Archive for the ‘Wealth Disparity’ Category

NZ Asset Sales Policy Began On Wall Street

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

 

– I love my new country but I do believe that New Zealanders can be naive.   Perhaps it is because of their long isolation.   But the stuff John Key, our current conservative PM, is trying to implement here is the same stuff that the Chicago Boys have tried around the world with repeatedly disastrous consequences.   

– And I’m reading that it will likely pass 61 to 60.   Isn’t it utterly amazing that not one of those 61 people will change their vote when the majority of New Zealanders clearly do NOT want asset sales.   One can only hope that the voters remember the transgressions of the 61 later at the polls.

– Read this analysis – it will curl your hair.

– Dennis

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The Key government’s asset sales agenda is derived from the Washington Consensus – a set of Wall Street-driven policies that were pronounced dead after the global financial meltdown in 2008.[1] The New Zealand government, however, remains loyal to this failed ideology.

Why? The obvious link is Prime Minister John Key – a former investment banker for Merrill Lynch, the world’s largest brokerage failure.

In most other countries, state asset sales have become a last resort on the road to poverty and ruin, but for the Key government, asset sales are “business as usual.” [2]

So what’s really behind asset sales?
All wealth extraction is facilitated by international and national economic policies, coupled with the private banking system, which together deliver benefits to the financial elite by transferring wealth upward within and between nations.

 The state asset sales policy is just one of several reforms under the Washington Consensus, a set of monetary and economic policies designed to allow: the privatization of public resources and utilities, the removal of barriers to foreign investment and ownership, the sale of state assets, trade liberalization, deregulation, the lowering of business taxes, and cuts to public services.[3]

These “free market” reforms are collectively termed neoliberalism.[4] Simply, they provide big business with improved legal access to markets and assets worldwide.

The Key government’s asset sales agenda fits obediently into this ideology ? the same ideology that ushered in financial deregulation, record bank bailouts, and the Second Great Depression.[5]

Governments in New Zealand have succumbed to the neoliberal movement since 1987, when the first round of asset sales began, as a Reagan-Thatcher-Douglas experiment.

Under these policies since the 1980s, New Zealanders have experienced almost the greatest increase in income inequality in the OECD.[6]

The deep roots of neoliberalism 
Modern liberalism dates back to the end of World War II, when the Bretton Woods agreement formed the IMF and the World Bank, establishing the US dollar as a de facto world reserve currency, and installing policies aimed at stabilizing the world monetary system. Free private capital flows between countries were restricted because it was believed that international financiers had caused the Great Depression.[7]

For the next three decades, Western governments were characterized by liberal, socially democratic policies that sought to safeguard national economies by keeping trade in balance. The world achieved exceptional economic prosperity during this era known as “The Glorious Thirty” years.[8]

But by the 1970s, corporations began to exhaust the spending power of the “consumer society” as total debt increased under the mathematical bias of fractional reserve banking, exacerbated by the Vietnam War.

Policymakers were faced with a choice between more intervention to protect local economies and social justice, or a more liberal business agenda – neo (new) liberalism. Wall Street interests mobilized to advance a host of “business first” policies that became the Washington Consensus, and the euphoria for deregulation ultimately placed Wall Street beyond the reach of democratic public accountability.

Rising poverty and debt for the majority
Multinational corporations proliferated and expanded, outsourcing cheap foreign labour, extracting oil and other mineral wealth, leveraging weaker economies and favourable exchange rates to monopolise global markets, often assisted by IMF and World Bank development loans.

Globalization is defended as a strategy to boost Gross National Product (GDP) and therefore investment in jobs. But in reality, free trade strengthens capital bargaining relative to labour, so that people who derive most of their income from returns on capital (the rich) gain, while people who earn most of their income from labour (the majority) lose.[9]

The outcomes of neoliberal policies have been similar everywhere in the world. Deregulated markets have benefitted the local educated elite who work with the corporations, while the majority of people have experienced a decline in living standards, with a permanent widening of the gap between the rich and poor.[10] [11]

Neoliberalism has been catastrophic. It has accelerated sovereign debt, collapsed the financial sector, and it has caused the highest ever level of global unemployment, described recently by the International Labour Organization as a worldwide crisis.[12]

Meanwhile, the corporations and the international banking aristocracy have amassed enormous unproductive wealth via their trickle-up incomes.

“Free trade” unlocks foreign assets
The post-World War II version of free trade promoted “fair trade” and often achieved a healthy balance of payments. But the Washington Consensus threw caution to the wind, allowing big business to dominate government policy, making deficits routine.

Free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have virtually destroyed US-based manufacturing, leaving Main Street America with a service sector economy.[13]

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) signals yet another secretive free trade deal intended to free-up access to foreign assets. The TPPA could render New Zealand government decisions subject to rulings by international tribunals, in the defence of investors from the negotiating countries of Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Australia, Peru, Vietnam and the United States. This is how “free trade” agreements pave the way for the extraction of wealth ? by the erosion of economic sovereignty.

The Key government’s privatisation agenda is well advanced, with various private public partnerships (PPPs) already being developed. This neoliberal doctrine includes the privatization of prisons, schools, water resources, and all infrastructure.

Ultimately on offer is $5-20 trillion[14] in Crown mineral wealth, including gold, coal, lignite, phosphate, iron sand, oil, natural gas, and more, all under the fourth lowest royalty and taxation regime in the world[15] – a paltry 1% of the production value.[16]

“Mixed ownership model” is destined to fail
The Key government plans to sell 49% of four state owned energy companies – Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis, and Solid Energy, and a further 23% of Air New Zealand. It is claimed that $5–7 billion can be “freed up” to reduce debt.[17]

What really betrays these asset sales as an ideologically-based policy is the maths. Financial analyst Brent Sheather has calculated that the assets are earning a higher income than the cost of borrowing.

Currently, the cost of borrowing is 4% for ten years, so the cost of $6 billion would be $240 million. The forecast dividends of the four SOE energy companies average $449 million over the next five years, 49% of which is $220 million. Add $20 million for selling 23% of Air New Zealand and the lost dividends average $240 million a year.[18]

Now, add the sales related costs estimated at 3% or $180 million, plus the expected improved performance from substantial recent capital investment, and there is no way for New Zealand taxpayers to come out ahead.

As the Green’s co-leader Russel Norman has said:
“We have seen this before. Like our energy SOEs, Telecom had invested significant amounts of capital in building a modern telecommunications network in the years before privatisation. In the years following Telecom’s privatisation, dividend streams for its new private owners doubled, then tripled within six years. History now seems to be repeating itself with our energy SOEs. National has allowed the taxpayer to build up the asset, only to then on-sell it to the benefit of others.” [19]

The initial public offerings (IPOs) will be snapped up and passed on to larger offshore players, who with only a combined holding of 25% will enjoy foreign-owned status under the Overseas Investment Act (2005),[20] with ample influence at 49% to sway policy. So expect higher power prices.

Over the longer term, asset inflation will provide a mega windfall for shareholders.

In 1999, the NZ Herald reported that: ‘Over the past 12 years 40 state-owned commercial assets have been sold, realising $19.1 billion. As at August 31, 1999 these assets had an estimated value of $35.7 billion, $16.6 billion above their original sale price. … The privatisation programme has been a huge windfall for overseas investors. Just over 79 per cent, or $13.1 billion, of the increase in value has gone to offshore interests.’ [21] [22]

No political party can beat debt under our monetary system
New Zealand’s government debt is presently modest compared to private debt. In the short-term, tax reforms that enable a fairer redistribution of income would slow the deepening tide of all New Zealand debt ? if only the Key government would allow this.

But in our post-peak oil world, without cheap oil to fuel high productivity, sovereign debt in New Zealand ? as elsewhere, will inevitably force austerity measures consistent with the Washington Consensus. The past failure of these policies will be ignored, because ultimately there is simply no other option under the debt-based system.

Under fractional reserve banking the rate of growth of debt must be higher than the rate of growth of income to avoid collapse. In aggregate, debt grows exponentially until it cannot be repaid. [23] [24]The world is literally attempting to engage productive overdrive in a hopeless struggle to satisfy unproductive debt servicing.

Almost half of the average earned income is already siphoned off via direct or indirect hidden interest, and in government debt taxes.[25] In sum, almost half of humanity’s productive effort is to serve useless debt, instead of solve the world’s problems.

The pressure to leverage fiscal advantage from assets, of all kinds, comes directly from the ruling power – the international banking elite. No political party can entirely avoid asset extraction under the fractional reserve system. Governments can adjust the debt hand-brake, but the foreign bankers are in the driving seat.

The world is sliding toward zero and eventually negative growth. Sovereign debt can only speed up. New Zealand will join the economic train-wreck down the track.

The only escape route is a public medium of exchange that is debt-free.[26] Every sovereign nation can issue its own currency without debt or interest, but nearly all governments align with the international bankers to extort the “common wealth.”

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand issues less than 2% of the nation’s money debt-free,[27] serving the global central banking cartel, not ordinary Kiwis.

Selling public assets amounts to economic suicide
The European Central Bank (ECB) is clearly demonstrating how economic sovereignty can be wrested from countries through debt peonage.

The world on its present course cannot avoid fuel shortages, debt-deflation, fiscal austerity, increasing poverty, political and environmental conflicts over energy and essential commodities, unprecedented global protests against Wall Street financial injustice, political and legal challenges for full reserve monetary reform, climate and humanitarian disasters, further revolution and war.

We are facing the perfect economic storm, in which sacrificing long-term high performing income would guarantee poverty for the majority. Selling public assets amounts to economic suicide.

Most New Zealanders don’t realize that their country, and their future, is being sold.

________________________________________

[1] Anthony Painter. (2009, April 10). The Washington Consensus Is Dead. The Guardian., Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU, UK.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/apr/09/obama-g20-nato-foreign-policy

[2] Mixed Ownership Monitoring Unit(2011, December 15). Mixed Owner Model For Crown Companies. Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit , 1 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, New Zealand.
http://www.comu.govt.nz/publications/information-releases/mixed-ownership-model/

[3] John Williamson. (2004, September 24-25). A Short History of the Washington Consensus.
http://www.iie.com/publications/papers/williamson0904-2.pdf

[4] Neoliberalism. Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism

[5] Steve Keen. (2011, December 3). We’re Already In The Second Great Depression, We Just Don’t Realize It Yet.
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-12-03/markets/30471134_1_second-great-depression-hope-new-jobs

[6] OCED. (2011, December 5). Governments must tackle record gap between rich and poor, says OECD.
http://www.oecd.org/document/40/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_49166760_1_1_1_1,00.html
‘The gap between rich and poor in OECD countries has reached its highest level for over 30 years, and governments must act quickly to tackle inequality, according to a new OECD report. “Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising” finds that the average income of the richest 10% is now about nine times that of the poorest 10 % across the OECD.’

[7] Jan A. Kregal. (2003, April). The Perils of Globalization: Structural, Cyclical and Systemic Causes of Unemployment
http://www.cfeps.org/pubs/sp-pdf/SP13-Jan.pdf
‘In the view of US Secretary of the Treasury Morganthau the creation of the Bretton Woods institutions was to keep the control of the international financial system out of the hands of international financiers who were considered to have caused the Great Depression. Keynes agreed that free private international capital flows were incompatible with a stable international financial system and this similarity of views produced a post-war system in which it was presumed that there would be virtually no private international capital flows.’

[8] Embedded Liberalism. The Glorious Thirty years. Wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
‘The period of government interventionism in the 1950s and 1960s was characterized by exceptional economic prosperity, as economic growth was generally high, was contained, and economic distribution was comparatively equalized. This era is known as les Trente Glorieuses (“The Glorious Thirty [years]”) or “Golden Age”, a reference to many countries having experienced particularly high levels of prosperity between (roughly) World War II and 1973.’

[9] Ian Fletcher. (2011). Free Trade Doesn’t Work, Why the Theory of Comparative Advantage is Wrong.
http://www.worldfinancialreview.com/?p=866
‘As a result, people who draw most of their income from returns on capital (the rich) gain, while people who get most of their income from labor (the rest) lose.’

[10] Richard C. Cook. (2007, June 2). Monetary Causes of the Immigration Crisis. The “Washington Consensus” has wrecked their economies. Global Research.
http://www.globalresearch.ca/PrintArticle.php?articleId=5862
‘The conditions also include a shift of indigenous economies to the production of export commodities, away from local self-sustaining agriculture and small business. This typically results in a mass exodus from rural areas to urban slums and causes poverty, unemployment, and crime. These financial programs benefit the local educated elite who work with the Western agencies and global corporations but cause a deep and permanent stratification among social classes.’

[11] OCED. (2011, December 5). Governments must tackle record gap between rich and poor, says OECD.
http://www.oecd.org/document/40/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_49166760_1_1_1_1,00.html

[12] ILO. (2011). Global Employment Trends 2011. International Labour Office, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland.
http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/@publ/documents/publication/wcms_150440.pdf

[13] Robert E. Scott. (2011, May 3). Heading South: US-Mexico Trade And Job Displacement After NAFTA. Economic Policy Institute, 1333 H Street NW, Suite 300 East Tower, Washington DC 20005, USA, www epi.org.
http://www.epi.org/page/-/BriefingPaper308.pdf

[14] Dr. Don Elder. (2010, September 21). CEO, Solid Energy. Day 2 presentation at the 2010 New Zealand Petroleum Conference, Skycity Convention Centre, Auckland, during which Dr Elder has been quoted as stating that New Zealand has NZ$ 5-20 trillion in Crown minerals.
http://www.nzpam.govt.nz/cms/pdf-library/petroleum-conferences-1/2010-nzpc-speaker-presentations/Don%20Elder.pdf
[15] IPENZ, authorship withheld. (2011, December). Realizing Our Hidden Treasure: Responsible Mineral and Petroleum Extraction. The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Inc., PO Box 12 241, Wellington 6144, New Zealand.
http://www.ipenz.org.nz/ipenz/media_comm/documents/IPENZMineralsandPetroleumFinalDec2011.pdf

[16] Taxation & Royalties for Mining Companies. New Zealand Mineral Industry Association. PO Box 24315, Wellington 6142, New Zealand.
http://www.minerals.co.nz/html/main_topics/overview/taxation_royalties.html
‘The Ministry of Commerce has recently imposed a royalty on minerals owned by the Crown. The royalty is the greater of 1% ad valorem (value of production) or 5% of accounting profits.’

[17] Mixed Ownership Monitoring Unit(2011, December 15). Mixed Owner Model For Crown Companies. Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit,1 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, New Zealand.
http://www.comu.govt.nz/publications/information-releases/mixed-ownership-model/

[18] Gordon Campbell. (2011, November 24). Gordon Campbell: financial analysts jump ship on asset sales.
http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL1111/S00215/gordon-campbell-financial-analysts-jump-ship-on-asset-sales.htm

[19] Dr Russel Norman. (2011, November 23). National Set To Repeat Telecom Privatisation Mistake.
http://www.voxy.co.nz/politics/national-set-repeat-telecom-privatisation-mistake/5/108571

[20] Overseas Investment Act (2005). Section 7 (1). ‘…or they are 25% (or more) owned or controlled by an overseas person or persons.’ Parliamentary Counsel Office., PO Box 18070, Wellington 6160, New Zealand.
http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2005/0082/latest/DLM356881.html

[21] Bryan Gaynor, NZ Herald. (1999, October 2). Analysis: Filling Foreigner’s Pockets. The New Zealand Herald, PO Box 32, Auckland, New Zealand.
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=15142

[22] The Treasury. (1999, September 30). Income from State Asset Sales. Historical information on the sale price and background to New Zealand Government asset sales as at 30 September 1999. The Treasury, Level 5 (Reception), 1 The Terrace, Wellington 6011, NEW ZEALAND.
http://www.treasury.govt.nz/government/assets/saleshistory

[23] Michael Hudson. (2004, January 24). The Mathematical Economics of Compound Rates of Interest: A Four-Thousand Year Overview Part I.
http://michael-hudson.com/2004/01/the-mathematical-economics-of-compound-rates-of-interest-a-four-thousand-year-overview-part-i/
‘Orthodox academic models rarely acknowledge the problems posed by the exponential growth of debt overhead. Such models typically make government policies appear unnecessary to cope with this problem, by focusing on the kind of world that might exist if the financial overgrowth of savings and debts did not double every decade or so, having multiplied again and again over the past century. It thus has been left mainly to non-mainstream writers to address the structural problems created by an accumulation of interest-bearing debt.’

[24] Debt Grows Exponentially. (2010, October 30). The Elephant In The Room: Debt Grows Exponentially, While Economies Only Grow In An S-Curve. Washington’s Blog.
The Elephant In The Room: Debt Grows Exponentially, While Economies Only Grow In An S-Curve
‘Hudson says that – in every country and throughout history – debt always grows exponentially, while the economy always grows as an S-curve. Moreover, Hudson says that the ancient Sumerians and Babylonians knew that debts had to be periodically forgiven, because the amount of debts will always surpass the size of the real economy. … One thing is for sure. The exponential growth of debt is a structural problem which – unless directly addressed – will swallow all economies which try to ignore it.’

[25] Margrit Kennedy. (1995). Interest and Inflation Free Money. Creating an exchange medium that works for everybody and protects the earth. Published by Seva International, ISBN 0-9643025-0-0.
http://kennedy-bibliothek.info/data/bibo/media/GeldbuchEnglisch.pdf
‘On an average we pay about 50% capital costs in the prices of our goods and services. Therefore, if we could abolish interest and replace it with another mechanism to keep money in circulation, most of us could either be twice as rich or work half of the time to keep the same standard of living we have now.’ (Other estimates are 40-45%.)

[26] Positive Money NZ. A campaign for Full Reserve Banking, based on similar campaigns in the UK and USA.
http://www.positivemoney.org.nz/

[27] Deirdre Kent. (2011, November). Money For Nothing. New Zealand Investor.
http://most0010122.e-xpert.co.nz/includes/download.aspx?ID=118572

 

– To the original article…

– Research thanks to Kierin  M.

 

We’ve been brainwashed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

It’s no accident that Americans widely underestimate inequality. The rich prefer it that way.

How, in a democracy supposedly based on one person one vote, could the 1 percent could have been so victorious in shaping policies in its interests? It is part of a process of disempowerment, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement that produces low voter turnout, a system in which electoral success requires heavy investments, and in which those with money have made political investments that have reaped large rewards — often greater than the returns they have reaped on their other investments.

There is another way for moneyed interests to get what they want out of government: convince the 99 percent that they have shared interests. This strategy requires an impressive sleight of hand; in many respects the interests of the 1 percent and the 99 percent differ markedly.

The fact that the 1 percent has so successfully shaped public perception testifies to the malleability of beliefs. When others engage in it, we call it “brainwashing” and “propaganda.” We look askance at these attempts to shape public views, because they are often seen as unbalanced and manipulative, without realizing that there is something akin going on in democracies, too. What is different today is that we have far greater understanding of how to shape perceptions and beliefs — thanks to the advances in research in the social sciences.

It is clear that many, if not most, Americans possess a limited understanding of the nature of the inequality in our society: They believe that there is less inequality than there is, they underestimate its adverse economic effects, they underestimate the ability of government to do anything about it, and they overestimate the costs of taking action. They even fail to understand what the government is doing — many who value highly government programs like Medicare don’t realize that they are in the public sector.

– More …  

 

Obama tries again to end oil subsidies

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

– The profit levels of the big oil companies are obscene but no one has the political will in Washington to remove their obviously unnecessary subsidies.   Can there be any doubt that the U.S.’s political processes are controlled by big money from behind the scenes?

– Dennis

= = = = = = = = = = =

President Barack Obama is calling anew on Congress to end tax subsidies for the oil and gas industry, saying America needs to develop alternative sources of energy in the face of rising petrol prices.

Obama said in his weekly radio and internet address that he expected Congress to consider in the next few weeks halting US$4 billion ($4.85 billion) in tax subsidies, something he hasn’t been able to get through Congress throughout his presidency.

The vote would put lawmakers on record about whether they “stand up for oil companies” or “stand up for the American people. They can either place their bets on a fossil fuel from the last century or they can place their bets on America’s future”, Obama said.

Industry officials and many Republicans in Congress have argued that cutting the tax breaks would lead to higher petrol prices, raising costs on oil companies and affecting their investments in exploration and production.

The measure is considered a long shot in Congress, given that Obama couldn’t end the subsidies when Democrats controlled Congress earlier in his term.

– More…

 

The Middle Class Really Is in a Three-Decade Slump

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

– I’ve heard/read this before; that the average working man in the USA has seen what he/she can buy with their wages drop year by year ever since the mid-70’s.    Where might all that money be going?   Ask the 1%.

– Dennis

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Did middle-class incomes really decouple from overall economic growth in the mid-’70s? If you look at median family income vs. GDP per capita, the answer is yes. From 1950 through 1975, both grew at about the same rate. After that, median family income grew quite a bit more slowly than GDP per capita.

But wait! You need to make sure to calculate inflation the same way for both measures. And maybe GDP per capita is a bad measure. Plus you need to account for health insurance and other benefits when you calculate median income. And the number of people per household has changed over time. These are all legitimate issues. So Lane Kenworthy redrew the chart to compare apples to apples: median household income vs. average household income. Medianincome shows only the movement of households that are smack in the middle of the middle class, while average income is similar to overall economic growth since it depends on total national income.

In the chart below, the black lines are the original comparison. The red lines are the new comparison. As you can see, there’s really not much difference. “Decoupling,” say Kenworthy, “is real and sizable.” The rich really are hoovering up a much bigger share of national income than they used to. The only thing left to argue about is why, not whether.

– To the article and its charts…

 

 

Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

– I love the irony.   Our ‘superiors’ tell us to be good little girls and boys; stand in line, no pushing, wait your turns.   And, they are off like shots racing for the prizes they convinced all of us to wait patiently for.   Fool me once, shame on you.   Fool me twice, shame on me.

– Dennis

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lowerclass individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lowerclass individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

– To the study paper, itself:  

– Thanks to New Zealand’s National Radio program, ‘This Way Up’, for alerting me to this study.

– For an audio clip of the ‘This Way Up‘ episode, see Naked Science on 10 March 2012:  

 

US Census Bureau: 1/2 Americans Low-income or Poor

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

WASHINGTON (AP) — Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

Mayors in 29 cities say more than 1 in 4 people needing emergency food assistance did not receive it. Many formerly middle-class Americans are dropping below the low-income threshold — roughly $45,000 for a family of four — because of pay cuts, a forced reduction of work hours or a spouse losing a job.

States in the South and West had the highest shares of low-income families, including Arizona, New Mexico and South Carolina, which have scaled back or eliminated aid programs for the needy. By raw numbers, such families were most numerous in California and Texas, each with more than 1 million.

About 97.3 million Americans fall into a low-income category, commonly defined as those earning between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level, based on a new supplemental measure by the Census Bureau that is designed to provide a fuller picture of poverty. Together with the 49.1 million who fall below the poverty line and are counted as poor, they number 146.4 million, or 48 percent of the U.S. population. That’s up by 4 million from 2009, the earliest numbers for the newly developed poverty measure.

Even by traditional measures, many working families are hurting.

Following the recession that began in late 2007, the share of working families who are low income has risen for three straight years to 31.2 percent, or 10.2 million. That proportion is the highest in at least a decade, up from 27 percent in 2002, according to a new analysis by the Working Poor Families Project and the Population Reference Bureau, a nonprofit research group based in Washington.

Among low-income families, about one-third were considered poor while the remainder — 6.9 million — earned income just above the poverty line. Many states phase out eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, tax credit and other government aid programs for low-income Americans as they approach 200 percent of the poverty level.

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

– More…

– Research thanks to John P.

 

Medical costs in New Zealand

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

– This is for my U.S. readers.  It just isn’t right that a small country like New Zealand (and many others that are not so small) can do this and the U.S. cannot.  Why?   – –

– Corporate greed – plain and simple.   They’ve got you in their grips and they are not going to let go.

My last prescription bill

My last prescription bill

– Oh, and the three dollars is only for the initial prescription for each.  Refills are free.

The Wealth Gap – Inequality in Numbers

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Until protesters took to the streets last year, first in New York and then in financial centres across the world, inequality had been a low-key issue.

Not any more.

With the political temperature rising, a stream of new analysis is revealing how sharply inequality has been growing.

In October, the US Congressional Budget Office (CBO) caused a storm by revealing how big a slice of income gains since the late 1970s had gone to the richest 1% of households.

The message was dramatic.

Over the 28 years covered by the CBO study, US incomes had increased overall by 62%, allowing for tax and inflation.

But the lowest paid fifth of Americans had got only a small share of that: their incomes had grown by a modest 18%.

Middle income households were also well below the overall average with gains of just 37%.

And even the majority of America’s richest households saw gains of barely above the overall average at 67%.

How does that make sense?

Because the CBO found most of the income gains over the past 30 years had gone to the top 1% of US households. Their incomes had almost trebled with rises of 275%.

– More…

 

Directors’ pay rose 50% in past year, says IDS report

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Pay for the directors of the UK’s top businesses rose 50% over the past year, a pay research company has said.

Incomes Data Services (IDS) said this took the average pay for a director of a FTSE 100 company to just short of £2.7m.

The rise, covering salary, benefits and bonuses, was higher than that recorded for the main person running the company, the chief executive.

Their pay rose by 43% over the year, according to the study.

Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking in Australia, said the report was “concerning” and called for big companies to be more transparent when they decide executive pay.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the pay increases were part of a “something for nothing” culture, since the stock market had not risen to match them.

A statement from IDS said that that figure suggested that “executive largesse is evenly spread across the board”.

Base salaries rose by just 3.2%, although that was above the median rise recorded by IDS this week for average pay settlements of 2.6% for private sector workers.

The latest consumer price inflation figures showed inflation at 5.2%.

– More…

 

About the Occupy Wall Street movement

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I’ve been reflecting on the Occupy Wall Street Movement. 

First, Bravo to them for understanding what’s happening to the world and for standing up and pointing it out so well.   I hope the movement continues to ‘grow legs’ and I also hope that, like the ‘Arab Spring’, it results in real and fundamental changes.

But, my hopes and my projections of likely outcomes live in separate boxes in my head.  And while I am deeply pleased at the OWS movement, I don’t think it will result in more than superficial change.

The problem, as I just wrote to a friend in a private E-Mail, is

“The people with power and money like, Dick Cheney for instance, are not going to give up their perks because the demonstrators make them feel guilty.   Rather, if they begin to feel the heat, they will direct that a series of measures be taken by their political handmaidens to make it look like changes are being effected when, in fact, the changes will be mostly form and very little substance.  

They will institute ‘a dazzle the bozos campaign'”.

A great strength of the new movements like the Arab Spring and OWS are their decentralized natures; they have no single head to cut off to stifle them.   But, it their weakness as well as their ‘intelligence and perceptive depth’ is limited to the average of the group since they are all independent actors.

Those who control the Multinationals and who direct our politicians like sheep with their money are far far brighter than that average and they will obfuscate the issues and make great shows of doing something through the media they control while, in fact, doing very little to disadvantage themselves.

Those are my thoughts.   Only time will tell and I, like so many, am deeply interested to see how it all plays out.

-dennis