Thursday, March 13, 2014

Paul Ryan's Backpedal Disected

Paul Ryan's recent comments about "inner city men" have caused a bit of a stir, but I read a transcript of his follow up comments this morning and have a few comments of my own.
After reading the transcript of yesterday morning’s interview, it is clear that I was inarticulate about the point I was trying to make. I was not implicating the culture of one community—but of society as a whole. We have allowed our society to isolate or quarantine the poor rather than integrate people into our communities. The predictable result has been multi-generational poverty and little opportunity. I also believe the government’s response has inadvertently created a poverty trap that builds barriers to work. A stable, good-paying job is the best bridge out of poverty.
The broader point I was trying to make is that we cannot settle for this status quo and that government and families have to do more and rethink our approach to fighting poverty. I have witnessed amazing people fighting against great odds with impressive success in poor communities. We can learn so much from them, and that is where this conversation should begin.
First off, let me begin with a little background. I was born poor - outhouse in the woods, no electricity kind of poor. Today I'm a successful businessman. I guess I am one of those "amazing people" Mr. Ryan speaks of, but I still take great issue with his comments.

Paul Ryan speaks from a position utterly outside of, and totally out of touch with, everything he's commenting on. What does Paul Ryan Jr., son of Paul Ryan Sr., a white attorney in a white community in a white state, know about the inner city? He should at least know there's nothing accidental or inadvertent about it.

He got one thing right. The inner city is a poverty trap, but it's no accident. When a society herds its poor into cramped neighborhoods with high population densities and few opportunities, of course it's a trap, but Ryan advocating a "work harder" approach is a little like saying "we made your bed, now you gotta' lay in it."

For decades rich white guys pushing rich white guy policies have treated an ever growing poor working class as acceptable collateral damage in their efforts to make and retain more and more wealth, and Ryan is one of the biggest proponents of this type of policy.
A stable, good-paying job is the best bridge out of poverty.
Unfortunately, the inner city offers up mostly low wage jobs, yet Ryan opposes raising the minimum wage, favoring instead policies like increasing the earned income tax credit (Politico).

The EITC, for those of you not familiar with it, is a credit back on taxes for low income individuals. On the surface Ryan supports it because you have to work to receive the benefit, but look at these two policies a little deeper. A raise in the minimum wage dips into corporate profits and shareholder dividends while a raise in the EITC dips into our tax dollars.

Both require the recipient to work, but one asks the employer to pay the employee a living wage and the other asks taxpayers to pay the employee. The EITC ensures the rich get richer while putting a further burden on the middle class. It's corporate welfare, a rich white guy policy.
The broader point I was trying to make is that we cannot settle for this status quo and that government and families have to do more and rethink our approach to fighting poverty.
The status quo for decades has been rich white guy policy that values capital higher than labor, shareholders higher than workers, owners higher than the productive working class, the rich over everyday taxpayers, etc, etc and Ryan is right there championing the status quo.

He might believe in cutting spending, cutting social safety nets, might believe his survival of the fittest/Atlas Shrugged rhetoric, but he's wrong.

Since fighting my way out of poverty I've got to see the other side of the coin and here's an interesting observation, my money has a much easier time making money than my hard work running my business. It's amazing! My investments go up and up and up and up, the income is taxed at half what my other income is taxed at, and guys like Ryan fight tooth and nail to make sure it stays that way.

I can only imagine starting at the top of the economic ladder - just coast along, everything easy, money makes money, enjoy me some golf.

Ryan can only imagine starting at the bottom, can only imagine the hard work it takes to escape poverty, can only imagine the opportunities he claims hard work can afford.

I'm sorry Mr. Ryan, but the bottom is about survival, about struggle, about getting taken advantage of, stepped on, shat out and destroyed. There's no light at the end of the tunnel, not one you can see from your side of the tracks anyway. When you're at the bottom, all there is is the bottom.

If you want to help, stop blaming the poor and forget your rich white guy policies. Nothing is trickling down. It's trickling offshore, more of a torrent really, flooding the Cayman islands in rich white guy money.
I have witnessed amazing people fighting against great odds with impressive success in poor communities.
That's great, but maybe we should reduce those odds by raising the minimum wage, improving education, lowering healthcare costs, etc rather than ending the payroll tax holiday, raising student loan interest rates and pushing for more corporate welfare. Oh wait, that sounds too liberal. Telling them to work harder is the answer...

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Doomsday Castle - Awful, with Eye Candy

Doomsday Castle is supposed to be about a family building a castle to prepare for the coming end of days, but it's not.

It's not about a family. I mean the family are characters in the drama (used loosely). It has the loony father, three daughters and two sons, and the mother will join in coming episodes, but aside from the son from another mother doing something stupid with a tractor to prove that he's not the sort to do something stupid with a tractor, the family dynamic doesn't enter into it much.

It's not about building a castle either. Last I checked, most castles avoid gaping holes in the walls...

Oh look, daddy put up a drawbridge next to our picture window.

Yes, they actually put up a drawbridge style door- oak planks with a thin skin of steel. They shot up some steel to make sure it was plenty tough to sheath the oak, but they failed to notice how the door sagged and bowed as it was being raised and lowered. Some cross bracing might help it survive if the tractor bonehead ever decides to hook a chain to it and use the tractor to pull it down (something tractors are actually good at).

And what the show is most certainly NOT about is doomsday prepping. I'm not a prepper, but if I were, I'd do a damn sight better job of it!

If you seriously think the end of days is coming and your best defense is a castle full of holes, are your top two priorities really to 1) build a drawbridge next to a gaping hole and 2) have your gun crazy neighbors do an attack simulation?

Do you really even want all your gun crazy neighbors to know you're hoarding crackers and peanut butter? Probably not after inviting them in to see your layout, escape routes and bunker entrance...

You don't build a castle if all you have to defend is a bunker full of crackers and peanut butter. If that's you're idea of prepping you'll probably be heading out soon enough. A bunker with rations and a 500 gallon water tank is a short term survival solution. Build a castle if you've got a longer term plan in mind.

Where's the orchard, the garden, the livestock, the homesteading gear? Why use peanut butter to lure a rat into bleach? You've just wasted protein - TWICE!

Doomsday Castle is an awful show, but it has some eye candy and it might take a lesson from Discovery's Gold Rush series and try to get better next season. Silly drama doesn't make reality shows interesting. In season two the Gold Rush crew actually tried mining and their audience swelled.

Keep the eye candy, lose the drama and do some real prepping and people will tune in.

And BTW, when is Ashley spinning off her own series? Doomsday Bikini could be a hit!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The GOP on Taxes and Spending - An Analogy

We've heard the nation's budget woes being compared to the average family, over and over again, usually with an eye towards making the point that if you can't afford, you don't buy it. Makes good sense, but the other side is rarely mentioned: you can't afford it, you get a second job...

My point here is one of revenue and I'm going to follow the family analogy. The parents are the wealthy, the teenagers the middle class and the children are the poor. The family has a budget, the parents make the money and pay the bills, the teenagers do chores around the house and the kids live off the state. Make sense?

Okay, perfect. Now let's GOPify it.

Mom and Dad want to take a few more vacation days, buy a little more bling, dine out a little more often, etc. Hell, they've worked hard for it, might as well enjoy it. The teenagers are asked to get jobs to help cover the household budget and spend more time looking after the kids so Mommy and Daddy can visit Paris, New York, Rome.

The teenagers, new jobs in hand, aren't making enough to cover the budget holes left by Mommy and Daddy's smaller contribution, so Mommy and Daddy suggest spending less on school supplies, food, toilet paper and cough syrup, and further suggest broadening the revenue rolls by sending the little kids to work.

With the lemonade stand in full swing and the teens working overtime, plus doing more chores around the house, using less toilet paper, etc, the budget holes still loom larger. Mommy and Daddy's answer - a few more parental holidays, further cuts to household spending, plus a couple more firearms for home protection.

Tax revenue is the way our federal government pays for things to keep our house in order. It uses tax dollars to pay for the FAA, the FDA, the Forest Service meteorologists who help schedule timber burns so you don't have to suck smoke, the roads you drive on, the National Guard troops working to clean up down in the gulf states, and on, and on, and on. With everyone losing their jobs, revenue plummets, yet the GOP has taken new revenue off the table. Closing loopholes, expiring tax breaks for the wealthy, all are off the table. Further, they fight time and time again to reduce the amount paid by the wealthy and big corporations.

The GOP wants to fix our economy by spending less on running our country, asking more of the middle class and broadening the tax base to include taxing the very poor. I cry BULLSHIT!

I'm starting to wend a ways off topic, but I need a good rant, and the GOP needs to hear it.

Over the last 67 years corporate income taxes have gone from 35% of federal revenue to only 7.9%. The very rich get off cheap because capital gains aren't treated as income, and they hide the rest offshore. Big auto, big oil, big bottom vulture capitalists pay less than the middle and it stinks - and I'm a business owner!

You think I'm worried about the $.20 extra I pay each year to help ensure Pell grants are still available, and not the $100s I pay to cover tax breaks given to some of the biggest corporations in America, or the huge chunk of change I contributed to the auto and banking bailouts, or maybe the huge job losses from poor regulation of Wall Street and the repeal of Glass–Steagall?

The GOP wants to regulate my personal life, say who I can marry, impose their god on me, deny me something so simple as a game of nickel-ante poker on my home computer, deny women the right to choose even in cases of rape, and a million other personal regulations, but they want to eliminate regulations on industry. How the hell does that make any sense?

Why would I trust a party that wants to tell me what I can and can't do, while stripping every protection we have, protections that ensure clean air, clean water, due process, voting rights, etc.

Screw you, GOP...

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gmail Doesn't Get It

In another life, when I'm not ranting and raving about this or that, I work in Internet retail. The company I work for sells stuff through a secure website with a shopping cart and ships product to customers around the world. Now let's bring Gmail into the conversation.

As part of the sales/shipping cycle we communicate with our customers via email. First, at the point of sale we send the customer an order confirmation email listing the products they ordered, the amount they paid and the shipping address they provided - no links, no ads, nothing but the basics of the customer's order for their records and review. We also then send the customer their tracking number at the time their order ships - again with no ads or other BS.

Along with direct replies to customer service inquiries that's the sum total of the emails we send, but Gmail has decided to spam them. The company has jumped through all of Gmail's hoops, sent several inquiries and gained no traction whatsoever.

The end result has been a glut of angry calls and emails complaining: "You've taken the money off my card, but I never got a confirmation or anything - what's the deal?"

Okay, all fine and dandy, I have a valid complaint, but I've asserted that Gmail doesn't get it. I can back that up with basic logic.

Gmail has aggressive spam filters so that Gmail users don't have to scroll through page after page of spam - a good goal by any account. Unfortunately, the filters have gone one tick too far and now online merchants are stuck telling Gmail users "please check your spam folder, scroll through page after page of spam and mark the order confirmation email as not spam, or you'll never get the tracking number either."

Gmail's filters, designed to protect users from seeing all that spam, are now so aggressive that false positives are forcing users to review their spam folders. Rather than seeing a couple unfiltered spam emails in their inboxes, Gmail users are now forced to scroll through hundreds of spam emails to find a needle in a haystack...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Letter in Support of a Soda Tax

Dear members of Congress,

According to a summary of the Annual Reports of the Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees, "...the aging population will result in SMI (Supplementary Medical Insurance) costs growing rapidly from 1.9 percent of GDP in to 2009 to 3.5 percent of GDP in 2040; about three-quarters of these costs will be financed from general revenues".

SMI, just one little piece of Medicare, 75% funded by our tax dollars, will hit 3.5% of our Nation's gross domestic product in less than 30 years, and that's just based on an aging population! Has anyone done the math on what happens when a population gets not only old, but fat too? Americans are living longer and getting fatter, and at the rate we're going 30 years out we might look back at that 3.5% of GDP as wishful thinking.

You won't teach Americans to eat right by taxing soda, but you can help offset some of the rising medical costs the American people are expected to foot the bill for, many of which are associated with poor diet. Our nation is in debt up to our eyeballs, and I for one am sick of my tax dollars going to support public medical costs associated with poor choices. Selective taxation like this is easy enough to avoid for those who choose to. If we can tax my beer, and the next guy's smokes, we should be able to tax that 2 liter bottle of sugar water...

I also don't think we should class Coke and Pepsi as food with regards to Food Stamps, or what we feed prison inmates, etc. Between 2007 and 2009 Oregon spent nearly $775,000 on pop to serve to prisoners at meal time! Why the hell was Oregon subsidizing the beverage industry buying Mountain Dew for convicts?!?! Maybe we should buy them all X-Boxes as well. Is this going on in your state, what about at the federal level? Okay, off on a tangent there. This is about a soda tax.

I'm not a fan of taxes, but if our General Fund is expected to pay for rising medical costs associated with America getting fat, taxing products that contribute to those costs makes more sense to me than further taxing my paycheck, or cutting funding for schools.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sexy Halloween Costumes

sexy chinese food costume
Some years back I posed the question "What is the Sexiest Halloween Costume?". It was a popular post, and received a number of comments, but unfortunately, I just don't have the energy to bring it back this year.

Rather than make this a long, painful post with a million hot chicks in sexy costumes, I thought I'd just post a couple suggestions.

Ladies, this year I would like for you all to dress up as Chinese takeaway.

Yes, you'll all be wearing the same thing, but you must admit, it's a pretty clever costume, and it'd be a very memorable Halloween if all the ladies wore the exact same costume. You should call each other and work it out...

There can be one exception though. If you can pull off a hot cosplay run at one of the chicks from Final Fantasy, go for it, but only if you can pull it off!

Men, you can stay home for all I care. Unless you choose to be this guy, a truly appaling Halloween costume. Actually, imagine how awesome it'd be if Chinese takeaway and that guy were the only two costumes we saw this Halloween. Do it!

Okay, that's all for now. Have fun, stay safe and get plenty wild.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

HR 2267 - Hells Yes!

In 2006 I posted a bit of a rant after our idiotic folks in DC passed a ban on Internet gambling. One diamond on a (capitol) hill of turds stood up and cried bullshit! Okay, his words were a bit more tame:

This Congress is well on the way to getting it absolutely backwards. In areas where we need to act together to protect the quality of our life, in the environment, in transportation, in public safety, we abstain; but in those areas where individuals ought to be allowed to make their own choices, we intervene. And that is what this is.

That was Barney Frank (D-MA), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, the same man who is now pushing HR 2267, the effort to repeal that earlier idiocy and legalize Internet gambling. Come November, he's a keeper.

HR 2267 has passed committee, so please encourage your reps to support it when it reaches the floor for a vote. Do it. I miss my freerolls...