Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Takers

The Takers

 

It would be nice if we could all point at one demographic and say that these people are the reason that our country is failing. I like to call it legal stealing. It's the US thought that if the government allows us to take the money from them, then we deserve it and they don't.

The Conveniently Poor

 

My mother worked with this woman (we will call Sara).

Sara legally immigrated to the US with her husband from Mexico. The US government was not aware of, or did not recognize, the marriage between Sara and her husband.

So when Sara started having children, she was deemed a single mother and was able to apply for government assistance.

And then Sara legally brought her parents to the US. Since they were past retirement age, they qualified for Social Security without ever having paid into it. The only requirement for getting Social Security was that her parents stayed in the US for six months out of the year.

So for six months out of the year, they would live with Sara. When they went back to Mexico for the other six months, Sara would cash their checks and send back a pittance (which is all they would need in Mexico), and keep the rest for herself.

After her children graduated from high school, Sara and her husband wed in the US, in their paid off home, and their fancy cars that they paid for with cash from Sara's parent's Social Security checks and the welfare checks that she received for being a single mother.

It's not that Sara did anything illegal, she simply played on a system that was willing to pander to her whims.

In 2005, I was attending a local junior college. I was taking 12 hours a semester and working full time.

In one of my evening classes, there was a woman (I shall call Candy) who was getting government help to attend school and better herself. She was 20 years old and was the single mother of four kids.

Because she was on welfare, the government was interested in her entering society as an educated woman, so they decided to pay for her school. They were paying her $1,000 per credit hour.

I was paying $120.00 per credit hour, meaning that the three hour philosophy class that I had with Candy cost me $360.00 plus the $74.95 text book. Taking 12 hours a semester and 3-6 hours in the summer, I was able to graduate in five years.

Candy was taking six hours per semester (and maybe showing up one out of every three days.) If she finishes, she will have received $120,000 dollars in ten years. Her GPA will probably be around 1.7, and nobody will hire her. So her position in the world of welfare is secure.

Sara and Candy's poverty is convenient for them. They want to be poor because it gives them more benefits than applying themselves. It seems that the government is more interested in those that never try versus those who try and fail.

 

 

The Poor

 

I work with several single mothers (not of Sara and Candy's caliber). Some of them work two jobs to support their kids.

Once a year, (during tax season) these women get huge tax breaks for each of their kids. This is the time of year where they go out and buy brand new cars, take trips, and basically splurge with money that they usually don't have.

I was raised by a single mother. She worked two jobs and supported three kids with no help from her deadbeat, ex-husband (whom I normally refer to as Mr. Ed, The Talking Horse's Ass).

My mother would teach in the morning, come home and sit down at the table and help us with our homework. She would prep us for bed and then Twila or Marta would come over and take care of us while my mother played music in bars. (By-the-way, Marta, I haven't thrown my shoes behind the drier since and never will again... Promise!)

A week before the beginning of each school year, my mom would empty her coffers and fill our closets with cute wardrobes. We would get our annual physical and our eyes tested. A new car was out of the question. Extravagant expenditures never crossed my mother's mind. She was all about being the parent and doing it right.

Some of my favorite people were and are poor. They go to their crappy jobs that just barely pay enough to put food on the table. They break their backs lifting things that shouldn't be lifted, and smiling at customers that deserve to have their faces pushed in.

It's not a bad thing to be poor. If you haven't done it, you should just to tighten up your backbone a bit. You could call it your "year of living dangerously without healthcare or enough money to pay for the hospital" or "the year that I psychotically decided to try and live on minimum wage." I guarantee you that it will make you appreciate what you have and what you don't have.

 

The Rich

 

I read a story about a former CEO, of a large corporation, who filed for unemployment. He owned several lovely homes, and also received a healthy check with stock options. He rented a dumpy apartment and had his unemployment checks sent to that address.

Of course, he lied about his bank balance, his possessions, and his overall value. He must have found it quite a joke with his buddies at the local golf course as he putted away on the green.

And then there was the woman that won one million dollars in Michigan with a lottery ticket and continued to collect welfare. She was later found dead of an overdose cuddled up to her sleeping baby. At least her dealer was paid in full!

If the system is so easy to scam, then it's a very broken system that needs to be rebuilt from the bottom up.

 

The Corporations

 

Because I have been so informed, we are going to assume for this diatribe that corporations are people too! Don't get me wrong in my facetiousness, I recognize that you can find some awesome people that work for corporations, all the way up to the top!

I think fondly back to the day when President George Bush, Jr. (and don't think that I am only going to target Republicans) lowered tariffs on imports for the purpose of allowing large corporations to take their manufacturing businesses out of the country.

According to all the information, this would reduce costs of most products, making them affordable for John Q. Public.

There are two problems with this theory: If John Q. Public is unemployed because the jobs have been shipped overseas, then the products will still be out of reach. And my biggest beef was I didn't see the drop in prices that was predicted.

A friend of mine worked for Hewlett Packard. On the day that she was laid off, she was escorted into a room and played a film about a small town in Nicaragua or Nigeria, or bum f**k Egypt, and how much it would help this community to raise up out of poverty and survive if her job was sent there.

The person who took over the job would still be as poor as a flea on a dead body because they were only earning 1/100th of what my friend was earning. My friend would get a job outside the corporate spectrum, and a large number of people in Colorado would never buy another Hewlett Packard product because it was so poorly made by untrained individuals, and everybody would live happily-ever-after.

The president failed to see the big picture. He saw lower costs in manufacturing, lower labor costs, and lower import costs. He did not see the job losses, the unemployment rate, a reduction in consumer spending, or the still high prices of EVERYTHING due to corporate greed.

Recently, WalMart and McDonalds made every effort to aid their employees with improving their lives. McDonalds even created a website with tips for their workers on how to live on their lowly wages. One of the big tips was to stop eating at fast food restaurants (point taken, and I did, although I don't work at McDonalds).

When you step into a line at WalMart, and someone pushes your preferred product over a scanner, you can look that person in the face and know that they qualify for welfare. Their meager salary would not feed a family of one, let alone a family of five. And if they are the sole earner in the family, you can bet that they get food stamps and other federal government support.

But still we line up at one of the three registers that are open to check out the 30 people waiting to be served. We think we are getting a good deal at the cheaper product, but we are still paying for the $300 million dollars in taxes to make sure that WalMart workers just survive.

It's also estimated that if WalMart raised all of their products in price by one penny, then they could afford to pay their employees decent wages and that $300 million would fall of the radar.

There's an even bigger kicker in this: I will call it my year of not going to WalMart.

I used to go to WalMart once every two weeks for groceries. I would stand in line, thinking that I was spending less for more, but my tab was always over $150.00 dollars. Why would a single woman need to spend $300.00 on groceries for a month?

I rationalized it over and over in my mind, and it came to me not being rational.

On an impulse, one day I didn't go to WalMart for groceries, I was in a hurry and skipped over to the nearby Kroger store. My groceries cost $87.00. I drove home with a furrow in my brow, thinking "What the f**k?"

So in two weeks, I took my Kroger receipt with me to WalMart, and started comparing prices (truly).

Like most Americans, I have discovered the joy of buying generic brands, and this is where I discovered WalMart's deep, dark secret. Yes, their names brands are cheaper than Kroger's name brands, nothing to deny there. But while WalMart's generic tomato soup was 69 cents, Kroger's generic tomato soup was 54 cents (and it was made and canned in the US). And that is a mere example of the extreme variance in prices. There were others (like ground turkey being $3.99 per pound at WalMart, while Kroger settles for $2.49 per pound.)

I also discovered that my fruits and veggies lasted longer... Like WEEKS longer. I had been throwing away produce a week after I bought it at WalMart.

In the long run, my year of not going to WalMart became a life style.

(This is where you picture the little mouse flipping the bird at the big bad eagle as it swoops down to kill her...squeak squeak!)

 

The Banks

 

On March 9, 1933, The Emergency Banking Act was passed.

Due to the Great Depression, the banks were having a few problems. People didn't have money to pay off their loans, and they didn't have money to deposit in banks. So of course, the wisest thing anyone could do was help the banks... eh?

The PEOPLE didn't have money to pay off their loans, and the PEOPLE didn't have money to deposit in banks. So why was this the Emergency Banking Act? Why wasn't it the Emergency Citizen Act, where the government stepped in and stopped foreclosures and prevented small business bankruptcies?

Logically, if the PEOPLE were thriving, then they would be depositing money in banks and paying off their loans.

So in 2009, we make the same mistake again with the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Seven Hundred Billion Dollars scattered to the winds from tax payers' pockets. Let's spell this out a bit better: $700,000,000,000.00.

Did this bail out stop the housing foreclosures? Did it stop businesses from filing for bankruptcy? Did it slow the recession down just a wee bit? If you answered no, then you are wrong. If you answered ABSOLUTELY NOT, you're closer to right then you will ever be.

According to the New York Times, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and Citigroup used taxpayers' money to pay MILLIONS in bonuses to those bank employees that continued to pursue foreclosures on the struggling individuals who lost their jobs. There were no payment breaks on those mutating algorithms that increase payment exponentially per year after the first year to the point that it was inevitable that any normal person could not meet those payments.

And let's be real here, if the banks hadn't mutated the way their loans were structured, then they wouldn't have been in this predicament. If they had been honest with the average Joe seeking to buy a house, then Joe would probably still own his house, and the average bank wouldn't be struggling.

So let's take Plumber Joe (not to be mistaken for Joe the Plumber). If PJ earned 46K seven years ago and 79K this year, he value would have increased exponentially over the last seven years 41% (YAY, Joe). So the bank lenders would see this increase and naturally assume that PJ's value would increase 41% in another seven years and so they would arrange their mutating algorithm to increase PJ's payments 41% over the next seven years. They will have forgotten/overlooked/or not cared about future childbirths of a growing family, job injuries, job lay-offs, or just the cost of living increases as the years pass. 

And where were the laws that protected the home owners? Where were the laws that said banks couldn't cheat home buyers anymore? I guess I could have almost swallowed TARP if anything good have come of it. If only there had been strings attached saying that the banks couldn't cheat people anymore.

In current times, banks have sunk to a new low and began selling homes of the foreclosed without evicting the current home owners or advising them of the actual foreclosure. It started when banks started selling off their loans to other predators without telling the victims that they were no longer protected.

To push your buttons just a wee bit more, banks had the unmitigated gall to foreclose on homes that weren't even under mortgage. Their grasping and greedy little fingers stretched beyond the boundaries of greed and went for properties that were paid off or not financed by said banks.

One couple had never missed a payment, and Bank of America wasn't even their lender. Their home was even set to be auctioned off. In desperation, they refinanced with BOFA only to start receiving TWO payment notices from the bank. It finally took a legal injunction to make BOFA back off.

Another couple found their home foreclosed on, and they had paid cash for it. They took Bank of America (again the culprit) to court and won legal expenses. After sending multiple letters to the bank and being thorough ignored, the couple foreclosed on BOFA. They showed up with moving trucks and started clearing out the cash tills. It took moments for BOFA to cough up $5,772.88 owed to the couple.

Apparently, in order to mooch off the government, one has to be smart enough to cheat the system, a single parent, a corporation, or a bank.   

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