An acquaintance recently wrote on Facebook, “The independent states were originally united by the U.S. Constitution, which has been systematically dismantled,”
I inquired “What’s been dismantled?”
He wrote back, “The Constitution, as drafted by the authors, via erroneous interpretation.”
I retorted that the founding fathers couldn’t have visualized today’s modern world, and therefore a document written hundreds of years ago, would have to be open to interpretation to be relevant to today’s technologies, issues, and human needs. The U.S. Constitution is essentially a framework.
He wrote back a missive of gibberish and nonsense citing the Revolutionary War, Lexington and Concord (Civil War), Nazi Germany, and Russia, and how “the Constitution was drafted by geniuses so the county could be run by idiots if they just stick to the script.” It was obvious that he was simply repeating what he’d heard from a conservative pundit or pseudo constitutionalist.
To be honest, prior to our exchange, I barely knew anything about the U.S. Constitution, let alone why there seems to be a perpetual controversy surrounding its meaning.
I went online to do some investigating (and learning).
In 1787, there were approximately 4 million people living in the original 13 American colonies. They were governed under the Articles of Confederation, which lacked the mechanisms to fund the federal government through taxation, and likewise persuade delinquent states to pay their share of expenses, like the Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783). In addition, the Articles didn’t provide a means to adjudicate issues between the states, such as boundaries and tolls on road that crossed multiple states.
Originally conceived to revise the Articles of Confederation, the Constitutional Convention took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787. Because travel in colonial times was challenging, it took several months before representatives from twelve states arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, establishing a quorum. Seventy-four delegates were invited, but only 55 attended, with 39 eventually signed the Constitution. It took nearly three years for all thirteen states to ratify.
The writing of the U.S. Constitution wasn’t a slam-dunk. It was a compromise between several mindsets with disputes and debates centered on how “proportional representation” would be defined. The final wording in Section 2, third paragraph of the U.S. Constitution is ”Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
While slavery no longer exists in America, making those living in the United States, “free,” if you were to literally apply what’s written in the U.S. Constitution then Native Americas who don’t pay any taxes aren’t counted when determining the number of representatives per state. In 2015, the Tax Policy Center estimated the percentage of households who don’t pay federal income taxed to be 45.3%. If Native America’s mirror this statistic, does that mean that 45% of them don’t count?
And what about the “three fifths of all other Persons” statement? Does that consist of people with green cards? Illegal immigrants? U.S. citizen who live outside the country?
Section 2, paragraph three of the U.S. Constitution further states, “The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New-York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three.
If the U.S. Constitution names only thirteen states, is it also relevant to the other 39, plus a couple of territories like Puerto Rico? After all, the “number of representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand,” which today is the size of small American town, not a huge metropolitan area like Los Angeles with over 4.03 million people.
The point being, the U.S. Constitution must be interpreted in context to today’s world. To bounce up-and-down saying politicians and pundits are straying away from the tenants of the Constitution is preposterous because a document written over two hundred years ago can’t possibly be rigidly followed unless you abandoned progress. It’s like treating cancer by applying leeches.
Sections 3 through 6 of the Constitution spells out the election, responsibilities, behavior, and compensation of members of the Senate, House of Representatives, and President. Section 7 discusses the creation and passage of bills.
Section 8, from a viability point-on-view is one of the most important once because it states, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.” It continues, defining how monies can be used including for posts offices, roads, support armies and militia, borrowing on credit, commerce with “foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes,” progress of science and useful arts, and much more.
Section 9 deals with migration and “importation” of “Persons,” along with the authority to apply a “Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” Read that again. Once again, if the Constitution were to be followed by the law, and not interpreted, it sounds like people can be imported for just $10 per head.
This section also prohibited states from levying taxes and duties on exported articles, granting titles of nobility, and privileges of the Writ of Habeas Corpus (bring a person before a court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful).
The remainder of the Constitution continues in a similar manner, detailing the design, checks and balances, and responsibility of the government and its officials – as envisions by the representatives of the Constitution Congress in 1787.
Bill of Rights: The other half of the Constitution
One of the more contentious debates surrounding the writing of the Constitution was how slaves or other property was defined. After being drafted, this issue bubbled to the top when the states were asked to ratify the document. States and critics argued the Constitution lacked a bill of rights, which protected citizens’ rights.
Two states – North Carolina and Rhode Island – refused to ratify until the Bill of Rights was proposed in Congress in 1789. Even so, Rhode Island only ratified, by two votes, when threated with the possibly of being treated as a foreign government.
The Bill of Rights consists of ten amendments. As you read them, consider which ones are being “systematically dismantled.”
Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Amendment VII: In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Were the Signers of the Constitution Geniuses
James Madison, who became the fourth President of the United States, is considered the “Father of the Constitution” for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was born into privilege, the oldest of 12 children, to a Virginia tobacco planter and the daughter of tobacco planter. The Madison family was the largest landowners in the area with hundreds of slaves on a Montpelier, VA plantation.
Madison had private tutors, and attended the College of New Jersey, which later became Princeton University. He studied and mastered a breadth of subject, becoming a Virginia State Legislator 1776, where he initially met Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson later sent Madison crates of books from France on various forms of government. These learnings were central in Madison’s viewpoints when drafting the Constitution, and driving compromise and consensus.
One delegate wrote, he’s “the best informed Man of any point in debate.” Madison wasn’t just wise, but understood human foibles, writing “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
The first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton was the consummate statesman, leading the Annapolis Convention, playing a pivot role in composing the Constitution, writing 41 of the 85 installations of The Federalist Papers, and adjudicating in many federal issues. He was also born out of wedlock in Charlestown, British West Indies to a mother whose ancestry was African, British, and French. His father was from Scotland.
In 1804, Aaron Burr was defeated as the governor of New York. He felt that Hamilton’s support of his opponent, Morgan Lewis, and the contents in a letter written by Hamilton, attacked his honor. While attempts were made to reconcile their differences, a duel was arranged between the two men. Hamilton, feeling obliged to his family, and wanting to continue playing a role in politics, resolved to throw his fire, meaning to abort a conflict by allowing one’s opponent to fire first. It’s unknown whether Hamilton fired after being struck by Burr’s bullet or if they fire simultaneously, but the shot to Hamilton was fatal.
It’s easy to assume all of the signers of the Constitution were outstanding individuals, however, like modern-day politicians they had their flaws or at least, a tendency to resolve conflicts through gun fire.
Richard Dobbs Spaight signed the Constitution when he was only 29 years, having previously been a delegate to the Confederation Congress and served in the North Carolina House of Commons. When he was 44, like Alexander Hamilton, he was died from injuries sustained in a duel.
A member of the North Carolina delegation at the Constitutional Convention, William Blount and his brothers gradually acquired 2.5 millions of acres in Tennessee and the trans-Appalachian west, which left him deeply in debt. He then hatched a scheme to increase the value of his lands by working with Great British to seize Spanish-controlled Louisiana and Florida, and then give American merchants free access to New Orleans, and the Mississippi River. When his duplicity was discovered, he was expelled from the Senate, and become the first U.S. public official to face impeachment.
Timothy Pickering, who was also a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and involved in impeaching William Blount, served as Secretary of State under Presidents George Washington and John Adam, and was also a Massachusetts Senator.
In 1810, he challenged Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo Act by holding several conferences with special British envoy George Rose in hope of creating a pro-British party in New England. Passed in 1807, the Embargo Act supporting U.S. neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars, and imposed embargos on Great Britain and France. At the time, the British Royal Navy was forcing thousands of American seaman to serve on their war ships.
Pickering’s insolence in wanting to form a party sympathetic to Britain was in violation of the Logan Act, which forbids unauthorized citizens from negotiating with foreign governments who conflicted with U.S. interests. In addition, Pickering read confidential documents in open Senate sessions before an injunction of secrecy had been removed. By a majority vote of 20-7, Pickering was censured by the Senate on January 2, 1811.
Born in County Carlow, Ireland, and one of the largest slaveholders in the United States, Pierce Butler represented South Carolina when he signed the Constitution. Recognizing human dignity, he introduced the Fugitive Slave Clause to the Constitution. Throughout his life, he lobbied for better treatment of slaves, but continued to support the institution because of its importance to the southern economy.
Considered “eccentric” and an “enigma,” he summarized his view of government as “Our System is little better than [a] matter of Experiment…. much must depend on the morals and manners of the people at large.”
The Constitution has withheld the test of time. But it’s important to keep in mind, it was created through compromise with aspects of the final version drawn from five different points-of-view, the Virginia Plan, New Jersey Plan, Hamilton Plan, Pinckney Plan, and Connecticut Compromise. There was heated discussions and modifications that continued for several months with some of the signers reluctantly adding their signatures, and sixteen refusing to sign.
More than half of the delegates were trained as lawyers with others being merchants, manufacturers, shippers, land speculators, bankers or financiers, physicians, a minister, and several small farmers. Twenty-five owned slaves.
Once signed, the next challenge was to get the 13 states to ratify, and adhere to its premises. To nudge reluctant states to sign the Federalist Papers – a collection of 85 articles and essays – were published under the pseudonym Publius. Written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay the papers are interpretations of what’s contained in the Constitution and were envisioned to speed up the ratification.
If the signers of the Constitution found it necessary to help state legislatures and citizens better understand the idiosyncrasies of the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers, then it’s not unreasonable to continue interpreting the document as it applies to modern-day issues. Sure enough, the Federalist Papers are often referred to by judges in applying the laws-of-the-land.
One aspect of the Constitution, which is coming under scrutiny, is the Electoral College. In Federalist [Paper] No. 39, James Madison argued the Constitution was designed to be a mixture of state-based and population-based government. Federalist [Paper] No. 68, written by Alexander Hamilton presents the advantages of the Electoral College, focusing on elections taking place among states so they can’t taint “the great body of the people.” He also commented Electoral College delegates – none of whom can be a U.S. officeholder – have information that might be unavailable to the general public.
Unfortunately, recent history has twice elected a president for whom didn’t receive the population vote, which begs the question, is it time to re-interpret this aspect of the Constitution to elect a president who is chosen by the majority of people?
When I lived in Texas, over ten years ago, I found a book of photos taken by a Los Angeles police photographer of traffic fatalities from the 1930’s through 1950’s. At the time, cars didn’t have seat belts.
I was fascinated by the black-and-white photos, and seeing the circumstances of the accidents. Many of the victims appeared to be barely injured, peacefully slouched in the driver’s or passenger seat, the front or sides of their car crushed, and windshield shattered. Others were covered in blood, their limbs unnaturally bent, and pain and struggle frozen on their faces. Some were dressed in fancy clothes, no doubt starting or returning from a night-on-the-town. While others met their death during the day, perhaps during the course of work or running an errand.
I urgently wanted the book, even though I was filled with disgust at my curiosity, even voyeurism, at my eagerness to flip through the pages, scrutinizing each picture for clues as to what happened to the victims.
Within a few weeks of purchasing the book, I witnesses several traffic fatality. One was within a mile of my house. I blamed the book, illogically reasoning my zeal for seeing the pictures somehow channeled negative energy.
The next day, I brought the book to work, and left it braced against a tree, hoping someone would take it or perhaps, it would be scoped up by a security officer.
Watching Donald Trump’s vile acceptance speech last week, I felt the same disgust and horror, as if I was witnessing something that was none of my business. After five or ten minutes, my mouth agape, I sprung to my feet, and rushed out of the houses, snapping at my husband. I couldn’t possibly listen to another minutes of his hatred-filled, inflammatory rhetoric.
He crossed the line in so many ways.
Like the photos of the horrendous traffic fatalities, I can’t erase seeing his condescending stance or hearing the shameless condemnations that spewed from his mouth.
A few weeks ago, a friend sent me links to articles about how pensions are impacting the solvency of Detroit and Chicago. While the obligation to honor pensions – like paying the mortgage on a devalued house – could be perceived as a burden on city, state, and federal governments, each pension is associated with a person. Labeling pensions as the culprits solely responsible for jeopardizing the financial health of municipalities is akin to discarding the contributions of the people who earned them.
Many people who choose to be government workers – teachers, firefighters, police, clerks, judges, maintenance workers, administrators, and much-appreciated snow plow drivers (especially in Boston) – do so because they recognize the trade-off between earning less in exchange for contributing to and receiving a pension. Ten or so years ago, working for the government provided stability and good benefits.
My husband’s grandfather, mother, father, step-father all worked for the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Police Department. They worked hard, receiving pensions when they retired. Similarly, my mother worked for the City of Burbank.
Pensions aren’t entitlements. They offer the promise of being able to retire without the worry of ending up as a greeter at Wal-Mart or asking people if they want fries with their hamburgers. They’re the rewards for working in fields that can be dangerous, physically exhausting or highly stressful.
They’re also not limited to government workers. My grandfather worked for Lockheed, and retired with a pension, enabling him and his wife to travel and comfortably live in their cozy Burbank, California bungalow until they passed away in their 90’s.
Stories abound of companies mismanaging their pension funds, and subsequently not being able to meet their obligation of paying out retirement benefits. Other companies saw the value of their pensions drop because of investment decisions. For instance, Portland General Electric, Oregon’s largest utility, was acquired by Texas-based Enron. When Enron collapsed employees not only lost millions in savings, but the dream of retirement.
An article appeared in the March 2015 AARP Bulletin about the decline in pensions, and how payments are being cut or sold to third-parties as annuities. Stores are emerging of retirees who are being asking to repay overpayments, resulting from accounting errors on the part of pension administrators.
The article showcased the plight of an Illinois Sheet Metal Worker whose pension fund had erroneously overpaid him and 588 others, starting in 1974. He was told he had three weeks to repay $66,000 or face steep cuts to future payments. Not only was his pension reduced from $1,300 per month to $800, but he was expected to repay $97,000 along with 7.25 percent interest, the amount overpaid to him over the course of nearly twenty years.
Another man, a New York City transit worker, had all but $5 per month of his pension applied towards recouping the monies paid toward him for the past 22 years. Evidentially, he wasn’t supposed to receive his pension because he was receiving worker’ compensation payment, after being shot and stabbed while on the job.
According to the article, in the early 1990’s, around 35 percent of American workers in the private sector were contributing to traditional pension plans. Today, just 16 percent can count of having a pension when they retire.
The passage of legislation in December, 2014 enables multiemployer plans to cut benefits to people under age 80. These plans primarily cover union workers or those in single or related industries. It’s estimated 1.5 million people are currently covered by these plans, which for many, and their surviving spouses is what depend on for basic housing, food, medication, and other necessities.
Closer Look at Detroit
Pinning Detroit’s and Chicago’s fiscal challenges on having to honor pension payouts is akin to blaming a heart attack wholly on a person’s weight, without considering their diet, lifestyle, gender, and heredity.
In the 1950’s, Detroit’s population was nearly 1.9 million people. Six decades, it declined to just over 700,000, a startling 62% decrease. A decrease in population translates to the deterioration of the economic base, and subsequent decrease in tax revenues from property, income, and sales taxes
There is a bounty of images and articles, showing and describing blocks of abandoned houses and businesses in Detroit, resulting from the dramatic decrease in population. As a result, property values have plummeted in Detroit, which now has the third lowest taxable value per capita of all Michigan Cities over 50,000 people. Only Flint and Saginaw are lower.
Not only are there fewer people paying property taxes, because of the massive exodus from Detroit, but the taxable value of properties has fallen. Individuals and businesses are often at odds with the tax assessors, disputing how much they own on particles of land and structures, which have lost most of their value and can’t be sold at any price.
A decade ago, there was an estimated 81,754 vacant houses in Detroit. By 2008, that number had climbed to around 102,000 or nearly 28% of all residences. The average price of a house sold in 2003 was $97,847. In six years, the value dropped 87% to just $12,439.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the decline in the value of houses in Cleveland, noting the large number that had gone into foreclosure, and how a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes, Valentino dress, and Gucci bag cost more than a 3-bedroom house in East Cleveland!
Nevertheless, in cities like Detroit and Cleveland, reduced tax revenues are expected to cover the same infrastructures, services, administrations, and pension when populations soared in the 1950’s. A drop in economies doesn’t translated to a reduction in the need to maintain streets, bridges, buildings, transit systems, police, fire, courts, public lighting, and other community services such as libraries and recreational centers.
Preaching the conservative anthem that reducing corporate taxes, eliminating regulations, and reducing government spending doesn’t appear to be the answer to Detroit’s and other large cities’ issues. It certainly hasn’t translated into job creation and economic growth.
From 2003 to 2012, the City of Detroit cut employment by 9,400 people, a 45% decrease. The Detroit Public Schools followed suit, reducing employment by 58% over the course of 9 years. As a result, nearly 24,500 people lost their jobs, benefits, and most likely, the ability to one day retire with a pension.
How did the public sector respond? The Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, and St. Johns Providence Health System are three of the largest employers in the area with a combined employment of 24,940 in 2009. In the subsequent 9 years, they’ve reduced employment by 1,337, which is an acceptable 5% reduction, conceivably the result of increased efficiencies of healthcare deliveries and fewer people seeking care.
The nearly 30,500 people who lost their jobs, between 2003 and 2012, having formerly worked for the City of Detroit, Detroit Public Schools, or Chrysler are a subset of the massive job loss and economic decline in Detroit.
Those who didn’t flee the city in search of other opportunities, found themselves with reduced earning power. Only Flint has a lower average household income than Detroit, where the average household income is just $26,253. With many of Detroit’s resident having low incomes, the demand for services is high from transportation to health care, food programs, and housing.
Five Years of Services Equals a Pension
When the topic of pensions arises, much of the focus is on people who need it the most, hard-working city and utility workers, teachers, firefighters, police, clerks, and those in trades and unions. For many of these people, their salaries didn’t afford them the luxury of socking away a sizable nest egg. Or maybe they didn’t envision their pensions could be reduced or eliminated.
There’s another side to pensions. Consider the pensions made available to members of congress. A congressman who is 62 years of age, can collect a full pension after serving just five years. Five years. If they were elected when they were 30, they can collect their pension when they turn 50.
The base pay for member of Congress is $174,000. Nearly half are millionaires, and the remaining aren’t doing too poorly. Fifty-five members have an average calculated wealth of $10 million. Obviously, few if any of these people need a pension. Yet, little is said about the silver spoon they’re bestowed in salaries, benefits, and pensions when they get elected.
Case in point, Republican Congressman “Downton Abbey,” Aaron Schock, who served just 8 years will be eligible, when he turns 62, to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded retirement benefits.
Nevertheless, Schock and other elected officials are the ones pointing fingers at the city janitor who barely earned more than $30,000 per year, and now with arthritis from 30 years of physical labor, is hoping to collect a humble pension that will enable him to live in a two-bedroom apartment, and purchase groceries and medications when needed.
Other pension programs, which aren’t widely critiqued are those offered to members of the military. No doubt, serving in the armed forces is stressful, demanding, and dangerous, especially if you’re serving in combat. However, in the past 15 years, military retirement costs have skyrocketed more than six-fold to an estimated $18.3 billion, which will be paid to military retirees in 2015. Costs are high because military pensions are at least twice as generous as the best private sector retirement plans, and officers and enlisted men can retire at half of basic pay after only 20 years’ service.
The typical nondisabled military retiree receives an annuity of $13, 226 which is fully indexed for inflation. Since the average retiree begins collecting these payments at age 43, he has plenty of opportunity to supplement them with second career private earnings and, eventually, Social Security benefits and even a second pension.
Returning to my original premise. Every pension is associated with a person. Generalizing that pensions cost too much and jeopardize the financial health of a city, state, business or trade sounds good until you consider the impact to recipients. What type of society are we if we deny or severely cut someone’s pension who’s been toiling for 20, 30, 40 or more years? Someone who light at the end of the tunnel is the security of knowing they’ll have enough money to slow down, read the books that have been piling up on their shelves, spend more time with family, travel, sleep-in, take long walks, knowing they have nowhere they need to be, and enjoy what’s left of their lives without the worry of not having enough money for basic necessities.
Vice President under President Lyndon B. Johnson and long-time politician Hubert H. Humphrey once said, “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
Earlier this week, I posted Elizabeth Warren’s Eight-Point Plan. An associate from Texas wrote the following:
- Minimum wage is 0 – what is she going to do to encourage job growth so fewer people need to be dependent on government and government doesn’t create an unnecessary burden on businesses
- In unions, individual workers don’t have bargaining rights. Regardless of your ability, you are held to the same pay and seniority rules – you cannot excel if you are able to achieve deliver more
- The first part is obvious (and laws exist for this) but groups in the second part which is the problem – government pensions and guaranteed retirements are crippling municipalities (Detroit anyone?); moving to 401k savings needs to occur
- Is there any data on this to support the assertion…can someone show me people doing “equal work”
- Unfunded liability and will run out without changes – growing older population, growing disability claims
- Please stop repaving roads…my only issue with this is how inefficient money is spent
- What is the definition of “fair share” – can someone provide a % on this? Is 50% for some upper brackets (when factoring state for some brackets) not enough
- What does that mean – apply tariffs? embargo countries? Agree that we should encourage countries to adopt pollution/working condition standards – there has been some good reporting on private companies that has yielded some good results.
This is my response:
Let’s say you’re a single mother with a 3 year old, living in Austin. The only jobs you’re able to secure are two part-time jobs at Staples (24 hours/week), and McDonalds (24 hours/week), for a total of 48 hours per week. Neither one provides healthcare, but they both pay $8/hour. You therefore earn $1,536/week, which is $208 above the poverty line for the District of Columbia, and $124 less than the poverty line for Alaska. Here’s your monthly budget:
- $600 rent (1 bedroom apartment, your child sleeps in your bed)
- $50 utilities (electric mostly for air conditioning, sewer/water)
- $84 gas (your car gets 24 miles per gallon, and you drive around 10 miles per day, 6 days per week between jobs and child care… 60 miles/24 mpg = 2.5 x $2.10/gallon x 4 weeks)
- $100 auto insurance
- $200 groceries ($50/week)
- $400 child care (you have a relative watch your child in the afternoon and evenings, but you still need 20 hours of childcare per week at $5/hour)
Your expenses are $1,424, which leaves $112 per month for healthcare, clothing, car repairs, continuing education (community college), and unforeseen expenses like purchasing school supplies. If your rent increases or your car breaks down, you may not have enough money for food, and therefore sign up for food stamps… and according to Republicans, become a burden to society.
And recall in this scenario, the woman works 48 hours per week. Consider earning 20% less because you work a normal 40-hour week.
Poverty isn’t a choice, it’s a circumstance brought on by the unavailability of jobs that pay a living wage.
Here’s some more food for thought:
Unions help raise wages, protect people’s jobs (so they don’t end up unemployed), and ensure companies provides benefits.
Detroit didn’t fall apart because of entitlements. They had issues that their elected officials overlooked, coupled with a dramatic drop in tax collection (tax-payers and businesses) because of the decline of the auto industry.
401K’s are great, provided you earn enough money to save some of it, and your company matches. The introduction of 401K’s left business off the hook, and enabled companies like Enron, Washington Mutual, PGE, and others to simply say “Oh well” when the money their employees placed in their pension plans was lost.
As far as equal pay for equal work, dress up as a woman, go look for work, and see whether you’re offered the same amount of money as you did as a man. On the average, women still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Government doesn’t more than pave roads. They protect the environment and public safety, provide for schools, police, and fire, issues permits so buildings can be built, and much more.
And the definition of fair share…. In the 1950’s, the largest employer in America was General Motors. In today’s dollars, the average auto worker earned $50/hour. Today, the largest employer is America is Walmart where most people earn scarcely more than minimum wage. As a result, it’s estimated Walmart workers rely on $6.2 billion in public assistance, including food stamps, subsidized housing, and Medicaid.