Doomed to Collapse

It frustrates me to sit and listen to people who don’t make enough to live decently argue against a minimum wage hike. For people who make less than $15.00/hour to argue against raising it to that level is a shame because they don’t see that it not only helps people out of poverty but actually helps them too and that they’re arguing against their own best interests. But in my experience, when asked why they don’t think it should be raised, they say something along the lines of “why should someone who just started working here make as much as I do when I’ve been here 5 years”? I understand that they’re saying seniority should mean something. But what they don’t realize they’re saying is “I’m not worth $15/hr if it means someone who has been here less time does too.” How does this make sense?


Then there’s the age old argument of “if they raise the minimum wage, prices on everything else goes up too.” This is a ridiculous argument too, considering that the minimum wage hasn’t gone up since 2009 when it was raised from $6.55/hr. to $7.25/hr. Before 2007 it was stuck at $5.15 for 10 years. (http://www.raisetheminimumwage.com/pages/qanda) However, just from 2000 – 2012, the cost of childcare, housing, higher education, healthcare and retirement have gone up by more than $10,000/yr. (https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/report/2014/09/24/96903/the-middle-class-squeeze/) Household income, however has been stagnant. And even in instances where income was raised, it was countered by costs increasing so that it did not help to meet expenses. I have even personally known people whose income did not go up over the past 5 years yet their insurance costs have gone up each year, giving them less in their budget to meet other expenses. So how does arguing that raising the minimum wage will cause everything else to go up make sense when everything else is going up WITHOUT raising the minimum wage? Do you want to continually be left behind making it increasingly more difficult just to meet living expenses? And if you consider yourself ‘doing okay’, where is your compassion for those who are not? Do you call yourself Christian with this belief that those who don’t make enough to survive ‘deserve’ to struggle because they’re not doing enough? Do you know how many of those people work two jobs? What happened to “Judge not lest ye be judged?”


Let’s look at healthcare for a moment. In 2009, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Acts were passed, looking to regulate the healthcare industry to protect the people. However, that was not before the acts were manipulated to the point where we could still be abused in some ways. For instance, certain groups of Senators insisted on an extended grace period for insurers and businesses (i.e. employers) to conform to the law. This was, in my opinion, included so as to circumvent another part of the law which kept insurers from jacking up premium prices too fast. It gave them more time to increase premiums to the maximum allowed for each time period. As an example, when I started working in the healthcare business, the average deductible amount was $250-$300/yr. Now, its $2000.00. That is just the deductibles. The actual premiums were not something I had access to from the part of the business I was working in at the time, but I know what I paid and I pay at least 3X what I paid back then for my family of 4. Only now, I’m paying only for myself. The majority of that increase happened since the passage of the ACA. Now I know some of you will automatically jump to the conclusion that the government or President Obama is to blame, but who do you think had a hand in forcing these changes in the ACA to allow for such increases? Why lobbyists for the industry itself of course…..and the congressional representatives that supported these changes are the very representatives that still are outspoken against the ACA….their reasoning? The very things they forced; that the cost is too great. Only it’s not the average citizen’s cost their complaining about. It’s the cost to the businesses that are paying the lobbyists to manipulate the laws in their favor. Of course they want you to believe that it’s you they’re more concerned with. But if that were true, they’d have passed bills to grow the economy by creating jobs to improve infrastructure and clean energy and clean environment thereby improving the general welfare of all. But no, they’re stagnant.


The first house I rented in 1988 was a 3 bedroom house at $280/month. At the time, my pay was 4.95/hr and I did have a full time job. That calculates to about 35% of my gross income. Now, granted, I was making a little more than minimum wage at the time. So while it was 35% of my gross income, it would have translated to 52% of the gross income for someone working minimum wage in 1988. If we look at the cost of the same size house in 2015, we’re looking at something drastically different. The average rent for a 3 bedroom house today is about $1112.00 on average, which translates to 95% of the gross income for someone making minimum wage and working full time hours. Even the low side of the rental range for this area presents a problem. The low side of rental costs for a 3 bedroom house in the area is $700/month. That figure still translates to 60% of the gross income for someone working minimum wage full time. Keep in mind that these figures are on the gross income. But when you take taxes and insurance costs from that income, it doesn’t leave much to pay utilities or groceries, much less if there are daycare expenses or diapers. So it’s just not feasible to think a minimum wage is enough to survive on.


Now the first argument that comes to the surface when this information is generally presented, is that they should get an education and a better job. This isn’t reasonable either. The reason I say this is that after what use to be a 4 year degree; though with today’s requirements, it takes 5 years as a full time student costs anywhere between $40K to $120K just for initial student loan costs. And this is at public colleges for a Bachelor’s Degree. This is not advanced degrees or private colleges which run into much higher debt. We all know this translates to much more considering how much the interest has increased on student loans over the years.


According to http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-student-loans/ :


“Federal student loan interest rates
Interest rates on undergraduate Direct Loans recently fell from 4.66% for the 2014-2015 school year to 4.29% for the 2015-2016 school year. Rates are higher for graduate Direct Loans (5.84%) and Direct PLUS Loans (6.84%). These rates are locked in for loans first disbursed between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016. Remember, even though rates can reset each year, the rate you receive when your loan is first disbursed remains your rate for the life of the loan.”


In a small city like mine, most of the job growth over the past ten years has been in the restaurant or retail industries. We’re talking hundreds and maybe even thousands of jobs, more than 2/3 of which pay minimum wage. These are NEW jobs now. And considering the jobs available that pay better than minimum wage are few and far between, there are not enough jobs that do pay better than minimum wage to employ all college graduates at a decent rate. Many of them find themselves working two jobs just to make ends meet and aren’t able to make enough to pay their student loans and afford to survive with the basic necessities even then. There simply are not enough jobs that pay well enough to survive comfortably so its illogical to assume a college education is going to solve the problem; illogical, and unreasonable. This is not a problem that only exists only in my small Georgia city. It’s rampant in smaller cities across the country. For more student loan data, check out https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/higher-education/report/2013/06/27/68237/a-comprehensive-analysis-of-the-student-loan-interest-rate-changes-that-are-being-considered-by-congress/ .


With all this taken into consideration, anyone that isn’t born into the elite families is doomed to fail. No matter what they try to do to move out of poverty or stay in what they consider to be the middle class, everything going on in the US economy is working against them. And the middle and lower classes make up at least 98 to 99% of the citizenry. So why do so many of them continue to believe that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea?
All of this just scratches the surface. This is not taking into account the rising costs of food, clothing, utilities etc. And its seems every attempt to lower energy costs are met with attempts to thwart the success of clean energy by heavily taxing purchases of solar panels or charging people for selling power back to the power company (how insane is that?) Utility companies are even going so far as to lobby for laws against going “off grid”. (http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-stream-officialblog/2014/2/25/florida-court-challengesoffthegridliving.html ) Now granted my search turned up only progressive and/or liberal publications, but there is a good reason for that. Right wing media doesn’t want you to know these things. But it’s as easy as looking into local public records to verify that it happened. Not only do they want you to pay outrageous cost of living expenses, they try to make it impossible to lower your cost. Doomed to fail.

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Disservice to the Service

We have done a huge disservice to this country’s service men and women. We have not followed through with our promises to take care of their needs in exchange for their sacrifices in service to this country. We have denied them the things that matter most. The most recent victim of the failures of our government is Eddie Ray Routh.


We can set aside the fact that while he was found guilty, the victims AND the accused’s doctors knew he had mental problems. We can set aside that by legal standards, he is not considered insane. What we should be focusing on is the fact that he did have problems that had been recognized by those who knew him. It’s been said that Chris Kyle had called him ‘nuts’. So if Chris Kyle knew this, why was he taking him to a gun range? Why is it acceptable in this society to know someone is mentally unstable but consider it okay to put him in the general vicinity of loaded weapons? Why has it been vehemently defended that the mentally ill should still be allowed access to weapons? And why are soldiers who suffer from PTSD and have been diagnosed as having it still allowed access to weapons?

We live in a world where the loudest defenders of the “right to bear arms” claim to be the ones who “support our troops” yet support the very politicians who while standing behind the NRA and the “right to bear arms”, cut the very programs that help our troops most. Why aren’t we calling out the hypocrisy?


My home state of Georgia is known for its lax gun laws. Especially for its recent guns everywhere law which allows anyone with a license to carry, to carry anywhere regardless. It even allows for carrying in an establishment that posts that they don’t allow guns. It’s just suggested that carriers respect the business owner’s wishes. Only if the business owner requests that you leave their establishment and you refuse do you then violate a Georgia law, that of criminal trespass. Georgia also has no law requiring a background check for a private gun sale. So you can essentially buy any gun from any individual in the state without having them run your history neither medical nor legal. You can also SELL a gun in Georgia to anyone you wish to sell to. Gun enthusiasts throughout the country know this. Kind of makes me wonder how many people come here just to sell guns. (http://www.georgiacarry.org/cms/georgias-carry-laws-explained/frequently-asked-questions/)


I address these laws simply because with all the military bases in Georgia and all the soldiers discharged from the military with PTSD issues, they all have spent time here and know about Georgia’s laws. Many of them have already been diagnosed with PTSD. We KNOW what the symptoms are and we know they need help, yet our Congress keeps trying to cut the budget for programs to help these soldiers worse than they already have. They have to fight a whole new battle with paperwork and bureaucratic bullshit to get the help they need. This is help they were promised when they signed up. While denying these soldiers the help they need, they are increasing the Pentagon’s budget. So where’s the money going? Not to the soldiers and their families, and not to our veterans. In September 2013, Northrop Grumman was awarded a $226,702,989 cost-plus-incentive-fee contract in order to build The Global Hawk Block 30 drone, The C-27J Spartan cargo aircraft, upgrades to the M1 Abrams tank, and several other projects that the U. S. Military says it doesn’t need nor want, but Congress insisted on the contract anyway. That’s Congress, not the President. That’s a lot of money to blow on something the military doesn’t want that could be spent on veterans to improve both their medical care and their access to that medical care. (http://www.defense.gov/contracts/contract.aspx?contractid=5143 , http://www.military.com/daily-news/2012/08/20/congress-pushes-for-weapons-pentagon-didnt-want.html )


This is just one example of unnecessary spending that could be put to better use. The excuse they often use is that to not keep the contracts with Northrup Grummen would kill jobs, but wouldn’t opening new veteran’s medical facilities and staffing them also create jobs that are much needed as well? Could that not very much benefit the same communities without creating un-necessary weapons for use in unnecessary wars to make more money for these companies that just keep repeating the same cycle that creates more military veterans who need our help? The very same help they were promised when they signed up? Not to mention getting them the care they need would create a much safer environment for these communities and help these soldiers re-adjust to civilian life.


Instead, the evils that men do avalanche to our own communities and put more people in harm’s way that did not sign up for it.