Musings From the Bench 12/22 Edition

musings from the bench-2In last week’s edition of Musings I reported that the Holyoke City Council in Holyoke, MA decided to name the pine/spruce/evergreen tree outside City Hall the “Holiday Tree” much to the dismay of the citizenry.  Well, the people have collectively spoken and the decision has been reversed. From now on the tree will be known as the Christmas Tree.  Personally, I was looking forward to seeing it decorated for St. Paddy’s Day and the 4th of July.


The Business News in our local newspaper is located on the back page of the Sports Section and this report caught my eye.  Here it is in its entirety.

“New York

STUDY: Wealth gap largest on record

There’s even more proof the rich are getting richer while everyone gets poorer.

In a new report, Pew Research Center said Wednesday that the gap between the nation’s wealthiest households and middle-low-income earners is the widest it has been since the government began collecting data 30 years ago.

Pew, which analyzed Federal Reserve data, said the median wealth of upper-income families was $639,400 in 2013.  Middle-income households were worth $96,500, while low-income families were worth $9,300. Pew calculated wealth by adding a family’s assets, including homes, cars and businesses, and subtracted it from debts.”

Well let’s face it, only the uber-rich can afford to own multiple homes, or multiple cars, and not many lower-middle class folks own businesses, so to me this study is skewed. Still, doesn’t take a genius to see an increase in the number of needy families. Is raising the minimum wage the answer?

There’s been a debate of sorts going on at facebook. One side feels that more money in the pocket of low-income earners would help the economy because they’d be spending just about every paycheck on goods and services. The more money they have, the more money they spend and that’s good for the economy. The other side feels that when the minimum wage increases it will cause an increase in the cost of goods and services and therefore, raising minimum wage is a bad thing.  They advocate a reduction in prices is the way to go, but other than the cost of a barrel of oil and therefore a gallon of gasoline, do you see much of a chance of that happening? It has also been suggested that the 1% (do moneygrubbing pro athletes fall into that group?) give up 1 or 2% of their treasure to take the burden off the backs of the rapidly disappearing middle-class. All I can say is this….

Back in 1968 in Massachusetts, minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. I was fortunate to get a job that paid $2.20 an hour before taxes. Staying with that employer and making my way through 3 different positions my income with cost of living increases and merit raises was about $6.00 an hour before taxes, which may not look like much now, but back then was looked upon as ‘movin’ on up.’ Back then loyalty to an employer and an employer to an employee was almost sacred. Nowadays? There doesn’t seem to be such an animal. As someone said during the debate, an employer can decide to fire you if you start costing him more than he wants to pay, when it just makes good business sense to hire someone to do your job at minimum wages, leaving the older worker to fend for himself.  Plus, if the employer’s profits aren’t as high as he’d like them to be, he can easily outsource his company to a country with a lower business tax base and cheaper labor costs and the American worker is shit out of luck.

As of this writing, minimum wage in Massachusetts is $8.00 an hour….pretty good IF you have an 8 hour workday 5 days a week. Not so good if it’s 3 hours a day 3 days a week.  But, saving for a rainy day or sending your kid to college can now be out of sight as is trying to attain the American Dream. So to all those college kids getting degrees in high paying careers I’d like to inform you that you’ll be starting at the bottom (if you can find a job in your field of choice) so don’t expect to be making $50,000 a year. At least your descendents will have the 24th century to look forward to.jean luc picard


By now everyone not living under a rock has heard about the Sony hack by political-pictures-north-korea-friday-picspam-cheesy-poof-proletariatNorth Korea as their response to the movie “The Interview”, a supposed comedy about trying to assassinate North Korea’s ‘leader’.  Actually, Un has 6 titles but president isn’t one of them. That title belongs to his deceased grandfather–for eternity.  He’s not Supreme Leader either….that’s his deceased father who remains Supreme Leader for eternity. No, Un gets to be Marshall of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, First Chairman of the National Defense Commission, First Secretary of the Worker’s Party, Chairman of the Party’s Central Military Commission, Member of the Presidium of the Party’s Political Bureau, and Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army. PHEW!  I wonder if different hats come with the titles? Anyway, reports say that North Korea has threatened 9/11-type actions if the movie is shown and Sony (a Japanese company, by the way) has succumbed to the threats. According to the FBI, North Korea was behind the hacking but North Korea says nay, nay, it wasn’t us. They now want to conduct a joint US/North Korea investigation in order to prove they didn’t do it  Expecting this arrangement will be rejected (thanks, but no thanks) they added that the US will face ‘gravest consequences’ if the joint investigation is rejected. I’ve got no problem with the long suffering North Korean people. I think they are the largest group ever to be afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome but hey, until the leadership starts improving the lives of their own people they can just keep whistling in the dark.fat un

I’ll say one thing for Kim Jong-Il, little Kim’s father, at least he had a sense of humor when Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s feature “Team America: World Police” was released in theaters.


When i was a kid back in the Stone Age my favorite Christmas movie was “Miracle on 34th Street”, as I got older “It’s A Wonderful Life” became my favorite, but now that I’m just one year away from Medicare I’d have to say “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is the best Christmas movie ever.  Being my age I know the best things in life can’t be bought with love nor money. They can’t be held in your arms or used at a store. Those best things are Peace and Goodwill. Here’s wishing you and yours all the Peace and Goodwill you can handle. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!grinch_img2

Thanks for reading musings From the Bench 12/22 Edition.  Until next time.




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About Jane Gray 58 Articles
Born in the '50s, grew up in the '60s, got married in the '70s. Gave birth in the '80s and started collecting social security in 2013. My time is my own and I don't mind sharing my opinions on everything with everybody. I hate injustice, the truth is easier to remember than a lie. I like the New England Patriots, the Boston Celtics, the New York Mets, and that English futbol team from Liverpool.


  1. Here is the Question here, Jane.

    What if they had passed a law saying the new minwage was 2.20?

    Your boss is not going to just walk in like Oprah and scream everyone is getting a 60 cent raise. More than likely, you stay at 2.20, and the 75-80% of min wage workers left, now make as much as you do.

  2. My take on Sony-North Korea? Does the word China mean anything? I have no prooof, but, in my humblest of humble opinions, I think Noth Korea is just a name connected to what went down, and, their ally, China, is the real brains behind the actual action.

    My favoritee Christmas movie? I have 1A and 1B… 1A… A Christmas Carol… 1B… A Christmas Story.

  3. For whatever reason I can’t copy and post your Musings to my Facebook page… drat and dadgumit… 🙁

  4. Don’t know where that 500 internal service error came from but I tinyurled it, posted it at the 7#page and hoped for the best. Maybe if people see the post about Suicide they’ll click on Musings. Thanks for trying.

  5. I’m having trouble working my mind around the technical knowledge a North Korean hacker would need in a country that doesn’t show up in a satellite picture taken at night.

  6. I still don’t see prices coming down any time soon now that the cost of fuel and therefore transportation costs have decreased. I’m glad gas is more affordable, but how about making a gallon of milk, or a box of cereal more affordable now that shipping is cheaper? Too many people are hurting and food banks can only do so much.

  7. Hi Jane, good blog!

    I think one of our problems in the US is the way we look at economics. You included the Picard quote from “First Contact” regarding the economics of the future. From the arguments you report, neither raising minimum pay standards nor lowering prices will work well. Perhaps we should look at alternative economic models.

    As an introductory note, I would like to condemn the twentieth century as giving us the three worst economic systems in world history. Each one existed before the twentieth century, but it was that century which presented them as serious candidates on an international scale. I am talking, of course, of state socialism (communism), fascism, and free enterprise.

    I feel that each has failed miserably–and for two reasons: (1) they all claim to “solve” all social problems and (2) they each have a focus on a small section of the entire population they were meant to address. Trying to put these two reasons together is a formula for disaster. And note that I am not addressing governmental systems here. They have problems too, not the least of which is their interactions with inconsistent economic systems. But whenever I get discouraged with representative systems, I am reminded of what Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst governing system there is–except for all the rest.”

    We seem to have painted ourselves into a hole. I can only see two ways out. One would be to construct an economic system with internal checks and balances to detect and correct tendencies to leave the track. This kind of thing works only partially well in representative systems. I have no confidence that it would work in an economic system. The second way would be to use a hybrid model of the three (or more) economic systems, trying to weld together the parts of each economic system which are good at addressing aspects of social economics. This is what was happening to a large extent in the US and USSR during the cold war.

    In the current US, for example, our goods distribution system is superior. It is driven by a free enterprise economic model. To replace it with some other economic model would be a downgrade. On the other hand, our medical delivery system is in shambles. We offer less medical care to our citizens at an outrageously higher cost than almost all other “developed” societies. Our failure to use a better economic model for health care services is devastating our society.

  8. Thank you for your knowledgeable comment.

    My inclusion of the Picard meme was just to show hope that things in the future will be better, not so much that I think they will. Kind of like when Kirk and Gillian are in the Italian restaurant in ST4 and Kirk tells her there is no money in the 23rd century as she pays for the pizza and beer.

    The one thing we can all agree on is that things can’t continue the way they have. Fixing it, well maybe things have to get worse before they can get better.

    As for the medical side of things, it’s been reported that 42.9 million people have medical debt. I read that people without a personal care physician find themselves going to the emergency room when they get sick which is so much more expensive than a visit to a doctor’s office. No insurance? Can’t pay the bill? Hospitals doing more with less? Medical costs go up, insurance rates go up, etc. Vicious cycle goes round and round.

    Same thing with utility bills.

    Makes me wish the Picard quote was true.

  9. Sorry I’m late to the party Jane. The minimum wage has been periodically raised forever, and the US didn’t crumble. The only thing that makes sense is to raise it again. The rich will still be rich, and the country can then move on to new business.
    As for “The Interview,” I think the Koreans did it. The US is claiming they have IP addresses. Never underestimate the power of a maniac.

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