Archive for middle class squeeze

Paul Ryan ducks protesters at Wisconsin fundraiser

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Paul Ryan ugh this guy

When Rep. Paul Ryan arrived at a fundraiser for 21st Congressional District candidate Elise M. Stefanik the other day, he was met by protesters. Maybe that's because his Kill Medicare budget was another ill-considered attempt at forcing austerity on the rest of us. Austerity has not worked. See: Fail, GOP.

Budget cuts have made a speedy economic recovery impossible. In fact, budget cuts have created a nation of poorer poor, hungrier hungry, and sicker sick. And don't get me started on what's happened to our public schools, something I know about first hand after working in them for well over a decade.

So here's what happened when Paul Ryan got to the campaign event, according to the Waterstown Daily Times:

Protesters marching on Washington Street and asking motorists to honk their horns claim the budget proposal cuts too many public benefits, including Medicare and Social Security.

Stefanik was was his director of debate prep during the 2012 elections. Maybe she should have taught Paul Ryan how to debate with himself about attending a fundraiser for his former coach. And how to face protesters who deserve to be acknowledged. Instead, the coward did decide to show up, where, per the Waterstown Daily Times video, this happened:

paul ryan ducks press at Wisconsin fundraiser

There you go, GOP, he's all yours, the guy who ducks the press and voters who disagree with him. A born leader.

Paul Ryan cowardly lion

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Don't let Paul Ryan near your money

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Paul Ryan ugh this guy

He's ba-a-ack. Yes, Paul Ryan and his "budget" (quotes required, because it's not a budget, it's a redundantly cruel joke) have returned to make the 99% miserable as it caters to the top 1%.

In his Los Angeles Times column, the brilliant Michael Hiltzik takes Paul Ryan and his Very Serious Plan apart. He rips into Privatize Ryan's latest attempt to screw the middle class and the poor by cutting government programs, killing Medicare and Social Security, and thumbing his nose at everyone who knew better than to vote for him and his "severely conservative" running mate.

Read our lips, Paul: Austerity doesn't work.

Via AusterityNut.com

What's the definition of insanity again? Oh yeah:

insanity doing same thing over different results

Hiltzik also manages to get a word or two in about GW Bush's squandering of the Clinton surpluses on tax breaks for the wealthy and how he spent borrowed funds on wars without bothering to raise income taxes.

Take it away, Michael:

There should be a rule--or even a law--that politicians who propose "fixes" to Social Security should at least show they know something about the program. By that standard, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., would flunk. [...]

But the trust fund is still growing, because Social Security's income streams--the payroll tax, interest on its bonds, and revenues from income taxation of benefits--still are sufficient to cover current benefits, and then some. [...]

As I've written before, when you hear people like Paul Ryan talk as though the country can't afford to pay back the money by redeeming the bonds in the trust fund, what you're hearing is the sound of the wealthy preparing to stiff the working class. [...]

[I]f Ryan has his way, yes, the money will be stolen. It's up to you and me to make sure that doesn't happen. So, to put all these pieces together, there's no "dubious government accounting" involved here--the dubious accounting is all Ryan's. [...]

The most important factor is the one that people like Ryan want you to forget: The money in the Social Security trust fund came directly or indirectly from the payroll taxes paid by millions of American workers--100% of it. It was paid by workers in the trust that the government would pay it back. Paul Ryan is hinting, pretty strongly, that he doesn't want to pay it back. 

So why would you trust him? 

Exactly. Why would anyone trust this guy? Especially after the abysmal response to his previous Kill Medicare/Social Security proposals.

paul ryan really really bad screen grab

Please read Hiltzik's entire piece here.

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Labor union gets help from pastors, students... in Mississippi! "God supports the working man."

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labor union brought us

When we think of labor union support, Mississippi doesn't usually come to mind. But it may be time to think again, because a union effort is gaining momentum there.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, labor union workers are finding an ally in the South. The United Automobile Workers are getting help from unusual sources in organizing a Mississippi Nissan plant. The plant employs 5,000.

Nissan management has been pushing their employees harder and harder by speeding up the assembly line, leaving them exhausted and feeling mistreated with no way to stand up for themselves. People are noticing, supporting a "more pleasant place to work" so that workers will feel less pressured, demeaned, and become more productive.

In the words of one longtime employee, now "other people are willing to stand up for you. It takes the fear out of you."

This time, union organizers have help from an unexpected source. Pastors and students across this part of central Mississippi have joined the campaign, championing the workers' cause. From pulpits, at leafleting campaigns outside Nissan dealerships and at auto industry events in Brazil, Geneva and Detroit, these new organizers have a message: God supports the working man. [...]

The UAW is very clearly involved with the pastors' efforts, helping them form the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan...

But for the pastors as well as the workers the organizing drive is not just about union membership. For many, it has become a way to shore up a shrinking middle class. Their campaign, they say, is a modern-day civil rights struggle whose antecedents go back more than 50 years to the days when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, the day after he spoke to striking sanitation workers.

Mississippi's conservative Legislature also has waded into the fray. The House of Representatives earlier this month passed a package of bills that would restrict union organizing, one of which labor leaders say is meant to prohibit pastors and outside groups from protesting with the Nissan workers.

Gee, what a surprise: Conservatives trying to bust labor union efforts. And we know how union members tend to vote come election day, right? (Hint: Democratic.)

African Americans have a history of being more open to unionizing than white workers are, so that may be making the difference here, since most of the plant's work force is African American. It will be an uphill battle, but this is good news. One day, pairing the words "labor union" and Mississippi may not seem so extraordinary.

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"Poof goes the middle class"

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middle class out of vogue

Today's Los Angeles Times letters to the editor, because our voices matter:

Re "Poof goes the middle class," Opinion, Oct. 23

Thanks to Doyle McManus for his timely review of Tyler Cowen's book, "Average Is Over." The trends crippling the middle class that Cowen writes about have been in the making since the 1970s. It took the Great Recession to finally bring this research the recognition it deserves.

Americans today instinctively know that something is wrong, thus the high percentage who tell pollsters the country is going in the wrong direction. But I think few understand that their economic world has changed forever.

What is really needed now is a rebuilding of the middle-class labor force to educate and train (or retrain) workers for well-paying, non-exportable jobs such as nursing, plumbing and high-tech manufacturing. The German labor model may be worth exploring. In Germany, government, private business and labor unions collaborate in a nationwide apprentice training system.

Unfortunately, most U.S. politicians are stuck with the bromides of the past. Someone needs to tell Americans that the world economy has changed and they need to change with it. However, they are going to need lots of help; otherwise, "poof goes the middle class."

Carl Martz

Redlands

***

We shouldn't forget that this country's once sizable middle class emerged under uniquely favorable circumstances.

Not long after World War II, our newfound affluence — which gave rise to the middle class — overshadowed that of other developed countries, where war had wreaked industrial devastation. In addition, our wealthier citizens were taxed heavily, which funded massive government investment in public infrastructure, thereby spurring prosperity for all.

These huge advantages eventually eroded as our economic competitors regained their industrial footing. Outsourcing, automation and tax cuts decimated our middle-class jobs.

Sustaining a middle class seems a lost cause. We're left with the challenge of downsizing cherished but unrealistic expectations. As McManus suggests, that wouldn't be easy even if Washington weren't so dysfunctional.

The middle-class dream was nice while it lasted.

Betty Turner

Sherman Oaks

***

McManus paints a sobering picture of the future of the United States if current trends continue, pointing out that increasing inequality "leads to lower economic growth, more poverty, more fragile families and, as a result, less happiness."

More important, great inequality poses a threat to the ideals and foundations of our democratic system.

A year before he died, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." We have been here before.

Theodore Roosevelt warned us 113 years ago that "ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish materialism."

We made the reforms necessary then for the country to prosper; we should do so again.

Jonathan Hubbell

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Guess who makes more income in states with lots of #union members?

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no sh-- Sherlock

From the Department of No Sh** Sherlock:

Think Progress: The middle class brings home a substantially larger share of aggregate earnings in states that have high rates of union membership than in those where fewer workers are organized, a Center for American Progress Action Fund (CAPAF) analysis of Census data shows. Amid very high and still increasing income inequality, union density appears to offer some buffer for middle-class Americans. [...]

...CAPAF’s David Madland and Keith Miller found that the states with the lowest rates of union membership return below-average shares of income to their middle-class residents. [...]

The rise of inequality over the past three decades tracks closely with the decline of union membership.

The income of the richest one percent has risen as middle class incomes drop.

As TP points out, and as we have in many posts, as unions get stronger, they increase their ability to stand up for workers. When that happens, not only does it improve work place conditions, but in the long run, income inequality is reduced.

And since the very rich make way more than the rest of us, leveling the playing field benefits the entire country, the health and welfare of more Americans, and the economy.

Not to mention, the decline of organized labor has helped worsen racial wage gap.

While you're at it, check out "What a difference a union can make!" and "Why unions matter, in a measly 1 minute 19 seconds."

chart graph why unions matter

unions gave us

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Mayday! Mayday! for America's middle class

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mayday mayday via Huckkonopackicartoons.com

Via

So struggling Americans, how's that GOP-supported trickle-down economics workin' for ya? Same here. It's not. It never has, but that doesn't stop Paul Ryan or Eric Cantor from sticking up for their rich buddies at the expense of those living in poverty and families barely able to make it on their minimum wage and/or multiple low-paying jobs and/or unemployment checks and/or food stamps and/or no income or assistance whatsoever.

The middle class (what little is left of it) is hurting badly as Republican lawmakers count their millions of corporate dollars from their corporate pals and lobbyists now that Citizens United is the law of the land. That's all that really matters to them, that and privatizing the entire country while pushing hard for more power over those who see their own influence and potency diminishing.

To repeat, “Post-Citizens United, conservatives look at [union decline] & smell blood.” Unions support Dems. ‘Nuff said.

Hedrick Smith, former Washington bureau chief for the New York Times, and author of "Who Stole the American Dream?" wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that goes a little something like this:

We have become two Americas — literally, the 99% and the 1%. We have what a Citigroup investment brochure called the most eye-popping concentration of wealth in a great power since 16th century Spain. The numbers are staggering. From 1979 to 2011, 84% of the nation's increase in income has gone to the wealthiest 1%, according to Alan Krueger, a Princeton economist who now chairs the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

As the president observed at Knox College in Illinois recently: "The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40% since 2009. The average American earns less than he or she did in 1999." [...]

Based on Labor Department reports, economists tell us the productivity of the U.S. workforce rose 97% from 1945 to 1973, and the income of the average family rose 95%. In short, average workers reaped the benefits of rising U.S. efficiency along with their bosses. But since 1973, the picture has changed: Productivity has risen 80%, economists report, but the average family's income has risen only 10%, and that bump has come primarily because more women have entered the workforce, not because wages have gone up.... Three decades of going nowhere.

"Three decades of going nowhere." Let that sink in for a minute.

He then quotes "unambiguous" evidence from a report by Harvard economist Philippe Aghion: Multiple studies show that "greater inequality [of income] reduces the rate of growth."

Why? Well, think about it. How can we buy stuff if we make no money? And if we don't buy stuff, how will businesses survive? And if those businesses can't survive, how will manufacturers of what those businesses sell survive? And if manufacturers can't survive, they shut down. And we all know how that story ends.

But all that decline in growth and income inequality could be improved if only Big Corporations would stop sitting on their nearly $2 trillion in cash. As Smith points out, "instead of expanding production, they have been buying back company stock, rewarding shareholders while often imposing a wage freeze on workers."

Way to grow jobs, Big Corporations. America first! Create weak demand and you get a weak economy. And as a special bonus, you can blame President Obama! Weee!

It would be helpful if people like John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan, and their tea party colleagues would stop pushing for budget cuts, more tax cuts for the rich, government cuts, program cuts, deregulation, and that failure known as trickle-down economics. But, hey, they're just not into "helpful." Or you.

not into you smaller

Smith:

[S]pending is the engine that drives economic growth by pushing businesses to expand production, build new plants, buy new equipment, hire more workers.

He goes on to say that those in Washington better "shift their mindset" and get past all the gridlock so they can "set a new course." In other words, dump business as usual and start using their noggins, get real, and do what's right and productive instead of obstructing and stuffing their own pockets with donations. Get off your asses and rebuild this country already.

To paraphrase what Albert Einstein reportedly said at the dawn of the Atomic Age in 1945: You cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that created it.

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Wisconsin bill would allow spying on bank accounts of unemployed

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walker world

Rep. Dan Knodl, a Wisconsin Republican, co-authored a bill that, once again, illustrates the hypocrisy of the GOP.

That would be the same GOP that scu-REAMS about how French, commie, fascist, Marxist, Kenyan, abortionist, evil Big Government is coming to get you, so get out yer shootin' irons and rev up them Second Amendment Remedies while shrinking government down to drownable-in-bathtub size...

...As they snoop into out-of-work Wisconsinites' bank accounts. No hypocrisy there.

Watch out workers and middle class, they're at it again.

small government my ass

Via the Wisconsin State Journal:

A bill that is speeding through the state Legislature would require jobless people to provide more proof that they are seeking work, and make it easier for the state to recover overpayments — including those made because of government errors — by allowing officials to peek into unemployed people’s bank accounts. [...]

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on May 13 approved a provision in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal that would make Wisconsin the fourth state in the country to require jobless people to apply for four jobs a week — the current standard is two — to get benefits.

Not only that, but if someone fails to accept a job offer, their benefits would be cut and they'd be ineligible until they find a job that pays them six times their weekly benefit rate. Currently, it is four times.

Be proud, Republicans. Stickin' it to the little guy should help that new image of yours like nobody's business.

reinvention my ass

More here.

H/t: Taegan

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