Entitlements

Rant2

This piece isn’t as complex as my first but it is something that I just have to say. Over and over, I have to listen to people on the news talking about “entitlements,” mostly meaning Social Security and Medicare. It started with the right wing but has spread so much that it is a nearly universal reference by people talking about the budget. Every time I hear it said, my blood starts to boil. The basic concept behind the phrase works something like this: “You know, these ‘takers’ that make up half of the country? They think that they’re ‘entitled’ to have the government take care of them.” I can hear the sneer in their voices when they say it.

Really? Let’s take a look at one of these ‘takers,’ a minimum wage worker named Joe. He didn’t do well in school, didn’t like it. He ended up quitting when he was fifteen. He got a job, a job paying minimum wage. He didn’t stay in that job but went from that one to the next, all similar. Now, he’s sixty-five years old. He’s got a little arthritis and is in pain most of the time. The worst pain is in his hip. If he went to a doctor, he’d be told that he needed hip replacement. But he doesn’t go to the doctor. He has no insurance and no sick time. He’s been working for fifty years. Fifty years cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, unloading trucks, washing pots or taking out the trash. For fifty hears, he’s had the worst jobs in the country and is the lowest paid worker. He’s starting to think that he can’t do it anymore. The pain is getting to be too much. He’s getting these looks from the boss. He knows what the looks mean, he’s seen these looks before. It won’t be the first time he’s been fired. He’s thinking that the boss wants someone younger. The job’s not going to last. Worse, this is the job he’s held the longest. He knows that men his age have a lot of trouble finding work these days. He’s got just one hope. Social Security. He doesn’t know too much about it, but he’s seen the deduction on his pay check every week for the past fifty years. For fifty years, the government has been deducting Social security payments from his pay check. It wasn’t his idea, mind you, not his decision. It wasn’t anything that he asked for. That’s the way the paycheck came and frankly, the accountants who make out the checks haven’t been real interested in talking to him about it.

Right now, he’s making $290 dollars a week, gross. That’s for forty hours of work a week, no overtime, no vacation, no sick time and the take home is only $224. The government keeps the rest, which is 22%. Fifty years, he’s been paying for Social Security. Now, he can’t work anymore and thinks, maybe, it’s his turn. It won’t be as much money as he’s been making, not by a long shot. He’s talked with his roommate- they share a small two bed room apartment. On social security, the only way they can afford the place is if they take in another roommate, possibly two. They’ll take turns sleeping on the couch. It won’t be much, but they’ll have a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Yeah, after paying for social security for fifty years, he thinks that he’s “entitled” to it, now that it’s his turn. You know what? He is. I understand that the right wing has a plan for him, not one that will go into effect immediately, but they’ve got a long term plan. Over time, they’ll kill Social Security. Eventually, people like him will all be sleeping in doorways and going through trash cans for food. Well, that’s not my plan. I hope it’s not yours.

The Republicans talk about shared sacrifice. What they mean is our sixty-five year old working friend should share that sacrifice with Mitt Romney. One approach would be to have our friend wait a couple of years before getting his social security. His sacrifice would be losing his job because he can’t work fast enough to suit his boss. He is unlikely to get another at his age in this economy. His sacrifice will mean that, next winter, he’ll be spending his time standing in doorways trying to stay warm and thinking about his last meal which he got yesterday while rummaging through a trash can. It was about a third of a McDonald’s Big Mac. It was cold and had coffee spilled all over it but, at least, it took the edge off his hunger.

Mitt Romney will be sharing the pain. His income is about $20 million a year and his tax rate had been thirteen percent. Mitt’s sacrifice was to see his tax rate go up three percent. Fortunately, he has excellent tax accountants and they’ll be able to mitigate most of it. Still, it goes up one percent. So, next winter when our friend is rummaging through trash cans, there is going to come a day when Mitt gets his financial statements from his accountants. Now, think about it. Mitt Romney has an elevator for his car. There isn’t a lot that he wants but hasn’t been able to buy. He isn’t hoping to buy a 72” flat screen TV with his tax refund. What he’s looking to do is increase his net worth. He was hoping that the total increase in his Cayman Island account was going to be ten million, but no. It was actually only increased by $9,800,000. Remember, Mitt sets goals for himself. He plans things out. This was his plan and Mitt Romney is accustomed to achieving his goals. He planned on getting an extra $10 million deposited but it’s only $9,800,000. Can you just imagine Mitt’s pain? Yeah, me neither. Nor do I care.

The latest “entitlement” quote was from the Supreme Court. The latest ‘entitlement’ they’re talking about is black people thinking that they’re ‘entitled’ to vote. Oh yeah? Well guess what. They are. It’s in the constitution which doesn’t just cover guns.

There are lots of entitlements that really do need to be gotten rid of, though. Mitt Romney had one that got a lot of talk. He thinks he’s ‘entitled’ to pay only 13% to the government, a lower percentage than our minimum wage friend. Well, he’s not. Another one was brought up by President Obama. He talked about the one-percenter’s who don’t want to have to associate with the rest of us at airports so they buy their own jets. They think that their ‘entitled’ to have the government pay for their planes through tax cuts. Well, they’re not.

Here’s another. Back in 2003, Moody’s did a study on the Standard and Poor index. They found that 20% of the stock in the S&P 500 had started out as stock options. In other words, the top management of corporations decided to help themselves to the corporate stock without the pesky problem of having to actually buy it, like everyone else. Over time, the value of the stock has been diluted down by more than twenty percent. They think that they’re entitled to it. Well, they’re not.

Here’s another recent entitlement from the Supreme Court. The Court said that congress couldn’t limit campaign contributions. So, Sheldon Adelson donated $21 million to the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC “Winning Our Future” then another $10 million to Newt Gingrich later in the campaign. The Supreme Court said that billionaires are ‘entitled’ to buy presidents. Well, they’re not.

One particular Republican ‘entitlement’ is truly disgusting. They think that gun dealers are ‘entitled’ to go to gun shows and sell automatic weapons to deranged killers to use to murder children in schools. Well, they’re not.

Recently, a bill to place a transfer tax on Wall Street was defeated. It would have been a .3% transaction tax. That’s three cents on a hundred dollar transaction. Right now, the rest of us are paying a 7-8% transaction tax. We call it a sales tax. It’s 8 dollars on a hundred dollar transaction. Billionaires don’t think 8 dollars isn’t too much for us to pay on $100 but three cents is too much for them to pay. While we pay 8%, the 1% of us that control the right wing think that they’re ‘entitled’ to pay nothing. Well, they’re not.

Back in 1982, the average CEO was making 50 times as much as the average worker.
Since that time, automation has lowered costs and income at corporations has gone way up. Now, CEOs are making 550 times as much as their average worker if you include stock options. Top management thinks that they are “entitled” to keep all of the money. Well, they’re not.

And, maybe, the biggest of all. During 2011 and 2012, as the economy improved, the top 1% had their income go up while, in the aggregate, the rest of us saw our income go down. The top 1% got 121% of the increase in income. In short, the top 1% thinks that they are now ‘entitled’ to all the additional wealth that the country produces. And more. Well, they’re not. It’s about time that the rest of us go after the Republican entitlements. Although they think that they are, they are not actually entitled to our last dime.

All of the republican positions on economics have one thing in common. Every last one of them is an attempt to move money from the 95% to the .1%. This is what they’re paid to do by a .1% motivated solely by blind, endless greed. The national goal is to enable the richest .1% to look at a bigger number in the “Net Worth’ line on their balance sheet at the end of the year. It isn’t about people or standard of living or the future of the country, our place in the world, or our children. Nope. It’s just about a bigger number on a balance sheet.

The right wing keeps telling us that giving money to the 1% will help the economy. It isn’t that they’re wrong. They know better. They’re lying. They know it’s about greed. Greed without limit, greed without end. We’re entitled to do something about it. The truly disgusting thing here is that almost half the country actually cheer them on while they’re trying to take money away from 95% of us and give it to the .1% who own them. It’s time to wake up.

This is what I have to say about “entitlements” but I don’t spend all of my time on politics. I’m also a Celtic artists (the border is my work.) If you would like to see some of more my art work, go to my website theirishweddingtoast.com or that of my good friend, the author Doug Page.

Below are the calculations I used, should you like to check them yourself.

Federal Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 (17 states higher)

Calculating Payroll Deductions

Weekly Gross                                                                $290.00

Federal income tax withheld                                            $28.57

SSI withheld                                                                     $17.98

Medicare                                                                            $4.21

State Income tax withheld                                                $14.53

Total deductions federal                                                   $50.76

Net pay                                                                           $224.71

18%

Annual SSI $934/year

Annual income 15,080

Apartment $700/mo 2 bedroom

The article in

Journal of Economic Perspectiues

is about stock options. Click on it to learn more.

Increase in CEO pay compared to company worker’s pay

1982 about 50 times as much

By 2000 about 570 times as much (including stock options)

Why stock options? Transfers of wealth from shareholders to greedy executives camouflage pay to mitigate external scrutiny and criticism.

Striking It Richer:  Top 1% incomes grew by 11.2% while bottom 99% incomes shrunk by 0.4%. Hence, the top 1% captured 121% of the income gains in the first two years of the recovery.

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About Brian Baxter

I attended the NY University at Stony Brook and graduated in 1968. I worked for many years in the NYS Office of Mental Health but left in the eighties. Since then, I did a variety of things including owning and operating a liquor store, work as a recruiter, a woodworker and as a salesman. Currently, I'm retired.
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2 Responses to Entitlements

  1. Arleen says:

    I especially like the line about the number of voters who support the ideals of the .1% even though it adversely affects them. I suspect they do so because they think of themselves to be more like those in the .1% than the .99%. They haven’t done the math.
    Would like to hear some of your thoughts on the Zimmerman/Martin debacle.

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