Posts Tagged socialism

Organization Pushing For $20 An Hour Minimum Wage Offers Job for $13 an Hour

Earlier this month The Freedom Socialist Party posted listings on Craigslist and Indeed to advertise an opening for a part-time web designer offering to pay $13 an hour.  That’s well below the $20 minimum wage the party pushes for in its platform, and lower than the $15 wage it helped pass this year in Seattle.

But Doug Barnes, the party’s national secretary, told The Huffington Post on Saturday that the group relies heavily on donations from low-wage workers and could not afford to pay much to an inexperienced designer.

We’re practicing what we’re preaching in terms of continuing to fight for the minimum wage,” Barnes said, making his first public comment on the controversy. “But we can’t pay a lot more than $13.” He went on to accuse Right wing critics as hypocritical, citing that “these are the same people who fought against the minimum wage and support companies like Walmart.”

I mean look,  I am a liberal socialist in the sense that I do believe in strong unions, labor rights and regulation, but I have to admit this is pretty hypocritical. “But we can’t pay a lot more than $13” is exactly what everyone else who opposes minimum wage increases, including the $ 20 an hour proposal this party supports, argues:  “we cannot afford it.” Why is it then that the socialist party’s reasons are legitimate and everyone else’s aren’t?

This is the same thing as non-profits who fight for social and economic justice and fair wages etc. turning around offering non paid full time internships. That is just not right and goes against the very things you are arguing and allegedly fighting for.

And the thing is, if you want to change things, you have to be the change you want to see, trite as it may sound. Not to mention that I am going to take a wild guess here and say that the president or CEO of this non-profit probably gets paid quite a lot. Maybe he cares to cut his salary so they can afford the 20 bucks they are pushing for because $13 an hour is not a livable wage for anyone, especially a highly educated and skilled person who probably had to rack up student loan debt and such to be able to pay for this education which, in turn, was going to qualify him for this job.

Either way you look at it, this just does not look good and doesn’t strengthen your position to not be living what you preach.

Yeah Republicans and Conservatives are a bunch of indecent hypocrites and scumbags, opposing the minimum wage and unions, but then again they never pretended otherwise. You, on the other hand,  claim to stand for more so be more.

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Quote of the Day

When I was secretary, we had basically a two-war strategy. We had to maintain sufficient forces to be able to fight two wars at once. He switched that. Now we’re going to have a one-war strategy. And that’s all being done as a rationale to justify further deep cuts in the defense budget so he can allocate that money to food stamps or whatever else he wants to spend it on.

Dick-Cheney-1-300x214Dick Cheney criticizing President Obama for prioritizing feeding people over waging wars.

If there ever was any doubt that Republicans do not believe people are entitled to food, what Dick Cheney, former Vice President and eternal war mongering war criminal at large, had to say at an energy industry trade show in Billings, Montana should put all those doubts – and denials – to rest.

If I had not read it, I would not believe that someone is and can be so openly callous so as to state, as a matter-of-factly and with a straight face, that spending money to feed human beings is a waste as that money could be better used engaging in wars.

The thing that is truly disturbing is that he is so cavalier and smug about this. There is not even any pretense to caring about peoples’ lives and the human cost of war. I can almost picture him saying this with the demeanor of a bad cop with a wicked grin who just wants anyone to give him a reason.

Another thing to note, of course, is that President Obama does not and has not prioritized the poor and hungry over anything. He was the architect behind the Draconian sequester (thinking that if he makes it cut-throat enough, it would turn away even Republicans. Little did he know), he failed to close down Gitmo, he continues to support and sign off on the use of drones and, if I recall, he personally signed an $8.7 billion food stamp cut into law!!

So, on the one hand you got this sorry excuse for a human being named Dick Cheney declare, without shame and compunction, that spending money on feeding people as opposed to going to war was a waste and on the other hand you got him accusing the President for having done precisely that when the President has clearly not ever put the poor and hungry before any other cause, including war, the defense budget, Wall Street and private industry in general.

Thirty years ago Obama would have been a proud candidate for the Republican party, palling around side-by-side Ronald Reagan. He is not a liberal, no matter how many times people repeat that. It is just that the Republican party of yesteryear is gone and what has remained has moved substantially more to the Right, getting greedier and more Orwellian than ever, in turn making someone like Obama look like a Liberal.

Conservative hypocrisy and callousness truly have no bounds.

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Consequences of Apathy

The Huffington Post, every now and then as part of a PSA or something, dedicates a post to the “Faces of Drugs Arrests” – supported by Rehabs.com as a follow up to its anti-methamphetamine campaign “Horrors of Meth.”

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“Faces of Drug Arrests,” is a series of shocking images, depicting the decline of different “suspects” (suspects of what? drug abuse?)  physical appearance over the years via their mugshots. The individuals shown were all arrested for drug and drug-related offenses involving meth, heroin, cocaine, and prescription drugs.

The ugliest thing about this post is not so much the ravaged faces of these drug addicts, but the comments section of the Huffington Post where people admonish these individuals as “disgusting” beings who hopefully never have kids.

One commentator, who neither knows any of these individuals or their stories and backgrounds and thus their experiences and how they came to be where they are, writes quite presumptuously that “they no longer care where they are or whether they’re about to die.

Others casually “other” the people depicted in the images, commenting on how “irresponsible” it is of them, especially when “these people” have children of their own.

One reader had the following to say “There’s NO REASON for anyone to continue to abuse themselves to this extent – help is readily available pretty much everywhere. These types of addicts just don’t want to take the effort necessary to clean themselves up. Yes, I know that’s not the case with some addicts, but in these cases…..?” 

“They are disgusting.”

“They are irresponsible.”

“They don’t care.”

“They don’t want to make the effort.”

Yes, because clearly mentally healthy, stable people enjoy becoming emotional and physical wrecks as a result of heavy drug use. Because, thank the spaghetti monsters that be, drug addiction is not a disease at all.

No one in these comments has even noted the fact that these are mug shots taken from arrests, as in these people whom everyone is summarily dismissing, judging and spitting on as disgusting, irresponsible, worthless wrecks have been criminally persecuted and incarcerated for their drug use.

And neither does anyone – neither the HP article nor the commentators – find it either problematic or acknowledge the fact that drug addiction is an illness that requires medical treatment of those who are using drugs, instead of criminal retribution.

No one is wondering, or is the least bit bothered, that instead of health and treatment these people are being treated to prison instead. “Hell [typo and I am keeping it there] Help is readily available” one commentator casually states. When in reality, no actually, help is not readily available.

The fact that these people have been booked and charged with a crime instead of being sent to rehabilitation to treat their illness should have given you a clue. That, and that in this country trying to get insurance companies to pay for meaningful drug rehabilitation programs is almost impossible, not to mention that government-run rehab programs, as far as they do exist, are terribly funded, ineffective and hard to get into.

So no, it is not “readily available.” Where have these people been? Canada? Germany?

Most importantly, there is a human being behind every mug shot depicted in this PSA; a human being with their own life’s stories, paths and trajectories. No one knows what has taken place in their lives leading them to resort to drug use and the addiction that comes from it. To judge them as if one did is mendacious.

Sending someone who suffers from the disease of addiction to jail is no different than incarcerating someone suffering from cancer or Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Moreover, since low-income and/or racial minorities are disproportionately incarcerated for drug use, this undertaking has, essentially, become another way of criminalizing the poor for being poor.

Now what if all the taxpayer money that’s used arresting, processing, trying, probably public defending and jailing drug addicts  were instead used toward social programs that would support such people in the first place? What if instead of jail time, we offered help? How about trying to find out what those ills were that got them into heavy drug use in the first place, instead of making this ridiculous, callous assumption that they are there because they enjoy being there, because they made that choice and because they devalue their lives?

Although I do wonder how people who have been outcast and thrown away by society as disgusting, irresponsible worthless wrecks are going to “love themselves.”

People in this country tend to criticize “government hand-outs” and talk about the social safety net like it’s a giant waste of taxpayer money—a “wealth redistribution program” to steal rich folks’ money and give it to the poor. And they do not see the moral failing in such an argument because the same people that talk about social safety net programs as being a waste of money have no problem seeing that very money be used to send sick people to jail (or support defense contractors, oil companies, corporations, banks and the wealthy in the form of tax exemptions etc).

Unworthy of Help

The thinking that one needs additional negative consequences for harming one-self assumes that whatever situation one finds one-self in is not sufficient consequences. Even if someone is in an incredibly terrible situation of their “own making” (which is an extreme oversimplification as no one lives in a vacuum)  somehow that’s not enough punishment in and of itself.

The thing I truly abhor about this kind of rhetoric and way of thinking is that even if, given the same set of circumstances, I or Joe Green over there, would have emerged differently than someone else: So what? Different people are different.

And even in cases where someone is in a terrible situation because of their own making and bad choices: So what? Why is that justification to not help them?

I fully understand the value of consequences for harming others. I will, however, never understand the alleged value of consequences for harming oneself.

This calculated, cultivated lack of empathy in our society for anyone who isn’t successful, healthy, wealthy and “wise”, is very disconcerting and quite visible in the face of every person in these mug-shots.

Love, empathy and compassion are necessities if we are going to make it as a peoples and nation. They are not luxuries.

I wish people who just casually judged, blamed and dismissed a person in peril like that, praying self righteously to their “God” that the drug addicts in the mugshots may not have any children, would, instead, pray to their “God” that these people who are undoubtedly suffering, get the help they need – which would necessitate voting for programs that aide such people as opposed to voting for policies and politicians that do everything they can to dismantle the programs that aide these people.

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Dramatic Gains in Wealth By the Rich Are Underwritten By Everyone Else

rich 2The American tax code today is based on the assumption that income earned through wages has less value and thus should be subject to more taxes than income earned through investment – also known as wealth.

The underlying assumption, originated by the robber barons and the one percent and codified by Congress (the majority of whom are members of the one percent) into law, is that income through investment has more value than income through labor (wages), because investment is the engine for economic growth that allegedly benefits everyone. The idea is that the less you tax rich people, the more likely are they to use that extra, untaxed income to invest back into the economy  – which, in turn , allegedly leads to growth and prosperity for everyone by creating more jobs, for example.

TrickleDownThis is also known as Reagan’s bullshit trickle-down economics, which is one of the biggest lies ever perpetuated by the wealthy to cover up their greed while simultaneously coaxing and manipulating the masses on whose back they have become wealthy, into aiding them, willingly, so that they can become even more wealthy.

Subsiding the Privileged

Contrary to popular myths in both political parties, the dramatic gains in wealth by the super rich are underwritten by everyone else as a result of skewed values embedded in the U.S. tax code. This means that the top 1 percent of America’s wealthiest households—97 percent of whom are white—are subsidized by the rest of the tax base.

Taxing wealth from investment at a lower rate than wealth from wages, has created a  “reverse subsidy” which, in turn, is then paid for by the rest of us through a rollback in government spending on economic opportunity programs  – including a social safety net, as well as lack of meaningful labor laws –  and by loading up on debt charged to the national credit card for mostly programs that   – ironically enough – have been perpetuated by and benefit the one percent, such as funding of the military industrial complex, subsidies for oil companies and a host of other corporate welfare programs.

These dramatic changes in the tax code have been increasingly shifting the economic burden of society away from the wealthy – who, among other things, by virtue of paying no taxes, can accumulate wealth easily and rapidly –  and onto the working poor and middle class wage earners.

This “reverse subsidy”  – or wealth transfer from bottom to top – which began to truly gain momentum under Reagan and reached its crescendo under George W. Bush – has been proudly continued by the Obama Administration; make no mistake about it.

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The wealthy, of course, have not invested the extra wealth they got to accumulate by not paying taxes into society; on the contrary, all evidence supports the fact that they have gotten richer over the past three to four decades because of this very law, while the middle class has been shrinking and the wealth gap has been increasing.

In other words, trickle-down economics did not and does not work. Letting rich people get richer at the expense of everyone else – while a time-honored tradition just wrapped in modern economic jargon to obfuscate – coupled with a host of middle class busting laws – does not result in more prosperity for all, it only results in more money for the very wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

No Taxes From the Wealthy = Lost Revenue

Everytime the government grants a corporation or a wealthy person a tax exemption – for whatever transaction some crook in Congress has decided at one point is of value to society and thus should not be subject to taxes – it creates a hole in the budget that needs to be filled.

Since the government just decided that it cannot tax rich people and needs to furnish them with a host of loopholes they can utilize to not pay their fair share – someone else has to pick up their slack. And that someone else is the working middle class stiff.

Case Study

When company Zoodle (names and numbers made up for illustration purposes) gets a $10,000 tax break for every green bus it operates because of a tax code that alleges that being green is good for the overall well being of society and thus not subject to a tax (hence the exemption), and Zoodle operates fifty such buses, then that is a $500,000 tax that the government is not collecting from Zoodle. Note that the tax break Zoodle is getting for every bus does not translate into a dollar amount, so the void is still there.

Now if the government does the same thing with one hundred other companies, then that is $50 million that the government is not collecting, leading to a loss in revenue for the government.

That government, however, still needs that money. The need for it has not been eliminated because it gave companies and the wealthy tax breaks left and right. Guess who will have to pick up their slack: the working middle class stiff (who then ends up being blamed for his situation and accused of merely not putting in the effort).

richThis legacy of inequity is key to understanding the reverse subsidy’s role in the current fiscal debate.

As the wealth piles up for the rich, less revenue flows into government coffers. In order to make ends meet, the U.S. Treasury borrows huge sums of money. These annual deficits, up to the tune of $1 trillion a year, formed into an enormous debt.

Since giving rich people and corporations tax breaks does not minimize annual deficits, the government does not only massively taxing the middle class but it has also squeezed parts of the budget focused on education, housing transportation and a host of other middle-class benefiting programs, The strain these areas have come under has created additional barriers to economic opportunity for people and make it that much harder for the average household to make it.

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Given the increase in the reverse subsidy over the past decade—and its corresponding impact on economic fairness—it’s no surprise that the U.S. has astoundingly low economic mobility. According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the chance of moving from being poor to rich is less in the United States than in any other advanced economy on the planet. One out of three blacks and one out of four Latinos is poor.

Even though the benefits of tax cuts overwhelmingly flowed to America’s economic elite and helped boost their wealth to stratospheric levels, the debt to which they contributed is held collectively by everyone. Therefore, as a matter of right and wrong the “reverse subsidy” is a pure and simple economic injustice. It is income redistribution, but not from the rich to the poor, as Conservatives claim, but from everyone else to the top 1%.

The 1 percent’s aggressive agenda coupled with their outsized political influence has created a situation where working Americans actually underwrite their success, yet have nothing to show for it but a paycheck or two from destitution as a result of 40 years of falling wages and little growth.

This, in a nutshell, is the problem we face in this country and it is a very fundamental problem.

Unless the tax code in this country is changed (close loopholes) and thus rewritten fundamentally so as to not just favor the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, our problems of debt and mass deficit, income gap and a diminishing middle class are not going to be solved. Cutting food-stamps and Medicaid are not going to get us out of this; they just put more strain on the already strained and burdened middle-class and vulnerable populations. The money has to come from the one percent.

if the tax code is not rewritten, the government will continue fucking over the middle class who not only pay through their noses but who also see cuts to a host of middle-class protecting policies and programs – to make up for the deficit created by the agenda of the 1% and their exemption from carrying the economic burden.

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Effectively this leads to a society in which we all become indentured servants working for the 1% while actively underwriting their wealth without much protection for us in the forms of regulation (because regulation means accountability, which in turn cuts into profits).

A strong, wealthy, prosperous middle class is the litmus test for a strong, healthy economy and ultimately society. Poverty and destitution are destabilizing, leading to political and civil unrest.

Giving the wealthy tax breaks has not trickled down on the masses. The wealthy just hold on to their wealth which they use to exert more political power, which they then use to get our corrupt lawmakers to enact even more policies in their favor. It is a vicious cycle and a massive trap.

These are the kind of systemic issues (I cannot emphasis this enough) that individuals cannot overcome by sheer will-power or “by virtue of their efforts” as the President put it in his State of the Union Address.

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By Virtue of Their Efforts

Americans understand that some people will earn more than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts [emphasis mine] achieve incredible success.  But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”  – President Barack Obama 

The Middle Class, literally, carrying the economic burden of society, including the rich man.

The Middle Class, literally, carrying the economic burden of society, including the rich man.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem with not only Obama’s speech in particular but this country’s attitude toward economic stability and upward mobility, in general; this idea that those who have a lot – obscenely a lot, owning 80% of the country’s assets a lot – have it because of “virtue of their efforts.”

The reason I keep referencing President Obama is not because I am especially interested in beating up on him  – as he is certainly not the only leader who entertains these incredibly misplaced notions about bootstraps – but to point out that such assertions, coming from the President who sets the tone, do not help people but lend credibility to false bootstraps narratives that tell us that the only thing standing between the haves and have-nots is supposedly just hard work and effort.  As if systemic inequalities, formulated into policy by our very leaders and the corporations whose bidding they do, were not the enemies of the very security that Obama is advocating for.

Was it possible to get through a speech addressed at the American people without giving credence to, and therefore validating, the very bullshit bootstraps narratives that are the reason we are here? Or could we maybe indulge the radical idea that the American people, the wage-earners and non asset-holders, the poor, disabled and disadvantaged, are worth uplifting, regardless of their efforts?

Or maybe at least acknowledge that effort has nothing to do with why so many people are struggling while so few are benefiting.

The problem with narratives, while certainly heart-warming, is that they automatically and implicitly view people who do not enjoy incredible monetary success as those who simply are not making the effort and sacrifices, as people who don’t work hard enough, try hard enough and make better decisions, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps blah blah yawn.

Never mind that the ability to make the best choice often depends on one’s socio-economic situation in society as well as race, gender and a host of other factors that systemically place certain people on trajectory-fucking paths and disadvantaged positions vis a vis people who enjoy a host of privileges – such as being born white, straight, able bodied and wealthy or any combination thereof.

Privilege gives people freedom of choice, it gives them options, which, in turn, allow making good and prudent decisions possible. And isn’t that what poverty is ultimately about? That one’s choices shrink in proportion to one’s wealth whereby the less you own, the fewer choices available to you?

Poor people are often blamed for their situation, as if they were born into privilege and wealth with a myriad of choices available to them while inexplicably making the bad ones to their own detriment.

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This delusion – or lie may I dare say – that sheer will power can make individuals transcend barriers, the glass ceiling, and overcame systemic inequalities, is precisely the kind of misleading bullshit that the likes of Romney (and even the President) and other one percenters regurgitate when speaking to the masses of people who are navigating a tedious existence of one paycheck/crisis away from destitution without any real prospects for improvement in sight, thanks to a host of middle-class busting policies by both of our parties and a practically non-existent social-safety net.

These are the things that, contrary to popular (and it appears even professional belief)  cannot be ameliorated with mere sheer individual will-power, as individuals cannot be tasked to solve and overcome systemic issues.

Systemic Inequity

Not getting paid fair, livable wages is a systemic issue; not being able to collectively organize in a union to protect yourself from exploitative employers, is a systemic issue; not being able to access affordable and quality health care because our government has decided to let the free market of profit and greed be in charge of making health-care decisions for us, is a systemic issue;

Working a life-time in your vocation of choice and diligently paying into your 401(k) just to see it decimated by the great captains of hard work is a systemic issue;

Paying nearly 40% of your middle class income (and thus from your subsistence) in taxes (that mostly go towards things that do not benefit you) while those making fifty or hundred times more than you don’t pay a dime thanks to a tax structure that favors the wealthy at the expense of everyone else, is a systemic issue;

Blaming the Poor

Religious People Blaming the Poor Because That’s Exactly What Jesus Would Do

Working for an employer that does not grant you equal pay for equal work because you are of a certain color, ethnicity, creed, gender, sexual orientation and a host of other aspects that are a part of one’s identity, is a systemic issue;

Finding yourself unemployed because some asshole like Mitt Romney bought the company you worked at, drove it into bankruptcy and then stole your retirement while he was at it, is a systemic issue;

Not being able to find work after such a layoff and unemployment benefits not only paying you sustenance pay but also running out despite a shitty job market, is a systemic issue;

Being at the mercy of banks and corporations that get to do whatever they want with you without any oversight and accountability in place, is a systemic issue.

This list is certainly not comprehensive and goes on and on.

The point is to illustrate that these are not things that individuals can overcome with sheer will power and just a little bit “more effort.” These are the things that fundamentally prevent a lot of people from upward mobility. Because when you are  at the mercy of the corporate robber barons that view DC as their customer service department,  and all cards are stacked against you, you are at a systematic disadvantage and thus trapped.  Work as hard you want and good luck trying to beat the system that is categorically holding you back.

The government must step forward and through regulations shift the burden away from the hard working middle class and the poor to level the playing field. It was about time that the 1% paid their fair share of taxes instead of getting exemptions in the form of legal loopholes while the 99% pick up their slack.

It was about time corporations not only paid their fair share in taxes (or any at all, most don’t pay taxes) but they also started paying their employees fair and livable wages because someone working his or her whole life in their vocation of choice, or not choice but out of necessity, is entitled to not find themselves with nothing at the end of the day.

That is why Romney’s infamous “I want everyone to be rich” comment is so enraging,  – as if everyone in this society could be a millionaire, and as if we didn’t need teachers, fire fighters, sales associates, professors, manicurists, cooks, janitors, truck drivers, hair stylists, nurses, engineers, architects and a host of other such professions; professions that do require hard work and are needed for the functioning of society but which just don’t happen to pay six figure salaries.

Obama Out of Touch

Obama held a lofty speech peppered with lots of ideas about how corporations can make workers’ lives better, urging companies to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 on their own (yeah right), with a lot of rhetoric about hard work and opportunity, while in fact coming across as someone who is out of touch with the reality millions of US workers whose companies are actively and openly trying to deny them benefits, overtime, safety on the job or any other kind of benefits, are facing.

While it is hopefully optimistic of him to plead with companies to do the decent thing and pay their employees fair, livable wages, he, of all people, should know that you cannot achieve equity and  (social) justice by merely recommending that those who engage in unjust behavior please refrain from doing so in the future.

robber_barons_2Case in point AOL, which has announced that it was going to cut their employee’s 401(k) matching contributions to save $7.1 million despite a $679 million income in the last three months of 2013, up 13 percent from the year before.

AOL is probably one of those companies that Obama was addressing and their response to his plea apparently was a huge middle finger to his request as they are trimming back benefits from workers who made the company profitable, because clearly making over a billion dollars a year is not enough. Quick the CEO needs more money, after all, for his ski house in Aspen.

Does that sound like an entity that would change its practices to pay decent wages and benefits because the President politely asked them to by appealing to their (seemingly non-existent) conscience?

It certainly would not hurt AOL to step  up to the plate and show the rest of the world that it cares about it’s employees by not gutting their 401(k) but AOL will not do that because as a corporation it only cares about the bottom line and because calls for fair wages, union representation, overtime and a host of benefits for employees are a mere suggestion by our leaders, as opposed to required by law.

Memo to the President: people are working hard, just that good jobs with a livable wage are vanishing, while people are working harder and harder to make ends meet with their employers often being the enemies of their security. Voluntary compliance by corporations, employers, especially if it undermines profits, is not going to get us out of the recession.

I cringed when I heard Obama say what he did during his State of the Union Address because not only was it was filled with a lot of hot air and little substance, much like the majority of his track record as the President, but because it is such a harmful notion to spread as it feeds into the very deceitful and misleading narrative about hard work, the (ever elusive it appears) American Dream and bootstraps narratives that the Conservative base is gobbling up so enthusiastically.

It is also precisely because of such simple, lofty narratives of “hard work” and “ambition” and “The American Dream”  that we do not have a decent social safety net in place, for example,  and why most Americans have been manipulated into believing that such a system would give rise to legions of lazy people, takers and moochers and strawmen really  – which is why people in this country have been consistently voting to eliminate whatever meager social safety net is in place (even though, quite frankly, the welfare, food-stamps and financial assistance poor people receive in this country, if they receive them, is hardly worth even calling a social-safety net). The crude reality is that people in this country do not have any security. Period.

We don’t have many of the structures in place that would directly address the economic issues and challenges Obama pointed out plaguing millions of Americans today, such as lack of jobs  – good jobs  – and we do not have them because the government has failed, over and over again, to provide and secure them.

What’s In a Good Job

Jobs where people are treated with dignity and valued, and never exploited.   Jobs that come with the protected right to organize. Jobs that offer healthcare benefits. Jobs that offer benefit packages such as paid leave for  vacations, emergencies,  births and deaths without such leave being held against an employee. Jobs that provide for a good work-life balance.

Jobs where employees are valued as individuals contributing to the success of the company as opposed to just being seen as cogs in a wheel to be used to get the guy on top and the wealthy shareholders fat and wealthy.

A job that not only offers its employees meaningful access to health care but one that also offers decent retirement packages and matching contributions by employers, so that after a life time of hard work people do not find themselves with nothing to show for but the thrill of being one step away from the poor house.

Jobs where federal overtime rules are not treated as a suggestion. Jobs that provide a safe and healthy work environment that doesn’t render people sick.

This is the bare minimum for what makes a job a good job, for the most privileged workers.

For those who are not privileged, a good job is one that does not discriminate against employees on the basis of their identity; one that grants equal pay for equal work to employees regardless of their race, gender, age, ethnicity, religious affiliation, sexual orientation and/or identity; one that accommodates disabilities of any kind and one where the expectation to “get along” is placed always and only on bullies and harassers, and never on the people being bullied or harassed. A job where it is safe to report bullies and harassing behavior.

These things that make a job a good job, in turn, need to be legislated by the government, not merely treated as loose guidelines that employers should put into practice if they are so inclined, because when profit drives your agenda you will not be so inclined.

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american dSee, people in this country are not struggling because they are not working hard or putting effort into things – as the President states –  but because the protections and provisions mentioned above, you know, the things that make a job a good job and a secure job leading to a stable, solid, prosperous middle class, are not there and because our lawmakers, most of whom are millionaires (and corrupt) are not enacting legislation that would force employers to put into practice such protections and provisions.

The result of such inaction, such apathy, is ultimately exemplified by  companies like AOL that, despite record, billion dollar profits, stiff their employees and cheat them out of their retirements and do so openly and unapologetically.

AOL is not the only company, however.  This practice of slowly and systematically exploiting employees to maximize profits is something a lot of companies have been engaging in, and continue to engage in , openly and without compunction while Washington has been standing by idly holding lofty speeches about hard work, effort and bootstraps, indirectly admonishing those who cannot afford gold plated car elevators as those not working hard enough, being ambitious enough and putting in the extra effort that those who own all and everything allegedly have put into things.

Thing is, Mr. President, if your goal is to help people out of the trap of working hard while still being tethered to poverty, then it would be a good idea to maybe first acknowledge that they are entitled to food, not hold lofty grand speeches about hard work and effort and then sign food stamp cuts into law, leaving millions of people hungry.

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The Cruelty of Republican Policies

While at the national level Republicans have thus far been unable to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – also known as Obamacare – despite some of the sleaziest, most unethical attempts –  Republicans at the state level have succeeded in sabotaging the policy by opting out of the “exchanges”, thus preventing people in their own states from obtaining much needed health coverage under the new law.

Data compiled by Theda Skocpol of Harvard University for the Scholars Strategy Network, a progressive group of academics, illustrates how states’ decisions to not create their own health care exchanges or expand Medicaid under the ACA have suppressed enrollment, effectively leaving people in dire need of access to affordable health care without such access.

According to Skocpol’s research, the 14 states that are expanding Medicaid and running their own exchanges have seen enrollment in Medicaid and exchanges at around 40 percent of projections. In contrast, in the 23 states that refused to expand Medicaid or cooperate when it comes to an exchange, enrollment percentages are in the single-digits as the graph illustrates.

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Many Republican governors decided not to expand Medicaid under the law, despite the fact that the federal government was going to pick up all of the cost for newly eligible enrollees in the first three years and no less than 90 percent after that.

Texas, which has the highest percentage of uninsured in the country and whose governor, Rick Perry opted not to expand Medicaid calling Obamacare a “criminal act,” saw only about 14,000 people sign up using the exchange through the end of November, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

In contrast, California, which has a higher number of uninsured residents than Texas but a lower proportion, saw 107,087 people sign up through the state’s exchange with 181,817 qualifying for the state’s Medicaid program through the end of November, according to federal data reported by the Los Angeles Times.

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The irony, of course, is that those red states are red states because the majority of their residents endorsed and voted for Republican leaders and thus against their own self interest.

The numbers regarding ACA enrollment not only demonstrate the extent of the callousness of Republican policies, but  – more importantly –  they illustrate what happens when people pander to Conservative politicians. Chances are that the very people who could have most benefited from the ACA also constitute the basis of the votes that ultimately catapulted Republicans into leadership positions in those states.

That said, I must admit that I do have a hard time sympathizing with those folks that are now left with nothing, because, after all, they voted for people like Perry. This is what they wanted and this is what they got.

Remember that these are the same people who, in early 2009, went to town hall meetings for health care reform with guns and rifles holding up posters calling the President “Hitler” and “Stalin”, while dismissing his attempts at health care reform as socialism.

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While it is true that not every person residing in a red state is unequivocally a supporter of the neo-con agenda and that there are certainly Democrats and progressives who live there and who are quite contemptuous of Republican policies, the fact remains that as far as legislation and leadership is concerned, the leaders in those states are neo-cons carrying out the agenda of the 1% because the majority of the residents in their states elected them into office, entrusting them to make decisions for them. And so they have; and so here we are.

I guess I could say that I hope that this will be a lesson for people who keep voting against their own self interest and that hopefully in the future we will see less of that, but I realize that this would be an entirely too optimistic stance.

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Quote of the Day

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Yes, because trying to give people access to affordable health care is definitely the same thing, if not worse, than committing genocide by burning and gassing people alive or blowing them up into little pieces to be scraped off the ground and walls. In fact, it is worse than all those things combined. You hear that, fools? As far as Senator Rucho is concerned, genocide would be better than Obamacare.

The idea that this willfully ignorant asshole with his violence instigating rhetoric is in charge of making the law of the land is not only distasteful but at this point right out scary.

Martin Bashir had to issue apologies and resign his position at MSNBC for having called Sarah Palin out on her vitriol and suggest she eat the same kind of excrement she spews, but this Senator – who is a lawmaker – gets to say that attempts at giving people access to affordable health care are worse than genocide, and he is sitting pretty and no one can touch him.

Priorities (and apparently competent leaders). We got them.

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