Thursday, September 13, 2018

What does employment, wages, and cost of living look like for individuals and families in the United States?


What does employment, wages, and cost of living look like for individuals and families in the United States?
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

The below is an edited version of a previous article posted on the HEAL website in 2011.  While I could update it for 2018, I believe the information to still be valid as the primary issues have not been addressed effectively and the majority is still suffering under debt slavery, debt peonage, and similar issues.

According to official reports, there are   approximately 311,555,665 people in the United States.  And,   127,097,160 people employed in the United States.  This statistic does not include individuals who are self-employed.  Of those 127 million employed by someone other than themselves, the average wage is $16.27 per hour.  But, this is averaging the pay of CEOs with Burger King servers at minimum wage.  So, the most common wage does not equal what is reported as the average wage in the report.  The Federal  minimum wage perhour is $7.25.  And,  almost all employed people in the UnitedStates work for minimum wage or less.  Now, a minimum wage, full-time (meaning 40 hours, not the new "30" or "32" hour "full-time") job will pay (gross) $290 per week and approximately $1160 per month (before taxes).  Here is what a typical paycheck for someone earning minimum wage, full-time, looks like:

Your Pay Check Results
Weekly Gross Pay
$290.00
Federal Withholding
$29.27
Social Security
$12.18
Medicare
$4.21
Arkansas
$7.57
 
Net Pay
$236.77


Calculation Based On
Tax Year
2011
Gross Pay
$290.00
Pay Frequency
Weekly
Federal Filing Status
Single
# of Federal Exemptions
0
Additional Federal W/H
$0.00
State
Arkansas
Tax Rate
Single
Exemptions
0
Low Income
Yes
Additional State W/H
$0.00



 
Source:   https://www.paycycle.com/external/business/paycheckCalculators.jsp

This makes the net/liquid income of someone working minimum wage full-time in the United States approximately $947.08.  If the individual has only him/herself to care for on this wage, here is what expenses look like without safety-net, health insurance/coverage (free clinics/hospitals/medical reimbursement, no way anyone can afford Obamacare), savings or emergency funds:


National Average Cost for Two-Bedroom Apartment--$1070 (if living with roommate, rent would be $535 for one individual.  At full-time (40 hour) minimum wage, the cost of sharing an apartment with a roommate leaves this individual with $412.92.

Average Cost for a Bus Pass--$25 per month if one can buy a $75 unlimited 3-month bus pass.  This rate is for New Mexico.  Rates for a one-month   unlimited pass in New Yorkis $104 per month.  If we average New Mexico's rates with New York's, we get $64.50.  HEAL will use the $64.50 as an estimated national average.  This leaves the individual in our example with $348.42.  We are giving the most economically efficient accounting for someone with a minimum wage income.  Of course, individuals with vehicles will have even more expenses related to travel.  

Average Cost of Landline Phone and Utilities: The costs of utilities vary greatly depending on use.  The average residential bill provided by Puget Sound Energy in Seattle shows a total of $97.97 per month.  It is unclear if this is for a multi-person household.  Assuming that it would be accurate for a two-person apartment, we will cut the amount in half and apply it to the decreasing spending power of the example individual.  Half of $97.97 is $48.98.  This leaves the individual with $299.44 after the electric bill alone.  For basic landline telephone service with unlimited local calling only, the price starts at  $12 per month.  With Verizon, we chose a "free" phone and selected the   least expensiveplan at $39.99 per month with a $35 activation fee and 450 "anytime minutes" with free weekend/evenings, voice-mail, no texting/data in the plan.  The $12 per month above does not include caller id or voice-mail.  With the least expensive of Verizon's plans, it would leave the individual with $259.45 each month.  If he/she chooses the most basic phone model without voice-mail and no cellular phone, the total he/she has left is $287.44.  Because most people are expected to have a cellular phone in the US today for business and personal use, we will be basing additional calculations on the $259.45 amount left with that expense.  The   minimum cost for water service appears tobe between $15 and $40 per month depending on location.  Based on this, we will assume a 2-person household would pay an average of $50 per month with the split between two roommates being $25 per month.  This will reduce the total money available to $234.45 per month for the individual.  

Average Cost of Food and Groceries (toiletries, etc.) for One Person:    The low range ongroceries for one individual per month is $200 and the high range is $400 permonth.  If we calculate using the low estimate of $200 per month for groceries, this leaves the individual with $34.45. 

Basic Cable: The least expensive plan offered by  Comcast.com is $29.99 per month for one year   (and that price will go up).   If two roommates split the cost for basic cable at this rate, they will each pay approximately $14.99 per month for basic cable.  This is if they share a television.  The cost would increase if each had cable access to their individual televisions in individual rooms.  Based on the premise that they would share the television, we will deduct $14.99 from the running total.  This leaves the individual with $19.46. 

If the individual requires any medical treatment or prescription medication, the $19.46 won't even cover those expenses.  And, if the individual has any debts or expenses such as clothing/shoes/etc. each month, it will leave them with less than nothing.  The minimum wage is not a living wage and certainly could not support an individual with a growing child.  And, this is the condition under which the majority of Americans currently live and work.

The odds that anyone would be able to avoid using credit or getting caught in a cycle of debt from which there appears no escape is inevitable under the current system.  Regardless of who is most responsible, government officials or private business, is irrelevant.  A problem exists that must be addressed.  And, turning the Federal Reserve into a public utility as is the recommendation of Ellen Brown, based on the Republican plan of Abraham Lincoln, makes the most sense to stop debt slavery of the majority in the United States.[1]  It is clear that this is the issue and that you cannot blame individuals who work full time for their poverty when the system is clearly not working for us and either stupidly apathetic (myopic in understanding, unable to see the big picture or likely result of the continued injustice due to failure to learn from history) or blatantly evil (disregarding the suffering of others and/or actually enjoying the power wielded to destroy and make miserable the majority of earth's inhabitants while simultaneously playing "Risk" and "Monopoly"). 

There is no moral or ethical authority in a world that prioritizes profits over people.  And, might does not make right.  So, this is just one more voice of opposition to modern tyranny.  We are the people we've been waiting for and we need to act like it and organize effectively.  Do not be distracted by morons and make sure moles are shown the door.  That's my best tip for anyone who actually wants to make a difference.  A moron can be well-meaning and cry a lot over issues you care about, but, they won't help and will likely distract or mislead you in a manner that makes real change nearly impossible.  So, while no one wants to be mean to anyone who is well-meaning, sometimes you need to be firm so your own compassion doesn't become a barrier to making effective change that will benefit the majority.  Everyone benefits by a safer and less violent world when everyone exhibits ethical and moral standards of consideration for everyone else.  And, when you choose not to live a moral or ethical life and assume a position of authority, you should expect a violent revolt when reasonable discourse fails to achieve needed change and effective redress of grievances.  This is particularly true when reasonable and effective solutions have been proposed for addressing these issues for millennia, literally. 



[1] https://ellenbrown.com/2013/12/22/100-years-is-enough-time-to-make-the-fed-a-public-utility/

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Trauma and Art Explained


Trauma and Art Explained
By Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator/Co-Founder

As a survivor of various traumas from early childhood separations, child abuse, sexual abuse, and exploitation, I have something to say.  I've tried for nearly two decades to do everything correctly and professionally to the best of my ability.  I maintained a rigid focus and discipline in regards to championing the cause of stopping modern slavery and human trafficking (particularly child trafficking).  But, certain discoveries and facts put together that have amassed overtime coupled with extraordinary harassment of myself and HEAL resulted in my fighting my way back to peace of mind through artistic expression and comic relief.

I always incorporate some art into my activism and this is not unusual for activists and artists to do.  And, some people do not understand some of my art or recent artistic expressions.  This does not surprise me. 

Imagine for a moment an alleged child molester and a large corporation that owns a facility that tortured you are battling each other in court and both want you to testify on their behalf or help their side.  Now, imagine you've dedicated your life to stopping institutionalized abuse and protecting children from sexual abuse and other abuses as you yourself were also a victim.  At the same time, you've been blocked from accessing some social media accounts and believe a friend is in danger due to ongoing harassment and messages suggesting they are going to be institutionalized.  Now, add to that e-mails threatening to beat you or kill you.  And, then, add whatever your daily routine as an advocate might look like with all of that going on simultaneously.  Now, imagine that you too suffer trauma triggers and do your best to manage those triggers without any real support.  That will give you an idea of my state of mind throughout this performance art piece.

The Kingpin of Hollywood blog article is a satirical piece and to be taken with a grain of salt.  Sean Stone went bowling and I thought it would be funny as a follow up to the Oliver Stone Conspiracy article, which is based on fact with sources cited.  Kingpin and bowling, that's the joke.  In addition, I do find some of Oliver Stone's films to contain gratuitous and unnecessary rape scenes that do trigger sexual assault survivors.  So, I wanted to both admonish Oliver for his nihilistic films while showing that his accuser, namely Melissa Gilbert, arguably "fictionally" raped a dog on F/X.  Bestiality is illegal in California and is considered animal cruelty.  So, for Gilbert to accuse Oliver of anything untoward given her own questionable choices regarding what is acceptable sexual behavior in any situation, filmed or not, seemed like something worth mentioning.  Because, the overall point of my art piece is that people shouldn't make snap judgments and should inquire before assuming anything they've read or seen is factual regardless of whether presented as fact or fiction.  This is particularly true in an age of massive deceptive marketing and profiteering off of fraud, abuse, and exploitation. 

The bulk of information and articles provided by HEAL prior to the July 4th, 2018 "Twitter Jail" situation, are accurate and all sources cited.  HEAL does not typically go into full satire or parody mode and the last couple of months have been experimental.  In addition, the Kingpin article seems fair enough given the legitimate concerns surrounding the "conspiracy".  However, one will need to investigate and inquire as to whether or not anyone had the mens rea to have been guilty of any crime.  The 5th Columnists at RAND Corporation and in the DNC are definitely guilty.  And, anyone with possible investments in UAE banks (including Citi, First Gulf Bank, etc.) should likely divest immediately and publicly expose any information they may have regarding 9/11, Yemen, or the like.  It may also be recommended that those who divest actively expose everyone involved and demand an end to modern slavery, debt slavery, debt peonage, indentured servitude, and human trafficking as loudly as fucking possible until the situation is resolved.

That being said, comedy is a tool for handling trauma triggers and the like.  And, I was blending art and activism to lead by example to encourage other victims to just let it flow out without any self-editing or self-censorship.  By "let it flow out", I mean let all the pain, anger, frustration, sorrow, despair, hope, and rage come out without worrying what anyone else might think or say.  (See: http://www.facebook.com/comedyrevolutionaries) I said some shit about my mother I thought might get me in hot water.  But, she understood once I explained that I had to use Aikido and #TaoFu to maximize the strength of my own weaknesses, judge my own history and family first, and then weave or dance between blaming the world and blaming myself until reaching a point of understanding that we are all responsible for the state of the world and we all must commit to reasonable discourse in order to solve real world problems.

Both privately and publicly I said some shit that no one would likely desire to see or hear.  And, I said it to individuals who have done things publicly that I would have preferred not to see or hear and of which I was not effectively warned prior to exposure.  However, like with all things, I chose to endure those sights and sounds.  It was not a "Clockwork Orange" situation where I was tied to a chair and forced to watch anything with my eyes taped open.  And, part of my display was a "mock" of people who exploit being a victim for personal gain and attention.  I hate people like that and I seem often unable to avoid them.  So, I thought I would include how I see them in my art piece.  While many may have felt validated to see that I was like them after all, the truth is, I am not like that at all and I get very annoyed by people who do that.  I feel it is unfair and lacks reason to unleash one's rage on people who just happen to trigger you by accident. 

I did go above and beyond the call of duty for this piece and I involved the FBI, legislators, friends, and media personalities at times without their fully informed consent.  But, I was managing a delicate balance and art gets messy sometimes.  I'm sure we've all been there. 

I don't respect stupid or evil.  And, I genuinely like and respect Sean Stone and Oliver Stone.  I drafted them both into the piece (publicly and privately) because I figured they would both be most likely to understand it once the entirety was revealed.  See, Oliver Stone is not a hack or a fraud.  And, I wanted to show how obnoxious critics are because I'm always criticized even though I work really hard and do my best and I wanted to involve them both in a real conspiracy as an homage to their bodies of work.  But, without this explanation I understand that people may have gotten the wrong impression.  And, this is why you really need to know an artist and their body of work (including life experiences) before saying anything about it unless you are just an asshole. 

Being an improvisational performance art piece, I did tell Sean he should post on http://www.facebook.com/comedyrevolutionaries/ the following, "Performance Art Piece (PAP), what is this, a "pap smear"?"  But, he is too much of a gentleman to have used that joke to respond.  It would have made an excellent punch-line for the overall comedic portion though.  I sent a screenshot of that private message from me to Sean to the FBI.  So, everyone was a bit confused.  I still think it is funny and that laughter is the best medicine for trauma.

That being said, I'm exhausted and have had enough with being a target of harassment and non-stop abuse because I commit to human rights and stopping modern slavery.  So, I'm going to embrace the merger of art and life and see if the angels are still in the outfield.  If you do not understand anything, you may be taking me entirely out of context.  I suggest learning the entire span of my work from the entire HEAL website (over 1 million pages of content), my entire literary works (including free e-books through HEAL), this blog, The HEAL Report web series, and ask me anything about myself after you've done so.  I'll be happy to get back with someone showing such a legitimate interest.  However, if you take me or anyone I love and respect out of context for personal attention or publicity, I will possibly make an example of you.

For example, going back through the history of this blog, you may recall a defense of Drake and Roseanne Barr against alleged smears and out of context comments made on a popular RT show.  And, said show has yet to apologize to Drake and Roseanne.  I also did not see them get an invitation to share their side or point of view during said attack/smear.  It appeared some blond moron just wanted to jump on a bandwagon to take statements out of context and make herself seem hip regarding pop culture.  So, some of this performance art was a "mock" of Tabetha Wallace for her actions and an admonishment of Sean Stone for not demanding a fair retraction or invitation for Drake and Roseanne Barr to appear on the show to address the smear job.  At least my reports have a basis in fact and cited sources.  And, I did research.  I didn't just see a pop up of Drake or hear Morning Joe and think, "hey, let's cover that and jump on the I hate everyone bandwagon".  I actually spent years researching the connections between RAND Corporation, Petroleum Club, etc. and found a connection that coupled with everything else going on freaked me the fuck out.  But, I calmed down and processed it all artfully and publicly in order to lead by example, humble myself, and make a pertinent point regarding perception, communication, and artistic interpretation of symbolism.

So, Oliver Stone may wish to distance himself from the Democrats to avoid guilt by association.  He's been too chummy with Keith Ellison lately.  Ellison needs to switch to Green Party or Libertarian (or even Republican at this point) if he wants to be taken seriously in the future.  Sean Stone is awesome and never does anything wrong ever.  And, I'm awesome too.  If you don't understand someone's art or don't appreciate it, shut the fuck up.  Don't say shit or pass judgment unless you've actually reviewed and studied the entirety of someone's life and understand their artistic expression enough to make a legitimate comment worthy of consideration. 

Sometimes I do things out of character in order to present an opportunity to set an example for others.  You may consider the last couple of months in part an expression of that.  My art was reflecting the world as I see it from my perspective.  I blended art with life.  So, deal with that reality and if I'm too smart for you, don't bother me.  I'm only interested in interacting with smart people from now on.  Smart people will enjoy this article.  If you didn't, don't contact me or HEAL.  Thank you.