A whole different world

As more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet, or if they are doing okay, saving money in case their situation worsens, they are looking at the cost of items.

Some are looking at cutting back on costs, maybe renting movies, or using Netflix, then going to a movie theater.  Maybe looking at store brands versus name brands.  Those are small, but significant savings over time that many Americans are looking at these days.

That is average Americans, what about those with a little more wealth available to them?  Well it looks like the Ensign clan has paid $96,000 to Cynthia Hampton’s family.  You may remember that she had an affair with Senator John Ensign.

In April 2008, Senator John Ensign’s parents each made gifts to Doug Hampton, Cindy Hampton, and two of their children in the form of a check totaling $96,000. Each gift was limited to $12,000. The payments were made as gifts, accepted as gifts and complied with tax rules governing gifts.

The first thing that struck me was that his parent’s paid his mistress, but then I realized that they probably paid the gifts to shield Senator Ensign from scrutiny.

So back to the cost of things, well in Nevada a family of four is consider to be at the federal poverty level if they make $22,050 a year.  Yet this family of four received gifts that totalled $96,000 or 435% of the poverty level, not bad for a gift.  That isn’t counting any work that either parent did during the year, that was just a gift!

This brings me back to American families of more average means, you know the ones that can’t afford to throw almost 6 figures to a family who you committed adultery with, so I am going to look at autoworkers.  Why, well Senator Ensign thinks the UAW (unions=bad) workers made too much.

As Ensign sees it, the root of the problem with the Big Three lies in the labor contracts that prevent the companies from being competitive with the foreign companies that build cars in the United States with nonunion labor.

Ensign repeatedly points to the $70 hourly labor costs at the Big Three, compared with $30 paid by companies that do not use unionized labor.

According to CBS it isn’t really $70/hour, but  $28/hour or about $60,000 for working on a line for a year.

Let’s start with the fact that it’s not $70 per hour in wages. According to Kristin Dziczek of the Center for Automative Research–who was my primary source for the figures you are about to read–average wages for workers at Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors were just $28 per hour as of 2007. That works out to a little less than $60,000 a year in gross income–hardly outrageous, particularly when you consider the physical demands of automobile assembly work and the skills most workers must acquire over the course of their careers.

So not only does he get his facts wrong, after all union busting is the real purpose of his efforts to oppose the bailout.  But really, even if it was $70/hour, or about $150,000 a year, that is for working for a year, not a gift to cover up a marital dalliance. 

Now you may ask yourself what also costs $96,000, not just paying off your mistress’ family, but something that most of us could understand a little better (that isn’t a house purchase which is closest most of us will get to that price tag).  Well we learned that Norm Coleman’s campaign had to pay some of Senator Al Franken’s costs in the contested Senate battle and the amount worked out to be about the same.

In the last chapter of a stinging loss to now-Sen. Al Franken, Minnesota’s Republican Party has sent the Democrat almost $96,000 to cover lawsuit costs.

Now if you want to be crude, you could say that both Ensign and Coleman got screwed, but Ensign got to have intimate relations with someone in the process, and kept his Senate seat.  So maybe he had the better deal of it.

-Josh

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