Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Posts tagged ‘stereotypes of the homeless’

Petition to tax the rich…

A grassroots organization called MoveOn(dot)org asked people to write their own petitions they’d like to see sent to politicians.  Here is my own:

We need to put a cap on extreme wealth in this country.  Extreme wealth leads to extreme poverty.  An analysis of the richest people in the world reveals that most come from wealthy families to begin with (they did not go from “rags to riches”) and most hail from countries that have a large division between the rich and the poor.  In fact, the richest man in the world (according to Forbes Magazine) hails from Mexico, a country that claims over a 50% poverty rate.  So we need to curtail the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. now!  With 1/8th of Americans collecting food stamps, we cannot afford to allow the poor to continue to grow poorer while the rich grow richer.  This rapid increase in poverty is causing too many problems in our society.

We keep hearing that there isn’t enough money to provide social security for the elderly (who already struggle financially with the few benefits they currently receive), health care for the uninsured, financial aid for needy students, unemployment benefits for the unemployed, etc., and we’re seeing libraries, schools, police and fire departments, etc., shutting down!  What’s worse is that we have hunger and homelessness and people who are dying prematurely because they can’t afford the health care they need.  We believe it is irresponsible of our current government to not provide health care for everyone as this can lead to the spread of disease.  This is not the Middle Ages.  We do not want a plague to result from millions of uninsured Americans unable to receive medical care.  This is unacceptable.

Despite the fact that the rich are getting richer–or perhaps because of that fact–we are unable to take care of our own people yet we are constantly called upon to help other people–the victims in Japan or in Haiti, for example, while we did not help our own people who suffered from Hurricane Katrina.  This is an outrage that we the American people refuse to allow to continue.

Therefore, we demand that the rich begin paying taxes at much higher levels, as they once were taxed back in the 1950s, a time when our country was much more prosperous and when even the poor and newly-arrived immigrants held some hope of achieving success someday.

We insist that the U.S.A. return to the wealthy, prosperous, democratic, land of opportunity that it once was.

We need to stop the attacks on the poor and the middle class, coinciding with the attacks on our freedom and democracy.  The way to do this is to limit extreme wealth.  Money is power, so when we allow a minority of people to accumulate extreme wealth, we allow them to buy our politicians, our media, our schools, the companies we work for, the land we live on, and, essentially, our entire lives.  In fact, the wealthy elite have taken over our entire country.

Therefore, given that:
most wealth in the U.S. is inherited wealth–not wealth that was earned through the hard work and diligence of one person–but wealth that was built upon the foundation of one’s parents’ wealth and prosperity, and

that back in 1950, when our middle class was more prosperous, those who earned over $200,000 per year paid 91% of their earnings in taxes, and

that Reaganomics (“trickle-down economics”) has led the U.S. to now have the greatest division between the rich and the poor of any other wealthy, industrialized nation in the world, and

that this has resulted in our loss of civil liberties and democracy and all of the early warning signs of fascism fulfilled, and

that this has led us to become the nation that now imprisons more of its own people than any other nation in the world (and most of those imprisoned are the poor), and

that the U.S. government has determined that $7.25 per hour (and 40 hours of work per week, adding up to $290 per week and a whopping $15,080 per year!) is all a single person needs to be living above the poverty line in the U.S.,

we need to tax the rich at the equivalent of 1950s tax rates.

Income levels were different back in 1950 when those who earned over $200,000 paid 91% in taxes.  $200,000 is a very different figure today in 2011, so we propose the following which we believe to be fair (keeping in mind that, again, according to the U.S. government’s own standards, a person earning over $16,000 per year is living  above the poverty line and, therefore, not poor).

And so, we, the non-wealthy majority of Americans, propose:

that those who earn $1 million or more be taxed at the rate of only 60% (leaving them an income of $400,000 per year.  This is much, much more than what the average American earns in a year and about 25 times over the poverty line.  This is also a lower tax rate than they paid back in 1950);

that those who earn $2 million per year begin paying 70% of their taxes (leaving them with $600,000);

those who earn $5 million begin paying 80% in taxes (leaving them an earnings of $1 million per year);

those who earn $15 million begin paying 85% (leaving them with $2.25 million per year);

those who earn $50 million or more begin paying 90% (leaving them with $5 million per year);

those who earn $100 million begin paying 91% (leaving them with $8.1 million);

those who earn $1 billion begin paying 95% (leaving them with with $50 million per year in earnings.)

Since it is the wealthy elite themselves who frequently insist that the U.S. is the land of opportunity where anyone can strike it rich and move up the ladder, we understand that the rich will find a way to continue moving up that ladder despite these higher taxes.  In fact, raising taxes on the rich will provide the rich with the incentive to work harder to work up that ladder!  We don’t want them to become lazy; we want them to understand the value of hard work.

The wealthy elite have made it clear over and over again that they are capable of picking themselves up by their bootstraps and can overcome any obstacle to obtain wealth.  This is their chance to prove that point.

The wealthy elite believe that those of us who are homeless or living in poverty are capable of working our way out of poverty and picking ourselves up by our bootstraps, but we need the wealthy elite to show us how it is done.  Here is their opportunity to work their way out of mere wealth and back up to the extreme, mega-wealth they achieved as a result of Reagan&Bushanomics.

This is a challenge to the wealthy in the U.S.!  We know you can do it!  You can pay 95% of your income in taxes and still pick yourselves up by those bootstraps and accumulate even more wealth.  We have faith in you.  We know you can still earn millions–even billions–of unneeded dollars each year in spite of our raising taxes on you.  We know you’re up for the challenge.

We also know how much you want to give back to society and to pull us out of this recession.  This tax increase is very modest compared to the levels of 1950.  It enables the very rich to remain very rich but limits the amount of wealth they can keep out of circulation.  When the wealthy hoard the wealth, they keep money in bank accounts or investments.  The money doesn’t circulate, doesn’t give back to our communities.  However, when the poor and middle class earn money, they tend to spend it on necessities, so their money circulates and feeds our economy.

I requested this petition be sent to Obama, Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders in Congress (don’t know if it was.)

Lazy, Poor People choosing not to work

This is a response I wrote to David Sirota’s blog, posted on the site

Yep, they’re a lot like homeless people “choosing” to be homeless…

The Lazy-Jobless Myth is a blame-the-victim mindset that enables us to think we’re better than other people and also releases us from any responsibility we might have to help someone else.  After all, it’s the victim’s own fault, he/she made that “choice,” so it would actually be better if I didn’t intervene…

It’s a lot like the woman who is pretty and open with her sexuality who is blamed for being raped–the implication is that women don’t have the right to be sexually assertive, that if a woman is sexual or sexy, a man has a right to attack her. Yet no one blames a man who is suicidal for being murdered, i.e., “He asked for it. He said he wanted to die, so of course someone killed him.”  The notion is ridiculous because we’ve decided that murder is wrong, but also because we have empathy for the victim–as long as the victim is a man or a person with money.

Similarly, blaming the unemployed results from two ideas.  One is that we are better because we have more money than you.  (Just like saying, we are better because we go to the bathroom differently.)  We congratulate ourselves for having worked so hard and earned our success and make ourselves feel even better by comparing ourselves with others who we’ve decide are obviously inferior.  We have empathy for the billionaire who complains he/she (not so many female billionaires, but I’ll be politically correct anyhow) has to pay taxes.  We’re sorry for the corporation that fails, or is required to pay a fine.  We’re worried that wealthy heirs will have to pay taxes on their inheritance.  Perhaps that second villa in Italy won’t have a new tennis court built behind it after all.  And we’re concerned about this, about the monies wealthy people will lose if they pay higher taxes, but we stress and we strain at the thought of a single mom living in a poor, inner city neighborhood perhaps getting an extra $50 in welfare benefits.  The billions of dollars per year we lose by not taxing the rich and by allowing corporations to outsource labor to third world countries doesn’t concern us because just as we think a man can be open about his sexuality we think the rich hoard all the money.  Essentially, we think the rich are superior, and, therefore, should have more freedom.

But also, as with the woman who’s not allowed to be sexual (while men are allowed sexuality), the concept suggests that poor people should not be allowed to choose what type of work they do. Maybe some who are unemployed are reluctant to take on certain jobs because the salary is too low, because they are in need of benefits not provided by the job or because they know they won’t fit into that work environment or that they simply aren’t suited to that type of work.  I’ve certainly turned down jobs because I knew I’d fail, that the work wasn’t right for me and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure or to work at a job that would result in damage to my self-esteem.

Rush Limbaugh, who earns nearly 60 million per year, will never have to work at a fast food restaurant with a micromanaging supervisor standing over his shoulder criticizing his every move and with customers sneering at him and making rude remarks, nor will he find himself coming home after a long day of being told he was stupid, can’t do anything right by customers, managers or coworkers only to view a tiny paycheck that won’t pay the rent.

The fact remains that most of us do not want to work under demoralizing, dangerous or self-damaging conditions, but we’ve allowed big business to be deregulated so that security precautions are not always followed and so that employers can overwork and underpay their employees.  Large corporations are even taking life insurance policies out on their employees (They call it “peasant insurance.”  Yes, that’s right, I said “peasant.”)  So many companies actually benefit from their employees’ deaths.  If that’s not an incentive to work your employees to death and not provide them with health care benefits, then what is?

Most of us do not want to work under poor conditions (just as most men do not want to be prevented from expressing their own sexuality) but we will condemn others to do so when we’ve defined those others as inferior to us.

Ah, but this blog is, once again, all for naught.  Is there anybody out there?  Does anyone care?

I think the answer lies in what we’re seeing happen to this country.

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