Not My President.

When Donald Trump announced that he was running for the office of the President of the United States, I took it as a joke. I mean, c’mon, “The You’re fired!” one-percenter who is an obvious narcissistic, pompous, self-important, windbag who was born with a golden spoon in his mouth, living up in his ivory tower and is so out-of-touch with “normal” people that he is truly clueless? The whiny little rich boy who got started in the real estate business with  “a small loan from my dad” (fourteen million dollars) and whose father took him by the hand and guided and groomed him to become a tyrannical property owner… that sexist, racist, classist nut job conspiracy theorist and crazy “eccentric” fool?

https://i0.wp.com/media.boingboing.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/trump1.gif

Fast forward to Nov 8, 2016. I was flabbergasted – shocked, stunned, appalled. This really threw me for a loop, and not a “good” one at all.

Donald Trump is almost like a combination of a little bit Hitler, a little bit Anthony Wiener, a little bit Rob Blagojevich, a little bit David Duke and a little bit slum lord (and a hodgepodge of other unsavory “deplorables”).

And Republicans … Trump supporters … what the f… are you thinking?? All I can say is … be careful what you wished for …

Statistics have shown that, over several decades, the rich are getting richer, the middle class is stagnating, and the poor are just getting the middle finger. With that kind of … disease … in the White House … watch the situation get even worse. No, not just “worse” but horrifically worse. Naturally, with that despicable person as POTUS, if he gets his way, things are NOT going to get better! No, they won’t.

The FLOTUS – Melenia Trump – I don’t think we’ve seen a First Lady (“Lady?”) like her ever before. I mean, seen as much of a First Lady (too much of her!).  The Internet is increasingly swimming with (“very revealing” to put it politely) pictures of the new First Lady. And his offspring (shudder). Donald Jr. and Eric Trump largely reflect the worst traits of a severely emotionally and psychologically flawed father. Daughter Ivanka might be the closest thing to “sane” in that family. Or maybe not?

***Disclaimer: This blog entry (as does the rest of this blog) expresses the opinions and beliefs of the author and, as such, could be … subject to error … you be the judge …

Santa Rosa Enacts Rent Control

By a vote of 4-2, Santa City Council voted to enact rent control in Santa Rosa, California, one of the latest cities to enact rent control, as reported in the CBS SF Ba Area News web site here:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2016/08/31/santa-rosa-enacts-rent-control-after-city-council-votes-4-2/

However, according to Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat newspaper web site, it was supposed to go into effect Friday, Sept 30th. Because of pressure from a powerful SIG, the California Apartment Association – and landlords, rent control has been delayed:

Opponents of Santa Rosa’s new rent control law appear to have submitted enough signatures to suspend the law and put the issue before voters.

A local property manager aligned with the California Apartment Association, which advocates for landlords statewide, turned in five boxes of petitions apparently bearing 12,543 signatures at City Hall Monday morning, Santa Rosa City Clerk Daisy Gomez said.

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/6131861-181/landlords-submit-anti-rent-control-petition

The CAA is a wealthy organization that takes in millions of dollars in contributions. Money that is being used to meddle in the affairs of cities across the state to corrupt the political process, and fight back against any reasonable renter protection proposals throughout California. The CAA has handed out $2,161,312 from 2004 to 2012 to politicians and their campaigns, according to Follow The Money.

[…]

“The Press Democrat has reported that many people are complaining already that they have been tricked into signing the petition to over-turn renter protections, and how people can have their name removed from the petition in Santa Rosa.

https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2016/09/09/18791038.php

Obviously, the rich landlords are scared of a reduction in anticipated profits … they clearly don’t care about the hardships they are imposing on renters, many of whom pay over half their incomes for rent. It’s probably safe to assume that these landlords (the great majority of them) live in homes they own, homes that are nice, many are upscale.

They want to fight rent control because they fear rent control will force some of them to curtail their practice of gouging renters, charging far more than the properties are even worth, and from unfairly evicting renters.

The person who owns the apartments I live in makes many multimillions of dollars per year, bending renters over the barrel. He lives a pretty rich life, owns several businesses (his father already had a fortune in real estate, and his son was brought up with a silver spoon in his mouth and walked right into the family business and never had to struggle to get by. He has even made prejudiced statements maligning “poor people”). By contrast, I am disabled, struggling to get by on my limited, low-income, Social Security Disability benefits. And he’s raised my rent 66% in the last three years. People in Santa Rosa are facing comparable increases – some even greater. And while I don’t live in Santa Rosa, I live in the next city south of and connected to Santa Rosa, so what happens in Santa Rosa will likely have an impact in Rohnert Park, as well. Housing and rental prices are skyrocketing all over California – and even across the nation – and it’s damned unfair to renters. These greedy vultures are taking big advantage of the lack of housing stock to gouge and extort renters mercilessly.

UPDATE: Santa Rosa Takes A Big Step in the Right Direction!

UPDATE:

Santa Rosa City Council Members Deserve Big Kudos For Doing The Right Thing!SR-Rent-Control-Votes-

In a previous post, I addressed an appeal that was made to Santa Rosa City Council to enact rent control and renter’s protections. According to KSRO.com, and the Press Democrat Newspaper the Santa Rosa City Council “voted 4-3 to  to approve a move that will set rent control into play in Santa Rosa …with an annual cap on rent hikes for apartments built before 1995 … as well as unfair eviction protections.”

It takes courage to stand against rich investment property owners, management companies and landlords in order to enact laws that actually protect some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. The Santa Rosa City Council members who voted in favor of the measure are to be commended for being responsive to the plight of the people in their city.

In my opinion … this is a major step in the right direction in that it indicates that the (major) problem of runaway unfair rental prices, and the lack of affordable housing, is actually reaching our government leaders and  they are actually starting to respond. 

Rent control, however, is only a part of the solution: many more affordable units need to be built in order to  better meet the housing needs of growing populations in our cities and counties (and states).

In an ideal world … there would be enough housing units available that property owners actually compete for tenants. In such a case, rental rates would become far more affordable. As it is, property owners are literally gouging renters and stoking class discrimination.

Organizations like the California Apartment Association and investment property owners (and even individual home-owner/landlords) love it when there are so many more people in need of housing than there are units available because it allows them to charge – literally – the maximum amounts that the the market (read: the wealthiest renters) can afford.  Those of us who are not wealthy … are clearly not any concern of theirs.

History has shown that when the “haves” can gouge those of lesser means – they will indeed do so, usually without conscience or care for the people they hurt in the process.

California Allows Discrimination Against Low-Income Renters

Rent-Screw-Sect-8

Many Californians Have Low Income

Many renters in California are individuals and families who are struggling to get by on low and very low income. These renters include folks who are elderly, disabled, women with children, veterans, and other low-income members of society.

Many of these renters wait years on a waiting list to receive vouchers that allow them to rent apartments and homes, and pay 30% to 40% of their income to the landlord, and HUD’s section 8 Voucher program pays the rest.

Property Owners Discriminate

Unfortunately, many property owners refuse to rent to people with Section 8 vouchers. Despite this being a clear case of class discrimination against the poor, California allows it. While it is illegal in California to discriminate against someone – in housing rental, based on one’s source of income – discriminating against people with section 8 is not included in that prohibition.

Bill to Make Discrimination Against Section 8 Illegal

California Bill SB 1053, the Voucher Nondiscrimination bill sponsored by Senator Mark Leno, would have made it illegal to discriminate against renters based on their source of income because they get Section 8 financial assistance. This bill was supported by Tenants Together, the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, National Housing Law project, and Public Advocates. Unfortunately, the SB 1053 died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Property Owners Greed

The California Apartment Association (an association that clearly favors property owners gouging renters for profit) fought against SB 1053, and California legislators quickly buckled. They clearly put profit above the safety, health and welfare of human beings.

California Allows Class Discrimination

What this means is that California legislators are actually allowing discrimination against low income people because they receive Section 8 rental assistance.

In the current rental market environment, far too many people are actually paying up to 50% – and more – of their income just for housing. Property owners are gouging renters by taking advantage of the fact that there are far more people needing housing than there are housing units available. Because there are too many people and too few available housing units, property owners are raising rents far beyond what is reasonable. Because they can. And they are not only getting away with it: California is openly allowing it to happen.

“Screw Those Who Can’t Afford It”

What that means, literally, is that people are being forced out of places where they were born and raised (too many actually becoming homeless), because they can no longer afford the ridiculously high rents. What is even worse is that there are people who, with Section 8 help, can afford to rent homes – but are actually being forced into homelessness because property owners refuse to accept Section 8 vouchers. These property owners would rather raise rents as high as the market will bear in order to keep increasing their profits. Their attitudes are, “Screw those who can’t afford it.

What If It Was You?

If you are someone who feels unaffected by any of this … take a moment to imagine that an unexpected series of events rendered you unable to generate the level of income you currently enjoy, or cause you to lose your home, and you were left struggling to get by in an increasingly hostile environment. Believe me, it is NOT impossible. What if you were denied a place to live, just because someone didn’t like where you got your money from? What would you do? You have little money, no home, and even with help to pay for one, no one will allow you a home …

Every person with a conscience should find discrimination against people with Section 8 vouchers not just wrong, but disgusting, revolting, and unacceptable.

You Can’t Appeal to Their Compassion: They Have None

Greed drives them. Greed rules their actions. They really couldn’t care less about their tenants, and many of them don’t even care about keeping their buildings safe and in good repair (In the article below, one image shows that property management painted over mold growing in the wall). And if kicking old tenants out can get them more money from newer, more affluent tenants,  the old tenants are shit out of luck.

From the Sonoma County Press Democrat:

 SR-Evictions

Santa Rosa evictions trigger new fight over rights of tenants and landlords

A cluster of seven apartments off Todd Road has become the latest focal point in a legal — and increasingly political ­— battle over evictions in Sonoma County’s tight housing market.


Compare-IPOs-with-Renters

Investment Property Owners (IPOs) Have Renters “Over a Barrel”

Greedy Real Estate Investors: More money. Let’s manipulate the market so that making higher and higher profits is the only possible outcome. We have the power: we are investment property owners, and we have organizations lobbying to have cities and counties and the state legislate in our favor. The more money we make, the more power and influence we have over people on all levels. And if you don’t have enough money, we will boot your ass out. If you can’t make us richer, you’re an unworthy human being. Renters have some petty protections, but not really that many. We can take advantage of that. In California, on rental properties – as long as we give 60 days notice – we can charge any amount of rent we like! Better yet, we can boot old tenants, make cosmetic improvements (lipstick on a pig), hike the rent, and get more affluent renters.

They work through greedy real estate agents who are living it up at the expense of cash-strapped individual homeowners going through foreclosure. They make a killing on re-sales to investment property companies. It’s a win-win for IPOs and a “screw you” to the “little guys (i.e., renters).”

http://www.propertywire.com/news/features/us-foreclosure-property-misery-200904082843.html

In the Sonoma County Rental Market (as in many places around the nation), the abysmally low supply of rental units (averaging around 1%) creates an environment where rental property owners can jack up the rents endlessly, and renters have no choice but to pay – or go elsewhere.  For many, “go elsewhere” is not an option. Lesser income Seniors and disabled people have even less choice than most, and are disproportionately harmed by this hostile rental environment.

Government leaders need to either get significantly more rental units built to handle the demand and keep rents as reasonable as possible, or we need to institute rent control/rent stabilization laws. Renters (and individual property owners, too, since the greed is hurting them, as well)  need to stand up against these greedy real estate predators and stop them. Otherwise, more people are going to be displaced, homeless, financially ruined, or worse.

Yes, it’s THAT bad.

People Shun What They Don’t Understand

Have you ever been poor? Do you understand what like to not have money? I don’t mean just not enough money to buy something you want, I mean you do not have enough money at all for something you need. Say it is the beginning of the month, and the total of all your bills are, for illustrative purposes, $2000 a month. That includes rent, electricity, groceries, transportation, clothing, etc. – all of the essentials. Yet, your total income is only $1500. What do you do?

Before you answer with “But I would never let myself get into a situation like that,” or “my wife/husband/partner takes up the slack,” or “that’s not realistic,” or “this is just an imaginary scenario,” – try to give it some actual thought, anyway. What would you do? Please stop reading long enough to think about that scenario and imagine yourself in it.

Okay, did you think of what you would do? – How you would handle it?

Here is a reality: Most low income people cut back on groceries, buy cheap, sew or patch clothing instead of buying new clothing, cut back on transportation, do not take vacations, combine several tasks into one trip, or take the bus. They do not get cable TV, expensive cell phone plans, computers and laptops, and do not buy little fun things on impulse. They find alternate ways to live with less, and/or they do without.

Let’s Put That Into Perspective

In fact, did you know that (as a percentage of their total income) people with low income spend more on everything than wealthier people do? Think about it. When a wealthier person, making $82,0001 per year, buys a cell phone at, say, $100, they spend .015% of their monthly income. A low income person, buying the same cell phone, spends 6% of their income on that same phone (for someone earning $18,000 per year).  If percentages were dollars, wealthier people would spend 1.5 pennies for that cell phone. Low income people would spend $6 dollars for that same phone.  (Did you know that millions of Americans actually live on less than $18,000 per year?)

And so it goes for everything else they buy: they spend more, as a percentage of their income, than wealthier people do. The more money you make, the less you pay (as a percentage of your income, and actually).

So why should wealthier people want to understand what it’s like to be poor? Well, bluntly, in straight language, the wealthy people are getting richer off the backs of those with less. In fact, most people don’t even know how bad the income disparity is.

income distribution

Here is a video that I think everyone should watch. It shows, graphically, what the actual income disparity is in the U.S.

 You’ll be shocked.

“We may not want to believe it, but the United States is now the most unequal of all Western nations. To make matters worse, America has considerably less social mobility than Canada and Europe.”

Source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/economic-inequality-it-s-far-worse-than-you-think/

This is a growing national problem, and the theme of this blog. Income disparity causes class conflict, increases crime, fosters societal bias, promotes unrest – on top of pushing even more people into poverty and making life harder for those with less as well as those who are the most vulnerable (i.e., the elderly, disabled, single parents, children). It violates the very principles this nation was founded on – that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This reality is reflected in many areas: the “Occupy” movement (the 99% v. the 1%); the push for increases in minimum wage, the expanding push for rent control; the growing contempt for the wealthy; increases child mortality rates; increases in incarcerations; increasing cost and declining quality of medical care;  forces Americans into debt; makes America sick; males Americans less safe; makes America less Democratic; undermines the American Dream; and undermines long-term economic growth.

1I use the amount $82,000 per year (or $6833 per month) because that’s what should be a “reasonable wage” for a family in order to rent a 3 bedroom home at an average $2200 per month rent/mortgage based on realistic housing costs in this area (Sonoma County, California, USA).

Income Inequality Hurts America and Most Americans

 

I sometimes hear (or read about) people with good jobs and a good income talking about how we need to reform government to curb spending, reduce the deficit, make government more accountable and more efficient … and I believe that is a proper goal. Unfortunately,  when “reform” is actually implemented, guess what happens? The first wave of action nearly always involves cutting spending on social programs that help the poor and the needy. That is, the government takes even more away from programs that provide money, food, medical care, and support services for the nations’ weakest and most vulnerable folks: the elderly, disabled, “working poor” and single parent families with children.

Legislators – most of whom have personal incomes of $200,000 per year and more – cut payments to people with incomes below $15,000 per year. Voters – most of whom earn a “living wage” or better – actually vote to support support this “reverse Robin Hood” tactic so city, county, state and federal legislators can increase their own salaries well over what most people in their districts make.

That is, (for example) county supervisor Jimmy Doe, earning $212,000 per year can increase his income to $265,000 per year (to keep up with expenses, you see …) while Mary Smith’s Social Security check remains at $962 per month for the third year in a row. Her monthly expenses increased by $120 in ways that are not considered when calculating Social Security Cost of Living Adjustment calculations (which do not include rent increases), but Mary doesn’t get to have any increase in income (And it doesn’t even rate consideration that Mary was a helicopter pilot in Desert Storm who took a bullet for her country while serving the people of that country).

Incentives for the rich

I like to read many different sources of information, because I want to get my facts straight before I post. I came across an article that already addressed much of what I intended to discuss here, so without permission, I copied a portion of that article below. I believe it falls under the “Fair Use Doctrine” (17 U.S.C. § 107).

Here are some things I think most people may not even think about:

(Article dated 11/7/2013) by Tyler Durden

In millions of families, both the husband and the wife work multiple jobs and it is still not enough.

If we truly did have a free market capitalist system, the entire country would be a land of opportunity and things would be getting better for everybody.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.  The following are 21 facts about “wealthy America” and “poor America” that are hard to believe…

#1 The lowest earning 23,303,064 Americans combined make 36 percent less than the highest earning 2,915 Americans do.

#2 40 percent of all American workers (39.6 percent to be precise) make less than $20,000 a year.

#3 According to the Pew Research Center, the top 7 percent of all U.S. households own 63 percent of all the wealth in the country.

#4 On average, households in the top 7 percent have 24 times as much wealth as households in the bottom 93 percent.

#5 According to numbers that were just released this week, 49.7 million Americans are living in poverty.  That is a brand new all-time record high.

#6 In the United States today, the wealthiest one percent of all Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent combined.

#7 Household incomes have actually been declining for five years in a row and total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.

#8 According to Forbes, the 400 wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans combined.

#9 The homeownership rate in the United States is at an 18 year low.

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

#11 18 percent of all food stamp dollars are spent at Wal-Mart.

#12 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the middle class is taking home a smaller share of the overall income pie than has ever been recorded before.

#13 It is hard to believe, but right now 1.2 million students that attend public schools in America are homeless.  That number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.

#14 One recent study discovered that nearly half of all public students in the United States come from low income homes.

#15 In 1980, CEOs at S&P 500 companies made 42 times as much as their employees did on average.  Today, CEOs at S&P 500 companies make 354 times as much as their employees do on average.  In fact, there are many CEOs that make more than 1000 times what the average employees in their companies make.

#16 U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

#17 At this point, one out of every four American workers has a job that pays $10 an hour or less.

#18 Today, the United States actually has a higher percentage of workers doing low wage work than any other major industrialized nation does.

#19 Approximately one out of every five households in the United States is now on food stamps.

#20 The number of Americans on food stamps has grown from 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

#21 At this point, the poorest 50 percent of all Americans collectively own just 2.5 percent of all the wealth in the United States.

——

So who still thinks we should not do everything we can to reduce income disparity in our country – allegedly  the “best country in the world?”