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Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Pretty Clear

I grew up in a lower middle-class family.  My Mom was a homemaker, and my Dad worked in a factory.  When, at the age of 28 I decided to go to college, I did so while working 40+ hours a week.  Mom and Dad didn’t hand me a loan, and I didn’t have stock investments to sell to live off of, nor SSI to pay my tuition.  That folks, is earning one’s way.

What we have with the Romney\Ryan ticket are two people who have no idea what a struggle is.  They cannot relate to trying to make ends meet on a lower middle-class income.  Both men came from wealth, and both have made money off of investments, not from hard work.  Regardless of what they claim, they have never known, and probably will never know what it’s like to have to tell their kids they can’t go to a birthday party because you can’t even afford to buy a card, or to tell their kids they can’t participate in other youth activities because they don’t have the money.

The candidates from the Obama\Biden ticket know more about what struggles are, although they are as far removed from those struggles as I am, they too have gone through them personally and know how important a support system can be.  Joe Biden knows more about what it’s like for a bread winner to lose his/her job, than Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney do.  Therefore, the Obama\Biden ticket can relate more to the struggles of the middle-class.

I have seen people lose everything because of healthcare bills.  I have seen people lose jobs due to outsourcing.  One ticket only knows how to mouth the word “middle-class” and the other came from the middle-class.  I will vote for the latter.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Of Labor And Leisure

Today is Labor Day.  A holiday that less and less people realize what it really is all about.  If you took the time to ask, you'd find very few who could tell you the history of Labor Day, and what it represents.  Today, more than ever, people should be aware of what Labor Day's roots are.

In the current political foray, where we've got one party trying to tell us that business are solely responsible for their success, holding their convention in a 90% union city.  And we've got another party that decided to hold it's convention in a Right to Work state, in a stadium named after one of banking industry leaders partly responsible for the financial mess we found ourselves in.  What is most baffling is that the party that loathes unions is the one that held their convention in a major union city.  What does this all mean?

What is causing this disdain for labor, especially organized labor?  Why are those workers within the public sector treated as leeches who are draining our countries fiscal resources?  Where does this emanate from?  Did millions of people wake up one day and say to themselves "gee, those damn teachers and city workers have brought this country to it's knees"?  No, they didn't.  They've been spoon fed this garbage from a corrupt media who's only loyalties are with their advertisers, and we all know it's not labor that does all the advertising.

What might be causing this disdain for public sector workers?  Well, I've got a few ideas that have come from observing the shift as it has taken place.  There was a time in the country, when people cheered for their neighbors who seemed to be "lifting themselves up by the boot straps" by working hard and negotiating for good benefits and decent wages.  There was a time when a group of people working for company A, would look at the wages and benefits of those workers at company B and would say "gee, we should negotiate for those same types of benefits and wages instead of working so hard for less".  But now what we have is jealousy.  Neighbors are jealous of neighbors because their company started to take away their benefits and freezing their wages because laws favoring labor were changed to the point that they no longer favor labor, and favor those companies who are doing all they can to eek every last penny out of their corporation to hand over to their stock holders.

I have made it a point to help out labor as much as I can today, and to patronize those businesses who treat their workers with respect and dignity.  For example, in our small town, we have 3 grocery stores.  They are Wal Mart, Pick N Save, and Festival Foods.  Festival is the one that has union workers, and so we patronize that store more often than the other two.  When it comes to hardware items, I refuse to shop at Menards, and give the local hardware store my first shot at business, and then look to other sources.

Take a look at the history of labor force, and seeing how as the number of organized workers diminished, and the laws favoring labor have dwindled, so too has the wages and benefits of all workers.  Corporate CEO's and other top level executives are reaping the benefits of a harder working workforce, all the while those who toil on a daily basis to help make that company strive,  are being handed a hand-to-mouth existence with little to no expectation of things getting any better.

If you're not better off today than you were 10 years ago, ask yourself why.  Is it because of higher costs of public employees, or does it really have to do with dwindling benefits from greedy corporations who treat their labor force as nothing more than another liability on their spreadsheets?

You can choose to sit back and whine and cry about what others have that you don't have, or you can get off your ass and demand a living wage and decent benefits like those others have managed to wrangle for themselves.  Quit buying the rhetoric that corporations can't continue to pay it's workers and that taxes are too high because of all the benefits that public sector employees receive.  Start to question why, when corporations are cutting the wages and benefits of it's labor force, the exec's at the top continue to walk away with huge raises and greater benefits than have ever been realized by executive management in the history of this nation.

It is time for a renewed and refocused labor movement, to bring back the type of livelihood those in the 50's and 60's were able to realize.  It seems one party wants us to move back to the 50's and 60's, but only in regards to the rights of minorities and women.  Remember, the only way this was all built was due to a less divided nation that realized that labor was as important to a corporation as the exec's at the top, working together to make a company better.  If we don't turn this current trend around, we will be nothing more than workers there to satisfy the whims and needs of the rich and the elites.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Business Succeeds Because of Government

I read a rant on Facebook about how Charlie Sykes was ripping on Obama for saying that businesses wouldn't exist if not for the government.  Of course Charlie Sykes, being the inane dolt that he is came up with another attack of Obama on the grounds of his remarks.  He would never answer my questions, so I'll post them here in the hopes that one of his followers might stumble upon this blog and try to refute my comments.

Joe Blow decides to start a business, and he needs to find a piece of property to put his business on.  And, let's say that business would need a way to ship it's goods, sell it's goods, and bring in raw materials to produce those goods.  The business would also require large amounts of power and clean water.

Joe drives around looking for property to put his business on.  What does Joe use to go from property to property?  Of course, an automobile.  Now of course, we all know the government doesn't make automobiles, but they do help to regulate those industries to make sure they are building a safe vehicle for which Joe can drive around looking for land to purchase.  Oh and guess what?  Those roads that Joe is using to go from location to location, yep, they were built and are maintained by the government.  Joe finds the property he wants, and decides to purchase it.

Joe buys the property, but is unsure of whether or not that property really is safe to build on.  How can he find out?  Well, from the government of course.  The government has a listing of all toxic waste sites that have ever been registered.  How can Joe be assured that the property he just purchased doesn't have any liens against it, and is rightfully his?  The title, that's how.  And how keeps records of all land sales and purchases?  Yes, the government.

The location Joe found was along a highway and railroad tracks bordered his property as well.  There was a fire hydrant adjacent to his property and the city had a fire truck with a ladder that would be able to reach a 5 story rooftop.  This is important to Joe because his business will have to sections over 4 stories high.  He will also receive a break on his fire insurance due to the close proximity of the government sponsored fire hydrant, and it's a really nice amenity that the city has a fire truck whose ladder can reach the top of his businesses roof.

Joe set's out to find a contractor to build his building.  The contractor Joe decides to work with has one of his people draw up plans for the building based on Joe's requirements.  The architects, who were educated by government funded schools mind you.  Those plans are then handed off to all the sub-contractors to place bids on the building.  And guess what?  Yep, all those sub-contractors come with an education that was subsidized by the government, and the contractor knows these sub-contractors are legitimate businesses because the government has a way of making sure all contractors are licensed and valid.  All of the employees that the sub-contractors have, were also educated through government run schools and technical\trade schools.

Now, Joe's building needs to bring in heavy equipment to start breaking ground.  Good thing the government built strong roads that were inspected by government inspectors to make sure those roads could support the type of heavy equipment necessary to haul them.  Gravel and concrete will need to be hauled in as well, and again, because of the heavy loads being carried, it's a good thing these vehicles have maintained roads to travel on versus driving along dirt roads to get to their destinations.

I could continue on with all of the benefits that businesses here in the U.S. reap because of our government, and I might even do so.  But you get the point.  Businesses alone cannot succeed in today's economy without Government.  There's just now way.  And for a business to claim they built their empire on sheer hard work and determination is pure and utter bullshit.  They would go broke trying to build the damn business, let alone try to maintain one.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Observations and Realizations of 2011

As most people do, I have been reflecting a lot on what's taken place in 2011, and as is my nature, have observed some very interesting things.  First and foremost, the uprising of the downtrodden.  Whether it be here or abroad, people are sick and tired of being fed lies and deceit.  They are tired of being robbed by the rich, and being slaves to corporate greed.  They are tired of seeing the rich get away with crimes that the common man would be imprisoned for.  And it's all come to a boiling point.

Growing up during the 60's, I took an interest in what was going on in the world.  The civil rights movement was happening, and even being a white kid in a predominantly white city, I still felt that what was taking place was wrong, and that people of all races should be treated equally.  Something I felt the catholic church and school I went to had taught me.  Then came the ecology movement, and the anti-Vietnam protests.   Through it all, I would read the newspaper, and watch the news with my parents, and would discuss a lot of what I had been reading and seeing on TV.  I am ever so grateful to have had parents who were willing to discuss these things.  .

I came from a blue collar family, where my Mom was a home-maker and my Dad worked in a factory.  We lived in a small 3 bedroom house, with no garage.  I was already learning then, how those with wealth had the power, and how "privileged" those other kids from those families were.  I remember when the church we attended would put out a listing of all the members donations, and how the rich kids would tease those of us whose parents weren't able to give as much.  I didn't understand it then, but I realize now they were just repeating what they were hearing at home.  And this image of wealthy privilege has stuck with me since childhood.  I was 8 years old, and had worked with my Dad to make my pinewood derby car in Cub Scouts.  My Dad had been working nights, and we only had a weekend to work on it, and he helped me make a spectacular car.  Well, the night of the pinewood derby, I had sewn up 3rd place with that car, and was really proud of what my Dad and I had accomplished together.  But before the awards were to be handed out, in walks a well known doctor in town with his son.  Although the rest of us all had to be signed up 30 minutes before the event, this guy waltzes in and basically demands that his son be allowed to race.  He was allowed to enter his car, and I was kicked out of 3rd place.  I learned then that some were more privileged than others, and weren't made to play by the same rules.

The next year, I was being harassed by the son of the president of pretty big business in the area.  He grabbed my shirt and pulled so hard that he ripped buttons off of it, and had tore part of the shirt.  This was a shirt that was part of the uniform I had to wear, and I knew my Mom was going to be irate.  I try to walk away and this kid keeps harassing me, and I end up beating him up.  The next day, after I get to school, the nun sends me to the principals office.  When I get there, the head nun starts scolding me for the fight, and when I tried to explain to her about the shirt and him harassing me, she told me I was to sit in her office all day as punishment.  Of course, the other kid didn't get any punishment at all.  That was pretty much the last straw with my Mom.  Plus the fact that tuition had increased, that was my last year at that school.

As I went through school, I noticed how those who came from money were always looking down at those with less.  Mocking our clothes, bikes, etc.  This went on all through my school years, seeing those with money getting special treatment.  And here's what I realize.  Through the magic of Facebook, many of those same people who were of the privileged class, are now hard-core conservatives.  They have little empathy for those who have nothing, because they never had to experience it in their lives.  They don't understand the concept of class struggle, because they themselves were from upper middle-class families that never struggled to make ends meet, and they were always on the winning end of the equation.  The division of classes was already taking root at that time.  You had white collar vs. blue collar then, where today we have the rich vs. those who aren't rich.

But what's different today is that there are a class of people who side with the rich, even though they themselves are being pushed down by their actions.  And what I find so puzzling is how many of those who went through those times like I did, being made to feel less than from the kids of the white collar class, are the ones who are now admonishing the lower class and blaming them for all of our ails.  And I realize now why that is.  Many of them, like myself, wanted to have a better life than their parents did.  They bettered themselves, or worked hard to make a better life for themselves.  But as corporate greed started to increase, their own wealth and lives started to erode.  We didn't stop working as hard.  We didn't start working less.  So what caused this change?  It was the old bait and switch.

The age old tom foolery of pointing towards others to take the focus off of the true problem.  We did it as little kids.  We get caught taking a cookie from the cookie jar, and we point a finger and Johnny and say he did it too.  It's no different with the rich and the big corporations.  During the late 70's and early 80's, the middle-class were starting to see that shift in wealth taking place, and we just kept thinking if we worked harder, and worked more we could get that wealth too.  Then came the cost of health care.  Businesses started to require employees to start sharing some of the cost of the increases.  We were upset by it, and we were told from insurers that it was the doctors and pharmaceutical companies that were to blame.  And the insurance companies told us that it was because of all those people who run to the doctor for every little ache and pain.

In the meantime, wages started to freeze.  Companies were more concerned about stock values than they were about reciprocal loyalty to their employees.  Then came the first wave of the rich stealing from others.  There was the S & L bailouts, and then Black Tuesday.  The average American who was lead to believe the stock market was a great investment opportunity, and those employees who were fooled by their corporate employers that investing in stock was a great idea.  These people lost their asses.  Myself included.  Yet somehow, very few corporations folded, and very few on Wall Street lost their ass.

Next came the corporate takeovers.  Our wages and benefits were either froze or reduced to help the company "recover" from the investment in our future.  Meanwhile, those at the top were raking in huge profits.  But, we were told they couldn't give us raises, and we had to pay more for insurance.  When asked why, corporations started to point the finger at the government.  It was those high taxes they had to pay, and those people receiving government aid and assistance who were the real culprits.  So, some people started to fall for the bullshit. Hell, even I did for a while.  

So now, we've got a demographic of people, the baby boomers, who early in life were led to believe that hard work and sacrifice were the way to do better in life.  They were shown too how those with more wealth were treated better by the powers that be.  This became the goal for many of us.  We were then told that even though we were working hard and sacrificing, that we needed to work harder still and sacrifice even more to help the "company" because we were all one big team.  So we did.  And our reward?  We were told that despite all that hard work and effort, it was those government moochers who were causing these corporations to have to make cuts, that had to move jobs overseas, and had to reduce wages and benefits for those still working.  It was a concerted campaign by many corporations to make them still appear to be the good guy in all this, and that it was government and those with less than who were to blame, and that if we didn't all pull together and work even harder, we could lose our jobs too.

And as unions started to wake up and realize what was taking place, corporations were starting to blame the high labor costs for their problems, and switching the focus towards the unions.  All the while, the executives at the top kept making more and more money.  So now we've got unions, and those receiving government subsidies made to look like the biggest reason why the middle class was losing their fight to better themselves.

Enter the anti-union movement.  Corporations, not wanting everyone to see how those at the top were seeing their wages increase, started to ostracize unions and paint them as the main reason why products were costing so much to produce.  People start seeing their wages and benefits cut, but bigger unions were still able to maintain some of the pay and benefits that many had lost.  The propaganda started to emerge to make those who won the battle with corporations to appear as the bad guy.  And once again, many were fooled into believing that it was the unions who were being greedy, when all along it's been the executives at the top.

So now, they've cut or frozen our wages.  Reduced benefits.  Conned us into investing in 401k's instead of providing pensions like they used to.  (and we all know what's happened to a lot of that 401k money don't we?).  But wait, there's more.  After reducing the wages and benefits of their lower level employees by blaming unions for all their problems.  And after getting everyone to think that it was also those who were mooching off the system.  They ran out of things to blame their greed on.

Until now.  Now, it's the government employee who is to blame.  It is those highly paid employees and all their benefits that are costing these big corporations all kinds of money in tax dollars.  Never mind the fact that they are paying less in taxes than they've ever paid before.  It's all those non-legislative government workers who are draining the system and causing these corporations to not pay their workers.  I finally get it.  The wealthy have not only been given the gift of privilege, they've also been given the gift of deception, for they've pulled off one of the greatest scams of all time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Penchant For Dissing Pensions

There was a time when employers were loyal to their employees just like employees were loyal to their employers.  During those times, employers wanted to make sure that their employees were taken care of after they retired from their employment.  And by doing so, employers would tell their employees that in order to help make sure their employees were taken care of in their retirement years, they would need those workers to accept a bit less in wages in order to be able to fund the pension plan.  Some referred to this method as deferred compensation.

Over the years, some employers noticed that there was a large amount of money sitting in those pension funds, and wanted to use them of other purposes, and in some instances used that money and lost it all.  When the employees went after the employers for the pension money the employers "lost", the courts decided that those funds were not the employees funds until after they retired, and although it was a contractual agreement, the employer had the right to invest the pensions as they saw fit.  Soon afterwards, the arrival of the 401k came along.  Allowing Wall St. to have access to people's supposed retirement funds to do as they wished, and as we saw these past few years, all with no apparent recourse should those funds be pilfered or lost in the market to reckless actions by those on Wall St.

Now move to 2011.  Many states are realizing how much money they have in state employee pension plans, and want to have access to those funds to allow some on Wall St. to gamble with that money.  This is just wrong.  But what people don't understand is that unions would negotiate for higher wages, and at times, when they weren't able to get decent wage increases, they would accept what the company would deem as deferred compensation, which was a means of increasing the monies put towards the pension fund.  So, rather than employees receiving a 3% increase, you might see a 2% increase along with a 50 cent increase in the cost per years of service in the pension.  I was involved in a few contracts where we didn't even get raises, but were able to at least negotiate for increases in our pensions, knowing that it was deferred compensation that would pay off in the future.  Of course, with the latest happenings, and the recent hate mongering towards  unions, we are seeing how some are losing site of, or just plain lying about what pensions really are, and how they are part of a deferred compensation.

And now, worst of all, we have the Pentagon looking at ways to cut costs, and one of the areas they are looking is at the military pension fund.  A fund that has been in place for over 100 years.  There are private industries that know that's a lot of money that they would love to have access to in order to further their wealth, and they will stop at nothing to get their hands on that money, like they did the money of other government employees.  The problem is, when the Pentagon starts talking about cutting costs, the very first place they should be cutting costs is in their contracts with private industries, not the men and women who have sacrificed years of their lives and their rights to give protection to this country and other countries as well.  We have private contractors like Dyncorp, Haliburton, and Blackwater making billions of dollars off of our government with open ended contracts that doesn't put any limits on what they charge our government for their services.  We have contractors who are still charging outragious amounts for items you and I can go to the local hardware store and purchase for a single digit percentage of what the government is charged.

I am not a veteran, but I am an American, and I'm saying, when you start going after one of the major benefits our soldiers have, that's when the line get's crossed.  Enough is enough.  Veteran's, now is the time for you to be vocal.  For you to speak up and ask those of us who are true patriots to stand with you in this fight, and tell the Pentagon officials to shove their reports about your pensions as far up their asses as they can, and then light the damn paper on fire.  Tell them to stop hiring all these private militia forces and start treating and paying our soldiers like they deserve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Grover Norquist - King of the Tea-Party

The Tea-Party try to make themselves out to be this great patriotic organization who want to see taxes decreased, and they say government is too big, and that they're sick and tired of the government telling them what they can and cannot do.  And when it comes to unions, they all blow the same smoke rings up our asses.  That unions have corrupted the government by placing demands on the Democrats, and forcing the Democrats to do as the unions say or else.

Here's the funny part.  These same idiot sticks who claim the unions are running things, are just fine with one person running things.  What the hell is that all about?  Grover Norquist is the new King Henry, whom the Tea-Party has anointed as their savior.  So, although they try and claim they're patriots, they are really just one big dumb driven herd.  They have no means to think.  They only act and react based upon whatever bullshit their leaders like Norquist place in front of them.  The sad part is, they're taking this country into uncharted waters that could totally fuck the middle and lower class.  All because they can't think for themselves, and want the country changed yesterday, and the change they want instilled is exactly why this country was founded.

This country was founded because people didn't like to be told who to worship, and how.  They didn't like being ruled by a monarchy, and wanted a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  But thanks to the Tea-Party, we are heading towards dictatorial rule.  Grover Norquist is writing the rules, and the Tea-Party is demanding the Republicans follow lock-step of they'll be gone.  Hitler had the Nazi's, and Norquist has the Tea-Party.

The really scary part is that the majority of the people who follow the Tea-Party are easily influenced through fear and hate, and have voted based on TV ads versus doing their due diligence and researching clients.  The DeVos's knew what they were doing when they started ALEC.  They use the same business model to get the Tea-Party to follow their lead, as they did getting people to sell their useless bullshit running their legalized pyramid scheme.  And it wouldn't surprise me that they used Amway as a means to test out their marketing sham to see what worked best for luring in the unthinking fools who think they too can be like them some day.

Tea-Party morons, thanks for being the reason why we have large numbers of unemployed, and people working longer for the same or less money.  You people should never be allowed to reproduce more of the moronic idiots that you have shown yourselves to be.