It’s A Really Bad Time to Be Middle Class

It’s a really bad time to even be middle class in this country, and forget about being poor. The only way to be protected is to be very wealthy: then you are guaranteed that your house is safe, your medical care is covered, and your children will have a future. It’s that bad, and not one bit of this is subtle.
There is a class war underway in this country. The rich, or those that represent their interests, and corporations want control. Dave Johnson, blogger for the Campaign for America’s Future, nailed it when he wrote that: “This budget fight is about a stark choice: jobs and growth for We, the People, or going down the road of plutocracy — rule by the super-rich and big corporations — with little or nothing left over for the rest of us.”
This is the power grab of our generation playing out in Obama’s budget. It reflects true entitlement for the super wealthy. The government revitalization of the “too big to fail” banks was only the tipping point. Of course, the bankers deserved their bonuses. Remember that you heard it here. The battleground is not about the so-called entitlement programs espoused by the Democrats. Social Security, and other such programs are not the culprits; they are the scapegoat for the real agenda.
Obama is being forced to rip open the social fabric of this country to reduce the Bush generated debts. In the President’s proposed budget, most social programs will be ravaged left and right (no pun intended). Yes admittedly, this budget is a massive jobs creation machine. But watch out – don’t get sick folks or have an on-the-job accident because there will little if any safety net. Certainly, we all know about health care reform, yet if Speaker Boehner and his boys have their way — that too will be reduced to a hill of beans and severely compromised. The fight for survival of the middle class and the poor has been ratcheted up a notch. Strap in folks, this is class warfare.
Note, this will also appear in the Huffington Post.

The New Revolutionaries Take to the Internet: The Tale of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

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WikiLeaks raises some of the most poignant questions of our time about the power of cyber warfare, the role of hackers, and the future of the Internet. It is not a coincidence that Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has created a whole new effort to explore and fight cyber terrorism. In fact, WikiLeaks and Assange may represent the first of the wholesale anarchists using today’s information highway to do battle. Consider that instead of taking to the streets in protest, this generation may take to the Internet to wage their battles and carry their message. We are living a time represented by the power of Facebook that links over 500 million people together. And if this is true, we may have unleashed a whole new generation of cyber warlords on the world’s information centers.
Many of our brethren are writing about democracy, liberty and the freedom of information pivoting off what they believe WikiLeaks stands for. Julian Assange has been elevated to the “Man of the People” as filmmaker Michael Moore contributes to his bail fund, and the Huffington Post sets up a whole section devoted to whistleblower Fantasy Land. You know, we all need something valiant to believe in during the difficult days of Obama. The obnoxious wealthy are dancing on the heads of US lawmakers. The banks are still doing the Texas two-step, and the Middle Class continues to suffer in silence with simmering rage. There are two deeply divisive wars. China is rising and scaring the heck out of us. The liberals of the Democratic Party continue to act like toddlers, and Sarah Palin is making hay laughing all the way to her off-shore accounts. So Julian Assange, or whoever is backing him, could not have picked a better moment of discontent. They are evoking new archetypes of good and bad in a world that is increasing grey.
Assange is the anti-hero. He has been personified as a man with no country who is a metrosexual kind of guy willing to risk it all to uncover the truth. Yet, we don’t really know much about this man, or what makes him tick. Is he really the wizard behind or the curtain, or there really someone or something else pulling the strings. Is he a hacker extraordinaire, or just a man that is a brilliant online community organizer? In fact and most importantly, what does it mean to be a hacker? Are hackers by definition anarchists, or is it just Julian that wants to topple the establishment at any cost. Or are there droves of these cyber-sleuths trolling the black lands of the Internet looking for back doors into silos of information? Remember Assange was a cryptologist of sorts which is the super duper folks that develop the ways to tunnel into software code. And it may be fair to assume that these same hackers were probably responsible for the DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on Visa, Master Card and others. And if this is true then who is really pulling the strings since these were very, targeted attacks on specific corporations that shut out the money flow for WikiLeaks? The bottom line is that we still don’t know how the WikiLeaks information is gathered and/or obtained. Does it come from this new breed of whistleblowers, such as Private Manning that had a rare blend of tech talents and access? If so; does this new breed even resemble our beloved archetypical whistleblowers circa Daniel Ellsberg, or even Erin Brockovich? And I ask again, have we grappled with the ramifications of an Internet that is locked down in response to WikiLeaks? Are we ready to usher in a new age of restrictions? This sadly will make the debate around net neutrality seem like child’s play if cyber war erupts.
Please note that this post appeared earlier in the day in the Huffington Post.

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The Great American Credit Catastrophe

The 911 of the Middle Class is the consumer credit debacle. It is the gift that keeps on giving. The reality is that the housing crisis is just one piece of this really big, ugly mess. It seems to me that our President MUST call for immediate reform and take action through executive order. Call me politically naïve, but we need action. Unemployment continues to hover close to 10%, and higher in badly hit areas. Interest paid by the banks on savings ranges from less than 1% to maybe 2.5% on a good day. The consumer credit card companies, though regulated now sort of, ran naked through the streets jacking up everyone’s interest rates to over 15 to 30%. Yes they have to notify the poor, irresponsible slobs now before they do things, but the banks still get to burn kerosene in the town square with no permits. And we haven’t even gotten to the health insurance yahoos that have four more years for their trickery. Oh Nelly, bar the door! It’s the Wild West again as the cattle are corralled – only this time it’s the American people being herded to ruin by the giddy-up bankers and health insurance companies, not just the mortgage guys.
People are getting sick from worry. Their backs hurt, their necks are out, and they are grinding their pearly whites. Few sleep well at night. Pharmaceutical sales are up. The banks we saved are savaging us. They are bulldozing the Middle Class under mountains of debt. People are losing their homes, divorces are up, businesses are closing, and unemployment is rampant. The consumer credit world and their FICO scores are broken. They are based on a world that no longer exists. In two short years, many consumers have watched their scores collapse under an avalanche of debt. The FICO scores were calibrated for a different time when consumer credit cards were not the only source of money available, mortgages were not under water, and unemployment was not soaring. If we are ever to unwind this situation, these algorithms must be reset. Otherwise the banks will never lend again. The Middle Class needs a do-over, just like the banks got.
Yes sir, Obama stood up against the broad sweeping foreclosure legislation, and Bank of America seized the moment halting foreclosures nationwide. But we’re all holding our breath waiting for the other shoe to fall as even Progressive strategist Mike Lux gens up the netroots to re-engage with the President and Congress. It is inconceivable that people have not taken to streets in protest over their lost pensions, and the absence of any kind of interest bearing bank account — except on consumer credit cards. In fact, this week Robert Sheer wrote brilliantly about Obama’s “No Banker Left Behind” — while every normal person has been thrown under the bank bus. How did we allow the bail-out of every financial institution, while abandoning the common folk? Why are Democrats — whether conservative, moderate or netroots – not able to channel this collective anger, rage and disappointment other than to take aim at one another? Given the data, there is no way out for the once resilient Middle Class without a do-over. Instead of “No Banker Left Behind” let us heal the Middle Class by fixing the credit industry; restricting the health care industry now, not in four years; and making those banks lend the money we gave them and not hide behind FICO scores. All of the Democrats are writing, but no one is demanding change now. The Tea Party has successfully harnessed the anger and rage, but has no plan. Frankly, they are just another distraction taking our attention away from the gravity of the problems.
Mr. President, come back to us as Mike Lux laments. We need you. We, in the Middle Class, are living this nightmare everyday of our lives. Figure it out, and get the Middle Class out from under. The numbers do not lie. This is our emergency, our call to action, our 911. Friends and neighbors are collapsing from the stress when they can ill afford it. Unemployment is not going away. Consumer debt is skyrocketing. Mr. Obama, Americans are not being frivolous and irresponsible as Dr. Summers would like you to believe. They are boxed in with no escape hatch. Consider enacting a nationwide job core like the WPA, putting the banks on real notice, corralling those nasty health insurance folks, redoing the credit industry, and loosening up cash. No one is sleeping at night. People are nervous and cannot see a future.
Please, inspire us again, show emotion, get messy, and let the wrinkles show. Mr. President raise your voice in outrage. Give us voice. Come back to us. The time is now.
This was originally published on the Huffington Post earlier today.
See the pearltree below for the references for this article.
US Economy

Against All Odds: Save the Middle Class and the American Dream

The American Dream is what is at stake for the Obama Administration, and they know it. This is the dirty, little secret that can longer be contained — it is escalating, cannot remain hidden, and may have significant political ramifications for the 2010 elections. The atrocity of the past years is this broken promise with the people, and it is deeply affecting the way they think, behave, vote and live. Moreover, it could begin to explain the groundswell response to candidate Barack Obama in 2008. The power of his words helped them believe that the dream was recoverable. He exemplified what was possible through education and hard work in his meteoric rise through American politics to the Oval Office. Further and more importantly, it also explains why we are now suffering such profound political despair reflected in the dropping poll numbers.
The middle class, for its survival, needs life to return to a semblance of “normalcy” – a time when they didn’t know how to spell the word “deficit” and didn’t have to care. They want their retirement savings back so they don’t have to work until they drop. They want a bank account that makes more then one percent interest. They want to know what their health insurance premiums will be this year and in ten. They want to know if their kids study, and if they save and sacrifice, that their lives will be better. They want their kids to get good jobs, and they want to hold onto our own jobs. And with despair and anger they realize that despite the heroic work of the Congress with this President in passing landmark legislation in all of these areas — they still are not safe. Economic ruin may still be right around the corner, and makes it hard to sleep at night.
You know we’ve all been hoodwinked and sold a bill of goods about the sanctity of the middle class in this country. It is a basic tenet of our lives, and made us different from other countries. The ranks swelled over the last decades after FDR to the present. But now for the first time since the Great Depression, the middle class is at risk of tipping over once and for all. They are not coming out of the financial, housing and environmental crises intact. Interest rates have ratcheted up on the family home, maybe there’s a balloon payment on the mortgage and its impossible to refinance under the “new” programs; savings have virtually no interest and are drying up; pensions have evaporated; health insurance premiums are basically unaffordable until 2014 if then; schools are overcrowded and on the decline; there are no jobs except in China and they don’t speak Mandarin; and unemployment is still at 9.5% — higher in key areas throughout the country. The new legislation is riddled with loopholes, as all legislation can be after laborious compromises and extensive details. What is different is that each of these loopholes is flagrantly being exploited by the banks, the credit card companies and the health insurance companies. For example, many of the unemployed cannot qualify for COBRA because their companies failed which is code for closed their doors. COBRA is not available when a company terminates their health insurance plan, and 2014 is a long way off when you need health insurance coverage now.
Frankly, this is not what the middle class signed up for. It was not part of the implicit promise made to them. As a result, they are angry (enter stage right the Tea Party to exploit this vulnerability), and depressed (evidenced in the lackluster June election voter turnout). This is a deadly combination that could seal the deal on the November elections for the big, bad guys. Yet somehow the middle class and its Democrats must rally again and rise above the collective depression (no pun intended). We cannot let the brilliant and effective message machine of the Republican Party lull them into universal amnesia — forgetting all the wrongs of the past. Remember these are the same guys (Bush and Cheney) that put the nails in the coffin cementing the potential extermination of the middle class. These same guys two weeks ago even blocked the extension of unemployment benefits while they frolicked on vacation. How could they do that to working families in this country? The extension passed the House before the break, but was filibustered in the Senate. And given all that, imagine life when we essentially give away the House because we are too depressed to vote or disorganized to keep these seats.
I will take liberal Speaker Nancy Pelosi any day over anti-choice, sanctimonious Republican Representative John Boehner as Speaker of the House. That would be a bad dream that just keeps on giving. This threat should be enough for the White House to saddle up and come out with a plan, a message (remember “hope and change”), and leadership to deliver – not the White House Press Secretary Gibbs message yesterday. David Gregory of Meet the Press has gotten so very good and Gibbs just walked into a fiasco announcing the potential lose of seats in the House. It was as bad as giving away candy instead of feeding the homeless, and maybe that’s why White House Special Advisor, David Axelrod, was so snarky with CNN’s Candy Crowley during the next hour on the Sunday morning political shows because it sure didn’t make any sense.
Snarky or not, we all know Obama and his team are awful busy with the economy, the oil spill and a few dozen Russian spies, but we need them to reach out to that disenfranchised middle class again, aka big voting block. After all, Obama is the master communicator and we know that he can do it because he has done it before to win in 2008. And now the stakes may even be higher. If we allow 40 seats in the House to go asunder and a few more in the US Senate — we can start waving bye-bye to the American Dream, the middle class, economic recovery, and maybe the Supreme Court for the next couple of decades.
Please see my Pearltree for some of the reference materials with more to come. This is a new tool to organize and share materials on the web. In full disclosure, I advise them as they build out the new features of this platform.
Middlle Class
Note, an earlier version of this article appeared this week on the Huffington Post.