Friday, September 13, 2013

Also Young, Stylish, and Broke

I was the 12 year old girl who wouldn't dare miss an issue of Vogue or Elle. Luckily, for the fabulous but economically downtrodden there are some websites to keep us fabulous for less. Sshhh, a real friend doesn't tell. Here are a some of my favorites:

1. Consign of the Times

2. Jill's Consignment

3. Yoogi's Closet

4. Fashionphile

5. Luxe DH

6.Bag Borrow or Steal

7. Couture UA

8. Snob Swap


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Change Is Good: Evolve Or Die

For the few of you that follow my blog of career flops, economic woe, and frustration I would like to thank you for letting me vent for the past few years. I'm happy to say I may have figured it all out. For the first time in a long time I feel hopeful and excited about the future instead of feeling crushing anxiety. Now that I am married, single friends ask me "Well how did you know he was the one?" and when you know - when the answer is right in front of you - its not a leap of faith. It is a logical continuation of something you innately feel works. Perhaps that doesn't sound romantic but it is: its something that comes so natural you don't question it. Finding my mate was simply a matter of recognizing a good fit.

A "good fit" is surely an oversimplification and I do not mean to infer that when you meet the right person everything is then easy. But recognizing when something in your life works well is not as effortless as it sounds. Perhaps it's my stubborn nature, but looking back over my array or jobs the last five years I can see a pattern of trying to make a job work that I wasn't cut out for. Not to say I wasn't good at it, but it may have not been challenging enough or I found I was putting in enormous effort and getting nothing in return. I also have a problem with inefficiency. When I see it and I am not given the tools or authority to fix it I go crazy. We work so hard to make things easier right? To make money and manage tasks as smoothly as possible? So why do we put up with broken systems or processes that make our life harder when we are capable of changing what's wrong? It's trying to pound the proverbial square peg into a round hole. And I am so done with the square peg.

So I have decided to scrap what doesn't work in my life. I have found that working for corporations is not for me. I cannot abide by rules that are unethical, illogical, or exist for the sake of existing. If you see a problem, you fix it in a reasonable amount of time. People are living, breathing, and thinking organisms - they are not a legion of robot slaves that punch in and punch out on command. Human beings, like the rest of the natural world, are constantly evolving and over coming obstacles to be better than we were yesterday. Sitting at a cubicle day after day with a set of problems that never change is not evolution, it's a recipe for misery and a stagnation of your strengths.

After many years of trying to make myself become a good worker bee I have rejected the hive. I have decided to focus on what I am good at and offer my expertise as a freelancer. This means I pick my projects, I use my proficiency in ways that best benefit me, and I have the freedom to use my time as I see fit. No more waiting for the clock to hit 6 pm with nothing to do. My time is valuable and I choose to spend it in ways where I advance the best. My accomplishments do not go into the pocket of some CEO that doesn't know my name.

It hasn't been a cake walk. Starting your own company is stressful. Small businesses do have their pitfalls. Clients don't magically appear wanting to hand you money. But I'm figuring all this out and I feel good about myself and what I am doing. I work on projects I actually enjoy. My commute is to the kitchen in the morning and then to my home office in the room across from my bed room. I have time to fix a nice dinner from scratch while I do research and write articles. I get to spend more time with my beloved Akita who is getting up in years. It is true: Life is what you make it. And I am creating my life how I see fit. Never again will I force myself into a structure that doesn't suit me.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Corporate Welfare

Welfare for the Rich

            We seem to be hearing more and more these days about corporate welfare: what companies are getting what, who's paying for it, and who is benefiting. Unfortunately, very few are benefiting and those that are rake in millions. What exactly does corporate welfare do to our country?

            To start off, corporate welfare comes from our taxpayer dollars to help big business in our country. It comes in the form of tax breaks, tax holidays, and government subsidies. Corporations are supposed to be taxed at a flat rate of 35% in United States. These companies should be a great source of revenue for our country but they are increasingly becoming a huge cost to taxpayers.

            A recent article titled "Corporate Welfare Queens" in the National Review stated that "this marriage of Big Government and Big Business carries a price tag of $50 billion each year" (26). The article goes on to say that post-9/11 the federal government allocated $500 million to entice corporations affected by the disaster to remain in lower Manhattan. American Express got $25 million of this payout and then announced that they were planning to stay in Manhattan anyway – they'd already been there 150 years. Spokesman for American Express Tony Mitchell was quoted as saying: "Once those financial incentives became available, we chose to participate" (28).

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is the poster child for why corporate welfare is ridiculous.  Wal-Mart is one of the largest recipients of government subsidies, grants, and other public funds. According to an article by Jenna Wright, 90% of Wal-Mart's distribution centers have been subsidized by federal and local governments. These subsidies are estimated to total $1 billion dollars and change. Wright gave an example of the Wal-Mart in Sharon Springs, New York which made a deal with an industrial development agency so it could evade property taxes. This deal will save the Sharon Springs Wal-Mart $46 million dollars over the lifetime of that particular agreement.

            Why would Wal-Mart even need these types of deals? They are the largest corporation in the world and the largest private employer in the United States and Mexico. In 2006 alone, the company made a net income of $12.178 billion dollars. Why are we giving them money? Surely, they can afford to cover their own business costs. Sadly, government subsidies and evading taxes are not the only ways Wal-Mart chooses to bypass their responsibilities.

            Wal-Mart has become notorious for trying to cheat their employees on hours, wages, and healthcare. Wal-Mart pays its employees at or close to poverty level – which is just under $15,000 per year. Only 41-46% of Wal-Mart employees can afford the healthcare coverage provided. Other large firms have approximately 67% of their workers using their healthcare program.

"Instead of providing affordable health insurance, Wal-Mart encourages its employees to sign up for publicly funded programs, dodging its healthcare costs, and passing them off to taxpayers" says Jenna Wright (2).

This is a multi-billion dollar problem for taxpayers here in the United States. In California alone, providing government healthcare to Wal-Mart employees costs taxpayers an estimated $32 million dollars a year.
Due to media attention, the practices of Wal-Mart might not be such a big surprise. What might come as a shock is what is referred to as a "tax holiday".  According to a New York Times article:

"The United States' corporate tax policy gives companies a strong incentive to move their profits to low-tax havens, such as Ireland and Luxembourg. Once there, the profits are allowed to grow untaxed by the United States until they are repatriated."

In early 2005, our government gave American companies a tax-holiday which allowed them to repatriate foreign profits back to the U.S. and taxed those profits at a rate of 5.25% instead of the required 35%. An estimated $100-500 billion dollars found its way back to the U.S. Johnson & Johnson repatriated $11 billion, Hewlett-Packard had $14.5 billion, and the drug company Pfizer had a whopping $29 billion eligible for repatriation.

            Lou Dobbs, in his book War on the Middle Class, said that "fifty years ago, corporate income taxes made up a third of all federal revenues; now corporations account for just an eighth" (30). Dobbs also points out that these same companies that go abroad to save their profits from U.S. taxes come back and ask our government for federal contracts. He quotes Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, an opponent of this practice, as saying "It's about 1.4 billion in contracts. And we lose about $5 billion in revenue every single year" (32). We are, in effect, paying these companies to not pay taxes.
Why is the federal government allowing this to happen? Congress' excuse for the 2005 tax holiday was that it would unleash money that would create new jobs. The New York Times pointed out corporations would likely use this extra money to buy other companies which would more likely lead to layoffs – not new jobs. The Multinational Monitor pointed out another rationale for awarding contracts while cutting taxes for rich companies is that the competitive marketplace is more efficient than government – "but now half of the contracts are awarded without a competitive, open-bidding process".
The corporations aren't the only ones to blame for this widespread misuse of government funds. Robert Pear and Michael Janofsky, writing for the New York Times, reported that:

"Tucked inside the Medicare bill is an assortment of provisions that have nothing to do with providing drug benefits to the elderly…big bills become larded with whatever bait it takes to get a majority to vote. A lot of money in the Medicare bill is spent on things that have nothing to do with a prescription benefit."

Incumbents use these bills for pet projects that help them get re-elected. The American taxpayers, eager to complain about paying taxes, must not be paying attention to what their money is being spent on. These corporations, with the help of Congress and other governmental agencies, are not paying their fair share – not even close.

So who's left holding the bag? The middle class who accounts for more than half of the United States' taxes is left holding the bag. Pensions are underfunded by $450 billion according to author Alan Greenblatt. Minimum-wage earners have lost 17 percent of their purchasing power to inflation since the last increase which was in 1997. Jobs are being shipped overseas by American companies looking for cheap labor. Meanwhile, executive compensation has tripled and our wealthiest citizens (and companies) are getting tax cuts – even free handouts.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Once In A Lifetime

"You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack 

You may find yourself in another part of the world 
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile 
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife 
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

Never gave much thought to this song by the Talking Heads until today. The question rings in my head - how did I get here? Ring isn't really the right word, more like clangs like the largest pair of cymbals you've ever seen. So much has happened to me since all hell broke loose on the economy and job market in 2008. My personal life has never been so great having recently gotten married to a wonderful man I adore. But my professional life has been on a steady decline for the past 5 years.

This is very frustrating. I did everything I was supposed to. I went to school, I studied hard. I worked while I went to college, I did an internship, I founded a college special interest group, I got my friends involved in national causes with me, I protested, I cataloged events in photographs, all I wanted to do was impact the world around me and spread awareness about major issues affecting Americans. Everything a political science major could do. I wanted to work in the non-profit sector. I did for a year and a half. I loved it. I haven't been able to get back into it. My current job is so incredibly far from where I aimed, the only thing I have left to be proud of is that I am honest and I put in every effort to be fair despite the deceptive nature of the company I work for. But I look at my life and wonder: how did I get here? This is not my life!

As much as my own predicament bothers me, it's what I see around me that is suffocating, shocking, and disturbing. I have always been drawn to how politics, the public, and non-government groups can affect our American society. In the last six months we have had an elementary school massacre and a terrorist attack. I see billboards in my city advertising guns and gun shows at a volume I ever never seen before. The American Dream my grandparents were able to live seems so unreachable to me it doesn't seem possible it could have ever happened. We are shifting so rapidly from the past and our ideals that the time when things were different, when we had hope, are fading from memory.

I believe life means less to us than it used to. I believe that our history is being skewed in order to fulfill agendas and propagate half-truths. I believe that corporations are now more important than people. I believe we are signing our own death warrant with our ignorance. I believe we have been alienated from our original principles. And I'm starting to believe there is no way out. This is not my life and this is not my country. I do not recognize it anymore.