Forty is the New 65 – And Stick that in Your 401(k)

Tax day in America — My Ass!

I’ve been meaning to fix up the bio-sketch below. Certainly, fix the age 56, since I hit 57 two months ago. Born in 1957, now 57 witnessing another lunar eclipse, and the great eclipsing of humanity by algorithmic putzes and their masters: too-big-to-fail multinationals and transfinancials and a media that are so whore-fied, that, well, the new Black is Orange.

Nickle and Dimed
Barbara Ehrenreich:

Today the 3,000 richest Americans make more than the poorest 23 million. The average McDonald’s employee takes seven months to earn what McDonald’s CEO makes in an hour. Ninety percent of Americans are continuing to go further into debt. Those at the top are blaming the poor, calling them “takers” or “moochers” and calling themselves “producers” and “job creators.”

In their view, government programs could do nothing to help the poor because poverty arises from the twisted psychology of the poor themselves. By the Reagan era, it had become a cornerstone of conservative ideology that poverty is caused not by low wages or a lack of jobs and education, but by the bad attitudes and faulty lifestyles of the poor.

Picking up on this theory, pundits and politicians have bemoaned the character failings and bad habits of the poor for at least the past 50 years. In their view, the poor are shiftless, irresponsible, and prone to addiction. They have too many children and fail to get married. So if they suffer from grievous material deprivation, if they run out of money between paychecks, if they do not always have food on their tables—then they have no one to blame but themselves.

Filing state income taxes for Oregon is like giving blood to a million ticks – unbelievable that one of my several jobs is set in Oregon, at minimum wage, and yet, my taxes are 18 percent of the total bullshit take.

In a state that holds a special session of the legislature to give Nike everything it wants, hands down, rah-rah:

Salem — Despite misgivings about a rushed, sweetheart deal, the Oregon Legislature approved a new law Friday that gives Nike greater tax security as the company plans a multimillion dollar expansion in the state.

Meeting in a special session called by Gov. John Kitzhaber, legislators fussed and tinkered over a bill that allows the governor to enter into a contract with Nike to protect it from changes in the way the state calculates the global sportswear maker’s state income taxes.

In the end, however, Nike got most of what it wanted. Although legislators talked about a flawed process and a bill that bypassed too many other businesses, few had the stomach to vote against a company promising hundreds of new jobs. The vote came amid a flurry of unconfirmed job and wage numbers thrown around by Nike and Kitzhaber.

The state of wonder by the American ripped off and asleep at the wheel public, pushed around by thugs in bureaucracies making their own big bucks and health care and retirement percs through, well, welfare for the middle upper middle class. Then this special legislative session to give Phil Knight what he wants, lies included.

Reading that failed newspaper, The Oregonian, I see more rot-gut coverage – “Devastating hole ahead for ODOT.” Sound familiar in your state? Falling gas taxes, less federal help and big debt payments creating massive infrastructure failure? In Oregon, the transportation department is looking at $500 million less for construction projects in 2020 than during the peak of the stimulus in 2009.

Failed society, failed understanding of what socialism is, failed understanding of what a real arts and genuine progress and steady state economy is, should be and must be appropriated.

What a bog of eels this state, times 50 states. So, Elliott State Forest might be sold because it is a liability (tax and revenue), costing the common school fund $3 million last year. That’s 90,000 acres north of Coos Bay, including some of the older forest in the Coast range, where most forests are privately owned and heavily logged.

The state’s been trying to increase harvest levels in Elliott, but the feds have put restrictions on habitat for threatened northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets and coho salmon.

“Funding schools by clear-cutting public old growth on the Elliott is an archaic scheme,” so says Josh Laughlin, campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands. Check out your own locale’s similar fights, all based on exponential growth in the casino and fraudster banking scheme and human population growth levels. Both Republicans and Democrats see any wildlife as ratty animals, and it’s us, human waste, versus wildlands, human failure to fund public goods, public health, public safety, public vision. Spotted owls  versus school funding. And jobs. And consumer-service based growth. In a world where cigarettes and booze pay for special education and other school projects, well, it’s drink up and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em! We are the smart species? Not so fast! We can’t put aside a measly 90,000 acres for wildland enjoyment, on the coast of what is supposed to be Oregon’s crown jewel — Pacific ‘scapes, beaches, ramparts? For future generations? We a zombie culture, far and wide, and the White Man-Jew-Gentile Ice Man cometh, and beware, beware!

We are a ratty society, and using my neck of the clear-cut woods as further example of the stupidity of the human species, we have some activists working to save the sage grouse (half a dozen). So, the habitat is ruined by ag, development, and fire suppression creating scabby pine forests – in Oregon. So, we spend money and time and effort to not FIX that problem, but to move grouse to some area in Washington state for a feeble recovery effort.

Death by 1,000,000,000 incremental and asinine moves, err, cuts. Same front page of the thin and eviscerated paper copy of the Oregonian shows another federal asinine move – what, the secret Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA’s use of waterboarding and other fucked up interrogation techniques, at the tune of 6,300 pages, four years, and $40 million for the Democrat-led committee.

News (sic) articles eclipsed in size by the ones on Stephen Colbert moving to “The Late Show” and on the racist guy who shot up two Jewish centers in Kansas City. Or on the next season of “Mad Men.”

Oh, shoot, the New Age 65 is 40 headline for this post, oh yeah. So, the 6.9 percent (sic) unemployment in Oregon is all about 150,000 of us earning $9.10 or less. Right, that’s a highway to hell, and we have tax loophole after entitlement for corporation after another, and this bullshit newspaper, like the rest, pumps up the barren landscape of the “signs of economic improvement sprouting” headline. That good old piece of crap Oregonian ain’t for no increase in the minimum wage cuz . . .  quote, “”The minimum wage is zero if you don’t have a job.” That’s the height of American thinking. Really!

Talking to the lady (older than I am) who helps with my piddly taxes, I hear that constant refrain – “I have not seen it this bad ever . . . and I don’t know what I can do about it . . . it’s a rigged system . . . taxes after taxes on the little guy . . . people struggling . . . small businesses . . . and the rich building a tax code that protects their money.”

Funny, she sees the landscape plastered with forty year olds and up, collateral damage in the war against a real economy, for those companies that off-shore and Third World bank their profits  like the cartel thugs they are, and all the downsizing and profit hoarding, and the endless tax break after tax break — err, tax fraud after tax ripoff — with their million-plus accountants – CPAs and lawyers fixing the bet in their favor. Nice to have friends like Hillary Clinton for Boeing – another tax fraudster in WA state, where it, along with 200 other companies, has its own special legislative proviso for tax breaks, adding to the nearly $3.6 billion in yearly tax loopholes by some rotten companies, in a state that’s cutting education by the minute — drip, drip, drip, water torture test to the 100th power!

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has forged a close relationship with Boeing, one of the major economic forces in the Northwest, according to The Washington Post.

From pushing the Russian government to buy Boeing aircraft for a state-owned airline back in 2009 (the $3.7 billion sale went through) to soliciting Boeing contributions for a U.S. pavilion at the Shanghai World Fair, Clinton and the aerospace company have often been close allies, the Post reported.

In part, the close working relationship is expected. American officials typically tout trade deals that benefit American producers — and Boeing is America’s last maker of commercial jetcraft. As such, Boeing has spread past its traditional base in the Seattle area to include facilities around the country, including an 1,800-worker plant in Gresham that produces airplane components.

But Clinton is not just a former secretary of state, of course. She’s the odds-on favorite for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination — assuming she wants it — as well as a former First Lady and senator. When she comes calling for help, the company has a lot of reasons to say yes.

The Post noted that Boeing has contributed money for the William J. Clinton Foundation to rebuild schools in Haiti and Tim Keating, a former Bill Clinton aide who is now a Boeing lobbyist, last month “co-hosted a fundraiser for Ready for Hillary, the super PAC backing her potential presidential run.”

Rigged for these putzes we call leaders, celebs, minds of steel! Rigged rigged rigged – Even the ones with 401 (k)’s have fees taken out, that, according to the Associated Press, “could force a delay in retirement.” This new study from American Progress shows that a one percent a year fee would erase $70,000 from an average worker’s account over a four decade career, compared with lower-cost options. To compensate for these fees, that worker would have to work an extra three years before retiring.

I’ve stated this before, and it has been borne out in study after study – the One Percent, the Professional Managerial Class and the rest in the 19 percent exist ONLY because of their levies-taxes-fees-surcharges-interest lives predicated on us, the 80 percent, consuming and doing and producing. These are the Little Eichmann’s of our world. Generals, soldiers, Little Eichmann’s and dictators in this corporate orgy.

“Eight Ways Being Poor is Wildly Expensive” some oxymoronic and contradictory zeal there in that Alternet headline:

1. Getting around. When you don’t have the money to get a nice, reliable car you are stuck with time-consuming and not-inexpensive public transportation—if it is available at all. Investment in public infrastructure has declined dramatically since the Reagan tax cuts, and that was a long time ago. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “ Infrastructure Report Card” gives our country’s transit systems a D, saying, “45% of American households lack any access to transit, and millions more have inadequate service levels.”

2. A place to live. When you rent a typical apartment you have to pay the first month’s rent, a security deposit and sometimes the last month’s rent. You have to have a reference and usually a credit report. If you are poor you may not have any of these things, and you have to live somewhere else. That can be expensive. You might be in a week-to-week situation in a budget motel, requiring you to pay with a money order. Money orders cost money so you’re even paying a fee to pay for your place to sleep.

3. Eating. Eating when you are poor is a problem. Of course, first is having money to get food at all. Then when you can get food you are faced with food choices that can lead to health problems. If you don’t have fridge or a stove you might depend on cheap fast food. If you don’t have a car (or gas for the broken-down car you have) you depend on what is nearby and local stores in bad neighborhoods are expensive compared to gleaming suburban supermarkets. Never mind buying in bulk at Costco, the membership fee alone is more than you can probably afford.

4. Banking. If you are poor you either don’t have a bank account (8 percent of American households) or have one that costs so much your money drains away. 28.3% of Americans conduct at least some of their financial transactions “outside of the mainstream banking system,” meaning they have to rely on expensive alternatives like non-bank money orders, check-cashing services, prepaid debit cards and payday loans.

5. Low pay. Low wages are expensive. When you are paid so little you have to try to get a second job just to have a place to live you don’t have any time left—and time really is money. When you are always working (and getting to and from work) you can’t look for better work. Even if you can look, the time involved and the transportation costs are so high you are eating into the little time and money you might have. The kinds of jobs you end up with if you find one are expensive because you don’t get any paid time off, so any day you get sick or have a child problem you lose money. That’s expensive.

6. Getting paid and not getting paid. Some low-wage employers like Walmart pay you with a debit card. CNBC reported, “Christon works at Walmart. Her paychecks are deposited onto a prepaid debit card—an improvement over old-fashioned paper paychecks, which led to high check-cashing fees. It’s hardly a good substitute for direct deposit, however. One cash withdrawal per period is free, but others cost $2. She can avoid the fee by shopping at Walmart and getting cash back at checkout.”

Wage theft is much more common than people realize. Wage theft is restaurants stealing tips, employers demanding free time or not even paying the minimum wage, refusing to pay overtime pay when it is due, calling an employee a contractor or a temp, making various deductions from wages, and other ways that workers end up not getting paid for their work. Poor people are vulnerable, and have to take what they can get. Sometimes employers take advantage of that

7. Getting scammed. The poor are vulnerable to, and frequent targets of financial scams. This includes high-interest credit cards. Anything you buy on credit involves paying back with interest. That interest goes somewhere, which means there are people with a very big incentive to get you to borrow. But it’s not just credit cards. We have all read about the mortgage-fraud scams financial institutions were running on poor people who were unable to understand that an initial low-interest rate would balloon to a huge monthly payment. There are also insurance scams, supposed-savings scams, etc.

8. Even the little things. When you are poor you can’t afford various things that save money. Cheap clothing doesn’t last very long. Washing clothes requires going to a laundromat, which costs more than using a washer and dryer. You might have to purchase bottled water because of conditions at your low-rent residence.

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Well, time to fly outta here. That job I have, working 20 hours straight, well, I have time to tune into NPR, and what a fun Zionist white male-female entitled thing it is. Amazing, that I have never watched Orange is the New Black, and after hearing that Zionist talk on City Arts, well, what a jolly white woman’s, in this case, lesbian’s world it is. This is culture? This is high art? What in hell is going on to the entire media landscape?

How many real lives and real people and real down and outers are in jail, get out of jail, or whose families and friends have suffered the sting of incarceration? But we have this Jewish lesbian Smith College person yammering on and on broadcast on this City Arts show, on and on about sex in prison. What a Woody Allen kinda night. Piper Kerman – never heard of her, until whoops, last night.

Interviewed by City Arts regulars? These women are now the high arts mavens? Really? In this world where the new orange is 40 or make that, anything-other-than-what-National Propaganda Radio-announces-to-be-the-new-in/new-hip . Look at what the cat dragged in? Imagine, this literary pedigree squared? Self-serving clique, again, yep, that East Coast bazaar of the bizarre. And it’s tax time for whom?

Dani Shapiro is the best-selling author of the memoirs, Slow Motion and Devotion, and five novels including Black & Whiteand Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Elle, Granta, and has been widely anthologized. She has taught in writing programs at Columbia, NYU, The New School, and Wesleyan University, and she is the co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. Shapiro is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. Her newest book is Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, in which she reflects on over twenty years of writing life.

Ayelet Waldman is the author of several books, including Red Hook Road and the best-selling Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. She is the co-editor of Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons, and she has published several essays and profiles in The New York Times, Vogue, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She has also appeared on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “The California Report.” Her forthcoming Love and Treasure, tells the tragic story of an abandoned Hungarian gold train in World War II.

And my own struggling literary career, at the hands of, err, East Coast Twenty-Thirty Piper Kerman Wannabe Somethings?

Listen to this woman, this writer – calls herself an ex-lesbian WASP (had a Jewish grandfather), married to a Jew (she goes on and on about that, with white entitled racist and sexist zingers peppered here and there). This tumbling mental-breakdown psychoanalytic couch played out daily on big screen-big transmitter TV-Radio! Listen to and watch  this height of American culture. Listen-listen-listen! Look at her white girl’s entitled bullshit. This is America, racist as ever! And the racists get the bread, dough, stock options and movie deals!

Finally, my old haunts, Seattle, working on $15 an hour minimum wage human rights campaign. Who pays for it? The criminal class, political class, corporate class. They have been getting a free ride for more than a century!

 15 Now Supporters Form Vote 15 Campaign Committee Submit

Charter Amendment for $15 Minimum Wage

SEATTLE – Sarah White, a nurse practitioner and 15 Now activist filed language for a charter amendment with the City Clerk this morning.

“Poverty pay is a public health issue and this amendment addresses that squarely. As a nurse, addressing income inequality by increasing the minimum wage is a no brainer for improving the health of our city,”
said White.

 Jess Spear, Vote 15 campaign manager said, “Over 100,000 workers in Seattle – one quarter of the workers in this city – stand to be lifted out of poverty by the passage of a $15 an hour minimum wage.”

 Spear continued, “The Washington Restaurant Association, Starbucks, McDonalds, Safeway, Hotels and others are getting ready to pour in millions of dollars to undermine a $15 minimum wage. Seattle’s working people need to defend against this invasion of corporate cash. By filing this charter amendment, we have a safety net in case politicians fail to deliver a strong $15 ordinance – we are reserving the right to have the people of Seattle make the decision democratically about what the minimum wage should be.”

King County Councilmember Larry Gossett also spoke at the press conference in support of the charter amendment, citing the $15 minimum wage as a civil rights issue.

 Summary of Charter Amendment
A charter amendment requires approximately 30,000 signatures to be put on the ballot and would become part of the charter of the City of Seattle. The City Charter can only be amended by a popular vote.The proposed Charter Amendment submitted by Sarah White includes:

  • On Jan 1, 2015, the minimum wage for workers at big businesses will be raised to $15/hour and raised each year to adjust for inflation.
  • For small and medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations, the minimum wage will be phased in over three years starting with $11/hour on Jan 1, 2015.
  • Small and medium sized businesses are defined as having fewer than 250 Full Time Equivalents, the standard set by Seattle’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.
  • No training wages, no lower wages for tipped workers, and no “total compensation.”
  • Increased worker protections against wage and tip theft.

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. Read other articles by Paul.