Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Research Log 3

Cooper, Mary.

"Low Voter Turn Out"

CQ Researcher

Oct 20, 2000 Volume 10 no. 36

Congressional Quarterly Inc


Internet Web Site/Butte College Library


  Is America's democracy in trouble? Our forefathers might think so. They believed the very fabric and essence of our fledgling republic depended upon an informed and fully engaged voting public. This thought provoking opening question hooks the reader in Mary H. Cooper's piece, Low Voter Turnout. The fact that we have such a low voter turnout in America compared to both our historical past and other countries currently, is just a non-debatable fact. We collectively as a country do not value voting. We don't see the point....and that says it all. It's not just apathy she is illustrating here, but a more serious civic disengagement that eats away at our very foundation. Mary describes it as a "lost sense of community" that costs us far more than just political consequences, but threatens our very way of life. Voter turn out peaked in 1960 with 63% of the electorate taking part. Since the mid-nineties America's voter turn out has been less than 50%. The net result is lack of representation for the people who vote less often, the young, the disenfranchised, and people of color. This has tilted the economic table toward businesses and away from everyday people. The data shows that people who don't take part politically just don't see how what they hear from politicians translates into anything tangible to their lives. She also shows how uninformed we are on both sides. Most of our information on issues comes from small sound bits and bad press.  Mary paints a picture that has far reaching implications for those who don't vote, the kind that most people have never considered.

  I was intrigued by this piece because of the actual costs and ramifications of low voter turn out. I was basically brain washed into believing it was my civic duty as a proud and grateful American to vote. Especially in light of the fact that so many brave American men and women have given their lives so I can just be free. The statistics were graphic and dramatic. We don't see ourselves in relation to our fellow countrymen the same anymore. Mainly because of technological advances we are much more independent. We all need to interact with each other face to face far far less. I was a little surprised at the evidence that low voter turn out has economic and social costs to the ones who don't take part. When the people making the rules to this games stop representing you, you lose. It can be hard to see the direct effect because it can take years to trickle down. Everything in this world comes down to money and power. If you don't have a lot of both, you better start voting and signing up your friends.

This article is tying in nicely with the whole middle class in decline theme I've been led to. It shed light on how a lot of what is happening, if not ultimately all, is our own fault. We need to take responsibility for all that is good and bad in our country. Stop blaming and start fixing some of this things. With low voter turn out, we don't need 100% turn out to be successful, just enough to function properly, or the more the better.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Research Log 2 - The Endangered American Middle-Class

Billitteri, Thomas.

"Middle-Class Squeeze"

CQ Researcher

March 6, 2009 Volume 19, Issue 9


Internet Research Site



 It's been said that what makes America truly great is our love of freedom and the size of our middle-class. It's not just the recent recession that has hurt working class Americans, but the federal policies and excessively greedy business tactics over the last thirty years have eroded away a pier of the American dream. That part that says if you work hard and play by the rules you can get ahead and have some relative degree of piece of mind, but in today's America that's not true anymore. Thomas J. Billitteri captures the plight of downward spiraling Americans in his piece, " Middle-Class Squeeze " when he says, " Millions of families who once enjoyed the American dream of home ownership and upward financial mobility are sliding down the economic ladder-some into poverty. Many have been forced to seek government help for the first time. The plunging fortunes of working-class families are pushing the U.S. economy deeper into a recession..." Billitteri illustrates this powerful point with real life examples with people like 41year old Cindy Dreeszen and her husband seeking food from a local religious pantry in an upscale affluent New Jersey subdivision for the first time ever. They both have jobs and a combined income of 55,000 a year but with a second child on the way and other bills so high, they embarrassingly need to seek out free food. The main reasons for this epic national disaster are thirty years of government policies that lean heavily in favor of businesses. Our Congress has crafted a tax code that makes migrant workers pay more money than millionaires. A minimum wage lagging far behind our GDP growth has kept wages artificially low and keeps the working poor, perpetually low. Along with stagnate wages, the article also points out that the most predominate reason for Americans working harder and harder for less and less is a shift in benefit risk from employer to employee. Doing the most damage, disappearing health benefits and retirement plans. What unions fought for at the turn of the century were slowly, methodically stolen again from the American dream. What the author offers as the best solution is changes in governmental policies to bring some fairness and level out the playing field. Specifically, utilizing the tax code to have the wealthiest few pay for health care and other safety nets for the masses who work, but slip through cracks.

 I like the way this area of research ties right into my first log of Income Inequality, which is the cause of this growing mass of working poor. We can debate the reasons, but to pretend America is not in decline is not feasible anymore. We can track the shift in policies, managerial tactics, net gains to the top income earners and the big losses to average Americans. The supply side argument that if you just grow the economic pie bigger, money will trickle down to the masses doesn't work. It was a good sounding lie, just look around after nearly thirty years of it. We know how and why they did it, we just have to find a way to make more people aware of it. As long as intelligent, good hearted Americans either vote against their own economic interests or worse don't vote at all we will just keep heading down this road to self-destruction. I also liked the way the article showed how political apathy helps accelerate the fleecing of middle-America. When average people don't keep politicians in check, business interest run ruff-shot over the well being of the country. I'm not anti-business. For God's sake  I'm a friggin' commercial loan originator who is waiting and praying for the lending environment to stabilize so I can go back to doing what I love, helping business people fund expansions or just restructure current debt more efficiently. There's nobody more pro-business than myself, nobody. I just want it done with some integrity and in the light of the promise that I believe America can still be the greatest nation in the world again. Right now we are so greedy that we are cutting our own throat. We will not be great until we have a healthy and robust middle-class. We can't fixed this with executive branch regulation, it would choke business and create more problems than it fixes. This has to be done through Congressional legislation. Keeping the minimum wage up at historical adjusted for inflation levels and having the top 2% income earners fund health care and retirement funds is the answer.

  This has led to to research areas that all fall under one heading, America in decline. It is based on the loss of economic freedoms to main street Americans. From lopsided government policies, greed based predatory business strategies, an unfair tax code, artificially low minimum wage stagnating other higher wages, misinformed gullible voters, and political apathy it is no supprise we are being robbed and left out to dry. I want to look father into the decline of the American middle class in the areas mentioned right above. The next log will be political apathy or specific government policies and laws that really hurt the American worker.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Research Log 1

Clemmitt, Marcia

"Income Inequality"

Dec, 3 2010 Volume 20, Issue 42

CQ Press


Butte College Online Library

Oct 7, 2011


 For the first time in American History, one generation firmly believes it had it worse off economically than their parents had, and we are that generation.We are also pretty bleak on our kids future as well. The economic data supporting this bleeding of the American middle class is overwhelming. From how much we earn to how much we get for our dollar has been shrinking drastically since the 70's. Face it, America is in decline. Regardless if your Conservative or Liberal, all economists agree upon this, you can't have a healthy and robust middle-class without it being at the expense of the upper and lower classes. Both the upper and lower classes get drained by a burgeoning middle-class. In Marcia Clemmitt's piece Income Inequality, she paints a picture of the rich getting richer exponentially and the middle class becoming the working poor. She believes this raises serious questions about what public policy should be and how to achieve a more fair and just living for Americans. Also, she looks at some of the reasons that caused us to get here. Mainly, an unfair tax code where millionaires commonly pay little to nothing in taxes, never raising the minimum wage, unfair subsidies to fat corporations, and union busting were identified as the root causes. In other words, the rich are screwing the American Middle class by manipulating our political system by means of paying off our politicians. Rich people are never apathetic towards politics, they know how important it is to take part politically and they do, in many many ways. Only dumb poor and middle-class people say shit like " My vote don't count anyway" or "they never listen to what I want to do" Rich people take part for a reason, every voice matters and counts.

When I dove into this article, it grabbed me and lit me up like a Roman candle. Marcia Clemmitt's even handed depiction of the plight of working class Americans under assault economically from unfair social practices moved me greatly. These are hard working honest Americans that end up getting squeezed financially, where their forefathers with the exact same job didn't! The American middle-class is being hung out to dry so the top 1% earners can have more. Everyone knows when it comes to making money for the greedy, enough is never enough. Just like with crack heads and alcoholics, same mentality, different arena. In 1949 the top 1% earners controlled 10% of Americas wealth, now they control twice that amount at 20%. According to the CIA fact book where they compare and measure economic equality, America is way down on the list. We are surrounded by third world developing nations like Ivory Coast, Malaysia, and Jamaica on the GINI coefficient scale. We suck when it comes to taking care of our own. Today that " dog eat dog " mentality and it's o.k. to step on your competitor or co-worker's neck to get ahead is alive and well. But it makes good sense from a business point of view. If you keep labor costs down that directly increases production efficiency. If people are coerced into working harder for less (and we are I just learned this in econ-8) then they have to work harder and longer just to break even. If people are so busy working, they won't have time or energy to follow the political system that is allowing this gutting of America to happen. I don't think there is some great conspiracy of rich people plotting away. It's more like a vast sea of lobbyists in Washington drowning any hope for the hard working little guy in America today.

 This article has taking me down a whole new path. I'm going to research the history of American middle class, it's formation, waxing and waning etc.. also, the political vehicles used by the wealthiest few to try and makes us working class slaves. They really don't want to make us slaves. The slave thing is just residual by-product. They just want perpetually more, for an appetite that is never ending.  I want to more accurately measure our middle-class, then compare and contrast it with other countries to get a better view. I want to find out more on how political apathy and income inequality are very related.