Recently in Labor & the Economy Category

Reading my local morning paper, I see that it is a typical day... Front page story about the exponential growth in the crow population since a 1981 measurement, Counting crows: Number of black birds on the rise in Bay Area ('Eden For Crows' in the print edition), can't find an explanation, but doesn't bring up that the climate here is changing. 

An article about the anniversary of the Gabby Giffords shooting, A year after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, doesn't mention that conservatives put on a gun show to mark the anniversary, doesn't even mention the word 'gun.'
 
The anniversary was marked not only by the traditional rituals of speechmaking and prayers, but also by organized sessions and designated spots for yoga, meditation, hugging, dancing and steel drum playing. There were campaigns promoting civility and community -- people gathered at a park Saturday to sign a "Tucsonans Commit to Kindness" contract -- that were notable in how they avoided any explicit mention of the events of a year ago.
An editorial cartoon blasting "Government Motors" for having a "Fire Sale" of Chevy Volts, showing the entire dealership burnt out from a car fire, doesn't mention that there has not been a single car fire in a Volt, except after a special-circumstances crash test, and the cars are being recalled to fix the potential problem. Compare this with the following numbers for cars that run on ... gasoline:
 
In 2002-2005, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 306,800 vehicle fires per year. These fires caused an average of 520 civilian deaths, 1,640 civilian injuries, and $1.3 billion in direct property damage.
What's not in the paper? Anything that informs people of the benefits of belonging to a union. Anything that talks about how our government helps us. Anything that goes up against Big Oil and King Coal and informs the public of just how serious the problems of global warming are and the need for immediate solutions, or that informs the public of the need to move away from oil and coal as our energy source. 

To sum it up: anything that informs the public of the harm caused by plutocratic, corporatist-captured government and the benefits of democracy and good government. 

 In other words, you find very little in today's corporate-owned media that runs up against the agenda of the 1% and helps the 99%. 

 This is a fully-captured newspaper.

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It was an amazing thing to be part of, an entire city downtown occupied, then a huge march that shut down a major port. Oakland was #occupied! This was a game changer, a turning point. What happened in Oakland was a very big deal. On the same Wednesday there were big, big #occupy events in several other cities. But will Washington pay attention?

Occupy Oakland

I arrived at Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland yesterday about 11:30am. The streets were blocked off by police (a single police car keeping traffic out) a block or three out in all four directions, and a large crowd was gathered. The Plaza itself was surrounded by occupier tents, the surrounding street had several booths, and there was a bit of a festival atmosphere.

At the corner of 14th and Broadway there was a stage set up with speakers throughout the day. Hundreds of people milled about, many with signs saying everything from "We Are The 99%" to "Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out," "Tax The Rich," "Stand With The 99%," "We Get Cut, They Get Rich," etc...

There was a harmonious energy with people of all ethnicities, ages, cultures and from all over the area. People were friendly, helpful, welcoming, and overall supportive of each other. It was a very pleasant event on a very pleasant day.

The main action of the day began at 4PM as the first of two marches left for the Port of Oakland. A number of buses filled up first, sending people to set up early picket lines. They would be joined and reinforced as marchers arrived. The picket lines and first marchers were effective as the workers honored the lines. Seeing the very large number of people heading for the port authorities decided to close operations and send workers home. But still thousands upon thousands of people marched, with many thousands more joining the 5pm march.

The scene at the port was just astonishing. People were just everywhere, as far as I could walk, passing more and more crowds of people, each time thinking this must be the "main mass." Then walk a bit further and there would be an even bigger mass of people. Drummers, dancers, people sitting on trucks. And of course lots of people wondering what was going on and what would happen next...

Finally people started tricking out, heading back to the occupy center at Oscar Grant Plaza.

And, of course, later a number of anarchists started a bonfire and had to be cleared out with tear gas.

Josh Holland at AlterNet has a good writeup of the days events, in OWS Oakland Takes Over City, Shutting Down One of the Biggest Ports in the Country...But Nightfall Brings More Chaos and Teargas

As many as 15,000 people participated in actions across Oakland yesterday, with small marches peeling off to protest in front of banks or "occupy" foreclosed homes. There were probably eight to ten times the number of people in the streets of Oakland today as I'd seen during past OWS actions. Police maintained a minimal presence throughout the day.

... A day of scattered actions across the city culminated in a massive "occupation" that shut down the Port of Oakland, the fifth busiest container port in the country. When it was announced that operations had been suspended for the night, thousands of people partied around trucks halted in their tracks, celebrating a victory in their struggle with authorities that began with the violent eviction of Occupy Oakland last week. The Oakland police, and Mayor Jean Quan, stung by negative press stemming from the clashes, essentially gave the port to the movement.

No Police At All?

The role of police in communities in a democracy is to be part of the community and to protect the community from the troublemakers, predators, criminals, etc. That includes communities of people expressing their dissatisfaction with plutocracy, just like crowds at football games, etc.

At a football game you see the police mixing with the crowds, spotting trouble, etc. They aren't lined up in full combat gear to intimidate the crowd and make people think they are doing something that is prohibited. They aren't under orders to treat the crowd at a football game or rock concert as an enemy.

In a plutocracy the police are under orders to do just that. And that is what the police have been doing in cities like Oakland.

So because of previous trouble when police were ordered to attack peaceful protesters the police had to be simply absent in Oakland yesterday in the face of such a large crowd. A self-organized mass like Occupy, in its early stages (this was only the 7th week!) hasn't learned how to deal with these things on their own and they shouldn't have to. They shouldn't need to set up their own government, etc., they are part of the larger community. It is not illegal to protest, or to have a beard, etc. People should not be mocked, humiliated, attacked, or have the police set on them because they oppose the greed of the giant corporations and big banks and Wall Street speculators. They are citizens.

This is not the fault of the police force. They are people with families and mortgages and car payments just like most of us. They have to do what they are told to do when they show up for work. The problems start when they show up for work and are told to attack peaceful protesters.

They should have been there assisting the citizens, from the start, just like a crowd at a festival, concert, or sporting event. And that would have prevented the troublemakers from breaking windows, starting bonfires, etc.

Major Labor Presence

There was a very big labor presence at the events in Oakland. The Communications Workers of America (CWA) had a strong presence. Their workers are engaged in a battle with Verizon, a giant and highly profitable company that is trying nonetheless to cut worker pay, benefits, safety standards and generally fight to push them out of the middle class.


Representatives of any, many other labor organizations were present, supporting the goals of the Occupy movement.

Pics

Here is a slideshow of pics and videos taken with my phone: (in some browsers you need to hit refresh to see this)


I also reported quite a bit of moment-to-moment action and posted many more pics on my twitter feed.

Spreading And Growing

The Occupy movement is in its 7th week, and continues to spread and grow. It has spread to cities around the country and world, and the numbers at each location continue to grow.

A quick scan of the news shows events in cities across the country including but not in any way limited to Omaha, Nashville, Rochester, Asheville, Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Denver, Washington, Philadelphia, Tulsa, Detroit, Chicago, Fort Myers, Austin, Boise, Atlanta, Sacramento, Portland, and of course New York.

Washington Reaction

In Washington this week the reaction to the national #occupy protests has been immediate and unrestrained. Reacting to the national attention and concern about Wall Street and corporate greed and the effect on the 99% of Americans facing tremendous work and financial pressures, the House of Representatives debated a bill to affirm "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto. And in the Senate, Republicans filibustered another effort to provide jobs from maintaining the country's crumbling infrastructure.

Also, in reaction to the national call for efforts to fight corporate greed and provide jobs the "super committee" debated how much money to take out of the economy, cutting Medicare and Social Security for the elderly, essential government services for the 99% of us who don't own big chunks of large corporations, all while seeking ways to further lower top and corporate tax rates. Never mind looking for ways to cut the overwhelming, bloated, huge, enormous, extravagant, inflated, out-of-control, budget-busting military budget!!!

At the same time others in Congress are discussing allowing giant multinational corporations to bring back the profits made from sending jobs and factories out of the country without having to pay taxes on that money.

A Warning Shot At Washington's Increasing Irrelevance

As I said, this public protest is spreading and growing. People have had enough and are taking to the streets in increasing numbers. But Washington continues to ignore the public, debating a national motto, as Repubicans block jobs and an elitist "super committee" debates cutting the things government does for the 99%.

Poll after poll shows the public overwhelmingly supports increasing taxes on the wealthy, bringing corporations under control, and reigning in trade agreements that suck our jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country. People do not want Medicare, Social Security and other essential government programs cut, they want the rich and corporations and Wall Street to start paying their share.

The public wants something done about these problems. They want jobsm, they want something done about the incresing

If Congress continues to ignore the people of the country it will not be long before the situation is like Mubarak pretending he is still in charge of Egypt, while the people of the country are in the streets planning how they will run the country without him and his cronies.

Water On Gremlins

Lee Camp said that pepper spraying #occupiers is like throwing water on gremlins, you just get 10 times as many.

"Good God don't you get it, greed is no longer good."

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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Another bad jobless claims report... and this time Washington seems to have finally noticed that there are some unemployed people out here in the sticks. But instead of jobs programs the geniuses are proposing ... what else? ... even more tax cuts. (And after a few hours they'll go back to complaining about deficits but blame "spending.") And of course, they are once again trying to "appeal to Republican lawmakers" without getting it that Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to slow job growth so they can win the next election.

Bloomberg: Payroll-Tax Break Said to Be Discussed by Obama Aides Amid Slowing Economy,

President Barack Obama's advisers have discussed seeking a temporary cut in the payroll taxes businesses pay on wages as they debate ways to spur hiring amid signs that the recovery is slowing, according to people familiar with the matter.

. . . The talks reflect the political constraints the White House is operating under with the Republican majority in the U.S. House pushing to cut federal spending. A hiring stimulus based on a tax break for employers may appeal to Republican lawmakers, many of whom have called for measures to help businesses.

Companies Only Hire When Customers Are Coming In The Door

Here is something the geniuses haven't noticed, in all their geniosity: It doesn't matter how much more money you give to business owners, businesses are not going to hire any more employees until they have a REASON to - and that reason is customers coming in the door.

OK, That was bold and italicized. Maybe if I make it ALL CAPS the geniuses will see it? Let's see: BUSINESSES ARE NOT GOING TO HIRE ANY MORE EMPLOYEES UNTIL THEY HAVE A REASON TO AND THAT REASON IS CUSTOMERS COMING IN THE DOOR.

Businesses are not going to hire people just to sit around and listen to iPods or read the paper, waiting for a customer.

Terrance Heath, in America's Unhappy Anniversary: Ten Years Of The Bush Tax Cuts For The Wealthy,

Republicans claim that preserving the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is in the interest of small businesses, but small business owners are starting to demand a repeal of the Bush tax cuts.
"We are fed by our consumers, not by our tax breaks," says Rick Poore, owner of Designwear, Inc., a screen-printing business based in Lincoln, Neb. "If you drive more people to my business, I will hire more people. It's as simple as that. If you give me a tax break, I'll just take the wife to the Bahamas."

Businesses are fed by their customers, not by tax cuts. Tax cuts only feed deficits. Customers coming in the door is what causes businesses to hire. In case you missed that: Customers coming in the door is what causes businesses to hire.

Direct Job Creation Is Needed

Until there are more customers businesses are not going to hire. Why should they? So it is up to us (government: We, the People...) to create some customers. The way to do that is to hire people to do some of the things that it is government's job to do anyway, but government has been putting off because of so many tax cuts.

Fix the infrastructure: Our infrastructure is crumbling. In Obama Should Call Chamber's Infrastructure Bluff I linked to an Urban Land Institute report on the country's infrastructure, showing how we are falling behind countries like Brazil, China and India, and to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Infrastructure Report Card, that says a $2.2 trillion investment is needed just to bring the country's infrastructure back up to current standards.

This infrastructure work has to be done no matter what. The longer we delay it the more our country falls behind. It is millions of jobs that need doing at a time when millions need jobs! (And by the way the government can borrow at nearly zero interest rates right now -- one more reason to do it now.)

Green jobs: And then there are the green jobs you should be creating. You should be hiring people to retrofit every home and building in the country to be more energy efficient. This pays for itself because we stop sending so much money to the oil-producing countries, stop putting so much carbon in the air, and our economy becomes more efficient. And put more money into alternative energy, too. I mean, jeeze, geniuses, what part of this is hard to get?

Jobs fix deficits: Hiring people to fix up the infrastructure takes them off the unemployment rolls and off the other assistance programs, lowering government spending on those programs. Having those jobs means they are paying taxes again, raising government revenue. And fixing up the infrastructure makes our businesses more competitive again, growing the economy. It's a no-brainer which should mean even the DC geniuses can figure it out.

Fix Trade

Because of bad trade deals, much of any revival of our economy just means that we send more money out of the country. The trade deficits, especially with China, are also economy deficits. We are not just sending jobs and money out of the country, we are sending our chances of coming out of this economic slump out of the country as well.

And these trade deals pit exploited, underpaid workers in non- or weak democracies against our workers who had been benefiting from the good wages, workers protections and other non-"business friendly" things that democracy brings along with it.

Our trade deals have made our democracy and the resulting high standard of living into a disadvantage. Who were the geniuses that let that happen?

Restore Long-Term Incentives

Tax cuts have cut the incentive for long-term business models. It used to take time to build a fortune, so businesses had to place themselves within healthy communities with good schools, well-maintained infrastructure and solid, well-funded public structures like the court system. Cutting top tax rates changed business models to make more sense "harvesting" those things in a hurry and moving on to the next community with resources to plunder. Low top tax rates encourage quick-buck schemes.

Propose The Right Thing

Propose the right thing and do it publicly, instead of trying to appease a political ideology bent on destroying government. Doing the right thing is also the right thing politically. If the job situation doesn't get better you're going to be thrown out of office. So come one, geniuses, get smart and start hiring people to fix up the infrastructure and make the economy more energy efficient.

10 years of Bush tax cuts is enough! Click here to demand your representative supports the Fairness in Taxation Act so the rich contribute their fair share.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am also a Fellow with CAF.


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On the heels of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee, Florida and other states, California Republicans have introduced a Wisconsin-style bill to strip public employees of the right to union bargaining. San Francisco Chronicle, yesterday, Showdown brewing over CA state employee pensions,
   
On Tuesday, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa (Orange County), introduced a bill that would strip public employees of their ability to collectively bargain for retirement benefits.
But what else would you expect? What is interesting is the rest of the story

The recent Speak Out California post, Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers looked into who is behind the attack on public employees, tracing back from an LA Times op-ed by Marcia Fritz of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. Fritz pops up again in the Chronicle story,
   
That [pension reform] "isn't just a state problem, it's far worse in cities," said Marcia Fritz, president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility, a nonprofit pension reform group. ... "We need the leader of California to stand up and lead on this issue," Fritz said. "And if he doesn't, we'll go around him, just like people did on Proposition 13 (in 1978 during Brown's first stint as governor). And I don't think he wants that."
Also popping up in the Chronicle story,

"I don't think Brown wants to take on his union pals," said Steven Greenhut, author of "Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation."
From Speak Out California's Discover The Network Out To Crush Our Public Workers,
   
The Pacific Research Institute has a mission to "champion freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility for all individuals by advancing free-market policy solutions." The Director of PRI's Journalism Center wrote a book called, "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation."
In the "Network" post I wrote about "Cookie-Cutter Think Tanks,"
   
These are just a few of the network of conservative "institutes," etc. around the country. Just a very few. (Here is a list of 185 organizations purporting to be conservative state think tanks, a list of 40 conservative national organizations with state networks and a list of 306 organizations purporting to be conservative national think tanks and 65 conservative "family policy" organizations. There are other lists with other criteria.) 
As you follow these threads you discover layer upon layer of corporate/conservative front groups, masking their activities and funders with more layers of front groups. They all have similar mission statements, have similar people on their Boards with similar backgrounds, cover the same issues the same way, and even use remarkably similar language. They seem to be not just connected but interconnected. The sheer number of these similar "think tanks" make it appear that there must be a machine somewhere that stamps these things from a template. That machine is named "Scaife/Coors/Koch..." (Please read also and spend some time here.)
I haven't written Part II of the post yet, but in the research I found a "think tank" that had no purpose except to release one "study" by Lanny Ebenstein of the California Center for Public Policy, which is not to be confused with with the California Public Policy Center, of Pension Tsunami, which is discussed in the post. In today's Santa Ynez Valley Journal story, END APPROACHING FOR PUBLIC UNIONS?, Ebenstein pops up, with a new organization:
   
... a new group called Californians for Public Union Reform has spearheaded an effort to place an initiative on next year's state ballot that would end employee collective bargaining, the behind-closed-doors process by which unions negotiate salaries, health care and other retirement benefits on behalf of employees. 
Lanny Ebenstein, chairman of the group and a professor of economics at UCSB, said the proposal to curtail collective bargaining is a key component to fiscal reform, and one that he believes will help solve California's budgetary woes the same way Walker thinks the decertification of all public-sector unions will balance Wisconsin's budget. ... 
 "Something is fundamentally wrong with the system, and it's obvious what the elephant in the room is: Public sector employees are receiving too much compensation," he said.
That's the ticket, public employees -- teachers, police, DMV workers -- caused the recession. THEY are the reason states are out of money. Tax cuts for the rich had nothing to do with it.

Right. Blame the workers, who have already taken pay cuts, increased retirement age, foreclosures, etc.  Certainly not Wall Street or the wealthy who are taking an ever greater share of the country's income and wealth...

P.S. There is a Rally to Save the American Dream in Sacramento this Saturday, being organized by MoveOn.org and others to support working people, details here.

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It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get "lucrative" pensions and this is "bankrupting" your state, county or city. Public officials are "in bed" with "union bosses" and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don't do much work but live the good life. "Reports" and "studies" confirm this.

People hear the same story over and over and over and over, seemingly coming from everywhere: public employees have it good, with extravagant pay and "lavish" or "plush" pensions, while taxpayers are taking it in the shorts. Public-employee pensions are "bankrupting" the state/county/city. "Unfunded liabilities" are "out of control" and it is time to do something about it before it is too late.

This is part of a broad, nationwide attack on public employees and their unions, and through them, on government and democracy itself.


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Blame the unions, blame the unemployed, blame loans to the poor, blame the government... As income and wealth increasingly go to a few at the top public anger is directed at the economy's victims.

I am in a clinic all day participating in a medical study, so I was talking to one of the nurses. She brought up that California is in real trouble, is going broke, it's a real mess. She says she doesn't know what we're going to do. She has heard that, "lots of states are going bankrupt. There is no money anymore."

So I asked her what we should do about it.

She said it is because of the unions. "It's just ridiculous. They want so much."

I asked if she follows the news closely, she said she does. "I watch the news a lot."

Some facts: California is famous for leading the country in a wave of anti-government tax-cutting and into Reaganism. We cut taxes an an anti-government ferver and increased prison spending in a law-and-order fever. Then the federal government cut taxes and increased military spending, leading to big deficits. Now we're out of money to run the state government and the country is getting there, too. California's problems have little or nothing to do with what state employees are paid, and a lot to do with tax cuts and people across the state not getting paid enough.

Blaming The Unions

This weekend CBS' 60 Minutes joined the anti-worker chorus, blaming public employee unions for the problems faced by the states. Media Matters, in 60 Minutes' one-sided, GOP-friendly report on state budgets describes the segment,

In 2,600 words about state deficits, you won't find the phrase "tax cuts." Instead, CBS adopts the Republican framing that deficits are all about spending -- frequently with loaded phrasing like "gold-plated retirement and health care packages." And throughout the report, CBS allows Christie, New Jersey's Republican governor, to launch attacks on unions and make unsupported claims about budget problems, all without ever challenging his assertions and without including substantive disagreement from Christie critics.

... You'd never know from CBS' report that a big part of the reason that "Christie and his predecessors" failed to make required contributions to the pension fund is that they decided to use the money for tax cuts instead. [emphasis added]

Mike Hall at the AFL-CIO blog explains that New jersey's workers and pensions are not the problem,

While politicians like Christie rail against the pensions public employees have secured through collective bargaining--painting them as overly generous golden parachutes, McEntee notes the average annual pension for an AFSCME member is $19,000, and the workers contribute 80 percent during their lifetime on the job.

Tax cuts, income and wealth going to a few at the top, but the unions take the blame because they fight for a better life for working people.

Blaming The Unemployed

The unemployed and the checks they get are often blamed for their plight. They are called "lazy," and it is even suggested the be tested for drugs. CAF graduate David Sirota, in Why the 'Lazy Jobless' Myth Persists

The thesis undergirding all the rhetoric was summed up by conservative commentator Ben Stein, who insisted that "the people who have been laid off and cannot find work are generally people with poor work habits and poor personalities."

[. . .] The trouble, though, is that the whole narrative averts our focus from the job-killing trade, tax-cut and budget policies that are really responsible for destroying the economy. And this narrative, mind you, is not some run-of-the-mill distraction. The myth of the lazy unemployed is what duck-and-cover exercises and backyard nuclear shelters were to a past era--an alluring palliative that manufactures false comfort in the face of unthinkable disaster.

Blaming The Poor And Government

Republicans on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission are sabotaging the commission's work, demanding that "Wall Street" and "deregulation" not appear anywhere in the report. They are refusing to participate, instead releasing a counter-report blaming the government, claiming We, the People forced the giant banks to give home loans to the poor, and blaming the poor for receiving those loans.

What People Think

People tend to think about what is put in front of them to think about. That's why everyone goes to see a new movie on the first weekend instead of waiting until they can get good seats with no lines. Wall Street and the likes of the Chamber of Commerce understand this so they put scapegoats in front of the public to mask what they are doing. Right now there is a corporate/right campaign to blame working people for the problems they caused.

Like 60 Minutes this weekend, the news sources are run by big corporations, and they have been saying over and over (and over and over) that unions and the unemployed and the poor and the government are the cause of the problems. (When was the last time you saw a union representative on TV, explaining the benefits of joining a union?) And, naturally, after hearing these things over and over (and over and over), viewers like the nurse at the clinic I am in think they should blame the unions, the unemployed, the poor, the government, too.

So much of the income and wealth are concentrating at the top. Taxes have been cut so far. The things our government does for us have been cut back so far. Working people's wages have been stagnant for so long.

But the blame right now is directed at the unions, the poor, the unemployed and our government: We, the People.

As the AFL-CIO blog concludes,

The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges ... is "a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue."

To repeat: The long term solution to state and local fiscal challenges ... is "a robust economy, one that is creating jobs and replenishing tax revenue."

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am also a Fellow with CAF.


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This fall I was invited to cover the the Keep It Made In America Tour put on by the Alliance for American Manufacturing. I spent a week driving around Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, ejoying the fall colors and visiting small towns all along the way.

I live in Silicon Valley where in spite of the high unemployment -- still 10.6% -- it's still pretty nice here, so the extent and especially breadth of the decline of so many cities and towns was a shock. Everywhere you go you see America's infrastructure crumbling! Of course I know this has been going on, but when you actually come from somewhere that is still pretty nice and see it firsthand - and everywhere - you really see it.

As I drove around these states I saw pretty much the same thing in town after town. As you approach the town on the highway the first thing you encounter is what I will call the vulture circle that surrounds it. This is the circle of Wall Street-owned chains emulating the Wal-Mart model of sucking cash out of the area and sending it away to the wealthy elites who own ... almost everything now. These are the national chains that are all the same in every town, all selling the same stuff, all made in China, all putting the local small businesses out of business.

As you drive into town the next thing you encounter is the circle of home equity extraction, with newer houses that have taken on big first and second Wall Street mortgages. These houses mostly look OK -- except the foreclosures with the brown lawns and grass growing in the cracks in the driveway. This area has car dealers and strip malls that used to sell expensive cars or nice goods. These dealers and stores feasted on those "take money out of your house" refinancings or second mortgages. Now they have nail and hair salons or are just "for lease."

As you get closer to the center of town you come to the areas of older houses, more of them boarded up than you want to see, with old, boarded-up stores on a few of the corners of the larger streets. Where there are still-occupied houses they have bars on the windows.

Finally you come to the old, crumbling downtown where there are many empty storefronts, some boarded, the lost dreams of the local small business-owners. Here and there you see, between the vacant lots, a few government buildings.

And then somewhere is what they always call "the old plant." This is one or more closed-up, fenced-off, rusting old factories or mills. They are fenced off, with lots of broken windows, and maybe part of a building is falling down. This is where the people used to work but the jobs moved to Mexico or China.

Much of the country is like this now. So many of the older small towns, crumbling, the money sucked out by the Wall Street elite. The factories sold off, closed. The people can't make a living, the towns can't make a living, the country can't make a living, the Wall Street elite making a killing.

You can see the process starting here in Silicon Valley, too. As you drive around this area you see that one of every four or five office or light-industrial buildings has an "Available" sign. The region has the same number of manufacturing jobs as it had when the "tech revolution" began. The rest have moved to China. We don't make cell phones here. We don't make flat-screen TVs here. We don't make computers here. We certainly don't make iPads here -- even though Jobs is his name!

Even exclusive Palo Alto has empty storefronts on the main drag. (You know the economy is bad when the rug stores on University Avenue are actually going out of business!) It is even happening here. It will get worse.

In July Intel's retired CEO and Chairman Andy Grove wrote an important opinion piece,
How to Make an American Job Before It's Too Late, in which he warned,

Clearly, the great Silicon Valley innovation machine hasn't been creating many jobs of late -- unless you are counting Asia, where American technology companies have been adding jobs like mad for years.

[. . .] As time passed, wages and health-care costs rose in the U.S., and China opened up. American companies discovered they could have their manufacturing and even their engineering done cheaper overseas. When they did so, margins improved. Management was happy, and so were stockholders. Growth continued, even more profitably. But the job machine began sputtering.

Please take the time to read Grove's entire piece.

The storm that created the rust belt is heading our way, and we need to pay attention. What will it take for American companies to create American jobs rather than jobs outside America?


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Here is MY deficit-reduction plan. This plan does not reflect the views of anyone but myself -- and maybe half the population. Unlike deficit plans from the "serious people" in DC, this one doesn't annihilate the poor and gut Social Security and the middle class while passing even more of the benefits of our society up to a few at the top.

1) Restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. We didn't have massive deficits until we reduced the top tax rates.

2) Income is income. No more reduced capital gains tax rate. The incentive to invest should be to make a bunch of money from a good investment. The reason there is a low capital gains tax rate is that the wealthy get most of their income from capital gains. And the reason they get most of their income from capital gains is there is a low capital gains rate. The resulting income shifting schemes are a drag on the rest of us. (Also applies to dividends.)

3) Income is income. Inheritance income should be taxed as income, except there should be a "democracy cap" on how much someone can inherit. We decided not to have an aristocracy when we founded this country so we shouldn't have one.

4) Businesses should be taxed or not taxed, but not taxed AND not taxed. They shouldn't be able to use "double Irish" or "Dutch sandwich" or operate out of PO boxes in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands. (Bonus, this also helps reduce incentives to send our jobs and factories out of the country.)

5) If you don't pay your taxes We, the People won't pay to provide you with services. We can start by not allowing you to have a driveway that connects to public streets, or water/sewer hookups or mail. Also we won't enforce any contracts for you, including the one that says you "own" your house(s). And no government-developed Internet for you.

If companies like Google want to "double Irish" and "Dutch Sandwich" us or operate out of PO boxes in tax havens, we shouldn't let them use government services like courts, or the government-developed Internet. See how well they operate without access to roads (that includes for employees to get to go to work.) How about withdrawing the limited liability protection that investors in corporations receive? And of course no protection for "intellectual property" or trademarks. Oh, yeah, no access to anyone who went to a school that used tax dollars. And no government services means no sea-lane protection for your products shipping from Chinese factories, by the way.

6) Speaking of sea-lane protection, why do we have a military budget comparable to when we faced nuclear annihilation by the Soviet empire? Bases in Germany and Japan? And why can I go to this website, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and learn that "Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848." Seriously, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. I suspect there's some serious deficit reduction to be found in the military budget. A comprehensive and very public audit of where all that money has been going since, say, 1981 might take a chunk out of the debt problem all by itself

7) I could start listing all the corporate subsidies, tax breaks, monopoly grants, schemes, contracts, etc. that we pay for, but I think you get the idea. How about calling bribery by its name: bribery, and doing something about it?

8) To the extent that implementing this plan does not clear up the deficit and start paying off the debt, how about a yearly national property tax on all individual holdings above, say, $5 million, with the tax rate progressively increasing as total wealth increases, and keep doing this each year until the debt is paid off. Perhaps start at 1% on $5 million, 2.5% at $10 million, 5% at $50 million, etc. (Hedge fund managers and investment bankers start at 50% and go up, just for the heck of it. We can call this the "get the money from where the money went tax.")

So there is MY deficit-reduction plan. Or, instead, we could do what the "serious people" deficit-reduction plans do: cut services for We, the People, cut Social Security, cut health care, cut education, cut infrastructure, cut the things that make life better for people, and give all the money to a few at the top. Take your pick.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am also a Fellow with CAF.


Comments (2)

"Who could have known?" That's the cry from the big-corporate and DC elite as the economy and the environment and so many imporant things crash around us. (Around us, not them, they're doing just fine and taking good care of each other.)

Who could have known that 25%-per-year house price increases was a bubble?
Who could have known that a housing bubble could burst?
Who could have known that deregulating the financial industry could lead to a financial meltdown?
Who could have known that concentration of wealth could cause consumer demand to dry up?
Who could have known that huge tax cuts for the rich combined with huge military spending increases could cause massive budget deficits?
Who could have known that the Social Security trust fund needed a "lockbox" so it wouldn't be given away as tax cuts?
Who could have known a deregulated deep-water well could cause a massive, destructive, uncontrolled underwater gusher?
Who could have known that continuing to put carbon into the air would cause problems for the climate?
Who could have known that moving our factories out of the country would lead to high unemployment and structural trade deficits?
Who could have known that invading Iraq was wrong and a deadly, disastrous, costly, long-term mistake?
Who could have known that a too-small stimulus that focused on tax cuts wouldn't turn the economy completely around and then conservatives would claim that the stimulus "killed the recovery?"

(List continues into infinity...)

Add organized labor to the list of those who got it right, time after time.

Organized labor was right about the 40-hour workweek.
They were right about the middle class.
They were right about the weekend.
They were right about paid vacations.
They were right about paid holidays.
They were right about paid sick leave.
They were right about providing good, secure retirement plans for everyone.
They were right about providing unemployment benefits to tide people over.
They were right about providing maternity leave, child care and family leave for families.
They were right that trade agreements like NAFTA and letting China into the WTO would lead to massive trade deficits and job losses.
They were right about workplace and consumer safety.
They were right about keeping manufacturing in America.
They were right about fighting discrimination in the workplace.
They were right about raising the minimum wage and the effect that low-wage policies would have on the economy.
They were right about the effect of excessive CEO pay on the economy.
They were right about the devastating effect of the Bush tax cuts.
They were right about the need to maintain and modernize our country's infrastructure.
They were right about going green.
They were right ab out the dangers of Wall Street's financialization of the economy.
They were right about providing good health care to everyone.
They were right about strengthening, not cutting Social Security.
They were right about democratizing corporate governance.
They were right about fighting privatization.
They were right about fighting deregulation.
They were right about providing good education opportunities to everyone.
They were and are right that we need a national jobs agenda
Labor was right about people joining together instead of being on our own.

(List continues into infinity...) They were right and they continue to be right.

And unions have been fighting for these things for all of us, not just for their members.

Please add to these lists in the comments! What other things could nobody have known, and what other things did labor get right?

Enjoy Labor Day. In fact, for those of you that still have jobs after the decades of conservative policies, enjoy having weekends off, the 40-hour week, paid vacations, sick pay, health care, etc. And if you have a job but don't have those things ... JOIN A UNION!

P.S. Here's an example of being right:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.


Comments (0)

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.

Toyota is planning on closing the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. NUMMI auto-manufacturing plant in Fremont, CA on March 31. The immediate effect is a loss of 5,000 jobs. But, as with any factory closing, the effects ripple out well beyond the immediately obvious. The public has put up a lot of money to have the plant here, and the costs this closing will put on the public will be enormous.

Toyota takes off with a ton of cash, we pay the costs, it's the way the system is set up -- by us.

The effect? From The California Labor Federation, Toyota NUMMI Closure Would Kill Jobs, Destroy Communities,

...more than 5,000 autoworkers at the plant will be out of work, and another 1,500 Teamsters who transport the cars from the NUMMI plant to the dealerships will also be jobless. Additionally, as many as 50,000 workers at hundreds of businesses in California are completely dependant on NUMMI to stay afloat, from the suppliers that manufacture car parts to the restaurants where the NUMMI workers go for lunch and even the shoe stores where the plant workers buy their specialized work boots.

Toyota has benefited tremendously from this plant, as well as receiving state and federal money. A study released yesterday by the NUMMI Blue Ribbon Commission says,

The United States is Toyota's largest market in the world. California accounted for almost 18 percent of Toyota's U.S. sales and 5 percent of the automaker's global sales in 2007. Toyota led California sales with a quarter of the market, more than the combined share of General Motors and Ford in 2009.

. . . Toyota has benefitted considerably from federal and state programs over the years. ... the automaker captured first place in "Cash for Clunkers" sales ... In a similar program in Japan at about the same time, U.S.-based automakers were excluded initially.

California has invested heavily in NUMMI ... The state has given NUMMI more than $18 million for training
since the plant's inception... Millions more have gone to NUMMI suppliers for training. Major infrastructure improvements have been done explicitly for the plant and to meet its needs. The Port of Oakland, for example,
was dredged 12 years ago to accommodate the kinds of cargo ships the plant requires at a cost of $410 million.

When the plant closes the public takes up the costs -- paying unemployment, for example, for the up-to-50,000 people expected to become unemployed. The Federal Government will pick up the costs of the workers' pensions.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced yesterday it will assume responsibility for the underfunded pension plan of the 5,800 employees and retirees of New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI), pending the plant's liquidation by the end of the month.

Just as I wrote this week about Whirlpool, this is the way WE have chosen to make the system work. We can and must change the way the system works.

This is what companies today do. It is just the way the game is played, the way the system works. ... There aren't "good" or "bad" companies; ANY company will do these things because if they don't they lose out to the companies that do. BECAUSE WE LET THEM. In fact, by letting this happen we make it happen because, as I just wrote, if one company doesn't the next will, and the company that doesn't loses out. The system.

So here is what we have to do. We have to change the rules to stop these jobs from leaving the country.

We are going to have to put our foot down, as a people, and take control of the system to make it work for us. This is not only something we can do, it is our responsibility to do this.

Call Congress and demand that they stop companies -- ALL companies -- from closing factories in the US and moving the jobs out of the country.

I have more coming about this.

Here is one immediate action you can take. American Rights At Work has an action page with a petition: Take Action: Tell Toyota: Don't Abandon Your Workers

Toyota got its start in America 25 years ago when it opened a plant in Fremont, CA. But on March 31, Toyota plans to close the plant.

Laying off 5,000 people will only be the beginning. 50,000 workers, vendors, and suppliers - and the families who depend on them - could immediately lose their livelihoods. And hundreds of thousands more will be affected by the loss of tax revenue and consumer spending.

Will you help us demand Toyota do right by the workers who helped it get a foothold in America?


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