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9 Economic Facts That Will Make Your Head Spin

Society & Culture  (tags: americans, children, corruption, ethics, freedoms, economics, personal income, personal wealth )

- 1921 days ago -
Half the population of the U.S. has slipped into poverty or is barely making enough to get by. How much will you need for medical expenses in retirement? What does it cost to keep 2.5 million Americans behind bars? Here are a few facts and figures

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David C (131)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 12:03 pm
sad, but true.

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 12:06 pm
Truly amazes me.

I personally se no reason whatsoever to keep propping up all those CEOs.

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 12:31 pm
And by CEOs, I mean the CEOs of all those "too big to fail" corporations that are getting tax breaks.

JL A (281)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 12:38 pm
We need to light a fire under Congress since TANF is set to expire next month unless they act, which would further shred the safety net

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 1:01 pm

I find it so disheartening to hear that people should just find jobs, if they don't like their job- they should find a better one, if they can't afford a insurance or rent- they should find a better job, and finally- college costs too much.

Incredible circle of "logic" all so those at the top are excused.

Patrice M (84)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 1:23 pm
Clearly, we have to stop providing corporate welfare for jobs outsourcers. That will save this country billions each year. We have to demand that all areas of our government focus on jobs.

Carmen S (611)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 1:34 pm
Thanks Nancy, this is truly sad, and doesn't seem like it's going to change anytime soon.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 2:09 pm
Thanks for the post. I also posted it on my website in the Empires Collapse section.

On 10/10/12, I had two torn Rotator cuffs tears in my left shoulder. That was over $50,000 dollars. I then hurt my right shoulder. The pain killers, anti-inflammatory's, Physical Therapy... it all adds up fast.

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 2:20 pm
Completely understand- hope you are getting better.

What then sometimes happens is that you then end up fired and lose your coverage. Good Luck.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 2:50 pm
Hey, Nancy, good find!

You should see Alex Gibney's documentary "Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream" (subtitle "How much inequality is too much?") - I saw it on TV, but you can see it on YouTube or on the 'Why Poverty' site.

His documentary was made in the framework of 'Why Poverty?,' a project to kick-start national & global debates on poverty in the 21st century by showing documentaries all the same week (in November 2012) on more than 70 national broadcaster TV channels throughout the world. We had a participating channel here in France. They commissioned eight feature-length documentaries from award-winning film makers, and 30 shorts from new and emerging talents. I have only seen Gibney's, because I saw & think very highly of an earlier award-winning doc of his, "Taxi to the Dark Side," which was very powerful, very necessary but heartbreaking, about the beating/torture murder of a young Afghan taxi driver in US custody at Bagram Prison & the subsequent cover-up.

The documentaries are now all free to view online.

This is what Alex Gibney writes about "Park Avenue: Money, Power and The American Dream" on a HuffPost Canada blog. I know it's kinda long for a comment but I love what he says & I love him for making this very important documentary:

"When the producers of Why Poverty? came to me to do a film about poverty in the United States, I asked if I could do a film about wealth instead.

I tend to make films about perpetrators, rather than victims. Therefore, on this subject it seemed to be important to make a film that would investigate whether wealthy interests in the United States actually create poverty. There is no question that income inequality is increasing in the US. I wanted to find out, as the title to the series of documentary films suggests, the answer to the question of "why"?

More billionaires live at 740 Park Avenue than anywhere else in New York City. There are three denizens that are particularly interesting. The richest is billionaire David Koch (net worth: $25 billion), who is co-owner of Koch Industries. Another billionaire (a mere $4.7 billion in net worth) is Steve Schwartzman, co-owner of the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. A third wealthy denizen is John Thain, the former president of Merrill Lynch.

What is interesting about these individuals is not their wealth, per se. It is the way they use their money to manipulate the political system to further enrich themselves, and to support initiatives which undermine the well-being and social mobility of the poorest Americans. Seen in the context of growing inequality, it is fair to say that these gentlemen -- and other wealthy individuals like them -- are purchasing policies that are creating poverty.

In focusing on these three denizens of 740 Park, I discovered an interesting answer to the question of why these extraordinarily wealthy individuals can imagine themselves to be victims, and why they are so hostile to those on the bottom of the social ladder.

A key part of that answer lies in the "Monopoly experiment" of Dr. Paul Piff, a social psychologist. In Piff's experiment, he openly rigs the game so that one person (out of two) is guaranteed to win. Despite the knowledge of that fact, the guaranteed winners in the experiment exhibit consistently hostile behavior toward the losers; display more greed rather than less (the winners inevitably hoard and consume far more of a strategically placed bowl of pretzels) and, worst of all, imagine that their victory is due, not to external factors, but to their own superior skill and intelligence.

How else to explain that Steve Schwartzman would compare President Obama's support of raising taxes on hedge fund managers -- who pay half the rate of hard-working firemen, nurses and police officers -- to Hitler's invasion of Poland? How else to explain David Koch's belief that President Obama is a socialist trying to destroy free enterprise even after he coddled American bankers with fawning policies designed to buttress wealthy interests? How else to explain that John Thain would spend a million dollars renovating his office and push through massive bonuses for his executives at Merrill Lynch, even as the failing firm was forced into a merger with Bank of America to ensure Merrill's survival?

Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream is an intentionally angry film. How could it not be when the chance of an infant dying is five times greater on the Bronx Park Avenue than on Manhattan's Park Avenue just across the Harlem River? (Btw, I was born right near that Bronx Park Ave!)

I felt that the contribution of this film could be a kind of focused rage against the dying of the light of the American Dream, slowly being extinguished by a flood of money.

Oddly, nothing made me more angry than the reflections of a former doorman at 740 Park, who told a particularly poignant story about the children in the building. Almost all the doormen maintained a great relationship with the kids as they bustled in and out of the lobby on their way to school or soccer games. But once they reached the age of 13 or 14 they stopped talking to the maids and doormen as if the kids' parents had told them that their passage to adulthood depended on an understanding of their innate superiority. Like the winners in the rigged Monopoly game, the children learned to treat losers with disdain, and to reach more deeply into that ever-growing bowl of pretzels."

Nancy M (197)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 2:58 pm
Thanks for the post and all that information.

I hope that anyone really look at these facts and really think about what has been going on these past 30 years.

I have seen people on both sides be bothered by many things our corporations are doing. Just as many republicans signing petitions against wal-mart as democrats. Hopefully by continuing to keep on eye on all these, we can come up with some solutions.

Roger H (26)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 3:18 pm
Excellent article!

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 3:31 pm
Gibney's "Park Avenue" clearly speaks to chapter 9 of your posted article, "The looting of America":

American capitalism as currently practiced clearly redistributes income upward. According to Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, the richest 1 percent of Americans now hold 25 percent of the country's wealth.

The total income share for the 1 percent has jumped more in the U.S. than in any other major Western country since 1960, according to new research by Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. The top 1 percent's share of income dipped in some European countries and increased by up to 4 percentages elsewhere, but in the good old U.S., land of opportunity, it soared over 9 percentage points."

The figures from the article don't make my head spin, they make my heart sink... Americans have really been taken for a ride. They just ran Michael Moore's 'Capitalism, A Love Story' on Tv here & I caught the part where he starts talking about the reign of Goldman Sachs in the federal govt, starting with Clinton, & then on to Bush & Paulson pushing the 'bail-out' down our throats - first rejected by the House, they came back & got it passed, in what Illinois congresswoman Marcy Kaptur tells Moore you could call an economic coup d'état!

And the result? They are all doing very well, in the bank & finance business --- whereas the American public has sunken down into poverty: "one in two Americans currently falls into either the “low income” category or is living in poverty" ONE in TWO?? That's 50%! That is devastating!

Past Member (0)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 5:10 pm
Here, in the first decades of the 21st century, we are becoming the nation that we started out as: a slave nation.

pam w (139)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 6:04 pm
Gee....WHO do you suppose has all the money? And where is it?


David C (29)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 7:24 pm
In the UK its costs £1500 per week to keeps someone in jail but old people are given just £140 a week to live on make you think!

Past Member (0)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 9:37 pm
Thanks for posting.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday February 19, 2013, 9:44 pm
Mind boggling.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 4:17 am
Sorry - I just can't refrain!
Because, chapter 5. "Incarceration nation," is also about corporate power & manipulation, the perversion of our democratic processes, even though the author fails to mention the link.

What he does says is: "The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population, but we have 25 percent of the world's prisoners. Two and a half million Americans are currently under lock and key.

The cost to taxpayers for keeping all these people behind bars is $63.4 billion a year. In some states, the cost of keeping a single prisoner is as much as $60,000 per year – about as much as it would take to pay for workers axed by austerity policies – like teachers, for instance."

What he DOESN'T say is that the great rise in the prison popution of the US (what we now call 'mass incarceration') started at a time when crime rates were actually falling, but that fact failed to take into account the great lobbying effort & propaganda campaign that succeeded in making crime & punishment a national obsession. Why? Because private prison companies couldn't prosper without putting a lot of people behind bars. Convincing Americans to demand ever-harsher prison sentences has been a genuine boon to them.

Journalist Chris Hedges says it better & more forcefully than I can, in his latest article Profiting From Human Misery that just came out online on Feb 17: "The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry’s profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible.

The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. .../... The majority of those we incarcerate in this country—and we incarcerate a quarter of the world’s prison population—have never committed a violent crime. .../... "

One of the biggest operators & owners of for-profit prisons, Corrections Corporation of America, "CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the ACLU reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials along with undisclosed funds to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU. CCA, through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070."

The ol' revolving door operating between CCA and the federal & state governments is explored on the site The Business of Detention, which has specialized in the private prison industry & immigration detention, bringing us this tidbit: "In 2005, when the immigration crackdown got underway and lawmakers debated how to meet the need for detention, CCA paid close to $3.5 million for lobbying focused on immigration and national security. One of its key lobbyists was Phillip J. Perry, son-in-law of Vice President Dick Cheney, who was appointed general counsel for DHS."

And then-Vice President Cheney and already former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were indicted by a Texas grand jury in Nov 2008 on state charges accusing them of responsibility for prisoner abuse in a privately run federal jail. (There had also been a three-count murder indictment accusing the private prison operator the GEO Group of allowing other inmates to beat Gregorio de la Rosa Jr. to death with padlocks stuffed into socks.) Democracy Now! reported - "The grand jury accused Cheney of a conflict of interest because of his alleged influence over the county’s federal immigrant prison and his investments in the Vanguard Group, which invests in private prison companies. The indictment accuses Gonzales of using his influence to stop an investigation into corruption during the building of another federal jail," and of using his position while in office to stop investigations into assaults committed in a Willacy County, Texas prison for profit. On DN!, the Willacy District Attorney who brought the indictments said: "the numbers of prison inmates dying in the private prisons is staggering. It’s about five times as high as the public prisons...Alberto Gonzales’s part was to make sure that private prisons would not get investigated..."

Obviously, if you are running for-profit prisons, the greater your profits the more you scrimp on everything that provides for the security and the welfare of the inmates: food, guards, medical personnel, etc, although at the time, the Geo Group was charging $80 per person per day & trying to raise it to $120!


sheila l (116)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 5:34 am
tHE SYSTEM needs to be totally reassessed because there is a lot of fraud, corruption and people on it who should not be in it. There are companies who also committ fraud within the govt. system and this is rampant as well. If this continues, it will break this country. Our work adage from previoius decades is dying and too many people expect to be supported while the do nothing with their lives but create their own virtual world at home.

Nancy M (197)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 5:49 am
David Car and Lucy Kaledidscope.

Thanks for the comments about prisons. I do remember back in the 1990s hearing that keeping someone in prison cost more than sending them to a college. Of course, once in prison, you can take college courses and get a degree.

With the ever increasing cost of college, it seems that some would commit a crime just to go there and get that degree.

Nowadays though we hear about HS kids getting locked up for weeks just because they were late for school.

Phil m (47)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 5:50 am
Nancy, i agree with you. Proping up ceo''s is grossly unfair to many people.
Imagine if they took, say 15% of their salaries and gave to the lowest income?
The rich get richer, the poor, poorer.
The system is a disgrace.

Nancy M (197)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 5:55 am
ANd SL L is correct that it is in the government too.

However, I have seen far more Americans with the good old work ethic that would rather work two and three jobs in order to try to make ends meet rather than take the help that they deserve. Of course the ebst help would be higher pay to give them a living wage.

June M (139)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 6:22 am
thanks for posting Nancy

rosemary weston (1)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 3:14 pm
didn't do well in my required economics class way back in college, but somehow this doesn't surprise me! for one thing it seems that politics are more important than trying to do what is best for our country and it does seem that money when it becomes more important than anything else is indeed the root of all evil. yes i have oversimplified grossly!

we need to start thinking outside the box for our way is to form intentional communities to support each other:, using time banks instead of money:

Bryan S (105)
Wednesday February 20, 2013, 7:23 pm
Thanks Nancy, great article. And not only is there this growing inequality, but these especially tough times we've been in since 2008 are a direct result of the very wealthiest financiers (the ones that got bailed out with no questions) directly crashing the economy for everyone else with their economic fraud.

If this wasn' bad enough, one of our main political parties (the one always yelling and screaming about the debt) refuses to raise taxes a penny on the wealthiest, but has no problem inflicting austerity on the people who have already been screwed. The other party protests and that's about it.

And if this wasn't bad enough, a significant portion of the population is STILL blaming things on "people who don't want to work" and just want to live off the government. They are like total religious fanatics, for whom mountains of evidence seem to mean nothing.

Rosemary, i agree that intentional communities are a very good idea! We need to support each other and know what it is to be human. And Lucy, i think i saw the Park Avenue doc listed on Hulu also, but anyway i will be sure to watch it.


LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 2:04 am
I didn't know Hulu so I googled it & got very excited about everything you can view there -- then I clicked on one & they told me I can't view anything not being in US. Boohoo...

Btw, you DID see the Park Avenue doc listed on Hulu, but go to the Why Poverty? site anyway, cause you get an immediate feel for this impressive project.

Gina Caracci (219)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 9:48 am
This article made me angry, but hey what doesnt any more? people are starving, the elderly are dying, the rich get richer, corps get paid to send jobs overseas and the rest of us are considered liabilities.

If this Congress doesnt STEP up and do their jobs I will continue to Pray that Jesus comes soon or the world blows up. SOCIALISM anyone?

Past Member (0)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 11:08 am
I think that legalizing abortion, gay marriage, & recreational marijuana, along with discontinuing to mint pennies and dollar bills, would solve the US debt crisis almost instantly - but these aren't the solutions people think of when they think about generating income for the nation. They seem out of the way, or too partisan, but I think in combination they could make a huge difference.
And if not, then decrease military spending by half. That'll DEFO fix it. I just listed it last because I think it's the least likely to happen.

LucyKaleido ScopeEyes (82)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 11:59 am
Well, given the choice you give us, Gina, I'll take socialism.


Bryan S (105)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 12:44 pm
Lucy, thanks i went to the Why Poverty site. Haven't read much yet but it looks like a great resource. I did read this truth from the "Why Isn't Poverty Fixed" article:

"The most difficult truth to sell is that the developing world would not need aid, if the developed world weren't taking so much money away from it. The amount going in as aid is dwarfed by the amount flowing out: eight to ten times as much. Some of if it disappears through corruption and crime, but vast sums are lost through trade, in particular though legal tax evasion. Stealing Africa looks at how this is happening in Zambia.

In a global market place, countries have to make deals with multinational companies that are more powerful than they are. There's often either no real, effective global regulation to govern these deals or ensure they fair to the weaker, usually poorer parties. Countries may have huge resources - from minerals to manpower - but that doesn't mean their people will benefit."

We are experiencing hard economic times now, but much of the non-industrial world has been suffering more so for many decades under economic colonialism. I do think it all ties in to the point of Nancy's article when you consider that these multinational corparations and global financiers certainly don't have anymore concern for us than they do these "third-worlders". Lack of regulation and corporate control of government sound familiar?

Nancy M (197)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 12:54 pm
Great comment Bryan. Thanks.

It is true, we can see this in our country but of course, they ARE multinational. So fo course it happens in third world countries. And lack of infrastructure, corruption in the country itself, civil wars and strife will all be blamed but it is really the corruption of the multinationals.

Thanks- I hadn't thought of that before.

MmAway M (506)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 3:01 pm
Thank you Nancy! I agree GREAT FIND. Actually my head feels like the photo in the article!

greenplanet e (155)
Thursday February 21, 2013, 5:29 pm
Geesh - so much injustice. Thanks.

Stephanie Reap (192)
Friday February 22, 2013, 7:12 am
So depressing but nothing surprises me anymore. thanks for sharing.

Tim C (2420)
Friday February 22, 2013, 8:56 am

g d c (0)
Friday February 22, 2013, 6:16 pm

Helen Porter (39)
Saturday February 23, 2013, 5:12 am
We live in the times that test our souls.

Robert O (12)
Sunday February 24, 2013, 11:32 pm
Thanks Nancy.
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