1/18/09

Sunday wrap

Pragmatic Prog: The New Compassionate Conservative ... But Obama has charted a different course, studiously avoiding firm commitments on some of the most controversial policy questions, while portraying himself as transcending ideology. Repeatedly, he has described himself as a pragmatist, pledging to make decisions based on "what works." He has even coined a new term for this approach, describing himself as a "pragmatic progressive." Interest groups of all stripes have been welcomed with open ears into the transition offices. "There are going to be some broken eggs at some point," said Bill Samuel, a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO labor federation, which is counting on Obama to back the legislation making it easier to form unions. (courant.com)


Voodoo Barackonomics Exposed ... President-elect Barack Obama and his advisors are playing word games on their proposal to “save or create 3 to 4 million jobs.” The promise’s very vagueness renders it meaningless and calls into question the credibility of the $725 $775 $800 $825 billion Democratic “economic stimulus” package, which is inextricably linked to the jobs pledge. There is no way to define when an existing job has been “saved.” How does anybody measure jobs that aren’t lost? If 145 million Americans have jobs one month, and 145 million are working the next month, which of those 145 million will Obama count as having been “saved”? All of them? What if only 144 million jobs are left: Will any of those 144 million be counted as “saved” even though the overall economy lost a million? In truth, a free economy continually creates and destroys millions of jobs whether there is economic growth or contraction. What matters is the net job growth or loss: If the buggy industry loses a million jobs, but the auto industry adds two million, the economy obviously is better off, although none of the buggy jobs were “saved.” (dcexaminer.com)


NYT: Shame on SEIU's Andy Stern ... As president of a union local representing 150,000 health care workers in California, Sal Rosselli knows how to get under management’s skin, setting up picket lines at hospitals, ridiculing company executives in advertisements and sometimes even protesting outside their homes. Sal Rosselli, head of a 150,000-member union local in California, was re-elected last week but might be ousted from the post. But now Mr. Rosselli is using his street-fighting savvy to battle the head of his own union, Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, who is widely considered the most powerful labor leader in the nation. The feud has grown so nasty that many members of Mr. Rosselli’s local, United Healthcare Workers-West, based in Oakland, petitioned this month for a vote to secede from the national union. The local’s board decided on Friday to schedule such a vote this March. These moves came in response to Mr. Stern’s efforts to oust Mr. Rosselli, remove 65,000 workers from his local and place it in trusteeship. The parent union has accused Mr. Rosselli of financial malpractice and fraud. “Liar,” says Mr. Rosselli, who regularly denounces Mr. Stern as a top-down leader who retaliates against leaders who disagree with him. (nytimes.com)


Bam inherits long-running probe of U.S. Pay-to-Play epidemic ... Banks misused taxpayer money by giving CEOs golden parachutes; the Big Three automakers had to be bailed out to save our most-hallowed manufacturing industry; an Illinois governor reportedly tried to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated senate seat, and there were record unemployment numbers. It looks like the bad news is not over yet, as the FBI closes in on a three-year investigation of the municipal bond industry. This investigation prompted New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to withdraw from his nomination as Commerce Secretary while a probe into his major financial PAC contributor obtaining an inside track to a state project was announced. A collection of federal agencies, and a group of state attorneys general, have gathered evidence, according to the New York Times, of what appears to be collusion among banks and companies that helped state and local governments take about $400 billion in municipal notes and bonds to market each year. Charles Anderson, who retired as a manager of tax-exempt bond field operations for the Internal Revenue Service in 2007, told the New York Times, “It's rare to sell a senate seat, but it's not rare to sell a bond deal. Pay-to-play in the municipal bond market is epidemic.” An antitrust lawyer involved in the investigation, Michael D. Hausfeld, told the press the bond market is “one of the longest-running, most economically pervasive antitrust conspiracies ever to be uncovered in the U.S.” (times-standard.com)


Workers only need one side of the story ... The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier to certify unions, dropping barriers to organization that made it tough to pursue smaller companies, observers say. "It will be more economical to go to smaller units, because the costs of weathering a campaign will be lower," said Karen Boroff, a labor expert and dean of the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. "You'll have a campaign that is very brief, that is not a long, protracted campaign. Unions just have to get some cards signed, and they can have a contract within a half a year. It changes the calculus on what it costs for unions to organize." And that easier process concerns local business leaders. "If the language remains as we understand it, employers cannot lay out the economic hardship and the ramifications of being organized, and really, this would leave the most vulnerable workers open to coercion by unions," said Veronica Meter, vice president of government affairs for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. (lvrj.com)


Dems: In Workplace Conflict We Trust ... If businesses are hurt, so are their workers. Unfortunately, Big Labor is using these economic problems to push for legislation that would pit workers against business owners. This legislation - the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act - is not the type of legislation we need if this nation's economy is to make a timely recovery. When businesses fail, workers lose their jobs. And when workers aren't treated well, businesses do not thrive. The interests of workers and business owners are not in conflict - they coincide. But it is in the interest of union bosses to foment conflict; it leads to more unions being formed and greater revenue for their coffers. With recent Democratic gains in Congress, they hope that the Employee Free Choice Act will become law. (jacksonville.com)


Dem Congress stimulates left-wing political advocacy ... Left-of-center nonprofits are getting the bailout they wanted from the U.S. government, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports. The news comes a month after Independent Sector president Diana Aviv demanded it. Our lawmakers are intent on pissing away billions of dollars on utterly useless giveaways to their supporters in the liberal nonprofit establishment. The money will have virtually no positive impact on the economy, except perhaps that it might bolster employment at nonprofit groups. One of the more egregious line items is the $1 billion allocation for community development block grants (CDBG). These are slush funds that liberal groups like La Raza and ACORN use to subsidize their operations. (canadafreepress.com)


Cold government strikers in Ottawa




Unionism would block bankruptcy ... In a tragic object lesson for businesses that refuse to respect their employees, Circuit City announced that it will shut down its remaining 567 U.S. stores at the cost of 34,000 jobs after failing to sell the business. The move comes less than two years after the retailer fired 3,400 of its highest-paid hourly workers hiring replacements willing to work for less, following the Wal-Mart business model. If the company had formed a partnership with its workers through collective bargaining a compromise could have been reached allowing the experienced workers to stay and saving the company. (examiner.com)


U.S. Court of Appeals rules for Michigan Mafia, against workers ... If you lead a company that wants to work with a school district, it's going to be more expensive if the Michigan Education Association is involved. And if a company decides it can't make enough money, it's not going to go after the contract with the schools. This might not always work to the advantage of the workers. A school board will endure the public battle of outsourcing if it really needs to save money, and if it can't privatize, it might be forced to make deeper cuts into its workforce. (blog.mlive.com)


Marxist Capitalism doesn't go far enough ... Two world views unexpectedly clashed at the June 12 meeting of Activist San Diego. The group invited Grossmont College economics professor Shahrokh Shahrokhi to speak on “Understanding the Economic Meltdown,” but Shahrokhi’s understanding of it as a crisis of “market fundamentalism” and call for more and better regulation of the capitalist economy clearly disappointed some of the people in the audience. Many organizers from Activist San Diego are also key players in the Socialist Unity Network (SUN), and some were clearly disappointed they weren’t hearing a call to replace, not reform, the capitalist system. “Market economies are inherently unstable,” Shahrokhi conceded at the start of his talk. After acknowledging Karl Marx for having coined the term “capitalism” and begun the modern analysis of “ups and downs” in a market-based economy, Shahrokhi said that the current crisis really began with the fall of the Soviet Union, which so-called “market fundamentalists” seized on as evidence of the failure of socialism and the triumph of the unregulated lassiez-faire market. (indybay.org)


International Collectivism

Trotskyite Lula: Pitchman for Latin socialism ... The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez Frias, and his counterpart from Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, are making a visit through the Project of Socialist Agricultural Development La Planicie, in Zulia state, western Venezuela. This is the most important project of its kind in the country. (webnewswire.com)


Collectivism: A useful ideology for aspiring autocrats ... And that is where the emergence of China gives rise to cognitive dissonance. All this while they have been secure in the knowledge that a nominally capitalist and confused individualist political system (such as the ones in the West) is the best way to achieve their mixed bag of ideals. After all they have seen that consistent collectivist political systems do not “work”. They had history behind them. Now that China with a nominally communist and confused collectivist political system has achieved some economic success, their sense of security is lost. History now gives them no guidance. Their acknowledgement of cognitive dissonance is a confession of collectivism. Why do I call it a confession? Because they don’t like it themselves. Note the last line in Brooks' article “It’s [Collectivism] certainly a useful ideology for aspiring autocrats.” (desicritics.org)
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