Today’s non-news: Millionaires optimistic while the rest of us worry about paying the mortgage

First from the Wall Street Journal:

Millionaire Optimism Hits 3-Year High

Now, the Washington Post:

Most Americans worry about ability to pay mortgage or rent, poll finds

Well now. I feel much better informed.

palm slap


US has record number of millionaires, poor people, irony

Two news stories from the same day:

Millionaire Population Soars — Again

According to a new survey from Phoenix Marketing International’s Affluent Market Practice, the number of American households with investible assets of $1 million or more rose 8% in the 12 months ended in June. The survey says there now are 5.55 million U.S. households with investible assets of $1 million or more.

USA’s poverty rate reaches highest level in 51 years

A total of 43.6 million people lived in poverty last year, up from 39.8 million in 2008 — the third consecutive annual increase. Extended unemployment benefits lifted 3.3 million people out of poverty, compared with 900,000 in 2008.

“States consider drug tests for welfare recipients” — does this includes bankers?

“It’s not against the law to be poor in the U.S. but it might as well be.”

I read that somewhere once and wish I could remember where. It came immediately to mind when I read the following:

Lawmakers in at least eight states want recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing.

We seem to have a fondness for humiliating the poor in this nation. If you say “tax the rich” you get accused of class warfare. However no one raises much of a fuss if you want to impose some draconion requirement on those with the least.

Not sure how many people understand a basic fact of life: People do not like being on food stamps, unemployment or welfare. I speak with experience about being on unemployment. It is embarrassing to not be able to provide for yourself and, even worse, for your family. Now in case that wasn’t enough, states are starting to ask these folks to pee in a cup periodically to prove they are worthy of recieving the help they need to feed themselves.

“Nobody’s being forced into these assistance programs,” said Craig Blair, a Republican in the West Virginia Legislature who has created a Web site … that bears a bobble-headed likeness of himself advocating this position. “If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?”

“Nobody’s being forced into these assistance programs”? Well, none of my friends are going willingly to them that’s for sure.

And yet we don’t ask the same of people who are being given billions of dollars to bailout companies they screwed up in the first place. Let me ask you a question: Which one of these groups is more likely to be able to afford drugs? Nevermind all those caps on executive compensation — I would be content if I knew the board and/or senior execs at any company getting federal bailout funds would have to submit to random drug testing for as long as they owed the government money. That would end the car companies’ begging in a hurry.

So if you’re a bankrupt bank — here’s a check. If you’re a bankrupt person — here’s a cup?

I am all in favor of people not being addicted to anything. Addiction is an ugly, destructive thing — whether that addiction is to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or whatever. However — as any doctor will tell you — this is a medical issue, not a moral one. So Mr. Blair and company are willing to disqualify people from getting assistance if they have this medical issue — however there is no mention of providing health care to deal with that medical issue.

Meanwhile Jamie Dimon (CEO of JP Morgan who makes $18M annually and whose company has recieved $25B in taxpayer funds) and his ilk complain about “the constant vilification of corporate America.”

Which would you rather be: villified and rich or villified and starving?

Blog Action Day: POVERTY SUCKS

Yeah, sometimes I fall for a marketing gimmick too. This one always gets me because it requires so little action on my part and the cause is always a good one.

In case you didn’t know it sucks to be poor. I’ve actually had people try to tell me that homeless people make a good living collecting cans and begging for change. My response is always the same, “Would you do it?”No one ever says yes. Even if you could make a reasonable amount of money doing this (I don’t believe it for a moment) you would be working incredibly hard and under incredibly demeaning circumstances.

There is an old joke (saying?) that goes, “It’s not illegal to be poor in the US, but it might as well be.” As a nation we constantly split ourselves into “we” and “they.” We are not in jail, they are. We do not live in this kind of place, they do. We are not the kind of people who have to deal with this kind of thing, they are. There is no we and there is no they. There is only us. The historian C. Vann Woodward has argued that Jim Crow laws came about in part because poor whites needed some way to distinguish themselves from poor blacks. Another way for “we” to not be “they.” That same kind of fear is still with us. And to some extent we (myself included) all do it.

As an increasing number of people are finding out — capitalism can be a true bitch. People are losing their apartments because even though they paid there rent regularly the landlord couldn’t afford the mortgage and lost the building. People are having to choose between rent, medicine and food. Soon we’ll be adding heating to that list. They are having to make that choice because the job disappeared or the price of gas spiked or someone got sick at the wrong moment or whatever. Sure some people did foolish and/or stupid things to get in that position and some just got caught by bad circumstances. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they are we.

There is no end of ways to help fight poverty. There is no effort to small to make. Give to a food bank. Donate some time at a shelter or some other place that helps people. Give all that excess stuff you have to a thrift shop. Hell, buy something at a thrift shop. My personal favorite — when someone on the street asks you for money give it to them. (Doesn’t have to be money either, I’ve been known to give doughnuts.) Not only that but look him or her in the eye and have a conversation. Doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to make sure both of you know that they are we.

(Sometimes people will say to me, “but what if that person just uses the money to buy drugs or alcohol?” My response, “Can you blame them?“)

An excellent post from writer John Scalzi on what it is to be poor:

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Read the whole thing.