And here are a few of my veterans day thoughts:
It is unfortunate, that all this Patraeus breaking news tragically falls on veterans day. As the media swarm buzzes and feeds on the insatiable blend of tabloid sex scandal and high ranking government official resigning on the eve of a newly re-elected president, and the search for the "other woman" fighting over the general's affection, these above the fold page 1 stories all undeservingly overshadow the honor and attention our veterans so rightly deserve.
As we pass the 2,000 mark of american lives lost in an 11 year war, our nation, our society, our mainstream media yet again, abandon and overlook those who wear the uniform and those who have so bravely fought for our country and sacrificed their lives in order to ensure that the rest of our nation's citizens are safe and that the pillars of democracy and freedom that define our great nation are upheld and remain firmly in tact. As we mark this day, let us not forget
-The 22 million veterans currently living in the United States
-The more than 2.3 million United States troops who have been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq since October 2001
-The 2,130 United States Service Members who lost their lives in Afghanistan.
-The 4,474 United States Service Members who lost their lives in Iraq.
-The 17,887 US Troops wounded in Afghanistan.
-The 31,930 US Troops wounded in Iraq.
Those in active military duty make up less than 1% of the American population, YET….
-There are 689,000 veterans who are unemployed.
-The unemployment rate for veterans who have served since the September 11th terrorist attacks is 10%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oct, 2012)
-The unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24 is 14.5%. (Department of Veterans Affairs, Oct, 2012)
-The poverty rate for veterans aged 18-34 reached 12.5% in 2010, more than double the rate of 10 years earlier.
-More than 75% of veterans report "an inability to effectively translate their military skills to civilian terms."
-College-educated service members who recently returned to civilian life earn almost $10,000 less per year on average than other college-educated adults.
-There were 67,495 veterans who were homeless on any given night in 2011, 14% of the homeless in the US are veterans. (Down from 75,609 in 2009)
-The 2012 suicide rate of active duty military personal is greater than the number of troops dying in battle.
-An American soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan dies every 36 hours, a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.
- The Janurary-September total of veteran suicides is 16% higher than the previous 2009 record and on pace to set a new annual high, with 38 Army suicides in July 2012 alone.
-22% of all suicides in the US are former service members.
With the war in Afganistan scheduled to end in 13 months, and with the Budget Control Act of 2011 reducing budgetary resources for defense and non defense domestic discretionary programs by $492 billion each over the 2013-2021 period, it appears we have a major dilemma ahead of us. With the wind down of troops returning home coinciding with the reduction of resources to care for those returning heroes, it appears inevitable that an unconscionable number will lack the access to proper and immediate care that they so rightly deserve. No one who risks their life to defend our country abroad should ever be denied the very same defense at home.
After a long journey, the book is finally done!!!!
9.6 x 12.1 inches
Hardcover, 112 pages
b.frank books, 2012
First Edition of 400
UPDATE: SOLD OUT
For all the Americans barely making ends meet, who have been left behind in the ashes of the Great Recession and whose struggle goes unnoticed. For the brave men and women who fought for our country and whose patriotic sacrifice has been forgotten by society. For the families who have lost a loved one to street violence, addiction or prison. For those who worked their entire life for a company only to be told they were no longer needed because their job could be done cheaper somewhere else. For those who worked hard to support their families and put food on the table every night, played by the rules all their lives and who have watched the promise of the great American Dream slip away right before their eyes. For all those suffering in the shadows, whose plight has been the human consequence of reckless greed and neglect....
This is for you.
NO JOB, NO HOME, NO PEACE, NO REST
AN INSTALLATION BY WILL STEACY
Featuring a 170 foot long collage detailing the story of The American Dream, from the Homestead Act of 1862 to Operation Twist, and 32 recent photographs.
September 14-December 15
Opening Reception September 14, 6:30pm.
Silver Eye Center For Photography
1015 East Carson Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
Collage on loan from the Annette and Peter Nobel Collection
The streets are red, the chalk lines white, and the bodies are blue. Innocence is trampled and democracy destroyed as the gun lobby has bought off every politician and leader who holds the power to make change—to enact assault weapons ban. Not even the near killing of one of their own by a mad man brought about an effort to reform our gun laws. Instead we are left to die and our families to grieve.
Dear Mr President,
The people in Wisconsin need you. With the announcement today that you will not appear in Wisconsin before the Walker re-call election, you are in effect abandoning the very struggling middle class Americans whom you say you are fighting for and appear to be basing your re-election campaign on. This is heart-breakingly exploitive and utterly spineless. You have abandoned the promises you pledged to the people who needed you most. The American worker has been fighting with his back against the ropes for the past 30 years and this election is a pivotal moment for hard working wage earners. While it may be good for your approval ratings to attempt to care about the working class by freely throwing around catch phrases like "American worker," "picket line" and "collectively bargain," and it may just be political jargon for you, but for us, these words are a reality. They are what define our lives and how we feed our families. We take these words seriously and we took your promises seriously. What you see as votes from our Union members and campaign donations paid with our Union dues, we see as the stepping stones to the American Dream and as the defining element of what you politicians call "American Exceptionalism." What that term means to you, I do not know, but us, the American workers, we see American Exceptionalism as the thing that once made America great—knowing that our country would protect us and care for us with programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, no matter the cost, because that's what the best fucking country in the world did—took care of it's own.
Our Unions built this country, the highways you drive on, the cars you drive in, the office buildings you work in and are the municipal life blood that hold our cities together. We have fought a 100 years war in blood and struggle for the right to work fair hours at a livable wage, 2% wage increase every five years indexed for inflation and in return for a life of back breaking work we would be rewarded with a pension and health care for our families. A man without a college degree used to be able to work the line in a car factory in Detroit and earn a middle class wage that allowed him to drive 2 cars, send his children to state college and go on vacation once a year. Today that dream is barely achievable as big businesses years ago gave up on America and the very workers who gave their lives to building the company name. These profit hungry corporations decided to abandon the middle class lifestyle that defined the Post-WWII manufacturing prosperity because it ate away at profit margins, and after all, the only thing that really matters is feeding shareholders endless appetite for exceeding quarterly expectations and CEO bonuses bigger and fatter than the year's before. The greedy bastards choose instead to rob us, and export the American Dream to emerging markets, invest their money overseas where they could abandon work place regulations, fair wages and exploit these workers abroad, thus turning back the labor standards clocks with the creation of 21st Century Gilded Ages. All the while, these S+P 500 companies sit on record high piles of cash and refuse to hire new workers in their own country that are so very desperate for work so we can instantly reinvest our wages back into the economy as we survive paycheck to paycheck.
Instead, Mr. President, by abandoning Wisconsin before June 5th, you side with the likes of Scott Walker himself, Mitch Daniels, Rick Synder, Chris Christie and all the soulless free-market rat scabs who have destroyed our country and whose efforts to deny collective bargaining to workers and to strip unions of their political power. You must have lost your mind Mr. President, can't you see that those extremist Republicans dont actually care anything about Unions, their clever idea to attack the number one source of Democratic campaign funding (yes, Unions) as the main obstacle to balancing State budgets, has nothing to do with shared sacrifice and everything to do with striping political power from the left, along with voter ID laws and the war on women. This sacrifice isn't shared, it rests solely on the backs of the men and women who wake up everyday sore and tired and fight to pay mortgages, high gas prices, credit card bills, and put a hot meal on the table everynight.
It us, the American workers, the ones who have sacrificed everything for this country, who believed your words, who trusted that you would be there "standing in our corner" ready to fight with us when we needed you. And, we, the American workers, are the ones who voted for you. You have had many opportunities Mr. President to stand in our corner, and believe me, we sure could have used you with us in Madison, the Gulf Coast and in every state budget meeting, but you were no where to be found. You have lied to us Mr. President and you have abandoned us when we needed you most. You crossed the picket line and you have become a puppet for big corporations. You are not a Union man and you never will be. Broken promises are the only thing I can believe in. "He who expecteth nothin' ain't gonna be deceived."
It makes me sick to my stomach that our country is unable provide even an ounce of the infinite respect and honor that our service members so rightly deserve. Our society is too immersed in updating what it's favorite color is on Facebook to even consider for the past ten years we have sent our sons and daughters off to fight for our freedom and our democracy knowing full well that some will not return. Our country cares more about a ticker tape parade for the Super Bowl champs than a parade to honor the troops who fought so bravely and who sacrificed so much in Iraq. Instead we honor a bunch of millionaires who throw around a ball, as we turn a blind eye to the 4,400 who gave their lives in Iraq. It's a national disgrace and an embarrassment and our country should be ashamed of our selves. We are better than this. The American heros who have selflessly sacrificed their lives for our country and asked for nothing in return deserve more.
“My death did not change the world; it may be tough for you to justify its meaning at all. But there is a greater meaning to it. Perhaps I did not change the world. Perhaps there is still injustice in the world. But there will be a child who will live because men left the security they enjoyed in their home country to come to his. And this child will learn in the new schools that have been built. He will walk his streets not worried about whether or not his leader’s henchmen are going to come and kidnap him. He will grow into a fine man who will pursue every opportunity his heart could desire. He will have the gift of freedom, which I have enjoyed for so long. If my life buys the safety of a child who will one day change this world, then I know that it was all worth it."
-Sgt. Will Stacey
I can think of no greater honor or privilege in this world than to share the same name of Sgt. Will Stacey. I hope one day to be half the man you were. Your bravery, courage, honor and patriotism made the world a better place. The values and ideals you lived by and, ultimately, give your life for, are the standard that all Americans should strive to achieve and live by. People like Sgt. Stacey saw the world in the right way and realized that the world is a big place and that the greatest thing a man can do is try to make a positive change in the the world. He lived and died by his words and he gave his life to a greater cause, to doing right by those who have been wronged and that even though he was just one man, he never gave up and never gave in. The world we live in would be a better place if more people tried to just be half the man he was. Sgt. Stacey is an American hero. We need to stop letting hate, anger and fear devour us and instead look at the American heros who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and our democracy and the values and ideals that they lived by....we could all be better people and a greater country if we strived to be like Sgt. Stacey. Despite your words Will, you in fact made a difference and the world is a better place because of you. I wish I could have shook your hand and thanked you.
It has become a huge concern to me that in regards to all the current discourse among our country's politicians about American Exceptionalism, innovation, our rich manufacturing history, the American businesses leading the way into the future of technology, social media and all things digital, as the real question of how all this produces jobs in our current consumer based economy is ignored. Despite the annual profits or stock prices of American companies in the technology industry, this success does not translate into growth of the American labor force by any means or the fantasy that these record profit margins will somehow equate to shared prosperity for all. Ha! Not in a free market global economy.
Come March 9th at 8:30 am, I do predict a further drop in the unemployment rate. In post financial crisis years, as companies have been very bearish about operating costs and sitting on huge cash piles as they squeeze out everything they can with a bare bones workforce. But in recent months as the economy has grown steadily across the board, aka more people working, more people with a paycheck in their pockets to spend, consumer spending goes up, and thus the whole economic cycle is turned up a couple dials. However, as the economy gains speed and demand steadily grows, the current labor force companies have no longer can keep up, and they have to hire new workers, which is great for economy, but bad for companies because that means higher operating costs and lower profits, which was evident in 4th quarter reports.
Taking a step back it's important to compare the current unemployment rate against the labor participation rate (see Bureau of Labor Statistics graphs below). Comparing these numbers will tell the real story about the unemployment numbers, because while it may look good with 8% unemployment (my prediction on March 9th) and as those numbers will eventually continue to go down, so will the participation rate. A large part of what we are seeing is the beginning phases of the mass baby boomer exit from the labor force. This is of concern in terms of government revenue and the battle over deficits, as the decline in tax revenue is coupled with bigger Medicare and Social Security costs...a double edged sword.
Anyway back to my point here. We must not obsess and focus on the past. Whether it's a GOP desire to replicate Reagan era tax policies, while ignoring the inconvenient parts like Reagan raised taxes 11 times or the economic circumstances of 30 years ago which are entirely different today. Or the Democratic notion of a "built to last" economy replicating the manufacturing base of the 50s, 60s and early 70s, completely ignoring this big thing called China and free-market capitalism which allows big American businesses to take the jobs from its country and give them to workers in another country where they operate without regulation, work endless shifts and receive pennies in return. Wake the fuck up! None of that is going to happen. The world has so drastically changed in the past 40 years, the point of no return was passed years ago as we flew by in the EZ-Pass express lane and didnt even slow down to take notice of the potential risks and repercussions. Instead we just patted ourselves on the back, the economy was strong, the dollars signs looked pretty and we ignored every single red flag, and, well, now, it's too late. It is intellectual midgetry to think we can replicate the past. The dominos have fallen and there is no way to pick them back up and put them in place with out knocking them over in the process.
Technology by definition is based on computers and machines doing the work, not humans. Computers and machines do not flex their biceps, sweat or have an aching back after a 16 hour day assembling cars. Facebook does not require a factory line of hundreds of American workers, working 3 shifts in a non stop 24 hour cycle. No, it has a handful of programers to write script and code and devise ways in which the computer can do all that work simultaneously and with perfect accuracy and productivity not dependent on a lunch break. If you can think it and write a code for it, a computer or machine can perform it. Humans are rapidly becoming the outdated, ineffective obsolete model. In fact it seems humans only seem to get in the way and make businesses slower as they are prone to things like mistakes and errors that are a natural characteristic of our species and held accountable for other human traits such as greed and cheating, which often lead to fraud and other scandals potentially destroying business.
So as the human labor force becomes the bulky 3 megapixel camera and heavy cell phone that only makes and receives calls of yesterday, we as a nation need to unite together, not by whether one pulls a red or blue lever in the voting booth, but as politicians, business leaders, economists, labor leaders, scientists, workers, consumers, innovators, etc and think about our future as one. If we are going to see our way out of this jobs crisis, we need to have a jobs plan for tomorrow which ensures that everyone benefits. Contrary to what those on top may want you to believe, our consumer economy is not a triangle with a powerful few on top and powerless many on the bottom. No, our economy is a circle, a well greased gear if you will, in which every tooth on that gear is just as important as the next in terms of overall function and health of the gear, because if one tooth breaks, the entire gear is rendered useless. As a nation, we need to the face the facts and hard truths that define our reality and the road of the future that we will go down together. The consumer buying groceries and gas every week is just as important as the Fortune 100 CEO.
We are at the crossroads and there is only one narrow road forward in which we must figure out a way to all fit together in one car without leaving anyone behind. We are running behind schedule so for the time being we just all have to make sacrifices for the benefit of our country. Someone is going to get to drive, someone is going to get shotgun and hold the map, and someone is going to get stuck in the back seat of the Prius sandwiched between two Chris Christies. At the next rest stop we can all get out, fill the tank with gas, buy a Slim Jim and Slurpee and then argue all over again about the seating arrangements come the new election cycle. But for the time being if we dont all figure out a way to get everyone in the car now and go, we are going to be left behind as a nation as we stand on the side of the road arguing and fighting as the cars and buses of other countries and nations honk and wave as they pass us on the road to the future.
Nine years, seven months, and twenty days after September 11th, an American was a trigger pull from ending bin Laden’s life. The first round, a 5.56-mm. bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, “For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo.”
-excerpt from Nicholas Schmidle's New Yorker article
We have broken our backs for a lifetime with nothing to show for it except food on the table and the clothes on the backs of our children. We have played by the rules, done our fair share. We have built the roads and cities that this country takes for granted, sent our sons off to die in foreign wars that our society has forgotten, and we have never asked for anything in return. We have never asked for anything more than a line to work, a time card to punch and the promise that if we work hard our whole lives we can offer our children a better life than the one we had.
-Companies in the US spend up to $2 Billion a year to collect personal data.
-Facebook made $3.2 Billion in advertising revenue in 2011, 85% of its total income.
-Google made an estimated $36.5 Billion in advertising revenue in 2011 by analyzing what people sent in Gmail and what they searched for on the Web.
-Mark Zuckerberg's wealth is estimated at more than $23 Billion.
-Zuckerberg owns more than than 413 million B shares of Facebook stock. Shares are currently valued at $40 a share.
-In documents for his company's public stock offering, Zuckerberg plans to exercise stock options worth an estimated $5 Billion. $2 Billion of which will be paid in state and federal income taxes and paid at the ordinary compensation rate of 35%.
-Warren Buffett paid less than $7 Million in taxes in 2010 at a rate of 17%.
-The taxes Zuckerberg and other shareholders pay on exercised stock options will translate into a big tax benefit for Facebook. The IRS allows companies to take a mirror deduction for employees option compensation and this deduction will eliminate Facebook's tax of $1 Billion in profits in 2011.
-According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, this tax policy will cost the US Treasury at least $20 Billion in lost revenue over the next decade.
-The CBO's projected 2012 budget deficit is $1.2 Trillion, as a result of "disappointingly low corporate tax receipts of the sort that's a little puzzling," said CBO director Douglas Elmendorf.
-Corporate taxes as a share of profits are at their lowest level in 40 years.
-Corporate taxes paid on profits fell to 12.1% in fiscal 2011. Companies on average paid 25.6% from 1987-2008.
-Apple has nearly $100 Billion in cash and is one of the most profitable companies ever. It employs 43,000 people in the US.
-In 1990 China represented 2% of global gross domestic product. It has quadrupled and is now at 8%. By most estimates China's economy will become the world's largest between 2016-2018.
-In the US the average worker wages have only climbed by 1.9% in the last year, which is not enough to keep up with inflation.
-The median compensation for CEO's of Standard & Poor's 500 companies was $9.1 Million in 2010.
-Circuit City paid $2.3 Million in bonuses to top executives for overseeing the company's liquidation during the height of the financial crisis. The company's demise eliminated more than 39,000 jobs.
As part of a soon to be released series of collages titled "Perception Is Reality" I have gathered the following data statistics. Organized into statistical groupings to provide context and a better understanding of their significance, these data sets paint a horrifyingly clear portrait of the political, social and economic crisis that currently has our country in a stranglehold. Despite what President Obama may say tonight in his State of The Union address and whatever the GOP will say in response, here is my State of The Union presented by the numbers in the form of fact checked statistics. Welcome to the jungle...
THE NUMBERS DONT LIE:
US Corporations are currently sitting on nearly $2 Trillion dollars in cash.
In the past decade Fortune 100 companies have laid off 2.9 Million American workers and hired 2.4 Million oversees.
More than a $100 Billion a year is given by the US government to businesses in loopholes, credits, and incentives.
More than 80 of America's largest 100 publicly traded companies make use of offshore tax havens, which cost US taxpayers $100 Billion a year.
60% of US businesses with profits of $1 Million are structured as "pass throughs" and do not pay US taxes.
Corporate tax collections in the US in 2010 amounted to just 1.3% of GDP, in 1952 it was 6.1%
General Electric earned $14.2 Billion in profits in 2010 and paid zero dollars in US taxes.
GE laid off 21,000 American workers and closed 20 factories between 2007-2009 and more than half of GE's workforce is now outside the US.
Mitt Romney paid a 13.9% effective income-tax rate in 2010 on $21.7 Million in reported earnings.
Newt Gingrich paid an effective tax rate of 31.7% on a reported total income of $3.16 Million in 2010.
President Obama paid an effective tax rate of 25.3% on $1.8 Million in earnings in 2010.
Under 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich's tax plan, which eliminates taxes on capital gains, dividends and interest, Romney's effective tax rate would be near zero and only his speaker fees ($374,000) would be subject to a 15% tax rate.
From 2001 through 2010, the Bush Era Tax Cuts amounted to $2.6 Trillion in lost revenue and we have spent more than $400 Billion on increased interest to finance the debt created by the Bush tax cuts.
Between 2001Q4 and 2007Q4, the US economy experienced the worst economic expansion since WWII.
If the Bush Era Tax Cuts expire at the end of 2012, $3.8 Trillion will be made in new revenue in a decade.
The US national debt is currently $15 Trillion.
An average of 750,000 jobs were lost a month between December 2008 and April 2009. By the time job losses stopped, a year after Obama took office, The Great Recession had cost the economy 8.8 Million jobs.
50,000 factories in the US have closed in the past decade.
6 Million manufacturing jobs have been lost in the past decade.
American manufacturing employment peaked in 1979 at 19.6 million jobs. Today there are only 11.8 million manufacturing jobs, a decline of 40% since the peak.
Private sector Union membership in America is 6.9%, down more than 20% from 30 years ago.
The US has a $500 Billion trade deficit in manufactured goods.
The service sector, for which our economy is based, accounts for only 20% of world trade.
In 2011 nearly half of America's public schools didnt meet federal achievement standards, the largest failure since No Child Left Behind took effect a decade ago.
On a state level, the highest failure rate of 89% was recorded in Florida
In 2010 Florida Governor Rick Scott cut $1.35 Billion in education spending from the state budget.
Today, workers with just a college degree and no further degrees are less likely to get work place health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979.
In 1979 the average college graduate made 38% more than the average high school graduate. Today, the average college graduate makes more than 75% than the average high school graduate.
From 2004-2009, 85% of growth in Research and Development workers employed by US based companies has been abroad.
56% of the world's engineering degrees awarded in 2008 were in Asia, compared with 4% in the US.
57% of US doctoral degrees in engineering in 2009 went to foreigners, mostly from East Asia and India.
More than 40% of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their children. These companies generate more than $4 Trillion in annual revenue.
The US awards annually only 85,000 H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. More than that number have been know to apply on the first day of application.
1.1 Million deportations have occurred since President Obama took office. This is the highest number in 6 decades.
There are 21.3 Million Latino voters in the US.
More than 1 in 10 Americans lack a government issued ID.
As many as 5 Million Americans will find it significantly more difficult to cast a ballot this election.
Ronald Regan won relelection in 1984 with 7.4% unemployment.
More than 220,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are out of work.
Total cost of Iraq War = 4,400 American lives and $800 Billion.
Less than 1% of American population is in active military duty.
18 war veterans commit suicide everyday. 1 every 80 mins.
22% of all suicides in the US are former service members.
With Facebook's IPO the company has been valued at $100 Billion. Facebook has 3,200 employees.
McDonald's stock is also valued at $100 Billion, with 400,000 employees.
According to labor statistics, if all current jobs openings were filled tomorrow, nearly 10 Million Americans would still be jobless.
Average after tax income for the top 1% of US households has increased 275% from 1979 to 2007. While those in the bottom 20%, income grew only 18%. (Annual income of $343,000 or more qualifies as the 1%)
In 2010, the top 1/5th of US households collected 50.3% of all the nation's income. The lowest 1/5th collected just 3.3% of the nation's income.
The richest 20% of Americans own more than 80% of the country's wealth, while the poorest 20% own 1/10th of the country's wealth.
49 Million American are living in poverty, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been publishing figures on poverty.
Nearly 97.3 Million Americans fall into the low-income category, defined as earning 100-199% of poverty level ($11,282 for an individual and $24,343 for a family of four).
Combined, 146.4 Million Americans, 48% of US population, are poor, either living in poverty or classified as low income. (US population: 312 Million)
25 Million Americans are unemployed or without full time work.
Unemployment benefits last 99 weeks and cost the US $156 Billion in 2010.
Average duration of unemployment is 41 weeks, the highest in 60 years.
From 2005-2009, Millionaires collected $74 Million in unemployment benefits.
Unemployment in Spain is 22.8%
Unemployment in Germany is 6.8%
Eurozone countries account for 40% of Germany's exports, China only consumes 7%.
Youth unemployment in the European Union is 22.1%.
Youth without education, employment or training cost countries in the EU €2 Billion per week.
Youth unemployment in Spain is 48.7%
Black youth unemployment in America is 46.5%
Median household income in the US has fallen 6.4% since 2007, the year before the recession.
The Chinese save 40% of their incomes, Germans save 11%, Americans save below 4%.
152 Million Americans shop in the 3 days following Thanksgiving.
American holiday shoppers, both retail and online, spent a record $52.4 Billion on Thurs-Sun Thanksgiving weekend.
Credit card balances crept up to $798.3 Billion in November.
1% of small business owners have an adjusted gross income over $1 Million a year.
China has the second largest amount of Billionaires in the world, the US is first.
China invests 46% of its GDP in its future, while the US invests 12%.
In the early 1950s, US government devoted about 1.2% of GDP to infrastructure, by 2010 that amount had fallen to just 0.2%.
Federal spending on research and development dropped from a high of nearly 2% in 1964 to 0.9% in 2009.
The current federal income tax rate for the 400 wealthiest taxpayers, aka the 0.000258%, fell from 30% in 1995 to 18% in 2008.
For the past 30 years health care spending costs grew 2% faster than the US overall economy.
In 2009, 50 Million Americans under 65 were without health insurance.
In 2010 the US spent $2.6 Trillion on health care.
Medicaid accounted for 22.3% of state spending in 2010.
10,000 Americans retire everyday.
By 2030, there an estimated 80 Million people to be on Medicare.
Baby Boomers born in 1946 turned 65 in 2011. (Baby Boomers: born 1946-1964)
In 2010, CEOs at the largest US companies made on average 343 times the pay of the average worker.
In 1978, CEOs made 35 times the pay of the average worker.
In Germany, CEOs make on average 11 times the pay of the average worker.
The financial services industry spent $2.3 Billion on federal campaign contributions from 1990-2010. This is more than what the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined spent on campaign contributions.
Wall Street has spent $5 Billion on lobbying efforts to deregulate the banking industry.
28% of American mortgages are underwater.
In 2010 there are 10 Million vacant properties in America, up from 7 Million in 2000.
Only 11.6% of Americans moved between 2010-2011, the number of Americans who moved in 1985 was 20%.
Households with more than $1 Million in income claimed more than $27 Billion in mortgage interest deductions.
90% of the 115.9 Million homes with TV in the US subscribe to basic cable.
$12.5 Million was spent on Iowa Caucus television ads.
Rick Perry and his super PAC spent $4.23 Million on television ads in the month of December.
Perry earned 10.3% of votes in the Iowa Caucus, costing him $332 a vote.
Minimun wage in Iowa is currently $7.25. A 40 hour work week before taxes at this rate is $290.
The average American collected $295 in weekly unemployment benefits in 2010.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning rose by 5.9% in 2010, the largest amount on record.
Land temperatures have risen 1.8 degrees since 1950.
The total economic loss of global natural disasters in 2011 was a record $380 Billion.
House Republicans voted 168 times (as of Oct. 15, 2011) this year to undercut clean air and water laws while blocking efforts to limit global warming, protect public lands and guard against future oil spills. They have been called the "most anti-environment congress in history."
The cost of 100 Senators and 435 House of Representatives is about $2.2 Billion a year, $7 per capita.
There are 249 Millionaires in Congress and the estimated median net worth of a current US Senator stood at an average of $2.56 Million.
76% of Americans say 2011 was the worst year of their lives.
69% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Congress has a 9% approval rating.
So I was wrong about Europe. My doubts about the ability of Europe's leaders to actually come up with a realistic debt solution were averted yesterday with the announcement of a plan to take the necessary steps to avoid a Greek default with immediate, yet temporary and uncertain, relief by ordering Europe's weak banks to raise more capital to protect against future payouts to investors via credit default swaps and ease fears, for the time being, about the possibility of bailouts for Italy and Spain with the $625 Billion bailout fund called European Financial Stability Facility. The stock market was eagerly awaiting the outcome of this decision and the announcement of hard numbers to be thrown on the debt crisis fire which in recent weeks was verging on an uncontrollable wildfire. All a result of bickering amongst Europe's leaders about which wealthy country would bare the brunt of rescuing its debt crisis and investing in the E.U.'s future....sound familiar?
And boy did the market respond upon hearing the numbers that came within earshot of what every economist and financial reporter said were needed. As better than expected third quarter reports from American businesses recording unexpected profits and exceeding quarterly expectations coupled with signs that our economy was growing amidst recession fears (GDP grew 2.5%, consumer spending rose 2.4% in 3Q, as jobless benefit claims declined last week) the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 339 points and October is on pace to be the biggest monthly percentage gain in nearly 25 years. The very definition of Bear to Bull. The Euro also rose yesterday to $1.41 on the dollar from a low of $1.31 earlier this month.
But here is the biggest news and most important thing to be aware of. Private sector big banks, who originally agreed to 21% "haircut," agreed on Thursday to accept a 50% loss on their credit default swap holdings of Greek government bonds. This is fucking huge. Big banks actually being held accountable by European leaders and agreeing to take a loss. While Greek losses are relatively small in comparison of other credit default swaps this is still very significant and one can make many broad conclusions of where things can go from here. For one, this will cause investors to seriously consider the value of European bonds and the security of payouts should they default. Which in turn, if our Congress (with a 9% approval rating) and the super-committee can actually put country over politics in a lame duck season and come up with a bold debt plan by the Nov. 23 deadline, the implications of its success take on a whole new meaning and coincide with the momentum of the European debt plans and could potentially be turning point for our own economic recovery.
Here's why. The result of these actions abroad will now cause the default insurance market to plunge, vindicating our own 2008 predatory sub-prime mortgage housing crisis which was the result of big banks like Citibank, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase selling investments, made out of mortgage securities, to their own customers and then in turn betting against them via derivatives, and making huge profits when the housing bubble burst and homeowners defaulted on loans.....as the taxpayer picked up the tab on the bailout payments. This whole system is flawed and the SEC, thanks to Congress, has barely been able to implement any real regulations on the banking industry. So by the simple act of the big banks agreeing to the 50% loss (which I assume was made because the result of that minor loss would be negated by the profits made with the success of Euro bailout news and plugging the hole in the dam of continued Greek debt losses which would only grow larger) all in the name of a short term solution. This will have a profound impact for months to come (and I imagine send the market back down soon enough) and will end resulting in a symbolic self-regulation domino effect ultimately making these investments no longer profitable and eventually fade away into a long list of financial crimes of the past.
However, in the short term, before the flame completely extinguishes, I imagine a quick flood of investors flocking to 10 and 30 year U.S. government issued bonds which are at all time interest lows. Despite the recent downgrade, U.S. bonds are still a gold standard. Even if inflation rises in the aftermath of this recession, the long term yields and profits will out weigh any inflation caused by further potential government stimulus, as many foresee a third round of quantitive easing. And this is a great source of much needed revenue for the U.S government....but pulling back, it's a bit troubling that the only way our government seems to be able to generate new revenue is by selling its own debt.
So the fourth quarter has a lot to offer and surely will impact not only the 2012 election but also the pace of our economic recovery...like there actually is a difference between the two. We shall see how this affects American companies 4th quarter holiday season profits, jobless numbers, 2012 GDP forecasts, how banks react to finding themselves caught between a rock and hard place, but most importantly we get to witness how this impacts our politicians. The actions of Europeans leaders calling the banks' bluff and playing hardball, refusing to bail out the banks and call for further measures of austerity, is a source of great promise and hope for the prosperity of the taxpayer and middle and working class families. Their actions will surely fire up the Occupy movements at home and hold our own leaders to a new standard.
As Europe's leaders flirted with the high-bar of ineptitude firmly established by our politicians this summer, the great seed of fear was planted in the garden of nightmares. Not of a double dip recession or tumbling stocks, but something far worse, a rapid spiraling downfall of Medieval proportions into the depths of our own ignorance and selfishness—human beings not being to learn from their own mistakes, repeating failure after failure and allowing cannibalistic human greed to consume our own future as we merge into the fast lane on the highway to hell. Left turn merge diverted for now, but we still cruise along in the middle lane, well over the speed limit, as the holes in Europe's sovereign debt solution remain to be filled. With plans to reduce Greek debt to only 120% of GDP by 2020, we shall see what curves and bumps remain ahead on the road to fiscal sustainability.
If you are reading this blog, I will go ahead and assume that it's probably pretty safe to say you read several other blogs on your Google reader or whatever feeder, you have a Facebook page, Flickr account, and maybe even a Twitter account. Depending on the commas in your bank account and what kind of pictures you take you probably have a 5D, or at least some kind of digital point and shoot. iPhone for sure. Do you have an iPad yet? Now I ask, as I get to the heart of this blabbering tirade, how do you access your information? And with the seemingly infinite and over saturated amount of information that is just a mouse click away, what do you filter through and actually read on a daily basis? There is a lot to sift through these days. At times it seems, despite the Twitter updates and breaking news text messages, that no matter how connected we all are, we are never really up to date with anything except a headline. The world is broadcast in nearly real time. Boom....earthquake in Haiti, 20 minutes later there are pictures on some refreshed website of people hurt and the massive destruction.
At what point has the Internet destroyed us? At what point has new online media and technological advances made the news abstract? Are images today of so called "news" ultimately abstract as the story, the before and after (aka content), do not have time to catch up before there is another barrage of brand new images or headlines flashing on some screen? Shit, nowadays, everyone is a photographer, you got a 5D and a Flickr account, you good to go kid. Literally. With 14 year old paparazzi and however many thousands of images being uploaded a day to Flickr, I can't help but to think that words and in-depth stories have been replaced by pictures and 140 character constant updates and that our lazy "my brain stops working at 2:30 so I have a 5 Hour Energy" society could care less. Our celebrity obsessed para-social culture could seemingly care less about long term stories, such as how lives are transformed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 6 months down the road, "yeah man, I get it, I saw those pictures of the flood waters on the evening news, but, hey, by the way, did you see last night's American Idol?"
But let's not completely dismiss the words. In fact, the words are a monstropolous beast of their own. The age of the Internet has allowed all of us a platform to preach our gospel. And depending on how loud you can yell and how fucking deep you can reach into the depths of your own retardation and pull the ugliest rabbit out of the hat, you just might get yourself national media attention for a week. "Yeah, Billy Bob let's burn us some of them Korans, we'll show 'em Muuzleems whose boss." And so in an age when voices, that 20 years ago would have been dismissed as the schizophrenic in the park yelling to himself, are brought to you live via the holy Internet and served up as breaking news with sprinkles on top, we can't seem to get enough. And us Americans can barely decide between a number 2 and a number 5 combo meal at McDonalds for dinner, we don't need all these loud voices telling us about Tea Parties, why it's ok to make exceptions for religious freedom, and why we should repeal health care reform.
We find ourselves, as Americans, as a society, in an interesting place right now. As technology has begun its take over, we are amidst a transition. Facebook has not yet taken over America, which it will in 5 years...or sooner. Instead of logging on to Safari or Firefox, everything you could ever want and need will be through Facebook: shopping, news, social "interaction," games, movies, etc etc etc. 13 years olds today spend more time in front of a screen than anything else except sleeping and so our future inevitably will become a Facebook world. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about it all. As I dive profoundly deeper into my research about the newspaper industry, the Internet, social media, I have come away with a unsettling feeling about our society as a whole. Now let me interject here before I go any further. Don't get my wrong, I am sitting here typing this on a new computer, I have 3, in addition to one of these phones that buzzes incessantly and requires the same attention that a small child or pet demand. Yes, the Internet is a glorious machine, perhaps the fire and wheel of the 21st Century, but when something is gained there is usually something sacrificed.
The newspaper industry enters that equation as we march into a digital era. I come from 5 generations of newspaper men. My great, great, great grandfather started the York Daily in 1870, and this tradition has continued down the line. The newspaper industry is my family business. And journalism will never die and will adapt to new technology amidst the erosion of print as it has done with the advent of radio, television and now the internet. But the transition has been difficult as papers have been struggling to recover from decade long consolidations into national corporate chains as new owners have stripped newsrooms to skeletons of their former selves in an attempt to boost profits and in the process reducing many great papers to mere satisfactory papers. The pressure and stress to produce a daily quality product with depleted staff and resources is nothing new for many papers across the country. But the bleeding can only last so long as the fight to hang on creeps toward an ominous prevail or die deadline. As we lose reporters, editors, newsbeats and sections of papers to buyouts, layoffs and bankruptcies, we lose coverage, information, and a connection to our cities and our society, and, in the end, we lose ourselves. Blogs like this that serve a specific audience written by fools like me somehow just dont sit well right now. I have a conflict of interest as full time professionals compete against unedited, unreliable amateur online outlets and citizen journalists for readership. My energy and my voice and this thing that I do, dont belong in this platform right now. As our connection to the buzz of our cell phones and refreshed web pages provides the latest developments on the marital affairs of famous golfers and young actresses' court appearances, our disconnect as a society grows deeper. And so I am disconnecting from this connection and pulling the plug on this blog.
Thank you for reading my lunatic ramblings over the years. Come find me at the bar.