The Neon Wilderness

Sunday, November 26, 2006

“Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most - that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.” - Euene Debs
American Hero
Walter Reuther
One time head of the UAW and one of the most influential labor leaders in American history. Reuther fought for every American not just auto workers, influencing presidents and policies, a leader in the American civil rights movement, a man who believed that a just and equitable society was possible, but you had to fight for it.
Wikipedia article
Time 100 article
Wayne State University
Just got a holiday flyer in the mail from these guys, really like the "American Dream Starts here" slogan, not to mention the whole supporting the troops stuff, very patriotic, because if there is one thing the troops and actually every American needs this holiday season its easy financing terms for "custom wheels"

In Touch With The Common Man
From Yahoo News, all about how our elected representatives don't really seem to be very representative of us, "The wealth of the incoming class will hardly raise eyebrows in the Senate, where about half of the current 100 members are also millionaires and the average net worth is $8.9 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. By contrast, less than 1% of the U.S. population has a net worth of $1 million or more". The Piece also informs us that in 2006 a Senator is paid $165,200 a year, wow, thats not too shabby, especially since half of all Americans make less then $33,000 per year, plus those Senators get that nice health care too, its a hell of a racket. So to summarize, half of all Senators are millionaires, they make $165,200 a year, and Congress was unable or unwilling to pass a minimum wage raise this summer. I honestly believe that if the members of Congress feel, as they have apparently felt since 1997 (last time there was a minimum wage increase) that $5.15 an hour is acceptable, that it's a living wage, then they should have to live on it, I mean why not, nowhere is it written that we have to pay these guys $165,000, thats our tax dollars they pay them, shouldn't we have a say?, in the same period that Congress has refused to raise the minimum wage they have given themselves $28,000 in pay increases1, where is the outrage? Its no wonder it seems like those in Congress don't care about average Americans, they don't, why would they?
Yahoo News "Meet Senator Millionaire"

“The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.”
Making it easier to look for the Union label,
"Every Man A King, But No One Wears A Crown."
Article in NYT about the gaining momentum of the economic populism movement in the US. Groups such as the EPI and the AFL-CIO are coming together and gaining strength, and apparently clashing with more moderate democrat groups such as the Hamilton Project, as to what direction the democratic party and America as a whole should be moving in. The article also discusses the fact that since the dems hold only a small majority in congress and because the President has veto power, probably no real change is going to be coming down the pipeline, even the minimum wage hike to $7.25 by 2009 has been and will continue to be an uphill battle, I guess this is the downside of checks and balances. Sometimes I wonder how these congressmen can look themselves in the mirror, or look an American worker in the eye, all the promises they made out on the campaign trail, all the big talk, apparently isn't going to amount to much more then two dollars more an hour and lower interest rates on student loans...I understand about fighting the battles that you can win, but it doesn't seem like the democrats are fighting much at all, people say thats just the way it is, that change is slow, but I look back to the 1930 Congressional elections and the subsequent 1932 presidential election of FDR and all the big changes (e.g. Social Security) that can happen when those in congress and in the white house are willing to take on the big challenges. I wish there was a congressmen today who stood up and took on the big fights of universal health care, income inequality, free trade etc, all those things you stirred people up with on the campaign trail, instead of worrying about reelection and your campaign coffers, I wish there was a congressman who at least stood up and said what he believed and actually fought for it, thats why we vote, we vote for an elected representative to act as our voice, to act as the voice of the people, and any Congressman who does anything less is a coward and not fit to be a congressman, as a country we face big problems, we need big changes and bold leaders.
NYT "Here Come the Economic Populists"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Why No One Believes Anymore
Article in NYT about Congress and drug companies and collusion, basically drug companies worried that with the Dems running congress, new laws cutting down on their profiteering could be on the horizon, so to preempt this the drug companies are working hard to cozy up to the new guys, because I mean god forbid people in this country might be able to afford you know...medicine. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. This shit makes me sick, if we really are the greatest country on earth, maybe we should start acting like it.

NYT "Drug Industry Is on Defensive as Power Shifts"
Coming Up For Air
Article from the CS Monitor about doing something different this Black Friday, nothing, at least buying nothing. Americans are drowning in debt, we collectively owe $800 billion in credit card debt, 1/3 of households have over $10,000 in credit card debt1, health care costs are soaring, job insecurity is a major concern, the hosing market isn't looking too hot, etc etc, essentially we have less and less money and more and money worries, so maybe this isn't the best time to go out and buy electronics, we should save our money, for ourselves, for our children, pay bills, pay debt, put it away, anything is better then throwing it away on plasma TVs or PS3's, we don't need this stuff, and whats more we cant afford it, don't get bilked this year.
CS Monitor "Getting The Better Of Black Friday"

Seriously, What Is Wrong With These People
Keep reading all these articles about people starting their traditional black Friday shopping early, like right after thanksgiving dinner, so rather then spend time with family and friends, people are apparently opting for CompUSA or COSTCO or something, I mean cant people take a day off, a day without buying shit you probably didn't really need and spending money, yeh sure you might save like $30 on some camera, but did you really need the camera, why not save your money, stay home, and spend time with family, for one day at least. Life is short.
I'm Not Worried, Still Plenty of Good Jobs They Cant Export
BBC article about US/Columbia trade deal, the biggest in the Western hemisphere since Nafta (and that worked out awesome), according to
John Veroneau the US Deputy Trade Representative, the deal "will deepen and strengthen our trade ties by providing new opportunities for US businesses", I bet it will.
BBC "US and Columbia sign trade deal"
Even The Canadians Think We're A Mess
Article in the Toronto Star about the ever growing income divide in the United States, what a mess, I wonder what the emigration policy over there is.
Toronto Star "Need increases as CEO salaries take off in U.S."

The Heart Of The Matter
Two from Lou Dobbs, stone thrower and boat rocker, telling it like it is, and making us face what we don't want to, on CNN of all places. I like Lou Dobbs, he has gotten alot of bad press lately, people accuse him of being an economic protectionist/isolationist, whats wrong with that?
open your eyes, look around, take a trip to Flint, Michigan or Philadelphia or just about any American city and see just how wonderful free trade is, go talk to the former auto worker employed at Wal-Mart or the Union man out of work, and ask how NAFTA and programs/policies like it worked out for them, half the country makes less then $33,000 a year, 35 million classified as having "low food security" (hungry), most people I know cant afford health care, even less have pensions, and I have no idea how I will ever afford college, open your eyes, things arent going well at all.
Lou Dobbs "Populist tide has elitists running scared"
I'm a populist, deal with it"
For Whom The Bell Tolls
Article from the Economist about whether or not economic populism is on the rise in America, and what the Democratic sweep of Congress will bring.
Economist "Fanfare for the common man"
The Corrections
Senator-elect Jim Webb wrote an article last week in the WSJ, Webb takes on the unmentionables five letter word, the economy, the growing economic divide, globalization, everything his fellow congressmen are to cowardly or unwilling to take on. Obviously Webb, although the most junior of Senators knows what to many in Congress have chosen to forget, namely that the job of an elected member of Congress is above all else to represent the people, all the people and not just the prosperous few.
Truthout "Class Struggle"

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics." - Plutarch
"Behind Every Great Fortune Is A Crime."
NYT piece on income inequality in Manhattan, specifically the inequality between the the Wall Street types and everyone else.
NYT "Income Soars on Wall St., Widening Gap"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A profound political question is suddenly on the table: Must the country continue to give precedence to private financial gain and market determinism over human lives and broad public values? -William Greider
Cute Commercial Though
I go to the gym everyday at lunchtime, at the gym they have t.v.'s in front of all the cardio machines, so I watch CNN for a half hour while I work-out, almost every day without fail there is a commercial for a company called BlueHippo, which sells electronics, mainly computers. The reason the commercials interested me was that they made a huge point of saying how they didn't check your credit, and how the computers were paid off on an installment plan, etc. so obviously the company is geared towards selling to people with lower incomes or those who have had credit problems, okay cool, we definitely have a digital divide in this country, any effort to reduce it would be a good thing, right?, well, maybe not, I was instantly suspicious of BlueHippo as I am with any company that seems to be set up to entice working class people or those with limited incomes, I mean the whole no credit check, instant approval stuff always raises a red flag in my mind. So I went online to research them, and wow, the Baltimore Better Business Bureau has a page just for them, located here, here is a quote "the Bureau processed a total of 1055 complaints about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period.", also see this piece at, or this one from the Illinois attorney general, or here from the Bad Business Bureau, or here for the BlueHippo Wikipedia entry, I mean the list just goes on and on, and on. Ive never had any personal experience with BlueHippo so I cant say if they are ripping people off or not maybe they aren't, they might be an okay company, but what I can say based on all the complaints and lawsuits is that you should definitely do your research on this one. Also really look at their prices, for example on their website the laptop that is offered is $49.99 PER WEEK, for 52 weeks, plus a $99 activation fee, that works out to $2698, wow, now check out the laptop, 256 MB RAM, 40 GIG's, 1.6 MHz processor, I mean not exactly top of the line, it also says it comes with $700.00 worth of free software, I checked out their software I had never heard of almost any of it, and alot of it is freeware, so I took the specs and tried to find computers comparable to the desktops and laptops from BlueHippo online, I did, they were around $400 or so for the desktops and not much more for laptops, well they weren't exactly comparable the $400 computers I found from the big computer retailers actually were better computers, I mean $400 versus $2698, I am just blown away. The difference between the computers I found and the ones that BlueHippo offers are sadly obvious, the computers I found from the big retailers checked your credit before allowing you to finance the computer, BlueHippo as it loudly advertises does not, thus the cost of having bad credit works out to $2400 or so. Being poor sure is expensive.
From The Onion
Atlas Shrugged
Article in LA Times, "The City Council today voted overwhelmingly to require hotels near Los Angeles International Airport to pay their employees wages and benefits equal to $10.64 per hour -- the first time that Los Angeles has demanded a "living wage" from businesses who have no financial relationship with the local government". That's right a Living Wage, the only downside is that its limited to so few employees, but that's okay, at least its a start, LA is definitely moving in the right direction, and hopefully nothing happens like what happened in Chicago, when Mayor Daley sold out the workers of Chicago. This story is just one example of the increasing shift in this country to populism, type in "living wage" into Google news and see how many laws have been passed across the country, people are angry, they've been beaten, kicked, exploited, and robbed for too long, there is a righteous indignation brewing in this country, just waiting to explode.
LA Times "City Council Approves Living Wage"

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

-Langston Hughes

“Today the tyrant rules not by club or fist, but disguised as a market researcher, he shepherds his flocks in the ways of utility and comfort.”-
Marshall McLuhan
The Rights Of Man
Article from NYT about a huge walkout in Smithfield Packing Company's plant in NC, the most interesting thing is that the hundreds of workers who walked out were all non-union. The walkout was fueled by a number of issues, the recent firing of many illegal immigrant employees, poor working conditions, high injury rate, and what employees felt were the companies efforts to stop the workers from unionizing (see National Labor Relations Act of 1935). It is ridiculous what we let these big companies, trusts, and industries get away with in this country , when are more people going to realize that without a union they don't have a voice, that without a union the company has all the power and they have none, people need to realize that unions and the power of collective bargaining are not just important, they are necessary, all across Europe unions are strong, but in America people say they don't need them anymore, open your eyes, take a look around, we need unions more the ever.
NYT "Hundreds, All Nonunion, Walk Out at Pork Plant in N.C."
Hard Times
Every year the USDA issues their report about peoples access to food in the U.S., and specifically how many are going hungry. The Washington Post just wrote an article on the report, and about two interesting things that can be found inside it, the first are the numbers "The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times...The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.", the second is that every year that the USDA put out this report it used the term hunger for people who couldn't afford to buy or get food regularly, now those people are referred to as having "very low food security", same meaning, but the latter definitely sounds alot less harsh and bleak, but no name change can hide those numbers.
Washington Post "
Some Americans Lack Food, but USDA Won't Call Them Hungry"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

So Good
How cool is this site, is all about people reclaiming their communities through " raising the financial assets of individuals, by increasing the level of “common” assets within a community that are locally owned, and by leveraging the use of funds from institutions that are based in the community (such as city governments and universities) for community-benefiting purposes.” I really like this site, its run by The Democracy Collaborative at the University of Maryland, the executive director of the Democracy Collaborative is Gar Alperovitz, who's book "America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy" embodies the same principles and ideas as the site and the Democracy Collaborative. Alot of people think we should wait for the government to act to make things better for us, but honestly. I am sick of waiting, this country is going in the wrong direction, the idea of is that instead of sitting around waiting and hoping things will get better, we as individuals and as communities should start taking matters into our own hands, all to often we forget that in a democracy it is we the people who have the power, its time we started using it.
America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy
By Gar Alperovitz
I picked this book up at Borders by chance awhile back, I never got around to reading it until recently, but when I did, wow, I was blown away, I had never heard of Gar Alperovitz but as soon as I finished his book I looked up everything I could about him online, which is how I first found the above website, his book is like a quiet call to arms, its full of great info and real ideas about how to change things to create a more just and equitable America.

Monday, November 13, 2006

In Praise of Protectionism
Um....Well, We Learned To Trust The Germans Again
Piece in LA Times about the health insurance industry coming to the aid of the 46.6 million Americans who lack health insurance. I imagine these gestures are genuine, after all they are losing out on 46 million premiums, not to mention the bad press lately, plus with the Democratic sweep and all, I guess they figured the bell was tolling for them. Basically the plan is vague but the insurance companies want to provide health care to everyone within ten years through a mixture of increased federal programs and tax breaks for people to buy their own coverage. Sounds okay, anything is better then what we've got now, and the sooner we start doing anything productive in health care the better, its only going to get worse, and I'm glad that we are moving forward and all, but kinda saddened that it's more the companies making the first move rather then my elected representatives, oh well, I guess the health insurance companies aren't all bad, after all the Germans killed millions, the insurance companies only kill roughly 18,000 people per year through lack of medical coverage.
LA Times "Hope for millions without health coverage"
please feel free to leave any and all comments, or email me, im starting to think this whole blog thing might be an exercise in futility
From Consumers League of New Jersey
What's Next ?
Kinda Good, Kinda Bad....But Mainly Bad
NYT piece about the marriage of philanthropy and consumerism, everything from Bath & Body Works candles with $2.00 going to an AIDS foundation, to a Saks $750.00 leather jacket for which a percentage goes to help the homeless. It seems to be a really emerging trend with everyone from GAP to Macy's getting inboard. I think most people would agree that this is all good news, companies and consumers together fighting some of the worst problems in our society, but...there is something about all this that never sat well with me (I never bought the Live Strong bracelet), maybe its that capitalism and philanthropy are such odd partners, or the idea that with these purchases a person might feel absolved from guilt or a have less of a desire to do more, maybe its because it seems so halfhearted on the part of the consumer, but mainly, I think its because the corporations are making money, lots of money off of it, I mean yeah, they are donating a percentage to charity but maybe you wouldn't of bought it, or maybe been less inclined to by it, or of bought less, had it not been for the fact that its for a good cause, in that case the company has made money, and in the end thats what bothers me using human misery and suffering to sell candles and ipods, and making money off of it. Save your money for the future, go volunteer in a soup kitchen, feel great.
NYT "Candles, Jeans, Lipsticks: Products With Ulterior Motives"
Far From The Madding Crowd
NYT piece about the struggle of the New York rich to get a decent education for their children, and how more and more they are turning to ultra expensive and exclusive Private schools, all so their children can get a "superior" education that they just cant find in public schools, with know, unwashed masses and all. Read it and weep, it's like The Great Gatsby, except sadder.
"Leaving the City for the Schools, and Regretting It "
Pigeon Coops For The Poor
Plan in NYC to construct low income housing on top of the roofs of libraries. In NYC like many cities, land is expensive and low income housing in great need so cities are trying to find creative solutions to building public housing. I mean, at least they're trying, right?
NYC "Stranger Than Fiction? Having People Live on Top of Branch Libraries "

Sunday, November 12, 2006

If one benefits tangibly from the exploitation of others who are weak, is one morally implicated in their predicament? Or are basic rights of human existence confined to the civilized societies that are wealthy enough to afford them? Our values are defined by what we will tolerate when it is done to others.1
Notes From The Underground
Older but great piece from NYT, all about just how easy it is to slip a few rungs down to economic ladder and into poverty. That goes for everyone, whether you work at Costco or your a college professor, all it takes is a company downsize, a battle with Leukemia, a mistake, to realize just how everything can "rest on foundations of sand"1.
NYT "America's 'Near Poor' Are Increasingly at Economic Risk, Experts Say"
Brightness Falls
EPI policy memo on the facts and trends in the economy that sometimes get left out of Fox News. Your not crazy if you think things aren't going so well.
EPI "Postcards from an ailing economy"
The Betrayal Of Work
Great Policy Brief from UC Berkley Labor Center, all about jobs and wages in 2006, god solid stats and facts. It's great, wage stagnation, wage decline, inflation, all the info you could want, and only 24 pages.
Labor Center "Where Have All The Wages Gone?"
The Jungle
NYT piece from July about a study from The Brookings Institution about the "Ghetto Tax", the hundreds and thousands of extra dollars a year things end up costing you when your poor, whether its the interest on rent-to-own furniture, higher car insurance or more expensive groceries. These extra costs are victimizing the neediest among us, they are one of the things that help drive the vicious cycle of poverty.
NYT Study Documents "Ghetto Tax’ Being Paid by the Urban Poor"
Report from The Brookings Institution "
From Poverty, Opportunity: Putting the Market to Work for Lower Income Families"
The Octopus
Burn baby, burn! article in Kansas City Star about a class action lawsuit filed against QC Financial Services Inc. aka QC holdings aka Quik Cash, they run 564 pay day loan stores across the country, and have been exploiting the poor and desperate since 1992. The lawsuit brought by a single mother of two, who earns $844 every two weeks, "In her lawsuit, Woods alleges that she took out three loans — one for $450, one for $300 and one for $250 — and ended up paying nearly $1,800 in interest and fees". The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that predatory payday lending practices cost American families $3.4 billion annually[1]. Payday loan stores litter the landscape of lower income neighborhoods, they bilk, gouge, and exploit the poor and working class, and make billions doing it.

KC Star "
Payday lender QC Financial Services faces class-action lawsuit"
Shortchanged: Life and Debt in the Fringe Economy
By: Howard Karger
Really awesome book, I came across it by accident, bought it and loved it. Its only available in hardcover, kinda expensive but I thought it was definitely worth it, lots of facts and stats about an area that doesn't get much attention.

The Numbers in Pennsylvania
Families in Poverty 14%
Children in Poverty 17%
Families with Incomes at or below 200% of the Poverty Level 28%
Uninsured 11%
TANF Average Monthly Assistance (per recipient) $327

The Numbers in Pennsylvania
Food Insecurity 10%
Hunger 3%
Food Stamp Participation - Households 471,960
Food Stamps - Average Monthly Benefit Per Person $88
The numbers in my home state from National Priorities Project
Check your state at
Who Matters
$56.5 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% this year
could be spent on the people of United States instead. If that money were used to support state and local programs, the residents of United States could have $56.5 billion, which could provide:
16,121,382 People with Health Care
$56.5 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% this year
could be spent on the people of United States instead. If that money were used to support state and local programs, the residents of United States could have $56.5 billion, which could provide:
7,757,812 Head Start Places for Children
$56.5 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% this year could be spent on the people of United States instead. If that money were used to support state and local programs, the residents of United States could have $56.5 billion, which could provide:
9,331,868 Scholarships for University Students

From National Priorities Project
Do your own calculations