their unemployment on the bad economy, almost half also said they believed age discrimination was at play.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office study identified employer reluctance to hire older workers as a key challenge that older workers face in finding reemployment.

Since the Great Recession began, many older workers have been out of work for five years or longer, caught between a rock and a hard place, because no one will hire them and they are not yet old enough to qualify for regular Social Security.

All in all, the Baby Boomers were the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath. These Americans in their 50s and early 60s --- those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security --- have lost the most earnings power of any age group.

And a study by economists at Wellesley College found that people who lost their jobs in the few years before becoming eligible for Social Security, also lost up to three years from their life expectancy, largely because they no longer had access to affordable health care.

Many older workers have run through their retirement savings: One survey of post 50s found 25 percent had used up all of their savings between 2007 and 2010. And those who are forced to take Social Security at age 62 are stuck at a lower benefit for life. According to the GAO report, someone who exited the workforce at that age would receive a median monthly benefit of $909 -– compared to $1,212 for people who wait to take Social Security until age 66.

Researchers found that the long-term unemployed will suffer deep mental and emotional scars from the experience. A Gallup study in the Economic Journal found that those who were out of work for at least a year took longer to recover emotionally than those who had lost a spouse. The results showed quantifiable declines in their health, their self-esteem and their overall emotional well-being. One Gallop Poll showed unemployed adults and those not working as much as they would like are about twice as likely as Americans who are employed full time to be depressed.

Research also suggests that long-term unemployed Baby Boomers may die sooner too, because their health, their income security and their mental well-being were battered by the Great Recession at a crucial time in their lives. The study cited also found that for people in that age group, the long-term unemployed were also more prone to suicide.

The New York Times: Suicides Spike 30% for Baby Boomers:

  • Suicide rates among middle-age Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern for a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry.
  • The most pronounced increases were seen among men in their 50s, a group in which suicide rates jumped by nearly 50 percent.
  • It is the baby boomer group where we see the highest rates of suicide.

The consequences of unemployment has been be far-reaching, as we've seen from this last recession with a higher-than-usual increase in suicides. Many people reported that they had lost or feared losing loved ones.

"The rate of suicide in the United States rose sharply during the first few years since the start of the recession, a new analysis has found. In the report, researchers found that the rate between 2008 and 2010 increased four times faster than it did in the eight years before the recession. Every rise of 1 percent in unemployment was accompanied by an increase in the suicide rate of roughly 1 percent, the study found. The analysis found that the link between unemployment and suicide was about the same in all regions of the country."

So for many of the long-term unemployed, they're situation has not only become fatalistic, it's been fatal.

* See my most recent post about the current  job numbers for November
2013:
Jobs Report: Lipstick on an Economic Pig

Discuss

BREAKING NEWS - Wasilla, Alaska --- There will be no gift-wrapped presents with bows this year, nor will there be eggnog (spiked or otherwise), or midnight Masses, or Christmas carols; and sadly, no more Christmas trees either. The War on Christmas has finally come to a tragic end today.

Santa Claus's dead and mutilated body was found slumped on the ground early this morning in front of Fox News headquarters in New York City. Un-named sources on the scene had said that a police forensics team on site had found a large hunting knife in Santa's back, buried to the bloodied hilt.

Fox New commentators and Republican politicians were quick to blame the usual suspects --- Satan-worshiping liberals and Atheists. But no "official" suspects were yet in custody as of this report.


Santa found dead.

So needless to say, there will be no Christmas Blessings, no Christmas Cheer and no Good Tidings of Great Joy either. And no longer will there be any Christmas stockings hanging by the fireplace, or wreaths, lovingly placed on American front doors.

And no more will Christmas lights adorn the homes and yards of millions of honest, God-fearing and hard-working [Republican] Christians in America.

All across the world faux-pax Santas in shopping malls from every nation on Earth took to the streets in protest, damning the liberal heathens.


Protests over the killing of Santa.

So therefore, there will be no longer be milk and cookies left out for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve this year, or any other year for that matter, because Saint Nick had been senselessly and brutally exterminated by that evil and sinister group of "holiday wishers" known as "liberals".

This vicious and immoral group offered no mercy, they showed no remorse, and they offered no apologies. (Sarah Palin has already threatened to retaliate.)

This year, thanks to the War on Christmas, America will never be the same the again. Bill O'Reilly was visibly shaken, saying he was "shaken to the core of my very soul". Like Palin, he too went on the offensive, and said he would personally avenge this travesty on our baby Lord Jesus Christ and the Christian faith.

As he wept, O'Reilly said, "Santa may be dead, but he will live on in our hearts forever as a Martyr for Christmas past." Then he slowly hunkered away, with tears streaming down his cheeks, a deeply troubled (but very wealthy) man.

By stark contrast, the Catholic Pope has remained conspicuously silent upon hearing the tragic news of Santa's untimely and early demise. Many Republicans are now saying that the Pope may have been personally involved in a conspiracy to slaughter Santa Claus in the liberal's War on Christmas.

Santa was quickly buried at the North Pole with full Christian honors and given his Last Rites by Mitt Romney. It is rumored that the entire cast of Fox News had attended the somber affair, being the only "true" Christians that they are.

In the photo below, an innocent and young Christian bereaves the passing of his beloved Santa Claus after the funeral. In tears, he said he will have nightmares for the rest of his life. (His parents also blamed the liberals)


Children mourn Santa's death.

Wrongful death lawsuits are expected to follow. Fox News lawyers have already held preliminary meetings in Manhattan.

It's the end of an era --- the end of Christmas --- the end of life as we once knew it in America. A truly horrific day for Christians everywhere in the world, but mostly for Christians in America --- and especially so for the "true" believers, such as the Republicans --- such as people like Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin.

Democratic, Progressive and Liberal Christians, as well as Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Hindus and Atheists (and all other people of faith and non-believers), as was to be expected, had all kept a very low profile for fear of retribution and retaliation by the Republican and Tea Party sheeple.

It's been reported that Santa's over-worked and under-paid elves, rather than mourning the loss of their boss, were last seen marching in solidarity with striking fast-food and retail workers all across the nation.

Meanwhile, it was reported that the top 0.01% feared declining holiday Christmas sales, and were also silent on the matter. The CEOs of many major U.S. corporations, along with their lobbyists, have been scrambling to find another religious occasion for which to profit.

As for Mrs. Claus (being a battered wife), she did not attend Santa's funeral, nor was she available for comment for this report.

Via the Huffington Post (excerpted) Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas:

Saying "Happy Holidays" to a total stranger on an elevator isn't anti-Christmas, it's being all-inclusive --- since several holidays fall during December --- including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and the newly minted secular HumanLight.

That is the very reason that many stores use "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas", because they want to be all-inclusive as well --- and welcome as many customers into their stores as possible. So, using "Happy Holidays" is not anti-Christmas, it's just pro-business. And aren't Fox News and Bill O'Reilly also pro-business?

Via the Daily Kos: Jon Stewart's hilarious look at the latest in the War on Christmas

http://www.dailykos.com/...

Via Swampland: Sarah Palin’s New Book About the “War on Christmas”

http://swampland.time.com/...

Via Salon: Sorry, Sarah Palin: There’s no war on Christmas

http://www.salon.com/...

* DISCLAIMER: Santa didn't die in the "War on Christmas". I just used that title to get your attention, the same way the mainstream media also misuses titles to falsely report stories.

Discuss

Decades of Generational Warfare by the GOP

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare explains in great detail how this strategy of "generational warfare" is nothing new. The NPR, who usually misleads us about Social Security disability, notes in one article:

Economics reporter Jim Tankersley, now with The Washington Post, argued in an article last fall at the National Journal that the baby boomer generation has sucked a disproportionate share of resources out of the country, calling his own father "a parasite." --- But while it's true that today's young people will eventually grow old themselves, government budgets are about the present. And those who are now old are better protected than children and youth.

As of lately we have seen many people trying to use generational warfare (pitting the young against the old, the sons against their fathers, the Generation Xers against the Baby Boomers) when arguing against ObamaCare --- saying that younger and healthier people must pay for older and sicker people --- and claiming how it's not fair.

First of all, let me say, we ALL get old (if we are lucky), but the less you earn, the less you will have to pay for ObamaCare. But the super-rich and the Republicans (the party of the rich) have been complaining and trying to undermine, sabotage and repeal ObamaCare --- because starting this year, the rich will be taxed 3.8% on their capital gains to expand Medicaid for those who can't otherwise afford healthcare insurance.

And the GOP (the corporate guardians) knows very well that the insurance companies (like the ones the taxpayers bailed out) also don't like the profit-limiting consumer protections that comes with ObamaCare.

A few people (usually the wealthiest with the biggest megaphones) have been using talking points to say that forcing the super-rich to pay for the healthcare for the abject poor is a "massive redistribution of wealth" --- and calling ObamaCare a "government takeover of healthcare.” It was repeated so often (and so dutifully reported by the mainstream media) that Politifact chose it as the Lie of the Year in 2010.

But most people (with much softer voices, thanks to Citizens United) are saying that forcing the taxpayers to subsidize corporations, finance CEO golden parachutes, fund over-paid defense contractors, quantitative easing, and big bank bailouts is also a "massive redistribution of wealth" when sucking resources from the bottom to the top by using "reverse trickle-down economics".

Also, many taxpayers resent the "redistribution of their wealth" to provide food stamps to under-paid workers at Walmart because the multi-billionaire-heirs of Sam Walton are too cheap, greedy and petty to pay their workers a real "living wage" --- or to feed the unemployed who had their jobs offshored to low-wage countries just to pay CEOs multi-million-dollar salaries every year.

50% of all wage earners in the U.S. take home $27,500 a year or LESS --- so many (if not most) would be eligible for Medicaid, or will only pay a very low subsidized premium for healthcare insurance (if their employer doesn't already offer them an employer-paid group healthcare plan; or if they aren't on their parent's plan). Most of the complaints we've been hearing about on Fox News are from people earning upper-income wages, and/or who also had cheap (but lousy) insurance policies to begin with.

But just like ObamaCare, when the Social Security and Medicare plans were first initiated, many people used to complain back then as well. Edwin E. Witte, while working under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, developed the legislation that became the Social Security Act of 1935 --- and he is sometimes called "the father of Social Security". In remarks he made on the 20th anniversary of the Social Security Act on August 15, 1955 he said:

What we now call "public assistance" or "general assistance" was established in every colony early in its history, under the old English designation of "poor relief." That also was done in the later States, in their earliest days. The principle that when people have no other means of subsistence, they must be supported from public funds, has always been a part of the American way of life.

During his presidential campaign in 1964, Barry Goldwater's opposition to the New Deal and his criticism of its centerpiece program of "old age insurance" marked his rise as a leading conservative Republican. His first public political statement was an open letter to President Franklin Roosevelt decrying New Deal economic policies. As a young Republican senator in the 1950s, Goldwater criticized Republican President Dwight Eisenhower for failing to dismantle the welfare state. In his 1960 political book The Conscience of a Conservative, Goldwater referred to the New Deal as “Socialism-through-Welfarism” and called for its repeal, including its "social welfare programs."  The book had influenced countless conservatives, helping to lay the foundation for The Reagan Revolution in 1980 --- and then later, "trickle-down economics" (The Pope recently reminded us how well that worked out). Needless to say, President Lyndon B. Johnson beat Goldwater in a landslide --- the American people weren't buying Goldwater's spin.

Now Social Security is the financial mainstay for 95% of us who eventually can't work any longer (And the GOP wants to raise the retirement age to 70 when it's almost impossible for anyone over 50 who was laid off since 2008 to get a job today.)

A "divide and conquer" strategy is being used (with multiple lies and misinformation) by shills for the super-rich in an attempt to turn the young against the old on a proposed plan to increase Social Security taxes on 5% of the top wage earners.

As a 58-year-old "Baby Boomer" in 2013, I can remember very vividly when I first left home in 1973 to be on my own. As it is for most people, my first job didn't pay all that well, so every dollar counted. Sure, back then, I might have thought I wouldn't live past 30 (or that I was invincible, and would never die). So yes, back then, I might I have wished I wasn't "forced" to pay all those Social Security and Medicare taxes from my paycheck. But in hindsight, I'm glad I did. (Who knows, as a young man, I might have just blown all that extra money on another case of beer every week.)

In those days, I wasn't focused all that much on my future: becoming 65 years old back then seemed like a 1,000 years away to me. But since then, I've also learned that the older one becomes, the faster time seems to pass you by. But it's difficult to explain that to a someone who's only 18 years old today. To a 5-year-old, Santa Claus won't be back for an eternity.

As I said: If we are lucky, we ALL get old, but most of us do not earn enough to save for a proper retirement. And even if we did earn adequate wages, many of us (if not most) still might not save enough money anyway --- after all, there's always SOMETHING to pay for --- we get laid off from our jobs, we get married, we have children, our cars breaks down, we become sick or disabled, or maybe something at the local mall goes on sale that we feel we absolutely MUST have (even if it means going into debt).

So paying Social Security and Medicare taxes during our working years, for our retirement and healthcare in our older years, is the very best insurance we can ever buy in life. But now, another "think tank" is trying to undermine the financial security of our Social Security Trust Fund.

A group named Third Way supports the TPP trade agreement that the Center for Economic Policy and Research says will be disastrous for U.S. workers. Jon Cowan is president of Third Way and Jim Kessler is the senior vice president for policy. Together they recently co-authored an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal attacking Senator Elizabeth Warren for her stand on Social Security, saying:

"Sen. Warren wants to increase benefits to all seniors, including billionaires, and to pay for them by increasing taxes on working people and their employers. Her approach requires a $750 billion tax hike over the next 10 years that hits mostly Millennials and Gen Xers, plus another $750 billion tax on the businesses that employ them."

This entire paragraph to totally untrue. Senator Elizabeth Warren supports Senator Tom Harkin's plan (S.567, the Strengthening Social Security Act) which says, "To help extend the life of the trust fund the Act phases out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages."

There's also been some discussion on "means-testing" so that billionaires, who don't need these benefits, won't be able to receive Social Security benefits. And the only Millennials and Gen Xers that will see any hike in payroll taxes will be those earning over $113,700 a year after phasing out the proposed "cap".

If it weren't so nefarious, it would almost be laughable that Third Way uses the phrases "working people" and "employers" when they are really referring to millionaires and billionaires, not working-class wage earners or small business owners.

Their propaganda piece goes on to say:

"Even more reckless is the populists' staunch refusal to address the coming Medicare crisis. In 2030, a typical couple reaching the eligibility age of 65 will have paid $180,000 in lifetime Medicare taxes but will get back $664,000 in benefits. Given that this disparity will be completely unaffordable, Sen. Warren and her acolytes are irresponsibly pushing off budget decisions that will guarantee huge benefit cuts and further tax hikes for Gen Xers and Millennials in a few decades."

These "budget decisions" that Third Way mentions are really for cutting benefits for the middle-class, working-class and the poor --- such as using chained-CPI for lower cost-of-living adjustments, and using Paul Ryan's "voucher plan" for Medicare --- rather than raising taxes on those who can easily afford to pay just a little bit more (by raising taxes on 5% of those who generate incomes over $113,700 a year from wages, not capital gains.)

There are no further Medicare tax hikes scheduled for Gen Xers and Millennials, as there are no further tax hikes for anyone else (and there doesn't have to be). The temporary payroll tax holiday expired for everybody in 2013, so payroll taxes for everyone only went back to where they were previously (similar to how the Bush tax cuts had also elapsed this year). And even if Medicare taxes were ever increased, it would not only go up on everyone, but it would benefit everyone as well, as Medicare is a collective plan that benefits seniors --- and as I said, most Gen Xers and Millennials eventually become seniors themselves.

The Third Way's op-ed piece in the right-wing Wall Street Journal is using a right-wing strategy of "divide and conquer" --- dividing the young and old --- but the young also have older parents, and the old have younger children. The REAL divide is between ultra-rich and everybody else.

It's mostly the top 1% (or 5%, depending who you ask) who doesn't want to contribute to Social Security or Medicare. (Actually, according to the Social Security Administration, 94.5% of all wage earners in the U.S. make less than the current "cap" of $113,700 a year --- members of Congress make more).

So again, when Third Way talks about "further tax hikes", they are mostly concerned about the millionaires and billionaires paying a little more --- those imaginary "job creators" who were thoroughly debunked in Business Insider last week.

Supposedly, Third Way is "centrist" think tank (although they sound conservative), but according to an article in Salon, it sounds more like a split between a few "economic plutocrats" and "economic populists" within the Democratic Party --- that others have described as "pro-corporate" Democrats and progressive Democrats (pro-workers).

Salon writes: "Perhaps most disappointingly, coming from a nominally Dem-aligned think tank, Third Way adopts conservative generational warfare [and] hits mostly Millennials and Gen Xers...When you take a look at Third Way’s Wall Street-heavy board of trustees, this begins to make a lot of sense...These are the people who will be forced to pay higher taxes."

The argument Third Way makes isn't really about any social, political or ideological divides between the young and old, but the economic divide between the very wealthy and everybody else. Being able to earn a living wage during our working years, and then being able to later retire when we become too old or sick to work anymore, should be a common goal for most of us (say like 95%).

But Third Way is using the same old strategy that the GOP has been using for decades, dividing all types of different classes of people (black and white, middle-class and poor, North and South, makers and takers, women and men, Catholics and Atheists, gays and straights, etc.) in their attempt to win an argument and sway the public's opinion. The Republicans have used this strategy to divide all kinds of different classes of people --- all EXCEPT the super-rich (the top 0.01%) and everybody else (the other 99.99%).

The Republicans are currently attempting to divide those in the military and senior citizens by introducing legislation that would cancel out the next two years of sequestration cuts for the Pentagon by putting a heavier burden on senior citizens by changing the way cost-of-living adjustments are calculated for Social Security (chained-CPI) --- rather than just taxing the capital gains of the super-wealthy as regular wages, or taxing their capital gains for Social Security, or raising or eliminating the "cap" for Social Security taxes --- ANYTHING but the taxing the very rich.

It's always been the GOP's plan "save" for the rich and "cut" for everyone else. Now it appears that the self-described "centrist" think tank called Third Way is taking a page right out of the GOP play book.

Last year in a New York Times opinion piece Old vs.Young, the author claims that the young are less hostile to Social Security cuts and favor private accounts for Social Security (I found this very difficult to believe). The author goes on to say that Medicare "is a transfer program from young to old" and pontificates:

"The young are generally losing out to the old. On a different subject, Warren E. Buffett, 81, has joked that there really is a class war in this country — and that his class is winning it. He could say the same about a generational war."

First of all, Warren Buffett was NOT joking about winning the class war. Before the Great Recession in 2006 Warren Buffett had said they were winning. In the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2011 he said they won. And secondly, the same can not be said about a generational war, where both the young and old will lose if they don't stand up to people like the fake Democrats at Third Way who want to cut Social Security rather than tax the uber-rich a little more.

So if you are a Millennial or Gen Xer today, remember, you too will eventually be one of those "old people" that Third Way is now trying to marginalize. Organizations like Third Way will be attacking you too when you also get older.

Investing in Social Security is an investment in yourself, but the super-rich don't want to help you pay for your retirement when you get too old or sick to work for them any longer. They already "got theirs" --- just like the multi-millionaire talking heads on Fox News also "got theirs" --- they just don't want us to "get ours".


The Elizabeth Warren Wing of the Democrats

* To young people and old people alike: Tell these fake Democrats (via this petition) "Make your Wall Street funders public and stop attacking Elizabeth Warren's popular ideas."

* Also read: A Brief History of Attacks on Social Security

** Also read: Veterans Face a New Threat: Proposed cuts to Social Security beneficiaries will also affect those who receive veterans' disability benefits, Veterans pensions and military retirement pay, by using chained-CPI (rather than CPI-E) to calculate annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAS).

Discuss

It's a shame that the Fourth Estate, rather than reporting the news, has become nothing more than an ideological tool that deliberately misleads the public on serious issues to advocate for special interests, instead of informing us of the facts --- yellow journalism, sensationalism, misleading headlines, propaganda, lies --- everything except the truth. “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

Earlier this week the Center for Economic Policy and Research criticized CBS for falsely reporting on 60 Minutes about there being widespread fraud in the Social Security program. First it was NPR spreading misinformation, then lately it was CBS, and now Fox News has (again) jumped on the propaganda bandwagon to mislead us about the facts concerning the Social Security disability program.

They say that even a broken clock can be right twice a day, and the same might be said for the far-right Fox News or the left-leaning Media Matters. But unlike a broken clock, it seems that Fox News is rarely right. As usual, the journalistic level of reporting from Fox News can be accomplished just as easily by any amateur blogger, who just echoes the usual blather, rather than reporting actual "news". Whereas, Media Matters took the time to investigate the story of fraud in the disability program. And unlike Fox News, who just provided a commentary and repeated what others were saying, Media Matters made many relevant and valid points, and provided their readers with a slew of useful links to their sources.

Fox News reported that a two-year investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found widespread fraud in the Social Security Administration's Disability Program. (You can see the 3 hour video of the hearing at C-SPAN).

Fox News has been accused of being many things, one being the media arm of the Republican Party. But their ideological slant and political bias has become so blatant, it's become almost impossible to call them a news organization. Just recently from Fox News, regarding alleged fraud in the Social Security disability program:

"The fraud is so rampant, and disability cases have so proliferated in recent years, that the Social Security's Disability Trust Fund may run out of money in only 18 months, says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., whose office undertook the investigation. Coburn’s report on widespread fraud, released Monday, focuses in large part on a veritable "disability claim factory" allegedly  run by attorney Eric C. Conn out of his small office in Stanville, Kentucky, a region of the country where 10 to 15 percent of the population  receives disability payments."

Floyd County's entire population is 38,949 --- so 15% of the population would be 5,842 --- but of the 1,375 disability cases that one particular judge in Kentucky had ruled on, only 300 cases were reviewed from a random examination --- but Fox News offers this anecdotal evidence as absolute proof that the alleged fraud highlights an "endemic problem" in the disability program on a national scale, rather than just being an isolated incident of fraud by one lawyer and judge at the local level in a small Kentucky town.

Fox News had also falsely reported that disability payments "have skyrocketed across the U.S. in recent years." CBS News had earlier reported that 12 million Americans received disability benefits, then Fox News recently claimed that 14 million Americans used the disability program --- just as NPR had been falsely reporting. But the Social Security Administration currently reports it's far less, and that it's actually 8.9 million disabled Americans who are in the program. So this misrepresentation of the numbers can only mean that Fox News, CBS and NPR were willfully misleading the public in their reporting.

Also, as it was thoroughly detailed at the Economic Populist, although more people were applying for disability benefits, and the number of disability "claims" have increased in the aftermath of the Great Recession, actual "awards" have gone down, while "termination rates" have increased. So Fox News was wrong again, as were many others in the media. Disability payments have NOT "skyrocketed across the US in recent years", but have only gradually increased with nominal population growth which includes an aging work force.

Besides aging Baby Boomers, the Social Security Administration says the lingering effects of the recession was another possible cause for increased "claims", even though awards are down. But if it were not for a lack of jobs, many people who do qualify for disability would prefer to work instead. But employers aren't hiring older workers (those who are most likely to file a disability claim) --- and especially if these older workers were long-term unemployed (and/or were also disabled). It should also be noted that the older and longer one has been unemployed, the least likely they would ever be rehired again.

Compare the way Media Matters debunked the alleged "widespread fraud" in the disability program, as opposed to the way Fox News, CBS, and the NPR has reported. A few highlights from Media Matters:

  • The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly found that fraud accounts for approximately one percent of all disability payments.
  • CBS ignored the fact that the majority of appeals are also denied, and that award rates have actually fallen during the economic recession.
  • The myths pushed by 60 Minutes have been repeatedly debunked by experts.
  • A coalition of approximately 100 national disability organizations said the CBS coverage was "sensational" and did a "tremendous disservice" to people with disabilities.
  • The misleading CBS investigation follows a discredited report from NPR that eight former Social Security commissioners previously denounced.

So essentially, there has NOT been widespread fraud in disability claims, just widespread false reporting of widespread fraud. (Also read: The Last Word on Social Security Disability, which further debunks the myths and misinformation that Fox News and others have falsely reported
on Social Security disability.)

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Wed Aug 07, 2013 at 11:17 AM PDT

Will Healthcare Fraud ever End?

by Bud Meyers

Health and Human Services Inspector General Daniel Levinson said the public should be “outraged” to hear that government warnings to avoid using the anti-psychotic drugs on people in nursing homes with dementia often went unheeded. He went on to accuse manufacturers of “putting profits before safety” by aggressively marketing these drugs for just such uses.

An audit in 2011 found that almost 305,000 of over 2 million elderly persons who lived in nursing homes in the first six months of 2007 had a prescription for at least one atypical anti-psychotic drug.

The OIG report said that 88 percent of these prescriptions were written “off-label,” meaning the drugs were being used for purposes that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. In some cases, pills were prescribed despite warnings from the FDA that using them for treating dementia patients could be dangerous. In all, unapproved uses and improperly documented claims for these drugs cost Medicare $116 million in one six-month period, the report found.

But the Inspector General's investigative unit, citing major budget and staffing cuts, is scrapping new audits to identify the problems in nursing homes. (Big pharma wins again. Old people, with no one else to care for them, lose.)

Also, in other related medical fraud news: hospitals grab at least $1 billion in extra fees for emergency room visits, suggesting facilities have taken advantage of government’s failure to set billing standards. The growth of electronic medical records has helped ease the path to inflate medical bills as billing software helps medical professionals document higher fees.

According the Center for Public Integrity, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder fired off a stern letter to five prominent medical groups threatening criminal prosecution for applying the technology to bill for more complex and costly services than merited --- a practice is known as “upcoding.”

Doctors and hospitals have collected billions in questionable Medicare fees. One investigation suggests costs from upcoding and other abuses is massive fraud. Thousands of doctors and other medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating elderly patients on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees and signaling a possible rise in medical billing abuse. (The GOP wants to cut Medicare insurance for elderly patients, rather than investigate the corporate fraud.)

Average working Americans are paying for corporate fraud. As the decades have gone by, Americans have been spending more and more on health care, largely through their health insurance premiums, to the point that many families cannot afford the kinds of health insurance plans in which middle- and upper-income families take part.

Working Americans are paying for corporate fraud in the way of jobs as well. In looking at the totality of the Affordable Care Act, the most important component of the act is what it will do to the costs of medical care. For the last 25 years (according to a study from the National Federation of Independent Business), small businesses have ranked the cost of health insurance as the most critical problem they face. The link between health costs and employment is increasingly clear. A study shows that industries that provided health care to more of their workers in 1986 had significantly lower employment growth between 1987 and 2005.

Could bribery and political corruption also be behind Medicare and hospital billing fraud?

The top 2 U.S. counties in which doctors billed the highest percentage of the two most expensive Medicare codes for established patients in 2008 were in Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott's state of Florida.

Governor Rick Scott (who was once accused of Medicare fraud) recently suspended Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and Sweetwater Mayor Manuel Marono from office after they were both arrested by the FBI on public corruption charges for taking bribes (Both mayors are Republican, but the pending charges are not yet clear). U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer said, "Our democracy suffers in these cases when elected officials use their power and political influence for personal gain instead of the public good."

As Mister Rick Scott, he ran a company that paid a record fine for committing Medicare fraud. PolitiFact has investigated claims against both Scott and Romney about Medicare fraud during their business careers.

But as Republican Governor Rick Scott, he cut millions from health care benefits for Florida's poor. Now Florida's chief economist has warned the staff of Governor Rick Scott that his Medicaid cost estimates are all wrong, but Rick Scott keeps using them anyway.

To his rare credit, Mitt Romney has dismissed the GOP strategy of shutting down the government in their efforts to de-fund Obamacare. Bain Capital greatly profits from government contracts. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida (Rick Scott's state), Ted Cruz of Texas (George W. Bush's state) and Mike Lee of Utah (home state of Romney's church) are urging Republicans to swear off voting for any year-end spending bill that includes money for the president's health care law. Parts of the federal government would shut down on October 1st if Congress doesn't approve a short-term funding bill before then.

As an aside: Mitt Romney also opposes Obamacare because of the 3.8% surtax on his capital gains to fund Obama's healthcare plan. Romney earns, on average, about $20 million a year from capital gains on his "deferred interest".

* See my post: Fraud, Greed & Profits Drives Healthcare Costs

Poll

Should we support a plan to raise Medicare taxes on capital gains for people earning over $1 million a year to help fund "Medicare for All" --- while at the same time, also increasing the budget for the Inspector General to investigate more fraud and abus

80%8 votes
20%2 votes
0%0 votes

| 10 votes | Vote | Results

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Tue Aug 06, 2013 at 02:52 PM PDT

The American Dream that Was

by Bud Meyers

All the bloggers and writers of op-ed pieces in newspapers these days are saying what everyone else is saying (and already knows)....high and long-term unemployment for the past 5 years, crappy jobs, low wages, part-time hours, temporary work, no healthcare or other benefits, the offshoring/outsourcing of good jobs, young adults stuck at home with their parents, huge and growing CEO salaries, wealth inequality, rampant tax evasion, healthcare fraud, financial fraud, record corporate profits, offshore tax havens, an unfair tax code, corporate welfare (crony capitalism), globalization, foreign sweatshops, guestworker visa abuses....the list is almost endless it seems, and growing every day.


Continue Reading

After fast-food workers took to the streets in protest of low wages, panic ensued, and Fox News immediately launched a counter-offensive by putting on a high-priced lobbyist to argue that America's most titanic and profitable corporations, as well as our largest job creators, can't afford to pay their employees a living wage. If this is true, then capitalism, as we once knew it, has come to a shuttering halt.


Poll

What is a fair "living" minimum wage (for businesses with 50 or more employees grossing over $25 million a year)

5%4 votes
3%3 votes
38%30 votes
23%18 votes
8%7 votes
0%0 votes
10%8 votes
6%5 votes
3%3 votes
0%0 votes

| 78 votes | Vote | Results

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"Poverty is no longer an issue of them, it's an issue of us." ~ Mark Rank, professor at Washington University

Jason Whitlock at the Huffington Post writes, "Hopelessness is at the root of the violence plaguing poor black neighborhoods. Poverty, family dysfunction and cultural decay contribute to the feeling of hopelessness pervasive throughout black inner-city communities."

And that hopelessness that Mister Whitock mentioned has been steadily creeping into the white suburbs as well.

I am a white man subsisting on food stamps in a primarily white middle-class suburban neighborhood. I'm 57 years old and have been unemployed for 5 years after being laid off in 2008. Employers thought I was too old to be hired and I was too young to retire. My unemployment benefits ended in mid-2010 and my life's savings were wiped out by the end of 2011 while I was desperately trying to find a job (and maintaining my status quo). That same year my car was eventually repossessed. I've had $0 for an income ever since then.

For the last two years I didn't have to file a federal tax return --- that was the first time that I didn't have to file a tax return since I was 18 years old, which was back in 1973.

When I'm not sleeping I spend 99.99% of my time in a small bedroom in a friend's house watching TV and browsing the internet. I haven't bought new socks for years. I use the food stamps I get to buy a lot of generic-brand junk food to fill my belly, because good healthy food costs too much, and it wouldn't last me until the end of the month.

Poverty is somewhat like being in jail (or under house arrest) because one has no financial freedom to engage in most "normal" activities...except for maybe a walk around the block (if one weren't disabled). Recently my TV died, so now I just have the internet to occupy all my idle time.

Because I no longer have a car anymore, I can't go anywhere...the nearest bus stop is too far away (my benefactor takes me to the doctor and food shopping when she's not cleaning other people's homes to pay her mortgage). But the good news is, I don't have to buy auto insurance or purchase gasoline anymore.


The New Poor in America

I think Jason Whitlock should also consider my "whiteness" as pretty darn hopeless too. But I'm not alone. According to a recent survey/study, more whites are poorer than ever --- not since the days of the Dust Bowl and Great Depression.

A flurry of other studies have already previously confirmed what most of America already knows...the American middle class has been shuntered, destroyed, wiped out --- is no more. Over the past 40 years corruption, corporations and politicians on both sides of the aisle have murdered the American Dream and drove a huge pink slip through the heart of working-class America.


The Associated Press sponsored a study which shows that 80% of Americans have experienced poverty in their lifetimes.

"Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend."

It seems the Associated Press gathered their statistics from a variety of sources*, some of which will be unpublished for a year. Other studies back up this shocking news...unless of course one is within the beltway. See the latest data: A 2011 Overview Census on Poverty.

* The numbers below come from Rank's analysis being published by the Oxford University Press. They are supplemented with interviews and figures provided to the AP by Tom Hirschl, a professor at Cornell University; John Iceland, a sociology professor at Penn State University; the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute; the Census Bureau; and the Population Reference Bureau. AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta, News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and AP writer Debra McCown in Buchanan County, Va., contributed to this report.

         

In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor."

While racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to live in poverty, race disparities in the poverty rate have narrowed substantially since the 1970s, census data show.

Economic insecurity among whites also is more pervasive than is shown in the government's poverty data, engulfing more than 76 percent of white adults by the time they turn 60, according to a new economic gauge being published next year by the Oxford University Press.

Marriage rates are in decline across all races, and the number of white mother-headed households living in poverty has risen to the level of black ones.

Nationwide, the count of America's poor remains stuck at a record number: 46.2 million, or 15 percent of the population, due in part to lingering high unemployment following the recession. While poverty "rates" for blacks and Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by "absolute numbers" the predominant face of the poor is white.

More than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line of $23,021 for a family of four, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation's destitute, nearly double the number of poor blacks.

Sometimes termed "the invisible poor" by demographers, lower-income whites generally are dispersed in suburbs as well as small rural towns, where more than 60 percent of the poor are white.

4 in 10 adults falls into poverty for at least a year of their lives.

The risks of poverty also have been increasing in recent decades, particularly among people ages 35-55, coinciding with widening income inequality.

Higher recent rates of unemployment mean the lifetime risk of experiencing economic insecurity now runs even higher: 79 percent, or 4 in 5 adults, by the time they turn 60.

Compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.

For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled black ones in the past decade

Since 2000, the poverty rate among working-class whites has grown faster than among working-class nonwhites, rising 3 percentage points to 11 percent as the recession took a bigger toll among lower-wage workers.

Going back to the 1980s, never have whites been so pessimistic about their futures, according to the General Social Survey, a biannual survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago. Just 45 percent say their family will have a good chance of improving their economic position based on the way things are in America.

"Poverty is no longer an issue of `them', it's an issue of `us'," says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the numbers. "Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need."

So take note Mister Whitock, it won't be race that divides us, but economic class. And most of us will all be in the same boat together.

Discuss

Lies, damn, lies, and statistics --- the mainstream media and most bloggers refuse to (or are unable to) to get the numbers correct on Social Security disability. It's no wonder they are all saying different things, and why many of us (including myself) were so confused about the accuracy of SSDI statistics. There also appears to be a lot of ideological spin in everyone's reporting --- so I'd like to help clarify a few things.


Continue Reading

From the Washington Post: For a long time in America, earnings and productivity went hand and hand: The more productive workers got, the more they made. That relationship appeared to break down starting in the early 1970s, as productivity increased but wages flat-lined.

According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing in the U.S. peaked in 1979 when there were over 19.6 million manufacturing jobs --- but that has been on a downward trend ever since. And 1979 was also when the total number of union members had peaked out at over 22 million. And so it' no coincidence that today the labor force participation rate is also at the lowest since 1979.

As to wages since that time: James Sherk, a senior policy analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation, contends total compensation, properly adjusted for inflation, has kept pace with properly-measured productivity (on average).

The real problem, he says, is that far too many workers are stuck in low-productivity jobs, particularly in the health-care sector; he argues policymakers should be focused on helping those workers gain more skills and move into more productive sectors — specifically, by looking for ways to reduce the cost and increase the accessibility of higher education. (The healthcare sector? What about retail and fast-food?)

While average wages have fallen by 7 percent over the last 40 years, Sherk calculates total compensation has risen 30 percent. By using his methodology for calculating worker's wages, Sherk finds there’s hardly a gap between the growth in what an average worker earns and the average productivity gains over the last 40 years.

What he does find persists is a gap between productivity and median worker compensation. Sherk blames this on market forces, including globalization and automation, pushing lower-skilled workers into low-productivity jobs. If those workers could more easily and cheaply gain more skills — say, through widely available, low-cost online education — they could compete for higher-productivity jobs.

American workers need to be more productive and acquire more skills? Is James Sherk at the Heritage Foundation implying that if 20 million Americans (who are either unemployed or can't find full-time work) were all healthy and robust 21-year-old athletes with a PhD in computer Science -- and they all had a IQs of 175 or higher -- and they were all ambitious --- that they would all be more productive, and therefore, they would all find good-paying middle-class jobs?

For Economic Wonks Only (This is far above my pay level, but if you know of any economists who can make sense of all this, please have them explain it to me. Thanks.)

Per Media Reports

This is per a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, via the Huffington Post: "The economic recovery just keeps getting worse for the average worker as U.S. employers squeezed their employees even harder than usual in the first quarter [of 20123], leading to the biggest drop in hourly pay on record." Worker productivity is up, corporate profits, CEO salaries, and the stock markets are all at record highs --- but workers haven't been reaping the same rewards that their employers have been. Average Americans today are making less, after inflation, than they made in the early 1970s. Something has gone fundamentally wrong. American workplaces are simply no longer working for those who punch timecards. Last year Walmart's CEO Mike Duke made 796 times the average worker's pay and Target's CEO made 645 times the average worker's salary. The rate of CEO pay has far outstripped wage growth for the country's rank and file. A recent report from the AFL-CIO found that CEO pay grew at a rate 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years.

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