Posts Tagged ‘Scrap the Cap’

“Experts” Ruin Everything

Friday, July 17th, 2015

By Bob Shimabukuro

“What’s an industrial engineer?” I asked my sister Toki. “You read Cheaper by the Dozen*, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, the dad is an industrial engineer. His work is studying how to make things more efficient. Remember the chapter on how to take showers? That’s what he does.” I would be interested in seeing how fast people could take showers?

The rebellion against high stakes testing in the public schools, and against Common Core, reminds me of a test I took in my high school over 50 years ago. It wasn’t a “high stakes,” test but a test that all students had to take.

The Kuder Preference test measured students’ personal likes and dislikes with a wide variety of preferences and interests, which suggested what kind of profession the student might be interested in.

“You not going do that,” my dad answered, when I asked him. They ‘efficiency experts.’ Tell bosses how to get more work out of workers in less time so bosses make more money. They no think about workers. Anyway, they goin’ get robots pretty soon.”

“Toki, what’s an actuary?” That was another “occupation” that was suggested to me by Kuder.

“Insurance man,” she answered.

“Oh.”

A few years later, in my first week in college, my dorm roommate suggested we should have a study group for Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged. For me, her “Objectivism” came from the mind of an imbecile. Think about a “red diaper baby” being raised on “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” to having to conceptualize Rand’s belief that the super elite are entitled to all, damn the needs of anyone else. I brushed the book and my roommate aside. Nobody in his right mind would embrace this. Or so I thought.

In fact, “Objectivists” have now taken over the world economy. The One Percent really believe that they are superstars, and deserve all the fruits they can steal. They’ve used all the creativity and invention of the last four decades, not to create a better, safer world for all but to increase their own advantage. And they’ve done a lot of it with efficiency experts and statistical geniuses who have been greatly aided by the new technology with the ability to crunch some big numbers quickly.

Their experts have driven most familywage jobs from the economy. The Big One Percent have found that robots are faster, more reliable, and don’t talk back. They have robots that put together cars, kill folks with absolute precision, spy, load cargo, mix medicine, drive.

And these robots can find ways to make money without making or doing anything tangible. They connect a service or a product to a person or corporation who wants it and take a cut in the action. An online robot pimp.

Actuaries also are a lucrative profession, because they now work in almost every type of business doing evaluation and research: science, food and health, professional athletics (think sabermetrics), genetics (all about probability and statistics), and Wall Street “financial products” (steal money out of other people’s retirement funds).

These experts also chip away at Social Security and Medicare, cutting benefits or actually stealing from trust funds surreptitiously (e.g. $700 million is going to be taken away if Fast Track passes).

They raid state education money by privatizing public schools in the 50 states, all the while privatizing our prisons. We’ve got a problem with private “public” schools and prisons with no public accountability provisions.

The “philosophical ethics” battle rages on— a few people are trying to continue/increase their dominance of the world’s population with the belief that the rest of us don’t matter, that we are just leeches, we are but a pipeline to confinement of black and brown Kids, immigrants and elders.

Thinking about it, I guess Kuder must have been wrong. There’s no way I could have been happy being on the One Percent side of this battle.

Remember the slogan I’ve been repeating in previous columns? Well, I’ve added a line to it:

We’re not crap!

Scrap the cap!

* Cheaper by the Dozen, written by Frank Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 1948.

A Win for “Just Scrap the Cap”

Friday, May 31st, 2013

By Alex Stone

Conservative billionaire Pete Peterson, a major financier in the effort to dismantle Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, just got some egg on his face courtesy of the Social Security Works – Washington coalition, the Economic Opportunity Institute and PSARA.

The winning video in the Pete Peterson Foundation’s video contest – which had the goal of “compiling videos of people across the country letting Congress and the President know why fixing our nation- al debt is so important” – was “Just Scrap the Cap”, which represents the antithesis of Peterson’s austerity agenda.

If you haven’t seen it, “Just Scrap the Cap” is a humorous plea to shore up Social Security’s long-term finances by eliminating the current FICA wage cap of $113,700. Also known as “Scrapping the Cap”, this change would require billion- aires like Peterson to pay the same Social Security tax rate as the guy who shines his shoes. Watch it here: www.justscrapthecap.com

Here’s the best part: After the votes were tallied and it was determined “Just Scrap the Cap” received the “Fan Favorite” award, Peterson was forced to cut a $500 check to Robby Stern, Social Security Works Washington Chair. Robby signed the check over to Social Security Works Washington and has promised that the coalition will use the money wisely: “We will use the $500 to finance our educa- tional efforts and our Scrap the Cap cam- paign. We want to save Social Security from Peterson and his band of wealthy supporters.” Surely Mr. Peterson will be pleased to hear his money is going to a good cause.

Alex Stone is Communications & Technology Manager at Economic Opportunity Institute & a PSARA member. He helped direct and acted in the award winning video. 

U.S. Capitalism: Bad For Your Health

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

By Bob Shimabukuro, PSARA Executive Board Member and Associate Editor

“You sick all the time,” my dad would say. “Body weak. Cannot do physical labor. Go to use your brain. That’s the only way you going to live.” That was 60 years ago.

It seems like just yesterday I was listening to aging Nisei in Seattle in conversation, which almost always, ended up talking about their health. Or more to the point, about their various challenges to their health, like comparing the merits of various kinds of kidney dialysis treatments. “Okay,” I thought then. “When I get old I am not going to be talking about my maladies.”

Fast forward 20 years later at a monthly lunch get together of older friends, I realized that we were doing just that, talking about arthritis, gout, plantar fasciitis, various forms of cancer, radiation, brain tumors, and who knows what.

“Stop,” I said. “Let’s stop talking about our ailments.”

Everyone agreed. But then, a latecomer walked into the meeting, “Hey, haven’t seen you for a while. How’re you’re doing, what are you doing these days?”

I answered without thinking, “Okay, just dealing with some joint (body, not marijuana) problems. Trying to get my health back.” Couldn’t keep to my own resolution for one minute. But what could anyone expect, when I’ve spent 45 minutes or more looking for something that I’ve mindlessly put in my back pocket.

Right now, I’m trying to remember the subject of this piece. What had I promised the editor? Health and old age, I thought, but didn’t we narrow it down a bit? It’s such a large subject. I could go into all sorts of topics: economics, politics, agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, hospitals, health insurance, environment, capitalism, socialism and who knows what else. It’s not easy.

I decide to focus on economics. As my friend Hava repeatedly tells me, in regard to discussions of policy, politics and public will, “It’s all about money.” I tend to agree with her. We have a morally bank- rupt economic system, which rewards people who have money, and punishes families who are trying to move up eco- nomically. Families who have very little resources are ignored, except as a lowly paid workforce for jobs most Americans don’t want or cannot exist on.

I’ve read two articles recently which angered me and made me think about Hava’s words: “Bitter Pill: why medical bills are killing us,” by Stephen Brill, Time Magazine, March 4, 2013; and “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food,” by Michael Moss in the February 20, 2013 New York Times.

In the first, Brill’s “Bitter Pill,” chronicles the rise of “non profit” mega hospitals cropping up across the country, the obscene gouging of the patients with unnecessary procedures, inflated prices for lab work and other services, and some insurance companies who go along with it as long as they get a cut. These mega hospitals don’t take Medicare patients, because Medicare regulates their payments for various procedures, and I assume, infringes upon their freedom to make a/an “(dis)honest” buck.

Moss’“Extraordinary Science” docu- ments that the junk food industry has known since 1999 (if not before) the bad health effects of their food. And they didn’t care. They had, and still have, no intention (or moral sense) to stop selling their cash cows. We’re giving people what they want, we aren’t holding a gun to people’s head, they said. I guess they don’t see anything wrong with crack or smack dealers then. Remind you of the tobacco companies? Should. One of the big junk food companies is Kraft’s, a divi- sion of Philip Morris Tobacco.

Choice? Try to buy worthwhile food on a limited budget? The cheap food is cheap because it’s stuffed with “fillers” and “flavors” that help you feel full without having any food value. You feel hungry even when you’re full. Gigantic scams. They even get subsidies so that they can sell the stuff dirt cheap.

Like corn syrup. Those big 1-liter Coke specials? Real cheap at your favorite burger house? Heard of Archer Daniels Midland? Large subsidies for corn pro-duction. Really. Our government (with money from you & me) paid ADM to produce and sell the stuff. It’s the same with a lot of other products. Makes you wonder how First Lady in Charge of Nutrition Michelle can even make a dent. Big Food (think Nestle, Pepsi Cola, Unilever, DuPont, Monsanto, and ADM) pays a lot of money on both sides of the aisle for campaigns.

I could go on and on. But this piece was supposed to be short and to the point. So I’ll leave you with two very important slogans important to remember.

Short word bites and a brief explanation that are of concern to not just the elderly but everyone. Maybe it can encourage understanding and offer solutions of some sort.

SOCIALISM FOR THE RICH, CAPITALISM FOR THE POOR

Popularized by political scientist Michael Harrington’s use in his 1962 book, “The Other America: Poverty in the United States.” Still relevant today, the phrase and its many variations were heard a lot during the 2008-2009 crash after payouts to “save capitalism.” But payouts are going on all the while,

and many of them apply to health. The phrase means: If we (corporations) make money from the government invest- ment, we keep all the profits. If we lose money, the public shares the debt.

Strengthen Social Security, SCRAP THE CAP!

There is no crisis in Social Security. It needs to be tweaked, not weakened. All employees pay Social Security taxes, up until a ceiling, known as the “cap,” which is currently set at $113,700. What this means is that a person making $113,700 a year pays 6.2% taxes for SS. A person making 1,000,000/year pays only 0.68%, significantly less than one per cent. If everyone paid the same 6.2%, the SS system would be in good shape for future retirees.

As I said earlier, we have a morally bank- rupt economic system.

(This article, modified for the PSARA Newsletter, was originally published in the April 3, 2013 International Examiner) 

 

A two-fold strategy: ‘Inside’ and ‘Outside’

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

By Robby Stern 

As the summer approaches, the election campaigns are heating up. PSARA has not historically endorsed candidates. We do not want to be inundated with candidates seeking our endorsement. The exhausting process of evaluating candidates would greatly diminish our ability to focus on the significant issues we work to influence. But as PSARA members, we share some fundamental values that draw us to PSARA and can serve as a screen for evaluating candidates and issues.

Elections do matter! While we have directed our activism to issues, the outcome of our efforts at the local, state and national levels is greatly impacted by elections. Take a look at the Budget Reconciliation bill that just passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. In supporting the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, the majority in the House voted to restore the $55 billion that had been cut from military spending in last year’s debt ceiling deal and instead make many more cuts to vital programs that serve the poor, the elderly, the working class and the vulnerable.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where we are told it will go nowhere. However, we are also told that many of the majority Democrats in the Senate are also opposed to cuts in military spending. While the Democratic leadership in the Senate is promoting the “Buffet” proposal to raise taxes on the wealthiest among us, they will not have the votes to overcome the ridiculous filibuster rule that essentially gives control of the Senate to a minority of senators.

A deal will eventually be cut between the House and the Senate. It is likely that the deal will take care of the defense industry and lead to significant pain for many in the 99%.

What can we do?

We need an “inside and outside strategy.” The “inside” strategy involves engaging in the electoral process with our time and, if we can, our money. We evaluate who is closer to our values and try to get them nominated and elected. Often, these are people we can’t always rely on to stand with us on policy issues that are important to us. Often they are the least bad rather than the good. But the action going on in the House of Representatives demonstrates that we cannot stand aside. Elections do matter.

At the same time, we have to hold these elected officials accountable and demand that they do the right thing. We have to have an “outside” strategy and help build a movement that will politically strengthen the interests of the 99%.

For example, we know that in the next nine to twelve months, critical decisions will be made regarding Social Security and Medicare. With regard to Social Security, politicians like Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Representative Adam Smith will be forced to make a choice. Will they support the Simpson-Bowles proposal to raise the retirement age and reduce the cost of living increases for those who rely on Social Security? Or will they support Scrapping the Cap? We have been seeking the support of these three elected officials for Scrapping the Cap. Representatives Jim McDermott and Rick Larsen and many Democratic candidates for the open seats have committed to support Scrap the Cap, but the two senators and Representative Smith have not.

We must be prepared if necessary to demonstrate to these elected officials that their failure to embrace an overwhelmingly popular stance (that is, Scrapping the Cap) will lead to public demonstrations that will target them for their failure.. So far they have refused to embrace a solution that will allow the protection and strengthening of Social Security for the remainder of this century, rather than cutting the Social Security benefits that are becoming more and more critical to the 99%. That is one example of an “outside” strategy that we can consider using in any local, state or national issue where it is required.

I remember fondly the demonstration PSARA held at KVI radio during the debate over health care reform, when nearly one hundred of our members turned out to demonstrate that we would not be scared off by the people who were trying to turn seniors against health reform. We received broad coverage and were able to make our point very clearly.

In the fight to preserve and strengthen Social Security, and in other critical battles down the road, we will need to show our determination again!