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Because Noah I Was Such a Success

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Just Get A Job At McDonald’s and Let the American Dream Begin

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When people are struggling financially, such as being unemployed, on welfare, on disability or in any other circumstance that has rendered them poor and without income, the stereotypical, go-to phrase of bootstraps bullshittery is always “go get a job at McDonald’s, buddy“. Usually this phrase is uttered by people who themselves never have worked at a place like McDonald’s (or Burger King or any other similar fast food joint) and who view not working at a shit-hole like that as a contemptible refusal by alleged “lazy freeloaders” to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to finally stop mooching off of hard-working, honest, supposedly bootstraps-pulling individuals.

Oh you know, if it were me I would totally lower myself and go work for McDonald’s”  says some dipshit one percenter who was escorted out of government offices with seven figure bonuses made entirely possible by a tax-payer funded bail out for an economic meltdown he and his colleagues caused across the financial world, in collaboration with the majority of the US Congress.

The rhetoric here is “you work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible“blah blah blah.

The irony of this type of callous, rancid rhetoric, of course, is that people who do work at places like McDonald’s or Burger King etc,  do not even get paid a livable-wage which they then could supposedly use to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to realize their American Dream.

Striking McDonald's worker Bartolome Perez, 42, protests outside McDonald's on Hollywood Boulevard as part of a nationwide strike by fast-food workers to call for wages of $15 an hour, in Los Angeles

Earlier this month, McDonald’s employees in California, Michigan and New York have filed class-action law suits against McDonald’s alleging that McDonald’s has engaged in systematic wage theft.

“The suits allege that McDonald’s has forced employees to work off the clock, not paid them overtime and struck hours off their time cards.

We’ve uncovered several unlawful schemes, but they all share a common purpose — to drive labor costs down by stealing wages from McDonald’s workers,” said Michael Rubin of Altshuler Berzon LLP, an attorney who represents California workers.

The employees in Michigan allege that they would start getting paid only when customers walked into the restaurants, even if they showed up to work hours earlier.
New York McDonald’s workers, who filed their case in federal court ,claim the fast food chain did not reimburse them for the cost of cleaning uniforms. They say it drives some workers’ real wages below the minimum wage, which is a violation of federal labor law.

Since 1985, the Labor Department has found that McDonald’s and its franchises have had to pay back wages more than 300 times for Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations.

These types of exploits are not just confined to McDonald’s, however.  Burger King, most notable among a myriad of companies out there, is another avid exploiter.

As the truly sad and somewhat harrowing accounts of fifty-year-old Glenn Johnson who gets paid $14,000 a year (that is $1,166 a month) working at a Miami-area Burger King, just minutes away from the fast food company’s corporate headquarters, show, even if your company does not actively steal from you, as a regular employee in the fast-food industry, which many, including the Burger King spokesperson believe to “provide an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans,” you still cannot make ends meet despite working full-time and working hard.

Note how the bootstraps rhetoric is not just about working but working hard. “You work hard, you create your own luck, and you gotta believe anything is possible” it goes. Thing is, that is just not how it always goes.

Glenn Johnson is a man who, much like many other men and women out there, does work hard, to the point of exhaustion, yet is still struggling.

Come work for us for scap wages and the American Dream can happen to you, too!!

Come work for us for scrap wages and the American Dream can happen to you, too!!

He gets paid $7.93 an hour, no benefits, no health-care. When he gets sick or feels sick, he gets some Tylenol or VapoRub or some other over-the-counter medication as even going to the hospital will cost him $1,000 off the bat. This means that Mr. Johnson is also not having access to preventive care and thus is not getting routine physical check-ups, which are especially important for someone his age.

His rent is $765 a month, which takes up more than three weeks of his paycheck, and he also has to pay for utilities and food as well as gas to put in his car so he can get to work. This does not leave much for anything else, including paying for his health-care.

An individual like Mr. Johnson, with his level of income, may, under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, be eligible for government subsidies of his premiums but he is not eligible for government subsidies of his deductibles and actual health-care costs (because that would have actually been a policy helping people, so, naturally, it was voted away).

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Note that someone who only makes $14,000 a year does not even qualify for the low/zero deductible Gold and Platinum plans under Obamacare, he only qualifies for the Silver and Bronze ones, both of which have, relatively speaking,  astronomically high deductibles, from $5,000 to $10,000.

How can someone whose yearly income is $14,000 ever come up with a $10k or even $5k deductible?  That $10k may as well be a million because he doesn’t have that either. Affordable, I think not, Mr. President.

In addition to the fiscal strain, Mr. Johnson also has to content with the emotional strain of working such a minimum-wage job without having the means to do anything else beside work. He just does not bring home much to do anything else with, such as go on vacation. He seems just like another indentured servant. He often comes home tired and exhausted, unable to do anything but eat dinner, take a shower, watch some TV and go to bed, just so he can start the same thing tomorrow.

He does not get any benefits, therefore, he is also not eligible to go on vacation or take a week off or even afford to get sick – not that he could afford going on vacation if he wanted to. Additionally, he has to content with abusive bosses and managers.

It is just a demoralizing existence. And he is not the only one.

All the while, Burger King has been posting a 37 percent in its quarterly gains.

The comment section of the Huffington Post, where Mr. Johnson’s story was first published, reeks of the same old garbage, out-of-touch bootstraps narratives and other associated Gordon Gecko prosperity dribble blaming Mr. Johnson for the fact that he is getting paid scrap wages without benefits or anything else and that he clearly seems unwilling to pull himself up by his bootstraps.

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Some people state that it is Johnson’s fault for being 50 years old, working in the same place for the past thirty years and still making about the same amount of money. “Why was he not promoted?” they ask or “does he have bad work ethics? A bad attitude?”

People blame him for being a “loser” who is merely choosing to work at Burger King. As if Mr. Johnson was offered a host of opportunities for a better job and income yet inexplicably chose to work a minimum-wage paying slow death.

As if the ability to make the best choices in life was not often dependent on one’s socio-economic situation in society as well as race, gender, bodily ability, abuse and a host of other factors that systemically place certain people on trajectory-fucking paths and disadvantaged positions vis a vis people who enjoy a host of privileges – such as being born white, straight, able bodied and wealthy or any combination thereof.

Privilege gives people freedom of choice, it gives them options, which, in turn, allow making good and prudent decisions possible. And isn’t that what poverty is ultimately about? That one’s choices shrink in proportion to one’s wealth whereby the less you own, the fewer choices available to you?

Poor people are often blamed for their situation, as if they were born into privilege and wealth and always functional, loving, non-abusive families with a myriad of choices available to them while inexplicably making the bad ones to their own detriment.

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As I have mentioned before, this delusion – or lie may I dare say – that sheer will power can make individuals transcend barriers, the glass ceiling, and overcame systemic inequalities, is precisely the kind of misleading bullshit that the likes of Romney (and even the President) and other one percenters regurgitate when speaking to the masses of people who are navigating a tedious existence of one paycheck/crisis away from destitution without any real prospects for improvement in sight, thanks to a host of middle-class busting policies by both of our parties and a practically non-existent social-safety net.

These are the things that, contrary to popular (and it appears even professional belief)  cannot be ameliorated with mere sheer individual will-power, as individuals cannot be tasked to solve and overcome systemic issues.

That Burger King is paying its employees scrap wages without any benefits whatsoever, and is not required to do so by law, is a systemic issue.

fast foodPeople who admonish Glenn Johnson and millions of others like him for not having made “better choices”, for having “chosen” “loser vocations” thus not working a great job with great pay, are missing the point, which is that a) not everyone is born into the right set of circumstances and that regardless of that b) not everyone in society can be rich.

Professions in hospitality and janitorial services are, traditionally, not the kind of jobs that make people rich.  Especially the fast food industry is notorious for abysmally low wages and as generally being in the lowest paid job category. People are often not expected to remain in them for long and only be taking on such a job if all else fails (unless, of course, you are in a huge recession where even skilled workers cannot find jobs in their trained professions so they have to work for such places). This high turn-over in employees has played to the advantage of the fast-food industry that is bringing in record profits, because labor leaders often have not made an effort to organize these workers into unions to increase their collective bargaining power. Given the immense advantage owners can take of this situation, it is unlikely that they will support for changes to occur.

Yet, they are professions that are both needed and do require hard work.

However, without a meaningful social safety net in place as well as meaningful labor laws and protections, people just eek by an existence, slide down the ladder until they hit bottom, or in this case Burger King and McDonald’s – the go-to employers people evoke when admonishing and vilifying  welfare recipients and the poor in general.

Mr. Johnson deserves to be working in a job, whatever that job may be, that pays a livable wage, that offers him benefits in the form of vacation and sick leave, that accommodates disabilities, that requires mandatory minimum wage increases in regular intervals. He deserves to not find himself a paycheck away from destitution, he deserves to have something to show for after a life-time of working hard in a vocation of his choice (or not of his choice, but out of necessity) instead of destitution, poverty and exhaustion while the company he works for posts record profits with a few on top reaping all the benefits.

There was a time in this country, not too long ago, where if you worked full-time, no matter what you did, you could afford to live like a human being. Now, it’s almost impossible for an unskilled worker to get a full forty hours, lest their employer have to fork over their paltry ‘benefits’ package. Even if they did, minimum wage is not enough to pay the bills or live the kind of dignified life resembling that of a human being. This is why the middle class is dwindling and why our economy can’t get back on its feet.

Poverty is destabilizing on many levels and the health of any society is generally measured by the existence and health of its middle-class. A healthy middle-class is indispensable for the smooth functioning of a democracy.

But sure, let’s blame the poor and dismiss them by suggesting they shut up complaining and just go work at McDonald’s to make their (American) Dream come true, even though the wages places like McDonald’s and Burger King pay are not fit for a dog,  while playing the violin for the “poor” billionaires who feel threatened and whine about having to endure bad press.

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Werewolves Are Not Dead

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Isn’t Greed…I Mean Capitalism Great?

Remember when we had such things as antitrust and monopoly laws to promote fair competition for the benefit of the consumer? Because isn’t that the core of what capitalism is, namely each business acting as an independent unit on the market to earn its profits by providing better priced and quality products than its competitors?

Apparently in a country that claims to have one of the most effective and prosperous economic systems in the world  where opportunity is galore and you just need to pull yourself up by your bootstraps by virtue of your efforts, such antitrust laws that grossly exploit consumers while enriching a small elite do not really apply, because how else could one explain Comcast’s legal $45 billion buyout of rival provider Time Warner Cable?

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As you can see from the two charts, a merger would mean Comcast would control more than half of all American cable subscribers.

Originally posted on Reddit, the data comes from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the trade association for the cable industry.According to some experts, this majority could mean slower speeds and fewer good choices on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Because Comcast considers Netflix a competitor, the company doesn’t have any reason to put effort into remedying congestion and the slow speeds it produces on these streaming services. A company as big as the one in the graph above might also pressure content providers not to offer their shows to its competitors, leaving us with fewer good choices when we fire up our streaming services.

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And of course, a company that doesn’t have to work for millions of new subscribers may not be that interested in lowering prices. Some predict prices will inevitably rise for consumers if the merger goes through.

For the record, these are the kind of systemic issues that individuals cannot overcome by sheer will-power or “by virtue of their efforts” as the President put it in his State of the Union Address, unless with hard work and effort he meant working hard to find ever more creative and brilliant ways to exploit the American people, such as blatantly violating monopoly laws.

And you can bet your  35% -tax -paying-tutu that this monstrous Comcast cartel will be paying pretty much nothing in taxes, as they, like most corporations in this country, are the beneficiaries of massive loopholes inherent in our skewed tax code as well as government subsidies paid for by tax dollars.

But I guess it is easier to focus on bumper-sticker length, feel-good slogans about bootstraps while romanticizing the dishwasher-to-millionaire metaphor, as opposed to actually examining what is truly behind the mess we’re in.

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Ethics Lower Than That of Child Molester

While most folks cannot wait to retire from the mostly wretched, soul quashing, often underpaid and stressful positions they have been trapped in for the past several decades, officials in the executive branch, Congress and senior congressional staff members seem to be getting their second wind once their jobs in the public sector end.

Apparently you can never be too old to retire from exploiting America and our corrupt politicians certainly have never met a constituent they were not willing to sell out to corporations and big business vultures for good money.

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, for example, who oversaw the Obama administration’s response to the 2008 financial crisis (thanks Obama for yet another completely competent decision)  will take his spin through the revolving door this year by joining private equity firm Warburg Pincus. Geithner followed the lead of former Treasury heads Robert Rubin and John Snow in making the move from Pennsylvania Ave. to Wall Street, where financial firms pay top dollar for former top government officials’ experience and connections.

Interesting to note is that Geithner managed the government bailouts of Citigroup, Bank of America and General Motors Corp., among others. While he was also in charge of lobbying Congress to pass the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which brought tighter regulation of financial institutions with the aim of preventing another crisis (not really), I think it is pretty safe to assume that he made sure to sweeten the deal for Wall Street as much as possible resulting in a watered-down policy aimed more at keeping critics quiet while giving them a sense that something was done rather than actually changing the way Wall Street does things. I mean have you heard of anyone in Wall Street getting in serious trouble or even face criminal charges since the 2008 crash? Yeah I didn’t think so.

The graph below shows Geithner’s employment timeline and the extent to which he has been going back and forth between private sector and public sector positions – ethical concerns that one may influence the other or pose a conflict of interest be damned.

Geithner employment timeline

The website http://www.opensecrets.org has compiled an entire list of politicians who have been profiting heavily from this revolving door by selling out hard working Americans and the poor, elderly and disabled of this country whose votes they secured to the vultures of the financial, defense, energy and pharmaceutical industries without compunction.

The graph illustrating Geithner’s employment timeline is pretty much the same for most politicians.

Well, it’s good to know that India is such a corrupt country and we here in the US aren’t.

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Another bunion on the face of not only humanity but especially this country, Joe Lieberman, has announced today that he has joined the private equity firm Victory Park Capital, where he will serve as chairman of the firm’s Executive Board. Of course he will.

Lieberman retired from the U.S. Senate in 2012 after serving for 24 years. In 2006, he was reelected to the U.S. Senate as an Independent after being defeated in the Democratic primary election.

While in the U.S. Senate, I fought for policies that would allow small businesses to thrive,” Lieberman said in a statement. “I look forward to a long-term partnership with Victory Park Capital that will position the firm for continued growth.”

Note that Lieberman is almost 72 years old, but apparently greed knows no age limit and this sorry excuse for a human being just cannot help spending his last few years on this earth to fuck everything up for generations to come.

Also note that private equity firms are not “small businesses” nor do they work for the interests of small businesses. They are vultures and run the type of schemes that got this country into the fiscal mess it is in today. Not that the crisis hurt them, of course, because us 35%-tax-rate-paying peons ended up bailing out their 0%-tax-rate asses.

Also interesting to note that almost all of these people call themselves pious, god fearing Christians out there to do god’s work blah blah wet fart.

Well at least our policy-makers are being consistent; obvious and greedy yes, but consistent.

I must say, however, that given that many, if not all, of our lawmakers seem to have been taking public sector jobs not to serve their communities or this country but to manipulate and mold the government to serve the narrow interests of corporations  and the wealthy – with the added bonus of securing themselves lucrative positions guaranteed to influence government and corporate policies – it’s truly a wonder that anything gets passed that doesn’t exclusively benefit the wealthy and powerful.

While Edward Snowden has to rot away his life in exile for having exposed government crimes, these treasonous assholes get to sit nice and pretty on cushy salaries and health care that the tax dollars of the 99% pay for while they are working to make things happen for the 1% who don’t pay a dime in taxes. That these opportunistic parasites get to continue making the law of the land and called patriots is nauseating.

Woody Allen once remarked that politicians have the ethics of a child molester – or actually a notch underneath that of a child molester. Given the above and the general state of this country for the past twenty to thirty years, coupled with the completely ineffective, almost parasitic Congress of last year and the general state of affairs, I am coming to realize just how true those words are.

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David Lynch Doesn’t Trust Mitt Romney

(When a genius talks, pay attention)


90 Days, 90 Reasons

There are many reasons to not vote for the dystopian duo Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. David Lynch, film maker extraordinaire, gives you reason 52 as part of the independent initiative  “90 Days, 90 Reasons” (an initiative unaffiliated with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign) where a wide range of cultural figures are asked to explain why they’re voting for Obama and not voting for Mitt Romney in 2012.

REASON 52I HAVE NOTICED SOMETHING IN MITT ROMNEY’S NAME.

DAVID LYNCH
David Lynch. Born Missoula, Montana. Eagle Scout.

Dear Americans, Republicans, and Democrats Alike,

I am going to vote for re-electing President Obama. I have noticed something in Mitt Romney’s name, which I think speaks to what he is about. If you just rearrange a few letters, Romney becomes R MONEY. I believe Mitt Romney wants to get his Mitts on R Money. He would like to get it and divide it up with his friends, the Big Money Bunch.

I believe he would like to get his Mitts on R Money, R Resources, R Freedoms, and R American Dream. I do not trust Mitt Romney to look after the best interests of 99% of Americans. I think electing Mitt Romney would be a catastrophe for our country—one which would be real difficult to straighten out later. Please do not let Mitt Romney get his Mitts on R Money or R United States of America.

—DAVID LYNCH
Los Angeles, California

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Michael Bay’s Open Letter to Spoiled, Overpaid Actors Who Complain About Having a Job That Pays a Lot

Do you ever get sick of actors that make $15 million a picture, or even $200,000 for voiceover work that took a brisk one hour and 43 minutes to complete, and then complain about their jobs?

With all the problems facing our world today, do these grumbling thespians really think people reading the news actually care about trivial complaints that their job wasn’t “artistic enough” or “fulfilling enough”? […] What happened to people who had integrity, who did a job, got paid for their hard work, and just smiled afterward? Be happy you even have a job — let alone a job that pays you more than 98% of the people in America.

I have a wonderful idea for all those whiners: They can give their “unhappy job money” to a wonderful Elephant Rescue. It’s the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Africa. I will match the funds they donate.” 

Michael Bay [Since deleted from his blog. Coward. Can’t even stand by what he says]

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