Romney’s latest stump speech included his mention of putting work back into welfare. That line gets cheers and applause. The sentiment being that some people are getting something for nothing. Well let’s just take a look at who’s getting something for nothing. How about the mortgage lender who borrows money from the Federal Reserve at a very small percentage (the Fed discount rate) and then lends it to someone buying a house. If you borrow $100K at 5% and pay it back over 30 years then you’d end up paying back $193K. So the lender is ‘earning’ $93K that the borrower wage earner had to work and earn in order to pay back. The lender just kicks back and really is getting something for nothing compared to the wage earner slaving away at his job. And more than likely the house is more than the wage earner even needs but really has no choice about because exclusionary zoning mandates the size and style of houses allowed in the area. In my case I spent 18 yrs in a mobile home park because Farmington Hills, MI (near Detroit) says your home has to be at least 24 ft wide and conform to existing housing. And since Farmington Hills hands out building permits you can bet they favor more expensive and larger homes over smaller less expensive homes. That strategy maximizes the property taxes they collect and of course keeps out poor people. So with lots of property taxes the elected officials can pay themselves a very nice salary compared to the wage earner slaving away paying back a mortgage with interest and with property taxes and property insurance to boot. So what did they do to deserve those property taxes?
And the mobile home park is getting a 50% return on his investment thanks to exclusionary zoning. I was paying $3,720/yr in lot rent to the mobile home park for a 26 ft x 60 ft lot. That extrapolates to $8,656/acre/month (about 6 times the property tax rate). I was paying for that lot every two years. What a racket. I couldn’t just buy a lot and place my singlewide on it. But it was ok to rent a lot and effectively pay for the lot every two years. It’s like renting a $100 pair of shoes and paying $50/yr rent. Now shoes can wear out but that lot isn’t wearing out. I rented it for 18 yrs and when I left it was in very good shape. You have a concrete pad, a sewer pipe, a water pipe, an electric meter and a natural gas meter. That stuff lasts a very long time. So I’d say the mobile home park was getting quite a lot for very little effort. I doubt Mitt would have any objections to that.
How about the two doctors who charged me $1,500 for less than an hour’s work total. I got two moles removed. The initial exam took less than 15 minutes. I came back and the actual work took less than another 15 minutes. I didn’t even need to come back for a follow up visit because the stitches would dissolve on their own eventually. We had agreed on a fee of $750 and I thought that would be all I’d have to pay. Since this was purely a cosmetic procedure I knew my HMO wouldn’t cover it and I told the doctor that right up front. Well two weeks later I get another bill for another $750 from a pathologist. Apparently the doctor who removed the moles sent them to the pathologist so they could double team me. Talk about a license to steal. I’m sure Mitt would have no objection to these medical professionals working about an hour total and me having to work 120 hours to pay them their fee.
There are a lot a jobs that are very hard and involve getting dirty and putting yourself at risk. That’s why we have OHSA rules to try and protect people. That’s why we have a minimum wage to try and protect people from getting taken advantage of. I remember seeing a bunch of islanders on the TV show 60 Minutes dismantling old ships to salvage the metal. Many of these old ships were old oil tankers and these people were wearing nothing more than a bathing suit (no shoes). They were coming into contact with all that old sludge that is known to cause cancer when you come into contact with it. So these people were surely shortening their lives doing that work.
Some of the hardest working people who get paid the least are the migrant workers who harvest crops. I picked green beans one afternoon from noon to 6 pm and was paid 3 cents a pound. A bushel of green beans weighs about 26 pounds. I think I earned $5 for 6 hours of work. So I only did that for that single afternoon. I did work for a farmer for about 2 months at 90 cents an hour hoeing around tomato plants. Myself and three high school classmates all worked together. The farmer had acres and acres of tomatoes planted. Our job was just to try and keep the weeds down by striking the ground around each tomato plant with a hoe to dislodge and kill the weeds. I rode my bicycle about 7 miles to the farm. First thing each morning I clamped my hoe into a vice and hand sharpened it with a flat file. I brought a lunch and we took a half hour in the middle of the day to eat it. You checked out with the farmer at the end of the day and just let him know how many hours you worked that day. You didn’t get paid until the fall when he sold the tomatoes. He hired migrant workers to do the harvesting and they lived in little shacks that the farmer provided for them. These are some of the hardest working lowest paid people in America. And Mitt begrudges them even that. He wants to put up a fence doesn’t he?
I washed dishes at a restaurant one time for about a month and then quit to join the active duty Naval Reserve. And another time for one evening for 8 hours straight. I had an application on file and they called me to fill in for one night. My work was satisfactory so they had me scheduled to work more shifts later in the week. I called them the next day to say I wasn’t interested in any more work for them. They never even paid me for that one evening of work. Have you ever seen the TV show ’Hell’s Kitchen’ with the guy yelling at the cooks and everyone else. That was the atmosphere of this place. My point is that almost all people would like a nice job where they are appreciated, have a safe work environment and are paid appropriately. But we all know that many employers think they own you if you work for them.
I can recall even an accounting instructor I had telling me the big eight accounting firms will work you 10 hours a day for 6 days a week. You’re like a donkey pulling a cart and when you can’t pull the cart any more they cut you loose and just hitch up another donkey. So I never even bothered to interview with any accounting firms. It’s really the company you work for more than it is the job you are doing. A good company pretty much has all good jobs and a bad company pretty much has all bad jobs. I eventually found a good company where I worked for 20.5 yrs. I was paid enough so I could save for retirement. I did trade accounts payable for 9 yrs after spending one year in the mail room where I had started as a temp but then got hired on permanently. Then I did premium accounts receivable for 10.5 yrs. Then the company was sold to another company and I only worked for the new company for 18 months before they let me go. But I got to tell you it was a relief. I continued with my accounts receivable job while the accounts were being transferred over to the new company. I gradually started doing more and more enrollment as the accounts were being transferred. But they had a 9 enrollments per hour quota that was impossible to meet if you followed all the procedures they had which filled a 3 ring binder. I could see that the people doing enrollment at their home office were skipping procedures so I frequently had to clean up what they missed when the customer called in to customer service and complained. But it was an ‘at will’ company so they really didn’t need any reason to let you go. I just did the best I could for as long as I could. I’m just thankful I had 20.5 yrs of employment with the good company and was glad to get 18 months more of work. But it was a long hard 18 months knowing that the ax would eventually fall. I was not singled out. Many people got the ax way before I did. The whole accounting department (where I did not work) was let go after about 6 months. Most of the sales people were let go within a month. Our CEO was let go within a week. The CFO took over as regional manager and was still there when I left. It was an HMO and just before I left at the all staff meeting it was disclosed that our claims department had overpaid claims at a 6% rate. The claims paid in the previous 12 months totaled $350 million so they had overpaid some $22 million in claims. The hospitals and doctors kept almost all of it. My guess is that this had been going on for the 20.5 years that the company was in business. Ever hear Mitt complain about how much is being overpaid to the medical community? Probably wouldn’t get near the applause and cheers that his putting back work into welfare remarks get. And he’d probably get booed if he ever suggested ending exclusionary zoning.
My point is that there are a lot of ways people are getting something for nothing. But the people working for an hourly wage aren’t getting away with very much. Their earnings are minimized and what they pay for some of what they need is maximized. That is particularly true for housing and healthcare. That’s why I’m so passionate about ending exclusionary zoning so we can place a home of our own choosing on any residential lot that we can afford to buy. I’m sure Mitt would even complain about people getting a rent subsidy. But when you consider that the rent is being paid to a landlord, well then isn’t really the landlord the one who is being subsidized? Yes, Mitt, the answer is yes. The same with Medicaid and Medicare. The doctors and hospitals are getting subsidized and not the patient. You won’t see Mitt supporting an end to exclusionary zoning. I’ve contacted his campaign about it and got no response. There’s plenty of hypocrisy in our country and in our politicians.