The Work To Be Poor Poem

The Work To Be Poor Poem

Work, work, work, work,
Work, work, work, work.

There’s more of us a’working now,
The numbers all are provin’,
Official tallies’ hopeful tale,
A workplace that improvin’;
You need a job, they’re out there friend,
So why ain’t you more jolly,
Is it because new jobs just let
You live like a Bengali?

The folks who rule us from DC
To our plight are oblivious,
They seem to think all work’s the same
And our work groans are frivolous;
We can’t convince them otherwise,
These leaders of the nation,
In fact most days they’re out of sight,
They’re somewhere on vacation.

I’d vote to save the middle class,
I’d vote for folks who care,
It would be nice to have that choice,
Alas…that choice ain’t there.

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A Progressive’s Call For Smaller Government

Conservatives are shredding the safety net. They say government spending here is getting out of control.

I agree. We have to reduce spending in this realm. And there’s only one sensible and sustainable way to do this: We have to reform the private sector of the economy.

Isn’t that obvious? The main reason more and more people need government aid is because their economic needs aren’t being met by working in the private sector. If they made enough, they wouldn’t need food stamps. If they made enough, they wouldn’t need subsidies to help pay for their health insurance.

Raise the minimum wage, and safety net spending decreases. Rebalance the tax code so it doesn’t unduly favor capital over labor, investors over workers, and fewer working people would qualify for earned income credits that reduce government revenues.

The government safety net that covers the elderly, the disabled and the impoverished young should of course remain in tact. But the part of that safety net that today is growing so quickly because working people are being squeezed in a top-heavy marketplace, could be cut dramatically with reforms of the private sector.

Progressives — ditto the conservatives’ call for smaller government. Just combine the call with the most sensible and sustainable way to bring it about. Marketplace reform.

(Michael Silverstein’s recent books, all available from Amazon, include: The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, and the comic novels’ Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, The Bellman’s Revenge, and Murder At Bernstein’s.)

The Best Idea To Reanimate The Economy You Won’t Hear About Elsewhere

We increase the top income tax rate from the present 39.6 to 45 percent and use ALL the new revenue generated, ALL OF IT, to reduce lower income tax rates.

This is NOT a tax increase. No new money flows to the government. It’s merely a tax shifting from the presently under-taxed top to the over-taxed working lower and middle.

This immediately reduces income inequality. It immediately improves the earnings and economic lives of the working middle class and lower paid workers.

It animates the economy immediately by spawning more spending by most Americans who have more net income to spend.

It reduces the growth of poverty, whose biggest cause today is the working lower and middle sliding down.

And this is critical. It does NOT reduce needed investment that grows an economy. Rather, it generates new investment to tap into greater consumer spending — it loosens the strings on the vast billions not being invested by bloated corporations today because there is no consumer spending to justify such investment with all the new jobs this investment would also generate.

Republicans won’t back this approach because they will call it a tax increase (it isn’t, just a tax shifting), and label it class warfare, which is silly since many if not most tax changes benefit some group at the expense of another.

The Democrats won’t back this proposal because they want to tax the rich to fund government programs — not a bad idea in many cases, but a totally separate issue that should be dealt with separately.

This is a proposal that many on the small-government right can support along with people on the generally big-government left.

Why haven’t you heard about this simple and obvious way to immediately reduce income inequality, aid the middle class, and do the other worthwhile things noted above? Because no one is being paid to peddle the idea.

Michael Silverstein’s newest book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, is available from Amazon.

The Importance Of Believable Economic Reportage

If your local weatherman keeps telling you that the sun is shining and temperatures are in the sixties, and you look out your own window and see it’s snowing and the thermometer there is reading in the thirties, pretty soon you stop paying attention to that weatherman and his predictions.

These days, our economic weathermen, economists and government officials, keep assuring us the recession ended years ago and recovery has been going on since then. We know this is baloney. The recession didn’t end. And what’s happening now is not recovery but sinking slowly deeper into the economic muck.

Almost no one believes their Big Economic Lie anymore. It simply does not comport with the everyday truth we see all around us.

Why is this so scary? Lots of reasons. Maybe the most important is the affect of all this lying on our policy makers. They seem to be the only ones who still believe the lie .

Most policy makers really want to do the right thing by their constituents. But how can they do so when when the economic weathermen they listen to keep saying things are  OK so why bother doing anything serious?

For that reason alone we need believable economic reportage. What do we get instead? Here’s an example.

This January, with most of the country frozen and the West Coast in deep drought, with all the rotten economic activity (and non-activity) this weather generated, the Conference Board’s tabulation of leading economic indicators still showed a healthy increase, and the stock market jumped big on the news.

As the Big Economic Lie gets less and less believable, and policy makers still buy into this lie, more and more Americans lose faith that the people who govern them really understand their needs. And that is very, very scary..

Michael Silverstein’s newest book, available from Amazon, is The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.

Stock Market To Real World: “Screw You!”

January was a terrible month for world stock markets. The Federal Reserve’s ‘taper’ was causing havoc in emerging markets where a lot of investors were seeking larger returns. This carried over to our own stock market, and a slew of profit and employment reports here made it clear to anyone still silly enough to think a real economic recovery was underway that this was dreaming.

February looked like it wold carry through this stock market slide. And then things not only stabilized they turned around.

Doubtless, a lot of behind-the-scenes activity among big market players were the reason. There was one out-front element of this activity, though. A major fund family and a big name hedge fund announced that things were not all that bad and there should be no panic.

The message here was clear. Big money, which is really the only money that matters in today’s stock markets, didn’t want to lose its golden calf. So the big money reacted and pulled the stock market back up.

None of the underlying causes of worldwide economic weakness have been addressed, of course. Most people lives continue to be squeezed or outright destroyed. But the big money that rules our lives has decided it didn’t want to suffer just because the rest of us need to do so .

We sink. They continue to rise. The markets have seen our pain, considered it, and replied: “Screw you!”

Michael Silverstein’s novel, Fifteen Feet Beneath Manhattan, now available from Amazon.

Selig Cartwright, Goldman Sachs Washroom Attendant, Solves The Income Inequality Puzzle

(Mr. B. enters the washroom, obviously seeking relief.)

Is my personal Stall #8 ready, Selig? Ready for immediate use?

It’s ready, sir. Though still locked. I thought first I’d discuss an idea with you. About income inequality.

Love to chat with you about that, Selig. First the stall.

But sir, you’re always saying that hearing from little people like me is the most important part of any great leader’s job.

Yes, usually it is. Just now, however…

It’s a very simple idea, Mr. B.

Dear God! Tell me your idea for heavens sake, Selig, then unlock the door to my personal stall.

I knew you’d be interested, sir. Here it is: Income inequality in and of itself is not a bad thing. Hard work, talent, and initiative should be compensated generously. Big earners also have enough money above their own needs to invest, which builds the economy.

Obviously, Selig. Can I get into my personal Stall #8 now?

Not yet, sir. Too much income inequality, however, that doesn’t trickle down enough to the middle class, the group that buys the most goods and services This not only makes them poorer, but doesn’t provide the wherewithal to animate an economy based largely in consumption. It also keeps potential investors from investing in job-producing new economic activities.

Wonderful, Selig. You’ve been reading Paul Krugman in the New York Times. I’ll pay to renew your subscription if you unlock Stall #8 very, very quickly.

I will, sir. But I’ve only described the problem. Do you want to hear my solution?

I’m dying to hear it, Selig. Really, really dying. Get on with it man.

Here’s the solution. Raise the top tax rate from 39.6 percent, paid only by top earners, to 44 or 45 percent. Then use all the new revenue generated, ALL of it, sir, to lower tax rates paid by middle class workers. This will allow them to spend a lot more, animating the economy in the process, reduce poverty because the biggest cause of new poverty today is people falling into it from the middle class. It would also spur investment because investment flows into areas that promise the most profits, and the most profits would now be where an enriched middle class does its increased spending.

Good, but no cigar, Selig. First, because it’s a tax increase and that’s a no-no.

It’s not a tax increase, Mr. B. The total tax bite remains the same, it’s just reallocated from the under-taxed top to the over-taxed middle.

It’s class warfare, Selig.

No, sir. Every class of earners benefits. Top earners pay more in taxes, but those top earners who supply goods and services to the middle class more than make that up in extra profit.

Then who loses, Selig?

Economists who work for conservative think tanks, CEOs who pad their own bank accounts by pushing up their company share prices with Fed-funded stock buy backs, and Wall Street derivative peddlers.

Let’s not forget one other category of losers, Selig.

Sir?

Washroom attendants who would rather philosophize than provide keys to bathroom stalls.

I’ll open yours immediately, sir.

Very wise, Selig. And one other thing.

Sir?

Leave the economic policy-making to people who have paid their representatives in Washington to make it in an appropriately top-favored manner. Because, my friend, no matter how you vote and how sensible your ideas, this is the way it’s going to be.

(Michael Silverstein’s new Book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, is now available from Amazon as both an ebook and in print form)

The American Middle Class Declaration

We hold these economic truths to be self-evident. That a vibrant, growing and secure middle class is the bedrock of American prosperity. That while every society has spawned opportunities for a few individuals to acquire great wealth, America’s economic uniqueness has always been the opportunities enjoyed by so many individuals to realize a middle class comfort for themselves and their posterity. That this aspiration should never be frustrated by laws that foster legal peonage. And that all economic groups ultimately and inevitably benefit from a thriving middle class, the poor naturally drawn into its swelling ranks, the rich further enriched serving its vast and varied needs.

But when, however, in the course of political events, both major political parties, Republican and Democratic, long promoters and enablers of middle class prosperity, turn from this path. When they pursue policies that excessively enrich Wall Street at the expense of Main Street; when they legislate in ways that excessively favor lenders over borrowers; when they systematically and foolishly generate policies that benefit only the very few at the expense of the middle class many; it then becomes necessary to bring these parties back on the middle class path, or failing this, to sever links with both forever,

Within our governing class a strange and pernicious economic notion has taken hold. The idea that the wealthy few are the prime wealth creators, that the middle class many must therefore accommodate these few always in order to enjoy even minimal well being.

We deem this notion both false and destructive. We demand it stop being the basis of our economic governance.

We thus proclaim yet again what all Americans once knew and accepted as the fundamental core of our economic thinking. That we, the middle class, are the economic engine, the main producers of our wealth and the deserving main consumers of this wealth.

We are the true wealth generators. We are the makers. We are the innovators. We are the builders. We have seen our pride of economic place stolen by the few for their own benefit. And we judge the political class that has made this possible wanting.

It is therefore resolved: To restore our economic birthright, we middle class Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Americans who hold different views on so many issues, do hereby declare our unity in this issue.

The policy makers who we have honored with the sacred trust to preserve, protect, and enhance the present and future interests of middle class Americans are hereby ordered to do so immediately. And to do so directly, in ways clearly understandable, and free from the distortions practiced so fulsomely, fragrantly and continuously to our detriment.

Proclaimed and adopted this July day, 2013, in the city of Philadelphia, where other manifestos of freedom and fairness were proclaimed in years past.

(Now available from Amazon in print and ebook formats — Michael Silverstein’s The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.)

The Big Lie About The Economy’s Health

It’s a dirty political trick that keeps getting played because it works — at least for awhile. The trick of lying about something over and over again, in as many ways as possible, in as many media as possible, until people start believing it. Even people who were originally skeptics. Even people who sense in their gut, feel in their personal lives, that the lie seems very, very wrong.

It’s the old Big Lie technique, today being used on the American public to convince us that the economy is improving, something that is most certainly not true for a growing number of middle class Americans. This Big Lie is being systematically promoted by Wall Street for its own benefit at the expense of Main Street, and being bought into by our governing class because this group of worthies lacks the will— or the ability — or the desire — to see through it

What are some of the bogus numbers that are part of this Big Lie campaign? Let’s start with employment.

The last report from the Labor Department found 195,000 new jobs created last month, and an average of 202,000 new jobs per month created in the quarter ending in June. Sound good? Yes, but only if you don’t look too closely at the numbers.

What we’re seeing today is a lot of lousy new jobs that will never produce middle class lifestyles for those working at them. More than 300,000 of the new jobs created in the last year were part-time jobs. Another 300,000 were second jobs people were forced to take because their first one didn’t pay enough to live on. And the full-time new jobs that are being created are not, by-in-large, middle class work, but low paid ones in box stores, leisure and hospitality jobs, non-professional hospital workers.

Then there’s real estate. Home sales are booming again and home prices are soaring. Is this proof that the Fed’s quantitative easing is animating this vital part of the economy? They seem to think so inside the Beltway. In the real world the view is very different.

Overall, the percentage of home ownership in this country continues to fall. Young couples who should be buying homes can’t afford to do so because of things like college debt, and because of tougher lending standards by banks.

So who is buying all those homes today and jacking up the prices? Hedge funds and Wall Street private equity flippers. They tap the Fed money giveaway machine for free money, buy blocks of homes for cash, keep them until another hedge or private equity entity buys at a higher price. It’s the classic real estate crash-a-coming, flipper-based scenario in a basically unhealthy housing market.

The worst instance of Big Lie economics involves the gross domestic product numbers, which have been rising — slowly, but rising nonetheless. Increasing the GDP has become the questing beast of policy-makers, which sounds like the height of wisdom because don’t we all benefit when the GDP rises?

No, most of us don’t. Only the top 1 or 2 percent have benefited from such growth in recent years. And a policy that boosts GDP growth without a concern for how these benefits are distributed, claiming that the growth itself is good for the country, is a very Big Lie indeed.

I believe that inside the beltway they deliberately fudged economic numbers to jolly up the American public after the crash of 2008. OK. Maybe that made sense back then. Maybe a Big Lie then was necessary to hold things together in an emergency.

Now, however, the Big Lie peddlers actually seem to believe their own lies. It’s not hard to do inside the cosseted confines where our very well compensated ruling class dwells. Alas, those of us who must try to survive in the real world economy don’t have the luxury of believing that if the lies are big enough, you can eat them, pay your rent with them, and use them as a down payment on a kid’s education.

(Now available from Amazon in print and ebook formats — Michael Silverstein’s naughty financial markets take down, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street.)

All Important Economic Questions Answered Here

Q: Why are there such huge protests in countries around the world?

A; Of course there are many local reasons for these protests. But whether it’s the Arab Spring, the protests around Europe, or our own Occupy Wall Street, one issue is always clearly on view. Young people who lead the protests see their economic futures getting bleaker with no end to the bleakness in sight.

Q: What is the main cause of this economic malaise?

A: The main cause is a new capitalism that has replaced one that spread the benefits of a growing economy to most folks. This new version keeps all the benefits at the top and dribbles down hardly anything.

Q: Why don’t governments do something about this situation?

A: Some governments that tried have gotten rolled over by the big bank, big lender steamroller. Other governments are just in the pockets of the big buck interests. Most governments, however, are simply controlled by people who have bought into the big bank, big lender line that this is the way things have to be done in advanced economies.

Q: Can anything save the U.S. and world economies from the second stage of the twenty-first century’s first double dip depression, brought about by big bank and big lender greed?

A: Don’t know about the world economy. A good start can be made in the U.S., however, through revisions of the tax code. Tax the rich more, and give ALL the extra revenue generated to the middle class in the form of lower taxes for them. This would immediately boost most people’s incomes, and increase spending that would work to reanimate the entire economy.

Q: Will this happen any time soon?

A: Don’t be silly. Of course it won’t happen any time soon. Get real.

Q: So what can be done to lessen the economic pain?

A. Purchase my new book, The Devil’s Dictionary Of Wall Street, which will be available very soon.

To Get Government Policies That Aid The Middle Class, We Need New Middle Class—Oriented Metrics

In business circles they know that what gets measured gets done. It’s the numbers that accountants provide and managers use to set company policies that determine what these policies are, what gets priorities, what doesn’t.

The same is true, of course, when it comes to setting government economic policies and setting priorities. If the numbers used to shape this policy — the policy-generating metrics — are geared a certain way, the policies ultimately produced are skewed that way.

Today, in Washington and state capitals around the country, the metrics that largely determine economic policies are not metrics that promote the interests of the American middle class. In consequence, not only is the size of this all-important demographic shrinking, but those still clinging to its benefits and perks are having a tougher and tougher time doing so.

Looking at three basic metrics used to set government policies tell this story clearly.

JOBS: In April the government reported that 165,000 new jobs were created. Not a great number, true, but one that policy-makers in Washington were happy to claim continued to show improvement in the job market.

Except they didn’t. Not from a middle class perspective.

Dig into this jobs report and you’ll see what it really shows is a continued shrinking of middle class living standards. Many of the new jobs created in April were part-time or less than 35 hours-per-week. New full-time jobs were mostly in low wage, little or no benefits sectors like retail. Higher paying jobs in government and construction shrank that month. The average wage of workers actually fell. Not a pretty middle class picture.

GROWTH: Economic growth is the present questing beast of both Democrats and Republicans, as well as most economists. The economic growth numbers that policy makers use have shown improvement in recent decades. Not for the middle class, however.

Since the late 1970s, more than 36 percent of all income growth has gone to the top .01 percent of Americans, and more than 55 percent to just the top 1 percent. National economic growth since 2011 has boosted the top 1 percent by another 11 percent, while there’s been a small decline for most other Americans — especially middle class Americans.

There’s no trickle down here. For the middle class, the economic growth metrics used by government planners are a poke in the eye.

INFLATION: Taking official government numbers on inflation at face value (a stretch, but we’ll overlook that here), there’s hardly been any in the last few years, in spite of the Fed’s quantitative easing (i.e. money printing) that pours $85 billion into the economy each month. This much ballyhooed fact has been labeled a great triumph by government economic planners, an economic stimulus that hasn’t caused inflation.

In fact, it’s only really been a boon for the very rich. For the middle class, especially older middle class Americans who generally opt for safety in their investments, this Fed approach to stimulus and inflation control has been a source of great pain.

For safety-oriented savers (the traditional source of investment capital for worthwhile projects), getting a half-percent return on government bonds when official inflation is running three rimes faster means automatic real world losses and decreasing spending power. And while 47 percent of American families have shares in a stock market endlessly pumped up by the Fed, only 10 percent have more than $5,000 in this market — and most of this is in pension funds that can’t be tapped without a large tax penalty, while Wall Street bank traders who almost never lose in today’s stock market (three of the six largest Wall Street banks didn’t lose money a single trading day last quarter) garner their profits immediately.

CONCLUSION

What get counted gets done, in both business and government policy making. What’s getting counted by government policy makers today, to an extraordinary extent, helps the very richest in our society — and most dramatically the investing and lending richest — rather than the middle class.

There’s other ways to figure government policy-making numbers. There’s other metrics that can be used to make policy. People in Washington might be encouraged to adopt these middle class-friendly metrics. Failing to do so, they should be shoveled out of office as soon as possible, and sent off to receive the sinecures they’ve earned servicing their Wall Street masters.

(Michael Silverstein’s newest novel, Murder At Bernstein’s, is the tale of a financial news billionaire who wants to be elected Mayor Of Philadelphia.)