“Psychological death is worse than physical death.” ~ Egyptian Protestor (1/28/11)

Egyptian Protestors Praying in front of Military Vehicles in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, by  Scott Nelson of The New York Times

If you know anyone in Egypt, please pass this on to them. To bypass government blocking of websites, use numerical IP addresses: Twitter: “128.242.240.52,” Facebook:Fb “69.63.189.34,” Google: “172.14.204.99.” A French ISP offers free dial up internet access: +33 1 72 89 01 50 Login password: toto. Please pass this on and share.

“The uneven division of power and wealth, the wide differences of health and comfort among nations of mankind, are the sources of discord in the modern world, its major challenge and, unrelieved, its moral doom.”~ Patrick M. S. Blackett

Perspective

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” ~ Plutarch

Following is my personal state of the union post. You didn’t hear about most of these things last night because, well, that just wouldn’t play well in Peoria. Keep in mind that I’m only touching on just a few of our country’s ails tonight. I mean, very little of what I have included would be considered applause-worthy; I’ll leave that to the politicians.  Lest you think that I am berating the President (I’m not, although I’m still pretty pissed over the acquiescence over the tax-cut extension), I would prefer to think of this SoU post as more of a reality check, bearing in mind that the foundations for the current morass in which this country finds itself were laid well before Obama, three decades or so ago, to be more precise.

Instead of my usual ranting and raving, I am simply going to supply some statistics and facts regarding the brutal realities of life in this country for a large part of the citizenry. Links are provided for my sources.

According to an article in USNews.com based on a Legatum Institute “prosperity index,” the United States is fairing poorly among advanced nations in several categories. Here are just a few:

  • Poverty. The U.S. poverty rate, about 17 percent, is third worst among the advanced nations tracked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In that sample, only Turkey and Mexico are worse.
  • Education. American 15-year-olds score below the average for advanced nations on math and science literacy. But don’t worry, our nation’s future leaders are still ahead of their peers in Mexico, Turkey, Greece, and a few other places.
  • Competitiveness. In the latest global competitiveness report from the World Economic Forum, the United States fell from No. 1 to No. 2. Sure, let’s console ourselves that the No. 1 country, Switzerland, is a tiny outlier nation and that getting bumped from the top spot doesn’t really mean anything. Add an asterisk, and we’re still No. 1.
  • Prosperity. The most prosperous nations, according to the Legatum report, are Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. These fairly homogenous European countries are the teachers’ pets of global rankings, often appearing near the top because of right-sized economies and a relatively small underclass. For a huge economy like America’s, a No. 9 ranking is still respectable. And part of the drop from last year’s No. 4 spot is a change in methodology that puts more emphasis on the health and safety of citizens. Still, in the index’s subrankings, the United States isn’t even in the top 10 for economic fundamentals, safety and security, or governance. We should do better.
  • Health. In the Legatum study, the United States ranks 27th for the health of its citizens. Life expectancy in America is below the average for 30 advanced countries measured by the OECD, and the obesity rate in America is the worst among those 30 countries, by far. And, of course, we spend far more on healthcare per person than anybody else—but get no bang for the extra buck.

“When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did. Today, it’s nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money his or her boss makes in one day.” ~ Senator Jim Webb

Nationally, the unemployment rate for people ages 16 to 24 climbed to 19.1 percent in July, up from 10.8 percent in July 2007.

According to a December 2010 article in USA Today, the unemployment rate for college graduates is at its highest since 1970:

“The jobless rate for Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree rose to 5.1%, the highest since 1970 when records were first kept, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. October’s 4.7% rate was up from 4.4% in September. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate last month rose to 9.8% from 9.6%.”

And according to an article in The New York Times, college graduates with bachelor’s degrees are still facing lower starting salaries, that’s if they can find jobs at all. Andrew Sum, an economics professor at Northeastern University, used federal labor statistics to assess the job market for college grads. Sum concludes that “many college graduates are finding jobs that do not require bachelor’s degrees, like retail clerk, office assistant or barista, he said. Using federal labor statistics, he has found that only 51 percent of college graduates under age 25 were working in jobs that require college educations, down from 59 percent in 2000.”

“From a spiritual point of view, it cannot be true that the work of the CEOs of some companies is worth a thousand times that of some other of their employees, just as it cannot be true that because you can get people to work full time for minimum wage they are justly compensated.” ~ Gregory F. A. Pierce

A September 2010 article in The Huffington Post reports on a 2010 report by the Institute for Policy Studies on CEO pay, “Executive Excess 2010: CEO Pay and the Great Recession”:

“The CEOs who laid off the most employees during the recession are also the CEOs who took home the biggest pay checks . . . The study (PDF) also found that 36 of the 50 layoff leaders “announced their mass layoffs at a time of positive earnings reports,” suggesting a trend of “squeezing workers to boost profits and maintain high CEO pay.”

  • The $598 million combined compensation of the top 50 CEOs in our layoff leader survey could cover the cost of average unemployment benefits to 37,759 workers for an entire year— or provide nearly a month of insurance for each of the 531,363 workers their companies laid off.
  • Golden Parachuter: Fred Hassan of Schering-Plough, by far the highest-paid layoff leader, last year pocketed nearly $50 million. Hassan received a $33 million getaway gift when his firm merged with Merck, while 16,000 workers were receiving pink slips. Hassan’s 2009 pay could have covered the average cost of these workers’ jobless benefits for more than 10 weeks.
  • Michael Duke, CEO of Walmart ranked #7 with a total compensation of $19,234,269 in 2009 versus 13,350 layoffs from November 2008 to April 2010. 

“I think it is a national crisis to have the income disparity we have in this country. It is wider than in any other industrialized nation in the world. There must be a national policy to address the widening gap between wages of workers and the enormous incomes of the wealthy. I think the greedy corporate owners have to be confronted with the fact that they are ignoring their most powerful resource—their workers.” ~ John Sweeney

I found the following tidbit (from above-referenced study) very informative as regards what other countries are proposing for their own CEOs:

In Israel, the Labor Party’s Shelly Yachimovich and Likud’s Haim Katz have introduced legislation in the Knesset that would cap Israeli executive pay at 50 times the pay of a company’s lowest paid workers. Sharan Burrow, the new general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, the world’s most important trade union body, has proposed, as president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a cap that would limit executive salaries to 10 times average worker pay. She also called for a special tax on any firms with executives taking home over $1 million in total compensation

“What we have here is a form of looting  . . . The rich don’t need the money and are a lot less likely to spend it—they will primarily increase their savings. Remember that wealthier families have done extremely well in the US in the past twenty years, whereas poorer ones have done quite badly. So the redistributive effects of this administration’s tax policy are going in the exactly wrong direction . . . I think this is the worst government the US has ever had.”~ George A. Akerlof, economist, on 2003 Bush Tax Cuts 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Around 27 million workers—roughly one out of every six U.S. workers—are either unemployed or underemployed.   Importantly, this is a very conservative measure of the total number of underemployed because it does not include workers who have had to take a job that is below their skill or experience level.”

Facts about Poverty in America:

  • One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program
  • Forty-five million Americans were living in poverty in 2009
  • The U.S. poverty rate is now the third worst among the developed nations tracked by the OECD
  • Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment insurance, which is almost four times as many as in 2007
  • One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010 

And that, as they say, is that. For now, at least.

More later. Peace. 

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart . . .” ~ William Wordsworth

I woke up today very out of sorts, and I really don’t know why. I did have disturbing dreams again, but that doesn’t usually affect my mood for the entire day, just for the first few minutes immediately after waking. When Corey asked me what was wrong, I didn’t have an answer for him. I hate having an unspecified case of the blahs. If I am going to feel this way, I think that I should at least have a reason.

Corey had his orientation last night. Everything went fine; although, he wasn’t too impressed with the two other people in class with him. One arrived fifteen minutes late and texted during class. How rude. The company’s website purports that they only hired ex-service people; however, neither of the other two men were ex-service. One worked for the City of Virginia Beach in heavy equipment, and I don’t remember what he said the other man used to do.

I am awfully glad that Corey has a job for now, but I must admit to being a bit confused. This company supplies port security for one of the largest ports in the world. If the caliber of people they hire is less than optimum, what kind of security is being provided for our ports? Just saying.

“This is. And thou art. There is no safety. There is no end. The word must be heard in silence. There must be darkness to see the stars. The dance is always danced above the hollow place, above the terrible abyss.” ~ Ursula Le Guin, The Farthest Shore

Let’s see. At this precise moment, my desk is filled to overflowing with forms—forms that have been completed and printed, waiting to be sent; forms that have yet to be completed, that require me to find information from yet another source, the location of which I may or may not know; forms that are now obsolete because too much time has passed and yet another form has been sent to replace the old form.

All of this leads me to two conclusions:

  1. I need to clean my desk . . . desperately.
  2. Too many trees are still being felled for paper, which is redundant since so much of this paperwork can now be accomplished electronically. I mean, I was astonished to learn today that one form had to be faxed but couldn’t be e-mailed. I don’t understand.

Now, having alighted upon the above, one would think that I would clean my desk by taking care of the forms; however, it is so much easier to push things to the side and just write this post, all while using my precious metal Pica ruler to scratch my back, usage for which it was surely not intended. My collection of metal Pica rulers comes from my past in the newsroom, that is how old the rulers are. They are part of my ruler collection. Of course I have a ruler collection just as I have a pen collection and paper collection.

In other people’s houses this stuff is referred to as clutter. In my little world, this stuff is known as collections. I like my terminology better.

“Give me silence, water, hope
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes” ~ Pablo Neruda

In other stupid news . . .

  • Reportedly, Kate Gosselin did a terrible job on DWTS (no, didn’t watch). Such a surprise. Now go home and take care of your eight children.
  • A teen pageant queen who was featured in an episode of “Wife Swap” is suing the network, claiming that scenes that showed her in a bad light were exaggerated. Hmm, the teen’s mom had previously said, “I feel the way to Alicia’s happiness is, give her everything she wants. Don’t give her any rules. Why upset her?” Is anyone surprised by the resultant actions?
  • Kim Kardashian has ended her relationship with her boyfriend, Reggie Bush. Oh. So sad. In the world of real people this rates right up there with Kate Gosselin’s failure to drive men mad with her waltz.
  • Everyone is feeling sad for Sandra Bullock because it turns out her husband Jesse James had an affair with the tattooed woman. Really? A man who prefers freakish to a seemingly down-to-earth beauty who is so non-threatening . . . Even Betty White is sad
  • And oh, by the way, President Obama signed into legislation healthcare reform that was pushed through Congress solely by the Democrats. And no, the world didn’t end. We didn’t suddenly begin to salute swastikas. No one seems to be calling for immediate reforms to an agrarian society. Damn. All of those poor repubs didn’t manage to derail the historic legislation that might actually help people. Of course, the debate rages on, with various people calling for repeal of the law, various lawsuits (including one from my forward-thinking home state), ya da ya da ya da. Sorry. I cannot hear you. I’m basking, however brief it may be.

Seriously, though, the legislation does some pretty cool things, including making it mandatory for insurance carriers to cover children until age 26 (which actually takes into consideration how many more young people are staying at home). Also big is the action that makes it illegal to drop a child for a pre-existing condition, gets rid of lifetime caps, and very big, prohibits cancellation of policies for people who get sick.

Now, with this in mind, would someone please tell me how these things are going to sent our country into a tailspin? Pleez. If you want a concise breakdown of how the legislation will affect you, take a look at this NY Times article.

More later. Peace.

Missy Higgins, “The Sound of White”