Matthew Watson opened his car door at a gas station outside Hueysville, Ky., sprang out and exclaimed, “I got a new job!” He blushed slightly; he was not one to boast. But for this slender, 33-year-old man with a red beard, a father of two small daughters who had once been ashamed of supplementing his low-pay, long-hours job with food stamps, this was fantastic news. I’d driven to Hueysville past trucks with “Diggin’ Coal” decals, on a road slicing through mountains that rose in steep, majestic steps up to tops flattened by dynamite, past turnoffs to forgotten union halls where the eight-hour workday had been won and billboards that had recently read, “Trump for President.” (Kentucky went 63 percent for him.) Mr. Watson’s home, like much of Appalachia, reflects the landscape and culture of coal, without the coal mining jobs. And there was little hope of alternatives — until now. “After I got my two associate’s degrees, the best job I could find was selling cigarettes behind the counter in Hazard, a 45-minute commute from home, for $10 an hour, and that was after a promotion to manager,” Mr. Watson told me the first time we met. “Some of my customers were opioid addicts, who slurred their speech, scratched their arms, laid their heads on my counter. In the back of my mind, I always think, ‘If I want to stay living here, if I didn’t have this job, I’d be working that job.’”
Then one day Mr. Watson heard an ad on the car radio. “It was for a 24-week course in coding, with an eight-week apprenticeship, which I later learned could qualify me for a $40,000-plus job designing apps for cellphones,” he said. The advertisement had been put out by a Louisville tech start-up called Interapt. “I immediately applied online, got interviewed, aced the test, and they hired me as an intern and then as a junior software developer,” Mr. Watson said. Within a year, he was offered yet another job as a software engineer, for a Florida-based company, for a salary well over $50,000. This is a good-news story. But continuing to increase access to good jobs in Middle America will take deliberate efforts to cooperate across the bitter political and regional divide. President Trump is not helping by proposing cuts in education funding that will raise the cost of student loans by more than $200 billion over the next decade. Last year, he tried to cut all funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, which paid Interapt students’ stipends. A group of representatives — eight Democrats and two Republicans — signed a joint letter urging Trump to restore the money (it was).
On my last visit to Hueysville, Mr. Watson introduced me to his wife (“I married an outsider,” he said jokingly. “Nicole’s from Martin County, I’m from Floyd.”), his aunt, uncle and cousin, all schoolteachers, and his 93-year-old grandmother, a retired teacher who sews a brightly colored quilt for each new grandchild. His daughters played with dolls and nibbled on chocolate Easter eggs on the living room floor. “We’re really proud of Matthew,” his aunt said. “My new employer is a home repair services company based in Florida,” Mr. Watson said later, “and I do feature development that had once been outsourced to India. I get to work from home. My 3-year-old asks me to get her juice as if I had nothing better to do.” He chuckled. “But it’s such a blessing. These mountains hug me, and my family is my rock. I thought I’d be forced to leave, and maybe one day I’ll have to. But why would I ever want to?”
Around the World
Here is a good review of multiple issues & challenges we face: opinion/john-kerry-
Across Western democracies, the social cohesion that once sustained political consensus has severely eroded. A new segregation is emerging as a combined result of the collapse of socializing institutions and the rise of polarizing practices. Mandatory military or civic service is gone in most liberal societies. Universal public education, in which all classes, races and ethnicities mingled, has been relegated to less well-off communities while those who can afford it receive a private education from preschool to university. Add to this the inequality that is growing with the widening bifurcation of the globalized digital economy into high and low-wage sectors, which translates into neighborhoods further separated by the cost of housing. And add to that the mass migrations in recent years that have brought a larger presence of outsiders into societies once settled in a fixed identity. At the same time, mainstream media plays to cultural niches in highly competitive markets while the business model of social media companies maximizes virality among the like-minded. This division of the social imagination into silos, where stereotypes replace real experience with others, both fuels and is amplified in the discourse of demagogic politics. These symbiotic forces contribute mightily to the chronic incapacity to reach a politics of consensus.
This next article poses the question is Trumponomics working? The answer is largely no, but we need to reserve judgement until the business investments in R&D, IT & capital equipment play out over time. But a general rule of thumb, when populist policies are done for the optics & not based on sound judgement, such as juicing the economy with a sugar high while mortgaging the future with significantly higher deficits, expect that strategy to ultimately do more harm than good. See these posts from opinions/is-trumponomics-
This time last year, the best news on the world economy came from outside the United States. China had restored its grip after two financial mini-crises; emerging markets were booming; France was celebrating labor reform delivered by a pro-market young president. Meanwhile, U.S. growth was lackluster and the dollar was weakening. President Trump was not making America great again. Fast forward one year, and the picture is different. U.S. growth came in at 4.2 percent in the second quarter, trouncing the 1.5 percent recorded in the euro zone and the 3 percent in Japan. U.S. unemployment stands at a rock-bottom 3.9 percent , less than half the rate of the euro zone. The S&P 500 stock market index is up more than 9 percent this year, while European and Japanese markets have fallen slightly, and China has taken a big hit. Fully 64 percent of Americans tell Gallup that now is a good time to find a quality job.
So is Trumponomics working? With one significant caveat, the answer is no. For one thing, Trump’s trade policy is turning out to be worse than expected. For another, the growth surge mostly reflects a temporary sugar high from last December’s tax cut. Economists are already penciling in a recession for 2020. The caveat has to do with corporate investment. Some aspects of the tax cut were straightforwardly appalling: At a time of toxic inequality and declining intergenerational mobility, inheritance taxes ought to be increased, but Trump cut them. However, the reduction in the corporate tax rate, coupled with incentives for businesses to invest more, has boosted spending on R&D, information technology and other machinery. Extra investment should make workers more productive. It might even shift U.S. growth to a higher trajectory. Economists are notoriously bad at predicting productivity spurts. So you can’t rule out the possibility that the Trump investment incentives are hitting the economy just as a new wave of IT innovations is ripe for deployment. Sensors, cameras and predictive software may upgrade everything from ports to power grids. Translation programs and collaboration apps such as Slack and Dropbox may boost teamwork across time zones and language barriers.
The question is whether the expected productivity boost will outweigh the drag from the tax cut’s other consequence: a huge rise in federal debt. For what it’s worth, most forecasters are pessimistic. The extra $1 trillion or so of federal debt will have to be serviced: Today’s sugary tax cuts imply tax hikes in the future. Likewise, the corporate investment incentives are temporary: They may simply bring investment forward, depriving tomorrow’s economy of its tech caffeine jolt. Following this logic, many Wall Streeters expect a recession once the sugar high dissipates.
Drain the Swamp
That’s one of the mantras Trump & his cronies keep clamoring for, but if we really want to drain the swamp in DC, we need to break the suffocating control large corporate interests & wealthy donors have over our political system. Below is the beginning to the article a-decade-after-lehman-
Well, surprise, surprise. A President elected on the pledge to help the working class has once again opted instead to preside over an even faster acceleration of wealth concentration at the very top of America’s pyramid scheme economy. They all talk a great game, but once they take up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue they take care of the people this country is owned by. On this there is a bipartisan through line that started in the 1970s when average working class Americans saw their purchasing power start to slide, even as their productivity sky rocketed and the wealth generated by that labor was increasingly pocketed by the folks at the top. This month marked the tenth anniversary of the spectacular collapse of Lehman Brothers and by every measure it would appear that the banksters that heisted $20 trillion in American family wealth are living larger than ever. According to the New York State Comptroller Wall Street’s pretax profits totaled $13.7 billion in the first half of 2018, 11 percent higher than last year. Last year, pretax profits spiked 42 percent to $24.5 billion, which was up dramatically from the not too shabby 21 percent jump in previous the previous year.
“Wall Street has profited every year since the end of the recession in 2009, and compensation last year reached its highest point since the financial crisis,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli in a press release hailing the finance industry’s robust performance. The average salary in the securities industry in New York state increased by 12 percent in 2017 to $403,100, the highest since 2008 and the third-highest on record after adjusting for inflation. New York had the highest average salary of any state in the nation, reflecting the concentration of highly compensated employees, such as chief executive officers, in New York City.” Meanwhile, down here on planet earth we are supposed to get excited when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in August the average hourly wage went up by 10 cents an hour in a country where the average workweek remains 34.5 hours. According to the last monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report workforce participation has declined to 62.7 percent under President Trump, continuing its general downward trajectory in has been on since the 1990s. So many of us are just barely getting by, nickeled and dimed in part-time America. Keep in mind that this hogging of the national prosperity is a daily heist already in progress as the 2008 dislocation continues, like a conveyor belt that takes so many to destitution. As has been widely reported, there’s been a dramatic spike in the number of Americans 65 years and older filing for bankruptcy. In a report entitled “Graying of US Bankruptcy Fallout From Life In a Risk Society” researchers found a two-fold increase in the rate at which older Americans are filing for bankruptcy and a fivefold increase in the percentage of older persons in the U.S. bankruptcy system.
Capitalism or Socialism?
How many times have I warned if we don’t soon fix modern-day capitalism for the average worker, we may be headed towards socialism? A lot!!! Young people aren’t impressed with the way things are going. Inside this link the-screwed-generation-
Most don’t even remember when American democracy worked well. They don’t recall the Cold War, when democracy as an ideal worth fighting for. The Berlin Wall came down before they were born. Instead, during their lives they’ve watched big money take over Washington and state capitals. Which may explain why only about 30 percent of Americans born in the 1980s think it “essential” to live in a democracy. Many young people have wondered if their votes count anyway, because so many of them live in congressional districts and states that are predictably red or blue.
The ultimate debt bubble
Americans need to wake up to the kind of financial hole we’ve dug ourselves on entitlements, plus the piling on of our inability to contain all the other fast-rising government spending: the-catastrophic-
Here’s how bad: Unless something’s done to shore up Social Security, monthly checks could get cut 23% by 2034. Here is the part where you snicker “2034? Who cares?” But that date’s closer than it sounds, and besides, isn’t it easier to address problems while there’s still time—before they become even messier? Fact is, we’re now on a slope that’s only going to get more slippery. The bad news doesn’t end there. This week’s report by the Social Security trustees—the head trustee is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—had even tighter time frames for other pieces of the social safety net. It said that Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be depleted in 2026, three years earlier than it forecast a year ago. That means come 2026, unless changes are made, the program will only be able to pay about 91% of costs.
What’s going on here? Both of these gargantuan federal programs are being pinched in three ways. First is simple demographics: the nation is aging, and there aren’t enough younger taxpayers to keep the system going like in the past. Last year, there were 2.8 workers for every Social Security recipient; in 2007 that ratio was 3.3. Second: the new tax cut law has lowered projected revenue from the taxation of Social Security benefits. Third: the trustees also say that President Trump’s decision to stop offering young undocumented immigrants reprieve from deportation while allowing them to work is also cutting into anticipated tax revenue into the Social Security program.
There’s no doubt that these massive programs—some 61.5 million people receive retirement or disability benefits from Social Security and 58.4 million receive Medicare—are in increasingly perilous shape, and there’s little desire among politicians—from either party—to do much of anything about it. They simply lack the guts to tell citizens—i.e. voters—that sacrifices will likely have to be made. What politician wants to do that? “The truth is as long as you have politicians telling people they can have everything they want, nothing will happen and it’ll only get worse,” says Maya McGuinness,president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. She accuses lawmakers of “spinning myths” to voters because no one has the backbone to tell the truth. Of course, these programs can be shored up through tax hikes, benefit cuts, or a higher Social Security retirement age—or some combination of all three.
A big factor tied into our nation’s inability to ever cover our Medicare obligations, is that health care & prescription drug prices are way too high. We double or triple what other nations pay as a percentage of GDP. Here’s a simple way to bring down drug costs that has worked well in the UK, as seen in https://firenewsfeed.com/
As the administration works to implement President Trump’s proposals to reduce rising drug prices, it’s important to consider the industry’s reaction. After the plan was revealed earlier this month, the stock prices of pharmaceutical companies soared. The administration might believe its proposals will reduce drug prices, but clearly, the drug industry doesn’t. To really fix soaring drug costs, we know the solution, because we’ve seen it work elsewhere: pricing drugs based on how well they work, like they do in the UK. For example, the UK recently gave a close look to the breast cancer drug Ibrance. Initially, the agency rejected coverage — even though at the time, it was blockbuster here in the U.S., achieving sales of $2 billion in 2016 alone. Why did the UK turn it down? With a price tag of more than $100,000 for a full course of treatment, and uncertain results, the agency said it just wasn’t worth paying for Ibrance. Though the UK found that the drug decreased the growth rate of cancer, it didn’t see evidence that the drug improved cancer survival rates. But by the end of the year, the UK reversed course. Pfizer lowered the price, and the discount was enough to make the agency believe Ibrance was worth paying for. It’s a case study in how to keep drug prices low. It uses “cost effectiveness analysis,” which is prohibited in the U.S. It’s a wonky term, but the idea is quite simple. It means that when deciding what to pay for, we should consider the price of a drug relative to how much it helps patients. We do this all the time in our daily lives. We wouldn’t pay $1,000 for a black-and-white television when a high-definition, color TV is available at a lower cost. But in the U.S., that’s exactly what we do every day with medicine.
Other health updates
This is an amazing advancement giving hope to those who’ve suffered as devastating of an injury as a person can deal with: paralyzed-man-able-to-
APPROXIMATELY 60,000 people died from non-methadone opioid overdoses in the United States last year, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you squint at the CDC statistics very hard, you can barely make out a positive trend: the growth in deaths attributable to heroin and common forms of prescription opioids seems to have slowed between 2015 and 2017. However, that smidgen of progress was more than offset by a wave of death from synthetic opioids, primarily fentanyl, which killed 29,406 people in 2017 — up from roughly 3,000 in 2013. The United States’ opioid addiction and overdose epidemic, in short, is not withering away but morphing into a new and deadly form. The federal government is still playing catch-up. Each house of Congress has passed a package of measures this year, with the Senate having acted on its version of the legislation Sept. 17. The vote in the upper chamber was 99 to 1, and, as is often the case on Capitol Hill, wide bipartisan support indicated that lawmakers had settled on the lowest common denominator of policy: a series of incremental reforms that will help here and there, but still fall far short of what’s needed: an all-out national effort akin to the one that finally began to slow the AIDS epidemic.
Big Heart or Guilt Trip?
It may just be generous philanthropic efforts are more designed as a PR campaign for protecting their corporate empires & great wealth. Here is the beginning to one-big-problem-with-how-
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, recently announced a plan to spend US$2 billion of their $164 billion fortune on homeless shelters and preschools. Since Jeff Bezos has taken flack for giving away far less of his money than some other billionaires, such as Bill Gates, the announcement may look like a sign that this tech titan is becoming more generous. The announcement also responds to criticism of the $1 billion per year that Bezos already spends on Blue Origin, his space travel experiment.But as a political theorist who studies the ethics of philanthropy, I think Bezos’s charitable turn raises grave concerns about the pervasive power of business moguls. The Bezos family’s philanthropy is following an unsettling pattern in terms of its timing. Amazon’s market value had recently topped $1 trillion, raising more questions than ever around Amazon’s overwhelming size and power.
This wasn’t the first time that Bezos effectively redirected attention from Amazon’s immense clout with a big announcement about philanthropy. When news broke in 2017 that Amazon was acquiring Whole Foods, raising new concerns about the company’s retail domination, Bezos made a dramatic public appeal through Twitter for advice on how to focus his giving. The timing may have been coincidental both times, but the suspicion that philanthropy distracts the public from questionable conduct or economic injustice is a familiar worry. Since the days of robber barons like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, social critics have charged that philanthropy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This cynical view holds that magnificent acts of generosity are nothing more than cunning attempts to consolidate power. Like dictators who use “bread and circuses” to pacify the masses, the super-rich give away chunks of their fortunes to shield themselves from public scrutiny and defuse calls for eliminating tax breaks or raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
Polls with election coming
From what we’ve seen firsthand of the Trump presidency, this poll is certainly no surprise (except for the merry band of Trumpeters living in their alternate-galaxy Fox News bubble): clinton-would-beat-
This is the most devastating attack ad I’ve ever seen! I’ve always considered this guy to be another shameless Trump-puppet screwball, but for his siblings to actually think this of him, on a personal level he must be more like Attila the Hun. If you have yet to see this ad, please do by clicking on the video inside paul-gosar-siblings-
White House Circus
Trump orchestrated drama over will he or won’t he dump Rosenstein, which could help him try to derail the Mueller investigation & also serves as a diversion away from the real trouble his Supreme Court nominee finds himself in. But this is the kind of chaos we see practically every day from this White House, creating an ongoing circus-like atmosphere. Trump is responsible for this clown show, since he must let the show go on! So in honor of our president, this looks like his song…
Baby, although I chose this lonely life
It seems it’s stranglin’ me now
All the wild men, big cigars, gigantic car
They’re all laughin’ at the lie
Oh, I’ve been used Ooh-oh-oh-oh
I’ve been a fool, oh, what a fool
I broke all the rules Oh, yeah
But I must let the show go on
Baby, there’s an enormous crowd of people
They’re all after my blood
I wish maybe they’d tear down the walls of this theater
Let me out, let me out
Baby, I wish you’d help me escape
Help me get away
Leave me outside my address
Far away from this masquerade
‘Cause I’ve been blind, oh, so blind
I wasted time, wasted, wasted, all too much time
Walkin’ on the wire, high wire
But I must let the show go
I must let the show go
I must let the show go on
(Click on above image for full video)