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Handout Nation: Combined Enrollment In America’s 4 Largest Safety Net Programs Hits A Record High Of 236 Million

Margaret Thatcher once said that the problem with socialism “is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”.  As you will see below, the combined enrollment in America’s four largest safety net programs has reached a staggering 236 million.  Of course that doesn’t mean that 236 million people are getting benefits from the government each month because there is overlap between the various programs.  For example, many Americans that are on Medicaid are also on food stamps, and many Americans that are on Medicare are also on Social Security.  But even accounting for that, most experts estimate that the number of Americans that are dependent on the federal government month after month is well over 100 million.  And now that so many people are addicted to government handouts, can we ever return to a culture of independence and self-sufficiency?

On Wednesday, CNN ran an editorial by Bernie Sanders in which he called President Trump’s proposed budget “immoral” because it would cut funding for government aid programs.

But is it moral to steal more than a hundred million dollars from future generations of Americans every single hour of every single day to pay for these programs?

Of course the answer to that question is quite obvious.

There will always be some Americans that are unable to take care of themselves, and we should want to help them.

But as millions upon millions of Americans continue to jump on to the safety net, eventually we are going to get to the point where it is going to break.

As I mentioned above, the combined enrollment in the four largest safety net programs has reached a new all-time record high…

More than 74 million Americans are on Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

More than  58 million Americans are on Medicare.

More than 60 million Americans are on Social Security.

Approximately 44 million Americans are on food stamps.  And even though we are supposedly in an “economic recovery”, this number is still dramatically higher than the 26 million Americans that were on food stamps prior to the last financial crisis.

When you add the figures for those four programs together, you get a grand total of 236 million, and that doesn’t even count any of the other federal programs which are helping people.

Once again, there is overlap in enrollment between these various programs, but even accounting for that most experts believe that well over a third of the country is currently receiving benefits from the government each month.

How far down this road do we have to go before people start calling it “socialism”?

As I was writing this, I was reminded of one of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous quotes

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”

In our country today, many politicians have discovered that one of the best ways to win elections is to promise the voters as much free stuff as possible.  This is one of the primary reasons why Bernie Sanders did so well.  Young people loved his socialist policies, and he received more votes from Millennials in the primaries and caucuses than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.

As older generations of Americans continue to die off, the Millennials will just become even more powerful politically.  And considering the fact that they are far more liberal than other generations, that is a very alarming prospect…

In the minds of 80 percent of baby boomers and 91 percent of elderly Americans, communism was a major problem in years past and remains a significant concern today. But millennials, aged 16 to 20 years, see it differently. Only 55 percent of the younger generation take issue with communism, 45 percent say they would vote for a socialist and 21 percent say they’d vote for a communist.

And millennials made all that clear during the Democratic presidential primary, when many of them cast their vote for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed socialist. In fact, the report credits the New England lawmaker with a “bounce” that led to less than half of millennials — 42 percent — having a favorable view of capitalism.

At this point, the Republic that our founders established is barely recognizable, and if it is going to be saved we need a conservative revolution as soon as possible.

A good place to begin would be to dramatically reduce the size and scope of the federal government, and there are some promising signs in the budget that President Trump has proposed.  He wants to completely eliminate 66 federal programs, and liberals are screaming bloody murder over this.

Of course Trump’s budget is “dead on arrival” in Congress because many among his own party do not support him.  Most Republicans campaign as conservatives but govern like Democrats, and it is high time that we held them accountable for that.  In 2018 we are going get Trump a whole bunch of friends in Congress, and a lot of those establishment Republicans that have been betraying conservatives for years are going to have to find a new line of work.

We simply cannot afford to keep sending the same cast of characters back to Washington time after time.  Just look at the debacle that the effort to repeal Obamacare has become.  According to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, getting any sort of bill through the Senate is going to be extremely challenging

Referring to behind-the-scenes work among Senate Republicans on a healthcare bill, McConnell said, “I don’t know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that’s the goal.”

Under a scenario of gathering the votes needed for passage in the 100-seat chamber, Republican Vice President Mike Pence would be called upon to cast any potential tie-breaking Senate vote.

McConnell opened the interview by saying, “There’s not a whole lot of news to be made on healthcare.” He declined to provide any timetable for producing even a draft bill to show to rank-and-file Republican senators and gauge their support.

And yet somehow when Obama was in office the Republicans in the House and the Senate were able to easily pass a bill to repeal Obamacare and get it to Obama’s desk.

Why can’t they get that exact same bill to Trump’s desk?

We definitely need to “drain the swamp” in D.C., and we can start with Congress.

But the alliance between big money and big government is going to be hard to defeat, and so if we want our country back we are going to have to fight harder than we have ever fought before.

It Is Mathematically Impossible To Pay Off All Of Our Debt

Money - Public DomainDid you know that if you took every single penny away from everyone in the United States that it still would not be enough to pay off the national debt?  Today, the debt of the federal government exceeds $145,000 per household, and it is getting worse with each passing year.  Many believe that if we paid it off a little bit at a time that we could eventually pay it all off, but as you will see below that isn’t going to work either.  It has been projected that “mandatory” federal spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare plus interest on the national debt will exceed total federal revenue by the year 2025.  That is before a single dollar is spent on the U.S. military, homeland security, paying federal workers or building any roads and bridges.  So no, we aren’t going to be “paying down” our debt any time in the foreseeable future.  And of course it isn’t just our 18 trillion dollar national debt that we need to be concerned about.  Overall, Americans are a total of 58 trillion dollars in debt.  35 years ago, that number was sitting at just 4.3 trillion dollars.  There is no way in the world that all of that debt can ever be repaid.  The only thing that we can hope for now is for this debt bubble to last for as long as possible before it finally explodes.

It shocks many people to learn that our debt is far larger than the total amount of money in existence.  So let’s take a few moments and go through some of the numbers.

When most people think of “money”, they think of coins, paper money and checking accounts.  All of those are contained in one of the most basic measures of money known as M1.  The following definition of M1 comes from Investopedia

A measure of the money supply that includes all physical money, such as coins and currency, as well as demand deposits, checking accounts and Negotiable Order of Withdrawal (NOW) accounts. M1 measures the most liquid components of the money supply, as it contains cash and assets that can quickly be converted to currency.

As you can see from the chart below, M1 has really grown in recent years thanks to rampant quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve.  At the moment it is sitting just shy of 3 trillion dollars…

M1 Money Supply 2015

So if you gathered up all coins, all paper currency and all money in everyone’s checking accounts, would that even make much of a dent in our debt?

Nope.

We’ll have to find more “money” to grab.

M2 is a broader definition of money than M1 is, because it includes more things.  The following definition of M2 comes from Investopedia

A measure of money supply that includes cash and checking deposits (M1) as well as near money. “Near money” in M2 includes savings deposits, money market mutual funds and other time deposits, which are less liquid and not as suitable as exchange mediums but can be quickly converted into cash or checking deposits.

As you can see from the chart below, M2 is sitting just short of 12 trillion dollars right now…

M2 Money Supply 2015

That is a lot more “money”, but it still wouldn’t pay off our national debt, much less our total debt of 58 trillion dollars.

So is there anything else that we could grab?

Well, the broadest definition of “money” that is commonly used is M3.  The following definition of M3 comes from Investopedia

A measure of money supply that includes M2 as well as large time deposits, institutional money market funds, short-term repurchase agreements and other larger liquid assets. The M3 measurement includes assets that are less liquid than other components of the money supply, and are more closely related to the finances of larger financial institutions and corporations than to those of businesses and individuals. These types of assets are referred to as “near, near money.”

The Federal Reserve no longer provides charts for M3, but according to John Williams of shadowstats.com, M3 is currently sitting somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 trillion dollars.

So even with the broadest possible definition of “money”, we simply cannot come up with enough to pay off the debt of the federal government, much less the rest of our debts.

That is not good news at all.

Alternatively, could we just start spending less than we bring in and start paying down the national debt a little bit at a time?

Perhaps that may have been true at one time, but now we are really up against a wall.  Our rapidly aging population is going to put an enormous amount of stress on our national finances in the years ahead.

According to U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, interest on the national debt plus “mandatory” spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will surpass the total amount of federal revenue by the year 2025.  That is before a single penny is spent on homeland security, national defense, paying federal workers, etc.

But even now things are a giant mess.  We are told that “deficits are under control”, but that is a massive hoax that is based on accounting gimmicks.  During fiscal year 2014, the U.S. national debt increased by more than a trillion dollars.  That is not “under control” – that is a raging national crisis.

Many believe that that we could improve the situation by raising taxes.  And yes, a little bit more could probably be squeezed out of us, but the impact on government finances would be negligible.  Since the end of World War II, the amount of tax revenue taken in by the federal government has fluctuated in a range between 15 and 20 percent of GDP no matter what tax rates have been.  I believe that it is possible to get up into the low twenties, but that would also be very damaging to our economy and the American public would probably throw a huge temper tantrum.

The real problem, of course, is our out of control spending.

During the past two decades, spending by the federal government has grown 63 percent more rapidly than inflation, and “mandatory” spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has actually doubled after you adjust for inflation.

We simply cannot afford to keep spending money like this.

And then there is the matter of interest on the national debt.  For the moment, the rest of the world is lending us gigantic mountains of money at ridiculously low interest rates.  However, if the average rate of interest on U.S. government debt was just to return to the long-term average, we would be spending more than a trillion dollars a year just in interest on the national debt.

So the best possible environment for “paying down our debt” that we are ever going to see is happening right now.  The only place that interest rates on U.S. government debt have to go is up, and our population is going to just keep getting older and more dependent on government programs.

Meanwhile, our overall debt continues to spiral out of control as well.  According to CNBC, the total amount of debt that Americans owe has reached a staggering 58.7 trillion dollars…

As the nation entered the 1980s, there was comparatively little debt—just about $4.3 trillion. That was only about 1.5 times the size of gross GDP. Then a funny thing happened.

The gap began to widen during the decade, and then became basically parabolic through the ’90s and into the early part of the 21st century.

Though debt took a brief decline in 2009 as the country limped its way out of the financial crisis, it has climbed again and is now, at $58.7 trillion, 3.3 times the size of GDP and about 13 times what it was in 1980, according to data from the Federal Reserve’s St. Louis branch. (The total debt measure is not to be confused with the $18.2 trillion national debt, which is 102 percent of GDP and is a subset of the total figure.)

As I discussed above, there isn’t enough money in our entire system to even pay off a significant chunk of that debt.

So what happens when the total amount of debt in a society vastly exceeds the total amount of money?

Is there any way out other than collapse?

You can share what you think by posting a comment below…

Flat Broke, Living In A Moldy Basement And Relying On Food Stamps And Medicaid

Lock In The Rain - Public DomainCould you imagine being a single parent and trying to survive in America today on $10.50 an hour?  For a moment, I want you to imagine that you are living in a moldy apartment that is so badly maintained that rain seeps in whenever it rains.  You are employed, but you are completely dependent on government programs such as food stamps and Medicaid in order to make ends meet.  Sometimes you would really like to take your small child somewhere fun, like a movie theater, but you can’t really afford the gas money.  You are working as hard as you can, but you never seem to get anywhere, and you feel trapped because nobody seems to want to hire you for a better job.  What I have just described for you is real life for a 22-year-old single mother from Chicago named Adriana Alvarez, but there are tens of millions of other Americans that have similar stories.  If every day seems like it is a soul-crushing struggle for you, I want you to know that you are not alone.  The long-term economic collapse that I chronicle on my website is not just about facts and figures.  It is about real people that are quietly leading lives of silent desperation, and by now it has becoming exceedingly apparent that our politicians, the mainstream media and the gigantic corporations that dominate our economy do not really care much about the rest of us at all.

Life fundamentally changes once you become a parent.  Instead of living just for yourself, all of a sudden you have a precious little child that is completely and totally dependent on you.  And it is absolutely heartbreaking for any parent to look into the eyes of a little child and try to explain why there is not enough food or why they can’t afford a better place to live.

With that in mind, I want you to read an excerpt from Adriana’s recent blog post entitled “What It’s Really Like To Support Yourself On McDonald’s Pay“…

I’m a single mom with a three-year-old son named Manny. To support him, I work full-time as a cashier at a McDonald’s in Chicago.

I’ve worked at McDonald’s for five years, but still make only $10.50 an hour. The only way my son and I can make it is with food stamps, Medicaid, and a child care subsidy. Most of my coworkers are in the same boat, no matter how long they’ve held their jobs.

With child care, transportation to work, food, rent, and our other basic expenses, there’s no money left over for living. Every time I think about taking Manny somewhere fun, like to a movie, I have to think about whether we can really afford the gas.

When you only make $10.50 an hour and you have a child to take care of, you are obviously very limited as far as where you can live, and where Adriana lives sounds extremely depressing

We live in a basement apartment, because it’s all I can afford. When it rains, water seeps into the apartment. This wetness brings mold, and I can’t get rid of the smell. We can’t even leave anything on the floor, which is tough with a three-year-old. Toys or anything else on the floor may get ruined when the water comes in.

So what is the solution for Adriana?

Well, she is taking part in nationwide strikes to try to force McDonald’s to pay workers like her a livable wage.

Unfortunately, that simply is not going to happen.  McDonald’s restaurants are already experiencing a sales downturn, and if they raise wages substantially they will get crushed by the competition.

And of course those jobs were never meant for people that are trying to raise families.  When I was growing up, it was teenagers and senior citizens that worked at McDonald’s.  I know, because I was one of those teenagers.

But now millions upon millions of Americans in their prime working years are doing these kinds of jobs.  As good jobs have disappeared from our economy, the competition for the jobs that remain has become extremely intense.  It is really easy to tell Adriana that she should “get a better job”, but that can be extremely difficult in this economy, especially if you don’t have much education.

I know a lot of sharp, talented, responsible people that have been unemployed for a very long time or that are working at places like McDonald’s because nobody else will hire them.  I am amazed that there is not a place for their talents and abilities in the “greatest economy on Earth”.  But you know what?  Things are about to get a whole lot worse out there.

A few months ago, I wrote that the crashing price of oil was going to cause massive job losses in the energy industry, and now it is happening.

According to Yahoo, more than 100,000 layoffs have already been announced, and this could be just the tip of the iceberg…

Since crude prices began tumbling last year, energy companies have announced plans to lay off more than 100,000 workers around the world. At least 91,000 layoffs have already materialized, with the majority coming in oil-field-services and drilling companies, according to research by Graves & Co., a Houston consulting firm.

And remember, these are not $10.50 an hour jobs.  Many of these jobs pay well into the six figures annually.  These are exactly the kinds of jobs that the U.S. economy simply cannot afford to lose.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is colluding with Congress to push through the next great job killing trade agreement.  The following was in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday…

Lawmakers introduced fast-track trade legislation into the House and Senate Thursday that could pave the way for President Barack Obama to conclude a major agreement with 11 nations around the Pacific.

This agreement is called “The Trans-Pacific Partnership”, and it would result in millions more good jobs being sent overseas.  For much more about this shocking betrayal of the American people, please see my previous article entitled “Obama’s Secret Treaty Would Be The Most Important Step Toward A One World Economic System“.

What our economy desperately needs is more jobs, not less jobs.

And traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth in this country.

Unfortunately, our politicians have been absolutely killing small businesses for decades.  Just look at the chart below.  It comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, and it is extremely alarming.  Back in 1980, nearly half of all firms in America were considered to be “young”, and those young firms accounted for almost half of all job creation.  Since that time, there has been a slow, steady, depressing decline…

 

Share Of Firms That Are Young

And as I discussed the other day, more businesses have closed in the United States than have opened for each of the past six years.

Prior to 2008, that had never happened before in all of American history.

Thank you Barack Obama.

When I talk about our “long-term economic collapse”, I am not exaggerating.

Our economy is literally dying right in front of our eyes, and it is people like Adriana Alvarez that are paying the price.

We desperately need to go back and start doing the things that once made this country so great, but unfortunately we continue running in the other direction as fast as we can.

So in the end, things are going to get much, much worse.

Things did not have to turn out this way, but these are the choices that we have made, and now we get to live with them.

The 2.6 Billion Dollar Welfare Payment That The U.S. Government Gives To Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart Should the federal government be spending billions of dollars to pump up Wal-Mart’s profits?  I know that question sounds really bizarre, but unfortunately this is essentially what is happening.  Because Wal-Mart does not pay them enough money, hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart employees enroll in Medicaid, food stamps and other social welfare programs.  Even though Wal-Mart makes enormous profits, they refuse to properly take care of their employees so the federal government has to do it.  And of course this is not just a Wal-Mart problem.  There are hundreds of other major corporations doing exactly the same thing.  And they will keep on doing it as long as they can because relying on the federal government to take care of their employees allows them to make much larger profits.  This gives these companies an enormous competitive advantage and it distorts the marketplace.  If you love the free enterprise system, you should be aghast at this.  Our big corporations have become the biggest “welfare queens” of all, and Wal-Mart is near the top of that list.

Does your local Wal-Mart store seem like it needs help from the federal government?

Of course not.

Wal-Marts all over the nation were absolutely packed this holiday season, but according to a recent Bloomberg article, the average amount of welfare that Wal-Mart employees receive from the government each year breaks down to about $420,000 per store…

Wal-Mart’s low wages have led to full-time employees seeking public assistance. These are not the 47 percent, lazy, unmotivated bums. Rather, these are people working physical, often difficult jobs. They receive $2.66 billion in government help each year (including $1 billion in healthcare assistance). That works out to about $5,815 per worker. And about $420,000 per store.

Does that make you angry?

It should.

Today, Wal-Mart employs approximately 1.2 million people in the United States, and it makes a yearly profit of about 17 billion dollars.

So why does it need 2.6 billion dollars of help from the U.S. government?

Wal-Mart is a colossal money-making behemoth.  Just consider the following numbers

The size of Wal-Mart is sometimes difficult to visualize. To put it into some context, consider the following: 100 million U.S. shoppers patronize Wal-Mart stores every week. Wal-Mart has twice the number employees of the U.S. Postal Service, a larger global computer network than the Pentagon, and the world’s largest fleet of trucks. Americans spend about $36 million dollars per hour at the stores. Wal-Mart now sells more food than any other company in the world, capturing one of every four dollars spent on food in the U.S. The average American family of four spends over $4,000 a year there. Each week, it has 200 million customers at more than 10,400 stores in 27 countries. If the company were an independent country, it would be the 25th largest economy in the world.

Wal-Mart does well enough to be able to pay their workers a livable wage.

And yet they refuse to do it.

Shame on them.

Meanwhile, the six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the poorest one-third of all Americans combined.

This reminds me of something that I read in the fifth chapter of James the other day…

Come now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.  Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten.  Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days.  Indeed the wages that you kept back by fraud from the laborers who harvested your fields are crying, and the cries of those who harvested have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts.  You have lived in pleasure on the earth and have been wayward. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter.

But we continue to reward this behavior, don’t we?

100 million of us continue to visit Wal-Mart every single week, and we continue to fill up our shopping carts with cheap products that are made outside this country.

We refuse to support American workers and American businesses, and this is a recipe for utter disaster.  For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “National Economic Suicide: The U.S. Trade Deficit With China Just Hit A New Record High“.

The truth is that we cannot consume our way to prosperity.  When we consume far more wealth than we produce, we pile up debt and we become poorer as a nation.

And as a country we have become exceedingly cold-hearted toward our workers.  If you truly love free markets and capitalism, you should be encouraging big companies to pay their workers properly.  Instead, we are moving closer and closer to the slave labor model employed by China and other communist nations with each passing day.  Sadly, I am becoming increasingly convinced that many prominent “pro-business” voices in America today are actually closet communists.  They seem to want everything to be made in China and for American workers to be paid just like Chinese workers.

At this point, the U.S. middle class is well on the way to being destroyed.  As I have written about previously, 40 percent of all American workers now make less than what a minimum wage worker made back in 1968 after you account for inflation.

How is the middle class supposed to survive in such an environment?

And for any “pro-business” people that want to defend Wal-Mart, do you actually like paying suffocating taxes to support all of the people that are being forced on to the safety net?

What is our society going to look like as millions more Americans become dependent on the federal government each year?  Government dependence is already at an all-time record high.  How much worse do things have to get before we admit that we have a real problem?

Unfortunately, it looks like our problems are only going to accelerate in 2015.  Thanks to the stunning decline in the price of oil, we are starting to lose good paying jobs in the energy industry

One company caught in the industry downturn is Hercules Offshore Inc. The Houston-based firm is laying off 324 employees, roughly 15% of its workforce, because oil companies aren’t renewing contracts for its offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico while crude prices are depressed.

“It’s been breathtaking,” said Jim Noe, executive vice president of Hercules, which was founded in 2004. “We’ve never seen this glut of supply and dislocation in oil markets. So we’re not surprised to see a significant decline in demand for our services.”

These are jobs that we cannot afford to lose.

Since the end of the last recession, the energy industry has been the leading creator of good paying jobs in America.

But now as the U.S. energy boom goes bust, it might lead the way in job losses.

In order to have a middle class, we have got to have middle class jobs.

Unfortunately, those kinds of jobs are disappearing and the entire U.S. economy is moving toward the Wal-Mart model.

In the end, we will all pay a great price for such foolishness.

 

Collecting Donations For Wal-Mart Employees That Cannot Afford Thanksgiving Dinner?

Wal-Mart Collecting Donations For Their Employees - Photo Courtesy Of OUR Wal-MartYou may find what is happening at one Wal-Mart in Ohio very hard to believe.  At the Wal-mart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton, Ohio employees are being asked to donate food items so that other employees that cannot afford to buy Thanksgiving dinner will be able to enjoy one too.  You can see a photo of the donation bins that has been posted on Twitter right here.  On the one hand, it is commendable that someone at that Wal-Mart is deeply concerned about the employees that are so poor that they cannot afford to buy the food that they need for Thanksgiving.  On the other hand, this is a perfect example that shows how the quality of the jobs in this country has gone down the toilet.  Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the United States and it had operating income of 26.5 billion dollars last year.  Wal-Mart is not required to pay their employees a decent wage, and it is very unlikely that anyone will force them to.  But they should.  Because Wal-Mart does not pay decent wages to their employees, the rest of us end up with the bill.  As you will see below, huge numbers of Wal-Mart employees end up on Medicaid and other government assistance programs.  Meanwhile, those that control Wal-Mart continue to enjoy absolutely massive profits.

The following is a short excerpt from a local news story about the donation bins that have been set out at the Wal-Mart in Canton, Ohio.  As the story notes, this does not appear to be a nationwide program, and the donation bins are only available in an employee-only area…

The storage containers are attractively displayed at the Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard in Canton. The bins are lined up in alternating colors of purple and orange. Some sit on tables covered with golden yellow tablecloths. Others peer out from under the tables.

This isn’t a merchandise display. It’s a food drive – not for the community, but for needy workers.

“Please Donate Food Items Here, so Associates in Need Can Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner,” read signs affixed to the tablecloths.

It just seems really crazy that the largest employer in the country pays so little that some of their employees cannot even afford to eat Thanksgiving dinner.

Is this what the future of America is going to look like?

According to official Wal-Mart numbers, more than half of their hourly workers make less than $25,000 a year.

That breaks down to about $2,000 a month before taxes.

Could you survive on that?

Could you afford to support a family on that?

It turns out that a lot of Wal-Mart employees simply cannot get by without financial help from the government, and the numbers are staggering.  A recent Businessweek article discussed one study that found that 300 employees at just one Wal-Mart in Wisconsin actually receive a combined total of nearly a million dollars a year in public assistance…

“A decent wage is their demand—a livable wage, of all things,” said Representative George Miller (D-Calif.). The problem with companies like Wal-Mart is their “unwillingness, not their inability, to pay that wage,” he said. “They hand off the difference to taxpayers.” Miller was referring to a congressional report (PDF) released in May that calculated how much Walmart workers rely on public assistance. The study found that the 300 employees at one Supercenter in Wisconsin required some $900,000 worth of public assistance a year.

And according to Politifact, in many states Wal-Mart employees represent the largest single group of people enrolled in the Medicaid program…

In Florida, Wal-Mart topped all companies operating in Florida with the largest number of employees and family members (12,300) eligible for Medicaid, according to a 2005 Tampa Bay Times story. Wal-Mart also ranked highly (No. 2) for dependents enrolled in Florida Healthy Kids or KidCare, trailing Miami-Dade County employees.

In Missouri, where Wal-Mart is the largest employer behind state government, the state’s social services department determined Walmart employees outnumbered all others with employees and family members enrolled in MO HealthNet, the state’s Medicaid plan, in the first quarter of 2011. However, at almost 14 percent, it did not represent the highest percentage of workers enrolled or responsible for an enrollee (Dollar General, for instance, was much higher at 42 percent).

And in Pennsylvania, a 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer investigation revealed the company had the highest percentage of employees enrolled in Medicaid. One in six of Walmart’s 48,000 Pennsylvania employees were enrolled in Medicaid, costing the state about $15 million a year (it’s likely higher because the Inquirer’s story did not cover employees’ dependents on Medicaid, or any other public assistance such as food stamps).

This is a disgrace.

Your taxes and my taxes are going to subsidize Wal-Mart.

The government has to take more money from all the rest of us because Wal-Mart will not pay their workers a decent wage.  Because Wal-Mart will not support them, we end up supporting them.

Meanwhile, the six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have as much wealth as the bottom one-third of all Americans combined.

So why do people still work there?

Well, because there is a huge shortage of jobs in this country.  As I noted yesterday, the total number of working age Americans without a job has increased by 27 million since the year 2000.

Right now we have a growing unemployment crisis in this country that is being seriously downplayed by the mainstream media.

According to John Williams of shadowstats.com, if long-term discouraged workers were still included in the official government employment figures like they were back in 1994, then the broadest measure of unemployment would now be approaching 25 percent.  In fact, according to his charts unemployment in the U.S. is now worse than it was at any point during the last recession.

And even the New York Times is admitting that long-term unemployment in America is up by 213 percent since 2007.

At this point, there are millions upon millions of desperate Americans that will take just about any job that they can get.

Meanwhile, the quality of the jobs in this country continues to go downhill very rapidly.

For example, did you know that about 40 percent of all U.S. workers actually make less than what a full-time minimum wage worker made back in 1968?

And did you know that 65 percent of all American workers make less than $40,000 a year before taxes?

For much more on this, please see my previous article entitled “15 Signs That The Quality Of Jobs In America Is Going Downhill Really Fast“.

At the same time, the good paying high tech jobs that our politicians have been promising us continue to disappear.  For instance, 19,507 biopharma jobs were eliminated between January 1, 2013 and October 31, 2013.  That is a 68 percent increase over the pace of biopharma job losses during the same period last year.

So are there any areas of the country that are actually doing well right now?

Well, yes there is.  In fact, the Washington D.C. region has added more “1 percent households” over the past decade than anyone else has…

The winners in the new Washington are not just the former senators, party consiglieri and four-star generals who have always profited from their connections. Now they are also the former bureaucrats, accountants and staff officers for whom unimagined riches are suddenly possible. They are the entrepreneurs attracted to the capital by its aura of prosperity and its super-educated workforce. They are the lawyers, lobbyists and executives who work for companies that barely had a presence in Washington before the boom.

During the past decade, the region added 21,000 households in the nation’s top 1 percent. No other metro area came close.

I used to live in the D.C. area, and I can tell you that the folks out there are living the high life at your expense.

In one recent article, I noted that the average federal employee living in the Washington D.C. area received total compensation worth more than $126,000 in one recent year.

Of course you and I are paying the bill for this too.  The U.S. national debt is on pace to more than double during the eight years of the Obama administration, and our politicians seem to have no trouble continuing to steal about 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day.

Meanwhile, thousands of other communities all over the nation are slowly being transformed into rotting, festering hellholes.  The following is an excerpt from a recent CNBC article that discussed what is happening to Trenton, New Jersey…

When a city is badly broken, it can be very tough to fix.

Just ask Darren Green, president of a coalition of community groups in Trenton, N.J., where deep budget cuts in 2011 forced the city to lay off a third of its police force.

“We’re at a place now where it’s very dangerous to walk the streets,” he said, his thoughts periodically interrupted by the distant sound of passing sirens. “The school system is dysfunctional and not working. You have young people who are robbing elders. Young people who are destroying communities. With no leadership and the community in disarray, there’s a lot of bad here.”

So what is happening in your neck of the woods?

And what do you think of the fact that donations are being collected for Wal-Mart employees that cannot afford Thanksgiving dinner?

Please feel free to share your opinion by posting a comment below…

$83,046 For A 3 Hour Hospital Visit – Why Are Hospital Bills So Outrageous?

The fastest way to go broke in America is to go to the hospital.  These days it seems like almost everyone has an outrageous hospital bill story to share.  It is getting to the point where most people are deathly afraid to go to the hospital.  All the financial progress that you have made in recent years can literally be wiped out in just a matter of hours.  For example, you are about to read about an Arizona woman that was recently charged $83,046 for a 3 hour hospital visit.  How in the world is anyone supposed to pay a bill like that?  I have a really hard time understanding why a visit to the doctor should ever be more than a couple hundred bucks or why a hospital stay should ever be more than a couple thousand dollars.  Outrageous hospital bills are a real pet peeve of mine and I have not even been to the hospital in ages.  What makes all of this even more infuriating is that Medicare, Medicaid and the big insurance companies are often charged less than 10 percent of what the rest of us are billed for the same procedures.  There is a reason why 41 percent of all working age Americans are struggling with medical debt right now.  It is because our health care system has become a giant money making scam.  Millions of desperate Americans go into hospitals each year assuming that they will be treated fairly, but in the end they get stuck with incredibly outrageous bills and in many cases cruel debt collection techniques are employed against them if they don’t pay.

So why do we have to pay so much for medical care?  Back in 1980, less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP went to health care.  Today, about 18 percent of U.S. GDP goes toward health care.

And considering the fact that over the next 20 years the number of Americans 65 years of age or older is projected to double that number is going to go even higher.

On a per capita basis we spend about twice as much on health care as anyone else in the world.

In fact, if the U.S. health care system was a nation it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.

America spent 2.47 trillion dollars on health care in 2009, and it is now being projected that we will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019.

Our system is completely and totally broken, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse.  We need to throw the entire system out and start over.

A perfect example of why this is true is what happened when 52-year-old Marcie Edmonds went in to a hospital in Arizona recently to get treated for a scorpion sting….

With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives.

Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours.

Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.

What makes this even more shocking is that hospitals in Mexico only charge $100 per dose of Anascorp.

These days many hospitals will do whatever they can get away with on hospital bills.

One NBC News reporter was absolutely stunned at the bill that she received after she went in for neck surgery for degenerative disc disease recently….

Once I got my itemized bill, the grand total was a little over $66,013.40!   That was for a one night stay and a four level vertebrae fusion surgery.  The charges included $22 for one sleeping pill, $427 for one dissecting tool, and $32,000 for four titanium plates and ten screws.

I brought it to Todd Hill, a fee based patient advocate who helps people decipher their medical bills. “The screws in your procedure were billed at $605 a piece for a total of $6050 dollars. We’ve seen those in our past research for $25 or $30,” he said. “In this case, the markup is tremendous,” he added.

Considering the fact that 77 percent of American families are living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time, a single hospital bill like this can be a financial death blow.

If you have time, read this tragic story where one man was charged $11,000 and all he had was a case of bad indigestion.  Nothing was even wrong with him and now his family is going to have to declare bankruptcy.

Often medical bills are so complex and so confusing that nobody can really understand them.  A lot of the times this is probably done on purpose to keep people from understanding how badly they are being overcharged.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

Hospital care tends to be the most confounding, and experts say the charges you see on your bill are usually completely unrelated to the cost of providing the services (at hospitals, these list prices are called the “charge master file”). “The charges have no rhyme or reason at all,” Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Why is 30 minutes in the operating room $2,000 and not $1,500? There is absolutely no basis for setting that charge. It is not based upon the cost, and it’s not based upon the market forces, other than the whim of the C.F.O. of the hospital.”

And those charges don’t really have any connection to what a hospital or medical provider will accept for payment, either. “If you line up five patients in their beds and they all have gall bladders removed and they get the same exact medication and services, if they have insurance or if they don’t have insurance, the hospital will get five different reimbursements, and none of it is based on cost,” said Holly Wallack, a medical billing advocate in Miami Beach. “The insurers negotiate a different rate, and if you are uninsured, underinsured or out of network, you are asked to pay full fare.”

It has been estimated that hospitals in the United States overcharge their patients by about 10 billion dollars every single year.

Medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy.  As I mentioned earlier, approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans are struggling with medical debt.

And health insurance is not as much protection as you might think.  According to a report published in the American Journal of Medicine, of all bankruptcies caused by medical debt, approximately 75 percent of the time the people actually did have health insurance.

And if you can’t pay your bills, many hospitals will come after you ruthlessly.

In fact, collection agencies sought to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans during 2010 alone.

If you don’t cough up the cash they are demanding you can even end up in prison.  The following example comes from CBS News….

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans.

But why do these bills have to be so high?  It is not like many doctors are getting rich these days.  In fact, many of them are going broke.

So what is the deal?

Well, as a recent article by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts explained, there are a whole lot of people pulling profit out of the system other than just doctors these days….

There are two main reasons that US medicine is so expensive. One is that profits are piled upon profits. In addition to wages and salaries for doctors, nurses, and medical personnel, the American health care system has to provide profits for private hospitals, diagnostic centers, insurance companies, and for the accountants, attorneys and management consultants made necessary by the enormous litigation and regulatory compliance cost. American medicine is the most regulated in the world and the most criminalized.

And another big factor is that the rest of us have to make up the difference for the patients that are not profitable.

It has gotten to the point where some doctors in certain kinds of practices barely make any profit on Medicare and Medicaid patients.  In fact, in many cases doctors actually lose money treating them.

An article posted on medicalcostadvocate.com has some outrageous examples of the difference between what you and I are billed and what Medicare pays out for the exact same procedures….

A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation for which Medicare pays $584. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629.

So not only do we pay very high taxes to support Medicaid and Medicare, we also have to pay higher medical bills in order to make up the difference for the money that doctors and hospitals are not seeing from those patients.

Unfortunately, Medicaid and Medicare are expected to grow dramatically in the years ahead.

For example, it is now being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to Medicaid.

And enrollment in Medicare is projected to grow from 50.7 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.

How in the world can our current system possibly handle this?

And please don’t tell me that Obamacare is the answer.

The truth is that Obamacare is going to take everything that is wrong with our health care system and make it even worse.

For a good summary on this, please see this article.

In the years ahead it is going to get even harder for those that are not dependent on the government for health care….

-Approximately 10 percent of all employers plan to drop health insurance coverage entirely because of Obamacare.

-According to one recent poll, 83 percent of all doctors in the United States have considered quitting the profession because of Obamacare, and we were already projected to have a severe doctor shortage in the years ahead even before Obamacare came along.

We are heading into the greatest health care crisis the United States has ever seen, and none of our leaders seem to have any answers.

In a recent article entitled “11 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is Heading Straight Down The Toilet“, I detailed a lot more reasons why our health care system is a national disgrace.  If you can handle some more ranting I encourage you to go check that article out.

I am just absolutely disgusted with the condition of our health care system.  It is dominated by government bureaucrats, pharmaceutical corporations and the big health insurance companies.  It is a giant money making scam that seeks to drain as much money from the rest of us as possible.

So do you have a hospital bill horror story to share?  Please feel free to share your thoughts below….

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