Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The old creed no longer leads to redemption

American Dreams - The Nation
There is no comfortable role in American iconography for the poor. The myth of inevitable mobility leaves little room for acknowledging the existence of the dispossessed. Poverty is shrugged off like foreignness when you step off the boat and sashay down the golden bricks of Main Street. We Americans believe in pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, but in case you've never tried it, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps pitches you forward, flat onto your face. As our industrial base moves offshore and our fruited plains are taken over by agribusiness, the trope of the blissful drone inspired by promises of phantasmagorical wealth is revealed as unsustainable. The creed by which we profess ourselves a classless society no longer leads to redemption.
Americans are the hardest workers among industrialized nations. We grind ourselves down with the longest workweek and the fewest social protections. No pint in the pub, no rest for the weary. The very idea of being "weary" has been displaced by images of the relentlessly able-bodied bionic economic man who never stops until the body is genuinely and visibly broken. Disability checks come only when you have the marks to prove it--a bit like the way the Bush administration defines torture.
And so I think it's time we consciously craft new prayer totems. If I were to bring an offering to the altar of the American Dream, I'd haul in an electric tram, two intercity railroad cars and a bouquet of bicycles. I'd garnish them with copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I'd hand out praise songs for the concept of human dignity and for economic rights. We ought to recognize the basic need for sustenance as a right, not bury the larger question in the vexed vocabulary of "bailouts" and "handouts." We the people have a right to a home, to healthcare, to untainted food, clean water, a living wage and time to rest, time to develop the personal ties and social engagements that sustain the best and most pleasurable parts of a civilization.


Some good news from Chicago

Labor Victory in Chicago - The Nation

Depression update

An offer you should refuse

Too Little, Too Late: The Health Insurance Industry Unveils a New Plan to Reform Health Care -

We are not making this up:
Selling Insurance Against Their Own Bad Practices -

How can I say this tactfully? We. Told. You. So.

A Message for America's Ruling Class: We Told You So - AlterNet

Actions Have Consequences -

But those Blagojevich tapes sure are disgusting, aren't they?

Senate Report Links Bush to Detainee Homicides; Media Yawns - Salon

Rumsfeld Responsible for Torture, Report Says - CommonDreams/AP

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Unions aren't the problem. They're the solution

Unions Aren’t the Problem - TruthOut
Strip away the financial mumbo jumbo and the credit crisis comes down to this: For decades, as wages and benefits for working and middle-class people stagnated or fell, the only way for them to purchase the goods that make the economy hum was through credit. This was true whether the item purchased was a home, a car—or all the unnecessary gizmos that retailers have been more than happy to tell consumers were the must-haves of the day. Until we understand that we are in the midst of two crises—one the short-term credit crisis and one the longer-term crisis in the failure to pay workers what they need to sustain themselves—we are doomed to repeat this horror.
“If you are a man with only a high school education ... your chances of making a wage or salary as good as what your father was making in the late 1970s are not good,” says Gary Gerstle, a Vanderbilt University historian. “We are looking at a deterioration in their life opportunities and living standards, at the same time that an enormous amount of wealth has accumulated at the top of the income ladder.”
It is true that some individuals were reckless in taking on debt. But it is equally valid that American workers simply haven’t been paid what it takes for them to spend enough to keep the American economy growing. “The economy needed levels of expenditure and consumption that most Americans literally could not afford,” Gerstle says.
What do unions have to do with this? To start with, unionized workers make about $200 more per week than do nonunion workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The great expansion of the American middle class and an unprecedented rise in living standards occurred between the end of World War II and the 1970s—when unions were far more common and powerful than they are today. Beginning in the 1980s, an ideology of deregulation and anti-unionism took hold, with free-market capitalists arguing that no intervention in the markets—including labor’s intervention—was ever beneficial.
“The promise of deregulation was that this would create so much energy and dynamism at the top that it would all trickle down,” Gerstle says. “Not only would people on Wall Street make all kinds of money, but people on Main Street would find that there would be more dynamism in their lives, more opportunity, more wages.”
Well, people on Wall Street did make all kinds of money. People on Main Street got depressed wages, the demise of guaranteed pensions and 401(k)s that crashed with the stock market. They got health insurance that is barely affordable, if they’ve got insurance at all.


Cutting Wages Won't Solve Big Three's Problems - Labor Notes

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Terrorism: an analysis

The chasm between pay and worth

Unhealthy Incomes - The Guardian