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NY Times Editorial Board Offers Their Very Serious People Bona Fides

12:47 pm in Government, Media, Politics, Veterans, War by dakine01

Veterans for Peace

Veterans for Peace

I took a bit of a roundabout path to reading this Op-Ed from the New York Times Editorial Board. I am still seething after having first read it a couple of hours ago. It seems whichever member of the Editorial Board that authored this, thinks the military members are not “sacrificing” enough so pay and benefits need to be “on the table.” As I looked through the short bios of the various members of the Editorial Board, it is fairly obvious that few if any of them have actually had much experience of military life beyond the obligatory “I support the Troops” or “Thank you for your service” they may have uttered in an airport somewhere.

From the editorial:

Big-ticket weapons like aircraft carriers and the F-35 fighter jet have to be part of any conversation about cutting Pentagon spending to satisfy the mandatory budget reductions known as the sequester. But compensation for military personnel has to be on the table, too — even though no other defense issue is more politically volatile or emotionally fraught.

After a decade of war, the very idea of cutting benefits to soldiers, sailors and Marines who put their lives on the line seems ungrateful. But America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is over or winding down, and the Pentagon is obliged to find nearly $1 trillion in savings over 10 years. Tough choices will be required in all parts of the budget. Compensation includes pay, retirement benefits, health care and housing allowances. It consumes about half the military budget, and it is increasing.

Pete Peterson would be so proud and I’m sure the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers in Washington are chagrined that they couldn’t get Very Serious People credit for proposing this first.

Proposals like this are in my mind, another facet of the austerity movement seeking to cut back the social safety net for Veterans and the working poor. The people making these proposals see statistics, they do not see human beings. Please let me assure you, all those military members are first and foremost humans. They are sons and brothers, daughters and mothers. As I wrote on Veterans Day 2012, there are almost as many reasons for people serving as there are people serving.

If they really do see a need for cuts to the Pentagon bloat, there are a whole host of areas that should be “on the table” before member pay and benefits is on the horizon. The F35 Joint Strike Force fighter is a good start with its cost per plane doubling from $81M to $162M. There are currently ten Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carriers with an operational life of 50 years. The first (USS Nimitz) went online in 1975 so is still within its original operational window for a dozen more years. The tenth (USS George H.W. Bush) was commissioned in 2009. Planned de-commissioning costs for the Nimitz-class carriers is $750M – $900M (versus roughly $53M to de-commission a conventional non-nuclear carrier.)

Then we have the next generation of super-carriers, the Ford class with three scheduled for construction and commissioning in 2016, 2020, and 2025. The current projected cost is $9B for construction of the first of these (USS Gerald R. Ford on top of $5B for original R&D and Engineering.

I don’t know but I just have to think we really do not need a new floating nuclear powered city rolling off the construction gangways every five years from now until 2060.

Since the Op-Ed specified concerns about the costs of health care for military, I googled “military health care costs on the rise.” I admit I am skeptical when the first item shown is from “Third-Way,” our old “friends” pushing the Grand Bargain to cut Social Security. But let’s give them a mild benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be an across the board savings and cost benefit to institute a Medicare for All/Single Payer health care system? After all, a major component of the costs of Health Care is actually the cost of Health Insurance, not treatment costs in and of themselves.

I will make one proposal that will definitely save a fair amount of money in salary and benefits across the board. As I wrote here back in 2010, it would be beneficial on a myriad of levels to cut back on the numbers of Flag Officers and associated staff. That is the ultimate definition of a “win-win” for all concerned.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Life in the Safety Net

8:20 am in Economy, Food, Government, Jobs, Politics, Social Security, Unemployment by dakine01

If you have been reading my posts, you know I am among the long term un/underemployed. I was laid off from my then employer in April 2004. I know most economists place the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007 but given their continual “surprise” at how the economy does not conform to their expectations, the reality is a bit different. When I was laid off, I had spent the past seven to eight years working within IT on various State and Local Government social service projects. Unfortunately for me, many states had started cutting back in this area starting around 2001. Declining tax revenues led to cut-backs to contracts led to further declining revenues, etc.
Picture13
Over the past nine years, I spent my unemployment benefits (I only received 6 months of unemployment benefits since my layoff preceded the official recession and advent of extended benefits.) I spent my savings. I cashed in my 401K and SEP/IRA (the best benefit there was even with paying the early cash-in penalties, I still got to spend more of the funds on myself instead of seeing the balances swirl down the toilet when the market crashed.) In 2007, I landed a part-time, online job that has been a god send.

I finally swallowed my pride in January of 2012 and applied for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps). I was approved for benefits of $200 per month from Florida from February 2012 through June 2012 when I would have to be re-certified. I did not re-certify at that time as I was dealing with my late sister’s estate by June and was able to pay myself a nominal salary. Since then, I have moved from Florida back to my home state of Kentucky. After I wrote this post in early July, documenting my soon to be homelessness, a friend from my hometown of Cynthiana, KY offered me a room in her home for Dan’l (my cat) and me. I am paying a nominal rent, my share of the utilities plus helping around the house. I have since applied for SNAP benefits here in Kentucky. I was initially denied due to lack of information, then approved for $159 per month then after a review after the state had received the remainder of my supporting information, the benefit amount was upgraded to $189 per month starting November 1. I do not know if the cuts to the over all SNAP program will affect my benefits but if there is a cut, so be it. I am fortunate enough to know how to cook and purchase food for myself so I can generally live within the benefit. I most likely would have to cut out the occasional treat of cookies or soda.

At this point, I am just trying to hang on until I reach age 62 next June and can apply for early Social Security. According to the SSA, my benefit for Social Security at age 62 is $1,371, a little above the current average overall benefit of $1,271 (as of September 2013.)

I do not have a car any longer. Maybe next year when I start the social security, between that and my small salary from my online job, I might be able to buy something (and pay the taxes and title and upkeep and maintenance and gas and insurance.) Once I am collecting social security, I will most likely no longer qualify for SNAP benefits and that’s OK as I will have been able to use them to stay alive until I reached the “retirement” point.

Through all of this, I know I am still luckier than most. I have received help from family and friends that has kept a roof over my head. I am relatively healthy having had only a bad case of the flu back in early 2005 that I saw a doctor for, a cut on my hand in December 2005 that required an emergency room visit for four stitches (costing roughly $2,000 out-of-pocket as I am uninsured), and an infected tooth pulled at the dentist’s in January 2013 for $175. The dentist gave me a ‘scrip for free antibiotics to clear the infection before he pulled the tooth.

While I have been fortunate in many ways, I also know I am not alone. There are 900K veterans and 5K active military receiving SNAP benefits alone who will be impacted by the upcoming cut to the benefit level.

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Always Enough Time to Do It Over

11:47 am in Government, Politics, Technology by dakine01

If you have been reading my posts over these last few years, you are most likely aware that my chosen career field is Software Quality Assurance and Testing so needless to say, I have found the contretemps about the Affordable Care Act web site to be quite interesting. A friend from my small hometown in Kentucky last Wednesday (October 23) posted a link to a New York Times opinion piece by Dr Ezekiel Emanuel about the problems:
"If you build it, he will come"

First, the Obama administration acted too slowly. It waited too long to release specific regulations and guidance on how the exchange would work. It also waited too long to begin building the physical Web site. These delays were largely because the administration wanted to avoid election-year controversy. This may have been a smart political move in the short term, but it left the administration scrambling to get the IT infrastructure together in time, robbing it of an opportunity to adequately consult with independent experts, test the site and fix any problems before it opened to the public.

Second, the ostensible quarterback of the federal health care exchanges, with responsibility for integrating all the various components, is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. While the agency has expertise in issuing reimbursement rules and overseeing large-scale claims-processing operations, it has little expertise in creating a complex e-commerce Web site. More important, there was no single senior person in the agency tasked with running the exchange rollout.

Finally, this was not the first health insurance exchange ever created. Massachusetts has had years of experience with its exchange, and there are private exchanges, like eHealth, where individuals can shop for insurance. In addition, many states, like California, Connecticut and Kentucky, had already spent around two years building their exchanges, gaining experience and proving it was possible to create a good customer shopping experience. It does not appear that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or its contractors spent much time reviewing these models and adopting best practices.

My friend had posted a comment with the link about how he was curious about the technical design, project plan, QA processes and other software development metrics and planning used. I added my 2¢ worth in the following comment:

I will go out on a limb here and with no evidence (other than experience in large complex applications) state that the QA process was probably cut short due to other “unexpected problems”

Now just imagine my (lack of) surprise when I saw news reports on Thursday about there being extremely limited testing of the site. From McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — Private contractors working on the troubled federal health insurance marketplace told a congressional committee Thursday that they needed several months, but only had two weeks, before the launch date to fully test what could be the most complex government IT system in U.S. history.

I have worked on large, complex client-server applications for child welfare databases for various states. I have tested various applications or overseen testing as an IV&V contractor in multiple states. I was not at all surprised to hear that testing had been given short shrift because testing is pretty much always given short shrift. Invariably, the project schedule and “go-live” dates are seemingly graven in stone so when problems crop up, time has to be taken from other areas in order to meet the required date. So time most frequently is taken from testing. Hyperbole requires me to say at this point that “I can’t imagine the pressure the testers were under to meet the schedule” but in fact, I can very well imagine the pressure they were under. It is a cliche but many software development professionals can attest, there is never enough time to do things right the first time but there is always enough time to do things over.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will now state that the overall contractor for the effort, CGI Federal, is part of what was a former employer of mine, American Management Systems although I was part of the State and Local Government Group rather than the Federal (non-DoD) Group.

While I am among the uninsured, I have not gone to the web site for a couple of reasons. First, I am a veteran so will be checking in a couple of weeks to see what coverage I am eligible for through the Veterans Administration. I have not checked with the VA yet because I did not want to be bothering them while they were dealing with the recent shutdown. Secondly, I am residing in Kentucky which has its own newly launched insurance exchange (as noted by Dr Emanuel above) so if I am not covered through the VA, then I will enroll through KYnect along with a few thousand other fellow Kentuckians.

For what it’s worth, CNBC had this article on Tuesday (October 22) with some quotes from a former president of Oracle:

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It’s Time to Stop Digging

1:48 pm in Economy, Government, Media, Politics by dakine01

Well, the Republican Congressional Arson Committee was out-voted Wednesday and the government shutdown has ended and the debt ceiling has been raised. At least for a few months. Now come the analyses striving to set the Conventional Wisdom.

First up we had this from McClatchy on Tuesday, before the shutdown had been ended:

WASHINGTON — It may be one of the most serious missteps of the federal government shutdown.

After weeks of planning, the nation’s spy chief sent home nearly three-quarters of the workers at the government’s intelligence agencies when faced with the partial shutdown. The move, James Clapper later admitted himself, put the United States at greater risk of terrorist attacks. He then reversed course and brought thousands of employees back to work.

Fix The Jobs THEN Fix The Debt

Fix The Jobs THEN Fix The Debt

Of course, as I noted in this post the other day, when there is a shutdown, the managers are almost required to make things as painful as possible for the maximum numbers of people to show the people pushing for the shutdown what happens. For myself, I would have preferred more oversight people kept working than those within the NSA and other members of the so-called “Intelligence Community” being allowed to spy on average citizens within the US, but that’s just me.

Tiger Beat On the Potomac (h/t Mr Pierce) offers up an “Anatomy of a Shutdown.”

Bloomberg reports on the “Republican Civil War“:

A battle for control of the Republican Party has erupted as an emboldened Tea Party moved to oust senators who voted to reopen the government while business groups mobilized to defeat allies of the small-government movement.

CNN’s article on the ending of the shutdown was a bit pessimistic:

The debt cushion now extends through February 7, with current spending levels being authorized through January 15.

That means a few months of breathing room, but little more. After all, the bill doesn’t address many of the contentious and complicated issues — from changes to entitlement programs to tax reform — that continue to divide Democrats and Republicans.

Ah yes, our old friend “entitlement reform.” What a hoary old chestnut that is turning out to be. Why just yesterday the folks at “Fix the Debt” (Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles’s attempt to stay relevant and invited on talking head shows) held a “Twitter chat.” As Business Insider noted, it did not go well:

“Fix the Debt” just felt Twitter’s sweet, trollish wrath.

Championed by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, Fix the Debt — which The Nation magazine called a “fearmongering campaign to convince Americans that the deficits the United States has run throughout its history have suddenly metastasized” — held a Twitter live chat this afternoon to discuss next steps in America’s ongoing fiscal squabble.

And it didn’t go so well, with the #fixthedebtqa soon teeming with jokesters and those very much against Fix the Debt’s message.

My phrase of choice for people such as Simpson and Bowles and the rest of the austerity freaks is “willfully obtuse.” Between the shutdown, sequester, and overall fear-mongering of the last few weeks, the general economic consensus is the US economy took a $24B hit. Now, anyone who has read my posts these past few years is aware that I am not a big fan of most CW spouting economists but given how often they are surprised at the end results of things, my WAG is the $24B figure is probably conservative.

A note for the Fix the Debt folks (and Paul Ryan who used a Wall St Journal opinion piece to push for “entitlement reform”,) Harry Reid is quoted as saying, it ain’t happening. Now, Reid has backed off some of these type statements in the past, so we just have to make sure to hold him to his words.

I continue to be dumbfounded at the words and actions of people who think nothing of cutting funds for the elderly and the poor in order to throw more money at the DoD or Banksters or BigAg or Big Pharma or Big Insurance. As I noted here a few months ago, most people receiving Social Security are getting what amounts to less than a minimum wage. For many that is the only income they have. And as Forbes notes yesterday, minimum wage workers are not getting rich (though businesses that rely on them are and sticking the taxpayers with the bill.)

So all of you Beltway Village Idiots Pundits, Politicians, and Courtiers, why don’t we do something unique from these last half dozen year. Let’s create some decent paying jobs, build the economy in the US, send a few economic criminals to jail rather than giving them multi-million dollar bonuses, and see what the result is for the economy and those “entitlement” programs. You might be surprised that jobs would mean people paying in would extend the life of these programs with no action required to fiddle and fuck with them.

Besides, if the Russian astronomers are correct, we might be hit with an asteroid in August of 2032, making things moot.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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No one could have anticipated, Government Shutdown Edition

9:39 am in Economy, Government, Politics by dakine01

I have been marveling these last few days at the whining coming from various news outlets and elected officials, especially those that tend to be a tad more right wing. It seems they believe that President Obama and the Executive Branch are making some decisions of what gets shutdown a little painful. This from Investors Business Daily probably captures the feeling reasonably well:

President Obama has made the public at large feel as much pain as possible from a government shutdown he’s betting will ultimately be blamed on Republicans; meanwhile, he and other politicians shield themselves from the pain.

US Capitol 2

US Capital

My response to this is “WHAT the FUCK else do they expect? When the government shuts down, that means there are no support people available at national parks and memorials. Funding for contracts is stopped. While there may be funds available for some aspects (Social Security for instance), there are not funds to pay the workers. Different pots of money are involved.

A friend sent me a link to this tweet from the last week of September that details the 17 government shut downs that have occurred since 1976. For six of those, I was on active duty in the USAF, working in the Accounting office. As a GI, I went to work regardless. I knew i would be paid, although maybe not on time if the shutdown lasted for too long. Fortunately for me (and my creditors and landlords), my pay wound up not being interrupted. For another three of the shut downs, I was a direct federal employee and for yet three more, I was a federal contractor. Each time, I was involved in some way or another in planning the response to the shutdown. As a GI or Federal employee, my involvement was generally just to be told yes or no if I was to come into work. As a GI, it was yes. As a civilian employee it was no.

However, as a contractor, I was more deeply involved in the planning of what to do for a shutdown. And we would do the “what-if” planning just about every year as we waited to receive our budget for the year, whether there was a shut down or not. A major part of the “what-if” would be structuring the support levels to provide the minimum required support to our client but do so in the way that could cause the most pain to show how indispensable we were.

As I see the various news reports about things such as the response of various Members of Congress to the shutdown of the World War II Memorial or the stopping of death benefits, part of me sees a bunch of Captain Renault moments (I’m shocked, SHOCKED…) but then I realize that many of these same “SHOCKED” Members of Congress are truly clueless as to how the Federal government is involved in day-to-day life in the US. They are truly clueless as to ALL the ways money is spent. If they actually were capable of thinking through the ramifications of their actions, they would have realized from the beginning how bad the optics are that they would receive their salaries during the shutdown while 800K federal employees go without. They can act like only Congress has to pay for a ‘nice house‘ or are the only ones “who need the pay check.”

I am still trying to figure out why the House gym is considered “essential.” But they are making one sacrifice – they are re-using their dirty towels!

I guess it is possible to be both clueless AND disingenuous.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Now isn’t that con-vee-nient?

7:17 am in Economy, Government, Jobs, Politics, Unemployment by dakine01

Oops.

So much for the monthly Jobs Report. One of the effects of the government shutdown (no Fox News, it is NOT a “slimdown“) is no monthly Jobs Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS web site has a “Special Notice”:

This website is currently not being updated due to the suspension of Federal government services. The last update to the site was Monday, September 30. During the shutdown period BLS will not collect data, issue reports, or respond to public inquiries. Updates to the site will start again when the Federal government resumes operations. Revised schedules will be issued as they become available.

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Quite convenient for those members of Congress who deem most of us as not worthy of worrying about, yet manage to whine about how they need their pay check to get by – as if the 800K federal employees don’t need theirs!

ADP did release their monthly report on private sector jobs on Wednesday, showing an increase of 166K in the private sector (and of course economists surprised as the number was lower than “expected”). The Wall St Journal looked at the numbers in a bit of detail (you can reach behind the WSJ Paywall by Googling the article title “U.S. Businesses Add 166,000 Jobs, ADP Report Shows”). The numbers that jumped out at me are:

Service-sector jobs increased by 147,000 last month, while the factory sector added a slim 1,000 new positions. Financial services cut 4,000 jobs.

Despite September’s gain, job growth is weakening. Over the three months through September, the economy added an average of 162,000 private jobs per month, down from 220,000 at the start of the year, according to ADP.

Service sector jobs increase by 147K and manufacturing increases by 1K. It’s a McJobs economy!

Business Insider offers us a listing of “what we know” even without the BLS figures. Of course, they base this to a large extent on “market economists’ expectations” (see above link to previous blog post about “Economists surprised”).

Bloomberg tells us that economists will just talk about football:

The absence of jobs data leaves economists and their investor clients without the month’s most important numbers on which to place bets, ranging from friendly office pools to million-dollar wagers on the health of the world’s largest economy.

Meanwhile, Reuters tells us “Workers and employers face off at U.S. Supreme Court:”

(Reuters) – Workplace disputes pepper the docket of cases the U.S. Supreme Court will take up during a nine-month term starting on Monday, with the justices having delivered a string of victories to businesses and employers in their last term.

Organized labor will feature in two of the cases. In one, an employee seeks to limit the power of public-sector unions to collect dues. In the other, an employee aims to limit the ability of private-sector unions to sign up members.

It would constitute a significant blow to the labor movement were the court, split 5-4 between Republican and Democratic presidential appointees, to rule against the unions in both cases, legal experts say.

Since the composition of the SCOTUS has not changed in the past few months, I am not going to hold my breath on workers getting any breaks from this court. In June, Businessweek declared the current court as Corporate America’s Employees of the Month. It is not a stretch, it is not a difficult prediction to say more 5 – 4 decisions, more rulings in favor of our corporate overlords are coming in the next few months.

I bet Lloyd Blankfein will go to sleep at night dreaming of the wage slaves he can continue to abuse.

And because I can:

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Oh the Oppression! Oh the Tyranny! Oh the doG-awful Whining With No Reason!

10:55 am in Government, Media, Politics by dakine01

I was looking through various “news” web sites this morning when I came across this article from Tiger Beat On the Potomac (h/t Mr Pierce). The headline alone made me shake my head, “Wall Street gets misty as Bloomberg departs” then it just got worse as I read the “article”:

Michael Bloomberg - Cartoon

Michael Bloomberg – Cartoon

Michael Bloomberg isn’t leaving office until January but Wall Street is already beginning to miss the New York City mayor — and bracing for a possible backlash from his replacement.

In his 12 years leading the city, Bloomberg has been a vocal champion of New York’s business and banking communities. When the knives have come out, he has time and again come to the defense of the financial services industry without batting an eye at the political reality that advocating for Wall Street is a highly unpopular move for public officials.

Awwww. Da poor widdle babies have their fee-fees hurt by those big bad people, led by a politician who thinks they might do a bit more to pay for services:

Many in New York’s business and financial elite, stung by the abrupt ascent of Bill de Blasio, an unapologetic tax-the-rich liberal, are fixated on a single question: What are we going to do?

The idea that someone like DiBlasio might replace Bloomberg as NYC Mayor seems to set alarums blaring among the power elite and rich in New York.

Give. Me. A. Fucking. Break.

A couple of years or so ago, I wrote a diary after reading some whines from JP Morgan/Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Now we have more of the rich 1% from Wall St whining about how their taxes might go up and how dare he! From Raw Story:

New York City, like much of the nation, is living with a vast divide between rich and poor. In appearances leading up to Tuesday’s primary election, Brooklyn-based Democrat di Blasio decried these inequalities, saying, “We are not, by our nature, an elitist city. We are not a city for the chosen few,” statements that have set off alarm bells among the city’s top tier of business leaders and the well-to-do.

Oh those oppressed Titans of Wall St and Masters of the Universe! They are so oppressed, just like the Fundamentalist Christians and straight white men, they never get things their way. Why, they just might have to go on Food Stamps after they pay their taxes in a DiBlasio administration:

When it comes to average per capita wealth, New York City has been eclipsed by a handful of other locales, but the city that never sleeps still holds sway in the public imagination as the capital of capital, the center of the financial industry, and a place where a $235,000 salary still only counts as middle class. But, as a couple of recent articles show, New York isn’t just a center of American wealth: it’s also a center of American wealth inequality, a place where the divide between the very rich and the very poor is sometimes only a matter of a few hundred feet … as the crow flies.

I’m sure you’ll pardon me if I shed no tears for these members of the Clueless Class.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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Thoughts on Labor Day 2013

3:30 pm in Economy, Jobs, Media, Politics by dakine01

Labor Day Parade

Labor Day Parade, Peoria, IL

Well, well, well. As I look back the last couple of years, it seems I have established a small tradition of writing something about Labor Day. This is the post I wrote in 2011 and this is last year’s post. As I read my words from the last two years, I recognize that very little has changed in some ways yet in others, we have seen some massive changes.

Labor Day 2011 was just before the start of Occupy Wall St. Today, two years later, we are seeing fast food and retail workers staging strikes for higher wages. While many people are able to ignore the demands of these workers, there is coverage in the TradMed, albeit at the local level. This is a positive thing, even as so much of the news cycles are taken up by the rush to war with Syria (and it is a rush to war, no matter how the words and proposed actions may be caveated as “limited.”

Yesterday (Saturday, August 31) the Firedoglake Book Salon was Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, the plight of young adults from working class families. NBC News has been doing a series titled In Plain Sight: Poverty In America which has been covering all aspects of living poor in today’s United States. Yet with all the discussion in some parts of the TradMed on working poor (and as I first wrote a couple of years ago, trying to live on minimum wage is at best an exercise in treading water), we are more likely to find articles like this one from ABC News yesterday with the title Top Labor Day 2013 ‘Made in America’ Sales or this one from International Business Times titled Labor Day Sales 2013: 27 Stores To Score The Best Deals And Discounts This Weekend. The Denver Post today (Sunday, September 1) had this article titled New culture of work, both virtual and traditional, on Labor Day 2013 while the Washington Post had this blog post on the failure of schools to teach anything about the labor movement:

Major textbooks, among other things, often represent labor organizing as inherently violence, and virtually ignore the role organized labor played in winning broad social protections such as child labor laws, Social Security and Medicare.

Scholars say this [is] a result of the unfavorable view the business community and some politicians hold towards unions, an attitude that appears in textbooks that are approved by states in processes that are very political.

So as you sit down to your barbecue or grilled whatever this Labor Day; as you seek out the best deals at the store for whatever Labor Day sales this weekend; remember that the working poor, the laborers if you will, are probably not getting a paid day off. Or maybe they are among the long term un and underemployed who probably are not sitting down to a nice cook out meal to celebrate the “end of summer.”

When the politicians make their Labor Day statements, remember their actions towards labor rather than their words.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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“I have a Dream…”

12:05 pm in Economy, Politics, Unemployment by dakine01

Fifty years ago today, August 28, 1963, I was an eleven year old boy. I do not recall if we had started back to school on this date but may well have. As it was, I was no more than a week or so maximum away from being a sixth grader.

IMG_8526

Location of Dr King’s speech, August 28, 1963

I do not have any memories of Dr King’s speech (pdf) or the March on Washington. I was vaguely aware of the actions of Bull Connor in Birmingham, AL but the church bombing in Birmingham that killed the four little girls was still a couple of weeks away and we were still a year away from Freedom Summer. Little of this would have penetrated or did penetrate my consciousness in small town Kentucky.

And then.

And then.

Fast forward to the fall of 1970 and my freshman year at Western Kentucky University. At the time, Western had a required, one credit hour course, “Freshman Orientation,” that met for one hour a week for the entire first semester of the freshman year. I do not remember the name of the professor who taught my class of about forty freshmen. I could probably find his name on my transcripts if I knew where they were but it is not important. What is important is that one day, a month or so into the semester, he walked into the classroom, turned on the tape recorder sitting on the desk in the front and walked out. It was a tape of Dr. King’s speech and played entirely. Afterwards, the professor returned to the room and we spent the rest of the hour discussing the speech from the distance of seven tumultuous years.

Has Dr. King’s dream been fulfilled, fifty years later? Not hardly. And it is not just his desire for racial justice that is still lacking (as Mr Pierce points out, this has not been achieved no matter the ravings of people such as those at The National Review.) And contrary to the desires of one Jonah Goldberg, Dr King’s message was very much about economic justice as well as racial justice and equality. Dr. King was assassinated as he was in Memphis to support the striking Memphis Sanitation workers. Dr. King, along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was the organizer of the Poor People’s Campaign. From the Poor People’s Campaign history:

The Poor People’s Campaign did not focus on just poor black people but addressed all poor people. Martin Luther King jr. labeled the Poor People’s Campaign the “second phase,” of the civil rights struggle – setting goals such as gathering activists to lobby Congress for an “Economic Bill of Rights,” Dr. King also saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its “hostility to the poor ” – appropriating “military funds with alacrity and generosity,” but providing “poverty funds with miserliness.”

Under the “economic bill of rights” the Poor People’s Campaign asked for the federal government to prioritize helping the poor with an antipoverty package that included housing and a guaranteed annual income for all Americans.

My bold

Yesterday’s New York Times had an opinion piece from Joseph Stiglitz where Stiglitz describes how Dr King’s speech has impacted his life in economics:

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Corporate Welfare and the Case for Taxes and Regulation

10:23 am in Economy, Environment, Government, Politics by dakine01

Most everyone knows the most common use of welfare as helping those in danger of being left behind by society. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP although often still referred to as Food Stamps, and Medicaid are the most well known programs available to people. And no, Social Security and Medicare are not welfare programs.

No Regulations - Do as you please!

No Regulations - Do as you please!

But just as there are welfare programs for individuals and families, there are also welfare programs for corporations and the rich and powerful. These are just not given names to make them easily identifiable as welfare programs yet the end result is governments at all levels wind up subsidizing for profit industries at the expense of the taxpayer. Privatizing the profits, socializing the losses in other words.

Let me offer a few examples. WalMart is one of the easiest examples. They are a profitable business yet far too frequently, WalMart employees are forced to use public assistance, i.e., the pretty much textbook definition of the working poor (see here, here, here, here, here, and here). If you check der Google for “WalMart employees public assistance” there are over 900K hits in .34 seconds.

Privatizing the profits, socializing the losses.

Next up are oil and gas companies. Just for last year (2012) the Big Five oil companies (ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP, and ConocoPhillips) had combined profits of $117B (high of $45B for Exxon down to ‘only’ $8B for ConocoPhillips). These are just the biggest oil companies and does not cover the Koch Brothers Amerada Hess, T Boone Pickens, and many other “smaller” oil companies (smaller being a relative term). While the amount of subsidies varies depending on how they are defined, contrary to Forbes magazine’s contention, they do exist. As even an earlier Forbes article concedes (although they paint it as “everybody loves them.”) Christian Science Monitor places the subsidies at $41B a couple of years ago. The Atlantic in March discussed over $38B in Big Oil and gas subsidies identified by the Obama administration for deletion over the next 10 years. This chart shows the annual subsidies for Oil and gas at $10B to $52B per year. You will notice that all of these guesstimates on the amount of annual subsidies are well below the annual profits.

Just these past few weeks we have seen a few more examples of privatizing the profits and socializing the losses. Exxon’s oil spill/pipeline break in Mayflower, AR. Due to a loophole in the law, Exxon will not have to pay into a federal cleanup fund after this disaster. The West, TX fertilizer plant explosion:

“This explosion, I think, surprised a lot of people,” said Senator John Cornyn. “It is no surprise that ammonium nitrate is explosive under the right conditions.”

No one could have anticipated – unless they did.

Tax breaks. Lack of regulations. No inspections. Ka-boom!

I wish I had the answers or the magic wand but I do not have the magic wand and elected officials at all levels do not have the will to find and implement the answers. It might hurt the (un)free market and cost a few cents of profit.

Privatize the profits. Socialize the losses. Avoid the taxes and regulations and let the tax payer pick up the pieces. John Galt would be so very proud.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor
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