Monday, March 3, 2014

Working since 16, and 'I'm lazy blood sucker?!'

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column declaring that "Huge inequalities in income are not inevitable." It was based on recent reports that showed lopsided income growth has not been the norm throughout U.S. history. In fact, the report notes, inequality declined in this country in the four decades between the 1940s and the 1970s. During that time, the lowest wage earner as well as the highest paid CEO saw similar growth in incomes.

But between 1979 and 2007 that changed, with the top 1 percent seeing the bulk of the increase in income. Between 2009 and 2011, the 1 percent got all the income growth in 26 states including North Carolina and South Carolina. The recession hit some particularly hard. But not the 1 percent who laid off workers while raking in big profits. Policy choices and cultural forces combined to put downward pressure on the wages and incomes of most Americans even as their  productivity rose. The report's authors noted that the lopsided income growth had a big negative impact on the middle class.

Not everyone agreed with me or the reports I cited. But one writer who did, a self-identified conservative, provides an insightful look at how this issue is affecting real people. Here's his letter, which he agreed to let me post:

Fannie,

Great editorial and you know what: I'm coming around.

I wasn't in the income range you are talking about but I made in the low six figures and coupled with my wife's income we did OK (170's) and I was sympathetic to the cries of cutting taxes because I would get a crumb off that table. That is until the US subsidiary of an Asian company that I ran closed in June 2012.

No problem for a hard working conservative like me, good technical education (NCSU engineer), MBA, recent 6-Sigma certification, and a very successful business record that spanned 30 years in industrial sales and management. Well after 6 months of seeking employment (3 of which I was on severance) I got a little part time employment at a sporting goods store. Boy did I get an education! I was working with others who had previously had better jobs and now were working <32 hours a week retail <$10/hr. many had used their 401/IRA funds up, lost houses, marriages, etc. One had lived in a tent for 6 months and had lost her kids! You know there are actually tent communities in this area?!

Well then [came] the changes in Raleigh and I am the problem!!!...despite working nonstop from the time I was 16 until I was 54.

I was drawing the maximum unemployment ($535/wk, 25% of my previous base salary) working at the only p-t job I could get, and I'm the lazy blood sucker that is sapping off the system so that top 1% couldn't keep more of what they earned! So they vote in their Tea Party and vote out extended unemployment. So with the help of a friend I get another p-t job being a math TA for $12/hr. Between the two p-t jobs I was working 6 and 7 days a week, all hours, and making less than my unemployment had been...all the time applying for 4-12 jobs a week, even getting some interviews.

Good news legislature, you effectively kicked me out of those unemployment figures.

Finally after 16 months of not having a full time job I did get a decent job in my field in November (saw it on LinkedIn and it was one of my former customers). It pays 1/3 less than what I used to make but I'll take it.

Meanwhile the new regressive tax code has kicked in and thank goodness that top 1% gets to keep more money while the 99% gets to keep less through increased sales and other taxes.

You know Fannie that top 1%, they're the job creators. That’s why total employment is at a 35 year low despite the continual decrease in taxes on them over that same period. Who woulda thought!

Yet the answer is to cut their taxes some more?!

I have a question: Why is it that throughout human history the top 1% has convinced the rest of us that fighting for their wealth is our patriotic duty?

Happened in medieval Europe, happened in the 19th century South and its happening today.

Amazing, simply amazing.

I came out OK but many are suffering and much of it is no fault of their own. But we have to cut, cut, cut, so they can keep more, more, more.

Brad Pack

Concord, NC

- Associate Editor Fannie Flono 

17 comments:

rntravelgnome said...

Thank you Mr Pack for sharing your story. It exactly mimics mine. However, anytime I have attempted to share my story with others, I am told I am lazy, I was unprepared, had not planned well enough, that what I was saying couldn't possibly be true, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum. I have stopped reading anything further about the economy because it is skewed towards the 1%. I've quit reading any stories about those in my predicament because I can't stand seeing all the hate filled blogs that get posted. I don't plan to vote in the next election because our elected officials could really care less about us. My husband and I are now getting by on exactly half of what we used to, our credit is ruined and many dreams will now be unfulfilled. And yet, each month we make it and we are slowly picking up the pieces and moving on. Please know that there really are people out here who can understand completely how you feel. My biggest dream is that, one day, some politician is going to read something one of us has said and it is going to trigger something inside of him/her besides apathy and something will happen as a result. Please note I said this is a DREAM......

Ettolrahc said...

That is what we all like about the observer. They will always post more information to support what they have been jumped on before.

That way they do not have space for any other opinion.

We Americans are being spun around and around and land back even worse than we were, all to keep up from noticing the spending and decay of our rights.

And of course the observer is right there with so many helpful stories.


silicon28 said...

rntravelgnome... vote anyway - even if you take the ballot and write in "none of the above." Otherwise, "they" have already won. Plenty of us share your same "dream" but as rigged as the politics game is, we still have to do what we can. I'll start with choosing Kay Hagan over the her right wing opponents - not because I'm all that enamored of her (I'm not), but because The Tillis / Harris / Brannon choice is so obviously another step towards the 1%'er dream of "owning" us all. (Interesting that Fannie Flono mentions this sea change that began in 1979 - and that the right-wing's patron saint was elected in 1980.

Don't give up yet...

blockhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blockhead said...


This isn't one-upmanship, but it fits what the two previous guys said. I grew up on a farm. I have pictures of me when I was six, driving my dad's tractor and wagon through a hayfield while he loaded bales on the wagon, and working in tobacco and other crops. We had dairy cows, which meant milking and caring for them twice a day, 7/365. We looked forward to school in the fall and dreaded its end in the spring because summer, harvest season, meant 60-hour weeks of brutally hard, stoop labor, picking tomatoes and so on. I graduated from college by volunteering to serve four years in Army, two of which were spent getting shot at. Now my point:

My wife and I have lived comfortable but frugally. I've never had more than a two-week vacation in which I wasn't working for the past 40-odd years. We've saved, expecting to live off the interest, dividends and so forth in retirement. (Yeah, we tried an A.G Edwards "financial adviser" - he lost $30,000 of a $70,000 investment in less than a year in a bull market; we were told, "tough - we're not responsible for your losses"). Now, thanks to the Republicans, starting with Ronald Reagan and accelerated by Bush/Cheney, our investments pay near zero return (the best deal by far? Plain ol' U.S. Savings Bonds, some still paying 5-7%). Meanwhile, the 1%, including Charlotte bankers, hospital executives and Pat McCrory's Duke Energy pals, get filthy rich. We're told we have to keep interest rates down to stimulate the economy. What, in fact, we're doing is bailing out the economy and these leeches on the backs of millions of people such as we who've lived our entire lives by the purported Republican playbook - hard work, frugality, truly conservative (not in a political sense) lifestyles and common sense. Who're the lazy bloodsuckers? The Republican right-wingers like McCrory, Art Pope, the late Ronald Reagan (who tripled the national debt and slashed taxes for the rich while preaching anti-unionism and "small government") and, of course, George Bush, who literally came within hours (the banking crisis of Labor Day, 2008) of collapsing the entire nation. That, BTW, would have wiped out millions like me - the FDIC could have covered less than two cents on the dollar of deposits. Republicans have declared all-our war on the real conservatives of this nation - the hard-working, common sense-living people like me. Then they have the nerve and hypocrisy to bellyache about unemployment compensation and increasing the minimum wage.

Archiguy said...

You'd think that the working classes in this country would have caught on by now that the relative steady advance of the middle class standard of living ended at almost the precise time the Great Conservative Revolution commenced - right around 1980. That's when Ronald Reagan and his GOP allies in Congress changed the entire direction of the U.S. economy.

Business stopped caring about healthy long-term growth & development and started tying executive compensation into stock options and meeting short-term growth projections. It was the beginning of the end.

What's the fastest way to increase earnings? Increase production. What's the fastest way to do that? Cut workers' pay and benefits. Lay them off and move their jobs offshore where labor costs are cheaper. Do everything you can to vilify and destroy labor unions, and tilt the balance of power permanently in favor of management. It's worked frighteningly well.

The middle class has stagnated while the percentage of the nation's wealth held by the top 1% has more than tripled. This is the brave, new world the Republicans have created. And they've done it to thunderous cheers from the very people that have been marginalized the most.

A hundred years from now historians will be trying to figure out how the Republican Party of the late 20th century and early 21st managed to persuade so many middle class Americans to forfeit their prosperity to a privileged few by repeatedly voting against their economic interests.

It has been the greatest triumph of propaganda over reason the world has seen since the Nazi takeover of Germany in the 1930's. They have an entire cable news network, the whole AM band of the radio, and a thousand right-wing bloggers spreading their message.

Anything that doesn't reinforce the party line is a source not to be trusted, so you see legitimate news operations demeaned and vilified (witness Ettolrahc's comment above - so typical) and we're witnessing the slow death of newspapers and traditional, professional journalism.

How do you fight that? How does reason and sanity regain the political center?

Trout.Dude said...

if youre not a brain washed out repooplinut, and can make sense out of facts - watch "Inequality for All", a new movie by Sec of Labor Robert Reich, now on Netflix streaming. or watch hbo special looking for work in long island - if youre a repube, they youre the problem, stya home on election day please and watch fox news

blockhead said...

Archiguy, you're right on target. Everyone should read "Deadly Spin," an insider's account of the health-insurance industry by Wendell Potter, a former senior executive of UnitedHealthcare who finally could stomach no more. One lasting message I carry from that book is his statement that, "The true definition of spin is convincing people to act against their own interests." Republicans do this by getting folks all riled up about everything under the sun, except their own interests: abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, welfare, unemployment insurance, voter fraud (except when it comes to the prime practitioners - Republicans) and so on. I live in a neighborhood of largely older people, many retired. Last year, their yards were filled with signs for Republicans who vowed to cut - or abolish - Social Security and Medicare. Yet when you talked to them, they knew only that "them Democrats are gonna take my guns" and "that Obama oughta be impeached..."

alwaystomorroww said...

I would be embarassed to voice an opinion attacking any individual based on how much money he made and, frankly, Im embarassed for those who buy into that mess. Maybe some of the posters above arent strong enough to define success in their own terms and prefer to be victims of the villian du jour the 1%. The reality is its not the 1% fault any more in Obamas second term than it was W's fault during Obamas first term. Obama has had six years and $880B in borrowed stimulus and we continue to have the weakest jobs recovery since WW2.

Archiguy said...

alwaystomorrow, you're missing the whole point. The one percenters didn't earn that money. They simply took it. These new Medici princes of Wall Street design nothing. They create nothing. They produce nothing. They simply slice and dice the things of real value that are still produced by the working classes of this country, gouging out huge chucks of equity with every bite they take. It's not jealously that makes fair-minded people criticize them. It's anger.

As for the stimulus, see my posting above about propaganda. You want the TRUTH about the stimulus?

The stimulus could have done more good had it been bigger and more carefully constructed. But put simply, it prevented a second recession that could have turned into a depression. It created or saved an average of 1.6 million jobs a year for four years. It raised the nation’s economic output by 2 to 3 percent from 2009 to 2011. It prevented a significant increase in poverty — without it, 5.3 million additional people would have become poor in 2010.

And yet Republicans were successful in discrediting the very idea that federal spending can boost the economy and raise employment. They made the argument that the stimulus was a failure not just to ensure that Mr. Obama would get no credit for the recovery that did occur, but to justify their obstruction of all further attempts at stimulus.

So the American Jobs Act was killed, and so was the infrastructure bank and any number of other spending proposals that might have helped the country. The president’s plan to spend another $56 billion on job training will almost certainly suffer a similar fate.

This may be the singular tragedy of the Obama administration. Five years later, it is clear to all fair-minded economists that the stimulus did work, and that it did enormous good for the economy and for tens of millions of people.

Yet in your mind, and that of the other "useful idiots" that continue to elect these Republican obstructionists, Obama has been a failure in fixing the very mess caused by the GOP and the ruthless plutocrats they support.

CharlotteObserver said...

Archiguy, if you are not paid by the democrats, I can not think of anyone else who works so hard for them on here.

Wiley Coyote said...

"The 1%-ers didn't earn it, they took it?"

LOL...if it's theirs TO TAKE and not yours, too bad.

Interesting how the liberal, socialists blame it all on Republicans and never on the likes of Obama or Carter, two of the worst Presidents in history.

By the way. You whiners should take a look at corporations who are supporting the Democrat Party.

CharlotteObserver said...

And a great way to see those donations is by going to www.OpenSecrets.org

Strange how the majority of political funding for obama and the democrats comes from lawyers and law firms.

Shamash said...

QE: The greatest subsidy to the rich ever?

http://www.cnbc.com/id/101283037

CharlotteObserver said...

Yes a lot of blame to go around

http://spectator.org/articles/42211/true-origins-financial-crisis

Carol Justus said...

Greed has overtaken this country and our so called congress is the one who has let it happen--not only let it happen they are in the forefront of making it happen.

They are owned by the lobbyist who are owned by the biggest corporations in the world and do their business as any slave ever to be owned by a slave owner who expect instant results from his or her commands.

We taxpayers a supporting the cattle ranchers that rent (or so call rent) the western grazing lands for $1.35 per animal but no one verifies the animals the cattle ranchers say they have-NO VERIFICATION AT ALL

The oil companies are pumping more oil from the land and from under the sea than ever and yet the lease payments are the same as they were when oil was 15 dollars a barrel, and their is no lease payment for deep water permits or leases!!!

Welfare to the corporations is more in one month than all the food stamps, housing allowances and nursing home and Medicaid payouts in a whole year!

Carol Justus said...

Greed has overtaken this country and our so called congress is the one who has let it happen--not only let it happen they are in the forefront of making it happen.

They are owned by the lobbyist who are owned by the biggest corporations in the world and do their business as any slave ever to be owned by a slave owner who expect instant results from his or her commands.

We taxpayers a supporting the cattle ranchers that rent (or so call rent) the western grazing lands for $1.35 per animal but no one verifies the animals the cattle ranchers say they have-NO VERIFICATION AT ALL

The oil companies are pumping more oil from the land and from under the sea than ever and yet the lease payments are the same as they were when oil was 15 dollars a barrel, and their is no lease payment for deep water permits or leases!!!

Welfare to the corporations is more in one month than all the food stamps, housing allowances and nursing home and Medicaid payouts in a whole year!