Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MINIMUM WAGE NOT A DOOR OPENING ENTRY WAGE ... IT'S AN ANCHOR WAGE FOR THE WORKING POOR


Fortune's Rick Ungar has an interesting article on Chris Christie's collapsing (collapsed?) presidential hopes. The interesting point of the article is what Ungar has to say about minimum wage. In a few words he makes it clear that at least 2/3 of our nation's more than 3.5 million minimum wage earners are young women.




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What's interesting here is how our minimum wage demographics has changed.

FiveThirtyEight's Ben Casselman writes that in 1990 nearly 25 percent of minimum wage earners were teenagers, or people trying to supplement their income. Today, just 13 percent of our nation's minimum wage earners fit this category. Taking this to another level, census data shows that more than half of all workers who earn below President Obama's proposed $10.10 minimum wage are trying to support themselves.

In spite of what pundits and conservative politicians are saying, minimum wage is not an opening door entry wage for America's youth. It's a way of life anchor that's weighing down America's working poor.



So, once again, a rising tide does not lift all boats. With record corporate earnings and profits - especially in the financial sector - it's clear that tax cuts for the rich (a.k.a. "trickle down" economics) is a farce. It always has been.

- Mark 

DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA

How the top 1% shop on line ...


- Mark 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

YOU KNOW YOU'RE IN WHINE COUNTRY WHEN ...

You know you're living in Whine Country when your local news stories include complaints from whiny millionaire peasants like this ...



- Mark 

PAYDAY LOANS AND WEALTH EXTRACTION IN AMERICA



How we punish the poor for being poor: The case of predatory subprime auto loans and financial fee games are reviewed here in Talk Poverty. It's really just wealth extraction, with the poor getting the short end of the stick (again). Here's John Oliver's humorous but sad take on payday loans ...



- Mark

Monday, October 20, 2014

FOR THE CONSPIRACY THEORY BUFFS OUT THERE ... ANOTHER ANTI-PETRODOLLAR CHIEFTAN DIES

Quick, what did Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and France's Christophe de Margerie, the now former CEO of Total have in common? They all pondered a world where petroleum was no longer paid for in U.S. dollars.


One more thing. They're all dead now.

The Russian Times is reporting that Christophe de Margerie was among four people killed in a business jet crash in Moscow. The plane hit a snowplow on take-off.



Three months ago the CEO of Total - the 13th largest oil company in the world - Christophe de Margerie not only said "There is no reason to pay for oil in dollars" but also made it clear that he was interested in pursuing a natural gas project with sanctioned-drenched Russia.

While initial reports suggest that the reasons for the plane crash seem "obvious" the fact that Christophe de Margerie did not fully embrace the petrodollar politics surrounding global oil markets raises many issues that the conspiracy theory buffs will be sure to jump on.

Stay tuned.

- Mark 

TIME TO PANIC ... THE EBOLA VIRUS OF IGNORANCE IS SPREADING ACROSS THE U.S.

This is what happens when hysteria meets ignorance. Hundreds of parents in Mississippi removed their kids from school because the principal of the school visited Zambia, an independent nation-state on the African continent.

Let's start with this. Africa is a phenomenally large continent (no Sarah Palin, it's not a country). You could fit China, India, the continental United States, and a host of popular European nation-states on the African continent, and still have space left over for other countries.



In political terms, Zambia is about 9 or 11 countries (depending on your level of hysteria) removed from the Ebola outbreak region. In terms of distance, that's about 5,000 miles, as the crow flies. To give you an idea what this means, Mississippi is closer to drug and civil war ravaged Colombia (2,150 miles) and Bolivia (3,750 miles) than Zambia is to Sierra Leone.

Here's another crucial point. Zambia is Ebola-free.



But none of this matters. In America's petri dish of infectious media hysteria, what's one to do when ignorance mixes with such media sensationalism?

Here's the reality. People in Mississippi should be more concerned about their chances of contracting the measles from someone in Ohio (about 800 miles away), where there are over 130 reported cases of people infected with a virus that was once thought to be eradicated in the United States. The reason the measles has reappeared in Ohio - and in other parts of the United States - is a direct result of ignorance and media hysteria surrounding vaccines that gripped America about 20 years ago.

So, yeah, we never learn.

And lest people begin to point and laugh at Mississippi - recently ranked as the second most racist and second least educated state in the union - consider this: A teacher in Maine was prohibited from returning to the classroom after visiting Dallas, Texas.

Sigh.

- Mark

P.S.  One more thing. If you really want to know what's going to spread stuff like Ebola it's how the virus of political ignorance has hit states like Texas, which you can read about here.

3 CHARTS NO BANK WANTS YOU TO SEE ... ESPECIALLY BANK OF AMERICA

With the 85th anniversary of "Black Tuesday" and "Black Thursday" (1929) around the corner, many of you will find the 3 charts below interesting, and a bit disturbing ...

Bank clients crowd around, hoping to get their money out of the bank, 1929.

Over the years I've posted many times on the 2008 market collapse, the subsequent bailouts, and what they mean for the American economy. Remember this "the banks are really bankrupt" chart from Bloomberg View?


CHART #1: Bank profits collapse without government agency sponsored subsidies.

I originally posted Chart #1 over a year and a half ago as a part of a larger story to help illustrate how much our nation's biggest banks depend on taxpayer subsidized bailouts, credits, and other guarantees. Drawing from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) sponsored report, Bloomberg View put together some pretty scary numbers that tell us our nation's biggest banks would be virtually bankrupt without financial support from agencies sponsored by the federal government (specifically, the Federal Reserve and Treasury).

To repeat, our nation's biggest banks are probably bankrupt, but our trillion dollar subsidy and bailout programs keep them afloat.

Are you with me so far? Good, because it gets worse the closer we look. Check out this chart from Zero Hedge.


CHART #2: Bank of America spends almost $30 billion defending their practices.

This chart tells us what Bank of America has been spending on litigation since 2011. It adds up to almost $30 billion dollars.

Worse, as Zero Hedge points out, these litigation expenditures are not "one-time" or "non-recurring" expenses. They are regular and recurring cash outlays that are used to defend or pay off criminal activities that are "now an ordinary course of business" for Bank of America.

How does $30 billion in litigation costs stack up to Bank of America's net income between 2011 and 2014? Zero Hedge has an easy to read chart that explains it all. And it's not pretty.
 

CHART #3: Bank of America spends more defending itself than it has earned since (Q4) 2011. 

In a few words, between 2011 and 2014, Bank of America has spent more defending its criminal or incompetent practices in court than it has made during this period (in the FYI category, BofA has been doing stuff like this for some time now).

For those of you keeping score at home, this is what we have.

America's biggest banks are effectively bankrupt without federal subsidies (Chart #1).

Bank of America is spending billions of dollars defending criminal activities in court (Chart #2).

Bank of America has spent more money defending itself in court than they earned over the past 3 years (Chart #3).

I really can't add much more to this.

- Mark

Sunday, October 19, 2014

READING FOR THE WEEK (10-19-14)



How to recognize them: A visual history of the most popular market tops and bottoms (Zero Hedge).

Robert Reich: Why is the government subsidizing the 1 percent of colleges and universities (Alter Net)?

I lost my dad to Fox News: How a generation was captured by thrashing hysteria (Salon).

Neil deGrasse Tyson rips start-up culture: "Society has bigger problems than what can be solved with your next app" (Salon).


DOLLAR HEGEMONY ON THE ROPES
Defying the dollar ... Russia and China agree to currency swaps of over $20 billion (Russian Times).

BRICs establish $100 billion bank and currency pool to cut out western dominance (Russian Times).

BRICs agree to capitalize development bank at $100 billion (Russian Times).

Europe getting fed up with U.S. business influence (Russian Times).

Voiceprint harvesting - the next frontier in data privacy war (Russian Times).


STUFF WE SHOULD ALL BE TALKING ABOUT
It's a fake, fake, fake world (Nation of Change).

Ebola vaccine likely would have been found if not for the budget cuts (Huffington Post).

For Bank of America crime is now an ordinary course of business (Zero Hedge).

Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: "They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over" (Salon).

Confirmed: California aquifers contaminated with billions of gallons of fracking water (Desmogblog).


TAKING OVER THE CURRICULUM?
Changes in AP history trigger culture clash in Colorado (Washington Post).

Denver students walk out in protest of conservative takeover of curriculum (Nation of Change).

Jefferson County school board isn't backing down in AP history fight (Daily Kos).


WHEN THE LAW SCREWS UP
Police chief receives probation for lying to FBI about sexual assault (Nation of Change).

Judge denies woman delay for maternity leave, then berates her for bringing baby to court (Huffington Post).

Yes, it's legal to film the cops --- and what's been filmed recently is appalling (Huffington Post).


MISCELLANEOUS
The police report from the Palin family brawl is full of crazy details (Huffington Post).

Key figures in CIA-crack cocaine scandal begin to come forward (Huffington Post).

Howard Dean slams Rick Perry as know nothing 'ignoramus' on Ebola (Crooks and Liars).

Google leads a corporate exodus from lobbying group ALEC (Nation of Change).

Matthew Shepard's parents: Why we didn't push for the death penalty for our son's killers(Gay Star News).

- Mark

Friday, October 17, 2014

EBOLA'S FIRST U.S. CASUALTY ... A VICTIM OF OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM TOO?

It turns out that Thomas Eric Duncan, the first man to die of Ebola in America, may have been a victim of America's health care system too.



In a letter to the Dallas News the family of Mr. Duncan writes that he first showed up at Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital with a 103-degree fever, complaining of stomach pains. He also told the staff that he had been in Liberia, but left the country to be with family in the U.S. because of the Ebola threat.

But Mr. Duncan had a problem. He had no insurance.

He was released from Presbyterian Hospital with some antibiotics and Tylenol, and a 103-degree fever. The hospital is still not willing to discuss what happened the first time Duncan visited their Emergency Room. He would return two days later in an ambulance, vomiting and incontinent.


The difference between immediate treatment and non-treatment can be seen in how Duncan's nurse, Nina Pham, is doing and how things turned out for Mr. Duncan.

Mr. Duncan's family is now speaking out, in the hopes that no other family has to go through what they are going through now. Josephus Weeks, a U.S. Army and Iraq War veteran, has written the family's response to the media hype here.

Mr. Weeks is also Mr. Duncan's nephew.

One final thought. If the media gave as much attention to why Duncan was initially turned away as they are currently devoting to scaring America about the virus I'm guessing that our health care discussion would take a whole new turn.

- Mark 

OUR EBOLA SHINY SPOON MOMENT

Look at this and think about what you see ...


Does anyone see Ebola on this bubble chart list? Neither do I.

If you want a virus to fear try the measles. To date there have been a record 594 cases of measles reported in the U.S. All you need to do to increase your chances of contracting the measles - which was virtually eliminated from the U.S. 20 years ago - is to make sure you haven't been vaccinated, and go to the five (5) states where MMR vaccination hysteria reduced the "herd immunity" rate to less than 90 percent of the population.

Look, at the end of the day the media hysteria surrounding Ebola in America reminds me of the tabloid-like Summer of the Shark stories right before 9/11. It was quite pathetic. Many members of the media later apologized and promised to do better in the future.

They tried but learned that contemplation and thoughtful news presentation doesn't generate the viewership that hysteria does. Today's media hype over Ebola suggests we might as well let The Simpson's Kent Brockman report the news to us.



 As you can imagine, Fox News is leading the way ...




So, yeah, we're looking at shiny spoons, again.



Sigh ...

- Mark

* For the Ebola hypochondriacs out there this NY Times piece has some good hysteria reducing information.

* In case you're wondering, fear of being involved in a terrorist attack makes America pretty stupid too.