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29th July 2013

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101M Get Food Aid from Federal Gov’t; Outnumber Full-Time Private Sector Workers | CNS News →

This is a concerning trend. People keep acting like the economy is recovering, but I don’t see it in the US. Having record numbers of people and families on food aid just doesn’t seem good. 

Tagged: US EconomyFood stamps

Source: cnsnews.com

10th November 2011

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Artificial intelligence Difference Engine: Luddite legacy →

I am not sure if this is fear mongering or a potentially serious problem with the future of jobs in technologically advanced nations. Obviously, people have been afraid that technology would replace people for a few hundred years without it coming to pass, but I can also seen that the increased rate of technology gain particularly in analytics and artificial intelligence could replace more jobs that perhaps we realize. Not sure if I agree, but an interesting concept to ponder.

I do feel that the high rate of unemployment in the US is a strong indicator that the economy is not doing nearly as well as some of the reports would like you to believe. I also don’t see a recovery in sight with the small number of jobs being added each month.

Tagged: technologyunemploymentUS Economyeconomist

31st October 2011

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50% of All Workers Made Less than $26,000 in 2010 →

The title kind of sums up the depressing US economy reality. This has more charts and info on the US Pay data report as a follow up to this post. The charts of each industry compared to the average are interesting. The US needs about 10 million jobs to be back on track with low unemployment and a happy workforce. So how do you go about creating 10 million jobs?

Tagged: US dissentUS Economyatlanticoccupy wallstreetincome inequalityUS payfinancial crisis

23rd October 2011

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First look at US pay data, it’s awful →

More depressing charts and pay data from the US that helps explain what the Occupy Wallstreet protests are all about. I am sure that some of the protesters are opportunistic deadbeats who are just going along with the movement, but the reason the protests strike a chord with so many Americans is that there are a lot of hard working Americans who can’t find work or can’t make enough to make ends meet at the jobs they do have. Yes, some of this is a result of a debt culture that demands buy it now and pay for it later, but even financially responsible people are being hurt by the current economy and the fact that wages have not gone up for most workers in 30 years.

Tagged: US dissentoccupy wallstreetUS EconomyUS payincome inequalityreutersfinancial crisis

17th October 2011

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CHARTS: Here's What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About... →

This is a bit long as it has 41 charts, but they are really good charts to help you visualize the problems with the US economy that have lead to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The movement does not seem to be well organized, and some of the complaints and demands are ridiculous, but there are real problems at the heart of the movement.

Yes, Americans have taken on too much debt and made other poor choices, but the average American has not had any control over the fact that wages have not been increasing and jobs are few and far between while corporate profits are off the charts. Perhaps these things are a failure of the American labor movement, but they are not a failure of the individual workers who are feeling extremely frustrated and screwed.

Tagged: graphicOccupy Wall StreetUS dissentUS Economyfinancial crisisProtestbusiness insider

17th October 2011

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Why News About Iceland’s Recovery Might Help Occupy Wall Street Protests →

Iceland suffered very badly in the financial crisis of 2008, but they seem to have instituted structural changes and be putting themselves back together nicely while the US continues to flounder and breed unrest. Perhaps folks ought to look more at Iceland to figure out how to help the US.

Tagged: icelandfinancial crisisUS EconomyOccupy Wall StreetProtestaddictinginfo.org

16th October 2011

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Facing Cuts, a City Repeals Its Domestic Violence Law →

Apparently, if you want to beat your spouse, head to Kansas…

Seriously, I can’t believe this kind of stuff is going on in America. I understand that there are budget problems, and this seems more a fight between the city and the county as there are states laws that still make domestic violence illegal, but regardless of the legality, it doesn’t sound like anyone has been prosecuting domestic violence misdemeanors in Topeka lately either. 

Also of the misdemeanor crimes to stop prosecuting, don’t you think you would neglect drugs and shoplifting before domestic violence? Oh no, you get civil seizure for drugs so that is more money, right? <rolls eyes>

The below Forbes article has an update that indicates the county plans to pick up the domestic violence charges, but with their complaints of reduced resources I wouldn’t expect too many people to be prosecuted.

Topeka Kansas Has Decriminalized Domestic Violence

Tagged: new york timesforbesKansasUS dissentCrimedomestic violenceUS Economy

15th October 2011

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The 99% →

This is a good, short article to remind people that although the 99% movement represents a lot of people that have made some bad choices by taking on too much debt or getting not very useful degrees, at the same time the 99% also represents a lot of upset and very scared people. You can criticize each individual case for the poor decisions involved, but the reality is there are not enough jobs currently in the US compared to the number of workers so better decisions could have lead to that person having a job, it would mean someone else would be out of work.

As one of the people who has read some of the 99% signs and thought not very nice things about someone who would make those decisions this article was a good reminder that while bad decisions have been made, there are also structural problems with the American economic and job situation that means a huge number of people would be screwed no matter how good their decision had been.

Tagged: Occupy Wall StreetThe 99%US EconomyUS protestsUS dissentfinancial crisisatlantic

12th October 2011

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Dream Act Becomes Law in California →

I am not in full support of many of the draconian laws that have been passed in many States to target illegal immigrants because I don’t think it is right to have passively allowed this huge illegal population to build up over 20 years, and then wake up one day and start deporting people and throwing them in jail. I think that people should be required to be in a country legally or face deportation, but I also think those laws need to be consistently strongly enforced so immigrants don’t have false expectations.

I don’t really know what the solution is now that the problem has become so large, but a lot of the laws that have been passed recently are unnecessarily cruel.

I however do not understand why the state of California which to my understanding is pretty broke is passing a law to grant illegal immigrants aid to go to college. Aid to American citizens is being cut so how can California be thinking of giving aid to people that do not have a legal right to be in California. I think everyone living in America should have access to medical aid, food aid, and shelter aid because these are all things people need to live, but college aid? I don’t think so.

More details:

Jerry Brown signs Dream Act for illegal immigrants

Tagged: US EconomyUS debtcaliforniaillegal immigrationnew york timesSF Gate

9th October 2011

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Why men are in trouble →

I don’t agree with everything in this article (it goes kind of off the farm at the end) and I definitely think that there are social/ economic  pressures at play here other than men are just completely unmotivated in America today, but some of the points are valid and some of the data is scary. I mean, go girls, but I don’t think it is healthy for society for either sex to be achieving well above the other. I don’t think it is good that men’s wages have been so slight over so many years, and I don’t think that has as much to do with lazy men as it does the redistribution of wealth that America has been undergoing over the same time frame.

I also think that we are in dangerous time when a college degree is almost required for men to get a job, but that degree can leave many with crippling debt. There are more grants and incentives for women than there are for men. Having a large population of unemployed and unemployable men is dangerous for a society and something the US should be very concerned about.

I do not think that men’s problems stem largely from a lack or religion, and getting people to work if working won’t actually pay your bills is tricky no matter what their values are. I am not sure what the solution is, but I think there is a problem.

Tagged: menUS EconomyunemploymentCNN

8th October 2011

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Helping women reach their economic potential →

I am surprised to see this type of work structure change being discussed in such poor economic times when traditionally the workplace becomes much more traditional and conservative, but I do think that most careers where practical would benefit from more work schedule flexibility. I remember all the way back to the 1980’s people talking about work share and more casual hours, but most jobs in the US are still very rigid and career jobs are almost never part time which is very limiting to women with families or who want to have families.

I do know of talented women who have left science and engineering jobs because they do not offer the work flexibility necessary to have a family that you spend lots of time with. You can get productive work done and not be in the office 40 hours a week.

I don’t know anything about the act in question so I can’t say if I agree with all of it, but some of it sounds like good stuff.

Tagged: women in sciencewomen's rightswomen in the workforceobamaUS Economyeducationwashington post

30th September 2011

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Social Security, Heath Care Cost & End of Life Care

A viral post on Facebook about Social Security taxes and the fact that once you reach 65 you are “owed” that money got me thinking about the US budget and the social security/ medicare problem. First, social security is not and was never set up like a 401k so the concept that you put in money which would gain interest and then you would withdraw that same money is completely flawed. From the very beginning social security has taken current worker taxes to pay for current elderly and disabled benefits. That may not be a good system, but it is the way the system is and has been running. Social security excesses have been spent by the federal government leaving social security a nice IOU.

Anecdotally, one of the biggest problems with social security since the beginning can be nicely summed up with this tidbit from the wiki:

"The first monthly payment was issued on January 31, 1940 to Ida May Fuller of Ludlow, Vermont. In 1937, 1938 and 1939 she paid a total of $24.75 into the Social Security System. Her first check was for $22.54. After her second check, Fuller already had received more than she contributed over the three-year period. She lived to be 100 and collected a total of $22,888.92”

One interesting tidbit I found when looking up social security things is a cool Life Expectancy Chart from 1930 - 2007. Life expectancy has gone from 59.7 to 77.9 so a not quite 20 year increase in 77 years. That seems pretty good to me though much of that gain was in the early years.

In 1940 life expectancy was 62.9 so if social security minimum age had kept up with life expectancy, you would not be eligible today until you were almost 81. Somehow I don’t think this would be a reasonable solution to any of the baby boomers who are sure they are “owed” that money.

However, the social security shortfall pales in comparison to the medicare problems. Medicare taxes are much less than social security taxes yet the expenses can end up being greater with current end of life care easily reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars. I tried to find an average figure, and failed, but one article from 2009 did give a average range of 53k to 93k depending on location.

End of life care is not something anyone really wants to think about, but it is something we all should think about, both in the context of how we want to die and how we will handle our loved ones dying. Aggressive treatment of a terminal condition may not only be extremely costly, it can also be ineffective and inflict a great deal of suffering. I think modern Americans are in quite a bit of denial about death and are unwilling to face it when it is knocking at their door which ends up creating even more suffering and pain during a very difficult time.

I think people should be able to pick their own path towards death, though I think they should be well informed to be able to pick the best path for them, and I do not think doctors always do this well. I also think that unless America gets control of its spiraling health care costs, the luxury of picking your own path is going to be replaced by government mandates unless you are able to pay for extraordinary end of life care out of pocket. End of life care is only one aspect of America’s health care crisis, but it may be one of the easier ones to address as acknowledging that everyone eventually dies and creating a plan is something everyone can do without the need of doctors, insurance companies, or law makers.

Here are the articles on this topic I found interesting:

End-of-Life Warning at $618,616 Makes Me Wonder Was It Worth It

The second graph at the top of this article also brings up one of my serious pet peeves about the US medical system: the fact that costs are completely opaque and dependent on who you are. A MRI should cost what an MRI costs no matter if my insurance company, medicare, or myself are paying that cost. That cost should be openly stated for all to see. Medical costs need to be transparent.

The rest of the article is a really good discussion of the end of life care because in this case expensive treatments and experimental treatments *did* add significant length of life of a father who really wanted to live to see his kids grow up. However, even with all those successes they extensive testing at the end seemed in retrospect a waste to his widow. So when is expensive treatment worth it, and when is enough enough? It is a very challenging problem, particularly when people have not admitted that they or their loved one is dying.

The Cost of Dying: End-of-Life Care

This one talks more about people’s denial of death, and the fact that people who get good consul on their terminal conditions and chart a treatment plan in advance typically chose less aggressive, less costly treatment with more hospice and pain management choices instead.

Reform Health Care Now: End-of-life costs are too high

Similar to previous article, but shorter.

Americans get too much healthcare, their docs say

This article isn’t specific to end of life care, but American healthcare in general. I very much agree that American doctors could benefit a lot from listening to their patients and thinking about what the patient is saying. When E and I caught the mumps despite having been vaccinated, it took 10 different doctors before one actually *listened* to the fact that we were BOTH sick which ruled out most of the more common ailments that are not contagious. Patients are generally more in tune with their bodies than their doctor is, and doctors would get a lot further by discussing things with a patient than going on physical evidence alone.


Tagged: CBS NewsBloombergDaily FinancereutersHealthcarehealthcare reformsocial securitywikiinfoplease.commedicinemedical ethicshealthcare costUS EconomyUS Budget

25th September 2011

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How the US Government Chose to Ruin the James Webb Space Telescope, and Blamed NASA →

My last US job was working for a company that was developing one of the systems for James Webb, and it was really exciting stuff. They were pushing the limits of their abilities to come up with great new technologies, and everyone was looking forward to the launch so I definitely have a biased opinion on this project.

This article is pretty depressing if James Webb doesn’t get funding to completion after all of the hard work by multiple corporations and space agencies around the world have already done so much. NASA is an extremely inefficient organization that does need an structural overhaul, but it would be impossible for NASA to be an efficient organization with the way funding is currently handed out on a yearly basis by the US government. Science does not happen on an annual basis. Today most science experiments and all space experiments take years of planning and technology development. Technology development that then gets applied to everyday objects that we enjoy. You can’t efficiently plan and run a multi-year research program on an annual budget.

I know economic times are rough, and I know the US needs to seriously cut back on its spending, and I know NASA needs a lot of changes if it is going to remain viable. However, killing such a major project that scientists around the world are anxiously awaiting after so much interesting science came from the Hubble seems tragic.

Tagged: James Webb Space TelescopeNASAUS dissentFundingUS EconomyUS Budgetscienceresearchastrophysicsastronomyscienceblogs

11th September 2011

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Charity, Beautifully Disguised →

This looks like a really nice New York charity to provide new, nice clothing for children in need without the appearance of charity. I suspect many US cities could use a similar store in these rough economic times.

Tagged: charityUS Economynew yorkparentingwall street journal

9th September 2011

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The Great Prosperity to the Great Regression... →

A New York Times graphic explaining household income, the income gap, and debt in America from 1947-1979 and then from 1980 to now. It is a sobering reality. It isn’t an illusion that my generation is doing significantly worse than our parents.

Tagged: income inequalityUS EconomyUS debtUS dissentnew york times