Work an 8-hour Day and/or 5-day Workweek? Thank a Union!

Just as the Bush Syndicate went after the rights of public unions following Bush’s re-election in 2004, several republican state governors are now going after the collective bargaining rights of public unions following the November 2010 elections, when many states’ governments turned more republican.

Their strategy is clear (though their mission is more covert): State public unions are primarily governed by state law, while private sector unions are primarily subject to federal law.  If the conservative Tea-Bagger governors can decimate the public sector unions state by state, then private sector unions are easier to challenge.  They’ll simply claim that their actions are solely directed at stopping the financial bleeding in their states.  They’ll insist that the public sector unions, with their collective bargaining rights, have caused their state budget deficits.

Huh??

Only those who have no knowledge of union-management interaction could believe such utter tripe.  Unions sit across the negotiating table from management/owners/state negotiators whenever negotiations are conducted.  If the management/owners/state negotiators give away too much during the give and take of robust negotiations (which they sometimes do), the fault lies with the management/owners/state negotiators, not of the union negotiators, whose known role is to achieve the best possible deal for the union membership they represent.  Conversely,the state negotiators’ role is to yield as little as possible and to take back whatever they can.

One exception to this basic union-management axiom is when the company/state/economic entity is in severe economic distress.  At those times it is incumbent upon the company/state/economic entity to reveal the true data about the economic situation.  Then it is incumbent upon the union to agree to give back whatever previously-won benefits  are required to ensure the survival of the company/state/economic entity.  This is exactly what occurred between the airline industry and the unions representing pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, baggage handlers, etc., after the post-9-11 airline passenger downturn.  Pensions, benefits, salaries and so forth were all subject to union “give-backs” because the unions understood that economic failure of the the airline companies meant lose of their memberships’ employment.

Unfortunately for the public sector state unions such as those in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana, the switch to republican-dominated legislatures and governorships has resulted in plans that are far more ominous, insidious and ulterior than simple budget-deficit-reduction.

The brutal reality is that these states are the test sites for a more coordinated Tea-Bagger effort to defund the Democratic party.  How, you may ask…?

It’s simple, really.  Conservatives receive the bulk of their political campaign funding from big business, corporate American, Wall Street players, millionaires and billionaires, and others with a vested interest in being allowed to do whatever they want to whomever they want whenever they want, without government interference, oversight or intervention.  For instance, the billionaire Koch brothers, who seem to fancy the republican party as they own “hit team”, have bankrolled the republican party to the tune of billions of dollars.  They would like nothing more than for every union and every government regulation on business to disappear. They generously fund the campaigns of those who see what they see and believe what they believe.

The democratic party is the antithesis of that.  Democrats support the middle class over big business and Wall Street’s corporate America.  As a result, a large part of their political funding comes from the nation’s unions.

Tea-Baggers figure:  If we should down the unions, we shut down a major political funding source for those liberal democrats.  And what better way to shut down unions than to take away their reason for existence:  To negotiate benefits for the workers?  After all, who’s going to join a union that has no purpose?

To that end, Tea-Bagger Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has become the GOP point-man in the effort to bankrupt the democratic campaign treasury.  Walker and his newly republican-controlled state legislature want to eliminate the Wisconsin budget deficit by having the unionized state employees pay more into their pension funds and health insurance.  That’s pretty fair, and in fact the union has already agreed to that.  But Walker wants much more.  He want to render the state union impotent by eliminating their collective bargaining rights in perpetuity.  If he can make this happen, he’ll be the darling of the ultra-extreme-right wing of the GOP, and possibly GOP presidential nominee someday.

In response, Wisconsin’s democratic legislators have left the state, preventing the state senate from achieving a quorum required for business.  So Walker has threatened a state-wide public employee. And this scenario is now repeating in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana.  The showdown is coming, folks.

A bit of perspective:  Unions stopped child labor, sweat shops, unsafe working conditions, 16-hour work days and 7-day workweeks, abusive owner/management/state/entity practices against employees, and caused establishment of the minimum wage.  Without unions, greed is the only motivator.

If the issue is money, then owner/management/state/entity should come to the table in good faith and provide data to back their positions.  And if the union agrees to a give-back, how does management still insist upon destroying  all future collective bargaining?

Where’s the good faith in that?

Obama and Freshmen Republicans: Making Deals For Fun & Profit

The growing budget deficit and the ballooning national debt are no small problems for the USA.

The GOP would like everyone to forget that it was their party that took the USA from a budget surplus of US$500 billion at the end of the Clinton administration, to budget deficit of over US$1 trillion by the end of the Bush administration 8 years later.  But regardless of how we got here, the USA is now spending far more than it is taking in.  The interest on the national debt alone is eating up more of what little revenue is available to pay the bills.  Added to that, the Bush administration, with its hands-off approach to corporate frauds and abuses, helped to cause 2007-2010 recession;  unemployment went up and as a result, tax income went down.

The issue now is:  How to fix it.

President Obama had made several recent public statements about the need for the GOP-controlled House of Representatives and the democrats to work together to fix the awful budget crisis.  To their credit, the republican leadership has now agreed in concept with this, some of their legislative actions that seem to belie their words, to the contrary.

Nonetheless, yesterday we actually saw an alliance, albeit momentary, between the Obama administration and 47 newly elected freshmen conservative GOP congressmen.  The House passed an amendment to the proposed budget to end funding an alternative engine for America’s newest jet fighter, the F-35.   Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had been advocating the termination of the second engine program for some time.  The House GOP leadership, including Speaker John John Boehner, R-Ohio (where the alternate engine would be built), favored continued funding.  So does the democratically controlled US senate, where the bill will be headed.

That the freshmen republicans broke with their leadership is indicates that Speaker John Boehner doesn’t control them in lockstep the way he controlled their GOP predecessors before the 2010 mid-term elections.  Thus, the GOP may not actually wield majority decision-making they thought they had.

Alternatively, these new GOP congresspeople may use a  “Cut & Slash ” or “scorched Earth” approach to budget-reduction.  If so, Obama needs to pick his issues very carefully to get their support where he needs it.  Then he has to sell it to the senate democrats (his own party), most likely with a totally different set of reasons than the republicans heard and accepted.  Talk about an impossible task….

Yet, it seems the impossible (conservative republicans and the Obama administration agreeing on a budget issue) has actually come to pass, so far.  It remains to be seen if this will play out to completion later the senate. And even if everybody realizes that compromise is absolutely required to work the budget itself, there’s still the ultimate “mission impossible” waiting at the end of the process:

Tax-reform.

Let’s face it.  The budget can be reduced only so much before the average citizen’s life becomes critically impacted.  No one really want their taxes to go up, and its a lot easier to reduce future entitlements than to raise taxes required to funds them.  But both parties need to face this, and consider the following, if they really want to fix this mess:

1.  Stop stealing revenue from the Social Security trust fund putting it into the general revenue fund. Left to its own revenue, Social Security would be funded forever.

2.  Eliminate ALL Corporate Welfare, such as the tax breaks for obscenely rich oil companies. This is like giving Bill Gates food stamps.

3.  Eliminate the Earned Income Credit. There are much better ways to help the poor than simply throwing money at them.

4.  Eliminate tax breaks for the very rich. Most reputable economists on the planet agree that these breaks do nothing to stimulate job creation.

5.  The BEST IDEA:  throw out the entire IRS income tax code (for starters) and adopt a simple, sustainable, fair, cheat-proof, loophole-proof taxation method, such as a national sales tax, a.k.a., Fair Tax, or, at a minimum, a Flat Tax.  The fair tax, by the way, completely eliminates the IRS (SAVINGS!!!), and the flat tax drastically reduces it, allowing what little remains to live in a cubicle at the Treasury Department (still SAVINGS!!!).  Both of them the very rich and the very poor hate these ideas, which automatically qualifies them as good practical ideas.

WARNING:   It will take HUGE “cajones” by our elected officials (ALL of them) to actually do something like this.  Lobbyists from every side will fight with great tenacity to keep all their existing loopholes, giveaways, breaks and so forth.  But this isn’t about a privileged few….it’s about ALL of us.

Think about that as you do your way-too-complicated income taxes this year, or have to pay someone else to do them for you.

Remember, April 15 is JOY JOY day at the IRS.

Renaming Rape Victims “Accusers” and Other Stupid, Hypocritical GOP Ideas

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and you just can’t make this stuff up.

Take, for example, the moronic legislative proposal by republican state representative Bobby Franklin to change Georgia state law.  According to him, rape victims as well as victims of other crimes such as family violence, are not really “victims” until and unless the person charged with the alleged crime is actually convicted.  Until then, Franklin rationalizes, the “alleged victims” are really just “accusers”.  Thus, Franklin recently introduced a bill in the Georgia state legislature that would mandate that in “criminal law and criminal procedure”, the person(s) formerly referred to as “victim(s)” are only to be called “accusers” until such time as a jury convicts the “accused”.

Couple this with legislation recently submitted in the US House of Representatives that would “qualify” rape victims based upon the type of rape they suffered, i.e., forcible rape, statutory rape, date rape, rape by drugs or coercion, rape of the mentally impaired, rape of the physically disabled.  Evidently, these different types of rape would be rated differently, each with a presumed different level of severity to the victim, and thus a different level of penalty.

Believe it or not, GOP house members introduced this bill entitled “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion” Bill with the rape “qualification” provision mentioned above.  It wasn’t until a huge public outcry occurred that the bill was amended to remove that provision last Thursday.

Isn’t the GOP the political party that claims to want less government regulations and intervention, not more?

But there is more:

Today’s oil industry consists primarily of huge multinational corporations that earn absolutely enormous sums of money while circumventing as many government safety regulations as possible.  Their profits are absolutely mind-boggling:  Exxon-Mobile, for example, reported an after-tax net profit US$30.46 billion for 2010, after a recession-impacted net profit of “only” US$19.28 billion in 2009.  Yet, the GOP, which claims to want to reduce government spending and the deficit, continues to protect the 2005 GOP-initiated huge tax breaks for the oil companies, which became law when GW Bush was president and the GOP controlled both houses of congress.

Isn’t this the same political party that claims to hate welfare and entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and other “safety net” programs that allow older American to survive?

Or put another way, isn’t this like giving Bill Gates food stamps?

Not surprisingly, the GOP defends the tax breaks for the oil companies by claiming that they encourage these companies to search for and drill for more oil.

But wait a minute.  Isn’t this the same political party that holds the principal of totally free-market, profit-motivated capitalism in the highest possible regard?  And following that principal, wouldn’t the GOP believe that Exxon-Mobil profit of tens of billion of dollars a year is enough incentive for it to explore and drill without the need for more incentive in the form of a taxpayer-funded, deficit-increasing tax break?

This begs the following question:  Does the GOP even realize how their embracing of these really stupid and hypocritical ideas makes them look to the thinking public?  That question is important because there really are truly honest conservatives out there that really believe in limited government and low taxes as their philosophical grounding.  They don’t believe that they can ignore this philosophy simply because it’s “convenient” at the moment based upon the instant issue.  They are not hypocrites, and they do not change the rules depending upon which issue is on the table.  That level of integrity deserves respect and honor.

Sadly, they’re being drowned out by the hypocritical revisionists of the GOP that change the rules, change historical facts, and change their philosophical baseline based upon the issue or the upcoming election they’re running in.  Take, for instance, republican Mitt Romney whom, as governor of Massachusetts, supported a woman’s right to choose.  Then, when he ran for president in 2008, he declared himself strongly anti-choice.  Also as governor, he supported the Massachusetts state health care reform bill that mandated each citizen must carry health insurance.  In fact, he signed it into law.  Now that he’s running for president again, he’s against those same conditions in the national health care reform law.

Even republican John McCain either was a self-declared maverick for the 2008 presidential election, or he wasn’t a self-declared maverick for the 2010 senate election.  Maybe he just changes a lot.

The USA is less than a year away from the full-fledged start-up of the 2012 political campaign season.  And the GOP has a whole field of declared and undeclared presidential-wannabes.  When they start their campaigning later this year, ask yourself the same question regarding each of them that people were urged to ask in 1968 about Richard Nixon:

Would I buy a used car from __(name of each GOP candidate)__??

GOP’s “American Exceptionalism” is Really Arrogant Elitism

When president Obama gave his State of the Union speech a week ago. he called for investment in the USA’s future by funding research and development, and greater emphasis on math and science education.  Of course, republicans trounced all over that because they are pushing for smaller government and no new spending anywhere, regardless of the fact that US students rank behind so many other countries in math & science, and more and more American jobs are lost to other countries which can produce better, cheaper, and faster than we can.  Penny wise and dollar foolish, the non-short-sighted among us would say.

In the same breath, the republicans promote the idea of American Exceptionalism in its latest iteration which postulates in its simplest form that the USA is better than any other nation.  Period.

This bizarre and arrogant attitude, besides being insulting to the many other great nations in the world, is constantly defended by the most rabid of the American conservative movement.  With much of its roots in the puritan legacy of some of the first settlers (“our religion is the only right religion”), the wing-nuts will make all manner of fantastical claims to rationalize their view of “American Exceptionalism”.

For example, they’ll assert that the US constitution was the first and the best national governing document in history.  While it is true that the US constitution is indeed a magnificently dynamic governmental charter, by no means is it the first document granting rights to citizens and restricting totalitarian governmental powers.  In fact, the Magna Carta, written in 1215, preceded the US Constitution by over 550 years, and served as a baseline for the American document.

The arrogant right claims that American ingenuity, investment, productivity, quality of life and every other characteristic of life are the best because of “American Exceptionalism”.  If that’s true, then why is the USA losing jobs to other nations?  Why are Asian electronics considered the best in the world?  Why is corporate America investing massive capital overseas?

And why does the USA spend twice as much on health care per capita as any other socially advanced western industrial country, but its citizens live fours years less than in those countries?  And why is the USA the only socially advanced western industrial country in the world in which its citizens are regularly forced to lose their homes and declare bankruptcy due of medical expenses?

Finally, how “exceptional” is it that fully 40% of this country’s citizens support people who don’t know that Sputnik didn’t bankrupt the former Soviet Union (Sarah Palin), or that the American founding fathers were not the ones who ended slavery in this country (Michelle Bachmann), or that masturbation is evil but witchcraft is okay (Christine O’Donnell), or that armed revolt against the US congress is acceptable (Sharon Angle).

There is nothing “exceptional” about people making up their own “history” simply to convince citizens to vote them into public office.  Yet, that’s exactly what the four people above did, even as they staunchly defend and promote “American Exceptionalism”.  Lying is quite unexceptional, even if some of their lies are kind of “exceptional” in their ignorance.

Believing the GOP’s version of “American Exceptionalism” is not the same as being proud to be an American and of the USA’s accomplishments, like landing the first and only men on the moon, or being the first to achieve powered flight, or the polio vaccine, or even of the US constitution itself.

But as with any many other countries, there are events in US history that are not so great:  slavery, industrial exploitation of children, unsafe working conditions, and uncontrolled financial environments which caused ultimately contributed to the Great Depression and the recession of 2007-2010, just to mention a very few.

Finally, the worst results of the GOP’s “American Exceptionalism” are both external and internal.  Abroad, “American Exceptionalism” does nothing but alienate people from other countries, who find it incredibly arrogant and misguided.  At home, its supporters use it to abuse anyone not agreeing with them, calling such people anti-American and anti-patriotic, questioning their judgments and their loyalties, and telling whomever will listen not to trust these “foreign sympathizers”.  This practice peaked during the GW Bush administration, but make no mistake:  it’s still running strong in the USA.

Just another classic example of extremists using an emotion-founded, horribly short-sighted and arrogant attitude to foment hate and fear.

And speaking of short-sightedness….The ongoing Kepler Spacecraft mission has identified over 1200 planets orbiting nearby stars, almost 60 of which appear to be habitable planets. Kepler found them in just the tiny micro-fraction of sky it can see.   It is thus reasonable to assume that the full Milky Way galaxy has thousands or millions of these planets; that some might well be inhabited, possibly with intelligent beings; and that some those might actually be more advanced that humanity (including Americans  🙂  ).

If true, and they finally contact us officially…is the GOP still going to cling to their “American Exceptionalism” manta?

THAT would be worth sticking around for.