Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Come Bain or Shine

Three high profile Democrats have taken tepid issue with the Obama campaign’s criticism of Mitt Romney’s role as head of Bain Capital. Bill Clinton, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. While much was made of this in the media, my feeling is that it will be of little consequence in the election, although as an admitted partisan I was temporarily nonplussed.   But after giving the matter some thought I’ve concluded that they have a point. The jobs for which Bain, the essential Mitt Romney, was hired for were to reorganize corporations. It’s reasonable to assume that many of them were in financial distress and that some would have gone under in any case. It’s also fair for Bain to expect remuneration, win or lose. A surgeon gets his fee regardless of the outcome of the surgery. If “Joe the Plumber” has his plumbing accreditation I think he’d charge for his time even if he was unable to fix the problem.   If a corporation was spending more on labor than Bain felt was necessary, it cut the payroll by firing workers. The same with outsourcing work. If it could be done cheaper in the Philippines so be it. Bain wasn’t the first to do this sort of thing, just one of the pioneers.* Business is business and It was doing what it was paid to do.     So much for objectivity! Let’s let our minds wander. George W. Bush may owe his two presidential elections to more people preferring to have a beer with him than his opponents. Maybe they identified with his less than perfect command of the English language. No matter how well a public executioner may have performed his job he might meet some resistance to becoming judge in a criminal court. No disrespect intended, but I think that “mortician” would not read well in the resume of a presidential aspirant.   In the companies Bain Capital turned around it was probably viewed favorably by many of the shareholders and undoubtedly by the executives. On the other hand the workers who lost their jobs might see it more as a gun for hire or hit man. The ultimate conclusion will be reached in November by potential voters who have yet to make up their minds.     *The Romney camp’s response was that a critical Washington Post article was “fundamentally flawed” because it didn’t differentiate between “domestic outsourcing versus offshoring nor versus work done overseas to support U.S. exports.” Now if they’d only have put it that way to the people who lost their jobs…

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Other Side

I received the following from one of my few right wing friends who tolerate my letters. The can be heavy reading so don’t feel obliged to read the whole thing. The sentence with the (my) asterisks will do. I’m sending it in reference to another email that accompanies it.  

(Copied in orginal form)

Grand Old Unions

I'd send you the original letter. But I've had so much trouble with copying and pasting getting it ready for the entire mailing list that I don't want to mess with it. Anyhow it doesn't need editing'                                                                        *                                                                                                           * So this is it folks, the sort of stuff that fills the right wing blogosphere. Do any of us get anything like this from our guys? I don’t think so. I’ve yet to receive even a request for my vote. But here they are asking their troops to play Paul Revere with this “information,” possibly “One if by entitlements, two if by environmentalists.” I’m afraid this one will need more than two lanterns, so to keep it brief let’s just consider the recurring obsession with unions.   One sentence pretty well says it all.  “It [the stimulus] went to save GM and Chrysler so that their employees could keep paying union dues,” These words obviously represent the Tea Party thinking. But given the way relatively moderate Republican incumbents have been dropping like flies to fire-eaters in the primaries, it’s a reasonable assumption that today’s Republican Party has taken the position that creation of union jobs by any enterprise, public or private, is a bad thing.   This poses a problem for Obama and Democrats in their efforts to restore the jobs lost in the Great Recession, as they have been expected to. The Republican Party, with its proven power to block legislation in both Houses of Congress, is admittedly trying to prevent creation of jobs for union members. For that matter they know that low employment itself will help them in November.   Private sector jobs have grown respectably since Obama became president. Had public sector jobs grown as they did in the Bush years unemployment would be at a tolerable rate, under seven percent, rather than unacceptable at more than the eight percent it is now. Honest right wing ideologues should be happy that the private sector is now providing an even greater portion of jobs. The problem is that the economy isn’t showing its appreciation, so that’s the fault of Obama and the Democrats, but mainly the big bad unions and their filthy lucre.   Put aside the need for multitudes of workers to organize in order to speak with one voice while a handful of employers can do this while hunting or fishing. When push comes to shove, as it may have as much as any time in our history, money speaks the loudest, much louder since Citizens United. Equating the expendable wealth of Wall Street’s high rollers with that of the entirety of organized labor is equivalent to equating an elephant with a mouse.         

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hansel and Gretel

Senate Republicans, in what has become traditional procedure, have used the threat of filibuster to prevent equal pay for equal work from becoming law. As if the Republican Party didn’t have enough trouble with its alleged “war on women.” I guess there’s a point of diminishing returns to the amount of damage this sort of thing can cause.   It’s logical to consider the Senate’s vote in the context of a war on women. But there is another perhaps larger consideration based on simple arithmetic. Women are paid a reported seventy seven cents for the same work for which men receive a dollar.  To whatever extent the law would be effective, twenty three cents on every dollar would be coming out of somebody’s pocket, either management’s or labor’s. My bet is on management, barring the unlikely prospect of male employees agreeing to a cut in pay.   But let’s try to think of this positively. Rather than as a war on women let’s try viewing it as a gift to business. Big business! OK, very big business! But at least they favor something, except of course organized labor. They are certainly in favor of God’s will. After all, it was He who set it up for women to do all the hard work in child bearing.   I don’t know how to name the cause that most warms the cockles of Republican hearts.  Avarice or one of several synonyms would be close enough. But let’s be polite and call it Laissez Faire. While they believe strongly in it, they have no animus against those who are left behind and acknowledge that that they deserve minimal living standards, but only to a point. That point is reached when times get tough and I can’t remember a time that wasn’t being called “tough.” It seems to me that some of the folks who challenge the evidence for evolution, unknowingly make a more vigorous case for pure Darwinism when money is involved.         Today’s Republican Party brings to mind the tale of Hansel and Gretel who were taken into the woods and abandoned* because there was enough food in the house for two, but not for four. On one hand that sounds reasonable ……. really?     *They were abandoned by their father and wicked stepmother. Has anyone noticed the lack of wicked stepfathers in our folklore? Cinderella had wicked stepsisters. Could this be part of a centuries old war on women?              

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gold In Them There Jails

Charles M. Blow’s op-ed column in the May 26 New York Times dealt with the disproportionally high rate of incarceration in the Louisiana penal system which is run by a private interests. The story dealt with the obvious ethical impropriety of privatized incarceration which is the point of this letter. But preliminary exploration of the subject on Wikipedia showed that this isn’t even a good business arrangement.   State run studies on costs, in contrast to the predictable results of those conducted by participating corporations, range from “insufficient information” to “no difference.” What is telling about these results is that “private facilities often refuse to accept inmates that cost the most to house” which could make them appear more efficient. This presumably excludes the sicker or older as well as greater security risks. In the latter department control of internees in private prisons has statistically proved to be inefficient compared to public facilities. Lawsuits have been filed in several states against corporations for violent acts committed by escaped inmates, including murder   Until the l980s, private participation in the penal system was limited to transporting prisoners. This changed when the “war on drugs” began filling jails. Corporations, seeing the opportunity, convinced several states, “mostly in the South and West,” to turn over housing of their prisons. How do you think these people stand on relaxing penalties for marijuana possession? Is it coincidental that they are also contributors to ALEC, a right wing group that has developed model bills advocating initiatives that are “tough on crime” including “Truth in Sentencing” and “Three Strikes” laws that “directly influence legislation for tougher longer sentences?”   The immorality of this alliance has been recognized by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and United Methodist Church which have called for its abolition. Several states have banned it outright. For the bottom line of corporation’s P&L statement being directly related to the frequency and length of jail sentences determined by an individual jurist is unconscionable. The fact that some of those who have condemned others to jail have themselves later spent time as invited guests in these facilities speaks for itself.   Most of us might wince a bit at seeing a meter maid writing a ticket for our violating a municipal parking ordinance. The fact that our municipality may benefit does nothing to soften the blow. Imagine the meter maid were wearing judicial robes, the beneficiary a private corporation with which the person wearing the robes might be “favorably disposed” and the penalty is jail time which would become an indelible part of our record for life.                  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Never Say You're Sorry

American elected leader who 
apologizes to Europe and the 
Middle East that our country is "arrogant"!
Americans, forward it!
Non-patriotic, delete it!
Most of the protected don't understand it.

I received this message on Memorial Day from one of the few right wing friends who tolerate my letters. It was preceded by numerous pictures of tombstones of American servicemen killed presumably in helping “foreigners.” I thought the closing instructions added a nice touch, so considering myself a patriotic American I have no choice but to follow orders and forward it.

Us folks on the left get this sort of stuff too, some of it accusing the other side of even worse. But I’ve never noticed any of this “pass it on” business. Our guys don’t have to do this because they’re expressing opinions on events that are common knowledge on which the other guys usually have contrary opinions. You can take or leave either because we all know the facts on which they’re based. But these guys invent their own facts, in this case Obama’s apologizing for America’s arrogance. For this sort of thing you have to use word of mouth to get traction, otherwise nobody would “know.”

I believe this particular fiction blossomed from criticism of Obama for not stressing “American exceptionalism” in his international speech from Cairo. What his critics forget is that the speech was directed to a world audience which reacted enthusiastically, rather than to the likes of Grover Norquist, Yes, Grover Norquist has likes. I still cling to the old fashioned notion that telling other people how superior you are to them is not the way to win their goodwill. .
Not that we have nothing to apologize for. Quite the contrary! Off the top of my head I can think of the second atomic bomb, (the first was at least arguable) restoring the Shah, and our military actions in Vietnam and Iraq. As evidence of our arrogance the xenophobes who shout about American exceptionalism do the job. In view of our standing among industrialized nations in just about everything that isn’t military, you can throw in ignorance for good measure.