Thursday, September 08, 2005

Good Times?

Alan Greenspan claims that the economy is doing so well, that he has had to raise interest rates 10 times since 2004 to 'slow down' the juggernaut.

Last week, when Hurricane Katrina was pummelling the Gulf Coast, the Census Bureau released statistics that said that the poverty rate in the US rose to 37 million, up 1.1 million since 2003. It is th fourth straight annual increase. The number of people without health insurance edged up by 800,000 to 45.8 million people. Most of the people who lack health insurance, about half, actually have jobs, so the people who lack health insurance are not exactly welfare queens, are they?

There has not been a decline in poverty numbers since Bush took office, which should come as no surprise to anybody. Trickle-down economics didn't work under Reagan, when the gap between rich and poor widened, so what would make anyone think that Bush's tax cuts to the really well-off (wealthfare) would work? The last decline in poverty was in 2000 was during the Clinton administration was 'only' 31.1 million people who fell under that threshold. The irony is of course, that there are more people today under the 'smaller government is best' Republican administration who depend on government assistance than under the 'Big Government' Democrats.

The report also says that incomes are flat and more and more Americans are dipping into their savings just to get by. Plus, the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the oil supplies will hurt, guess who, the most? The working poor, who need to pay 50% more just to get to their jobs that provide no health coverage. The median household income stood at $44,389 since 2003, while the number of people getting health insurance through their employers keeps dropping. All this, in the midst of record profits by corporations. The next thing will happen will be the expected decline in 'discretionary spending' as many people will have less and less 'discretionary' money to spend money other things beside getting to work and heating their homes this winter. Expect increases up 31% for heating oil and 71% for natural gas this winter.

Of course, the philosophy behind the massive 'no millionaire left behind' tax cuts is to give back tax money to the most well off so that they can 'invest' it and create jobs. Not 'good paying' jobs, just jobs, and of course, there is no requirement that they do so. Nothing to stop them from simply pocketing the cash and finding a no tax or tax deferred shelter for it. So where is the 'wealth effect' from all the jobs. The only wealth effect will be for George, Dick and Condi, all of whom have nice portfolios that will rise with the price of oil.

So, speaking of Katrina, I am of mixed feeling about the 'forced evacuations' of 'evacuees'. I have sympathy for Mayor Nagrin who claims there is no god reason to stay, what with no electricity, water or food, plus the very real possibility of water and air borne disease. But, you can't blame people for not wanting to leave, especially if you were a homeowner. With millions of records destroyed, how can anyone prove that they owned the property and begin rebuilding. Not since Kosovo, have we seen anything like this. I wonder if the real estate market in New Orleans will be awash with speculative fever when the place dries out. Sure, it'll be risky to live in a city below sea level, but then again, its risky to live along the Mississippi river, or anywhere in California, and hurricanes that keep pounding away at Florida have only made the prices go higher although hurricane warnings are an annual event in Florida.

So, if you want to help out your fellow Americans, who need your help as much as the people in Iraq or tsunami victims in South Asia, you can donate to the Red Cross by calling 1-800-HELP-NOW. I made my contribution through the Unitarian Universalist Association ,
the church that I belong to when I can.

And let's not forget that pets from this disaster need our help too. PetsMart Charities has sent up a charity to find foster owners, or new ones for all the dogs and cats separated from their owners. That's another reason why so many people in the affected areas refuse to leave. They can't bear the thought of leaving Fido behind. You can donate here.

Have a nice life. Good times. Ain't we lucky we got 'em?


At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

It is unfortunate millions lack health insurance and to hear of the big health care crisis. Something must be done to help improve the health care system.


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