The Growing Economic Divide Between the Haves and Have Nots

Us PovertySequestration Effects

READ NOW: Dozier’s story and 99 others from the past week who have been dramatically affected by sequestration.

As the sequester fades from the headlines and gets reduce to a mere budgetary issues, many families and individual are feeling the effects of the automatic spending cuts. The new studies are downsizing the actual problems facing this country as agencies figure out ways to avoid the more alarming effects of the $85 billion in cuts, while Congress has given up on any solution to end the sequester. The sequester was portrayed by many even our nation’s leaders to bring the country to its knees yet we go on as normally as possible. The grips of the financial crisis are now beginning to be felt and the effects are quite dramatic already with organizations and companies laying off workers and many deciding not to hire for vacant spots. The food pantries that many families rely on are closed and many health services have followed suit. Farmers are forced to go without milk production information causing alarm in the dairy industry as higher milk prices are a possibility. Workers at missile testing fields are facing job losses, federal courts are force to be closed on Fridays and public broadcasting transmitters have been shut down. On a national level, sequestration has caused the cancellation of White House tours and long lines at the airport that never happened yet at the local level has begun to sting.

The Huff Post did an extensive review of the sequestration stories from the past week and found hundreds of stories across the country that took only a few hours to find and left no one immune from the cuts. Some mentions are rural towns in Alaska, missile test sites in the Marshall Islands, military bases in Virginia, university towns across the country, and housing agencies in inner cities are all feeling the cuts.  Cathy Hoskins, executive director of Salt Lake Community Action Program that just closed a food pantry in Murray, Utah, commented: “Absolutely we’re feeling the effects of it. And our employees are trying to absorb the biggest parts of the cuts by taking furloughs and having the agency contribution to their retirement plan suspended.” Michael Jenkins, communications director of the Southeast Alaskan Regional Health Consortium, is also feeling the cuts as his group has to close the Bill Brady Healing Center that provides alcohol and drug treatment to Native Alaskans. Lashell Dozier, the executive director of the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency, had this to say about the effects of the sequester: “We are trying not to lay any employees off, but we will have reduced work schedules. We will also close our offices. there will be days when it is closed every month or several times a month. But if we do not come up with some type of solution or remedy by July, it will equate to 1,700 families losing housing vouchers, which is over 4,800 actual tenants.” The organization is facing $13.9 million cuts this year. Many officials are now grappling with the same issues and are using budget trickery as well as operational dexterity to avoid the pain, but the sequester is a real concern as the people and communities they serve rely on their help.

The cuts started on March 1 after Democrats and republicans could not reach a decision to address the national deficits causing the sequestration to hit at a time when poverty in the U.S. is climbing while the nation tries to recover from an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The U.S. Census Bureau puts the numbers of American Poverty at levels not seen since President Johnson launched the War on Poverty according to the Associated Press. Currently as of January, nearly 50 million Americans which is one in six are living below the poverty line according to the bureau and 20 percent of the country’s children are poor. Under the spending cuts, Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Grazino believes his agency will have a $25 million shortfall in funds to help the poor with housing while 35,000 people are on a waiting list. Not only that, the city struggles to deal with city clean up efforts as Baltimore has 15,000 vacant and abandoned structures because of population decline over the past fifty years. While the economy tries to recover, improvements for those in deep poverty cannot keep pace with the cuts as the spending reductions hit hardest Americans not directly tied to the economy such as Head Start pre-school programs.

The cuts which also hit U.S. defense spending were put into place two years ago to help lawmakers avoid a federal debt standoff and potential shutdown, but compromise between Republicans and Democrats in Congress seemed impossible as the March 1 deadline came leading to the $85 million automatic cuts to go into effect. Democrats want deficit reduction including increase tax on wealthy, while the Republicans believe the problem could be solved through spending cuts and no more taxes. The Republicans want to see more cuts in next year’s budget resulting in a return to pre-sequester military spending levels and provide tax benefits for the wealthy. The 2014 budget plan proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan calls for $135 billion over the next decade to be slashed from food aid for low income families which helps children who have been hit hardest by poverty and calls for the Medicare health insurance program for Americans age 65 and over to turn into a voucher program providing direct government payment to senior who try to buy insurance on the private market. As Ryan said in an interview with Fox News, reports the Associated Press: “If we never balance the budget, if we keep adding deficit upon deficit we have a debt crisis like Europe has. That means seniors lose their health care benefit, that means the people in the safety net see the net cut and they go in the street. That means you have a recession. These are the things we prevent from happening by balancing the budget. Balancing the budget is but a means to an end. It’s growing the economy, it’s creating opportunity, it’s getting government to live within its means.”

 

Some worry though that the gap between rich and poor will keep widening under the austerity measures. According to the non-paritsan Congressional Research Service last year, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income.” Marry O’ Donnell, director of community services at Cathloic Charitirs of Balitmore, has already seen an increase in income inequality during the U.S. downturn stating, “In the last three years, there’s been a great change in the kinds of people we are serving. There are increasing numbers of people who owned a home, lost their jobs, end up living in their car and are coming with children to our soup kitchen,” she said. Her organization spent $126 million the last year feeding the poor, helping the unemployed find employment and housing, running nursing homes, and helping people get on their feet. About $98 million of that money came from various programs funded by the city, state, and federal government as these programs now face cuts because politician failed to do their job in Washington and find a compromise.

 

Party Like a Rockstar: Living Large on Taxpayer’s Tab

With the sequester and possible government shut down if Congress cannot get their act together, do we really need to worry about what happens after a president leaves office? Well it would be a good idea considering the taxpayers continue to pay their salary long after they leave office plus they keep a lot of the perks they had while in office. Who pays for all this? You guess it…the taxpayer. As the Associated Press reports being the leader of the free world can be an expensive proposition and doesn’t stop once you leave office as the government spent $3.7 million on former presidents in 2012 according to a report released by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The total includes pensions, compensation and benefits for office staff, and the cost for travel, office space and postage. The costliest former president last year was George W. Bush who racked up $1.3 million. Now all things consider, $3.7 million shelled out in 2012 by taxpayers is a drop in the bucket when you consider the country spends trillions of dollars each year, but the fact these men can command large sums for book deals, speaking engagement and the like the report raises the question should these ex leaders receive such generosity when the country is facing cut backs and cutting much needed programs.

Under the Former Presidents Act, previous presidents are given an annual pension equivalent to a Cabinet secretary’s salary of $200,000 last year plus $96,000 a year for a small office staff. Presidents on their way out also get a little extra help their first year after they leave office which is why Bush’s cost were higher than others in 2012 as he was granted $400,000 for 8,000 square feet of office space on Dallas plus $85,000 in telephone costs and $60,000 for travel. Bill Clinton came in second with just under $1 million and followed by George H.W. Bush at nearly $850,000. Clinton spent most of his government money on office space in New York’s Harlem neighborhood for his 8,300 square foot digs at a price of $442,000. The only other living president, Jimmy Carter, came in around $500,000. Of course the buck doesn’t stop there as former president’s windows are entitled to pensions of $20,000 except Nancy Reagan who waived her pension last year but did take $14,000 in postage. The costs do not include the protection that former presidents are entitled to as well as their spouses and children. These costs are part of a separate budget that is not public reports the Associate Press.

The funding of ex-presidents came under the Former Presidents Act back to 1958 when Congress created the program to help President Harry Truman post White House financial woes according to the Congressional Research Service. The goal was to maintain the dignity of the presidency and help with ongoing costs such as correspondence and scheduling requests. These days though many of the former president’s incomes come from speaking and writing as well as presidential centers and foundations who accept donations and facilitate many of their post presidential activities according to Associated Press. Why has no one challenged it? Saddest part is someone has. Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah has noted that none of the living presidents are poor so in response to this introduced a bill last year to limit the cost to $200,000 pension plus another $200,000 for discretionary spending and for every dollar made above $400,000 their annual allowance will be reduced by the same amount. Unfortunately, the bill died in committee. The government can’t agree on anything but what they can agree on is spending more… go figure. Washington needs to get its priorities straight as many people are suffering the consequences of their spending and especially cutting of necessary programs.

 

 

 

 

 

Sequestration 2013: When will it end?

Sequestration 2013: With Cuts In Place, Obama And GOP Brace For Next Fight.
To all my readers, I find it important for everyone to inform themselves about the actual sequester with an official document sent to Congress  as a direct result of Congress and the President’s inability to reach a decision to avoid the sequester that has now gone into effect on March 1. There is a lot of misinformation going around through various groups so I decided that the actual facts might be nice, then let you the reader decide what is truth. Since both parties the President and Congress refuse to come to a decision on Saturday to avoid sequester, we as a country now face the consequences through automatic spending cuts of $85 billion. Even with last minutes talks and no deal, the sequester which is outline in the official document below has gone into effect with the stroke of Obama’s pen. There are no signs that either group will budge as the Republican refuse any deal with more taxes and Democrats will not do a deal without it. Both parties lay the blame on the other for damages the cuts might inflict which are across the board.  In the words of Obama on his weekly radio and internet address, “None of this is necessary…It’s happening because Republicans in Congress chose this outcome over closing a single wasteful tax loophole that helps reduce the deficit.” The president also commented that the cuts will cause ripples across the economy the longer they stay in place and could cost more than 750,000 jobs not to mention disrupt the lives of middle class families. The next major battle for both will be to negotiate a plan to fund the government beyond March 27 or possibly face a government shutdown and another debt ceiling clash in May.

OMB REPORT TO THE CONGRESS ON THE JOINT COMMITTEE SEQUESTRATION FOR FISCAL YEAR 2013

Ron Johnson: John Boehner Would Lose Speakership If He Caves On Taxes To Avert Sequester

Ron Johnson: John Boehner Would Lose Speakership If He Caves On Taxes To Avert Sequester.

What is all this business about caving to taxes? Again whether you are republican or democrats especially elected official, shouldn’t the priority be to get the country back on its feet and out of the fire? The repercussion are enormous if nothing is done about the sequester as the United States will be worse off with more job loss and automatic spending cuts that will affect many of the government assistance programs people use on a daily basis. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Fox News that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) would lose his speakership if he agrees to new tax revenues to advert the across the board spending cuts that are set to kit in March 1. The comment has raised questions a second time about Boehner’s ability to be House Speaker in the last few months including claims during the fiscal cliff talks in December where he was accused of being more concerned about his job as speaker than making a deal. He most likely will not lose his position even with tensions in the Republican party he was still re-elected to the House Speaker position with only ten House Republicans voting against him. In the fight over sequester, Boehner in his statements has confirmed he will not accept any new tax revenues or hikes, while the president and Democrats are asking for a solution that involves spending cuts and increased revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes and implementing the Buffet rule to raise taxes on billionaires. Hey if Warren Buffet himself is asking for increase in taxes why not do it? In his own statement make Monday, Boehner remarked,”The president says we have to have another tax increase in order to avoid the sequester…Well, Mr. President, you got your tax increase. It’s time to cut spending here in Washington.”

Sequester Could Put Gun Background Checks At Risk, Officials Warn

Las Vegas Strip Shooting

Sequester Could Put Gun Background Checks At Risk, Officials Warn.

Today, I am going to talk about two related topics…gun control and gun violence since we are still talking about an issue that really doesn’t have a grey area but the government and pro second amendment supporters believe does. If the sequester happens, a direct effect of it will be background checks for people wanting to buy guns. It will actually cause more problems like the one that happened this morning in Las Vegas, where it started with a shoot out at a stoplight, then a car crash, and finally like a scene out of our favorite action movie an explosion of a cab that ended with three people dead and many injured. I cannot make this stuff up people this really did happen. Police believe it began in a hotel with an altercation that ended with six vehicles involved in the crash with the potential culprit of the explosion a propane powered taxi. This country, since the Newtown shooting that left many dead and many more questioning why no one has stepped in to alleviate the latest string of deadly violence across nations, has marred this country and raised the concern about gun laws and gun control. The worse part is yet to come if the sequester happens on March 1 according to government officials.

With no hope of a deal to avoid sequestration, the looming automatic spending cuts may become a reality leaving many Americans to brace for the worse. If Congress and the president cannot come to a solution about the $85 billion across the board spending cuts that take effect March 1 then the federal background check system for approving gun buyers could face cuts according to a letter FBI officials sent to lawmakers earlier this month. FBI director in a letter told the Senate Appropriations Committee chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) that the spending cuts would cause the agency to furlough more than 2,000 workers which would greatly effects the bureau’s ability to process and adjudicate NICS requests increasing the risk of firearms being transferred to convicted felons and other prohibited persons. In a speech Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to pass a plan that combines spending cuts and tax increases on the wealthy to avoid sequester however the Republicans refuse to raise taxes. And the Republicans wonder why their approval rating is so low…maybe because they don’t really care about 99% of the population who happen to put them into office. Hey I am not a big fan of Democrats or Republicans because let’s face it both parties have made mistakes, but the Republicans are not helping their own cause by protecting the wealthy of this country.

The demand for guns came soon after the Newtown shooting causing background checks for gun purchases to jump to record levels in December according to the FBI. In correlation with the rise in background checks, many gun owners cannot meet the demand of guns causing many to sell out of guns and ammunition. The gun background check is one of many programs that will be hit hard by the sequester if it does happen on March 1. The Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said his agency would be force to furlough nearly one third of its workers that would cause the meat industry to shut down for up to two weeks for lack of inspectors. Looking at the much larger picture, the sequester could cost the U.S. economy 750,000 jobs by some estimates and up to 1 million jobs by others. What is the government doing? Nothing. Will they do something? I hope so and I hope soon before we all crash and burn due to the inability of the government to act for the people not for themselves. I hope they prove me wrong.

 

 

 

Fifth Third Bank To Help Unemployed Mortgage Customers Find Jobs – Careers Articles

Fifth Third Bank To Help Unemployed Mortgage Customers Find Jobs – Careers Articles.

There are so many things now in the news that bring tears to my eyes, but for once this story makes me feel hopeful for the future and that humanity is not completely gone in today’s empire of greedom. With debates or sequestration and gun control continue to make no progress at all, I am glad to see a bank take some of the major problems facing everyday Americans under their wing. Even with corporation’s own self interests at an all time high and squeezing the American for every last penny, its nice to see a company harken back to the days of the great depression at time not so different from now. At least someone can make a decision and find a way to help others get back on their feet as well as be rewarded for their efforts handsomely. What am I talking about? Let me explain.

Most people see banks as income sucking entities that only care about their bottom lines. However the problem with this analysis is in order to have a good bottom line they have to care about their customers who bring in the money to the bank. Well with any business it is important to care about the customer since its the company’s reputation that will be destroyed in the end. There are a range of mortgage relief options from the well intended to the deceptive and illegal, but one bank is offering a way to transform the lives of the unemployed mortgage customers who can’t make their payments. Fifth Third Bancorp based int he Midwest is offering 16 weeks of job assistance free to its customers who miss two consecutive mortgage payments due to unemployment reports the Chicago Tribune. The job assistance is coming from NextJob a Bend, Oregon based employment firm who provides one on one coaching and job search software. Since the housing market burst in 2008, unemployment has soared causing many jobless homeowners to struggle and lenders to step in to help them. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began offering and extending temporary reprieves from mortgage payments, but for many that these solution are short term and many home counselors say long term solutions are needed. During the program’s trial last year, 11 of the 28 partcipants found work by the end of the six months nearly 40 percent. The Fifth Third group believes it is smart business since the job search only cost $1,500 per person compared to the $40,000 to $60,000 that banks lose when a home is foreclosed on and unemployment is the main problem causing people to default. NextJob has expanded its job finding capabilities beyond just finding help for employees laid off by employers. The company also has two 40 foot buses filled with computer stations that they park in undeserved communities to offer financial help. “Job loss, followed by the loss of one’s home, is severely damaging to individuals and families,” NextJob’s CEO John Courtney said while speaking about his new multiyear contract with Fifth Third Bank. “This program is a simple but big idea and it’s time has come for the banking industry.”

Sequestration Nation: What March 1 Really Means for the Economy – DailyFinance

Sequestration Nation: What March 1 Really Means for the Economy – DailyFinance.

With many of the world’s nations falling into economic disrepair and fighting to stay afloat, the United States may come to the same fate come March 1. President Obama and congressional Republicans have no progress to head off the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts that go into effect on Mar 1. Lacking a bipartisan deal to avoid catastrophe and hoping to put pressure on the GOP lawmakers, the administration revealed details about the cuts’ consequences including less secure U.S. embassies, trimmed defense contracts, and furloughed air traffic controllers. When a budget fight between President Clinton and congressional Republicans led to two government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, some threats came true and others did not only because private groups stepping in and contractors working for IOUs. The budget impasse eventually ended before serious damage happened.

This time no government shutdown will occur but automatic cuts between March 1 and September 30 will occur which means a reduction of 13 percent for defense and 9 percent for other programs according to the budget office. These cut and $1 trillion over the next decade were put into place two years ago when the administration and Congressional bargainers made them so harsh that everyone would be forced to compromise. This has not happened. According to the administration letters and testimony to Congress social security, Medicaid, Medicare, and veterans’ benefits are exempted. The cuts will be made over a seven month period and do not all take effect March 1. If a deal is reached anytime during this period the money could be restore either some or all. However left in effect the impact is not clear yet for each program. The law limits administration’s flexibility to protect initiatives, but the White House told agencies to avoid cutting those that present risk to life, safety or health and minimize harm to crucial services. Every agency will experience some effects from these budget cuts if they go into effect.

According to AOL Daily Finance these are the tentative cuts according to the administration letters and testimony to Congress:

-Defense: Troops at war would be protected, but there’d be fewer Air Force flying hours, less training for some Army units and cuts in naval forces. A $3 billion cut in the military’s Tricare health care system could diminish elective care for military families and retirees. And, in a warning to the private defense industry, the Pentagon said it would be “restructuring contracts to reduce their scope and cost.”

-Health: The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion, trimming cancer research and drying up funds for hundreds of other research projects. Health departments would give 424,000 fewer tests for the AIDS virus. More than 373,000 people may not receive mental health services.

-Food and agriculture: About 600,000 low-income pregnant women and new mothers would lose food aid and nutrition education. Meat inspectors could be furloughed up to 15 days, shutting meatpacking plants intermittently and costing up to $10 billion in production losses.

-Homeland Security: Fewer border agents and facilities for detained illegal immigrants. Reduced Coast Guard air and sea operations, furloughed Secret Service agents and weakened efforts against cyberthreats to computer networks. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund would lose more than $1 billion.

-Education: Seventy thousand Head Start pupils would be removed from the prekindergarten program. Layoffs of 10,000 teachers and thousands of other staffers because of cuts in federal dollars that state and local governments use for schools. Cuts for programs for disabled and other special-needs students.

-Transportation: Most of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 47,000 employees would face furloughs, including air traffic controllers, for an average of 11 days.

-Environment: Diminished Environmental Protection Agency monitoring of oil spills, air pollution and hazardous waste. The color-coded air quality forecasting system that keeps schoolchildren and others inside on bad-air days would be curtailed or eliminated. New models of cars and trucks could take longer to reach consumers because the EPA couldn’t quickly validate that they meet emissions standards.

-State Department: Slow security improvements at overseas facilities, cuts in economic aid in Afghanistan and malaria control in Africa.

-Internal Revenue Service: Furloughed workers would reduce the IRS’ ability to review returns, detect fraud and answer taxpayers’ questions. It offered no specifics.

-FBI: Furloughs and a hiring freeze would have the equivalent impact of cutting 2,285 employees, including 775 agents. Every FBI employee would be furloughed 14 workdays.

-Interior Department: Hours and service would be trimmed at all 398 national parks, and up to 128 wildlife refuges could be shuttered. Oil, gas and coal development on public lands and offshore waters would be diminished because the agency would be less able to issue permits, conduct environmental reviews and inspect facilities.

-Labor: More than 3.8 million people jobless for six months or longer could see their unemployment benefits reduced by as much as 9.4 percent. Thousands of veterans would lose job counseling. Fewer Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors could mean 1,200 fewer visits to work sites. One million fewer people would get help finding or preparing for new jobs.

-NASA: Nearly $900 million in cuts, including funds to help private companies build capsules to send astronauts to the International Space Station.

-Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development said about 125,000 poor households could lose benefits from the agency’s Housing Choice Voucher program and risk becoming homeless.