January 29, 2012
"You can drink from the firehouse of statist dictatorship, and use it to declare that the burdens of democracy are too great to be tolerated."
January 27, 2012
Servitude: "a condition in which one lacks liberty especially to determine one's course of action or way of life"
Democracy: "a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections"
Plutocracy: government by the wealthy
Labor union: an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its members' interests in respect to wages, benefits, and working conditions
You may have seen the recent flurry of stories about how hi-tech products are made in China. The stories focus on Apple, but it isn't just Apple. These stories of exploited Chinese workers are also the story of how and why we -- 99% of us, anyway -- are all feeling such a squeeze here, because we are suffering the disappearance of our middle class. Our choice is democracy or servitude.
Working In China
A collection of excerpts from the Charles Duhigg and David Barboza story, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad and the Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher story, How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work both from the NY Times:
Rousted from dorms at midnight, told to work:
Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”
Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”
(How close is that to the very definition of servitude?)
Long shifts, legs swollen from standing:
Shifts ran 24 hours a day, and the factory was always bright. At any moment, there were thousands of workers standing on assembly lines or sitting in backless chairs, crouching next to large machinery, or jogging between loading bays. Some workers’ legs swelled so much they waddled. “It’s hard to stand all day,” said Zhao Sheng, a plant worker.
Write confessions if late:
Mr. Lai was soon spending 12 hours a day, six days a week inside the factory, according to his paychecks. Employees who arrived late were sometimes required to write confession letters and copy quotations. There were “continuous shifts,” when workers were told to work two stretches in a row, according to interviews.
Injuries from speed-up toxics:
Investigations by news organizations revealed that over a hundred employees had been injured by n-hexane, a toxic chemical that can cause nerve damage and paralysis.
Employees said they had been ordered to use n-hexane to clean iPhone screens because it evaporated almost three times as fast as rubbing alcohol. Faster evaporation meant workers could clean more screens each minute.
American companies forcing Asian suppliers to squeeze workers:
“You can set all the rules you want, but they’re meaningless if you don’t give suppliers enough profit to treat workers well,” said one former Apple executive with firsthand knowledge of the supplier responsibility group. “If you squeeze margins, you’re forcing them to cut safety.”
The Results For The 1%
A series of recent newspaper headlines tells the story of how China's working conditions benefit the 1% here.
CBS Moneywatch: Apple shares close at record high
ZDNet: Apple: made in China, untaxed profits kept offshore. We don't even get to tax the profits from moving our jobs to China, to use for schools, roads, police, etc.
The Results For The 99%
Headlines like these show how things are going better and better for the 1%. But what happened to our middle-class prosperity? We allowed companies to move jobs and factories across the borders of democracy to places where workers are exploited, calling that "trade." This enabled the breaking of unions and the weakening of our democracy.
The threat is in the air: "Shut up and take the wage cuts or we will move your job to China." How is that threat used on us? Here is an example: We have heard the stories of Mitt Romney's company Bain Capital, and how it "earned" its millions. According to the Christian Science Monitor, this is the story of what happened when a Bain-owned company "came to town":
The new owner, American Pad & Paper, owned in turn by Bain Capital, told all 258 union workers they were fired, in a cost-cutting move. Security guards hustled them out of the building. They would be able to reapply for their jobs, at lesser wages and benefits, but not all would be rehired.
Workers in countries like China where people have no say have low wages, terrible working conditions, long hours, and are told to shut up and take it or they won[t have any job at all. They are given no choice.
Increasingly workers here have their wages, hours, benefits, dignity cut and are told to shut up and take it or their jobs will be moved to China. Because we are pitted against exploited workers in countries where people have no say, we have no choice.
The unions are weakened, the government doesn't enforce or weakly enforces labor laws and regulations, age, gender or race discrimination laws, worker safety laws, so workers are placed in a terrible squeeze. Workers who try to organize unions are isolated, moved, smeared, fired, humiliated, whatever it takes.
This quote by Steve Jobs is from How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work,
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
Democracy Brought Us Prosperity
We used to be a democracy, where everyone used to have a say in things. Because we had a say we built up a country with good schools, good infrastructure, good courts, and we made rules that said workers had to be safe, get a minimum wage, overtime, weekends… we protected the environment, we set up Social Security. We took care of each other. This made us prosperous. A share of the prosperity for the 99% was the fruit of democracy.
China, on the other hand, is not a democracy, and workers in China don't really have a say. So they don't make much money, they don't have good working conditions, the environment isn't protected, etc.
We Used To Protect Democracy
We used to protect our democracy. We used to put a tariff on goods coming in if they were made by people who didn’t have the ability to speak up and better their condition. We’d let the goods in but we would use a tariff to strengthen our country, our infrastructure, our schools – our democracy. This brought us prosperity.
For some reason, we started letting our companies move our factories over there, forcing our workers to compete with workers who have no say. We got tricked, by people who call that "trade," and said it would be good for us. (Like cutting taxes for the wealthy "job creators" is good for us.)
We opened the borders and let the big companies move the jobs, factories and industries over the border of our democracy, to places where workers don't have a say, so they are exploited. And the result was the big corporations were able to come back and cut our pay, and get rid of our pensions, and tell us, "take it, shut up, or we will move your job, too." We made the wages and working and conditions and environmental protections prosperity that democracy brings into a cost. We turned ourselves into a cost. We made democracy a competitive disadvantage.
Plutocrats Say Shed Benefits Of Democracy
Plutocrats say we need to shed the benefits of democracy and become more like China if we want to compete. They say get rid of regulations, employee protections, environmental protections, good wages, benefits like pensions and time off, etc... They say that We, the People (government) "get in the way of doing business." They say the taxes that pay for good infrastructure and schools and police and courts and services like Social Security and care for the disabled and health care for children "take money out of the economy" but they mean these take some of the money that they have been taking from the economy.
Democracy Is The Best Economics
Look at the primary target of the corporate/conservatives: unions. That should tell you something. This is a power confrontation. This is the power of the 1% overcoming the power of the 99%.
Democracy is the power of the 99% to make the decisions, and to build structures that protect us from exploitation by the wealthy and powerful. This confrontation is the story of the origin of our country -- how We, the People confronted the power and corruption of the British aristocracy, overcame that power, and built a country of, by and for the people.
Democracy and the taxes it enabled us to ask from the wealthiest is what enabled us to build the infrastructure and schools and everything that enabled our prosperity. The regulations of democracy are what enable our smaller businesses to compete with the giants. The shared prosperity -- redistribution of wealth -- is what enabled the middle class to grow, and turned us into the most prosperous country and largest market in the world.
Unions are about building up the power of groups of people, to confront and overcome the advantages of wealth and the power wealth brings to a few. When a union is strong enough to be able to confront the power of big corporations the result is that the 99% get a share of the pie. When unions are strong we all get better wages and better working conditions and a say in how we are treated, whether we are in unions or not. The benefits flow to the rest of the economy.
It would be nice if our system worked well enough that we didn't need to organize unions on top of the structure of laws and regulations, but it is just the fact of life that the wealthy and powerful and their corporations have throughout our history been able to exert tremendous influence over legislative bodies, again and again. So to fight that working people organize and build these organized unions of people, and leverage that power of the group to demand wages and benefits and weekends and a share of the prosperity. The story of the power confrontation between unions of working people (99%) and the large corporations (1%) is the story of how we built a middle class that brought us the prosperity we enjoyed.
It is not just a coincidence that the weakening of the unions coincides with the decline of the middle class. It is not just a coincidence that the current rise of the plutocrats brings in a swarm of anti-union legislation. It is not just a coincidence that the times when our democracy is strongest we all do so much better. And now, when our demcoracy has been weakened by the money and power of the 1% and their corporations, the rest of us are so much worse off.
Not US v. China
This is not about US workers and markets vs China. Working people in all countries are at risk when their countries trade with countries where workers are exploited. China's huge trade imbalance is threatening the world's economy. The loss of manufacturing to countries that exploit workers is threatening workers in many countries.
The US market is still large, and the US can still demand that imported goods be made according to better standards for workers. The rest of the world can also demand that China's workers be brought up to international standards. And we can certainly hold companies like Apple accountable, and demand that they only buy from suppliers that treat and pay workers according to international standards, because allowing companies to cheat, exploit workers and commit fraud drives the good companies out of business.
This is not about taking jobs back from Chinese workers! This is about demanding they be paid fairly and given a say in their workplaces! This is about not exploiting people there or here!
Trade can be an upward spiral, rather than a lever for exploitation of the 99% by the 1%. If Chinese workers are given a say and paid fairly then they can buy things we make and we can keep buying things they make.
Unions = Democracy = Middle Class = Shared Prosperity
Jon Stewart explains:
January 26, 2012
Indiana is about to pass what is called a "right-to-work" law. These laws prohibit union contracts from requiring workers to be in the union and paying dues to the union, while forcing the unions to provide full benefits to the non-unions members for free. The idea is to weaken and defund the union's (99%) ability to push back against the big corporations (1%).
Indiana is poised to become the first state in the upper Midwest to follow the lead of Southern "right to work" states, taking a big step Tuesday to bar unions from requiring nonunion workers to pay membership dues for representation in bargaining.
... Democrats framed the bill's passage as a political maneuver by Republicans to weaken union strength in the state.
“The only places where today’s events will be cheered is in the boardrooms of big businesses and corporations across this state," said the top House Democrat, Patrick Bauer, in a statement Tuesday. "The House Republicans just helped increase the profit margins for these companies at the expense of their workers.”
Union dues have long been a target of Republican lawmakers, who say those dues are often used to further a Democratic agenda and to elect Democrats to office. The right-to-work legislation hits unions right in their pocketbooks, reducing their ability to wield clout in elections and during negotiations over labor contracts.
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research explains that this is really just a tax on union members, in Indiana Imposes Tax on Workers Who Support Unions,
The NYT reported that Indiana's legislature approved a measure that requires that the workers who support a union at the workplace pay for the representation of the workers who choose not to pay for the union's representation. It would have been helpful to remind readers that a union is legally obligated to represent all the workers in a bargaining unit, regardless of whether a worker has opted to join the union.
This means that non-members not only get the same wages and benefits that the union gets for its members, they also are entitled to the union's protection in the event of disputes with the employer. Most states allow workers to sign contracts that require non-union members to pay for the benefits they receive from the union.
The bill passed by Indiana's legislature prohibits unions and employers from signing this sort of contract. Instead, it requires unions to provide free representation to non-members.
So Indiana and other states say, by law, that unions have to pay for contract negotiations, have to pay for union reps to handle grievance cases, etc., and are not allowed to require those they represent and who benefit from labor contracts to join the union and pay dues.
This is just one more scam by the 1% to keep the 99% from being able to do anything about their condition.
Banners on the walls warned the 120,000 employees: “Work hard on the job today or work hard to find a job tomorrow.”
Sound familiar? The is the wedge that is used to destroy the middle class here. Over there it makes them accept 12-14 hours, 6-7 days a week, sometimes standing the whole time.
The unions here were weakened... Over there they can't have unions.
January 25, 2012
President Obama put American manufacturing literally at the front and center of his State of the Union speech. American manufacturing was at the front of the speech and at the center of a "blueprint" for bringing back jobs and strengthening our economy. By placing manufacturing front and center he has taken this conversation further than any President before him.
There is good reason to cheer, but also good reason to ask for even more. He outlined steps to stop the outsourcing and start the insourcing, but there is not yet a comprehensive, overall government strategy to fix trade and capture the industries of the future.
Right up front the President talked about building "an America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs." Then,
"Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward and lay out a blueprint for an economy that's built to last, an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.
This blueprint begins with American manufacturing."
Bob Borosage, in The Obama State of the Union: A Progressive View,
On the economy, the speech led with more discussion of manufacturing than anyone has heard in years. The president wanted and deserved credit for saving Detroit – a key to his campaign in the Midwest – and wanted to highlight the uptick in manufacturing jobs and “insourcing,” the movement of some jobs back to the US.
Again, his agenda focused on mostly symbolic measures of populist appeal. In addition to the tax on multinationals, he promised a new trade enforcement effort to challenge China and others who trample global trade rules. With Romney promising to cite China for currency violation on day one if elected, the administration seems likely to finally challenge China, at least symbolically.
Steps, But Not An Overall Picture
The President outlined steps to stop the outsourcing and start the insourcing. There are things that the Congress can do right now. These include but are not limited to,
- Eliminate existing tax deductions for outsourcing
- Big multinational corporations should pay a minimum tax
- Use some of the money this brings in to cover the expenses of bringing jobs home
- Pass tax cuts for manufacturing here
- A trade enforcement unit to look at bringing cases against countries like China that cheat, use piracy, give subsidies
- Steps to train skilled workers, with a national commitment to train 2 million with skills that will lead to a job
- Do something about the maze of confusing training programs
- Turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system
- Instead of bashing teachers and laying them off, give schools resources to keep good teachers
- Reduce the cost of college. Stop student loan interest rates from doubling in July. Condition federal assistance on lowering tuition.
This "blueprint" has a number of good, solid steps that will help stop the outsourcing and start the insourcing. But it is not a comprehensive national industrial/economic strategy that addresses the overall picture of all of the components of a national manufacturing ecosystem. To begin to address this, the President has established a cabinet-level Office of Manufacturing Policy to coordinate efforts of various government agencies.
Coordinating the efforts of various government agencies to help American exports is important, but this does not address the development of a national plan, like other countries have. We need this, too. A national plan would seek to cover all the elements of a healthy "industrial commons" -- meaning all of the components of a healthy manufacturing ecosystem. These include government efforts to make sure the components are ready, funded and functioning:
- The necessary educational components to provide people ready to do all of the jobs an industry requires;
- The financing to build factories and obtain inventory;
- The modern infrastructure of roads, electrical power, internet, posts and airports, to support the companies;
- Trade and tax policies to help these companies locate and export;
- R&D facilities and researchers for innovation and design;
- Local suppliers to support the companies;
- Legal structures and fully-funded and staffed court systems to support the industry;
- The entire "chain of experience" located in an area, often around a "cluster" of businesses, required for an industry to develop and thrive.
Countries like China are engaged in national efforts to get all of these components lined up to capture industries like the new green energy revolution that is taking place. China is working to capture solar and wind energy manufacturing. They are working to capture high-speed rail manufacturing. The news about the reasons Apple and other high-tech manufactures have had to locate in China show how hard China has worked to capture that industry -- and not without quite a bit of cheating that we are not stopping.
Our competitors are engaging in national efforts to line up all of these components to capture other new industries as they emerge. We are not.
Ideology Holds Us Back From Competing
This list of components of a national industrial/economic policy describes the kind of national effort that competitors like China are engaged in, and is the reason they are bringing in such a share of new industrial growth. To address this we have to see ourselves as a country, as China does, mutually supporting each other, to be able to embark on an undertaking like this. We have to abandon the "each of us on our own" and selfish, "in it only for ourselves" mentality that has set us apart, preventing national government efforts like other countries engage in.
Some of us hold on to an ideological fantasy that government is only in the way, but other countries do not. So the result is that we keep sending our companies out on their own against national systems. Even our largest companies cannot compete on their own against countries with national efforts to put all of these components in place. It takes a unified government effort.
We have to move to a "we are in this together" understanding of ourselves and our country if we want to bring back the shared prosperity we used to have, and can have again.
Update - White House fact sheet: FACT SHEET: President Obama’s Blueprint to Support U.S. Manufacturing Jobs, Discourage Outsourcing, and Encourage Insourcing
File under plutocracy: Why Does Mitt Romney Want to Keep His Tax Returns From the Bain Years Under Wraps? | | AlterNet:
Mitt Romney has released his most recent tax returns. They tell us some eye-popping things about Romney and about the wealthy 1 percent and the low taxes they pay on the gains from invested wealth. But they only raise questions about Romney's controversial years "working" at Bain Capital. What would we learn from seeing his tax returns from the Bain Capital years, and what would that tell us about the transformation of our economy into a playground for the 1 percent and a sweatshop for the rest of us?Go read!
January 24, 2012
Tuesday, Jan 24 | 9 pm eastern | 6 pm pacific |Virtually Speaking Tuesdays |
Dave Johnson (Seeing the Forest, Campaign for America’s Future) hosts Progressive Ideas Network ED Barry Kendall, recently returned from DC , having organized a second meeting with the Congressional Progressive Caucus. We’ll learn more ….
January 23, 2012
What is the residence address on Mitt's tax forms? He has been voting in Massachusetts. If he put a different address on the tax forms he has a legal problem: voter fraud.
Voter registration fraud in MA is punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to five years in jail. Residency requirements in MA are defined as "where a person dwells and which is the center of his domestic, social, and civil life."
The spiral-to-the-bottom and inequality we are suffering is not an inevitable result of globalization, it is what happens when we don't hold cheaters and exploiters accountable and stop them. This is not just about Wall Street, it is the story of what has happened to our wages and benefits, jobs, factories, companies, industries, economy and democracy in the last 30-or-so years.
Cheaters, Fraudsters and Exploiters
If cheaters and exploiters are not held accountable and fraudsters are not prosecuted, then the advantages this brings them forces honest players out. We're all waiting to see if there is a deal in the works that lets big banksters off the hook for mortgage fraud and other (uninvestigated) crimes, making their shareholders pay fines for them instead. But that story of the 1%'s fraud and cheating and the consequences to the 99% are not what I am writing about here. This post is about how letting 1%er cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters off the hook has hurt America's manufacturing and trade.
Apple Can't Make It Here
Recent news stories about Apple hilight how we allowed our thriving, high-paying manufacturing sector to erode, with the result that our middle class is in decline. Apple used to proudly make their computers in the United States, but now everything is made in Asia. The NY Times' Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher, in How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work describe how China's massive government subsidies and exploitation of workers mean “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”
The Entire Supply Chain Is Over There
China has done what it needs to do to bring factories, which bring supply chains, which bring industries. The NYT story describes what it means to have an entire supply chain located where the factories are,
When an Apple team visited, the Chinese plant’s owners were already constructing a new wing. “This is in case you give us the contract,” the manager said, according to a former Apple executive. The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.
The Chinese plant got the job.
“The entire supply chain is in China now,” said another former high-ranking Apple executive. “You need a thousand rubber gaskets? That’s the factory next door. You need a million screws? That factory is a block away. You need that screw made a little bit different? It will take three hours.”
Subsidies are often a violation of trade rules. Even so, as the article says, "The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory." So, of course, "the Chinese plant got the job." Meanwhile, our own country has resisted having an "industrial policy" to keep our industries and foster new ones. This is finally changing, but good efforts like "Buy American" and President Obama's green energy policies are fought tooth-and-nail.
Another key part of China's advantage is the ability to exploit workers and get away with it -- which lets Apple get away with it, too. And when Apple sees violations, it doesn't stop them.
One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.
“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”
Later in the story,
The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones.
... The company disputed some details of the former Apple executive’s account, and wrote that a midnight shift, such as the one described, was impossible “because we have strict regulations regarding the working hours of our employees based on their designated shifts, and every employee has computerized timecards that would bar them from working at any facility at a time outside of their approved shift.” The company said that all shifts began at either 7 a.m. or 7 p.m., and that employees receive at least 12 hours’ notice of any schedule changes.
Foxconn employees, in interviews, have challenged those assertions.
Apple Audits Its Suppliers, Finds Many Violations
Earlier this month Apple released a report describing the practices of its suppliers. NY Times: Apple Lists Its Suppliers for 1st Time,
Apple said audits revealed that 93 supplier facilities had records indicating that over half of workers exceeded a 60-hour weekly working limit. Apple said 108 facilities did not pay proper overtime as required by law. In 15 facilities, Apple found foreign contract workers who had paid excessive recruitment fees to labor agencies.
And though Apple said it mandated changes at those suppliers, and some showed improvements, in aggregate, many types of lapses remained at general levels that have persisted for years.
William K Black, writing in Apple's Foreign Suppliers Demonstrate Widespread Scamming and Horrific Abuse of Employees at AlterNet, looked at Apple's report. Black writes that the audit of suppliers, "shows that anti-employee control fraud is the norm."
Black says that two things stand out in the report,
First, Apple rarely terminates suppliers for defrauding their employees – even when the frauds endanger the lives and health of the workers and the community – and even where Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices. Second, it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers even when they commit anti-employee control frauds as a routine practice, even when the frauds endanger the worker’s and the public’s health, and even when the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about the frauds. Apple’s report, therefore, understates substantially the actual incidence of fraud by the 156 suppliers (accounting for 97% of its payments to suppliers).
As Black wrote, "Apple knows that the supplier repeatedly lies to Apple about these fraudulent and lethal practices" and "...it appears unlikely in the extreme that Apple makes criminal referrals on its suppliers" Apple doesn't stop these violations. They get too much of a competitive advantage out of it.
This Is Fraud
When you buy a product you assume that it is on the shelf at the cost you are asked to pay because laws and regulations were followed and standards were met. So you buy the one that has the right quality at the right price. But what if a product has a low cost as the result of cheating, exploitation and violations of environmental, labor and trade laws? What if there is a lie at the root of the transaction you are engaged in?
China's massive investment in capturing entire industries -- a violation of trade laws -- means that many of the components of the high-tech manufacturing supply chain have migrated out of the US to that country. And China's non-democracy political system means that workers have few, if any rights, and often the rights they have are not enforced. Black says American companies taking advantage of this are engaging in "a form of control fraud (fraud in which the head of a company subverts it for personal gain)."
Anti-employee control frauds most commonly fall into four broad, but not mutually exclusive, categories – illegal work conditions due to violation of safety rules, violation of child labor laws, failure to pay employees’ wages and benefits, and frauds based on goods and loans provided by the employer to the employee that lock the employee into quasi-slavery.
Allowing Fraud Drives Legitimate Businesses Out Of Existence
The key point Black makes is that allowing cheating, fraud and exploitation to continue brings them advantages that drive legitimate businesses out,
George Akerlof, in his famous article on markets for “lemons” (largely describing anti-customer control fraud), explained the perverse “Gresham’s” dynamic in 1970: "[D]ishonest dealings tend to drive honest dealings out of the market. The cost of dishonesty, therefore, lies not only in the amount by which the purchaser is cheated; the cost also must include the loss incurred from driving legitimate business out of existence.”
A Criminogenic Environment
Specifically, what this means to companies that try to compete with companies like Apple,
Anti-employee control fraud creates real economic profits for the firm and can massively increase the controlling officers’ wealth. Honest firm normally cannot compete with anti-employee control frauds, so bad ethics drives good ethics out of the markets. Companies like Apple and its counterparts create this criminogenic environment by selecting least-cost – criminal – suppliers who offer components at prices that honest firms cannot match. Effectively, they hang out a sign – only the fraudulent need apply to be suppliers
When we let companies get away with building products in places that violate trade rules, allow environmental degradation, exploit workers, cut corners on safety, use cheap components and ingredients, these companies get cost advantages that force honest companies out of business. This is the story of our economy. This is why our middle class is engaged in a race to the bottom.
Should Companies Like This Exist In The US?
Robwert Cruickshank puts two and two together, in a must-read post, Thinking Differently About Apple and 21st Century Society. He writes,
In the last year or two, it’s become increasingly clear that the way Apple makes its products is deeply flawed. Working conditions at the factory which makes most of their products – Foxconn in Shenzhen, China – are so appalling that workers engaged in a rash of suicides in 2010 to ameliorate their own suffering. Earlier this year workers threatened mass suicide over pay and working conditions. And of course, there’s the fact that Apple makes these products overseas rather than in the United States, where unemployment remains at some of the highest levels we’ve seen since the Great Depression.
Cruickshank asks if companies with this attitude should be allowed to continue to do business? He writes that Apple has,
...a narrow focus on their products and their profits, and disdain wider concerns for the good of society. When an unnamed Apple executive was asked about their role in addressing America’s economic problems, their response was revealing:They say Apple’s success has benefited the economy by empowering entrepreneurs and creating jobs at companies like cellular providers and businesses shipping Apple products. And, ultimately, they say curing unemployment is not their job.
“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.”
That quote is perhaps the best encapsulation of the pathologies of the modern American corporation. In fact, Apple does have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Everyone who lives in this country has that obligation. And corporations have that obligation too. If they don’t want to help make things better, then they shouldn’t exist.
Then he gets to the wider point,
The notion that companies exist only to generate profit or build a specific few set of products is corrosive. Those profits and products serve the rest of society. And as a part of that society, companies and their executives exist to make that society a better place. If they are engaged in a set of practices that make society worse off, then those actions are indefensible and need to be changed.
For the last 30 years, American businesses have been devoted to a single-minded pursuit of maximizing short-term profits. Unsurprisingly, this has had profound ripple effects throughout the rest of society. The economy became focused on those profits, and so with it followed politics, culture, and our values as a civilization.
By now it should be clear to everybody that while this works well for the small elite that has hoarded all these profits – the so-called “1%” – it has utterly failed to provide a happy and fulfilled life for everyone else.
Here I quote Cruickshank quoting Black, who is looking at Apple's report of its suppliers, with "overwork and other forms of employment fraud being rampant."
As William K. Black explains at Alternet, this is a good example of what may be a widespread tolerance for fraud in the global economy:These frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home. Mitt Romney explains that Bain had to slash wages and pensions to save firms located in the U.S. who had to meet competition from foreign anti-employee control frauds. The damage from foreign anti-employee control frauds drives the domestic attack on U.S. manufacturing wages. Bad ethics increasingly drive good ethics out of the markets and manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. and into more fraud-friendly nations.
"These Frauds Take Place Abroad But They Harm Employees At Home"
Once again, for emphasis, "these frauds take place abroad, but they harm employees at home."
If we want the downward slide to stop we have to decide to hold the cheaters, exploiters and fraudsters accountable for their actions. At home the efforts by the giant corporations to keep the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from doing their jobs, enforcing the rules and holding them accountable further show how this is affecting us all. Abroad we have to demand enforcement of labor and trade rules so companies like Apple can not gain advantages that put more ethical and honest companies out of business. We certainly should not be letting products made there have cost advantages here and stiff tariffs can fix that. Letting companies get away with this makes democracy a competitive disadvantage.
We have to get mad and hold the cheaters, fraudsters and exploiters accountable.
Money is certainly changing hands over this one. Digby says Gird yourself --- it looks like we're in for another standoff: She warns that the Republicans are going to hold the government hostage to try to get the Keystone pipeline approved.
Think about what this means. A national political party threatens to hold the entire government hostage, so that Canadian oil companies can more easily sell oil to China. Think about the money that is changing hands. Think about the corruption involved in something like this.
WHY all the pressure from the Republicans for building a "tar sands" pipeline across the entire country?
They say we need the oil. But we're talking about CANADA, for pete's sake! The oil is on our border and is already piped TO us.
This pipeline across the country is so they can ship the oil FROM us, to sell to China.
This is about Republicans pushing for big profits for Canadian oil companies, for shipping oil to China, in exchange for a cut of the take for themselves.
January 20, 2012
A story of systemic corruption, everyone paid off. Instead of an excerpt, just go read: The Kangaroo Court of Wall Street | The Big Picture
Republicans have managed to kill off a jobs recovery for more than a year now. Filibusters blocked efforts to create jobs, repair infrastructure, etc. But things are picking up. What will they do next?
The Keystone pipeline is about helping Canadian companies get rich(er) by exporting tar sands oil to China, with a stop at Koch refineries.
Republican efforts to force it through are being done in exchange for a cut of the take.
January 19, 2012
Gingrich plays victim. Blames media for what his ex-wife is saying.
Watch out, people, this snake is the worst of the right. Dangerous, just doesn't care what he says. He will destroy everything. So far beyond Bush and Rove...
Even if he doesn't get the nomination, his just being there is whipping the right into a frothing, riotous mass that is going to be very bad for the country and world.
I was thinking of watching the Real Time with Bill Maher show. But there have been so many ads everywhere, and showing him with Ann Coulter (!), he can let the Fox crowd watch.
I saw some great local music the other day, and want to share it. I don't know the performers, but they are local and how good is this?
Scott Beynon, singing Sitting On The Edge Of The World:
Go see the rest of the videos (all from my iPhone 4 or my wife's 4S), at How Good Is This? Marty Atkinson, Katy Boyd, Scott Beynon.
Mitt Romney's ultra-low tax rate on his ultra-high income is reviving questions about the breaks and perks that the wealthiest of the 1% receive from the rest of us. One of these is a special low tax rate for investments -- as if anyone needed special tax incentives to induce them to make a bundle.
High Incomes At The Top
How much does Romney make? We won't know until we get a chance to see his tax returns -- if we do -- but Romney described his $374,328 income from speaking fees last year as "not very much." If $374K is "not very much" of his income ... well ... at least we can understand why he feels he can casually make $10,000 bets as if he was just pulling a dime from his pocket.
In his post What Mitt's Taxes Could've Paid For (If Not For Those Cushy Tax Breaks), Richard Eskow writes,
1,470 households made more than a million dollars and yet paid nothing -- zero, zip, nada -- in Federal income tax in 2009.
[. . .] The top 25 hedge fund managers in the US made $22 billion in 2010.
Low Taxes At The Top
Mitt Romney's admission that he probably pays a 15% tax rate shows us what is going on. For you or me, when our taxable income passes about $35,000, we start paying a 25% rate, much higher than Mitt pays on his millions on income. (That doesn't mean we pay 25% on money up to $35K, which is what most people think. It means any additional money we make after the $35K is taxed at that higher rate rate. If we make $35,001 we only pay an increase of ten cents. That's how tax brackets work.)
Lots Of Money To Use To Attack The Deficits
This special low tax rate on capital gains is sucking a lot of money out of We, the People's ability to pay for our schools, military, infrastructure, etc, which is part of why we are borrowing so much. How much? Continuing to steal from Richard Eskow's post,
As we wrote earlier, eliminating these tax breaks would add as much as $44 billion to our bottom line in the next ten years. Or to put it another way:
Ending cushy breaks for these 25 billionaires could also reduce the deficit by as much as $44 billion. Paging all deficit hawks!
In 2008 the taxable income of everyone earning above $100,000 was $3.4 trillion. If we concentrate our tax reform on the upper end of that spectrum -- the Romneys, not the folks in the $100-$400 thousand range -- we know that every percentage point in increased collection comes out to another $34 billion per year. That ain't chicken feed.
Why The Low Capital Gains Tax Rate?
The justification for a special tax rate for gains from investing capital is supposed to be to provide an incentive to invest. But there is already a really good incentive to invest: to make a bundle of cash. Piling a special "incentive" on top of making a bundle of cash creates market distortions - moving investors away from deciding where to put their money based on the value and merits of the investment and toward tax-reduction schemes.
The necessary precondition for investing capital is having capital. So a tax break on the return from investing capital is by definition a break for the well-off. Here is the reality: capital gains are taxed at a lower rate because most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains, and most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains because the tax rate is lower. The "incentive to invest" should be making a good investment, period.
I'll bet you $10,000 that getting rid of this tax break helps fix the deficit, and leads to a saner investment climate. (Of course, I'm kidding, I think that is a lot of money.)
President Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness ("Jobs Council") issued a report calling for fewer regulations and lower corporate tax rates. This doesn't have to be a bad idea.
- Prepare the American Workforce to Compete in the Global Economy
- Foster a Climate that Lets Innovation Thrive
- Adopt an “All-In” Strategy on Energy
- Revitalize the American Manufacturing Sector
- Enhance American Competitiveness through Smart Regulatory Reforms
- Reform the Outdated Tax System to Enhance American Competitiveness
Council Heavily Weighted Toward 1%
The Jobs Council is heavily, heavily, heavily weighted to tilt toward the 1%. The list of members reads "Chair and CEO" with a smattering of ultra-wealthy finance types thrown in, and then a couple of token union leaders.
I agree with the overall spirit and a number of the specific recommendations in today’s report ... I absolutely agree ... that the United States is falling behind our international counterparts in investing in modern infrastructure, education, and skills; supporting a vibrant manufacturing sector; developing cost-effective and globally responsible energy practices; and supporting innovation. ...
Unfortunately, I believe the report downplays the need for a proactive role for the U.S. government in many of these areas; fails to address the significant additional revenues needed to address the challenges identified on an appropriate scale; and in many cases erroneously identifies the root causes of the underlying structural problems.
... the report addresses regulatory issues as if we were not in the midst of a prolonged economic crisis whose proximate causes clearly included inadequate regulation of business, and in particular financial markets and institutions.
With respect to corporate tax reform, I believe that corporations as a group pay too low a share of taxes to support the kind of infrastructure investment and education/skills upgrades that are so urgently needed at this time... The report places way too much emphasis on statutory tax rates, mentioning only as an aside that the effective rates paid by corporations are much lower, and that overall corporate tax revenues as a percent of GDP are the fourth lowest in the OECD.
Yes, We Can Cut Corporate Taxes ... If
Actually, we can cut corporate taxes, increasing our international competitiveness, while We, the People still fund our democracy and get paid back for our investment that enabled the prosperity of the corporations. Here's how: Cut corporate taxes, but raise taxes on the 1%er owners of the corporations. Stop the nonsense of lower capital gains tax rates, and restore pre-Reagan top tax rates. Also, require corporations to either use their cash or pay it out to shareholders instead of just sitting on it as many do now.
Capital gains are taxes at a lower rate because most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains, and most of the income of the 1% is from capital gains because the tax rate is lower. The "incentive to invest" should be a good investment, period.
What does cutting corporate tax rates accomplish? First, by cutting corporate tax rates the right ways our companies could become more competitive with companies in other countries. This can be an incentive to locate companies here. But we don't have to just sacrifice this revenue by any means. Instead we can tax it when it becomes personal income. But cutting corporate tax rates without increasing personal income tax rates to make up for it -- which happens to be the DC elite consensus as voiced by Simpson-Bowles -- is complete folly, nothing more than another scam by the 1% to rob We, the People. It is essential that a cut in corporate tax rates happen at the same time as taxes on the resulting personal income are increased, along with requirements that corporate money is either used inside the company or paid out to shareholders.
Look at this chart, which tells you everything you need to know about the who what when where and why of corporations. Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:
Yes, the top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%. And it's most likely only gotten worse since these figures were gathered.
Cut The Right Regulations
When the elite DC consensus calls for cutting regulations, they mean regulations that hamper the 1%'s ability to fleece us even more. But there are regulations that actually do impede competitiveness.
Here is what usually happens in DC. After Congress passes laws the regulatory bodies translate the laws into a regulatory framework. This is where the giant companies and their lobbyists get to work. The work they do is influencing these agencies to write regulations that help them, the 1%er corporations that can afford to swarm the agencies with lobbyists -- and that obstruct their competition. So we end up with a situation where small businesses and startups don't have a chance making it through the regulatory maze. They either have to hire specialized, $1000-an-hour DC law firms to help them out, or give up. This is by 1%er design, not because of "big government."
So yes, there are regulatory impediments to competition, but I don't think this form of "cutting regulations" means what the 1%ers on the Jobs Council and the big corporate-elites think it means.
On education, the Jobs Council recommends,
In order to stay competitive in a global age, we must invest in our future by ensuring Americans have the right education and skills to realize their full potential and drive our nation’s economic success. ... These measures will create a purposeful educational system that produces work-ready graduates, satisfied employers with access to a talented labor pool, and a vibrant economy poised for growth and success.
With respect to the education section of the report, I believe that the Jobs Council’s education recommendations begin and end in the wrong place: focusing on providing businesses with an endless supply of workers -- as opposed to supporting, improving and sustaining a strong public education system.
So the report calls on government to reconfigure our education system to provide companies with trained worker-bees, which means companies don't have to cough up the dough themselves to train their own workers. The report actually goes even further, basically calling for government to replace think-for-yourself education with do-what-we-say job training. There's a difference. And they ask for this after already asking for tax cuts, too. Sheesh.
On energy the 1%ers of course mean "drill, baby, drill." But the council is correct, we do need to go "all-in" on energy, with massive Green Energy investment, freeing us from the damage Big Oil and King Coal do to our environment, our economy, our politics and our democracy.
On manufacturing the council notes that since 1980 manufacturing has slipped from 20% to only 9% of total employment,. The report calls for adding "three to four percentage points of global value added market share—an ambitious but achievable goal." They say we should :take share from our global competitors." There are wonky but great suggestions like "cluster development" and important ideas like going after in promising new manufacturing sectors. The President has formed an Office of Manufacturing Policy that is taking up many of the kinds of recommendations in this report.
In fact, we also need to rewrite our trade agreements so they provide a win-win for the working people here and across our borders, and incentives to manufacture here rather than move jobs, factories, companies and industries out of the country.
And So In Conclusion
Trumka sums things up nicely at the end of his dissent:
Perhaps most profoundly, the report does not ask the critical question: why is our country suffering a manufacturing crisis, complete with massive job loss and a structural trade deficit, when countries with higher overall taxes, higher wages, and more robust health, safety and environmental regulations are enjoying trade surpluses?
The answer lies in the view that we share with so many of our fellow Americans: that our country has become dominated by the interests of the wealthiest 1% at the expense of the remaining 99%. It turns out that a country run in the interests of the wealthiest 1% systematically underinvests in public goods;systematically silences, disempowers, and underinvests in its workers; and in the end is less competitive and creates fewer jobs than a country that focuses on the interests of the 99%.
Echo and amplify what Trumka said: Perhaps most profoundly, the report does not ask the critical question: why is our country suffering a manufacturing crisis, complete with massive job loss and a structural trade deficit, when countries with higher overall taxes, higher wages, and more robust health, safety and environmental regulations are enjoying trade surpluses?
January 18, 2012
Campaigns financed by corporations and billionaires, candidates calling for tax cuts for corporations and billionaires...
January 16, 2012
Main headline at Drudge Report, with a picture of Harry Reid, "Most Futile Ever," linking to a Moonie newspaper story: Congress logs most futile legislative year on record - Washington Times.
Republicans filibustered everything. And then they campaign on Democrats not getting anything done.
Democrats don't do anything to point out to the public that filibusters are occurring, don't even explain to the public that Republicans filibustered everything, instead talk about how they want to work with Republicans. So the public only sees the results.
Republicans understand that their leaders are "strong" and call Democrats "weak."
So Republicans turn out for elections, Democrats are discouraged, dispirited.
Mitt Romney represents the economy of the people who can't lose. We read about these people all the time. They get hired as CEOs of major corporations, drive those corporations into the ground, and still they walk away with multi-million dollar golden parachutes. They run scams and schemes that bring the American economy to the precipice of total collapse, and not only is nobody prosecuted, but they are bailed out with taxpayer's money dollar for dollar. The workers get cuts in salary and benefits, if not layoffs, while the CEOs simultaneously get huge bonuses. Wall Street firms like Bain can launch a hostile takeover of a steel mill, load the company up with debt, cash out, and leave the wreckage for a bankruptcy court to deal with. When you can't lose, you don't have free market capitalism. You have a rigged casino. We have a class of people running the economy in this country who, no matter what they do, can't lose.
January 14, 2012
In which the NY Times avoids being a "truth vigilante" -- goes to the town of one of the companies in the Romney video, talkes to people who were not affected by what Romney's company did.
This is the Cain defense: there were actually women he didn't harass.
Read how working people in Europe are treated. No wonder Republicans dread "European-style" government! Human rights, dignity, decent working conditions, health care... Daily Kos: Musings of a housekeeper in Belgium
January 13, 2012
Around 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer, threatened to commit suicide by leaping from their factory roof in protest at their working conditions.
Why do so many websites advertise Facebook for free? When you see a "Connect with us on Facebook" or "Like us on Facebook" widget, that is a free advertisement. Facebook does have competitors, and these websites are just helping Facebook dominate and a few people get rich -- for free.
Facebook should be paying people to put these on their websites. Twitter, too.
January 12, 2012
Have you noticed that Google is getting harder to use, and is providing poor results? I seriously need something like the old Google for research -- is there anything out there I can use?
Serious question, need to change I think.
The MUST WATCH video from the post below:
Another aspect of this, you have to have a heck of a lot of money in the first place to participate in private equity, hedge funds, etc. Even in stocks, actually: 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, mutual funds are owned by the 1% and 39.4% owned by the next 9%. The bottom 50% of us own 0.5% of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds.
So if this does somehow benefit "the economy" it is not an economy that most of us participate in at all. All most people get out of this intense capitalism is the wage cuts, job cuts, loss of benefits, etc.
THIS is who benefits from the layoffs, job cuts, wage cuts, loss of benefits, environmental degradation, worker deaths/injuries, and the rest:
This chart says it all. The 1% benefit, almost no one else. And we are ALL -- 99% of us, anyway -- feeling it now.
This is the story of what has happened to America since the 80s:
Outsourcing jobs to places where people don't have a say so they can't demand good wages, firing people and making them reapply for their jobs but at half the pay, gutting people's benefits, stripping companies, treating employees like throwaway Kleenex, closing factories, stealing pensions, borrowing and pocketing... Locust capitalism. Chop shops.
And keep this in mind if people try to tell you that doing what it take to increase the stock price helps everyone:
Also see post above, When Mitt Romney Came To Town -- Who Benefits?
I will be co-hosting Fairness Radio with right wingnut Chuck Morse today from 10-noon PT. If you are not near on the the stations this show is on it can be heard online at www.cyberstationusa.com and will run later on www.blogtalkradio.com.
The call-in number is 617-328-3526
Send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
January 11, 2012
President Obama is hosting a forum on "insourcing" today. We need to bring jobs back to America, and restore our "industrial commons." One way to help move this along is for states to require "Buy American" in their procurement rules. This is legal and here's the big thing -- it saves states money.
In December Steelworkers President Leo Gerard wrote a strong post, Antidote For Stupidity Of Shipping Tax-Dollar-Financed Jobs Overseas, writing,
Amid prolonged, painfully high unemployment, ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer for the past year tirelessly advocated a simple solution – buy American-made products. She clearly explained the reasoning: every American dollar spent on an American-made product helps create an American job.
Repeat and amplify: Every dollar spent on an American-made product helps create an American job.
Buy American Legislation
Now there’s an antidote for California’s stupidity. It is legislation called the Invest in American Jobs Act. Championed by U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, (D-W.Va.) and Senators Sherrod Brown, (D-Ohio), Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), it would strengthen existing requirements for buying American products when federal tax dollars pay for construction of highway, bridge, public transit, rail, water systems and aviation infrastructure equipment.
California decided to "save money" by purchasing Chinese steel to build the new Bay Bridge. Gerard writes about the disaster that brought to California. Never mind all the problems with the quality, the welds, the delays, and the problems overseeing the work that he described... Gerard also gets into the hidden costs to the state and country from the loss of business and the loss of jobs this caused:
Also, Schwarzenegger’s estimate that $400 million would be saved failed to account for the wages American workers lost, the taxes they would have paid, or the multiplier effect on the economy when workers spend their wages in their hometowns. In addition, Schwarzenegger’s estimate failed to account for the downside of hiring Chinese workers with American tax dollars, or in this case, bridge toll receipts. That includes unemployment compensation, Medicare fees and other costs borne by governments for joblessness.
The Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication included a story about the Bay Bridge project by two-time Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele in a series called What Went Wrong: the Betrayal of the American Dream.
In their report about California sending the bridge work to China, Bartlett and Steel quote Tom Hickman, vice president of Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas, Ore., one of the American companies that tried to form a consortium to perform the Bay Bridge work. Here’s what Hickman said about the jobs California denied American workers and the work California denied his America company:“These jobs are living-wage jobs and family-wage jobs. They provide health and welfare benefits, 401(k)s and pensions. Our facilities meet all of the environmental requirements, and it just is a very, very difficult thing to compete with the Chinese when you are really competing with the Chinese government (which subsidizes Chinese industry).”
Caltrans argued that no American company had the facilities to perform the work. Hickman said the consortium could have done it. But if government agencies like Caltrans continue to ignore the real costs of shipping work to China, American factories will continue to close. America lost 55,000 manufacturers over the past decade. If that doesn’t stop, at some point, America will forfeit the capacity to perform this kind of work.
Buying steel from another country proved to be a disaster for California every way you look at it.
Buy American Costs LESS
California "saved money" by purchasing Chinese steel to build the new Bay Bridge. In fact, the one government agency that built the bridge may have "saved money." But what about the other costs to government and the rest of us because of the jobs lost from not making that steel here? What about the lost taxes from the unemployed workers and the American steel companies that would have provided the steel -- and their suppliers ? What about the unemployment, food stamps, Medicaid, and all the other "safety net" costs that resulted? What about the loss of business to grocery stores and gas stations near the steel plants, and near all the suppliers that had to lay people off, and the lost sales taxes, etc?
When you add in the cost of losing jobs, factories, companies, industries and communities that result from decisions like this, you start to see that it really doesn't make sense to "save money" by buying things made elsewhere.
BART Buys American
The Bay Area Rapid Transit district learned a lesson from the Chinese steel debacle and last year introduced a Buy American policy. BART Adopts "Buy America" – First in U.S., Agency Says,
The Bay Area Rapid Transit district has become the nation's first transit agency to approve a "Buy America" policy, BART said.
The new Buy America Bid Preference policy, adopted unanimously by the BART board Thursday, "gives preferences to rail car manufacturers who create jobs in the U.S.A.," according to a BART news release Friday.
BART is preparing to award $3 billion in contracts for its new fleet of train cars, which the agency calls the "Fleet of the Future."
Buy American Policies
If we really want to start insourcing American jobs, then we should put our policies where our mouths are. "Buy American" provisions should be a mandate on federal, state and local government purchases, consistent with our trade laws. There is no reason our own government should be undermining American manufacturers. To accomplish this, our bottom line for federal procurement should be:
- All federal spending should have "buy America" provisions giving American workers and businesses the first shot at procurement contracts.
- New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.
- Our military equipment, technology and supply purchases should have increased domestic content requirements.
- Renewable and traditional energy projects should use American materials in construction.
State-level spending should have similar requirements, and this panel will discuss these, and strategies to getting them in place.
Today many state-level procurement laws are very weak. As a result, a lot of tax dollars go to purchase goods made overseas instead of goods made in the USA. The impact of this often includes delays or cost overruns such as what happened with the San Francisco to Oakland California Bay Bridge, as well as the loss of jobs and revenue in the US.
The idea that national and state governments should "Buy American" isn't in any way a partisan issue. If you look at polling you find that Republicans as well as Democrats believe that at least now while we are in economic distress, and trading "partners" are selling to us but not buying from us, our tax dollars should be supporting American companies and jobs.
There is a reason countries like China are working so hard to get this business.
Last month I wrote about a bill before Congress that would both help fight the offshoring of call-center jobs and protect consumers. Now the countries where we have been sending those jobs are organizing a lobbying campaign to fight the bill.
There is a bipartisan bill before Congress, The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, that would let the public know which companies are engaging in sending jobs out of the country, let customers ask to use an American call center instead, and ban federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the US. In Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask To Talk To Americans, I wrote about some of the specifics and the reason the bill is needed,
Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:
- Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
- Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
- Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
- Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
- Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.
India and the Philippines are organizing a lobbying campaign here -- yes, foreign countries lobby Congress to take our jobs -- to keep this bill from even being considered. An article in The Hindu explains,
India's ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao said that India would work to protect its business interests in the context of a proposed U.S. legislation against outsourcing call centre works to countries, including India.
The Manila Bulletin gets specific,
President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III was urged to create and send a strong contingent of Filipinos that would persuade lawmakers in the US Congress to stop the passage of a bill that could kill the US$9-billion business processing outsourcing (BPO) in the country.
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, lamented that US House Bill No. 3596 or the Call Center and Consumers Protection Bill will discourage American companies from outsourcing services in other countries like the Philippines.
“We have to act immediately by sending a strong lobby team in the US. I believe this will kill the BPO industry in the country,” Evardone said.
In, Anti-Outsourcing Bill Stirs Fears In India, Philippines at the Huffington Post, Dave Jamieson quotes Rep. Tim Bishop's (D-N.Y.) reaction to this effort by India and the Philippines,
When asked about such reactions, Bishop said that the fears in India and the Philippines reinforce the argument for the legislation.
"Frankly, the fact that both the Indian government and the Filipino government are reacting like this says that our bill is very badly needed," he said. Most of the call center jobs lost in the U.S. are "sent primarily to India and the Philippines. So I hope [the bill] does have an impact."
... While discussing the call center legislation last month, Bishop said that "outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy and one of the reasons we are struggling to knock down the unemployment rate and reduce the number of Americans who are out of work ... We can't prohibit it, but we can certainly discourage it."
This is not just an offshoring issue, it is also a consumer-protection issue. In Who Protects Info You Give To Offshored Call Centers?, I wrote about a study showing that offshoring of call centers causes us to lose protections on our privacy and financial information,
Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too
A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home. The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans’ private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.
The full text of the bill is available here:
H.R.3596 - To require a publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications.
January 10, 2012
Please read the whole thing, it just nails what today's economy is about: All Of Area Man's Hard Work Finally Pays Off For Employer | The Onion,
Following seven straight years of long hours at the office and sacrificed weekends and holidays, all of account manager Sam Hemstead's hard work and single-minded devotion to Pinnacle Automotive Insurance has finally paid off for CEO Charles Pardahee, Pardahee said Friday.
... The stress-related physical and psychological tolls for Hemstead, 34, have been high, but the hypertension, weight-gain, and crippling migraine headaches he has suffered due to his rigorous work schedule have been worth the rewards he has reaped for his employer, Pardahee confirmed.
January 9, 2012
In a May, 2011 post, Appealing To The "Center" Drives Away Voters I wrote that the traditional Democratic campaign strategy of taking positions perceived to be "between" the left and the right not only doesn't appear to work, it actually might be costing Democrats.
The traditional idea, driven by Democratic campaign consultants, is that "independent" voters "swing" between parties. SO you can get them to "swing" your way by taking positions that are not those of the base of your own party, but instead creep over towards those of the other party. I wrote in that May post,
The problem here is the effect the metaphor of a "center" has on our thinking. Thinking about independent voters as being a "block" that is "between" the parties is the problem. It forces the brain into a constraint because of the visual image that it evokes. What I mean is that the actual language of "centrist" changes how we think. The metaphor makes us think they are "between" something called left and right. And as a result it forces certain conclusions.
I said that Karl Rove figured this out, and used this to get Bush to instead "appeal to the base," which increased Republican turnout, while dispirited Dems, tired of their standard-bearers taking wishy-washy positions that give everything away, decided to just stay home. I wrote that Rove has "nailed it,"
Karl Rove believed that there were independents who were not registered Republican because the party was not far enough to the right for them, who would only turn out if the party gave them something to vote for. I think Karl Rove's model is more accurate, that the independent voters are a number of groups, and very large numbers of them are MORE to the left or right than the parties, and don't vote unless the parties appeal enough to them.
Rove decided this means the Republicans need to move ever more to the right, and this will cause those "independent" voters who had changed their affiliation out of disgust with the centrism of their party to now turn out and vote.
Now there is confirmation of this. On NPR's Talk of the Nation today, Clarence Page talked with host Neal Conan about the role of independent voters, saying that we might be surprised to learn that candidates who try to appeal to "independents" tend to lose, because they turn off the voters who closely follow and care about the issues.
Click the Play button below to hear this Talk of the Nation segment:
In fact, candidates that try to "appeal to the center" lose, because this idea of a :center" is a myth. From the transcript:
You know, there is a professor Alan Aramowitz of Emory University, who has been studying this using voting statistics, and he found that the - well, as he put it, in all three of the presidential elections since 1972 that were decided by a margin of less than five points, that the candidate backed by the independents lost.
This was - this surprised me. You know, he's citing here Jimmy Carter in '76, Gerald Ford - sorry, Gerald Ford beat - excuse me, Gerald Ford won the independent vote but lost the election. Put it that way, OK.
Most independents voted for George W. Bush in 2000, but Al Gore got the overall popular vote. As you recall, he got the popular vote but not the state vote.
CONAN: Yeah, but that's fudging your statistics a little bit. The guy who got the independent vote got the big prize.
PAGE: Yeah, but still, though, most of the - the one backed by the independent voters, though, did not get the majority of the popular vote. And in 2004, John Kerry, most independents voted for John Kerry, but he lost the overall election.
What does that mean? What it means is that Karl Rove and others, who have often advocated firing up the base rather than reaching out for independents, they've got a point. In some elections, that works. If you fire up your base, get your vote out, it can be big enough that it will overwhelm the opposition and the independents, because independents also tend to have the least turnout, and they also tend to be the least committed, not just to a party but also to - well, less engaged with the whole campaign.
They are joined by Daron Shaw, who was a campaign strategist for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
SHAW: Well, I think the thing that Clarence pointed out that's worth reiterating is that the distinguishing characteristic of independent voters is they're not that interested, they're not that involved, they're not that engaged with politics. So if you're a political professional and you're dealing with finite resources, and you have to make decisions about where you're going to invest dollars, and where you're going to invest manpower, you know, the idea of reaching out to independents, who may or may not show up, and if they do show up may or may not vote for you, can give you pause.
So you know, it's interesting that there's been this movement in the last two or three election cycles, and as Clarence correctly pointed out, I think Karl Rove is kind of given credit for this, although I don't know if he's, you know, the architect or godfather of it; a lot of people who have moved in this direction.
But the idea of sinking your resources into mobilization, which primarily targets, you know, sort of identifiable partisans and appeals to them, that that's become kind of a staple and maybe even the dominant perspective. And I find it kind of interesting that word out of the White House - and you have to read all these things with a dose of caution - but suggests that they're kind of moving in that direction. That's sort of what their thinking is. And I just find that fascinating.
As I wrote in May:
The way to grow your voting base is NOT to try to "appeal" to some group that is not left or right, but is "between" something called left and right. To get more voters -- especially the "independent" ones who won't identify with a party -- is to take stands, be more committed to progressive positions, and to articulate them more clearly.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
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.
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.
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.
This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
January 7, 2012
Mitt Romney got rich at Bain Capital by bankrupting companies and taking the pensions from the workers. Will Mitt give Glen Patrick Wells his pension back?
From David Waldman at Daily Kos, 'Job creation' vs. Romney's locust capitalism, (please read the whole thing - so well worth reading and understanding how this works)
Why is it that so many of the stories of companies bought by Romney at Bain have the same story? They go bust, but Romney makes money. ...
Once it was discovered that "business success" could mean nothing more than getting as many dollars as possible, there was no point in keeping a business that did things open at all. The only business worth having was the one that entitled you to the keys to the bank vaults.
So that's what Mitt Romney built for himself. A corporate safe-cracking engine. Buy a company, put yourself on the board, vote to max out its credit line and award yourself the cash. Then when they're all out of money, you say, "Oh well, company's broke," fire everyone and shut the doors. That's called a "bust-out," if you're a fan of Goodfellas or The Sopranos ... People who control and plunder companies through secret, off-the-books loans are "legitimate businessmen" (in the old movie gangster parlance). People who control and plunder companies through regular loans are legitimate businessmen. Even if the intent was always to bust it out. You just can't say so in open court..
This business model was enabled by Reagan's tax cuts on the rich. Before those tax cuts it took time to make a fortune. You carefully built a solid company with a good reputation, good products or services, treated workers well so they stuck around, treated customers well so they kept doing business with you. And over time you got rich.
Businesses like these needed solid, healthy communities around them, with good infrastructure and good schools. This supposed the business.
Then Reagan changed things, and forced a change in business models. Suddenly you could make and keep a fortune with a single business deal. This forced quick-buck, get-rich-quick schemes as business models. Predatory capitalism became the best way to make your money.
And who needed to pay for good schools, good infrastructure, etc? You weren't going to be sticking around anyway and you certainly didn't care if the losers had good schools or bridges. That's their problem, not yours.
It made sense to sell the farm instead of planting crops.
January 6, 2012
One after another, the Republican Presidential candidates have come out with strong statements that appear to show support for making things in America and revitalizing American manufacturing. This is because they can read polls and polls show that Americans overwhelmingly want American manufacturing revitalized, are tired of offshoring, understand the importance of fixing trade deficits and want to see things made here again. Donald Trump gained a lot of traction from the appearance of taking on China. Mitt Romney also talks about how we need to take on China. Rick Santorum has his own "Made In America" plan. But do their actual proposals match up with their rhetoric?
Mitt Romney has strong words about China. For example, last week Romney visited Competitive Edge, an Iowa company that sells promotional campaign items that you can put your own brand or message on. ("We've got items for convention give-a-ways, business gifts, direct mail campaign items, fund raising, political campaigns, special events, company promotions, and more!") At this campaign stop Romney said,
“I’ll clamp down on China that’s been cheating,” Romney said. “They’ve been stealing our intellectual property, our designs, our patents, our know-how, our brands, they’ve been hacking into our computers. That has got to stop.”
“I will stop it if I’m President of the United States,” Romney said.
However, in spite of Romney's words, many wonder if he is only saying this to get votes. For example, the website for Competitive Edge, the site of his Iowa appearance, says, "Competitive Edge is a major importer of Specialty Products from Asia and Europe." According to TPM, the president of Competitive Edge "said he doesn’t think Romney’s being completely serious when it comes to his tough China talk." He explained,
“I think the rhetoric of a campaign is different than the actual application,” he said. “[Romney] will sit down and he will get the right people in, he will take the advice of maybe a Huntsman who will say, ‘this is how to handle China.’” ... When it comes to actually governing, Greenspon said he expects Romney will take a much softer approach to China at the urging of his supporters in the business community.
So much for Romney. As with so many of his campaign positions, surrogates explain behind the scenes that he is just saying what he needs to say to get votes, what he will do if he is elected might or might be completely different, there is no way to know.
Rick "not-Romney" Santorum is now the official #2 in the GOP race. Santorum can also read polls, and is offering a "Made In America" plan. The plan begins the way Santorum always begins, "Rick Santorum believes that to have a strong national economy, we must have strong families."
Much of Santorum's plan is the usual Big Lobbyist and Wall Street-backed Republican stuff about cutting taxes on the rich and getting rid of any restraints on the wealthy and powerful as "pro-growth" policies. Items 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 are actually all the same item: cut taxes on the rich and their big corporations.
And then Santorum diversifies. Item 13 is get rid of President Obama's health care reform, with no explanation of how this will help manufacturing. Item 15 includes, "eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood and support adoption" and "eliminate funding for United Nations organizations that undermine America’s interests." Again, there is no explanation of how these will help manufacturing. These points are apparently included in a manufacturing plan to reassure the Republican base that he is certifiably nuts, to attract Michelle Bachmann voters.
Some of the items appear to be the result of selling advertising space to lobbyists from various industries.
- The oil industry purchased Item 20: Tap into America’s vast domestic energy resources...
- The big Telco giants purchased Item 21: Unleash innovation in telecommunications and Internet consumer options by getting government out of the way...
- Pete Peterson shelled out for Item 22: Reform Social Security and Medicare...
- The big Wall Street firms that are investing in privatizing education purchased Item 26: Reclaim the role of parents as the decision makers in their children’s education and incentivize the states to promote parental choice...
- Canadian oil companies that want to sell to China purchased Item 28: Approve the Keystone Pipeline...
- Wall Street and promoters of "The Big Lie" purchased Item 30: Phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s government backed role in mortgages...
The plan is not all bad. Santorum accidentally comes up with a few things that would actually help American manufacturing. Of course, they are mostly just more about cutting taxes, but these cut specific taxes on manufacturers, which might help bring some manufacturing back. These are:
- Item 10: Eliminate the corporate income tax for manufacturers – from 35% to 0% - which will spur middle income job creation in the United States and will create a job multiplier effect for workers
- Item 11: Spur innovation in America by increasing the Research & Development Tax Credit from 14% to 20% and make it permanent
Santorum's Item 32 is important, and I'm singling it out for attention: Strengthen our national security and national defense so that we are not dependent upon our foes or competitors for critical manufacturing, technology, energy and other security needs
So Santorum's plan has a few good points but only barely matches the promise of its title. In reality it only offers more of the same policies that boost the 1% at the expense of everything else, even harming smaller manufacturers trying to compete with the multi-national giants. The plan even offers a number of items that have ravaged our manufacturing base, pushing even more disastrous "free-trade" agreements. And, the plan has the added bonus of a series of unrelated proposals apparently included only as filler and the necessary proof of insanity to qualify him in a Republican primary.
President Obama's Office of Manufacturing Policy
As one component of a set of policy initiatives to improve manufacturing President Obama recently set up a new Office of Manufacturing Policy that will have cabinet-level status, reflecting the importance of the manufacturing sector to our economy. The office will coordinate the efforts of different government agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, the Department of Commerce and the Transportation Department.
Congressional Democrats' Make In In America Plan
In May Democrats in the Congress brought out a "Make In In America" package of specific legislative proposals to revitalize American manufacturing. In Democrats' Plan Makes Jobs In America I described the plan:
Congressional Democrats yesterday unveiled the Make It In America plan for the 112th congress. This is a set of specific, detailed, targeted bills that clearly create jobs and restore our economic competitiveness, beginning with a national strategy for manufacturing. This is very different from the vague, sloganeering, lobbyist-written plan offered by Senate Republicans.
Yesterday House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled their Make It In America plan “to support job creation today and in the future by encouraging businesses to make products and innovate in the US and sell it to the world through strengthening our infrastructure and supporting investments in key areas like education and energy innovation.”
This Make It In America initiative involves a series of bills that have been introduced for consideration by the 112th Congress. This initiative will create jobs here, grow the economy and reduce the trade deficit, all of which help reduce our budget deficits. Creating jobs and growing the economy reduces deficits by increasing tax revenues and decreasing spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps, etc.
There is a warning here for President Obama and all other candidates of either party running for office in 2012: the public wants to see plans to bring back American manufacturing. The public understands what the NAFTA-style trade deals have done to our wages, jobs, factories, industries, trade deficit and economy. They hate Wall Street's quick-buck outsourcing schemes and the trade deals that enabled them, and want American manufacturing revitalized. Supporting Wall Street and trade deals and the quick-buck, offshoring economy harms the country and for that reason is political suicide
The public wants to go into stores and see "Made In America" again.
Frank Sobatka explains:
There are so many unanswered questions and contradictions all around us. But like the families of alcoholics in denial we stay quiet and try not to rock the boat. Here are some questions that need to be asked, and maybe 2012 can be the year we start demanding answers.
1) Who is our economy for, anyway?
2) Why did we invade Iraq?
3) Why haven’t we broken up those too-big banks yet? Instead they just get bigger and more powerful.
3a) How long will we continue to let the banks "extend and pretend?"
4) Why do we still let tobacco companies kill more than 400,000 Americans every year?
4a) Why don't we make tobacco companies pay to clean up all those cigarette butts everywhere?
5) Wouldn't lowering the Social Security age fix a lot of unemployment and help a lot of people?
6) Is moving a factory to a low-wage country really "trade?" Seriously?
7) If our government is supposed to be of, by and for "We, the People," what do conservatives mean by demanding "less government?"
8) How come we never, ever see someone from a union on the big TV networks talking about the benefits of being in a union or how and why to organize one?
9) Since we didn't have big deficits before the Reagan tax cuts, and since the Bush tax cuts didn't create any jobs ... ???
10) Why haven't there been any criminal prosecutions of Wall Street banksters? (OK, some people are starting to ask that one a lot.)
So Many More
There are so many more questions like those. I guess that's enough for now. We as a country have to start asking questions again and demanding answers. Hey, that reminds me:
11) When will our mainstream "journalists" start asking questions and demanding answers again, instead of just saying things like "both sides do it" and "if one side says the earth is flat and the other side says it is round, that means that the earth must be oval-shaped"?
Wall Street got bailouts, the rich got tax cuts, people got job loss and wage cuts and longer hours, protests got crackdowns and it's getting too obvious to ignore. It's time to stop ignoring things and do something about them.
Please, ask your questions in the comments, and then take them out in public and ask them and keep asking them until you get answers. It's your right to ask, and your right to demand answers.
January 4, 2012
Republicans demand hand-counting, onsite registration and no voter ID for their own internal elections. What do you think they know that so many of the rest of us don't?
Daniel Becker, at Angry Bear realizes this, in So much for GOP Siren of voter fraud,
Maybe the appropriate title for this is: Do as I say and not as I do....
Just listening to Thom Hartman and he noted something that struck a cord (chord?) with me: voter ID, electronic ballots. In the caucuses last night, the Republican party did not require and ID, they allowed onsite registration and hand counted the ballots. This is completely and totally counter to the Republican national position.
January 3, 2012
Something I got in the mail:
As of now an agency of our government, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is effectively shut down, unable to do its job. This is a "nullification" by Republicans, of laws that protect workers and companies, in exchange for campaign help from the 1%. They are simply obstructing, blocking appointments in order to keep the agency from functioning. The President has a responsibility to keep the government operating and must use his power to make recess appointments to get the NLRB up and running.
The mission of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), by law, is "to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."
Once again, the reason we have the NLRB is:
"...to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."
For readers who missed that, here it is in bold:
"to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy."
It's The Law
That's right, it is the policy of the U.S. government, and the law, to "encourage" unionization because higher wages and benefits helps Americans and our economy overall. By law.
It's the law.
Influence Of The 1%
Yes, it's the law. But so what? Paying good wages and providing benefits means that the 1% and their corporations might have to wait a bit longer to stash away a few billion more, so they are furious at such government "interference." Yes, it is better for everyone in the long run when working people do better, but it isn't better for the 1% right now, this quarter, so they fight every effort to help the middle class.
The 1% and their big corporations have a lot of influence. They dole out generous campaign contributions to those politicians who do their bidding. And they set up "outside groups" that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts to help those they favor and fight those they do not. And they hire lobbyists -- and let current members of Congress and their staff know they can hire them, too, later, for extremely generous salaries, if they just play ball now.
Agency Shut Down
In 2010 the Republican majority on the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the NLRB must have a quorum of board members or it cannot decide cases. Ongoing Republican efforts to keep the Board from operating succeeded. Over 600 decided cases were thrown out. Big companies could continue to get away with firing people for trying to exercise their legal rights to organize unions so they could get better pay and benefits, regardless of what the laws said.
So Republicans are doing the bidding of the 1%. Today the NLRB is effectively shut down because it does not have enough Board members to function. Republicans in the Senate have blocked appointments to the Board, to keep it from operating, to prevent it from deciding cases, so that big companies can operate with impunity and continue to shovel all the gains from our economy up to the top 1%.
"Nullification" was the pre-Civil War "states rights" practice of Southern states simply ignoring federal laws. The Republicans are again engaging in nullification, on behalf of the 1%.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, in Nullification Makes a Comeback, explains,
Republicans are refusing to allow votes on President Obama's nominee to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and on his nominees to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board. In both cases, the Republican refusal is explicity aimed at shutting down these agencies.
... Republicans make no bones about why they're doing this. They opposed the CFPB from the start, and they're now using the filibuster as a way of unilaterally preventing it from operating even though it was lawfully created by a vote of Congress and signed into law by the president. Likewise, they're afraid the NLRB is about to make some rulings they dislike, so they're using the filibuster as a way of shutting it down by denying it a quorum.
The 1% are only 1%, and we are technically still supposed to be operating as a country where the majority rules. So when they can't get their way the 1% engage in various schemes to get their way. We have seen an unprecedented use of filibusters to block the ability of the Congress to function. We have seen hostage-taking and shutdown attempts. In the case of the NLRB (and the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency) we are seeing another "nullification" effort -- preventing the agency from operating by preventing appointments.
This is not politics, this is not bipartisanship, this is intentional obstruction to keep the government from operating.
Where Is Our President?
The President of the United States has a lot of power -- if he chooses to exercise that power. One of his powers is to make appointments himself at times when the Senate is unable to make appointments. This is in the Constitution because the Founders understood how important it is to keep the government operating.
The Constitution is clear about the President's power, and his implied responsibility to use that power to keep the government operating:
Article II Section 2: The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
Article II Section 3: ...he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper;
If the House and Senate disagree on adjournment, the President can adjourn them. And when they are adjourned he can make recess appointments. The Congress is engaging in a charade of "pro-forma" sessions to give the technical appearance of being in session when they are not in session as part of this obstruction/nullification strategy by the agents of the 1% to keep our government from functioning for the 99%.
The 15-Second Option
The President had the power to make recess appointments at noon today, when the Senate was officially in recess between the first and second sessions of the 58th Senate. This would have kept this important agency in operation, doing its legally mandated job of protecting workers and companies. The president didn't.
President Teddy Roosevelt used this power in 1903 to appoint 160 officials. The country survived.
Adjourn And Appoint
We can't wait. We have an extraordinary situation here, where one of the parties, as a political strategy, in exchange for campaign assistance from the 1%, is obstructing for the purpose of preventing the government from operating. It is the duty of the President to keep the government operating.
Mr. President, this is outrageous. Working people need you to use your power to get the NLRB up and functioning. Please, adjourn and appoint -- WE CAN'T WAIT!
January 2, 2012
"Obama didn't clean up the mess we made fast enough, therefore you should put us back in office."