Saturday Reads Around The Internets - More Direct Attacks on Middle Class America

Welcome to the weekly roundup of great articles, facts and figures. These are the weekly finds that made our eyes pop.


Fewer Jobs, Less Pay

wages workers 2010

The first look at 2010 ain't pretty. David Cay Johnston overviews the 2010 salary and wage numbers. There is a video overview at the link as well.

The median paycheck — half made more, half less — fell again in 2010, down 1.2 percent to $26,364. That works out to $507 a week, the lowest level, after adjusting for inflation, since 1999.

The number of Americans with any work fell again last year, down by more than a half million from 2009 to less than 150.4 million.


Income Rising at the Top

EPI shows the 99% are right, the rich get richer, the rest of us get the shaft.

incomes top epi 2007

In the long period before the most recent recession, from 1979 to 2007, inflation-adjusted incomes of the top 1 percent of households increased 224 percent. Those even better off, the top 0.1 percent (the top one one-thousandth of households), saw their incomes grow 390 percent. In contrast, incomes for the bottom 90 percent grew just 5 percent between 1979 and 2007. All of that income growth, however, occurred in the unusually strong growth period from 1997 to 2000, which was followed by a fall in income from 2000 to 2007.


Bleak Picture for Americans

CBS News put the data together and pointed out further how the rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer.

Those earning at least $1 million a year, a total of 93,725 Americans, reported payroll income totaling $224 billion - a rise of 22 percent above 2009.


Yet Another Secret Trade Pact To Destroy More American Jobs

Eyes on Trade alerts us to a trans-pacific trade deal that is being negotiated in secret:

Recently Revealed ‘Secrecy Pact’ for Trans-Pacific Trade Talks Belies Obama Administration Promises of Transparency in Trade

U.S. Groups Escalate Demands for Access to Trans-Pacific Trade Texts as Global Push for Transparency Builds on Eve of Talks

This yet another NAFTA style trade deal has been in negotiations for months with a November deadline:

The Obama Administration began talks with Asian and Latin American nations to enter into the Trans-Pacific FTA. The talks with Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam were originally initiated by the Bush Administration.


U.S. Taxpayer Funds Jobs To Foreigners

Trade Reform picked up on a car company getting Stimulus dollars to build a car in Finland.

This is disgusting. We need a national strategy to counter state capitalism. But can you imagine China, Japan or Germany doing this? Spending public money to allow highly innovative production facilities to be built in other countries?

Fisker Automotive took $529M in taxpayer loans and outsourced the manufacturing to Finland.


Outsourcing the American Dream

The below video is from an Alliance for American Manufacturers Panel, where Leo Gerard states the obvious, innovation follows manufacturing, not the other way around.




Stupid Immigration Tricks

A couple of Senators want to give an immigrant visa to anyone who buys $500k worth of residential real estate. Be afraid, this is supposedly part of a more comprehensive immigration reform bill. Right o, they destroy America's middle classes so the Senators want to tack on an immigrant visa bribe to keep housing prices over-inflated? Drug cartels and human smugglers, you watching this? I'll bet you are!


Social Security COLA 3.6% for 2012

Calculated Risk number cranks the cost of living increase for social security in 2012. We've calculated COLA out as well in the past so Calculated Risk's 3.6% increase assessment is about right.


Health Care Getting More Expensive, Benefits Cut

The Wall Street Journal, in their typical blame the victim mentality, overviews how deductibles are skyrocketing, choice is being reduced and people are foregoing more and more basic health care because they cannot afford it. That's with insurance.

Gets worse, corporations are testing cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass and blaming the person if any of these biometrics come up short, as in financial, premiums and lose your job blame. See some institutionalized age discrimination coming down the pike? Blood pressure increases with age. Watch out, even though this story will make your blood boil, don't let your employer measure your growing outrage. You maybe out of a job, never mind health care.


Walmart Cuts Health Insurance for Employees

Walmart workers are paid such low wages, they already could not even afford the health insurance premiums. Now Walmart is denying any benefits to millions of part-time workers now. One would think Walmart is so huge, they would simply start their own health insurance company and HMO. But that's probably not profitable enough for them.



Barry Ritholtz has a series on CEO pay in pictures. 299 CEO salaries could support over 100,000 median income jobs and it's just obscene how much gluttonous greed is going on in executive land.



Consider this an Open Thread

Registered users: The comments on EP actually have their own RSS feed and literally you can turn comments into a typical comment, start a conversation or you can write "mini-articles". So please add whatever facts, details you saw this week which just are scary for U.S. workers, the economy, middle class and so on.

Our links are a little different, they are more like mini-posts where it is assumed you will click on the embedded link to read the actual article referenced.

This week there is so much going on, this site sure cannot cover it all.

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Trans-Pacific Trade - cart before horse again

The talk from Washington and the office of the USTR is that this next FTA will somehow be better than all of the others. But the truth is that we are putting the cart before the horse, because we first need to establish a protectionist system for all our trade relations.

My view on trade is like the OWS -- I don't have a simplistic political demand for fixing it, but I do know that there are systemic problems that require systemic reform. And as Buddy Roemer points out about USA politics, it's the money running things that messes up the system.

First, before entering into any more FTAs, we need to establish our own pro-America trade regulation system -- including such legislation as the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act (that Boehner's has sunk in the House despite that a bipartisan majority of House members declared their support for the bill).

We need a system that is established under US law that essentially treats all trading partners alike -- that is, a system that establishes standards for the protection of US workers and industry, making distinctions according to objective standards applied equally to all of our trading partners. That description (establishing objective standards applied equally to all of our trading partners) applies to the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act that came out of the Senate recently only to be torpedoed by Boehner in the House, despite that a bipartisan majority of House members declared their support for the bill.

We need to put a complete halt to the idea that domestic policy can be changed for the better by legislating through the backdoor of 'fast track' FTAs. If a trade agreement requires some change in domestic policy -- for product standards, national defense, patents, environmental law, food and drug safety, employment-labor law and the preservation of USA work force -- then, those areas need to be legislated separately before any trade agreement can be implemented.

In short, opposition to fast-track FTAs by the working people of America must be, and is becoming, total.

The preference system that has been enshrined as a Holy Cow in the WTO bureaucratic mess has been proven dysfunctional and in need of thorough-going reform. We should know by now that we cannot reform the entire world through fast-track 'free' trade agreements, and we should also know by now that the basis of successful trade for USA must be a rational protectionist system.

We need to go all the way back to the philosophical or idealistic foundations of the Uruguay Round and consider how those foundations have been shown to be faulty. To continue building on a poorly laid foundation, when we see structural problems developing everywhere around the world, is insanity.

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NewSpeak "Parnership" replacing "Agreement"?

This new FTA is being sold as the "Trans-Pacific Partnership" rather than "Trans-Pacific Free Trade Zone" or "Trans-Pacific Free Trade Agreement."

Now why would the USTR abandon the term "Free Trade Agreement" when all of the FTAs to date have been so clearly successful? wink

Yes, "partnership" .... it sounds so .... so .... kum ba ya.

Of course, we have to be all for that, right? no

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Protectionist Japan and TPTP scheme

The economic miracle of postwar Japan was built on a solid policy of protectionism since the formation of the  Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) in 1949. Is it any wonder that Japan is slow to abandon its right to determine its import policies based on its own political priorities?

The following is excerpted from Wiki article, "Japanese post-war economic miracle" --

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) was instrumental in Japan's post-war economic recovery. According to some scholars, no other governmental regulation or organization had more economic impact than MITI. “The particular speed, form, and consequences of Japanese economic growth,” Chalmers Johnson writes, “are not intelligible without reference to the contributions of MITI” .... Established in 1949, MITI’s role began with the "Policy Concerning Industrial Rationalization" (1950)  .... The extent of the policy was such that if MITI wished to “double steel production, the neo-zaibatsu already has the capital, the construction assets, the makers of production machinery, and most of the other necessary factors already available in-house” ....

MITI also boosted the industrial security by untying the imports of technology from the imports of other goods. MITI's Foreign Capital Law (1950) granted the ministry power to negotiate the price and conditions of technology imports. This element of technological control allowed it to promote industries it deemed promising. The low cost of imported technology allowed for rapid industrial growth. Productivity was greatly improved through new equipment, management, and standardization.

MITI gained the ability to regulate all imports with the abolition of the Economic Stabilization Board and the Foreign Exchange Control Board in August 1952 .... in effect giving MITI full control over all Japanese imports. Power over the foreign exchange budget was also given directly to MITI.

MITI's establishment of the Japan Development Bank (1951) also provided the private sector with low-cost capital for long-term growth. The Japan Development Bank introduced access to the Fiscal Investment and Loan Plan (FILP), a massive pooling of individual and national savings. At the time FILP controlled four times the savings of the world's largest commercial bank. With this financial power, FILP was able to maintain an abnormally high number of Japanese construction firms (more than twice the number of construction firms of any other nation with a similar GDP).


Does that sound like a plan ... or what? (But first we would need a government committed to the well-being of America and of American working families!)

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Japan, TPTP and rice

Japan has reservations about food security. The Japanese government wants to support farmers, especially regarding rice. Rice costs 3 to 5 times more in Japan than in USA.

The following is excerpted from an Agence France Presse (AFP) story (29 September 2011) via --

The United States said Thursday [29 September 2011] it would welcome Japan's participation in a future trans-Pacific trade agreement as it voiced frustration at a lack of new initiatives tying together the two allies.

Japan is debating whether to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact being negotiated by [USA and] nine [other] nations [Japan, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam], but the [Japanese] government faces strong opposition from farmers.

Kurt Campbell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said that Japan and the United States needed to find new areas for cooperation ... "

The United States has been alarmed by a lack of momentum in its alliance with Japan, which has had a new prime minister each year since 2006, although many Japanese welcomed the rapid US response to its tsunami and nuclear crisis.

"I'm struck that sometimes when we meet we have huge challenges that we deal with, like how to respond to the nuclear challenge," said Campbell ...

President Barack Obama's administration has promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a new type of trade deal that creates jobs while ensuring stringent labor rights and environmental standards. ...

Japan's Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives has campaigned vigorously against participation, saying the deal would reduce food security in a country where farmers -- especially of rice -- enjoy generous government support.

Campbell said that President Barack Obama spoke about trade issues during September 21 talks with new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in New York.


Same old story = non-solutions to anything

Do you believe this crap -- the implicit premises in all this scheming? Do you believe this "new type of trade deal that creates jobs while ensuring stringent labor rights and environmental standards"? I don't. Specifically ...

* It's pure bull pucky about the Obama administration (Obama's USTR) might conceivably negotiate a "new type of trade deal that creates jobs while ensuring stringent labor rights and environmental standards." That is just NOT in the cards, given the Obama administration's record in "renegotiating" the Columbia FTA for improved labor standards and the reality that USA has yet to get our own house in order with such necessary trade policies as the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act.

* I don't see that there is any necessity whatsoever for Japan to stop underwriting its rice farmers in order to advance solutions to what are essentially global nuclear and strategic issues. (Campbell uses the term "new areas of cooperation" as NewSpeak for "destroying Japanese rice production".)

* I don't believe that either President Obama or Prime Minister Noda had any business conducting a conversation that was anything but completely open and recorded in an easily accessible public record concerning trade negotiations. (Neither Obama nor Noda can legitimately claim to be long-term representatives of the working peoples of either nation, especially respecting trade relations!)

* I don't believe that USA "has been alarmed by a lack of momentum in its alliance with Japan," and I don't think it is any of our business that Japan "has had a new prime minister each year since 2006." (Good for them!)

* I don't believe that USA played a particularly key role in responding to the tsunami and related nuclear disaster. Government of the USA probably did what it could, but all that is irrelevant to the apparent push by the Obama administration for the next great US-economy-destroying trade initiative. I don't believe that there is any real problem due to a supposed "lack of new initiatives tying together the two allies."

This TPTP scheme is off to the same old start that has been typical of all the FTAs -- lies, bushwah and idiotic hype. Been there. Done that. Tried that. Doesn't work. End of story.

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Have to do a piece

on nations with export surpluses, first world, with high wages who are doing well. Japan has had so many problems, a similar "housing bubble" like the U.S. plus the Earthquake have really rattled their economy but they are still #3. Germany comes to mind and I'll have to check up on Canada, Singapore, Australia and some others.

I want to say that only the U.S. signs such absurd terms and gives away the U.S., one trade "treaty" at a time, but need to verify.

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The Only Way to Save the Economy

Great Saturday round-up as usual, but there's one more great read that is currently EP-linked at The Big Picture ( --

The Only Way to Save the Economy: Break Up the Giant, Insolvent Banks

IMHO, this 'The Big Picture' article is a great review of a major blindspot in media coverage and, of course, in all the political jawing as usual around the 2012 election circus.

This is what people should be discussing, not the stupid stuff about the budget, cutting Social Security, etc.. Even more to the point, this is the agenda that should be flowing from Occupy Wall Street, picked up on by members of Congress who want to survive 2012.

Iceland -- a real functioning democracy -- would have already talked this over and probably would have it all done before the end of the year.

What does it take for Americans to understand that we need real reform?

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Iceland one of the few to say "screw you"

and vote down bailing out the banks with their money. They seem to be fine too.

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Gangs in Military, FBI report on Gangs, Military report

This is just scary as hell. The FBI has issued a report on gangs, organized criminal activity in the U.S.

It's incredibly detailed, complete with photos, maps, data and yes, we have gangs in the military.

There are a few things to note. Firstly, magically somehow ethnically based gangs are not "PC" for the FBI, they are calling it as it is, we have organized criminal gangs based on ethnicity and national origin.

Secondly, beyond the billions in drug trade, there is another major billion dollar "enterprise" and that is human slavery, trading women, little girls and forcing them into prostitution and other horrifying situations.

This is what happens with the median wage/salary for all of America is $26k a year. Poverty breeds criminal enterprise.

Myself, I am for legalizing marijuana, I just don't find pot a big deal, to me alcohol is way worse and it's clear this is Prohibition all over. Demand is not going to drop. They should legalize it, tax the hell out of it and create new billion dollar cash crops for the U.S. and hit cartels where they live, their pocket books.

Second, I think the U.S. should legalize prostitution. Heavily regulated, health inspectors, and so on. This is the worlds "oldest profession", with so many girls forced into prostitution, clearly there is a high "customer base" out there.

Frankly, make it safe, get kids out of this situation and make it highly lucrative for the people "providing services" directly.

It's just ridiculous to have things be illegal when nothing ever changes. I think we can still talk about morality and healthy behavior and so on, but it's clear on some things, making them illegal is simply making the situation worse and creating huge underground "businesses" that are much, much worse than the original "sin".

Check out the report, the FBI just isn't messing around and you'll get the feeling "you're surrounded" after reading it.

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