Waiting On Hold

I have opined many times in my writings this past decade that because of the catastrophic decline in high paying manufacturing jobs in America during the past forty years, which has resulted in the degeneration in the middle class livelihood, the next recession/depression would make the Great Depression look like it was still part of the Roaring ‘20s.  It doesn’t take a Nobel prize-winning economist to comprehend that because the majority of jobs left in this country are in the service industry, that when people are forced to stop spending because of declining economic conditions, all those service jobs would dry up in a chain reaction of financial events.

Having spent ninety minutes this past week, talking to five different sales reps with AT&T, and still not getting accomplished the reason for my call in the first place, I became slightly agitated to say the least while waiting on hold each time for the next sales person to answer my call.  By the time I spoke with the fourth person, who apologized for this lack of appropriate service, I told her that at least it gave me the topic for my next blog entry.

Granted, my solution to solving America’s unemployment problem involves service jobs, and they are most likely low paying jobs as well, however, judging by how often a person spends waiting on hold for what seems like every phone call made to a commercial establishment, every business in America desperately needs to double at the very least the number of people they employ in their customer service department.  How much time is wasted in America every year by the amount of time every citizen is on hold while waiting to talk to an actual person.  This incessant waiting on hold is not just a commercial industry problem, as any one who has to deal with our government at any level, especially Social Security, can testify to.

What is really irritating is to be informed every thirty seconds that I am on hold waiting to talk to someone.  After five or ten minutes of constantly being reminded that I am on hold, I find myself cussing out the maddening automated voice.  My ranting at a robotic message does not accomplish anything but it sure makes me feel better.

Steven H. Spring




Tax Reform Versus Class Warfare

How is it that a person earning $20.9 million last year paid only 15.4% in federal taxes, or that same person earned $21.65 million but paid only 13.9% in federal taxes the year before?  It doesn’t seem right, nor equitable, but these two examples are exactly what Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney paid the federal government the past two years according to his tax returns he just released earlier this week.  Mr. Romney most likely did nothing illegal in his tax filings, however it is a sad commentary on America’s income tax system when the upper one percent of income earners in this country pay a significantly far less percentage of tax than the average working American.  Mr. Romney earns more in interest on his vast investment holdings in just one day than most Americans do working an entire year, yet he believes the ultra rich still pays far too greater a burden in taxes.  Why does Romney also have his money in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland?  Once again, there is probably nothing illegal in doing so, but it just sounds fishy to me for a candidate for the office of President of the United States who has investment money in overseas banks, one country notorious for being a tax haven, the other for being a place where criminals and dictators hide their ill-gotten income.

By releasing only two years worth of tax returns, the first thought that comes to mind is why not release a few more years?  Romney should release at least the past five years worth of returns as this is the length of time that he has been running for president.  In 1968, while also running for president, George Romney released twelve years worth of returns.  The senior Romney stated at the time that by releasing so many years worth of tax returns, nothing could be hidden from the public, in that a person could legally conceal much information regarding their income and taxes paid by releasing just a year or two.  Yesterday, I heard one television political commentator remark, and I wish I could remember all the facts, that during the 1990s when Congress was attempting to correct some of this injustice, that all the major financial services companies fought passionately to prevent this from happening.  One of them being Bain Capital, Mr. Romney’s old venture capital firm.  Ironic, isn’t it?

In addition to his tax filings, it has been reported that Mr. Romney gave his five sons $100 million and not one son was required to pay any gift tax on the bequest.  Again, there was probably nothing illegal in how Mr. Romney did so, but it is just that our tax code so favors the wealthy elite at the expense of the middle class, who has to pay more than their fair share to make up for what the rich fail to adequately pay.  All these shenanigans remind me of the old play on the Golden Rule, that being the one who has the gold, makes the rules.  In my most recent blog that I posted on Monday, I opined that America is no longer a democracy but has instead become a plutocracy, governed by the wealthy elite, be they individuals or corporations.

Mr. Romney isn’t the only person to take advantage of our inequitable tax laws.  Wall Street money barons earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, yet because their earnings are legally counted as capital gains and not income, pay only 15% federal tax.  The Republican Party does a great job convincing a good number of Americans that when President Obama talks of raising taxes on the upper one percent of income earners that he wants to raise everyone’s taxes.  Why so many people fall for this erroneous distortion of the president’s proposal is beyond me.  I try to give such people the benefit of doubt and blame it on misinformation and political propaganda by the far right, ultra-conservative media machine.  All you need is one page for the tax code, that being a schedule of tax rates per applicable income level, the other 30,000 pages of tax rules and regulations are for various deductions so rich folk and corporations can avoid paying their fair share.  America’s tax laws greatly need overhauled so that all Americans pay a just rate.  And no, this isn’t class warfare nor envy as many of our Republican leaders like to proclaim, it’s judiciousness.

Steven H. Spring





Democracy Not Plutocracy

With the presidential election ten months away, campaign commercials are already starting to air in Ohio both for and in opposition to President Barack Obama.  The landmark Supreme Court ruling two years ago in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the highest court in the land determined that freedom of speech guarantees corporations and unions have the constitutional right to spend an unlimited amount of money on political campaigns ensures that our television and radio airwaves will be fully saturated with political advertisements by the time November rolls around.  So much so that many citizens will be so turned off by the onslaught of commercials that they will give up their constitutional right to vote, choosing instead to opt out of the system.  One could hardly blame such a person.

What the Citizens United ruling did was to create the so-called Super Pacs, which are raising hundreds of millions of dollars for various candidates and issues for the current campaign season.  Although these Super Pacs are required by law to disclose their financial contributors, these political action committees have discovered a technicality in which they are not required to disclose how they are financed until after the election.  Money isn’t free speech any more than corporations are people.  All the Supreme Court ruling ensured is that corporations and wealthy individuals will have an immense undue influence in all future elections.  A person would have to be brain-dead to believe that a wealthy individual or especially a corporation expects nothing in return for their high dollar campaign contribution.  History has already proven time and again that money does buy influence.

As Big Money overpowers all else in America, we are dangerously close to no longer being a democracy.  Instead, this nation is fast becoming a plutocracy, in that we are being governed by the wealthy elite, be it an individual or corporation.  It is time for the citizens of this country to realize that the time has come for them to take back this country from the grasp of Big Money before it’s too late.  Because of infinite numbers, the middle class and working poor can still exert its influence in politics despite the contribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign donations by the rich and powerful.  All they have to do is stay informed and vote in every election.  However, to ensure that America remains a representative democracy, campaign contributions should be limited in size and only by that of individual citizens.  And no, corporations are not people and as such, they should be banned from financial contribution to any political campaign.

Steven H. Spring



5 Hour Energy

Though the just completed holiday season is at its core a religious celebration, it is also a sports junky’s month-long fix.  I gave up watching the NBA several decades ago, but make up for it this time of the year with college basketball, college football bowl season and the NFL playoffs.  I will admit though, that I do limit the number of games that I watch.  One good thing about watching television is that if I am sitting in front of the TV, I have one of my guitars on my lap practicing my music.  However, watching a good number of games this holiday season, I was alarmed by the enormous number of commercials for 5 Hour Energy.  I believe that there was even a bowl game sponsored by this energy supplement.

These commercials recommend drinking 5 Hour Energy every morning for breakfast.  If you need a shot of 5 Hour Energy or any of the other energy boosters now available every morning just to get going, you have some serious problems in your life.  One can only imagine what will happen to a person health-wise as their body builds up a tolerance and addiction to these energy boosters after prolong use.

We are raising generations of children and young adults who first get their caffeine kick from Mountain Dew, then move on to more potent sports drinks and finally go hardcore with 5 Hour Energy or any of the other energy boosters now commonly available.  I find it incredible that 5 Hour Energy is sold at nearly every grocery or convenience store, placed at the check-out counter right beside the candy, with no age restrictions whatsoever.  Is there any wonder why our children can’t sit still in school and that we resort to drugging them with Ritalin and other mind altering drugs, which has become an epidemic in its use?

Steven H. Spring