The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘employment’ Category

THE MATHEMATICS OF POLITICS

I remember my first job as though it were yesterday.  I was probably ten or eleven years old when I got hired.  Now I have to admit that I had an “in” getting the position.  My father ran the company.

On many Saturdays my father would go in to his office and take me along with him.  I particularly enjoyed that on days when it was raining and the prospect of spending time in Central Park on the swings had little appeal.  (That was back in the day when a youngster like myself was freely allowed to swing on these wonderful contraptions, before we viewed this as a life threatening exercise and prior to the time when we considered parents who permitted this to be guilty of child abuse and neglect).  Incidentally, with the hundreds of times I played on the swings I never suffered any injury which exactly mirrored the experience of my friends and classmates who similarly played on them.

There we were at Dad’s office.  There was no hustle and bustle as on a normal workday.  At most there were four or five employees in the whole place.  Mr. Chen, who wired lamps, might come in if Dad had received an influx of orders resulting from one of the trade shows that occurred around the country on a monthly basis.  I adored Mr. Chen.  He taught me to count to ten in Cantonese and showed me how to wire a vase and turn it into a lamp.  Under his close supervision I probably made forty or fifty lamps over the years.

I also liked Carmine who was in charge of the shipping department.  He would let me follow him, watching him pick inventory from the metal shelves which housed it, placing each item on one of the carts used to transport the merchandise until the order was complete and ready to go to the packers.  After following him over the course of several Saturdays, it occurred to me that I could pull the inventory and asked him if he would let me fill a small order – just to prove that I could.  After a moment’s hesitation he agreed.

And so off I went with my order and my cart.  By this time I knew in which rows various of the items could be found.  My biggest challenge was reading the handwriting of some of Dad’s salespeople – who would have gotten extra attention from my grammar school teachers who still believed that “neatness counts.”  The other challenge was that the inventory racks were quite high – and one of the items was on the top shelf – way too high for me to reach safely – either for me or the vase.  So I filled the rest of the order and told Carmine that I had left the cart in front of the remaining item but couldn’t get it down.  He smiled at me, I think recognizing that I had been prudent, walked over to the rack and finished the order.  After that he allowed me to help him whenever I asked to do so.

But my favorite department was billing.  Generally, the department was quiet on Saturdays.  But I had gotten an education in how to use the billing machines during a school break from the woman who was in charge of the department.  Her name was Rachael.  She had gorgeous black hair and a beautiful smile and was one of the most warm and friendly people I had ever met.  I asked my father why she was never there on Saturdays.

Dad explained that she was a Sabra, born in what was then Palestine and was an Orthodox Jew.  My father explained that Saturday was the end of her weekly Sabbath and that she was not permitted to do any work on the Sabbath.  My father also explained that he let her go home earlier than usual on Fridays, particularly during the winter, so she could get home before the Sabbath began.

Rachael had fought in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.  That explained the ugly scar that extended down from the left side of her neck to below her very conservative dress.  That wound had happened as a result of her being in the wrong place when one of the Palestinians used a flame thrower against her.  In that same attack her brother had been burned so badly that he died as a result of his wounds.  So I only got to see Rachael occasionally.  But when my father knew that he would be bringing me to the office, she always gathered a number of orders that were ready for billing so that I could keep myself occupied.

Saturdays at Dad’s office usually started at around eight in the morning and by noon he had caught up with his paperwork and was ready to call it a day.  That meant I was going to get paid for my efforts.  That compensation took the form of lunch at Vito’s, two doors down from our office.  Since I’m pretty sure that my father would have fed me anyway, I guessed that I was really working for free.  But that was okay with me since I felt that I was getting on the job training and was, in some indirect way, helping out and making the business more successful.

Vito’s was – well, it was a dump – but the food was terrific.  Vito had figured out that the truck drivers and office workers who worked in the neighborhood and patronized his restaurant were more interested in getting a good meal at a good price than they were in ambiance.  And there was no better food than one of Vito’s meatball sandwiches served in a crusty Italian roll and slathered with a generous helping of his homemade marinara sauce.  This was not food for the chic because there was no way to consume it without getting sauce on your chin and fingers.   Notwithstanding, I think even Emily Post would have approved of a meal at Vito’s.

I hadn’t really thought much about my first job experience until yesterday when I read that San Francisco had voted to phase in a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour over the next few years.  As I thought about it, my father probably violated Federal and NY state child labor laws not to mention the minimum wage laws which were in effect at the time.  While I was unaware of these back then, I am glad to report that despite this parental “abuse” I didn’t suffer any permanent psychological or other damage as a result.  I didn’t realize that my father was taking advantage of me.  I actually looked at the experience as providing me with an education in how business worked.  As it turned out, those Saturdays at my father’s office helped me in my own business many years later.

Now I realize there are divergent views on whether raising the minimum wage is a good or a bad thing.  Those who support increasing the minimum wage make arguments that include “paying a livable wage is a fundamental matter of equity” and often characterize those with a different view as being “cold, heartless people who put profits over people.”  Together with that assessment is the implied or stated view that these same people would be perfectly happy if all these minimum wage workers just died.  Of course, that  takes the issue beyond the boundaries of having a real debate on the merits or demerits of such a raise and turns it into a name-calling event.

Let’s set aside the counter-argument that any raise in the minimum wage will result in further automation of some of those positions, meaning that there will be fewer workers earning more – or, in fact, anything – and focus on the purported cupidity of businesses – interested in maximizing profits – even at the expense of personnel.  If we accept the credo that businesses are simply motivated by profit, we need to consider what the net cost of a wage increase does to the bottom line.

Wages are a fully deductible expense to a business – so any increase in the minimum wage would, to some extent, be offset by a reduction in state and federal income taxes that would be collected.  Perhaps more importantly, we hear anecdotal stories about minimum wage workers who are unable to make it on the income from their employment and who qualify for various welfare programs.  Wouldn’t raising their hourly rate potentially exclude some of them from being the continuing beneficiaries of these programs – thus saving not only their employing companies but all taxpayers from providing these benefits?  If that’s the case, the intelligent business person should eagerly embrace such a wage increase.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the minimum wage argument is that it suggests by the mere act of guaranteeing a higher minimum wage, whatever that number might be, it will impel the country into a new age of prosperity.  If that were the case, we could eliminate world poverty by suggesting to the governments of Mexico, Sri Lanka and Liberia among others,  that they adopt an American style minimum wage for all their citizens.

The citizens of San Francisco voted in this minimum wage increase overwhelmingly.  They also returned Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a staunch advocate of the measure, to the House with 82.4% of the vote.  I wonder why she never thought of my simple solution to world poverty herself.

HOBBY LOBBY

The Supreme Court heard arguments recently with regard to a privately owned company by the name of Hobby Lobby which had requested that they be exempted from certain provisions of Obamacare because of the owners’ religious beliefs.  Specifically, they wanted to be exempted from the requirement that they carry insurance which would pay for abortifacients for their covered employees.

I read the arguments made to the Supremes and their questions to attorneys representing both Hobby Lobby and the government.  Despite what has been referred to by liberal activists as another in the continuing “assault on women’s health,” the facts are rather clear.  Here they are.

There are twenty different prophylactics and abortifacients which the government mandates be available under Obamacare.  The company has no objection to providing coverage for sixteen of these.  Those include birth control pills and prophylactics.  Their objection relates specifically to the four which might terminate a pregnancy if one occurred – otherwise known as abortifacients.  We might be familiar with at least one of those, known as “the morning after pill.”

In light of the court case, an article appeared in the “Huffington Post” on April 1, 2014, written by liberal writer and commentator, Rick Ungar.  Of those on the left I have to say that I consider Mr. Ungar to be one of the most reasonable and rational who interpret and spin our news.  It was, therefore, with some dismay that I read his article which was entitled, “Hobby Lobby Invested In Numerous Abortion And Contraception Products While Claiming Religious Objection.”  The source of Mr. Ungar’s information was “Mother Jones.”  I have attached the link to the full article below.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2014/04/01/hobby-lobby-401k-discovered-to-be-investor-in-numerous-abortion-and-contraception-products-while-claiming-religious-objection/

If you were to read only the title of this piece, you might be led to believe that Hobby Lobby actively invests in pharmaceutical companies which manufacture abortifacients because they are trying to maximize their personal profits.  As you go into the article, what the company is actually doing is providing a variety of mutual funds in their corporately sponsored 401(k) from which their employees may select.

There are currently approximately 4,600 equity mutual funds which are offered to investors.  Any retirement plan administrator – an outside entity that has no connection to Hobby Lobby or any other company that offers this retirement benefit – determines which funds it will include in the plans that it administers.  But of the funds which focus on growth of principal, over 86% have some investment in pharmaceutical companies.  And of the growth funds that Morningstar rates with their highest five star evaluation, investment in pharmaceutical companies can be found in 99.3% of their portfolios.

There is an adjunct to Mr. Ungar’s accusations about morality in investing which he might not have considered.  The number of growth funds that invest in energy companies such as Exxon Mobil and BP approximate the percentage of funds that invest in pharmaceuticals.  If he takes his argument to its logical conclusion, there are a lot of his associates who support green energy who would need to opt out of their own retirement accounts to maintain their own purity of principle.

There is one realistic way that Hobby Lobby could avoid this possible conflict of conscience.  It could abolish offering a retirement plan for its 18,000 employees.  Would that be a workable alternative for Mr. Ungar, who does acknowledge that the company pays “above the minimum wage” – actually more than twice the minimum wage that is currently in effect.  But we should always remember that the left seldom lets facts stand in the way of ideology.

As a result of the Supreme Court hearing I thought that I would show some support for the company by patronizing them.  I had never before been in one of their stores.  As it happened, a friend had invited several of us to dinner and I wanted to buy a thank you present for him for his kindness.  He happens to be an aficionado of jig saw puzzles and I was able to find one that I thought he would enjoy on Hobby Lobby’s website.

I called their closest location to see if they had one of these in stock.  A very pleasant young woman cheerfully answered my call and directed me to the correct department where another cheerful young woman asked me to hold on while she checked to see if the puzzle were available.  After a very brief wait she returned to say that they did have several and she would be happy to reserve one for me.  I thanked her and said that I would be by later that afternoon to pick it up.

I had several errands to run that day which would culminate in taking Gracie for her afternoon visit to the dog park.  I wasn’t sure what Hobby Lobby’s policy was regarding allowing dogs within their store, so I called back and asked if I might take Gracie in with me while I picked up the puzzle I had reserved.  The young lady said that they would be happy to see both of us.  Naturally, this disposed me favorably to the company.

When we arrived, a freshly scrubbed, courteous young man asked if he could help me.  I told him that I had reserved a puzzle.  He immediately found it and offered to ring my purchase up at a register which was closed.  While I waited for my total, I asked him if he liked working at the store.  His comment was, “I can’t imagine a better company to work for or nicer people to work with.”

I wonder if Mr. Ungar or other Hobby Lobby critics have ever visited one of their stores.  My guess is, probably not.  After all, they wouldn’t want the facts to get in the way of their opinions.

 

 

.

RAPE AND RACISM

There is no secret that the number of black Americans who identify themselves as conservatives is very small.  It’s not surprising that those who do are people who made something of themselves – despite the hurdles and barricades that they had to overcome.  And we have do have a history of making things tough for American blacks.

Now most of us will point point to organizations such as the KKK and their harassment of southern blacks – or point to the American Nazi Party and other white supremacist groups and lay the blame at their feet.  There is no question that their message of hate has resulted in violence and death among our black community members.  They are Neanderthals who need to go to night class so that they can learn how to evolve an opposable thumb.

But as evil as they have been in expressing their racism in acts of violence against individuals – they are not the real problem – at least not today.  No, the real racists are those of whatever color who believe that we should keep our blacks on the plantation.  But rather than have them work in the fields or serve as butler or servants in the main house, we reward them for indolence with our paternalistic continuation of “the white man’s burden” philosophy that was so prevalent in the European colonization of Africa and the Indian subcontinent in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

That paternalism results in one thing – dependency.  And if someone controls another person on the most fundamental levels of providing that person food, shelter and medical care, he holds power over that individual.  Psychologists tell us that the rapist is not fulfilling a sexual fantasy when he defiles a woman.  Rather, he is satisfying a need to demonstrate his superiority and the fact that he has power over that victim.  To my mind rape and racism are terms which are largely interchangeable. Both are evil.

Perhaps the difference between the two is that rape is little more than a specific event – which for the victim has long-term psychological implications.  Whereas racism is an on-going process – which also has long-term psychological implications not only for the victim but for society as well.

There is a reason that when slavery was legal in the United States, every state which allowed the practice had laws on the books which prohibited the education of slaves.  “Keep them dumb and pregnant” – that was the mantra and the business model.  And by and large it worked.

Well, in theory we now educate blacks – but that is more theory than reality.  If you look at the four year high school graduation rate in the black community it is only at a 52% level.  And that only reflects those who have actually gone on to high school.

What can you do with that level of education in today’s technological society?  Work at a fast food restaurant – at a minimum, unlivable wage.  The only hope that offers is that a person will survive for another day.  That isn’t life – and certainly is not the American dream.

When Dr. King gave his “I Have A Dream” speech he had a vision of equal opportunity for all.  Those in the black – and many in the white community – welcomed and embraced his message.  Had he lived, this country might look very different than it does.  I have no doubt that Dr. King would not have endorsed the philosophy or presidency of a Barack Obama.  Because Obama has, at every opportunity, perpetuated the philosophy of the old slave owners.  “Keep them dumb and pregnant.”

For a president who excoriated the colonialists and their paternalism, he has written a playbook of which they would have been proud.  He has increased black dependency in order to get their votes and gain personal power.  He is no different than the rapist who has molested his victim.  But in this case, the victim is the United States of America.

And frankly, most blacks in this country have bought into their own enslavement because they simply haven’t received the cognitive training and education to see through this welfare farce and recognize it for what it really is – enslavement.  If you question that, look at the percentage of blacks who voted for the Chief Enslaver.

But there may be some hope.  Some black Americans slipped through the educational abyss and are armed and dangerous.  They are equipped with a vision of a truly equal America and they are prepared to enter the fight armed with one of the strongest weapons mankind has ever known – the truth.

One of those is a State Senator from the state of Louisiana, the Hon. Elbert Guillory.  This might be the most important statement by a responsible person in the black community since Dr. King’s “Dream Speech.”

There may be those within the lowest economic echelons of the black community who might hear and reject Sen. Guillory’s message.  I understand that while they have and realize that they have little, they view that as better than taking the risk of throwing out the slave masters and having nothing.  But as the message points out, one day the food stamps won’t arrive, the Medicare card won’t work and the welfare check won’t cash.

But as long as people are willing to sell themselves into slavery, they ought not to complain about racism.  And if they continue their silence and refuse to act in their own best interests, their continuing rape is inevitable.

HOW TO SETTLE THE MINIMUM WAGE DEBATE – ONCE AND FOR ALL

In today’s press conference, President Obama said Republican opposition to Obamacare is mean-spirited and stems from the core of the Republican philosophy which willfully tries to deprive thirty million Americans of health insurance.  In other words, they are nasty people who are selfish and have only their own interests at heart.

In contrast, that would lead one to believe that liberals who hold a diametrically opposed opinion are just the opposite – warm, caring, loving people who want the best for all of us.  Well, let’s run with that theory and see how it impacts one discussion that is currently on our radar screen – the Federal minimum wage.

The recent strikes by McDonald’s workers over their wages and the statements that the company itself has made “that they don’t know how people can support a family at the minimum wage rate of pay” have fueled this discussion.  Certain of our concerned liberal friends have suggested raising the Federal minimum wage from the present $7.25 per hour to as much as $12.50.  I believe these people are missing the point entirely.

The Federal guidelines prepared by HHS show that a household of four, (in the old days they described these as a family of four), would need an income of greater than $23,550 per year in order to avoid being classified at poverty level standing.  An increase in the minimum wage to $12.50 would put the bread winner at an income of only $26,000 per year – assuming a forty hour work week.  That is just 11% over the poverty level.

Is this the American dream that our liberal friends have in mind for our minimum wage workers?

If we really want to inspire people to get to work and feel fulfilled in their chosen vocation, I believe we need a greater incentive than barely exceeding the poverty level to get people on board.  Therefore, I suggest that we raise the Federal minimum wage to no less than $50.00 per hour.  And if we really want to make an impact then we should make it retroactive say back to 2009 when the Chump in Charge first took office.

Consider the benefits we would gain by doing this.

First, we would give incentives to people who currently can enjoy unemployment benefits for 99 weeks to get off their duffs and go out and look for work.  The savings in reducing the number of unemployed people might just pay for this program in and of itself.

Second, those pesky foreigners who are willing to work at low pay, taking the jobs that Americans spurn as being beneath them, would be put out of the market and would probably go home.  This will save us countless hours of loud and cacophonous debate over immigration reform which will probably be too confusing to listen to anyway and just might interfere with our schedule of viewing reality television.

Third, (and I admit this is my favorite), there wouldn’t be a single fast food restaurant left open in America which just might cause us all to learn how to cook more nutritious food and, in the end, would save us from the self-inflicted diseases which our poor food choices bring upon us – thus bailing out our healthcare system.

Who says that conservatives don’t have a full supply of largesse running through our veins?

THE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL/AN AMERICAN ORDEAL

If I were a bookmaker, I’d lay 10/1 that George Zimmerman will be found guilty on at least some charge.  I’d feel very confident in that bet – and it has nothing to do with my review of the trial or the evidence which has been presented.  It has to do with the culture that is ever-present today in American society.

It is the culture that must find in the scapegoat “racism” the diversion to distract us from the fact that the policies that so-called liberals have put in place over decades have created a permanent, impoverished, uneducated underclass to which the majority of our black (or if you prefer African-American) citizens belong.  It is a tragedy, and anyone who has ever voted in Congress to expand or extend “welfare” rather than devise a program of “workfare” should, in my mind, be arrested, tried, convicted and jailed for life without possibility of parole.

I mentioned this in a much earlier post but an experience from my days in the temporary help business bears repeating – particularly in light of this trial and the overall culture we find in America today.  It is a story about a young black woman who responded to an ad and who was looking for employment.

One of our best clients, the Quaker Oats Company needed someone to do filing and make copies on their Xerox equipment.  The position was scheduled to last for two months but there was a good possibility that they might hire the individual permanently.

Most of the people whom we put out on assignment had extensive skills, far beyond the level of this position so our list of potential candidates to fill this spot was limited which is why we advertised the job.  The day after the ad appeared in “The Chicago Tribune” a young woman arrived at our office to apply for the position.  I interviewed her myself.

Because I was interested in maintaining my relationship with the client, I was willing to take a loss on this job and planned on paying the applicant far more than the going rate – specifically, I would offer a salary of three dollars over minimum wage – minimum wage or a few cents more being what the position was worth in the market.

I sat down with this young woman who was 22 years old.  She was dressed very appropriately for a job interview.  It was obvious that she had taken the time to try to put herself forward in the best possible light.  She seemed eager to find a job and, in fact, was the first one to respond.  I liked that about her.

She did not have a high school diploma – owing to the fact that the first of her children was born when she was 17.  She also had two younger kids.  Nevertheless, she seemed quite bright – and I was impressed with her attitude.  She wanted to do better for herself and her children.

After decades of interviewing people, sometimes you just have to go by gut feelings rather than documentation and I wanted to give her a chance to enter the work force.  (Other than having done some babysitting, she had never held a job).  So I offered her the position and told her what it would pay.

As I said, she was bright.  She asked how many hours a week she would be able to work so I told her 37-1/2.

She did some rough multiplication and came up with her weekly gross earnings.

Then she looked at me and said, “You know, I would really like to take this job but I can’t afford to.  I know there’s taxes going to come out of this, and I’d have to spend on carfare to get to and from, and I’d have to pay a baby sitter, and if I take this I would lose my welfare and Medicaid and one of the babies has got the colic.  I just can’t afford to take this job.”

I nearly cried.  This young woman was exactly correct.  It made no monetary sense for her to accept this job – and if not this one, certainly not any other at minimum wage.  Thus we had condemned her to a life on the public dole – a life in which she had only dependence and could never develop self-respect.  What a tragedy.

That interview haunted me for days and while I will not say it was the “Eureka moment” which caused me to march to a conservative way of thinking (I was already there), it certainly reinforced my belief that was the correct path.

That interview occurred about 20 years ago.  It would be incorrect for me to say that nothing has changed.  It has – and for the worse.  And every time politicians expand a welfare benefit, they tighten their grasp and twist the noose around the necks of those whom they need for the sole reason of getting themselves re-elected.

There is an obvious solution to this problem – so simple that you don’t need a PhD. in Economics to understand it.  Here it is.

Rather than cut off a person from welfare and Medicaid because they have found employment, simply reduce those benefits by a percentage, based on their earnings on their job.  In that way, the person is going to have significantly more money to take home and spend and will have an incentive to seek employment.  The other benefit is that the taxpayers will save money.  And perhaps the most important benefit is that the individual who is working will be able to take pride in herself.

So what does this all have to do with George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin?  Everything.

You see if you slap the word racism around loud enough and often enough; if you have the not very Rev. Al Sharpton bellowing it at the top of his lungs; if you have constant media attention paid to the trial of the allegedly “racist” Mr. Zimmerman; if you have Obama commenting on it; you have set the stage to divert the easily diverted public’s attention from the failings of our Congress; from our departure from the American ideal of America being a place where you can have anything you desire if you’re only willing to work for it; and from the real racists – who have built a power base composed of the ignorant, uneducated, welfare mothers and children who think having an Obama phone is the greatest thing in the world.

Those who have voted to establish this group that is only one step removed from slavery are the ones who should be on trial.  Not Mr. Zimmerman.

AN UNLIT CHRISTMAS

When I spent my first Christmas in my new home I thought to myself, “My goodness.  These people really rush to get those Christmas lights up and try to outdo one another with their display.”

This all started on the evening of Thanksgiving and by that following Sunday, I think that perhaps ninety percent of the houses were decorated.  It was as though there was an imperative written into the HOA document that required a homeowner to decorate with displays of Christmas lights.

Obviously, I needed to get with the program.  And since I had lived in an apartment all my life, I had none of the necessary equipment to comply.  But I found that there was an ample supply of material in the stores to allow me to fulfill my obligation as a new homeowner.

Some of the displays were extremely beautiful and tasteful.  Others struck me as being a bit garish.  I enjoyed the lights – but would not have chosen to fill my lawn with air inflated snow globes.  And the one house with the fornicating elephants was just a bit over the top for me.  (Or perhaps they were a part of a chorus line that was performing the Can Can).

You couldn’t help but notice the lights as the gate opened and you drove down the entrance to this little community.  The lights on the houses provided far more illumination than the street lamps.  White and colored lights lining the eaves and the bushes and wrapped around the palm trees.  But that was then.

It was 2001.  We had just a few months earlier suffered as a nation through the worst disaster in recent American history.  Yet despite the fact that we were all still numb at the fall of the Twin Towers and were listening to the threat level under which the nation existed, we had the spirit and the optimism to put up our Christmas lights.

We still had a symbol of the season on the White House lawn that was called a Christmas tree.  It would take a few more elections for us to put an ideologue in that residence and allow his ethnic cleansing to convert this into a mere “Holiday tree.”

But we did it.  And, as bleak as life was, we managed to do it again.

The comparison of Christmas 2001 and the one this year is so clear that I wonder if this little community of homeowners is an isolated example of the nadir to which our spirits have fallen or is merely a microcosm of the entire nation.  As I drove home from church early this morning, I was struck by the absence of lights.  Perhaps only twenty percent of the homeowners had bothered putting them up at all.

The street which allows entrance to this little community was so devoid of light that the few houses where homes were decorated, seemed more to emphasize the darkness than they did to provide illumination.  I was particularly struck by this as I had just returned from a celebration of the joyous Midnight Liturgy of Christmas.

Faith has been called, “The outward and visible sign of an inward invisible grace.”  If that statement is reflected in our Christmas lights, then surely our faith has been eroded.  And by that, I refer not only to our faith in God but our faith in ourselves as individuals and in our nation.  And could it be otherwise?

We have been brain washed into thinking that government has all the answers.  Yet if we look at the facts, those who are discerning will realize that government has created many if not most of the problems.  Like a parent in denial about the bad behavior of his child who refuses to admit that his offspring is behaving in a way that is societally unacceptable, he continues to reinforce that behavior by doing the exact same things which have caused his child’s condition in the first place.

That we have incidents like Newtown, CT is not an accident.  It is merely the manifestation of a society that has abandoned principle and decency and compassion, while cloaking itself under the self-styled mantle of a new and better principle and decency and compassion.

Newtown and the other incidents like it come about because we have become a society that passes laws which are unread by those we empower to craft those laws on our behalf and who specifically exempt themselves from following them.

What care do they have that a national grocery store chain has just informed their staff that beginning January 1st, all cashiers will have their hours cut to twenty per week, to avoid the implications brought about by an act of Congress and signed into law by the President?  That doesn’t affect them.  Nor will similar announcements that are undoubtedly forthcoming from other companies.

I cannot help but see the parallel between the decline of the Roman Republic into the centralized authority of the Roman Caesar – all with the willing participation of the Roman people who accepted the modest sops and benefits they were given as sufficient payment for their votes and allegiance.

And then one day, so enervated from their abandonment of the principles that had made them a great nation, they were too weak to resist the barbarians who arrived at their gates and slaughtered them.  Like the Christmas lights in my neighborhood, theirs too had been snuffed out.

But if there is one thing that Christmas means to me it is that there is hope – that evanescent precious treasure to which too few of us today cling.  We are taught both by Dante and government that we should, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

And while the lights are now few and dim, I cling to the hope that next year, perhaps there will be one or two more houses that are lit during the Christmas season and that a few more people will remember the old values of real principle and decency and compassion.  Because that is the true message of Christmas.

WE ARE ALL GREEKS

DATELINE:  Wednesday, November 14, 2012

LOCATION:  Spain, Italy, France, Portugal

UNION WORKERS PROTEST GOVERNMENT AUSTERITY MEASURES

A protestor shout at  the police during a general strike in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Spain's main trade unions stage a general strike, coinciding with similar work stoppages in Portuga

Photo By Andres Kudacki

People take part in a demonstration by French labour unions against austerity policies in Europe, in Marseille

Photo By JEAN-PAUL PELISSIER/REUTERS

DATELINE:  November 14, 2012

LOCATION:  America

“PEOPLE MAGAZINE” ANNOUNCES SEXIEST MAN ALIVE FOR 2012

If you wonder why we are on the brink of social, economic and political disaster, consult your mirror.

FINGER POINTING

Mother once gave me a lecture on politeness which included the phrase, “It’s very rude to point your finger at someone.”  Apparently, those who are the copy writers for political ads and those candidates who conclude them by saying, “I’m So and So and I approve this message,” never got the same talking to from their own parents.  More’s the pity.

When people brought Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 it was on a theme of “Hope and Change”.  Things were tough.  We knew they were tough.  The newly elected President campaigned on the theme that while things were tough, he was going to fix all that.

Simply put, he didn’t.  In fact, by many metrics, those things that were tough have gotten even tougher.  The current mantra of the President’s ads is that things are actually getting better; that he has a plan which needs time to work; and that we should stick with him for another term.  It is an ad featuring a far less confrontational Obama than we have seen during the last four years.

Much of the hyperbole about why things are tough and it’s going to take longer than he thought to get everything working again, is his predecessor, President George W. Bush.  Apparently, virtually everything that has gone awry in the universe since the Big Bang is the fault of this misanthrope from Texas.  But let’s examine the facts for a moment – that is for those of you who think that facts matter.

Yesterday the Bureau of Labor Statistics provided the Unemployment Report for September.  It showed that from the previous month, the rate of unemployment went from 7.8% to 7.9%.  I have attached the link to this report for you to review.  No matter how we garner our information, I believe that it is essential for the intelligent individual to do her or his own research and make sure that the sources on which they are relying are honest and factual.  That is one of the reasons I seldom listen to the popular media for my news.

http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/lauhsthl.htm

There are two items on the report that leap off the page at me.  The first is then candidate Obama’s claim that he would bring unemployment down to a mere 5.2%.  There is only one state in which that is the case, Iowa which can boast the lowest unemployment rate in the country with only 5.2%.

I guess that there a lot of ways that you can spin this – and which all the President’s men will spin it – if they choose to acknowledge it at all.  But my take on this is that for those residents of 49 of the 50 states, Obama has failed to deliver on this specific promise.  Because I always like to hear alternative views, please feel free to leave a comment should you have a different interpretation.

The second item that appears obvious from this report is that under President Bush’s watch, 35 out of the 50 states enjoyed the lowest levels of unemployment since they started recording these statistics.  Check the list out for yourself to verify this statement.  And what was the average rate of unemployment in those states during those awful years while Bush was in charge?  The answer – 2.91%.  In other words, going from the years in which we enjoyed the lowest unemployment rates under President Bush to the current statistics under President Obama, we have seen a 271% rise in the rate of unemployment.

The President’s most recent kinder gentler ad suggests that his “plan” is working and we should just stick with him.  As does another ad that is narrated by Morgan Freeman that beings, “Every President inherits challenges..”.  Well, back to our old nemesis President Bush.

There is no question that President Bush’s policies gave rise to a substantial increase in the National Debt.  Part of that was financing wars which he deemed in our “national interest” and part of that was accompanying those with tax reductions, best known as the “Bush tax cuts”.  Every householder knows that if you reduce your income and spend more than you take in, eventually you’ll run out of money.  And we have.

Sadly, President Bush was a mere novice in delivering a message of under-earning and overspending which is why under President Obama we have seen an increase in the official National Debt of $6 Trillion, a 60% increase in a mere four years to a record $16 Trillion.  Part of that increase is certainly due to the tax cuts that were put in place in 2001/2003 and which are set to expire on December 31st of this year.

Did you notice the dates when those decreases were enacted?  They became effective eleven years ago.  Mitt Romney has argued in favor of continuing them as they currently stand on the books – at least until such the time that the economy really begins humming.  This is his plan to “benefit the rich by slashing their taxes $200,000 per year” of which he is accused in almost every Obama ad.  We have been living with this plan for over a decade – so I hardly think that Gov. Romney deserves either credit or opprobrium for thinking it up.

But there is a further point that I would like to make.  Those who have been employed during the past decade, as a result of the Bush tax cuts, received an average additional amount of take home income of about $50 per week.

The first time your paycheck reflected this increase, do you recall either saying yourself or hearing a co-worker say, “You know, I’m kind of worried.  If we keep spending more than we’re taking in, we might run into trouble six or seven years down the road.”  Or did you happily accept the increase, take your wife out for a nice dinner, buy a couple of new electronic gizmos and trade up to a newer model car?

“Give the people what they want.”  It’s an old political saying.  And Americans want and believe we’re entitled to a lot – perhaps more than we truly deserve.  It’s really a pity that when it comes to electing people who are going either to run the country or run it into the ground, we have expectations that are far lower.

And I guess that if I have to point a finger at anyone, (sorry Mom) it would be at those of us who think this is an acceptable way to run a country – or anything else.

THE HYPOCRISY SURROUNDING OUTSOURCING

When I first moved to Las Vegas I learned some things.

The first was that without having to drive twenty minutes to get to the Strip should I want to risk a few dollars on a game of chance, I had several options which were far more convenient.  These were casinos that were more interested in attracting the regular business of “locals” rather than the mob of weekend visitors this city sees every Friday night and who go home on Sunday.

When I first started coming to town as one of those “weekend warriors” back in the ‘70’s I was bedazzled by what was then the Vegas scene.  As I drove down the Strip, billboard after billboard headlined the star who was appearing at that hotel.  The biggest people in show business were always in town, and if I planned the trip right I could see several of my favorites.  Even the real Elvis.

And as you walked in any of the casinos you could view the vast array of table games that were going to allow the gambler the opportunity to part with some of the hard-earned money he had brought with him.  All this excitement, and always in the background was the sound of coins spilling into the trays of the slot and video poker machines which held, at that time, a far smaller share of each casino’s space than did the craps and blackjack and baccarat tables.

Over several trips and a number of years I began to notice something different happening in Sin City.  The number of table games began shrinking and the number of slots began increasing.  And several years after I moved here I noticed yet another change.

The machines which vended the lucky winner his coins were slowly but surely being replaced by newer models which attempted to emulate the sound of coins clanking in the metal trays with synthetic replication, and which, rather than giving the winner his payout in quarters or dimes or nickels, handed him a printed ticket for the money he had won (or still had left).

From the slot player’s standpoint, this was a nice improvement.  No longer did the player have to scoop up his money and put it in one of the plastic containers that the casinos provided.  No longer did he have to look for a moist towelette to clean up after collecting his coins which inevitably left his hands filthy.  No longer did he have to stand in line at the Casino Cashier in order to have them run those coins through their counting machine and pay him off.  Now he merely had a ticket which he could insert in any of the ATM-like machines which would read its value and dispense the amount he was due quickly and conveniently.

This was progress – this was improvement – unless you were Mary or Bill.

Who are they?  Well Mary was a “change girl” at one of the local casinos and Bill had worked at the same casino for 14 years as a blackjack dealer.  They both lost their jobs – Mary because of the new technology and Bill because the casinos were downsizing the number of table games that they ran and eliminated some of their staff.

If you think about it from the casinos’ perspective, this transition makes a great deal of financial sense.  Although there is always a house edge built into any game of chance, baccarat, craps, blackjack or roulette, there is always the possibility that someone can get lucky (or as in the case of blackjack become an expert card counter – which is why it is NV state law that card counting is “illegal”) and seriously hurt the house with a good run of luck and skill.

No such chance exists with a slot machine where the ultimate house rake is pre-determined by an internal chip that exactly calculates the house’s percentage based on the money that is run through it.  And unlike a blackjack game which requires a dedicated person to staff it or a craps table which requires four employees, one hundred machines can be overseen by one technician in the event of a rare mechanical breakdown.

That’s why Bill lost his job.

And Mary, well she got replaced by more modern technology.  While there are still change people who help the slot players in the event of a jackpot win which requires the completion of a 1099 form, their number has diminished because the same machines which payout the winning tickets also break down larger bills into smaller ones.  Technology marches on and unfortunately for Mary and many like her, it marched her out of a job.

It’s interesting to me that the many people I know who talk about the evils of “outsourcing” never seem to feel quite as passionate about those who worked in casinos whose jobs were not outsourced but eliminated.  The reason I happened to write this post is that I had just listened to one of them go on at length about how we are shipping jobs overseas and the tragedy of it all.  This same person spends a few hours almost every day entertaining herself in a casino.  So I mentioned Mary and Bill to her and how they had lost their positions.

Her response was, “Well that’s progress for you.”  She displayed no remorse for them and I am certain that is because she doesn’t play table games and because she finds this new arrangement, not having to deal with coins, as a big improvement, far outweighing the human toll of Mary and others who no longer have jobs.

I thought it was inconsistent for her to be so empathic to nameless, faceless people whom she has never met and were outsourced, when she was so cold-hearted about now unemployed Mary (whom she knew).  While I do not believe it is right to make judgments about others, unless their actions affect me, still this acquaintance’s attitude is not uncommon.  At least that is my empirical observation based on a lot of anecdotal evidence.

So many are willing to descry the unfairness of the loss of American jobs to foreign workers, yet they continue to buy the same products those foreign workers produce in greater and greater numbers, thus supporting those companies which outsource and validating their policy.  Is the company which outsources or the consumer who purchases the outsourced products really at fault?  I would lay this squarely at the feet of those who make those purchases – for without their patronage, these companies would have no sales.

I believe in the reality of a global economy and I realize that the financial capital needed to produce a manufactured product will always find a home where it is best treated.  And that home is not currently in the United States.  That is not China or Bangladesh’s fault.

That is the fault of the Congress and the President for imposing onerous rules which add to the cost of every product manufactured in America and for continuing the policy of assessing the highest tax rate of any nation in the civilized world on its corporations – again further adding to the cost of producing goods here.

But to get to the heart of the matter, even if you accept my scenario that without the consumer’s co-operation, outsourcing simply wouldn’t happen – there is someone who bears an even greater share of the responsibility.  That person is the voter who empowers these bureaucrats with another return to office so that they may continue the same policies which got us here in the first place.

It’s time for a new, fresh and realistic approach.  It’s time that we set aside all the rhetoric about “Saving General Motors”.  It’s time we really took stock of those whom we elect to serve us – and to rid ourselves of those who believe that their election proves we were meant to serve them.  It’s time – no it’s way past the time – that each of us cut through all the hype and got down to the bare bones and the truth.

It’s time for the American people to vote intelligently.

BILL CLINTON SPEAKS

As the second most elder statesman of the Democratic Party (Jimmy Carter holding the place of honor at the top), former President Bill Clinton has made an ad for President Obama.  I suspect that you might have seen it as it has been aired a great deal.

I will say that the ad is a substantial improvement over other ads of the Obama campaign.  There is no mention of Bain Capital (which Clinton told Obama to leave alone), no mention of Mitt Romney causing people’s death by denying them health insurance benefits, just a generally positive and, on the surface reasoned ad why the former President feels we should entrust our vote to giving the incumbent another four years in the White House.  At least that’s how it starts out.

The ad begins with Clinton saying, “To me this election about who is most likely to get us back to full employment.”  My ears perked up the first time I heard this opening line.  Had Clinton gone over to the Romney camp?

Well, that’s about as much as the former President has to say about why he supports an Obama second term until the end where he talks about “Obama’s plan – rebuilding America from the ground up and investing in education and innovation.”  For some reason, when I heard that line an image of Nuremberg, Germany after the British bombing came to mind.  In order to build it “from the ground up” you have first to destroy what is already there.

NurnbergBombDamage[1]

President Obama is well on his way to accomplishing the destructive part during his first term in office.  Perhaps President Clinton has more faith in his “plan”  to accomplish the second part if given another four years than the evidence would suggest.

The body of the ad contains an assertion that attacks, although more subtly than other Obama ads, Gov. Romney’s “plan” to ease the tax burden on the wealthy than is now the case and to do so at the expense of the middle class.  Of course, that statement is simply untruthful.

Governor Romney’s plan is merely to leave tax rates unchanged for ALL taxpayers.  Those rates, commonly known as the Bush tax cuts, have been extended several times by both Democrat and Republican majorities in Congress and signed into law.

The truth is that President Obama’s tax plan is merely to increase taxes on our wealthiest tax payers without any consequent reduction in taxes on the middle class or anyone else.  And as everyone knows, this is a great campaign point but it serves to accomplish nothing in terms of actually balancing the Federal budget.

If you were to confiscate 100% of the income of the wealthiest tax payers representing the top 10% of all personal income reported, it would be insufficient to balance the budget.  And even Obama hasn’t come up with that proposal – yet.

Additional tax revenues would help balance the budget.  A growing, rather than the stagnant Obomaconomy which we have had delivered to us by the man in the White House would naturally increase the amount of revenue the Federal government received – whatever the rate at which it would be taxed.

But at the same time, we have to make cuts to the money that we spend – deep cuts – in order to get back to a place of fiscal order and responsibility.  It amazes me that with every economist from the far left to the far right in agreement on this point, it seems to escape President Obama’s attention and the attention of Democrat legislators in general.

Sadly, government has a very bad habit.  No matter how much money it receives it finds a way to spend more.  That can work for awhile, but eventually you run out of people who are willing to lend you money.  Check out modern Greece for an example from current events.

I do appreciate the fact that this ad is, as I have said, more subtle in its attack approach than the previous efforts from team Obama.  The President has apparently come to the realization that as Dinesh D’Souza points out in his movie, “2016, Obama’s America,” that the greatest asset he has is that he is likeable and that people want to help him.

I’d like to help him too – by allowing him to find a new job for which he is better qualified.  The removal of his meandering and indecisive policies would be the biggest shot in the arm that America could receive.

Tag Cloud