November 28, 2009
A few facts, that speak for themselves, without commentary:
According to a 2007 study by the US Conference of Mayors (prior to the housing meltdown and foreclosuremania):
12 of 13 cities surveyed turned people away due to overcrowding in homeless shelters
10 cities reported increases in households with children seeking shelters
The average length of stay n a homeless shelter was 70 days for families
Families with children comprise 23% of the US homeless population
In 2008, the Conference of Mayors reported:
19 of the 21 cities responding reported an increase in their homeless populations during the year.
16 of the 25 reported increases in the number of families becoming homeless
Of the 19 cities that collect data on employed people whoa re homeless, 11 cities reported an increase in this number
All 21 cities with available statistics reported increases in the numbers of people seeking food aid for the first time.
New York City reported an increase in the length of time of shelter stays for families to almost 12 months up from 5 months in the 1990’s.
The National Coalition for the Homeless reports that:
There are 200,00 homeless vets on any given night, and approximately 400,000 vets experience homeless during a twelve month period.
1.35 million children experience homelessness in a twelve-month period, with 200,000 homeless on any given day.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness reports:
From 1999-2006 the annual funding for pubic housing declined by 25%
From 1997-2007, as much as 170,000 units of public housing were lost due to deterioration
From 2004-2007, housing vouchers for low-income families were reduced by 150,000
There are more then 15.8 million families eligible for federal housing vouchers, but only one in nine receive these vouchers.
Between 2004-2007 federal funding for affordable housing and community development was reduced by over $14 billion
November 24, 2009
• According to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in 2004 3.8 million 18-24 year olds were unemployed or not enrolled in post secondary school. In just two years that number increased to 4.3 million in 2007, totaling almost 15% of all 18-24 year olds in the United States. And that was before the reality of the Bush recession had hit.
• A 2007 study by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies found “While aggregate household net wealth grew from $25.9 trillion in 1995 to $50.1 trillion in 2004 (both in 2004 dollars) nearly 90 percent of the net gains occurred only among the top quartile (25%) of households in the wealth distribution.”
• In 2000 there were 301 billionaires in the United States, in only four years, by 2004, this number had grown to 400. That’s two new billionaires a month.
• In 2001 the percent of US families with zero or negative net worth was 17.6%, by 2007 this number had grown to 18.6%
• From 1979 (Reaganomics hit in 1980) to 2005 the top 5% of income households saw an increase in real income of 81%, while during this same period the lowest 20% of income households saw a decline in real income of 1%
• In the year 2005, ALL income gains went to the top 10% of households, while the bottom 90% of income households saw declines.
• In 2006, the bottom 20% of income households received an average of $23 from the Bush tax cuts, while the top 1% saw an average of $39,020 and the top 0.1% received a whopping $200,523.
• According to the Economic Policy Institute, from 2001 to 2007 real income of middle class families actually fell for the first time in history.
These facts speak for themselves without commentary about the impact of Bushenomics on the American family and the US economy.
November 23, 2009
As the majority leader of the Senate, the power to pass a public option is squarely in Harry Reid's hands. Fifty-one Senators have said they would vote for a bill with a public option -- no opt-outs, no triggers. That's a majority. Will Reid let three or four corrupt Senators owned by the insurance industry hold the public option hostage? Or will he use the reconciliation process to allow a simple majority vote on a public option?
Tell Harry Reid to exercise his leadership and do the right thing, sign the petition and pass it on.
November 19, 2009
A new government report released by the Department of Agriculture highlights the serious and growing problem of food insecurity in the United States. According to the New York Times, the Bush administration tried to quash this report but the Obama administration has embraced it as emblematic of the the challenges facing the country.
The report, titled Household Food Security in the United States 2008, documents the seriousness of food insecurity in the richest nation on earth, at the time that families are preparing to gorge themselves at the Thanksgiving table. To watch television during the month of November, or browse the newspaper ads, one would get the impression that the US is a land of abundance when it comes to food. But, just a cursory reading of this report should be enough to convince even the most jaded conservative otherwise.
According to this USDA study, in 2008 14.6% of all US households, or 17 million households, experienced food insecurity at least some time during the year, representing an 11.1% increase over the previous year. Included in this number are 6.7 million households classified as having experienced very low food security. These numbers of families experiencing food insecurity are the highest recorded since the government started keeping track of food insecurity in 1995.
These numbers though are not consistent throughout the country. Food insecurity was most prevalent in the South (or as Sarah Palin refers to this region, “the real America”) and least prevalent in the Northeast. The demographic groups experiencing rates higher than the national average included single-parent households, Black and Hispanic households and families living at or below the poverty level.
According to the USDA definition, food insecurity/security is “based on the respondents perception of whether the household was able to obtain enough food to meet their needs. The measure does not specifically address whether the household’s food intake was sufficient for active, healthy lives.” Therefore, a condition that could affect a larger portion of the population than food insecurity is “nutritional insecurity,” or subsisting on a diet that satisfies hunger but is not sufficient to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately the newly released statistics in obesity in the US supports this concept. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University reveals that approximately 1/3 of all adults in the US are obese. Much of this is a result of the availability of cheaper, less nutritious and higher fat and caloric foods. The authors of this study predict that if current trends continue, by 2018 43% of US adults will be obese costing $344 billion annually in health related expenditures.
Another sign of the devastating impact that Bushenomics has had on poor and working Americans is the increase in homeless individuals and families. A recent report by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities highlights the seriousness of this long neglected result of failed economic policies and gaping holes in the social safety net. Up to date statistics on homelessness do not exist. However, this January 2009 report does paint a pretty bleak picture of this serious and growing problem. The researchers found that between July and November 2008, in the waning days of the Bush administration, homeless families seeking shelter in New York City jumped by 40%. They found similar increases across the country. Massachusetts reported a 32% increase in families residing in state-funded shelters from November 2007 to November 2008. The researchers found that Connecticut had been forced to turn away 30% more homeless families due to a lack of bed space. In Minneapolis, the study found a 20% increase in families seeing shelter in the first ten months of 2008 as compared to the same period in 2007. And, Los Angeles County experienced a 12% increase in the number of families receiving welfare benefits who were known to be homeless.
Poverty and Unemployment
Based upon their findings that poverty and low income are contributing factors to homelessness among families the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities postulates a correlation between unemployment and the rising rate of homelessness. The study predicts that if unemployment were to rise to 9%, the number of people living in poverty would increase by 10 million, included in this is a projected increase of six million very poor, including an additional one million children. One result of this increase in poverty would be a resultant increase in homelessness.
But this report is already dated. The current official estimate of the unemployment rate for October is 10.2%, effecting 15.7 million workers, the highest rate in twenty-six years. And that I only the “official” rate, the true rate of unemployment has been estimated to be a high as 16%. The government’s estimate is artificially lowered by not including underemployed and part-time workers, and those who have stopped actively looking for work because they have become discouraged. It also does not include new workers just entering the workforce.
$933.5 billion wasted on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that does not even begin to take into account the numbers of dead and wounded young Americans and scores of Iraqi and Afghani civilians. Imagine what $933.5 billion could have bought in improved quality of life right here in the United States and good will around the world by helping to alleviate hunger. disease, malnutrition and illiteracy.
Failed government policy that has let hundreds of thousands of displaced families scattered across the country, or living in substandard conditions in government-run trailer parks
It is President Obama’s unenviable task to try to clean up the mess left behind by the Bush administration. While he tries to do this, the Republican right has unleashed a barrage of criticism because he ahs not solved the problems that their policies have created. It is these economic policies that have brought the country to the brink of ruin and placed us in many social-economic indicators at the level of developing countries and far behind every other western-industrialized nation.
November 14, 2009
In Part One I discussed the cost of the government bailout of failed financial giants that faced bankruptcy as a result of their own greed, and how these very same companies were now poised to pay out billions of dollars in bonuses to the executives who helped bring them to the brink of disaster. Part one also focused on the billions of dollars of tax money used to bail out GM and Chrysler to save them from bankruptcy due to their failure to produce reliable cars that the American public wanted.
While our tax dollars were used to bail out these failing private corporations that overpaid their executives even as they led them blindly over the cliff toward bankruptcy, we continue to ignore the economic disaster that is enveloping nonprofit organizations all across America. Thousands of these organizations that provide the supports that millions of Americans need to help them meet their basic needs or to achieve their goals, while stabilizing communities and providing millions of jobs, are facing economic ruin just as there is increased demand for their services.
According to the Urban Institute, in 2004 nonprofits accounted for 5.2% of total GDP, 8.3% of all wages and salaries paid in the US and almost 10% of all jobs. Despite its large role in the US economy, the government has turned a blind eye to the impact of the current economic slowdown on these nonprofits, forcing thousands of layoffs and huge service cutbacks impacting every community in all fifty states.
A recent report by the Mercadien Group of Princeton New Jersey, a private financial services company, titled 2009 Nonprofit Outlook Survey , paints a dim picture of the condition of the nonprofit community as the impact of decreased charitable and government support begins to be felt across this sector. Their survey of New Jersey nonprofits found that “nearly 67% of the respondents projected their revenues to decline or stay the same… more than a quarter of the respondents projected a decline in revenue between 3%-20%
They found that declining revenues had an immediate impact on employment rates, with one-quarter of these surveyed expecting a decline in staffing. For the most part, nonprofit employees come from the communities that they serve and they typically work for lower wages than equally skilled workers in private industry. Often, when workers are laid off in nonprofits, this reduction does not result in a proportionate reduction of the workload, rather the workload is redistributed among the remaining staff. To this end, the study found that “many organizations anticipate to reduce staff levels to cope with the current economic events and manage financial results, often at the expense of maintaining quality work/life balance for those staff that remain after the rebalancing.”
Respondents in the Mercadien study were asked to rate the most important issues for 2009 for their organizations, and the results are very telling abut the current state of nonprofits. A not so amazing 84% rated “downward pressure on contributions, grants and similar revenue streams” as their number one concern. The second highest rated concern highlighted by 67% of respondents was “costs rising faster than revenues.” Coming in a not too distant third was “lower quality of client services than desired,” and the fourth most stated concern was “unstable, insufficient or outdated technology.” While this increasingly dire picture is coming into focus, bankers who ran to Washington with their hands out are preparing to pay out record bonuses to their executives projected to be in excess of $144 billion. What does this say about the current state of our priorities in this country?
An article in the September 2009 edition of the Illinois Business Law Journal, by Zina Kiryakos reported on several recent studies including a report by the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). Of the 1,100 nonprofits it surveyed, the NFF found that 93% of those providing essential services expected an increase in demand for these services, while 31% of those organizations did not have more than one month’s operating cash on hand. Kiryakos further reports on a survey of 2279 nonprofits by the National Council on Nonprofits that found while demand for services is increasing, these nonprofits are faced with higher costs and declining revenues.
According to Kiryakos the Johns Hopkins University “Listening Post Project,” found that 40% of the nonprofits it surveyed “as well as a third or more of child-serving and elderly serving nonprofits indicated their fiscal stress to be ‘severe or very severe.’” The author goes on to state that “overall, the statistics indicate that the ever growing requests for service from their patronage are weighing heavily on nonprofit resources, which are further exacerbated by the reduction in donations and government spending.”
In other words, just as more and more people are thrown out of work, or lose their homes to foreclosure, the very nonprofit organizations that they turn to for help are being forced to reduce their staff and their services due to decreasing revenues. But where is the government bailout for this sector of the economy? The answer, “you’ll just have to learn to do more with less.” Just across town, or on the other side of the tracks, government bails out the big spenders, guaranteeing record bonuses. We are told there is nothing that can be done to prevent these huge bonuses while the taxpayers subsidize these wildly extravagant lifestyles for bankers who continue feeding at the public trough. Just wait for the economy to pick up again. After all, better days are just around the corner. Better days for whom? Could it be that the financial industry contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to support political races, while nonprofits are barred by federal law from doing this? Why would a politician bite the hand that feeds it?
Perhaps the backlash is coming. Earlier this month the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Jon Corzine, was voted out of office in New Jersey. And it seems that if the majority party in Washington does not begin to take heed of the needs of ordinary Americans, instead of rewarding their campaign contributors, they may be hanging out at the unemployment office with their constituents come next election.
November 6, 2009
We are all too familiar with the shrill criticisms of a government option for health care. It will cost too much. It will increase the federal deficit. Health care will be rationed. We have the best health care system in the world, based upon free market competition. A government option will mean unfair competition in the marketplace. SOCIALISM. And on and on. The problem is that this is yet another example of the big lie told often enough and loud enough becoming fact.
Let’s start with a brief discussion of the facts, something that does not enter into the discourse of those opposed to expanding health care. Currently the US spends a greater share of its GDP (Gross Domestic Product – the value of all goods and services produced on a country) than any other industrialized country that currently has universal health care. According to the Centers for Disease Control the Untied States spent 15.3% of GDP on health care in 2006, this number increased by 6.1% in 2007 to 16.2%, or $2.2 trillion. In spite of devoting more of our economy to health care, the US lags behind every other western industrialized nation in health indicators. It is estimated that currently in the US there are 47 million people without health care coverage, and approximately 18,000 people die each year in the US from preventable causes due to lack of health care coverage. Other countries devote significantly less of their economic resources and have better health care results. For example, in 2006 France devoted 11% of GDP while the UK devoted only 8.4% while providing coverage to all of its residents.
But what is the impact of these differences in the availability and cost of health care? A recent report released by the World Health Organization, World Health Statistics 2009, demonstrates the difference between what we get for the amount spent compared to countries with universal health care. Some of the statistics highlighted in this report are:
Infant mortality – the US has an infant (birth to five years old) mortality rate of 8 per 1,000 live births. This number is higher than every European country with universal health care. The US is behind both Canada and Cuba, two neighbors whom we love to criticize for their systems.
Maternal mortality – the rate of women dying in childbirth is 11 per 100,000 live births in the US, higher than all of western Europe, and once again we rate worse than Canada.
Teen pregnancy – the US has an average rate of 41 pregnancies per 1000 adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19, while the average for all European countries is 24 per 1,000.
HIV infection – compared to the rest f he developed world, the US has an astounding rate of HIV infection among adult In the US, 452 people out of every 100,000 people fifteen years old or older are infected with HIV. That is more than three times the rate of the United Kingdom, almost twice the rate in Canada, and almost seven times the rate of infection in Cuba. The average for all the countries in the Americas is 448, lower than the rate for the US, the wealthiest and most developed country in the Americas.
So there you have it, the US is the country that spends the largest share of its economic activity on health care, as compared to all other developed nations,. In spite of our spending level, the US ranks 31st in life expectancy, 37th in infant mortality and 34th in maternal mortality! This all based on a free market health insurance industry. How could the introduction of a government option make these numbers worse, when the US is lower in most health care indicators than every country that has universal or national health care?
Oh, and I almost forgot the most spurious argument of all, but perhaps the one that is shouted the loudest, now that the “death panels” have been killed: “a government option will introduce unfair competition into the health insurance market.” These are the same people who have been shouting for years that private industry is more efficient than the government, and that government programs are wasteful and costly. If this is the case, then reason would dictate that the private companies can only benefit from a government run plan, because the government’s inefficiencies would make private companies look better. However, if in their hearts, they really believed that a government run plan would be costly and inefficient, there would be nothing to be afraid of.
How can you tell which party in an argument knows their wrong, they are the one that starts shouting and name calling first. This holds true for policy debates as well.
Unfortunately facts discussed reasonable do not make as interesting news stories as exaggerations and distortions shouted loudly.
November 3, 2009
It would seem that far too many people, such as the commenter, are satisfied with replacing fact with innuendo, diatribe and shouting louder than the next guy. As if the louder one shouts, the more correct their position. We saw this aptly demonstrated when the good Republican Congressman from the south shouted out, in an unprecedented manner, that President Obama was lying. Or when Sarah Palin claimed on her Facebook page that the Obama health care plan included death panels that would decide who would live and who would die. Of course facts never entered into either of these accusations. There never were death panels, instead the health plan would reimburse for end of life counseling. In other words, if a doctor were to meet with a terminal patient’s family to explain the situation and offer options, that would be reimbursed. But we saw the impact that this misinformation had when it was shouted loudly all over the country, the exaggerators got their way because they understood that a lie told long enough and loud enough becomes the truth. Or as that quote from the movie “the Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” goes when the myth becomes fact print the myth. Why tell the truth, or bother to get the facts, when you can shout louder than your opponent?
With that said, here is the comment that I received from “anonymous.”
You are the kind that is either extremely naive or a pathetic liar. Bush actually cut taxes for everyone in the country, and he cut the largest percent (33%) for people in the lowest income bracket. Compare that to the cut that he made for the highest income bracket (less than 10%). Democrats continue to be PATHETIC LIARS on this topic, and too bad there are too many naive people in the country to believe the LIARS
So there is the myth, now let’s look at the facts.
According to the Brookings Institute, a conservative think tank, fully 67.9% of the Bush tax cuts went to the top 20% of households, with an astounding 25.9% going to the top 1% of the wealthiest families. On the other end of the income scale, a mere 5.4% of the tax cut benefits went to families in the lowest 40% of income. The full report is available at www.brookings.edu/papers/2002/06useconomics_gale.aspx
But there is more to the story, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the total cost of the Bush tax cuts over a ten year period from 2001-2010 is $2.5 trillion. This compared to the estimated cost of the Democratic health care proposal of $1.6 trillion over ten years. So, we are unable to afford health care reform, but able to afford tax cuts that target the wealthiest Americans. In order to complete the story of the Bush tax cuts we need to look at its impact on the federal budget. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, www.cbpp.org, spurred on by these tax cuts federal revenues dropped to their lowest level since 1950, with lost revenue accounting for more than one-half of the federal deficit. Let us not forget that when George Bush took over the White House in 2000, he inherited a budget surplus that was converted to record deficits before he ended his first term.
We could choose to scream misinformation at the top of our lungs and thereby prevent the facts from getting out and changing our views, as this commenter did and as so many are continuing to do, or we can engage in civil conversation that is based upon facts and not merely prejudices and ideologies. The facts speak for themselves, and if we were to allow facts to guide public policy we would all be living in a different world, one with a higher level of equality and opportunity for all. Perhaps that is what those folks who would rather shout their untruths are afraid of.
November 1, 2009
Facing financial ruin due to their own greed and reckless behaviors, taxpayers were forced to bailout the banks and investment firms that were allowed to grow, encouraged by weakened and nonexistent regulations, to the point where they were considered “too big to fail.” Now that the numbers are in, we can see the success of the Bush/Obama bailout of the failed banking and investment industries. After hundreds of billions of dollars in federal (i.e taxpayer) bailout funds, the banks have recovered to the point where they are poised to pay out record bonuses, projected to be as much as $144 billion this year.
Who are the bankers that are in line with their hands out to receive this largesse? The very same executives and vultures who led their companies to ruin while designing and selling questionable mortgages and financial instruments to the taxpayers who were told that we had no choice but to rescue these folks from their own colossal failures. That same $144 billion (the equivalent of $1,230 per taxpayer) that will be used to purchase high end products like $1,000 bottles of wine, expensive cars, real estate and jewelry could pay for health insurance for 29 million Americans for one year, contributing to the economy in a way that high end products do not.
As if that is not enough, the bailout folly gets even more interesting. When the Obama administration was faced with the imminent meltdown of General Motors ad Chrysler, they turned to the old tried and not so true response, throw more taxpayer money at corporations that are failing because of their own incompetence. Crawling to Washington with their hands out, General Motors executives were able to wrest $22.5 billion from the White House, and their compatriots at Chrysler were able to get $9 billion. The third US automaker, Ford, did not ask for nor did they receive any bailout funds.
Coincidentally, in the current Consumer Reports Annual Reliability Report, only 20 of 48 models produced by GM received a rating of average reliability or better; and, fully 1/3 of Chrysler models were rated below average. On the other hand, the one company that did not come crawling to Washington with its tail between its legs, Ford Motor Company, receive a rating of average or better on 90% of its models. So once again, we found ourselves in the position of rewarding incompetence at the expense of the already stressed American taxpayer, who was left to fend for themselves, whether or not they contributed to their own woes or were the innocent victim of another’s greed and unscrupulous activity.
In contrast to the quick bailout of Wall Street and US auto manufacturers, little has been done in Washington the stem the foreclosure crisis. The main stumbling block to providing massive government aid to help keep people in their homes, prevent increases in homeless families and stabilize communities across the country, is the fear that we may be using taxpayer dollars to help people who bought houses they could not afford. This line of thinking completely ignores the role of the very same investment bankers that created the sub-prime mortgage and other gimmicks to trick people into buying homes they could not afford or signing onto variable rate mortgages with huge interest rate increase built in. So we, as a society, can only see our way clear to help bailout companies whose failure is monumental and caused by their own greed or lack of ability, while we let families flounder forcing them to “take responsibility for their own actions.” If responsibility for one’s own actions even existed in the lexicon of Wall Street, they would not have the audacity to pay themselves huge bonuses mere months after begging for public funds.
The irony in this whole scenario is that while the government sits back and allows millions of families to lose their homes, while making it easier for new home buyers to purchase these foreclosed homes, these families who are faced with economic ruin are forced to contribute to the bailout of the same people who sold them their faulty mortgages or built their unreliable cars. The cost to each and every taxpayer to prop up GM and Chrysler so that they can continue to build unreliable cars with a made in US label is approximately $269.23. That added to the estimated cost of the $787 billion Wall street bailout of approximately $6,812 per taxpayer, totals more than $7,000 for each and every US taxpayer. That same $7,000 spread across families facing foreclosure could have prevented 100,000’s of families from losing their homes, helping to stabilize many communities that are experiencing a free fall from the spate of foreclosures in recent years. These families get nothing, their communities get the fallout of risky banking, but the Wall Street bankers get to keep their $114 billion in bonuses, laughing all the way to the bank – so to speak.
In part two of Socializing Failure – Privatizing Greed, I will look at the impact of the financial meltdown on nonprofit organizations. Just as the failing economy has resulted in vast increases in need for the services provided by these groups, the resources that they depend upon to survive are drying up, but there is no talk of a government program to help stabilize these organizations that provide stability and support for communities in every corner of this vast country, while employing millions of people.