Mac McCaughan: Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)
Oh, it was a year when everybody died
And it was a year when the adults and children cried
For the loss of their hope, for the loss of their youth
And next year might be better but I don’t see any proof
And this year it seemed like nothing really mattered
You could say any horrible thing and rise to the top of this shitheap
So if you still have friends
Raise a glass with them
Saying, “Happy New Year, Prince can’t die again”
“No, happy New Year, Prince can’t die again”
Okay, but this could be a great year if you’re rich
Or if you’re a racist craving an authoritarian hand
And the sun will shine on you if you hate women
And then the sun itself will turn us all to sand
Yeah, this year it seemed like nothing really mattered
You could be any horrible thing and rise to the top of this shitheap
So if you still have friends
Raise a glass with them
Saying, “Happy New Year, Prince can’t die again”
“No, happy New Year, Prince can’t die again”
So gather with your retrograde relations at the table
Nursing hangovers with hatefulness and fear
Remember who needs to get out and see the world
Play the long game, muster up some cheer
‘Cause if they believe that nothing really matters
All that winning might end sooner than they think
We might not have democracy or freedom anymore
But resistance will be hatched around this drink
And yes, you you still have friends
So raise a glass with them
Saying, “Happy New Year, Prince can’t die again”
“Happy New Year, everything ends”
“Happy New Year, the South won’t rise again”
“No, Happy New Year, gotta work to make that arc bend”
“Yeah, Happy New Year, away from these old white men”
“Yeah, Happy New Year, at least Prince can’t die again”
“Happy New Year, it can’t be this one again”
Ninety-four percent of us pay into Social Security from every paycheck we receive. A few of us stop paying into Social Security in the first few working hours of the year.
The “Tax Freedom Day” Scam
Every year you hear a lot about Tax Freedom Day. This is the day the public supposedly has “earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year.”
According to the Tax Freedom Day website: “Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2016 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.”
The trick, of course, is the word “collectively.” As in “Bill Gates walks into a room full of homeless people. Collectively the room owns billions of dollars of wealth.” Non-billionaire Americans don’t pay nearly this much in taxes.
Tax Freedom Day is an anti-government propaganda gimmick where the billionaire class suggests that we stop “working for the government.” It’s a trick: most of us don’t pay that much in taxes and those who do are making so much money they hardly notice it.
Let’s see how this “Tax Freedom Day” formula can be applied to framing America’s retirement crisis.
“Social Security Freedom Day”
Almost all of us pay the 6.2 percent Social Security “payroll tax” on every dollar that we earn. Employers pay an additional 6.2 percent. If you are self-employed you pay the entire 12.4 percent. These taxes are paid until we reach a “cap” of $127,200 in a year so the maximum anyone pays is $7,886 (twice that if you are scam-classified as a “contractor.”) Ninety-four percent of us never reach that point.
Again, you pay 6.2 percent of your earnings, 12.4 percent if you are self-employed, until you make $127,200. So there is no “Social Security Freedom Day” — the day we stop paying this tax — if we are regular people who make less than $127,200.
Put another way, if you make more than $127,200 you reach a “Social Security Freedom Day” and stop paying this tax. You only pay $7,886 no matter how much more you make. The more you make the sooner your “Social Security Freedom Day” arrives.
For those at the upper end of the income distribution (the top 1 percent, or the 2 million people earning more than $250,000 per year and the 137,000 people earning more than $1 million per year), $127,200 is a trivial amount on which to pay Social Security tax.
Take, for example, the top 9,600 or so wage earners who earned over $10 million per year (2015 is the latest data available). New Year’s Day 2017 fell on a Sunday. By the time they finish their two weeks back at work, they will be done paying Social Security taxes for the entire year.
That is nothing. The 202 Americans who earned more than $50 million a year finished paying less than 5 hours after the ball dropped in Times Square. Another 773 people earning between $20-$50 million a year will finish paying the tax before you finish reading this blog on January 2nd.
“Social Security Freedom Day” arrived very early for those top 773. How early? Ghilarducci writes, “We can have fun with the calculations: who will finish paying by their first coffee break of the day? After brushing their teeth? After their hangover?”
The rest of us pay in all year, a 6.2 percent tax that the wealthy don’t pay. That’s 12.4% if you are a “contractor.” Straight off the top of your income.
The Retirement Crisis
America’s experiment in shifting retirement obligations away from employers and onto working people through IRAs and 401Ks has clearly failed. Most Americans do not have enough savings, pension and expected Social Security benefits to be able to get by when they retire — if they even can. One-third have nothing saved up. The median working-age couple has saved only $5000 and seventy percent of couples have less than $50,000 saved.
This leaves far too many people dependent on Social Security. The average monthly retirement income from Social Security was $1,341, or $6,092 per year, and only $2,212 for couples, or $26,544 per year.
This is not enough for people to get by. But a few of us — the very same few who stop paying into Social Security so early in the year — are retiring in luxury.
The Retirement Divide
Not everyone is facing a retirement crisis. Not at all. There is a stark divide between most of us and a few of us when it comes to retirement. Those same few who get a nice, early “Social Security Freedom Day” and no longer pay into Social Security are the very people who do not face a retirement crisis.
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, for example, is retiring to join the Trump/Putin administration. He is receiving a $180 million retirement package including include a pension valued at $69 million.
How wide is this divide? A December, 2016 Institute for Policy Studies report titled, A Tale of Two Retirements, shows there is a huge retirement security divide between those at the top of corporate America and nearly all the rest of us.
Just 100 CEOs have company retirement funds worth $4.7 billion — a sum equal to the entire retirement savings of the 41 percent of U.S. families with the smallest nest eggs.
This $4.7 billion total is also equal to the entire retirement savings of the bottom:
59 percent of African-American families
75 percent of Latino families
55 percent of female-headed households
44 percent of white working class households
Need To Increase Social Security
Obviously the first obligation of a government should be to its people. With the failure of “market solutions” that shifted responsibility for retirement from corporate pension plans to to IRAs ad 410ks something needs to be done. This shift boosted corporate profits, providing huge sums for payouts to executives and shareholders — again, the very same people who get their own “Social Security Freedom Day”. But it has impoverished huge percentages of resent and future retirees.
How do we pay for expanding Social Security? That’s simple. Social Security needs to get the money from where the money went. The well-to-do don’t need a “Social Security Freedom Day” because they are already well-to-do. Eliminate this “cap” and have everyone pay into the system so everyone can retire with some dignity. And what about a requirement for corporations to contribute to employee retirement pension funds?
I’m at a motel in Roseville, CA. They serve a motel “breakfast.” I got the little egg thing for us. In the room we started eating and discovered the center had ham in it. I went to the desk to complain, it wasn’t labeled, there were no non-meat offerings…
I said there are Jews, Muslims, people from India, vegetarians, all wouldn’t be able to eat this.
The look on her face was line “one more month, and we can deal with all of them.”
“You better keep your eye on your kids. We know what car you drive.” That’s the kind of threats a local union official is getting after President-presumed-Elect Donald Trump tweeted something bad about him.
A guy shows up at a Pizza shop based on conspiracy theories — some pushed out by Trump insiders, others by the same Trump-related websites and radio shows that pushed the Sandy Hook hoax — claiming Hillary Clinton runs a child sex trafficking ring from its basement. He brings an assault rifle,
… terrifying customers and workers with his assault-style rifle as he searched Comet Ping Pong, police said. He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States…
Is this the “new normal” for our country?
Trump Attacks Local Union Leader
The latest example of this top-down attacking involves Chuck Jones, the president of United Steelworkers (USW) local 1999. Local 1999 represents workers at Indiana’s Carrier furnace and air conditioner manufacturer.
This is the next President of the United States publicly attacking a guy who is president of a local union in Indiana, singling him out for national attention. And this national humiliation and endangerment by the next President of the United States is because the guy told the truth after Trump did not.
Half an hour after Trump tweeted about Jones on Wednesday, the union leader’s phone began to ring and kept ringing, he said. One voice asked: What kind of car do you drive? Another said: We’re coming for you.
He wasn’t sure how these people found his number.
“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”
But there’s more to it. Attacking a union’s leadership, saying “no wonder companies are fleeing the country,” the union should have “kept those jobs in Indiana” and saying the union should “spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues.” is classic management anti-union propaganda. Saying the union is costing jobs is a union busting tactic intended to drive a edge between the union and rank-and-file workers.
This anti-union action shows the mindset of Trump toward working people. It sends a signal. If unions try to help their membership, and challenge Trump’s tactics and facts, Trump will attack them and threaten their leadership.
Not everyone is intimidated by these attacks on individuals by the next President.
In response to Trump’s attack on Jones, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued this statement,
Chuck Jones is a man of passion, conviction and integrity who would do anything for his union brothers and sisters. President Gerard is exactly right – Chuck is a hero. An attack on him is an attack on all working people.
Chuck is right to call out the president-elect for inflating the number of jobs that will be saved at Carrier. He understands better than anyone that these are more than numbers—they are people with families to support and bills to pay.
Instead of attacking those who have been working hard to save jobs, the president-elect needs to engage with local union leaders at Carrier and at his hotel in Las Vegas. Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is breaking the law by not bargaining with its newly unionized employees. Mr. Trump will soon occupy the White House. His words and actions need to befit that office.
Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing tweeted this about Jones,
Chuck’s a man of deep integrity. He’d do anything to keep jobs here. Trump got half a loaf for workers. Chuck’s right to call Trump out. https://t.co/kxeVukiHZw
Also on Twitter, the hashtag #ImWithChuck has messages of support of Jones.
This Is The Next President?
Trump, believe it or not, is President-elect on the United States. That is a position of great power, commanding great influence over what people think and do. When Trump or those around him “punch down” and publicly attack individuals or advance bizarre conspiracy theories, it puts people in danger. Trump and those around him don’t seem to care. And by publicly not caring and continuing to do it, it starts to look like intent.
Trump and the people around him are, in essence, sending these nuts after people. Provoking. Inciting. But with the tweets attacking Chuck Jones using classic union-busting propaganda Trump is also strategically attacking the interests of all working people.
Donald Trump released a video announcing his agenda for his “first day in office.” One of the things he said is, “I will formulate a rule which says that for every one new regulation, two old regulations must be eliminated.” Can we count the number of ways this is absurd and dangerous?
Under Trump’s 2-for-1 idea, if we want to have a regulation that a company can’t store explosives next to an elementary school, we have to eliminate a regulation that protects us from food poisoning AND a regulation that stops companies from taking money out of your bank account for no reason? (Or how about creating fake accounts and charging them fees?)
Or how about we eliminate the regulations requiring seat belts in cars? Or requiring cars to have headlights? There’s two more! And think of all the money this would save the car companies! (Ignore the pain and suffering and loss this would cause regular Americans — that’s not money.)
In the United States government was once supposed to be about We the People organizing to accomplish things that make our lives better. We vote, our representatives impose taxes and spend and make laws and regulations toward that end.
The ongoing corporate/conservative attack on the legitimacy of government and democracy have eroded public understanding of these concepts. Education. Firefighting. Scientific research. Health care. Parks. Transportation. All are core things a government of, by and FOR the people does to make our lives better — and all are under attack, “privatized” or “eliminated” by representatives who have been “captured” by corporate/conservative money.
Government of, by and for the people by definition stops some people from doing things that hurt others. In particular for this discussion, it stops people who have businesses from defrauding others, harming others, polluting our air and water, selling dangerous products, and other destructive practices. But this means that these people make less money, so they complain, and sometimes they use their money to influence those who would regulate to stop them.
“Burdensome government regulations” all cost companies money: food inspection, clean water, fire codes, zoning rules and drug safety rules. They all “get in the way” of a company scamming, hurting, polluting or whatever makes them more money.
Regulations too often come about as a reaction to something terrible happening. Fire codes came from times when entire towns burned down. Drug-safety rules came from “snake oil” scammers selling poison and leaving town before the damage is done. Seat belt regulations came from terrible traffic injuries and deaths.
Regulations are about “how can We the People do this better?”
The Underlying Assumptions Behind Trump’s Absurd Plan
Underlying Trump’s plan to “eliminate” government regulations is the premise that “government regulation” is itself a bad thing. And underlying that is the premise that government of by and for the people itself is illegitimate. It gets in the way of business. We the People making decisions interferes with efficient decision-making done for the narrow purpose of making money.
Corporate-financed conservatives will always tell you that government and its regulations are always bad. Government just “interferes” in things it knows nothing about. They will say that government regulations hold back businesses from expanding and hiring and generally getting things done that make money. But these are self-interested complaints from people who make their money scamming or hurting or polluting. People like Donald Trump.
We should see Trump’s proposal for what it is. This is not an approach to governing, it is about dismantling what government is for so that an already-wealthy few are free to fleece, scam, harm and and pollute in the name of greed.
It seems that lots of media/political/business people “on the coasts” don’t get how big a deal trade played in Tuesday’s election.
Sold On Free Trade
In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” — protecting wages and key industries and — is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.
Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)
Entire Regions Bled Dry
In the decades since entire regions have been bled dry of ways to make a living, their cities and towns and downtowns left behind to crumble, their aging former factory workers scrambling for WalMart jobs and turning to opiates for relief.
Take a few days and drive around the regions once known for manufacturing or steel production. See what this kind of “free trade” has done to them,
As you drive from town to town in Michigan and Ohio you see one after another a ring of the “big box” stores and national chain stores around each city. You also see the “brownfields” of rusted-out, closed factories, empty, falling-down buildings. Then you go to the downtown and you see boarded up houses, empty storefronts, deteriorating and deteriorated communities, idle people standing on corners. As you drive into these towns you can just see what is happening in a nutshell.
Bled dry. First by “trade,” then by Wall Street-owned chains and banks then by the Wall Street collapse that sucked away the remaining assets. And then Wall Street got bailed out by their taxes but they didn’t. These regions never got any help from the government, even as they watched the Wall Street types and executives and coastal elites living it up — on their money.
Wall Street was bailed out. But for decades this country allowed entire regions and populations to deteriorate and die, and inequality to soar, and didn’t do a thing about it. No one fixed it.
“I Alone Can Fix It”
Tuesday a lot of righteously angry people with nowhere else to turn got fed up, took things into their own hands and voted for the lying, insulting, women-groping demagogue who promised that he and he alone can fix it. “I am your voice … I alone can fix it.”
Pick a former manufacturing area, and look at how that area voted in Tuesday’s election. Key “swing” states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin were hit hard by deindustrialization and little to nothing was done to help the people there. And they voted for Donald Trump because he promised to “fix” it.
Recent research has indicated that trade with China has been more disruptive than previously thought. MIT economist David Autor and co-authors have documented how rising Chinese imports wreaked havoc on competing U.S. industries. In total, their research found the surge of Chinese trade was responsible for the loss of more than 2 million jobs between 1999 and 2011. But, interestingly — and this is where Trump’s electoral map comes in — it had a concentrated geographic impact. States in the Midwest, Appalachia and the Southeast were where Chinese trade hit hardest. Take a look at these maps showing where the U.S. industries were most exposed…
Click through to see the maps. Flowers then explains, “At first look, this map sort of overlaps with Trump’s success. He has won or is currently leading in several manufacturing-heavy Midwestern states; anti-trade sentiment is rife there.”
Rust belt states agree with Trump that trade costs jobs
Donald Trump made trade a key message in his campaign. He promised to bring back the manufacturing jobs that he said were lost to trade deals.
Large shares of voters in key rust belt states key to Hillary Clinton’s electoral map agreed with Trump’s view that trade agreements have hurt American workers. And they overwhelmingly supported the billionaire businessman at the ballot box.
Half of Michigan’s electorate feel trade takes away jobs, and these folks supported Trump by a 57% to 36% split. The 31% who think it creates jobs backed Clinton by a 65% to 31% margin.
In Ohio, 47% of voters say trade hurts workers, and they lined up for Trump by a more than 2-to-1 margin. The 46% who say it creates jobs or has no effect strongly backed Clinton.
And in Pennsylvania, 53% of the electorate agree that trade is bad for jobs. Some 62% supported Trump, while 34% backed Clinton. Among the 35% who feel trade is a job creator, Clinton was the favored candidate by more than a 2-to-1 margin.
Trump Talked Trade From The First Day To The Last
Trump saw this and used it to propel his candidacy. Trump’s very first speech, announcing his candidacy, talked about trade — a lot.
“That’s right – a lot of people up there can’t get jobs. They can’t get jobs because there are no jobs because China has our jobs and Mexico has our jobs. They all have our jobs.
[. . .] I’m going to tell you a couple of stories about trade, because I’m totally against the trade bill for a number of reasons.
… Free trade can be wonderful if you have smart people. But we have people that are stupid. We have people that aren’t smart, and we have people that are controlled by special interests and it’s just not going to work.
He went on to tell those stories. And more. There’s much, much more about trade in that first speech. From that moment on in his campaign, he continued to talk about trade, in almost every speech, in the debates, and then in his final “closing argument.”
Trump’s final ad displays a picture of Bill Clinton and the word NAFTA as Trump says, “The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals…” Then, as a deserted factory is displayed:
“The political establishment is responsible for the destruction of our factories and our jobs as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries all around the world. The global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”
There’s no question about it: Trump used trade to propel himself to power.
Not Just Trump And Not Just Here
This is going on around the world. Elite “neoliberal” economic policies are driving inequality while wiping out the middle class and entire regions. Right-wing politicians are taking advantage of the distress and offering scapegoats, using xenophobia and racism to gain political power — just like Trump did.
Trump’s surprise win echoes the surprise win of Brexit — Britain’s vote to exit from the European Union. That vote was driven largely by the economic damage that EU’s open border and free trade policies were doing to the British working-class.
The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino-gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.
That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population — all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction — are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They’re going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture that they regard, not without reason, as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, You can ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people some of the time, and ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to some of the people all the time, but you cannot ignore the economic damage that neoliberal economic and trade policies are doing to all the people all of the time.
And here we are, with Trump soon to become President of the United States. Great. Just great.
This is the story of Kevin McQuaide and how the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens his ability to earn a living. The TPP is a trade agreement that will stimulate the outsourcing of American jobs and devastate manufacturing.
The reality of this election is that this year two choices for president, and only two choices. Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become president.
And this election is entirely about Donald Trump. You are either for him or against him, period. There is just no way around it.
Trump will have the keys to the FBI, NSA and Department of Justice. Imagine Chris Christie as Atty General and Rudolph Giuliani as Director of National Intelligence. Maybe Newt Gingrich running the FBI. Imagine Trump with the NSA surveillance apparatus under his control. All rubber-stamped by a Republican Congress. He’s already talked about firing all the generals, imagine what happens to the rest of government. our government will become entirely a support-Trump operation — not unlike how Putin runs Russia. Do you think you’ll be safe?
Trump promises a “deportation force” that will round up Muslim and Latino families — and do what with them? Black, Jewish and “mixed-race” families obviously are in line to be on that “Skittles” list. What happens to the rights of Gays and political “politically correct” opponents? His crowds chant “lock them up” about the news media. No, if you are someone who is reading this you won’t be safe if Trump wins.
If you think this is a just exaggerated talk or a joke, everyone also thought it was a joke that Trump could win the Republican nomination, or be anywhere close to becoming President. Yet he did and he is.
This is serious shit. Bernie Sanders is traveling around the country right now to spread this message:
“The stakes are much too high. This is not a personality contest. You are not voting for the senior class president at the local high school. You are voting for the most important public official in the world. The differences between Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump are day and night.”
If you do not want Donald Trump to become president you have to vote for Hillary Clinton. If you do not vote FOR Clinton you are voting to allow Trump to become president, period. You might not be able to stand Clinton, but you have to decide if you want Trump to be president, with all the consequences that brings. Because that is what it could mean if you do not show up and vote for Clinton.
In the union movement we learned the hard way that the only way to fight the moneyed interests is to stick together. It’s called SOLIDARITY. It’s what “union” MEANS.
When unions are in a fight the members stick together, and those crossing the lines are called “scabs”.
In the 2000 election it was the usual fragile Democratic coalition fighting the usual moneyed interests. Ralph Nader broke the solidarity, divided the coalition, and lost us the election. Ralph Nader is a scab.
Even if you are in a “safe” state you still have to vote for either Trump or Clinton. Not voting for Clinton to “send a message” keeps her “numbers” down nationally which, if things are close elsewhere could leave Trump with more votes nationally but lose the electoral college — like what happened to Gore. If that happens it encourages Trump’s neo-Nazi followers to take up arms.
In 2000 people voted for Ralph Nader to “send a message.” Solidarity was broken and Bush became president. No message was received and nothing was done about climate for 8 years, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed in an illegal war that brought lasting chaos to the Middle East. And our economy was ruined. A Trump win promises far, far worse consequences.