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Thousands Of Companies Have Been Handing Over Your Personal Data To The NSA

Prism NSA SpyingIt isn’t just Internet and phone companies that are giving your personal information to the U.S. government.  According to an astounding report by Bloomberg, “four people familiar with the process” say that “makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies” and a whole host of other sources are handing over your personal data to federal agencies.  The truth is that there is so much more to this NSA snooping scandal than the American people know so far.  When U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez said that what Edward Snowden had revealed was “just the tip of the iceberg“, she wasn’t kidding.  The U.S. government is trying to collect as much information about everyone on the planet as it possibly can.  And this incredibly powerful intelligence machine is not going to go away just because a few activists get upset about it.  The United States government spends more than 80 billion dollars a year on intelligence programs.  Those that have spent their careers constructing this monolithic intelligence apparatus are doing to defend it to the bitter end, as will the corporate partners in the private sector that rake in enormous profits thanks to big fat government contracts.  But if the American people don’t stand up and demand change now, it is going to be a signal to those doing the snooping that they can push the envelope even more because nobody is going to stop them.

So why are thousands of companies handing over your personal data to the NSA?  Well, according to Bloomberg they are getting things in return…

Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said.

These programs, whose participants are known as trusted partners, extend far beyond what was revealed by Edward Snowden, a computer technician who did work for the National Security Agency. The role of private companies has come under intense scrutiny since his disclosure this month that the NSA is collecting millions of U.S. residents’ telephone records and the computer communications of foreigners from Google Inc (GOOG). and other Internet companies under court order.

Thanks to the recent revelations by Edward Snowden, much of the focus so far has been on the information that the NSA gets from Internet and telecommunications companies, but apparently government agencies collect information about all of us from a vast array of sources…

Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.

Along with the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency (0112917D), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and branches of the U.S. military have agreements with such companies to gather data that might seem innocuous but could be highly useful in the hands of U.S. intelligence or cyber warfare units, according to the people, who have either worked for the government or are in companies that have these accords.

We have become a “surveillance society”, and this is exactly the sort of thing that the Fourth Amendment was supposed to protect us against.  The government is only supposed to invade our privacy and investigate us when there is probable cause to do so.

But now the government is trying to collect as much information about all of us as it possibly can even though the vast majority of us will never be charged with any crime.

There seems to be no limit when it comes to how much personal data the government wants to gather on all of us.  As I have written about previously, the chief technology officer at the CIA says that they “fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever.”

And this does not just apply to American citizens.  The U.S. government is compiling data on everyone on the planet.  And since such a high percentage of Internet traffic flows through U.S. networks and U.S. companies, that gives the U.S. intelligence community a tremendous “home-field advantage”.  The following is from a recent piece authored by Ronald Deibert, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto…

While cyberspace may be global, its infrastructure most definitely is not.

For example, a huge proportion of global Internet traffic flows through networks controlled by the United States, simply because eight of 15 global tier 1 telecommunications companies are American — companies like AT&T, CenturyLink, XO Communications and, significantly, Verizon.

The social media services that many of us take for granted are also mostly provided by giants headquartered in the United States, like Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Twitter. All of these companies are subject to U.S. law, including the provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act, no matter where their services are offered or their servers located. Having the world’s Internet traffic routed through the U.S. and having those companies under its jurisdiction give U.S. national security agencies an enormous home-field advantage that few other countries enjoy.

But what is really the point of all of this intelligence gathering?

Is it to make us a little bit safer?

If so, we are making a massive mistake.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote the following: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Are you willing to give up your Fourth Amendment rights in order to feel a little more safe?

I hope not.

The U.S. Constitution never guaranteed us safety.  But it is supposed to guarantee our privacy.

Fortunately, it appears that at this point public opinion is very much against all of the snooping that the government has been doing.  According to the Guardian, most of the recent surveys that have been done are coming up with very consistent results…

Thursday, the Guardian released a poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday nights by Public Policy Polling looking at America’s reaction to the National Security Agency (NSA) controversy. The public appears to be reacting negatively to the revelations – and it seems to be hurting President Obama.

We found 50% of American voters believe the NSA should not be collecting telephone or internet records, compared to the 44% who think they should. The results hold even when respondents were told that the data the government is collecting is “metadata” (and not necessarily actual content of communications).

These results are consistent with a CBS News poll, Fox News poll, and YouGov survey that showed only 38%, 32%, and 35% of Americans respectively approved of phone record collection in order to reduce the chance of a terrorist attack. A Gallup poll was consistent with these, showing only 37% approved monitoring of Americans’ phone and internet use.

And Americans also seem to be very suspicious about what the government will do with our personal data once they have it.

In fact, according to a new Rasmussen survey, 57 percent of Americans believe that the government will use the information that it collects “to harass political opponents”.

And of course many of the recent scandals that have erupted this year involve the government harassing political opponents.  We have seen this with the IRS scandal, and we have seen this with the spying on reporters scandal.

Just this week it was reported that CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson has had her computers hacked repeatedly.  If you are not familiar with Attkisson, she is the one reporter in the mainstream media that has been relentless when it has come to pursuing the Operation Fast and Furious and Benghazi stories.  Now we are learning that a “sophisticated” intruder hacked into her computer “on multiple occasions” in late 2012

CBS News announced Friday that correspondent Sharyl Attkisson’s computer was hacked by “an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions,” confirming Attkisson’s previous revelation of the hacking.

CBS News spokeswoman Sonya McNair said that a cybersecurity firm hired by CBS News “has determined through forensic analysis” that “Attkisson’s computer was accessed by an unauthorized, external, unknown party on multiple occasions in late 2012.”

“Evidence suggests this party performed all access remotely using Attkisson’s accounts. While no malicious code was found, forensic analysis revealed an intruder had executed commands that appeared to involve search and exfiltration of data. This party also used sophisticated methods to remove all possible indications of unauthorized activity, and alter system times to cause further confusion. CBS News is taking steps to identify the responsible party and their method of access.”

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to deflect attention away from all of these scandals, Barack Obama is starting a war with Syria.

In this war, we are actually going to be helping al-Qaeda rebels that are beheading Christians to take over Syria.

If you aren’t aware of the deep connection between al-Qaeda and the Syrian rebels, just read the recent USA Today article entitled “Syrian rebels pledge loyalty to al-Qaeda” or any of the dozens of other articles that you can find on the Internet that document this very clearly.

And the sick thing is that a large number of Republicans are actually applauding Barack Obama for teaming up with al-Qaeda.

Has it suddenly become “conservative” to help al-Qaeda?

What in the world is going on?

And you know what?

The truth was that our troops were in position long before Barack Obama made his “stunning announcement” on Thursday.  In fact, it has been confirmed that U.S. troops are already in Jordan along the Syrian border.

And could this conflict with Syria actually set the stage for a much larger conflict?

The Russians have been providing “mortars, light artillery, antiaircraft guns, antitank weapons and ammunition” to the Syrian government and they have loudly denounced the latest moves by the Obama administration.

Yes, the Assad government is horrible, but what Obama is doing in Syria is a terrible, terrible mistake.

If the U.S. takes down the Assad government, forces loyal to al-Qaeda and other radical jihadists are going to take over and we will have made Russia and China very angry.  If the U.S. is unsuccessful in removing the Assad government, it will be considered a crushing defeat for the United States.

Either way, we lose.

So what do you think about all of this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Big Brother - The Government Is Watching You

The Rest Of The World Is Absolutely Disgusted With Our Big Brother Spying Methods

The WorldThe rest of the world has found out that the U.S. government has been listening to their phone calls and watching what they do on the Internet and they do not like it one bit.  Outrage has been pouring in from all over the planet, and one member of the European Parliament is even comparing the NSA to the Stasi.  But instead of stepping back and reevaluating our Big Brother spying methods now that they have been revealed, Barack Obama and other leading members of Congress are defiantly declaring that there is nothing wrong with these methods and that no changes will be made.  The U.S. government is going to continue to invade the privacy of the citizens of the rest of the world as much as it possibly can, and our leaders don’t seem to really care what the international response is.  And make no mistake – the goal of the U.S. intelligence community is to literally know everything about everyone.  The chief technology officer of the CIA, Gus Hunt, made the following shocking admission back in March: “We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever.”  He followed that statement up with this gem: “It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human-generated information.”  In other words, they want it all, and they nearly have the capacity to gather it all already.  So where does this end?  Will the U.S. intelligence community ever be happy until they have every piece of data on every single person on the entire planet?  Do we really want a government that collects “everything” and hangs on to it “forever”?

Thanks to Edward Snowden, the rest of the globe is starting to understand the extent to which the U.S. government has been spying on them.  Needless to say, a lot of people are extremely upset about this.

In Germany (a country that knows a thing or two about Big Brother tactics), some prominent politicians are publicly denouncing the surveillance that the U.S. government has been doing on their citizens.  In fact, one German politician has accused the U.S. of employing “American-style Stasi methods”

In a guest editorial for Spiegel Online on Tuesday, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said reports that the United States could access and track virtually all forms of Internet communication were “deeply disconcerting” and potentially dangerous.

“The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is,” she said.

“The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the U.S. administration itself is paramount at this point. All facts must be put on the table.”

Markus Ferber, a member of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party who sits in the European Parliament, went further, accusing Washington of using “American-style Stasi methods”.

In Italy, the government official in charge of data protection, Antonello Soro, said that the surveillance that the NSA is doing “would not be legal in Italy” and would be “contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation”.

In Russia (another country with a long history of using Big Brother tactics), President Vladimir Putin has expressed significant concern about the NSA spying program and there are even rumors that Russia will be offering asylum to Edward Snowden

Alexey Pushkov, head of the Duma’s international affairs committee and a vocal US critic, said on Twitter: “By promising asylum to Snowden, Moscow has taken upon itself the protection of those persecuted for political reasons. There will be hysterics in the US. They only recognise this right for themselves.”

He continued: “Listening to telephones and tracking the internet, the US special services broke the laws of their country. In this case, Snowden, like Assange, is a human rights activist.”

But even more important than what foreign politicians think about the NSA spying scandal is what average people all over the globe think.  This scandal is causing millions of average people all over the planet to look at the United States with disgust and disdain.  How can we hold ourselves out as the “defenders of freedom” to the rest of the globe when we are openly telling them that we are going to spy on them as much as we possibly can?  How do we expect the rest of the world to look at us as “the good guys” when we are selfishly grabbing and recording all of their emails, phone calls and Internet searches without any concern for their privacy whatsoever?

What makes all of this even worse is that our top intelligence officials are making jokes about this scandal.  For example, just check out the wisecracks that the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was making at an awards ceremony on Friday

With the current and past directors of national intelligence at the Omni Shoreham to honor former CIA and National Security Agency chief Michael Hayden, the result in speeches and interviews with intel professionals was a gumbo of outrage, worry and humor.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the black-tie crowd of more than 700 he would “address the elephant in the room” and proceeded, to applause, to denounce “the unauthorized leaks as reprehensible and egregious.” Clapper characterized the program as completely legal, debated and reauthorized by Congress under strict oversight and by court order “to make our nation safe and secure.”

He then cracked a few jokes. “Some of you expressed surprise that I showed up—so many emails to read!” Clapper said. Greeting fellow banqueter John Pistole, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration who recently reversed a planned policy to permit air travelers to carry certain knives on planes, Clapper said, “John, can I borrow your pocket knife?”

How in the world can he make a joke about reading our emails at a time like this?

This is how arrogant the U.S. intelligence community has become.  They feel like they can do whatever they want and get away with it.

For example, back in March Clapper flat out lied to the U.S. Congress about the surveillance that the NSA is doing.  When he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden if the NSA was collecting any information on the American people, Clapper completely denied it.

The following is from a transcript of that exchange

“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Oregon Republican Sen. Ron Wyden asked Clapper at the March 12 hearing.

“No, sir,” Clapper responded.

“It does not?” Wyden pressed.

Clapper recanted and said: “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect — but not wittingly.”

Apparently Clapper must have “forgotten” that the government is forcing all of the big telephone companies to turn over all of their call records to the NSA every single month.

And you know what?  The truth is that the government is not just collecting “metadata” about our phone calls.  The content of our calls is being recorded and stored as well.  Just check out this story from the Blaze

Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf in 2008 during an appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno detailed how he learned phone calls were allegedly being recorded.

Promoting the film “Eagle Eye,” which according to IMDb shows how “technology of everyday life [is used] to track and control,” LaBeouf told Leno that an FBI consultant for the movie said one in five phone calls made are recorded and logged.

“And I laughed at him,” LaBeouf said.

“And then he played back a phone conversation I’d had two years prior to joining the picture,” LaBouf continued.

Both Leno and LaBeouf concluded it was “extremely creepy.”

The American people, along with the people of the entire planet, deserve the truth about this.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama is certainly not going to tell us the truth, and there will probably only be a half-hearted effort by some members of Congress to get to the bottom of things.

That is why it is going to be important to take this to court, and thankfully a couple of lawsuits are already in the works.

According to U.S. News & World Report, one of these lawsuits is being filed by a former Justice Department prosecutor…

Former Justice Department prosecutor Larry Klayman amended an existing lawsuit against Verizon and a slew of Obama administration officials Monday to make it the first class-action lawsuit in response to the publication of a secret court order instructing Verizon to hand over all phone records of millions of American customers on an “ongoing, daily basis.”

Klayman told U.S. News he will file a second class-action lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia targeting government officials and each of the nine companies listed in a leaked National Security Agency slideshow as participants in the government’s PRISM program.

And according to USA Today, the ACLU has also filed a lawsuit…

National Security Agency surveillance programs came under more scrutiny Tuesday as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit and a prominent senator and Internet giant Google called on the Obama administration to disclose more information.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU said an NSA program that harvests phone calls violates the rights of all Americans.

“The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy,” said Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director.

Hopefully these lawsuits will reveal more details about the spying that has been taking place.

There is also a “bipartisan coalition” of 86 Internet companies and civil liberties organizations that have sent a letter to Congress demanding action on these issues.  You can read the full letter right here.  Some of the organizations involved include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the Center for Digital Democracy.

Will Congress listen to them?

Probably not.

But at least they are trying to do something about this.

The key will be to get the American people outraged enough about all of this that they won’t forget about it in a week or two.  And that is not an easy thing to do.

There have been a couple of public opinion polls taken over the past few days that show some very curious results.  A Rasmussen survey found that 59 percent of Americans are against the government secretly collecting our phone records and only 26 percent are in favor.  But a Washington Post survey found that 56 percent of Americans consider the collecting of our phone records to be “acceptable” and only 41 percent consider the practice to be “unacceptable”.

How could those two surveys get such wildly different results?

A lot of it is in the way that they ask the questions.

In the end, our politicians don’t really care too much about what the general public thinks anyway.  They are just going to continue to do what they have been doing and the rest of the world will continue to become even more disgusted with us.

We are recklessly destroying our global reputation and our leaders do not even seem to care.  But someday America will need some friends, and when that day arrives we may find that we don’t have too many left.

Are Black Friday Riots A Preview Of The Civil Unrest That Is Coming When Society Breaks Down?

If Americans will trample one another just to save a few dollars on a television, what will they do when society breaks down and the survival of their families is at stake?  Once in a while an event comes along that gives us a peek into what life could be like when the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is stripped away.  For example, when Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey there was rampant looting and within days people were digging around in supermarket dumpsters looking for food.  Sadly, “Black Friday” also gives us a look at how crazed the American people can be when given the opportunity.  This year was no exception.  Once again we saw large crowds of frenzied shoppers push, shove, scratch, claw, bite and trample one another just to save a few bucks on cheap foreign-made goods.  And of course most retailers seem to be encouraging this type of behavior.  Most of them actually want people frothing at the mouth and willing to fight one another to buy their goods.  But is this kind of “me first” mentality really something that we want to foster as a society?  If people are willing to riot to save money on a cell phone, what would they be willing to do to feed their families?  Are the Black Friday riots a very small preview of the civil unrest that is coming when society eventually breaks down?

Once upon a time, Thanksgiving was not really a commercial holiday.  It was a time to get together with family and friends, eat turkey and express thanks for the blessings that we have been given.

But in recent years Black Friday has started to become even a bigger event than Thanksgiving itself.

Millions of Americans have become convinced that it is fun to wait in long lines outside retail stores in freezing cold weather in the middle of the night to spend money that they do not have on things that they do not need.

And of course very, very few “Black Friday deals” are actually made in America.  So these frenzied shoppers are actually killing American jobs and destroying the U.S. economy as well.

The absurdity of Black Friday was summed up very well recently in a statement that has already been retweeted on Twitter more than 1,000 times

“Black Friday: because only in America people trample each other for sales exactly one day after being thankful for what they already have.”

It has gotten to the point where it is now expected that there will be mini-riots all over the country early on Black Friday morning each year.  The following are a few examples of the craziness that we saw this year…

-“Fights break out when stores open on Black Friday

-“Black Friday madness at Georgia Wal-Mart

-“Black Friday Frenzy: 2 Run Down in Washington, Man Pulls Gun in Texas

-“Black Friday 2012: Rush at Victoria’s Secret Pink at Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, Kan.

-“Black Friday shoppers smash door at Urban Outfitters

-“Black Friday Shopping Hysteria From Around The Country [PHOTOS]

-“Disturbance leads to scare at Westroads Mall

-“Teens In Custody After Woodland Mall Fight

-“Boy Robbed During Black Friday Shopping At Arundel Mills

-“Shoppers Were So Obsessed With Black Friday Deals They Left Their Infants Unattended

Fortunately, many Americans are starting to get fed up with Black Friday.  In fact, one activist named Mark Dice actually went out and heckled Black Friday shoppers this year.  I found the following You Tube video to be very funny, and I think most of you will too…

In the end, it is not that big of a deal that people want to fight with one another to save 50 dollars on a cell phone.

But this kind of extreme selfishness and desperation could become a massive problem someday if society breaks down and suddenly millions of extremely selfish and desperate people are scrambling for survival.

With each passing day our economy is getting even weaker, and the next wave of the economic collapse is rapidly approaching.  What are people going to do when the next spike in unemployment hits us and nobody can find work?

To get an idea of where things are headed, just look at Europe.  In both Greece and Spain the unemployment rate is over 25 percent and civil unrest has become almost a constant problem in both of those countries.

So what kind of riots will we see in the United States when the economy gets much worse than it is now?

Already there are signs of social decay all around us, and most Americans are completely unprepared for what will happen if a major disaster or emergency does strike.

Sadly, the reality is that most Americans live on a month to month basis.  Most families do not have any emergency savings to speak of, and one recent poll found that 55 percent of all Americans only have enough food in their homes to survive for three days or less.

To me, that is an absolutely insane number.

We just came through a summer of extreme drought and global food supplies have dropped to a 40 year low.  Our world is becoming increasingly unstable, and the global financial system could fall apart at any time.  Most of us just assume that there will always be huge amounts of very cheap food available to us, but unfortunately that simply is not a safe assumption.  The following is from a recent article in the Guardian

Evan Fraser, author of Empires of Food and a geography lecturer at Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, says: “For six of the last 11 years the world has consumed more food than it has grown. We do not have any buffer and are running down reserves. Our stocks are very low and if we have a dry winter and a poor rice harvest we could see a major food crisis across the board.”

“Even if things do not boil over this year, by next summer we’ll have used up this buffer and consumers in the poorer parts of the world will once again be exposed to the effects of anything that hurts production.”

When I watch my fellow Americans trample one another to get a deal on a television or a video game, it makes me wonder what they would be willing to do if they went to the store someday and all the food was gone.

Desperate people do desperate things, and someday if there was a major economic breakdown in the United States I think the level of desperation in this country would be extremely frightening.

So what do you think?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below…

Americans Are Literally Being Worked To Death

Are you constantly tired and do you feel incredibly stressed almost all the time?  Well, that means that there is a really good chance that you are a typical American worker.  Even though our incomes are going down, Americans are spending more time at work than ever before.  In fact, U.S. workers spend more time at work than anyone else in the world.  But it was not always this way.  Back in 1970, the average work week for an American worker was about 35 hours.  Today, it is up to 46 hours.  But there are other major economies around the globe that are doing just fine without burning their workers out.  For example, the average American worker spends 378 more hours working per year than the average German worker does.  Sadly, for many Americans work is not even finished once they leave the office.  According to one recent survey, the average American worker spends an extra seven hours per week on work tasks such as checking emails and answering phone calls after normal work hours have finished.  Other Americans are juggling two or three jobs in a desperate attempt to make ends meet.  Americans are busier than ever and work is often pushing the other areas of our lives on to the back burner.  What this also means is that “family vacations” are becoming increasingly rare in the United States.  In fact, Americans spend less days on vacation than anyone else in the industrialized world.  While some would applaud our “work ethic”, the truth is that the fact that we are being overworked is having some very serious consequences.  In fact, as you will see below, Americans are literally being worked to death.

The following is an excerpt from a comment that one reader posted on one of my recent articles.  Can you identify with what this family is going through?….

I always try and remember to be thankful and say prayers of gratitude for the blessings I have, however I can tell you that my wife and I are getting more and more exhausted.

Straight forward payroll taxes nailed us for $35k last year and the dozens of other taxes are often over-looked but also hitting us harder and harder.

My wife works 14 hour shifts at her dialysis clinic 3 days a week and every other weekend. On the Tuesdays and thursdays she has off she ends up resting half the day to give her poor feet a break since a nurse on her feet 14 straight hours of continual busyness is exhausting.

On top of that, her company has had a pay freeze for 3 years, has dropped Holidays down to just 2 per year ( Thanksgiving and Christmas of which she must work 1 of them), has canceled the reimbursement of her CEU’s ( medical professionals are required to continue to take schooling and classes for their entire career in order to renew their licenses) –also they no longer match 401k’s and her company health plan just bumped up $30 per week!!

I put in so many hours at times that when I get home I am too tired to eat. I come home, change clothes/shower and go straight to bed–this is not living. I try and keep up with my volunteer work and rounds at our local nursing home but something is going to have to give. My caseloads are growing and growing and people are making appts 2-3 weeks in advance. I never had a schedule so filled in advance before. I usually have more long-term pt’s with needs of stroke, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injuries..but now ortho pt’s are scheduling surgeries as to when I’ll have slots for hip replacement and knee replacement rehab time.

I’m ground down and in the mean time everything is getting more expensive, they keep taking more of my money I earn and we are having all of our benefits cut or completely stopped.

All over this country, millions of hard working men and women are slowly being worn down by jobs that are sucking the life out of them.  Working way too many hours for an extended period of time can have dramatic consequences for your health, your family and just about every other area of your life.

But for some Americans, there is simply no other choice.  There are millions upon millions of Americans that live on the edge of financial disaster these days.  According to one recent survey, 77 percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck at least some of the time, and the middle class in the United States has been shrinking at a very steady pace in recent years.

Many Americans are not working 60 or 70 hours per week because they want to.

Many are doing it because that is what they must do just to survive.

For example, a recent article posted on Economy In Crisis profiled a mother of four up in Michigan named Lisa Bosworth who can’t make ends meet for her family despite working three jobs….

Bosworth remarried but her current husband, Ray, was forced onto medical disability when a prescription medication caused health problems. The couple, who had a fourth child together, struggle to support their family on Lisa’s meager income.

Bosworth’s gross monthly income from working as a classroom aide in Reeths-Puffer schools and doing two Chronicle newspaper routes is $1,900. That amounts to $22,800 annually, nearly $5,000 below the poverty level for a family of six.

When they run out of money near the end of each month, Lisa and Ray Bosworth line up at one of several food trucks that visit Muskegon each month.

Earlier this month, the couple and three of their children waited in line at a food truck at Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Norton Shores. Lisa Bosworth had just finished her two newspaper routes and was clearly fatigued after another 70-hour work week. “I’m tired,” she said.

Today, there are more than 100 million Americans on welfare, and a significant percentage of those people actually do have jobs.  In fact, some are working two or three jobs.

Working class Americans are working harder than ever, but at the same time many of them are making less money than they once did.

This is putting an incredible amount of stress on working class families.

In fact, it appears that a lot of Americans are literally working themselves to death.

And as a recent CBS News article described, this is particularly true for poor Americans that do not have much education….

Overall life expectancy has dropped for white Americans who have less than a high school diploma to rates similar to those of the 1950s and 1960s, new research finds.

The study found non-Hispanic white men without a diploma lived on average until 67.5 in 2008, three years less than they did in 1990. The drop in lifespan was even bigger for non-Hispanic white women with low education: They live five years shorter than 1990 rates, from 78 years old to just 73.5.

This is a sign that our society is going backwards.  Working class Americans are actually living significantly shorter lives than they used to.

Of course the garbage that passes for “food” these days certainly is not helping matters any, but that is a topic for another article.

Sadly, those that are working themselves to death consider themselves to be the “lucky ones” in our society today.

There are countless millions of other Americans that are sitting at home right now without a job.

The mainstream media is trying to convince us that the unemployment rate has been falling, but that is a lie.  If the labor force participation rate was the same today as it was back when Barack Obama first took office, the unemployment rate in the United States would be 11.2 percent right now.

But that doesn’t sound nearly as good as 8.1 percent sounds, right?

And the percentage of working age Americans with a job is actually lower today than when the last recession supposedly ended.

In this economic environment, most people are scared to death of losing the jobs that they currently have because they don’t know if they will be able to get another one.

During the month of August, the unemployment rate actually increased in 26 different U.S. states, and yet we are supposedly in the midst of “an economic recovery”.

But the truth is that we are not better off than we were back during the last recession.  In fact, there are a whole host of statistics that indicate that things are getting worse.

Unfortunately, much of the time people tend to forget that the horrible economic numbers that we are seeing have very substantial real life consequences.

People that cannot find work and people that work very long hours for a very long period of time tend to be much more depressed than the population as a whole.

And depression can often lead to suicide.  According to a recent Daily Mail article, more Americans now die from suicide than from car accidents….

Suicide is the cause of more deaths than car crashes, according to an alarming new study.

The number of people who commit suicide in the U.S. has drastically increased while deaths from car accidents have dropped, making suicide the leading cause of injury death.

Suicides via falls or poisoning have risen significantly and experts fear that there could be many more unaccounted for, particularly in cases of overdose.

That is incredibly tragic, because there is never a reason for anyone to commit suicide.  One of the things that I have learned in my own life is that there is always a way for things to be turned around.

Yes, life can be very hard when you don’t have much money, but our lives should not be about chasing material things anyway.  Our lives should be about so much more than that.

If you are currently feeling overly tired and overly stressed because you have been working too much, I encourage you to take a vacation.

We are only given one life to live.  We shouldn’t spend it working ourselves to death.

So what do you think about all of this?  Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

Outrageous! The Government Is Giving Out Free Cell Phones And Free Cell Phone Minutes To Welfare Recipients

Did you know that the federal government is giving out free cell phones and free cell phone minutes to welfare recipients?  It may be hard to believe, but it is true.  Right now, there are companies that are running advertisements specifically targeted at low income Americans informing them of the fact that all they have to do is sign up and they can get a free cell phone and hundreds of free cell phone minutes every single month and it will all be paid for by the federal government.  Some have referred to this as “The Obama Phone”, but that is not exactly accurate.  The outrageous federal programs that are paying for this were initiated before Barack Obama entered the White House.  But the fact that welfare recipients have been receiving free cell phones and free cell phone minutes under both the Bush and Obama administrations has been confirmed as being true by Snopes.  All of this is paid for by “the federal Universal Service Fund”.  That is one of those annoying little taxes that you may have noticed on your phone bill.  So what is essentially happening is the federal government is taking money from all of us so that they can provide free cell phone service for welfare recipients every single month.

When some of my readers informed me of this free cell phone scheme, I decided that I better go to the source.  So I went over to the FCC website, and it turns out that there are two federal programs involved.  “Link Up” provides a one-time connection discount on phone service, and it can be applied to the cost of a cell phone.  So this is where the free cell phone comes from.  “Lifeline” provides a monthly discount on telephone service.  So this is where the free cell phone minutes each month come from.  The following is a description of these programs from the FCC website….

What Benefits are Available Under the Lifeline and Link Up Programs?

  • Lifeline provides discounts on one basic monthly telephone service (wireline or wireless) for qualified subscribers. These discounts can be up to $10.00 per month, depending on your state. Federal rules prohibit qualifying low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Lifeline service at the same time. That is, qualifying low-income consumers may receive a Lifeline discount on either a home telephone or wireless telephone service, but may not receive a Lifeline discount on both services at the same time. Lifeline also includes Toll Limitation Service, which enables a telephone subscriber to limit the amount of long distance calls that can be made from a telephone.
  • Link Up Up provides qualified subscribers with a one-time discount (up to a maximum of $30) off of the initial installation fee for one traditional, wireline telephone service at the primary residence or the activation fee for one wireless telephone. It also allows subscribers to pay the remaining amount they owe on a deferred schedule, interest-free. Federal rules prohibit qualifying low-income consumers from receiving more than ONE Link Up discount at a primary residence. That is, qualifying low-income consumers may receive a Link Up discount on installation or activation charges associated with either a home telephone or wireless telephone service.

Apparently these programs are becoming quite popular.

You can find a company called Safelink Wireless offering welfare recipients a free cell phone and 250 free cell phone minutes a month right here.

You can find a company called Assurance Wireless offering welfare recipients a program that is virtually identical right here.

This is absolutely outrageous, and it is yet another sign that dependence on the government is totally out of control.

Not that assisting the poor is bad.  Of course we always want to help those that cannot help themselves.  We never want to see anyone go without daily food or sleep in the streets.

But providing the poor with the basics of life is much different from providing them with luxuries such as cell phones.

In some areas of the country, the poor can also receive nearly free Internet service every single month.

Just check out the following example from the Houston Chronicle….

When Comcast acquired NBC Universal earlier this year, an FCC-mandated requirement was that the cable giant offer cheap Internet access to low-income households. Comcast is making good on the mandate through a new program called Internet Essentials.

Families who qualify will be able to sign up for 1.5-Mbps Internet access – the same download speed as AT&T’s basic DSL service – for just $9.95 a month. Customers may also be eligible for a computer that costs just $150 and free Internet training.

Also, a new bill has been introduced in Congress that would give “eligible” households money to help pay for gasoline….

Low-Income Gasoline Assistance Program Act – Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to states to establish emergency assistance programs to pay eligible households for the purchase of gasoline.

These days, as long as you are “eligible”, just about everything you need will either be purchased for you or subsidized by the federal government.

Yes, we will always need programs to help take care of the poor, but some of the things that go on today are absolutely outrageous.

There are millions of people out there that have become extremely comfortable receiving government benefits and it will be extremely difficult to ever get them to give them up.

After all, why bust your behind for 40 or 50 hours a week at some meaningless, low paying job when you can live a similar lifestyle by just depending on government benefits?

The following is a rap video that shows the kind of mindset that is developing all across America.  Please be advised that it contains some very strong language.  It was done by a rapper known as “Mr. EBT”, and it is a perfect example of the kind of attitude that many welfare recipients have today….

Yes, everyone needs a helping hand once in a while.  But if you do have to rely on government benefits for a time, you should be fighting like crazy to improve your situation so that you can get off of them as soon as possible.

Of course the biggest welfare recipients of all are the big corporations.  The federal government showers billions upon billions of dollars on them every year, and this has got to stop.

The following example comes from an article in the Weekly Standard….

General Electric, one of the largest corporations in America, filed a whopping 57,000-page federal tax return earlier this year but didn’t pay taxes on $14 billion in profits. The return, which was filed electronically, would have been 19 feet high if printed out and stacked.

Can you imagine a 57,000 page federal tax return?

That is absolutely disgusting and it is a perfect example of how corrupt our system has become.

All year long, GE has people pouring over the tax code just looking for any little tax loophole that it can exploit.

GE made $14,000,000,000 in profits, but they paid less taxes to the government than you or I did.

There is something very, very wrong with that picture.

All of this unnecessary welfare has got to stop.

No more free cell phones for people on welfare.

No more giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to big corporations.

We simply cannot afford it.

The U.S. debt problem is way, way out of control.  We have piled up the biggest mountain of debt in the history of the world, and it gets about 150 million dollars worse every single hour.

Sadly, none of this is likely to change any time soon.

The big corporations provide the money that our politicians need to win campaigns, and most of our politicians are very careful not to bite the hands that feed them.

On the other end of the spectrum, our economy continues to crumble and the number of poor Americans continues to increase.  So even if we don’t provide them with free cell phones, the truth is that the number of Americans that need basic food and housing is not going to go down any time soon.  In fact, it is going to go a lot higher in the years ahead.

We are rapidly becoming a European-style socialist welfare state.

In America today, the poor are absolutely showered with outrageous government benefits and so are the big corporations.

So who pays for all of this?

You and I do.

I am afraid that the joke is on us, and nothing is going to change as long as we keep sending the same kind of politicians back to Washington D.C. over and over.

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