Why Middle Income Families Have Lost Wealth to Upper Income Families

From 1949 to 1979 the employers shared gains in productivity with all workers until 1980 (see the chart below from Atif Mian and Amir Sufi  at the House of Debt http://houseofdebt.org/2014/03/18/the-most-important-economic-chart.html.Productivity Sharing Since 1980 the wealth from productivity increases are going to higher income families while median family incomes have remained flat.

The dreams of economic success for middle-class to lower income families have been savaged since 1980. There are five reasons according to a book by Hedrick Smith titled Who Stole the American Dream?  Smith has won the Pulitzer Prize twice and Emmy awards for producing prime time TV specials.. He wondered why Americans were losing their dreams and he found out why. This article is a summary of his book and I hope to add more details in the coming weeks.

Business Lobbying Resources reduced equitable sharing. In the ‘60s Congress passed pro-consumer legislation, prompting businesses to expand lobbying offices in Washington DC from 175 in 1971 to 2,445 by 1981. In 1977-78 business lobbyists blocked consumer legislation and a plan to close tax loopholes. Instead Congress lowered the corporate tax rate from 49 percent to 28 percent. By 2010 business interests spent $2.3 billion on political elections while unions spent $89 million, $1 for every $25 spent by business.

Large businesses cut American jobs. Job Losses from multinational firms and visa programs cost workers high paying jobs. In 2009 after bank bailouts, Smith said, “3.9 million jobs in finance, IT, human resources, and back office functions have been lost in North America and Europe.”  From 2000 to 2009 U.S. multinationals hired 2.4 million people overseas and laid off 2.9 million American workers.

Tax cuts for the wealthy. In 1981 Reagan delivered tax cuts that favored the wealthy, adding $1 trillion dollars for the top 1 percent during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. In 2001-2003 the Bush tax cuts benefitted upper income families because lobbyists claimed tax cuts would spur job growth. Instead, between 2000-2009 the U.S. had the slowest economic growth since WWII.

Stock options for CEO pay reduced family median pay. Businesses began to reduce sharing wealth from increased productivity by awarding stock options to CEOs in 1976. Stock options were not considered expenses that reduced profits according to SEC and accounting regulations. Switching corporate pay to stock options cut corporate expense and increased profits. All cuts in jobs and employee pay increased stock profits and prices. Workers weren’t receiving stocks and their flat incomes restricted stock purchases so weren’t sharing in the wealth. CEOs became so wealthy, Hedrick said, “In 1994 corporate executives overtook the inherited rich as the biggest portion of the nation’s richest 1 percent.”

401(k) Funds Cut Corporate Pension Costs. In 1978 Congress created 401(k) savings plans for supplemental executive compensation. Soon businesses used them to cut pension costs and increase stock prices. Businesses matched deductions from workers not receiving stock options. Employees went from paying 11 percent of their retirement costs in 1980 to 51 percent in 2006. In 2010 workers in their 60s had an average 401(k) worth $84,469. Half of baby boomers faced retirement without funds to cover their basic needs.

Banking deregulation transferred trillions of dollars to banks. In 1980 Regan promoted banking deregulation allowing credit cards to avoid state usury limits on interest rates. Consumers who didn’t pay off their monthly credit card debt began paying much higher interest expense. To make it worse, Reagan’s bill authorized banks to offer minimal payments on credit cards that didn’t cover the cost of the interest. Consumers were not warned that minimum payments increased balances on the credit card, increasing the interest owed the next month.

Regan’s legislation also approved risky mortgage lending options that were used in the subprime lending crisis. Tragically regulators didn’t intervene, because from 2005-06 more than 50 percent of the people who were sold expensive sub-prime loans were qualified for lower cost, less risky prime loans. Homeowner failures, costs of borrowing and fees transferred $6 trillion in value from homeowners to banks.

 

Posted in Community Building, Economics, Justice, Politics | 2 Comments

Daydreaming About Being an Advisor for Presidential Candidates

After watching presidential campaigns for six decades, I’ve decided to daydream about being an advisor to Clinton or Trump in the presidential campaign.

Trump is a celebrity showman driving the Republican campaign so my recommendation would be, “Don’t change.”

Not that he plans to. Campaigners’ repeated suggestions to act more presidential have been rebuffed.

He could win the presidency.  As he attacks his opponents he assures his supporters he will deliver for them. When I look at the adulation in men’s and women’s faces at his rallies, I see deep faith in him.

He watches news coverage intently until he gets a label with a kernel of truth and lethally strikes first. He called Scott Walker “slowwwwwww..”, blasted Bush as “low energy,” and belittled “Lil’ Marco.” To be honest, I’ve looked for those weaknesses and they appeared to fit.

He labels Cruz, “Lyin’ Ted, which is justified since Politifact indicates statements by Cruz are mostly false or worse two out of every three times. But Politifact says Trump’s statements are worse: mostly false or worse three out of every four times. http://tinyurl.com/npbypuz. Still, Trump’s believers believe him.

He endears himself as a bad boy and gains more supporters. After rude comments about Fiorina’s looks he said, “I’m not supposed to say that, but really folks, come on. Are we serious?”

Those comments convince supporters, “He tells it like it is.”

That faith spills over to Trump’s political promises to build a wall and have Mexico pay for it or redo the trade agreement with China (there is no trade agreement with China).

He’s also believable because he’s overwhelmed the money-hugging tycoons who backed the losing Republican candidates and is taking on the Republican National Committee by saying the delegate count is rigged. If he can stomp them, supporters believe he can strengthen U.S, positions with allies and enemies.

Clinton has to assume Trump will continue his attacks as a celebrity performer.

It’s his plan according to Roger Stone who told Janet Reitman of Rolling Stone magazine (http://tinyurl.com/zh9bww6) that he worked for Trump in the beginning of his campaign. Stone said, “I resigned because it became very clear that Donald had his own vision of how to do this. He was going to be his own strategist. But I will say he’s been proved right: you can do it for free—if you have the celebrity.

Clinton has to counterpunch, which she’s already done. Trump’s first attack on Clinton after her primary victories on April 26 was a flop. He said she won because she’s a woman. She embraced it effortlessly, citing all the causes she’s championed for women’s rights to cheers of women and men who support her.

She’s running videos of his statements, (http://tinyurl.com/h4e9km7) with the theme, “Donald Trump wants you to forget everything he’s said. Don’t.” He’s said, “I could stand in the middle of fifth avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any votes.”

She quotes Maya Angelou, “When someone shows who they are, believe them.”

She should announce she won’t schedule debates with Trump.

Pressured by reports to debate him, she should answer the same way: “Trump doesn’t debate. He’s a bully in scheduled debates who’s used trash talk. Debates would be a waste of time. Tell him, “Stay in your own garbage dump, Trump.”

If Trump promises to abide by debate rules. Clinton should say, “He’s lying, since he’s been a confirmed liar 76 percent of the time.”

This article hasn’t talked about issues, and deliberately so. Issues mattered in the democratic primary, but Trump’s celebrity style has pushed issues into the background.

My priorities for a president are experience, compassion and trustworthiness.

Trump has the least experience, lies the most and hasn’t demonstrated any compassion.

But in this campaign, the issue may be determined by, sadly, the most media savvy.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Finding Nirvana as an ADHD Sufferer

On April 13 I wrote the following.

IMG_0248My daughter, bless her soul, suffers from dysfunctional ADHD which she inherited from me. I feel guilty about passing it on to her.

Or sometimes I feel smug.

For example recently I felt smug when she lost her keys because I’ve learned two rules to stop losing my keys. I didn’t explain my rules while she was tearful about losing hers, but maybe writing about them would work.

My rules to avoid suffering missing car keys:  1. Always hang keys on the same hook.  2. When I think of a better place to put them for whatever reason, never put them there and follow rule number 1. That’s simple.

Except it’s not that simple for me. I keep each key for our two cars on separate rings so each and fit snugly in my pockets.

But my key for Karen’s car is not on the hook right now.

I, like many ADHD sufferers, used to beat myself up for wasting time looking for my keys. A search would frustrate those around me. I would apologize and feel more guilty, which reduces the effectiveness of my search. It is not pleasant which is why I always follow my two rules.

Right now I’m not suffering because I’m practicing Buddha’s four noble truths to avoid suffering. As I understand Buddha’s truths, we suffer. The causes of suffering are desire and ignorance. I want my key and I don’t know where it is. I can reduce suffering by reducing desire and gaining knowledge of where my key is. Fourth, I need to follow the path to enlightenment.

My path is to deny desire for the key. I wonder where it is: in a coat pocket, vest, dresser or pants. I can’t remember the last time I drove Karen’s car, or gave it to her to drive us.

Last night I asked her if she knows where my key is and she said, “I hope I don’t have it.” She borrows mine because it takes up less room than her set of keys. I know her key is hanging on her hook because I’ve already checked.

She doesn’t appear to be suffering about my key either, so maybe she’s more enlightened by Buddha’s path than I am.

My path seems enlightened. I’m enjoying writing this and I’m curious about where my key is.

On April 14 I wrote the following. When I came home late last night, my missing key was hanging on its hook. Am I experiencing nirvana?

 

 

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Let’s Back Campaigns that are Guaranteed Winners and Save Lives

This is a story of politicians’ presidential campaigns compared to different politicians’ life-and-death campaigns for the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015.

On July 29 2015, 23 politicians had announced their candidacies for president.

July 30 Sen, Susan M. Collins (R – ME) announced her campaign to pass the Reach Every Mother and Child Act of 2015 (S. 1911) co-sponsored by Chris Coons (D – DE),

“The purpose of our bill is to improve the health and well-being of women and children in developing countries. Every day approximately 800 women will die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. More than 17,000 children under the age of five will die each day of treatable conditions such as prematurity, pneumonia, and diarrhea, with malnutrition being the underlying cause in nearly half those deaths.”

She said treatments are low-cost life-saving protocols such as clean birthing practices, vaccines, nutritional supplements and handwashing with soap.

She explained the bill should stimulate international investments and reduce dependence on U.S. funding. She cited a commission from Lancet, a media group covering global health and medicine (http://www.thelancet.com), which “indicated that for every $1 invested, there is a return of $9 to $20 in growing the gross domestic product of the country receiving the investment.”

As the Senate assigned the bill to the Committee on Foreign Relations, the 24th candidate entered the presidential campaign.

On September 9 UNICEF reported “the number of children who die annually from mostly preventable causes before they turn five now stands at 5.9 million.” That’s a drop from 12.6 million since 1990. UNICEF said the millennial goal to eradicate these preventable deaths is achievable by 2035.

On September 10 senior columnist Jay Evensen in the Deseret News, called that drop in deaths “the greatest success story of our times.” He said the success “involves to a large extent, the U.S. government.”

He believes the bill is essential and free. “It would require USAID to develop a strategy that focuses on the most vulnerable and poorest people worldwide with measurable targets. It would require no extra money.”

On September 17 Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) became a cosponsor.

RESULTS, (www.results.org), a bipartisan non-profit that partners with organizations to prevent child deaths and provides research, indicates only Evensen’s article covered the bill in September. The presidential campaigns were had better coverage.

On October 7 Rep Dave Reichert (R-WA) sponsored HR 3706, the House bill cosponsored by a second Republican and two Democrats.

They sent a letter to their colleagues asking them to co-sponsor, saying, “The US government has a strong bipartisan legacy of leadership on maternal and child health. However it is clear we need to do more.”

In November, RESULTS reports seven newspapers supported the bill including the Seattle Times. The presidential campaigns had more coverage.

The House met for 22 days in November and December. At year-end Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Chair of the House Republican Conference, was one of 62.House cosponsors. Eighteen presidential candidates were still campaigning and media coverage.

As of April 7, RESULTS says the Senate had met for 44 days and the bill has 7 Republican and 7 Democratic cosponsors. The House had met 36 days and the bill has 110 sponsors (46 Republicans and 64 Democrats). That list does not include Rep. Newhouse. Will Boyington from Rep. Newhouse’s office called me to say, “Newhouse is interested in the bill and is reviewing it for sponsoring.” The bills are still in committee.

As of April 7, www.opensecrets.org reported the presidential candidates and super PACs had raised $1.031 billion. Five candidates remain after millions of dollars and time have been wasted on risky campaigns.

As of April 7, 253 days have passed since Sen Collins pleaded that too many mothers and children under five are dying each day.” Evensen later said, “It would require no extra money.” Reichert insisted, “We need to do more.”

These life-and-death campaigns are winning cosponsors. Let’s pass them immediately before we waste more time and money and lose more lives.

Posted in Community Building, Doing Justice and Having Compassion, Politics | 3 Comments

How and Why my Dog Haley and I Help Each Other

IMG_0213My dog Haley has Karen and me locked into a one- to two-mile morning walk that makes all of us feel better.

Rain, sleet, snow, cold, heat, wind or smoke are unacceptable excuses because we’ve been through all of them.

And I love it — even before we start and even more after we’re done.

I’ve wondered why. It turns out there is a medical reason that makes it more marvelously mysterious and it’s linked to our mutual gazing.

Animal behavioral scientists have discovered when we gaze into each other’s eyes our brains get increased levels of oxytocin. “Oxytocin (is) a hormone that plays a role in maternal bonding, trust and altruism,” according to an April 2015 article “How dogs stole our hearts,” published on sciencemag.org.

Can this experience truly come from a 14-pound brown and white beagle/terrier mix we bought from a rescue mission in 2011? I’d heard people with heart problems like I have healed faster with a pet dog. It’s working for me.

Haley’s excitement starts when she watches me head to the bedroom after breakfast. She jumps off the living room couch and charges onto our bed, where she spins around to lie down. She fixes her gaze on me and licks her snout as she ducks her head while whirling her tail around her rump.

The sciencemag.org article goes on to say, “Mutual gazing had a profound effect on both the dogs and their owners. Of the duos (dogs and humans) that had spent the greatest amount of time looking into each other’s eyes, both male and female dogs experienced a 130 percent rise in oxytocin levels, and both male and female owners a 300 percent increase.”

When I look at Haley, she’s watching my eyes and instantly her tail whips faster, her tongue licks faster and her head bobs up and down faster. That may explain why I’m feel peppier getting dressed.  IMG_0207

Besides, probably no other time during this day will I be so encouraged, so rewarded to complete a simple task.

Haley jumps off the bed and runs back and forth to the back door. She charges out underneath the rising garage door into whatever weather assaults her.

She won’t go into that same weather at night when I open the door for her to make a last pit stop, but before a morning walk, no problem.

I’m not ready to start and she knows it. When I bend over to tie my long shoelaces into double knots around the grommets of my boots, she hits her peak impatience. She zooms back to stick her nose into my knot-tying to lick my fumbling, exposed hands and face. I can’t discourage her. I muddle through.

I love it.

This unfathomably immense cosmos allows a 14-pound, four-legged mammal to bond with a 160-pound bimodal mammal — and make me feel marvelous before exercising and even better afterward. Science explains it’s because we’re increasing each other’s oxytocin levels by gazing into each other’s eyes.

That makes it feel more mysteriously miraculous for which I daily thank a divine presence.

 

 

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The Abuse of Political Rhetoric is More Disastrous than Abuse of Political Power

People are angry at the political processes abusing our newsprint and electronic media. After looking in frustration at the issue of Obama exceeding his constitutional authority, I was stunned at how confusing and wasteful that discussion is.

Obama provoked it by misstating his intentions and acting impatiently. Republicans attacked him with exaggerated claims and faulty evidence. Now we’re wallowing in wasted words inflamed by anger.

Meanwhile, people condemned to dangerous utility infrastructure have suffered because Congress avoided investments until recently.

Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address: “Wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Why did he say, “without legislation”? It’s red meat for Republicans to gobble up and attack him. Presidential power operates within the balance of powers authorized by the U.S. Constitution and authorized by legislation passed by Congress.

He should be one of the people in the U.S. whose word we could trust the most. He’s a constitutional attorney who’s been president for six years as attorneys advised him about actions being within the constitutional and legislative powers.

He could have said, “Wherever and whenever I can take steps authorized by the Constitution and legislation passed by Congress to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” Big deal. We all want him to expand opportunities for our families, right?

Then he acted impatiently.

He used his right to appoint Noel Canning to the National Labor Relations Board while Congress was in a three-day weekend recess. The Supreme Court overturned the appointment unanimously in the Canning case. Obama should have waited for a well-established recess, which Congress takes regularly during the summer and Christmas seasons. Obama’s impatience impaled him.

That decision prompted a claim ruled not true by factcheck.org. U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) made the claim on Fox News in 2014 that the Supreme Court’s “9-0 decision last week was the 13th time the Supreme Court has voted 9-0 that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority.” (factcheck.org/2014/07/obama-and-executive-overreach/)

Factcheck.org said, “Goodlatte claimed the Supreme Court has voted unanimously 13 times that ‘the president has exceeded his constitutional authority.’ That’s not true.”

Goodlatte should be a congressman whose word we could trust the most. His website said he’s an attorney who’d served continuously since 1982 and is chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary. The Committee has jurisdiction over immigration, terrorism, crime, intellectual property, constitutional amendments, anti-trust, patents and copyrights. In addition, the committee is responsible for oversight of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

With the gravity of his office, we would hope his statement wouldn’t crash to ground when draped with facts.

I’d like to sue him for exceeding his congressional integrity as chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Factcheck.org spoke with two constitutional scholars, Richard Lempert, a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and an emeritus law professor at the University of Michigan, and Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA.

Here’s some of what factcheck.org found: Lempert said, “only Noel Canning can be fairly cited to support this position.”

With a batting record of one out of 13, Goodlatte should be benched.

Factcheck pointed out several of the cases originated during George W. Bush administration’s and Obama’s administration supported the case. Factcheck reported that, “Lambert says these cases weren’t about the extent of presidential power, but ‘rather they concerned technical and jurisdictional issues or the meaning on statutory language.”

Factcheck.org said two cases contested law enforcement rights to use GPS tracking devices and search cell phones without a warrant, not presidential abuse of power.

Winkler said one, “was widely viewed as a major victory for the administration in limiting Arizona’s anti-immigration law.” Obama’s power as president was never an issue.

Somehow, someway we must stop this tragic madness and focus our attention on more serious issues such as investments in infrastructure to make sure our water pipes carry lead-free water.

Posted in Politics | 6 Comments

Counting the homeless in East Wenatchee

The annual Point-In-Time (PIT) homeless count for North Central Washington was held Jan. 28.

The PIT count is a snapshot of homeless individuals who are temporarily sheltered and unsheltered on a single night in January for the federal departments of Housing and Urban Development and Commerce. The federal government uses the data to allocate funding.

This year’s count was expanded to those on the streets so I volunteered to participate in East Wenatchee because my wife and I have given individuals on street corners bags of household items collected by my church for the last three years.

On the day of the count, another volunteer and I searched from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. in freezing fog and found only one homeless man.

At the East Wenatchee Police Department, I learned the homeless are around but patrols have increased to keep them moving, making them less visible.

The department also said PowerHouse Ministry Center at the Shalom Church, located on Valley Mall Parkway near 10th Street N.E., is working with them. The ministry center is an effort by area churches to offer help to people in need. Scott Stevenson is a co-coordinator who manages the building and works with PowerHouse Ministry mission. Its website (powerhousewenatchee.com) says they’ve networked with 10 churches and Stevenson said a lot of businesses and donors help out.

They currently work with 15 to 50 people Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They can have a shower, laundry, food and first aid. No one stays overnight.

He thinks he serves the same number of homeless as before but the numbers go up and down. “We have air conditioning so it was higher this summer than I’ve ever seen. We were up during the brutal winter.”

East Wenatchee businesses had complained about the homeless drinking beverages with concentrated alcohol, so East Wenatchee worked out an agreement with retail distributors to voluntarily remove selected beverages from the shelves.. Stevenson said, “High-octane stuff is not on the shelves any more. I’d say overall it’s helped.”

Our search on Jan. 28 verified service workers and early morning walkers at the Wenatchee Valley Mall haven’t seen homeless persons quite as frequently lately.

We didn’t see trash or campsites on the hill behind Fred Meyer’s gas station, nor on the Loop Trail where they’ve frequently lingered in trees and benches near the Pipeline Bridge.

They weren’t camping under the east end of the bridge or in the woods north of the bridge up to 19th Street N.W.

An officer and dispatcher with East Wenatchee’s Police Department told us they’re sweeping those areas because of complaints. The state Department of Transportation complained that too many crews were needed to clean up trash and repair damage.

Stevenson said he talks with the homeless about how to behave. “Recycle sometimes. Work with people. Pick up the garbage. You wonder why people are getting angry? Look, make it easier on yourself.”

My partner interviewed one homeless man walking in a parking lot with a stick on his shoulder holding his coat. He said he didn’t stay anywhere because he walked all night to stay warm.

Stevenson said, “After the night, they come in dog-tired, dirty. On Mondays they have bloody blisters on their feet. They say, ‘Everywhere a police officer tells me to move on.’ ”

But Stevenson praised the city. He said, “The police are excellent, kind. Can’t say enough. They got a job to do.”

“Mayor Lacy cares about people. He comes down to talk with me. He talks solutions,” Stevenson added. “Over the last year I’ve seen some good results.”

Stevenson should know. He first volunteered to work with the homeless for two weeks. Now in his 15th year, he’s worked at Solomon’s Porch, Light House Ministries and now here.

“It’s getting better,” he said. “Homeless people take care of this place. It’s worth it.”

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