Tag Archives: Wealth

WE NEED CHANGE.

I think the number of children living in poverty in the U.S. is about the same as in Britain. In the richest countries of the world, including the U.S. and Britain, it is immoral to have so many children living below the poverty line. In fact, I believe the child poverty stats indicate that rich countries like us are morally bankrupt! As the artist who created a nifty and instructive poster said, Zero children should be living in poverty. “We need change.”

Indeed. We as a society (and as an electorate) have both the means and the power to reduce child poverty nearly to zero. But do 51 percent of us want to really do that? Do 51 percent of us even care?

I’m afraid to say the answer.

(You can see the poster by clicking on the Abba1blog post below.)

— John Hayden

abba1blog

This started of as a little sketch of a table and chairs in a coffee shop, which evolved in to a mini poverty poster!

I have been reading so much lately about the hidden and unspoken inequality and hardship that goes on in Britain that no one speaks about, and most probably don’t even know about, for example these insane poverty statistics.I think when your’e eating a cinnamon swirl with a soy latte you realise how lucky you actually are? and that a cinnamon swirl probably isn’t a life necessity (no its definitely not). So all of us in that coffee shop that day who were spending too much money on cake, are lucky people to even be able to have that as a opportunity to us, and i completely recognize that.

The fact that 1 in 4 kids live in poverty I think is really really sad, as like…

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Promising Books By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Thomas Piketty, And Anne Tyler

NEHISI COATES (via Wikipedia)

TA-NEHISI COATES (via Wikipedia)

The world is full of troubles, no doubt about it. I cannot sugarcoat the facts to turn bad news into good. I think nearly every great religion holds to a basic premise that good will triumph over evil in the end. What we can do is point out some of the positive thoughts and actions along the way. With luck, the accretion of positive thoughts and actions will lead us in the right direction.

Good books are harbingers of hope and progress. My reading list never lacks for worthy books, and more are published constantly. I’ll never catch up. Here are three that I urgently need to read.

I   “Between The World And Me,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is the most recent addition to the reading list, thanks to a review by Carlos Lozada in the Outlook section of Sunday’s Washington Post. Coates is America’s “foremost intellectual,” and also “liberal America’s conscience on race,” according to Lozada. If you’re interested in understanding America’s struggles with “racism, white privilege, institutional violence and structural inequality,” this would appear to be the book to read. The Washington Post book review is here.

II   “Capital In The Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty, the renowned French economist. It’s a treatise on wealth concentration and distribution over the past 250 years. The author proposes a progressive global tax on wealth, according to Wikipedia. The Economist review in four paragraphs.

III   “A Spool Of Blue Thread,” by Anne Tyler, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist. “Blue Thread” is a study of a fictional Baltimore family. I think I can promise that this one will be easier going and more comforting than Piketty’s “Capital,” but it’s sure to be a good read. I’ve read all of Tyler’s previous novels, and they all provide more psychological insight than your average novel. Tyler is one of America’s greatest contemporary novelists. The NPR book review is here.

By coincidence, for my Maryland readers, both Coates and Tyler are Baltimoreans.

I can’t personally recommend books that I haven’t yet read. I’m trusting that all three will live up to their advance press. If anyone here has read one of the books, your thoughts are welcome. If you haven’t read a book this year, your thoughts are still welcome.

(Note: Ta-Nehisi Coates is the correct spelling of the author’s name. I apologize for getting it wrong in the original posting.)

— John Hayden

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Future of San Francisco Bay Area

In the long run, we’ll all be dead. I suppose nothing is sustainable in the long run. Even so, it doesn’t seem right for us to destroy the environment, or allow a handful of people to hoard all wealth.  — John

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A Homeless Guy, A Billionaire, And A Dumpster. Be Happy.

blue dumpster

So a rich guy and a homeless guy walk into a bar . . .

Sorry, let me start over. So a rich guy and a homeless guy walk into a dumpster . . .

One more time. A rich guy and a homeless guy walk into The Washington Post . . .

America is officially a “Tale of Two Cities,” as New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says.

The grand canyon between extreme wealth and abject poverty has grown so wide and deep that we have lost all perspective. We have become indifferent and uncaring.

It’s common for the rich, especially, to believe that poor people choose to be poor. The rich imagine the poor are HAPPY.

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If Maryland Is Rich, Why Do We Act So Stingy?

The Washington metropolitan area is among the most affluent in the U.S., based on Census data. The suburban counties of Maryland and Virginia have always ranked high, according to median household income, for as long as I can remember.

Map of Maryland highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Maryland highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many Maryland politicians and business leaders are aggrieved because Northern Virginia beats out the Maryland suburbs in the high-income game. That explains why many in Maryland obsess about competing with Virginia. The theory goes that Montgomery County must outbid Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia with tax giveaways and other subsidies for business. Otherwise, businesses will choose to locate in Virginia, rather than Maryland. It’s a crazy regional fascination with keeping up with the Joneses.

Worse yet, millionaires might move across the Potomac River to avoid Maryland taxes! Spread the alarm: The sky is falling, the millionaires are fleeing for their lives (and their money)! And similar baloney, spread by people such as Blair Lee IV.

This sort of petty thinking ignores the reality that businesses choose where to locate based on myriad factors, such as transportation systems, quality schools and universities, availability of an educated workforce, quality of life. Most of all, businesses go wherever they can find paying customers. Taxes are one factor among many, and not the most important.

Likewise, millionaires choose where they want to live based more on status and amenities than on taxes. The rich want to live next door to other rich folks. Their favorite place of residence is Manhattan. Astronomical costs of luxury apartments overlooking Central Park don’t dissuade them, and neither do New York City taxes.

Many of the wealthy live in Maryland because it is, as the beer commercial used to say, “The land of pleasant living.” Yes, the entire Chesapeake region is the land of pleasant living. And if the landed gentry want to move someplace else . . . well, they have to sell their fancy homes to other millionaires. Get it? You can’t find a waterfront estate just any place. You have to go to the waterfront. Far as I know, B-4 still lives in Maryland.

Count your blessings, anyone?

Let’s focus on the larger reality, shall we? The Washington area, including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, is one of the very richest in America! By extension, that means we’re among the most wealthy, privileged people in the world, and in all of history. Get it? Wealth and privilege.

Why do we whine so much?

How could this wealthy, privileged megalopolis have allowed its Metro subway system to fall into disrepair? Why is every decision to build a school or give teachers or police a raise controversial? Why is raising the paltry $7.25 minimum wage a big deal?

150px-democratslogoWith so much affluence and wealth** in Maryland, why do politicians constantly bicker like spoiled children over who gets a bigger slice of cake? I’m looking at you, fellow Democrats, since we’re in the majority.

Nothing focuses the attention of Maryland pols quite as much as allocating money to build schools, or highways, anyplace in the state. Please don’t mention highways and mass transit in mixed company. Highway people fight with mass transit people like cattlemen and sheep herders in the old West.

With so much wealth, Maryland can afford to fund all its needs. We ought to be counting our blessings and giving thanks for our privileged location, not sulking and fighting.

Problem is, people who have big money or control big money don’t want to part with it. The affluent and the wealthy, and their representatives, want to keep what they have, and earn or steal more. Most of all, they want to avoid paying taxes at all costs.

Highest incomes in the nation

Four counties in Virginia are among the top ten in the nation every year, based on median household income. They are Loudoun, Falls Church, Fairfax and Arlington. Prince William County and Stafford County are either in the top ten or close. Three other top-ten counties are in New Jersey.

Poor Maryland. Only Howard County and Montgomery County are consistently in or near the top ten.

However, four more Maryland counties — Charles, Calvert, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s — are among the 30 highest earning counties, out of 3,000 across the country, according to The Washington Post. Click here for the Post story.

Montgomery in truth, has slipped in recent years. I can remember when MoCo was among the three richest counties in America, year after year. Montgomery was No. 12  in 2012, with median household of only $94,365, the Post reported. Got that? Montgomery was No. 12, ahead of about 2,988 counties. Howard was No. 4, with $108,234 median household income.

The level of incomes in different parts of the country are all relative and must be taken in context. People who move here from other parts of the country are usually shocked by the prices when they buy a house or rent an apartment.

It’s not easy, making ends meet in Montgomery County, even with two paychecks, on $94,365 a year. If you’ve got a child in college, you’re pressed to the wall. Some of the folks in Chevy Chase and Potomac are among the truly wealthy. But the high cost of living is nearly everywhere.

People living in places like Wheaton, White Oak, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown are ordinary, middle-class or working-class Americans, just trying to get by, paycheck to paycheck. Nevertheless, in a state as affluent as Maryland, every school should be a first-rate facility with excellent teachers, whether it be in Chevy Chase or Germantown. The schools in Prince George’s County should be as well-funded as the schools in Howard County.

Talking seriously about WEALTH . . .

** All this stuff about affluence and wealth has a number of angles. The median household income, keep in mind, is basically household paychecks.

A paycheck of $108,234 in Howard County doesn’t classify anyone as “wealthy” or “rich.” It doesn’t put anyone even near the “top one percent.” At best, people earning these median incomes in Howard and Montgomery, and across the river in Virginia, can be classified as “affluent,” in my opinion.

Of course “median” means half of all the households earn more than the median, half earn less. Some people make $1 million, or $5 million, a year, while the median in Montgomery is less than $100,000. The “average” household income, therefore, is much higher than the median.

Real wealth, in my opinion, is measured by much more than annual income. Many of the wealthy may arrange things so that they have no “taxable income.” None. But they’re still plenty wealthy.

Real wealth is measured in the value of property — real estate, bank accounts, jewelry, artwork, pleasure boats and airplanes — and in ownership of profitable businesses, or ownership of stocks and bonds. There’s a lot of this “real wealth” in Maryland, and it’s not necessarily in the suburban counties where the affluent earn their paychecks. Consider the waterfront estates on the Chesapeake Bay, in counties like Talbot County.

The takeaway

The bottom line, however you define wealth or affluence, is that Maryland, with six counties among the top 30 in the nation in median income, is a very affluent state. And that’s without taking into account the real wealth, the waterfront property and corporate wealth.

Maryland has more than enough wealth and resources to pay for all public needs. There’s no need to fight about money for schools or transportation. The question is: Does Maryland have the will to pay for schools and transportation?

— John Hayden

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A Brief History of (Re)Distribution

(Re)distribution.

Mitt Romney is willing to go straight to the heart of issues that politicians usually avoid. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he’s helping us understand.

Economics is the study of the distribution of scarce resources. (I think that’s a valid statement.)

Isn’t it always about distribution?

Isn’t all of history about distribution? The distribution of scarce resources, of wealth, of power. Who owns what? Who has a right to what?

Aren’t most wars fought to redistribute land, wealth, and power? Land and the resources on or under the land are the fundamental scarce resources.

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Mitt Romney Clarifies the Economic Divide in America

Mitt Romney is to be commended for finally bringing into focus the economic divide emerging in America.

Mitt Romney Steve Pearce event 057

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Winner’s Camp are people who own and control the wealth. It starts with the very richest, a tiny sliver at the top, less than one percent.  This camp also includes the affluent classes, the bankers, accountants, lawyers, executives, innovators and politicians who preside over the modern economy. They provide the brainpower to monitor, preserve, and increase the wealth.

You also find in the Winner’s Camp a large number of people who are crucial for the operation of the economy.

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The Big JOBS Plan: What is Possible? What is the Goal?

Cover of

Cover of End of Work

The mob is clamoring for a big, definitive “plan” to “create” JOBS.

The problem is, we are all yearning for a return to the prosperity and good jobs of the 1950s. A return to Middle-class America. That model of American prosperity lasted for a half-century, even as it was eroding away. That model lasted through the inflating 1970s, the greedy 1980s and the bubbling 1990s.

The middle-class model of America, with good-paying jobs all around — it’s over. We aren’t going back to the 1950s. It’s impossible. That’s where President Barack Obama’s JOBS plan has got to start.   Continue reading

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America, Out Of Balance

We are fixated on the question: Is America headed in the right direction or the wrong direction? A sizable majority answers, the wrong direction.  But if you ask the wrong question, you get an irrelevant answer.

I think the question is not one of “direction,” but “balance.” What would be the “right direction” anyway?  East or west?

America has come unhinged, out of balance. Everything is distorted, like in a hall of mirrors. American wealth, American politics, American society, all badly out of balance.

Inflation adjusted percentage increase in mean after-tax household income in the United States between 1979 and 2005. Wikimedia Commons.

Wages are too low.  CEO salaries are too high. Too much wealth goes to profits. Average Americans are “underwater,” while corporations hoard wealth.

We have too many poor people at the bottom; hardly anyone remaining in the middle.  And a relatively small cohort of the wealthy — and the associates and lackeys of the wealthy (who are nearly rich or merely affluent) — at the top.

All the money and the power is at the top, very little money and power at the bottom.

The financial sector is bloated, the industrial base is rusted and hollowed-out.

Demand is too low, and supply is too high. The supply-demand equation is a worldwide phenomenon. The whole world generally has an excess supply of nearly everything, including production capacity. Most telling, we have a worldwide surplus of labor.

Too much greed; too little love. Too much corruption and incompetence in all our institutions. A deficit of honesty and diligence.

Too many putting their faith in luck; giving up on work. Too much speculating, not enough investing.

The winners have more money than they can use; the losers are broke. We have a complete failure of compassion and justice. The winners are tired of hearing about the losers. They just want the losers to shut up. Sit down and shut up. Or better yet, lay down and die.

I wonder what would happen if all the Americans who don’t have the sense to lay down and die suddenly found their voice and their anger. Probably isn’t going to happen, because society is muddled by a surfeit of misinformation, lies, and myths.

Too much blather, not enough factual information.

Speaking of blather, it’s time for me to stop writing. It is easy enough to list the problems. I wish I could suggest some surefire solutions, but I don’t have any.

To sum up: I don’t  think America needs to change direction; rather, I believe we need to restore balance.

— John Hayden

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