Friday, June 24, 2011

The Sleeping Giant Stirs

Surprise! Workers in Connecticut decided they'd had enough of being double-crossed and used as political pawns:
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and union leaders announced Friday that Connecticut’s state workers had rejected a deal meant to produce $1.6 billion in labor savings over two years, blowing a hole in the state’s budget and raising the likelihood of widespread layoffs.

The rejection was a startling slap to both the union leadership and to Mr. Malloy, who was elected in November with enthusiastic labor support.
What was going through union minds when they gave this tentative deal the heave-ho? Well, the fact that Hartford has proven its own word worthless in the past may have influenced them:
The opposition centered on suspicions about the health care provisions in the package, workers’ frustration over past concessions and the belief among some members that they could get a better package if they rejected this one...

Michele Higgins, 63, a supervisor in the audit division of the State Labor Department office in Bridgeport, noted that two years ago workers agreed to furloughs and paying more for health insurance. “I don’t think that it’s a bad agreement, but a contract has no meaning anymore, because I think the state will be back in two years looking for more,” she said.
Nailed it. Breaking union contracts by whipping up an "emergency" or a "bankruptcy" has become very faddish these days. Yet these workers' "friends" in the legislature just can't understand why anyone would give up a such a dream package:
“The failure to ratify by state employees does more harm to them and the cause of labor than anything their enemies could possibly achieve,” Senator Williams wrote. “It’s unbelievable that they don’t understand that."
What they understand is that whenever a moment in history arrives that calls for someone to give something up, the powerful always have something pressing to tend to elswhere that day. Senator Williams is using the language of the man with nothing at stake, the general at the back of the lines, the lawmaker waxing eloquent over the war he loves as the troops wave farewell to their limbs and their lives. What sacrifices were demanded of Senator Williams, or Governor Molloy, or any of the blathering pundits who declared this such a "harmonious resolution"? What will they be giving up anytime soon?

That's what I thought.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Look For The Cage You Can't See It It's Everywhere

The Rude Pundit sees the connection between our reality TV culture of humiliation-as-entertainment, and the siccing of the desperate working class on itself:
The Rude Pundit thought about Brian Jackson and his never-popping hot water bottle while he read about the latest attacks on working people by state legislatures and governors. See, it's not that New Jersey is seeking to raise state workers' contributions on health care and pensions. It's that the bill that made its way through committee stops collective bargaining on health care. It's the ongoing battle over collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, in Massachusetts, in Ohio, in Illinois, in places Democratic and, especially, Republican, under the notion that this is somehow the way that everyone sacrifices for the good of some broad, undefinable "economy." Meanwhile, wages have stagnated as union membership has fallen. Somehow, surely, this is just the fault of greedy union workers. It always has been the workers' fault for demanding fairness, according to management. Why should these greedy bastards get decent health care when you can't find a job?

And this is how we get back to Brian Jackson. There's a political calculation being made here, as there so often is. They are pitting unemployed and non-union workers against the unionized state employees, who often have enviable job security in an insecure job market, by making those unionized government workers the target. It doesn't matter that the benefits gotten through collective bargaining make up for the shit wages. Boo to that; raise your arms in an X to get it swept away. Hope for failure and embarrassment. Turn on each other and give power and profit to the people behind the curtain, again and again.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flogging the Dead Horseshit

The New York Times has a real pisscutter of a propaganda piece up on how the evil public unions are destroying America. A handy little paper written by long-time public pension haters Robert Novy-Marx and Joshua D. Rauh accompanies the thing. For whipping up panic, you'd have to go a fur piece to find a better example than this boatload of bilge, and for propaganda on behalf of the haves, it's absolutely pitch perfect.

First, let me give you a quick math lesson: I am a supervisory employee with the state. When I retire, in my 60s, with 20 years of service, I will earn the princely sum of about $25,000 a year from my public pension, assuming I still have it after Corbett gets done. Many people I know earn less than me, and will get less when they retire. Even I earn more than the average public employee in my state, so comparing some anomalous local fire chief or some highly-paid but rare regional director to a cashier at Barnes and Noble is like comparing a highly-paid private-sector Vice President to me.

Now imagine that you and your husband have a savings account, and every pay, you both contribute to it. You put in a bit more than he does. But for the last 10 years, unknown to you, you continued to contribute while he refused to do so. He even pulled money out. Since he used this money to pay your bills, you didn't notice that the cost of living was going up beyond what you were earning, and you didn't think to wonder why you could still afford to live on your combined incomes. One day you check the account and--quelle surprise!--there's less than half of what you had in it 10 years ago, and your retirement is just a couple years away. You can't continue to live on what you earn because neither or you has had a raise in 10 years, and your only choice now is to keep working and eat up the rest of your savings. Well, that savings is the pension fund. Your pay checks are the taxes we pay for the services we expect from the government. The raise you didn't get is the tax hike that should have occurred to fund government services, the cost of which were going up just like the cost of everything else. And that rat of a husband stealing your retirement from under your nose is the elected official who bought voter approval by stealing from the public pensions instead of raising taxes as he should have.

My comment on the story linked to above and left at the Times, follows:
Nice hatchet job. Let's cherry-pick the stats on the people getting the best pensions in the private sector instead of the public sector and compare them: payouts from shareholders and taxpayer subsidies and consumers that amount to billions of dollars over the lifetime of a single former CEO hardly compare. But you would object that using such a CEO as an example for the whole private sector, Wal-Mart greeters included, badly skews the argument against pensions for the private sector? Well, no more so than this article does to the public sector.

Further, where is the close examination of the fact that these pensions were deliberately unpaid or underpaid by these governments for years, even during good times, while the employees themselves continued to pay, and increase their contributions, into the fund? Where is the discussion of the cutbacks experienced by public employees in their contracts for the last 10 years even while private business payroll grew, which permanently hurt public employees' pension amounts? Where is the mention of the fact that as the cost of all other things grew, governments and taxpayers chose to cut or failed to fund the infrastructures needed to continue to provide services, and then woke up one day wondering why it was going to cost so much to make up the difference?

This kind of biased prole-baiting is exactly the reason the richest country in the world poor mouths every time a bridge needs fixed or a child needs medical care. And the fact that the real money continues to flow from the poorest to the richest never gets a mention, and if it does someone inevitably squeals "class war!!" That way, the working-class can be diverted from calling the ones responsible for this mess to account, and keep pretending they have more in common with Donald Trump than the clerical worker at a government office making $32K after 30 years on the job.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Everybody Loves the Sunshine

Here's to the solstice, and a hat tip to my buddy Norm for the reminder:

And here's what you can expect this summer in your area.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Another Country Heard From

How leadershippy of President Hope and Change to inject himself into the urgent issue of the moment:
Pressure on U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner to resign escalated as President Barack Obama called his behavior “highly inappropriate” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi prodded the New York Democrat to heed the president’s advice to leave office...

“I can tell you that if that was me, I would resign,” Obama said of Weiner in an interview with NBC News. “When you get to the point where, because of various personal distractions, you can’t serve as effectively, then you should probably step back.”
Leaving aside the fact that the outcome of this will not matter one whit to 100% of Americans and their lives, and the fact that Weiner is from a district that can be counted on to vote in another liberal if he resigns, so the balance of power for votes won't change, and the fact that he did nothing legally or ethically wrong, and the fact that stupidity is not yet a capital offense so far as I know, and the fact that his ability to "serve effectively" is being harmed more by the pearl-clutching of the Democrats than by the fact of what he did---well, leaving aside ALL that, the question that immediately rises to my mind is where the fuck was Mr. Hands-Off when the workers and teachers in Wisconsin needed his opinion and he couldn't even be bothered to send his second-in-command to talk to them, let alone make a random comment about something he promised that, if it happened on his watch, would make him put on his walking shoes and march around in solidarity with the union protesters?

Just asking.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Because there is no wrong, There is no right, And I sleep very well at night

Thanks to Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism for linking to this--the documentary Lifting the Veil, on the collusion of corporate interests and the American political machine:

Lifting the Veil from S DN on Vimeo.

And here's a reminder, from a previous post, of the vast differences between the two operators of that machine:


The Pathetic Little Circus

This is truly sad:
For the revelations about the congressman, Mr. Breitbart partnered with ABC News, which interviewed Ms. Broussard and published its own account of her relationship with Mr. Weiner, a Brooklyn Democrat.

Mr. Breitbart, whose credibility was damaged by his release of a selectively edited tape of Shirley Sherrod, an Agriculture Department official, said he felt ABC News could help the Weiner story rise to something more than a scandal flamed by the conservative blogosphere.

“One of the reasons I went to ABC, believe it or not, was to take this out of the partisan rancor realm,” he said in a phone interview...

ABC News acknowledged Mr. Breitbart’s role in uncovering the story but declined to comment on their talks with him.
Breitbart has been shown up time and again for the liar and right-wing propagandist he is, but no matter how many times his hatchet jobs are exposed, the news media keeps giving him credence. Like James O'Keefe, he spends his days wallowing in the muck on only one side of the fence, looking not for wrongdoing but for opportunities to hurt progressive causes, faking when he comes up empty, or exaggerating when he doesn't, using the lies and rigged videos that have become the hallmarks of reactionary disinformation. Long ago programs like Inside Edition began blurring the line between entertainment and "news", and cable TV, with its 24 hour vacuum to fill, raised the ante further. And now, even in the New York Times, this is what we have that passes for serious reporting. Did anyone bother to ask how this sudden interest in Weiner's underpants might be linked to his digging into Clarence Thomas' financial disclosure irregularities? No, and they won't, because some dumb Congressman's faux pas with consenting adults is so much better rube-bait, especially when his own party falls all over itself to buy into the opposition's hooey-of-the-moment.