The Growing Poor in America

Our GNP has been growing.  Inflation has been rising since the 70s and cost of living has increased.  Yet wages have stagnated.

wages

Most wage increases over the last 20 years have been less than helpful in keeping up a Middle Class.  You can see by the above chart, the lowest incomes have actually decreased in the last 15 years!  Inflation has continued.  No wonder we no longer have a Middle Class.  I’d say Middle Class has dropped into the following categories: Poverty-Stricken, Poor, Middle Poor, and Barely Squeaking By.

Wages
In 1970, minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Today, it’s $7.25 an hour. That’s a 353% increase over that period of time, which seems like a fair amount… until you actually start looking at how prices have increased.

What about average wages? I couldn’t find a document that laid out full details on average wages per year, but this document from the Census Bureau, laying out some average wage information, shows that average household income has roughly kept pace with consumer prices.

Consumer Prices
In January 1970, the Consumer Price Index was 37.8. In January 2011, it was 220.223. That’s a 482% increase over the period we’re looking at.

In other words, for every dollar increase in the minimum wage since 1970, the price of an average item has gone up $1.36. Even adjusting for inflation, a dollar today buys less than it once did for low income earners.

So, for a person freshly out of school, the initial income outlook is worsethan a fresh graduate in 1970, but after some career advancement, their salaries end up being comparable given inflation.

Education
In 1970, a year of tuition at a public university cost $1,207. In the most recent year of data available, 2007, a year of tuition at a public university cost $11,034. That represents an annual average increase of 6.2%, which, if you applied it to the 2007 price, gives you an estimated 2010 cost of a year of education as being $13,216. That’s a 994% increase in the cost of a four year degree.

So, let’s say you’re earning minimum wage and trying to make it through college.

In 1970, you could work 755 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution – about 14 hours per week.

In 2010, you would have to work 1,823 hours at a minimum wage job over the course of a year to earn enough money to pay for a year of schooling at a public institution – about 35 hours per week.

Source: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/a-dose-of-financial-reality/

 

Most people I know are in the Just Barely Squeaking ranks.  They own houses with large mortgages, have car payments, and credit card debt in excess of $10,000, lots of that is student loan debt.  Adult household members work at jobs they probably hate, and don’t pay near enough.  Jobs they have taken mainly for the insurance benefits, which have decreased steadily over the past 15 years.  Ever since the Reagan Era “Trickle Down” theory.

We pay more for homes, cars, and groceries than ever before, and are (for the most part) no better off than their Middle Class upbringing.  Why?

Technology.  It’s expensive.  Lot’s of techies make lots of money, but it doesn’t trickle down very far.  Maybe it trickles to their housekeeper, gardener, grocer.  (All of whom make 1/4 of what the Techie does.)  Technology, that god I heard about ever since I can remember.  That thing that would give workers more leisure time.  That thing that has replaced people with computers and robots.  Remember the old Secretarial Pools?  Large documents would be typed up by a bevy of women with each one typing a section over and over.  It took more people to do the typing because at that time Xeroxing was new, time consuming, messy, and expensive.  Now one person can type entire documents. Granted this didn’t happen over night, but computers have eliminated millions of jobs.

Health Care.  It’s expensive.  Insurance costs for such care is beyond believable when you see hospitals charge $1,000 for Tylenol.  Doctors charge over $300 per 15 minute visit. Luckily most of us can still see a doc for under $50 co-pays, but not all of us.  God forbid you have a serious health problem like cancer, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Progressive MS or ALS.

Housing.  It’s expensive.  Greedy people have driven up the cost of homes to unprecedented heights.  New York, Paris, London, Los Angeles; all the major cities are virtually unaffordable for the Barely Squeaking.  In my city the cheapest homes you can buy are $500,000 fixers, for which you need another $200,000 to make repairs or alterations.

Gentrification of Poor Areas.  Rich Man buys apartment building occupied by 20 families each making less than $30,000 per year.  Rich Man evicts all 20 families.  He spends millions to rehab and improve his investment.  Who can blame him? So he puts in expensive carpet, wood floors, guts the bathrooms and kitchens and adds stainless steel appliances, granite counters, fancy pedestal sinks, and low-flush toilets and showers. The evicted families were paying less than $1500 per month for their 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment.  The newly finished building now houses only 10 units, minimum 2 bed/2 bath over 1500 square feet of living space (as opposed to the original 700 sf 2 bed/1 baths).  There is now underground parking, and a concierge.  The units are now to be sold as condos, starting at $750,000.

Improving the poor areas, right?  No.  It’s just relocating the poor by force.  Those 20 families now struggle to find a new apartment that they can afford. Usually they find something farther from their jobs.  Making it more difficult for them to keep those jobs. Likely a job will be lost simply because they can’t make it to the second job on time riding the bus.  Bus service is slow, cabs or Uber are expensive, cars even more so.

Many people with such low income work two part time jobs.  Neither of which will provide health insurance coverage if the worker puts in less than 30 hours.  So mom and dad work two minimum wage jobs without health insurance.  Their only health care provided by ERs across the nation, thousands of which have been systematically closed down by the Board of Directors of hospitals, because the ER is not cost-efficient.  Why? Because 90% of those in an ER have no insurance and no means to pay for their visit. ERs are required to treat a person, regardless of their ability to pay.  It’s no wonder they aren’t cost effective.

That says a lot when discussing a National Healthcare Insurance.  ERs would no longer be crowded with people with ear infections and colds, and could return to the intended use for accident victims.  Thereby decreasing costs simply by eliminating those without means from incurring debt they cannot pay.  It’s not Socialism, at least not in the bad sense of the word, it’s common sense with some compassion tossed in.

Do rich people really think I want to be borderline poor?  What is this lingering hate toward the poor (and the homeless)?  It’s been with us thousands of years, ever since “income” became a necessary part of life.  The poor in this country will continue to fall further behind and end up on Welfare (another GOP-hated social assistance).  The number of homeless will continue to increase.

Don’t those in power and/or with money care at all about us down here on the bottom row of the pyramid?  We built the fucking pyramid, we should not have to be buried by it.

Well Beyond Nixon

People have mentioned the corruption in our current administration as “Nixonian” in scale.  Watergate has nothing on our growing Russiagate investigation.  In fact, Trump’s administrational misdealings, illegal activities, and lies make Nixon’s activities look like child’s play.  It’s more than just admiration of and fawning over dictators and despots like the Philippine President Duterte, Putin, Kim Jong Un (CNN-Jake Tapper).  It’s all his other great plans for our nation that takes him well beyond Nixonian.  We’re reaching Orwellian proportions here.

About the only dictators Trump hasn’t personally approved of are Hitler and Mussolini. I’m guessing he considers them both losers, since they didn’t stay in power for decades. He called Un a “smart cookie” for having his uncle killed to gain the NK throne! He’s ok with Putin and the murders he’s complicit in.  “The US isn’t innocent,” Trump said in an interview.  Is he implying our President’s have murdered people for personal gain? I think if any US president had ordered a hit on someone history would’ve revealed it by this time. He seems to feel a dictator is a more competent, stronger leader than someone merely elected by the people.  Neither of which applies in this case.

He’s complicit in Russiagate, spending all his time covering up or burying as much information as he can.  Setting up one person at a time to take the fall.  My only hope is that he takes out the wrong guy and all the republicans turn on him.

He wants to revise the Constitution!  The First Amendment in particular so he can remove the Press from its protection.  Of course he had been talking about doing this throughout his campaign.  It seems to be getting more important to him.

He wants to keep us ill!  Healthcare Bill.  His budget proves it as well.

He wants to keeps us stupid!  Have you seen anything on his new budget?  He plans to cut $11 billion from education.

Trump’s an embarrassment everywhere he goes.  Pushing people aside to be front and center.  Saying ignorant things.  Acting inappropriately. Being happily ignorant of other cultures.

And my country elected this mess.  The world is totally screwed until we impeach this beast.

Drug Abuse & Brain Damage

Right now I hope my son is using something, because if he isn’t, he has permanent brain damage that may require hospitalization or institutionalization. I’m scared.  He has spells of normal behavior then suddenly he turns into this psycho who cannot articulate what he means to say–he uses the wrong words.  Nouns elude him.  He also gets obsessive and damn near impossible to communicate with.

He got lost coming home from his ex’s the other night.  She lives just one town over, about a 25 minute drive on surface streets.  She has lived at this location for five years.  The other night he ended up on the freeway going north into South Los Angeles.  A fairly unsafe place for a confused long-haired white guy.  It took 10 minutes of talking with him to get him headed in the right direction.  Stay on This Road, I told him, and it will bring him home.  5 minutes later he calls back.  He’s lost again.  Husband figures out where Son is and tells him to wait, that he will come lead him home.  Another 15 minutes and he calls, they’ll be home in just a minute, Son was right behind him, and they were 2 blocks away.  Unbelievably Son called about 10 minutes later.  Now he is headed south on a different freeway some 35 miles from home!

When he get’s home, it’s not much better.  He’s in and out of the house.  Front yard, back yard.  He comes into our room looking for various items, usually something that we would not have in our room, like the car.  He won’t go to his room, he won’t lie down.  He returns to our room repeatedly, goes into the bathroom 4-5 times in an hour.  He took two showers.  One less than an hour after the first.

It’s like having an extremely mobile 3 year old.  So afraid thinking about him driving on the freeway, probably speeding, considering how far he got from home in just a few minutes.  How am I supposed to deal with that?  What is that?  What is happening?  He gets single-minded and resolved to a particular action and seems unable to stop.  He listens, but he doesn’t hear.  He speaks, but he makes little sense most of the time.

Here is a sample of some things he said today:

“If I want to pick a fruit, just let me pick a fruit.”

“I’ve got to go to Armstrong’s (a gardening store) to get a thing, a, a, a, rope for my my my, the, that, my couch.”  He  meant he needed to go to Best Buy for a new charging cord for his iPad.

“It won’t work and no one will help me.”  This about his iPad, which isn’t the problem so much as he can’t sign in to any of his accounts, his passwords no longer work.  This happens each time he has one of these episodes.  I cannot do this any longer.  Husband can no longer handle this.

“You guys do so much for me, too much.  But I need help and you’re not helping.  All you do is yell at me.  And I’m not allowed to be to be upset or get mad.”  At times his anger feels like a physical presence and I am acutely sensitive to it.

One doc diagnosed him with schizoaffective disorder.  A scary mix of schizophrenic and bi-polar symptoms.  He fits some of those guidelines.  I also came across something called semantic dementia.  A truly horrifying illness with a limited lifespan.  He fits some of that criteria as well.  The only information I really find on these illnesses is a description of symptoms and prognosis, or I end up on some rehab site that tells me nothing except ‘drugs bad’.

I have an appointment to see my therapist with Son tomorrow afternoon.  I need someone I trust to give me an opinion as to what is going on.  I think he needs to be hospitalized, properly diagnosed and treated before returning home.  Except that won’t happen because there are too many mentally ill or addicted individuals in the area.  There are not enough facilities for all the mentally ill.  Not enough beds, nurses, doctors. The help is not free, does not take most insurance.  What are poor addicts supposed to do then?  What options do we provide them?  None.  What help do we provide to the families of those with serious mental health issues?  None.

None.  And with the new Trump NonCare it will only get worse for people like us: Sad losers (to use Trump’s words) who never caught a break in life.  How can people not understand the allure of suicide?

Doctors

Doctor #1

Saw my neuro this week.  She doesn’t think I have MS.  Just because certain diagnostic tests don’t show the expected results, my flares have been documented.  I had one flare that lasted 6 months.  I was treated with the standard MS flare meds by IV for three days, every month for three months.  If that wasn’t MS, tell me what is, doc.

Yet she continues to treat me, because my diagnosis came from UCLA, which has a specialized MS program.  Still she has me coming in every six months.  When she asks me about new symptoms, she dismisses them as not MS-related, and therefore not her problem. I guess if I’m not blind or in a wheelchair, I’m not worth her time.   She will be replaced.  I can see someone else in that office.  Why did it take three days for me to realize this?  Why didn’t I say something to the Doc?

Doctor #2

I’ve been having an eye problem where it felt like my eyelids were sticking to my eye balls. This has been going on for a few months, and wasn’t getting better, but not a real big deal, eye drops seem to work. So brought it up to my GP.  So she looked a little more closely at my eyes, and had me read the eye chart. I’m really shocked. If you measure by number of lines of the chart, my vision has consistently been only one line apart; my right eye is a tad better than the left, which has an astigmatism. This time it’s 4 lines! I can only read the second line of print with my left eye. I’m a little concerned and say as much to my GP and she gets me a rush referral to the Ophthalmologist.  I really like her.  I want her for my new GP, my old one is moving.

Doctor #3

I couldn’t get into the Optho until mid-March, so they referred me to another office.  I call and get an appointment for the next morning!  Wow, cool.  The doc examines my eyes, pretty much a routine exam, I read the eye chart, he dilated my eyes. He seems thorough. He tells me that I have an issue with glands in my eyelids not working.  I never knew there was anything except lashes on my lids.  These glands are supposed to secrete oils necessary to keeping eyes naturally moist.  He gives me a script for Restasis, and gives me a list of three more eyedrops I’m to use everyday for the rest of my life.  Four different types of drops, basically I’m to put drops in my eyes about every two hours.  Ok, it’s inconvenient, but not really something I can’t adapt to.

That’s when I ask him, “What about the sudden decrease in the visual acuity in my left eye?”  He shrugs, looks at my chart and sees I got new a prescription in my glasses Nov. 2015, so I should wait till this November, when my insurance OK’s new glasses.  I’m not really thrilled, but I figure he’s the doc, I trust that it’s not a big deal.  I go home.

Then yesterday, I’m updating my calendar and find the doctor’s card, which I just grabbed and put it in my pocket as I left.  I only read his name, not his title.  This time I read the title.  He’s an optometrist.  I had a referral specifically for the ophthalmologist. When I made the appointment, I assumed since they knew I couldn’t see the ophthalmologist in my office until March, that I would be seeing theirs.  I could have seen our optometrist, who I’ve been to before.

It’s been two weeks using all the eyedrops and my vision in that eye seems to be getting worse. My vision seems blurry, colors seem to merge and shift?  Can’t describe it. Suddenly I can’t properly identify a certain size or shaped or colored object until I am two feet away. This is not normal for me.  I’m worried this is not the dry eye issue, this might be the Fuchs Dystrophy I was told I had 20 years ago.  It’s a slowly progressing problem in the cornea.  When it gets bad enough the only option is transplant, but that’s still years away for me.  I hope. (Hmmm.  How likely is it that Medicare will pay for that by the time I need it?)

Then I talk to my brother, who I haven’t seen in 25 years and he mentions one of my sisters.  Says shes going blind.  Now I’m worried again.  I haven’t spoken to A in 25 years either, but I’m going to have to talk to her.  I think since my referral is good for two visits, I’ll just keep the appointment in March with the ophthalmologist.

What the hell is wrong with me that I don’t notice these things?  I used to be so thorough.   But I never asked the office what type of doctor I was seeing, something I once would have made sure of.  I used to speak up for myself, and I honestly don’t know when that disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resist- II

Since about October, I have struggled a little with balancing our new ‘reality’ with some of my Buddhist way of thinking. “Things are happening as they should and I need not interfere” is kind of the gist I came away with during my studies.  In fact I spend quite a bit of time with my therapist discussing that balance between life, and a fulfilling life.  You know, the whole Buddhist “root of all my trouble is wanting” idea.  Yet I want things to change.  So much.  So much more every day.

I want Trump–No.  Not impeached.  No, poor man is sick.  I’d like him put in a small hospital room for the rest of his life.  A soft room with bars and bullet-proof glass on the windows, the gentle light of a tv as it plays The Apprentice on endless loops.  I’m all for hiring the handicapped, but the man is absolutely certifiably delusional.

I know a little about delusional from personal experience.  I know he truly believes what he says.  I know he doesn’t think we’re stupid.  He doesn’t think of us at all.   He truly believes he is entitled to anything or anyone any time he wants.  He believes it when he says he thinks he’s doing a swell job, and accomplished so much in so little time.  His claims of being prosecuted.  The ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ fit in perfectly in the life and mind of the delusional.  You must buy into his delusion, or you are the enemy.

His brief press conference of yesterday has only hardened my resolve to be involved.  He thinks he’s a 5 year old and can stomp all over your sand castle if he wants, just because it was better than his.  He is still that spoiled, confused child.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a lot of sympathy, but just thinking about him that way makes me a little less angry, but a lot more scared.

I want us to get rid of Trump (and the rest of his swamp creatures if at all possible) as soon as possible.  It becomes obviously more urgent every day.  You did see at least some of his so-called press conference?  And still, there is this niggling feeling that I maybe shouldn’t interfere.  Shouldn’t be involved.  Maybe I’m just trying to find an excuse to stay in my own corner, complain and pass along worrisome memes.  It’s much easier not be involved.

Then today I read this article out of the Huffington Post:  They posed this question:

What can Zen Buddhism teach us about the art of effective activism in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency?

to  Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen master who has been a social and environmental activist for since his early days protesting the Vietnamese War.    This article addresses the issue of balancing Buddhist thinking with activism.

The article quotes from his book At Home in the World where he says:

“Mindfulness must be engaged.  Once we see that something needs to be done, we must take action. Seeing and action go together. Otherwise, what is the point in seeing?”

“Nonviolence is not a set of techniques that you can learn with your intellect,” he goes on to say. “Nonviolent action arises from the compassion, lucidity and understanding you have within.”

 

This article finally set to rest my qualms over my level of involvement.  And I hope I can bring his teachings of non-violent protests with me.  I hope we all can.  So teachers, parents, and concerned citizens, arm yourselves with the knowledge of peaceful protest and let’s get to work!

 

Peaceful Protest

OK, people, looks like we are in it for the long haul, so we might as well learn how to protest.  Teachers, dust off those old Civil Rights films and show them TODAY.  We must not let anger get the upper hand.  Meet anger with passivity.  Shouts with whispers.

This needs to be done and done now.  We cannot let the new administration permit states from pushing through legislation restricting protests.  North Dakota is trying to justify murder of protesters in the streets.

Peaceful Protest.  We must teach people passive resistance.  Data gathered by Political scientist Erica Chenoweth, was presented in a TED talk in 2013.  Her studies have shown that non-violent protests are far more effective than violent ones.  You can find it easily on Youtube.

We need to keep our protests non-violent and non-confrontational.  The Trumpsters are so rabid, it takes nothing to set them on a tirade.  Don’t give them cause.  Don’t yell at the Trumpsters.  It does no good.  Whisper, and they have to lean in and actually listen.  Like the man said, “Talk softly, but carry a big stick.”  The Truth is our ‘stick’.  Let’s make it work for us.

I believe the press should ignore all so-called ‘press conferences’ of the new dictatorship.  All they get is a new lie and derision.  There is no information actually provided.  Take this morning’s sudden presser.  Ridiculous is too mild a word.  I appreciate the fact they are sticking with it, but we could be far more effective in our war against the dictatorship if we did not give it notice.  It’s pretty hard to be a dictator if no one is afraid of you, or cares what you may say or threaten to do.  And Captain Asshat won’t even know, since, if he can read, he certainly doesn’t read the news.  Since it’s all fake anyway.  Speaking of ‘fake news’ and legitimate press printing ‘lies’ about the new administration, why did Mike Flynn get canned over a news story?  Aren’t they all lies?

 

 

 

 

 

Calling All Protesters

I copied this from Facebook.

The Ides of Trump.

Mark it down!

On March 15th, each of us will mail Donald Trump a postcard that publicly expresses our opposition to him. And we, in vast numbers, from all corners of the world, will overwhelm the man with his unpopularity and failure. We will show the media and the politicians what standing with him — and against us — means. And most importantly, we will bury the White House post office in pink slips, all informing Donnie that he’s fired.

Each of us — every protester from every march, each congress-calling citizen, every boycotter, volunteer, donor, and petition signer — if each of us writes even a single postcard and we put them all in the mail on the same day, March 15th, well: you do the math…

No alternative fact or Russian translation will explain away our record-breaking, officially-verifiable, warehouse-filling flood of fury. Hank Aaron currently holds the record for fan mail, having received 900,000 pieces in a year. We’ll set a new record: over a million pieces in a day, with not a single nice thing to say.

So sharpen your wit, unsheathe your writing implements, and see if your sincerest ill-wishes can pierce Donald’s famously thin skin.

Prepare for March 15th, 2017, a day hereafter to be known as #TheIdesOfTrump

Write one postcard. Write a dozen! Take a picture and post it on social media tagged with #TheIdesOfTrump ! Spread the word! Everyone on Earth should let Donnie know how he’s doing. They can’t build a wall high enough to stop the mail.

Then, on March 15th, mail your messages to:

President (for now) Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Not my original idea, but I think it’s a great one, and has energized me somewhat. Personally, I will address my cards to “Donald J Trump.”  No way am I calling that person President.

Remember: MARCH 15!  Maybe have a postcard-writing party?