Friday, October 28, 2011

I am a 99 Percenter

Scott Olsen, seriously wounded.
Not in Iraq, but Oakland, California.

I've been mulling it over for the past few days as to whether or not I'd weigh in on the current wave of frustration being expressed world wide - the "99 Percenters."

Anytime I stray away from the Charter of "Oil-Electric" a predicable few bombard me with "what's this got to do with railroading?"

I am just as angry as those who are gathering. I cannot attend the rallies, but I do have a voice!

The tipping point for me was viewing the extraordinary use of force in Oakland the other night, resulting in the near death experience of Scott Olsen. I don't know if you know much about Scott. He's 24, joined the Marines right out of High School. Scott survived two tours in Iraq from 2006 to 2010 with the 3rd battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, assigned to a tactical communications unit. Only to be felled by a cop on the streets of Oakland California.

Far from being a "filthy Bay Area hippie-type" (part of a "mob" as Eric Cantor characterizes the "Occupy Movement"), Scott is gainfully employed as a systems network administrator in Daly City, and is able to afford an apartment overlooking San Francisco Bay.

"He slept at a San Francisco protest camp after work," said friend and roommate Keith Shannon, who served with Olsen in Iraq. "He felt you shouldn't wait until something is affecting you to get out and do something about it."

"You shouldn't wait until something is affecting you to get out and do something about it." Well that "set the hook in me." To one degree or another, I've been affected by the disproportionate republican politics in this country. I am a 99 Percenter.

First of all, as a senior citizen, I've been made to feel as though I am whining for my "entitlement" check each month.


Like everyone whose held a job in this country, ever since my first job at Blazer Tool and Die as clean up utility and parts chaser, I've had a frigging deduction - FICA - taken out of my paycheck! It was also taken out of my paycheck when I served four years in the US Air Force. (In addition to 10¢ out of each check for the "Old Soldiers Home.")

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is federal legislation in the United States that mandates employers withhold a set percentage of their employees' salary each pay period. This fund provides retirement income, as well as disability insurance, Medicare and benefits.

Moreover, as a former business owner, I had to match my employees' amount and contribute the money to a government account known as the Social Security Trust Fund.

So what are people so pissed off about? Why are they gathering in massive numbers, not only here in the United States, but around the world to protest? What am I "grousing" about? How do I figure I am a "99 Percenter?"


Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that senior citizens have been denied for the past two years. Without the COLA, my "real income" from my investment in FICA, has been constantly declining, because of the increases in my Medicare coverage and general cost of day to day living - my so-called "discretionary" spending after fixed expenses (rent, insurance.)

My Medicare expenses have increased every year, including the two years 2010 and 2011, that COLA was denied by Congress.
Without the COLA, my "real income" from my investment in FICA, has been constantly declining, due to the increases of my fixed and living expenses.

Have you paid attention to the fact that all product packaging has been "redefined" for smaller portions at an increase in price? There is no such thing as a "pound of coffee." A "pound" has been redefined as 12 ounces. Much of the packaging has been cleverly disguised, like Cheerios. The box is the same height, but skinnier! A can of tuna isn't the same size as it was two years ago.

Redbox announced today, 20% increase in video rentals; and I won't even go down "gasoline alley!"

In the end, like most of you, I pay more to receive less. I have less spending power than two years ago.

Big news for beleagured senior citizens! Social Security announced a 3.6% increase - a COLA adjustment - effective January 1, 2012. It will mean about $37 a month increase for me.

But then, Medicare (Part A) is increasing, about $4.00 a month, so now I'm down to $33 a month. In addition,
  • My Part B goes up $ 20 a month
  • My Part D for meds deductible goes up $100
  • My monthly cost sharing within Part D for meds goes up from 36% to 37% a month.
So In effect, the COLA is a joke. I may end up with $5.00 more "discretionary" per month.

Like the rest of you, I am directly affected by the plethora of reductions in public services, in everything from the reduced hours at the public library to deferred maintenance of our infrastructure.

A large part of the "Occupy" movement includes students, whose education has been affected.

I was talking to a friend the other day telling me his grandson had dropped out of college. When I asked why, he said there was no point in wracking up massive college loans, with no assurance of finding a job later on down the line. I'm sure if you have children, or have friends with children, you have heard variations on the same logic.

Up till this past January, we had a sliding scale dental service in my area. That's all been de-funded. And I, like many others in my age group, have some serious dental problems to figure out how to rectify. And Washington State is taking another round of hits in public health care.

I grew up in Seattle. Boeing was a big part of our lives. Even if your dad didn't work at Boeing, you had friends whose dad did. That tool and die company where I held my first job - made door handles installed in the 707 and 747's. I operated a drill press making those handles. Seattle was populated with cottage industries feeding the assembly lines in Renton, and later Everett, Washington.

In addition to the declining revenues across the board in the US, the reality of the "Global Economy" continues to make itself felt.

The "Global Economy" only means something positive to the Wall Street Robber Barons. For the rest of us, it means loss of jobs and income, as companies moved completely offshore, or, in the case of Boeing, outsourcing components that were once made in the United States, are now being manufactured overseas, giving a paycheck to someone else.

This is a diagram of the "outsourcing" of the 787 Dreamliner, which demonstrates how Seattle's cottage industries dried up and went away:

Are you telling me we don't know how to make landing gear here in the United States? Why in hell would anyone knowingly send that work to English workers, who take home our paychecks? Are you claiming we cannot make passenger entry doors here in the United States? So why in hell would anyone knowingly send that work to French workers, who take home our paychecks? Are you telling me we do not know how to manufacture wings here in the United States? So why in hell are they being manufactured in Japan, giving a pay check to a Japanese worker, instead of an American worker?

The "Global Economy" has only benefited a select few. For the rest of us, all it means is jobs lost to China, South Korea, Malaysia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and other low wage countries. Our manufacturing capability in this country has been so decimated, we'll end up delivering pizza's to each other.

Finally, a blow hit very close to home, in my own family, when Bank of America yanked my sisters home out from under her, despite all the yammering about "We will work with you to secure refinancing!" Part of the slap in the face to taxpayers, who helped bail out Bank of America.

But, like Mitt Romney recently stated, "As to what to do for the housing industry specifically, and are there things that you could do to encourage housing? One is, don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom, allow investors to buy up homes, [and] put renters in them." (Las Vegas Review Journal, October 17, 2011)

How's that for a 1 Percenter view of America?

Here's another 1 Percenter. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan is upset by all the bad things people are saying about his bank: "I, like you, get a little incensed when you [bank employees] think about how much good all of you do, whether it's volunteer hours, charitable giving we do, serving clients and customers well," Moynihan told employees during a global town hall meeting broadcasted from the bank's headquarters. "You [the public] ought to think a little about that before you start yelling at us."

Bank of America's strategy to deal with the increasing criticism:
  • Launch a multi-million dollar campaign to go on the offensive at the local and state level.
  • Kick up as much fear as possible from public officials that the bank will cut them off dry if they say anything negative about the bank's impact on their communities.
  • And lots of feel-good, full-page ads in local newspapers.
The Seattle Times just ran some full-page ads, wherein B of A is touting how many people they've helped refinance, for example.

Sent that ad to my sister. She feels a lot better now …

In a concession of sorts, according to AP, Bank of America will not raise the $950,000 base salary of CEO Brian Moynihan for 2011, but his pay package will include $9.05 million in restricted stock units. That's roughly $456.73/hour just on the base.

Well, I've said my piece about how I feel part of the "99 Percenters."

Don't expect the "Occupy" movement to go away anytime soon. This is an interactive map (click on map.) Shows more than 2,000 protest groups worldwide. Use the (-)(+) to zoom and select details of Occupy groups forming in your neighborhood.

This directory lists all of the "Occupy" groups and contact information, worldwide!

There was some speculation that the Occupy Wall Street movement would give up as winter sets into New York. But I have heard that a group from Occupy Anchorage is counseling them on how to do Occupy Wall Street in winter conditions!

Our collective thoughts and prayers go out to Scott Olsen, praying for a speedy and complete recovery from the ugliness of Oakland's finest. There is such a plethora of anger at so many institutions, that the Occupy movement is struggling for definition. It means so many things to each individual, facing differing as well as common frustrations.

Unfortunately, history has taught us that taking to the streets seems to be the only effective way of getting though to our tone deaf Government. We had to do it for civil rights, and it got us out of Viet Nam.

4 Comments - Click here:

Ole Amundsen, Jr. said...

Robert: I am probably a few years older and have similiar views but I am beginning to have a wee bit of hope that our fellow citizens two generations younger seem to be getting energized only the political types just have not gotten the message yet.

Wayward said...

Thank you for the articulate post. Never fear branching out from the RR theme either...The CEO of my company makes approx. 168 times my yearly income and I seriously doubt he'll ever be concerned with college debt, housing troubles, retirement plans or any of the other daily worries of the line people who generate that income. I get tired of hearing about how we have to satisfy our 'stakeholders' and 'exceed customer expectations' regardless of the cost to the very people charged with accomplishing it.

Ole M. Amundsen, Jr. said...

Robert: This morning I came upon this article which I have linked below. Just how our distress over inequality/unfairness/injustice/etc. will be addressed is uncertain but it will be addressed.

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Thanks for passing this along. Folks will have to "cut 'n paste" the address to read the article, as Comments is isolated from the net.

I've had a few people write me off line, asking "just what EXACTLY am I pissed off about?" It is hard, just the the Occupy groups to be specific, because we all feel this sense of inequality and impending doom but have trouble fingering it.

My first encounter with this "equality of man" issue was in talking to a friend of mine about my company. His advice to me was if you want to be sucessful, "look at and treat your employees, not as humans, but as money making machines ..."

The evil cabal of Boehner, Cantor, McConnell an others were screamining (in the case of Boner) "Where are the jobs?" Then after the elections, went to work destroying unions and birth control issues! And for republicans to lock arms against anything Obama has tried to accomplish, is pure evil. They have no interest in this country being sucessful. There recent 100% solidarity vote to stop Obama's Job Initiatve says it all. And I hope and pray that evey American remembers that vote come election time.

[A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views and/or interests in a church, state, or other community]

As I read your article, I begin to understand the plight of First Nations peoples during the Westward Expansion. And that story was repeated constantly throughout history on every continent on the world.

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