The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘unions’


Mea culpa – I confess it.  I love math.  I’ve always loved math.  It comes very naturally to me and I revel in its precision.  I guess it’s for the same reason that I enjoy crosswords and jigsaw puzzles and those games where you have to get from point A to point B by drawing a line through a maze without running into the barricades while en route.  When you get the right answer or complete the puzzle, you have the reward of knowing that you accomplished something.

So here’s a math-ish question for you.  Now before I state the question, you might be thinking that I read this on a five hour flight and who is seated next to me but a man who spilled half a bottle of Gaucho Boy Cologne (primary ingredient being horse sweat).  So I picked up the In Flight magazine to see if there are any ads or stories which pique my interest – but primarily I am going to use the magazine to fan myself to keep the cologne odor as dispersed as possible.

I turn to page 33 and this is the question.

“You and some friends have gone out to dinner.  You are extremely happy both with the food and the service your pleasant server provided.  The bill comes to $200.00.  What would be a good (my italics) tip to leave your server?”

Answers (Multiple choice, of course):

A:  15%

B:  20%

C.  25%

D.  50%

Frankly, that is just the kind of question that I might expect to find in an In Flight magazine.  But that is not where I read it.

That question appears in a seventh grade “math” book that is currently in use in the Las Vegas School District.  One of the children in the neighborhood was carrying this text home from school.  As a matter of curiosity I asked her if I might take a look at it.  In flipping through the pages this question caught my eye and as that was the last day of the school year, I asked if she would lend the book to me overnight, which she did.

If you remember my opening paragraphs, I enjoy math because it is precise.  There is a right answer and every other answer is incorrect.  There is absolutely nothing that is precise about this “math” question as it merely asks for a value judgment.  In fact, other than the fact that there is an amount stated for the bill and various percentages are given as potentials to be applied to that bill for the tip, there is nothing mathematical in the question.  The children are not asked to compute a tip amount – perhaps because the question assumes that their calculators or smart phones will always return the “correct” answer once the multiplier is input.

This was not the only such question in this textbook.  So I wondered who wrote this piece of garbage.  Only mildly to my surprise, one of the contributors to the book was the “Education Committee of the S. E. I. U.”  If you don’t know what those initials mean, they stand for the Service Employees International Union.  Parenthetically, that union represents, among other people, restaurant servers.

So here’s my take on the whole thing.  We have one union (S.E.I.U.) writing questions which it supplies to another union (The Teachers’ Union) which, of course, accepts them.  The question serves more to the benefit of propaganda than it does to the mathematics purportedly being taught in the book.  This seems not to bother members of either union.  If there’s no such term as crony-unionism, I think I’ll just coin it now.

The kids get brain-washed into an agenda which benefits members of the S.E.I.U. (notice that the lowest answer given is what most people accept as a normal tip) and the Teachers Union member who is instructing the class doesn’t really have to bother grading any papers since it would be hard to argue that any of these answers was either correct or incorrect.

And that’s education in America today.  It certainly adds fire to the argument in favor either of private or home schooling.

“In the first place God made idiots.  That was for practice.  Then he made school boards.”  – Mark Twain


Once upon a time a rabbit came into a tidy sum of money by winning the jackpot in a lottery drawing.  He was very happy at this good fortune, of course.  He was fixed for life with the certainty that he could buy more carrots than he could ever eat.

Not only did he not have to forage for himself – at the risk of receiving a load of buckshot from Farmer Jones’ shotgun – he could just hop over to the grocery store’s produce section where his favorite vegetable was readily available and all nicely pre-packaged.  The rabbit thought this indeed was Nirvana.

After awhile, he thought to himself, “Why should I stay in this cramped little burrow?  I should buy a house and live in style”  So he did.  He bought a beautiful house. It had all the most modern amenities which, of course, included a very large entertainment center.  The rabbit really liked that and spent hours watching it.

Of course, when he tuned in to the Playboy Channel, expecting to see stories about Flopsy and Mopsy and Cottontail, he was a little startled at what he saw.

One day while he was watching television he noticed an advertisement for a local company that sold a food that was called a donut.  The rabbit had never tasted one of these – but they looked good.  So the next time he hopped down to the grocery store he bought a dozen of them along with his supply of carrots.  He liked donuts even better than carrots and was determined that he would never go another day without eating some.

Well this went on for some time when a horrible thought occurred to him.

“What if the donut company should go out of business?  How would I get my supply of donuts?  I should buy the company and make sure that I will always be able to get enough donuts to satisfy my wants.”

So, since he had a lot of money available from his prize winnings, he purchased the donut company and took over the business.  He felt good about his decision.  Not only would this give him a certain supply of donuts, the exercise of running a business would probably help him lose the weight he had gained from sitting on the couch, eating and watching television all day.

The rabbit knew nothing about running a business but he was a bright chap.  He realized that maintaining the size of each donut’s hole was critical to his being able to make a profit.  The more dough he sold, the less dough he made.

So he turned his attention to making sure that the equipment that regulated the size of each donut’s hole was in perfect working order.  Sadly, he didn’t pay nearly enough attention to the other aspects of his business.

One day someone stopped by from something called OSHA.  They cited the rabbit’s company with a lot of violations of regulations which he didn’t even know existed and fined him a great deal of money.  The FDA claimed that the nutritional information on his packaging was incorrect and demanded that it be revised.  A  few days after that some people came by from the EEOC.  They told the rabbit that he was being sued because he didn’t have enough Slimy Toads working in his factory.  The drivers for his company demanded that they be represented by the Teamsters Union and until he recognized their right to organize would make no more deliveries.  And finally the IRS levied his bank account because the previous owners had unpaid taxes which they considered to be the rabbit’s responsibility.

This was more than the rabbit could bear.  He was last seen hopping away from the donut factory in search of a new burrow where he could live out his remaining days in peace and security, foraging for his daily supply of carrots.

The company closed its doors, putting the employees on the unemployment rolls and causing the plant to decay to the point that it was such an eyesore that it was razed at the taxpayers’ expense.

Moral:  The hole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts.



It was only a matter of time and the transformation was inevitable.  Those with a WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) mindset are rapidly becoming the LGIFT people.  That, by the way, stands for “Let’s Get It From Them”.  If they have not come to understand that there is no such thing as a “FREE LUNCH”, they’re darn sure that having eaten, they don’t want to be the ones to pay the check.

But reality is starting to take root in those among this group with IQ’s that are greater than your average snapping turtle’s.  Sadly, that only comprises a small percentage of this collective.  (My apologies to snapping turtles everywhere).

Apparently those who are the targets of the collective’s “wealth-equalization” strategy never saw the T-Shirt which said, “When rape is inevitable, lean back and enjoy it.”  And darn those curmudgeons, they’re not going to go down without a fight.

So now that the election’s over and we know what we’re stuck with for the next few years, business people are finally able to lay out some strategies.  And here’s what is happening:

*** Hostess Brands, Inc. has filed for bankruptcy.  The company manufactures “Twinkies” and “Wonder Bread” among other “food” products.

I never ate a Twinkie but I have seen people pop them in their mouths and looked at the pseudo-creamlike insides as it oozed around the outer pastry container – which is why I have never eaten a Twinkie.  And as to “Wonder Bread”, I remember as a kid Mom saying, “It’s a wonder they’re allowed to call it bread.”

Net result of failing to reach an accord with the Baker’s Union representing Hostess’ workers:

Probably an improvement in the general health of those who eat this stuff and may no longer find it on their grocery store’s shelves;

Hostess will lay off 18,500 full-time employees.  (Oh, by the way, the Baker’s Union that refused to budge on the principle of WIIFM only represents 5,600 people – so they were effectively able to deprive an additional 12,900 working class stiffs of their jobs).

Way to go, folks.  Did I hear someone say, “Union, Yes!?”

*** Obamacare, though 13 months from full implementation is starting to take it’s toll:

This morning at the dog park, one of my friends who is 74 mentioned that he had received a letter on Saturday from his primary doctor that effective 01/01/13 he will no longer treat patients who are insured through Medicare.  You can be darn tootin’ sure that millions of elderly patients will be getting that similar notification.

I guess that’s okay.  We know that “end of life” medical costs represent by far the greatest medical expenditures a person will typically experience during her few brief years on planet Earth.  So if we merely let the elderly die through neglect we can save all that money – not to mention future Social Security payments they might have received.  Now that’s one heck of a way to try to get our financial and healthcare system back on track;

There is good news in this.  Obviously, the funeral industry will be a major beneficiary of these deaths – so that may provide an opportunity for those Hostess workers who are getting laid off.  How long can it be before we start seeing ads from those on-line Universities offering training in “Mortuary Science?”  I just wonder how they will provide the “hands on” training necessary over the internet.;

Those evil doers that run companies are, of course, taking defensive measures that any rational person would.  They are cutting the hours of formerly full-time employees and making them part-time to avoid having to cover them with the proscribed insurance that Obamacare mandates.  So employees who are now covered with insurance will lose this benefit and will have to find and pay for it on their own (with a reduced income) or will have to pay a tax for not having insurance and will have to rely on Medicaid for their health needs.  Good luck having a decent quality of life with those choices.

To make matters worse, insurance premiums are going to skyrocket.  They have to in order to accommodate the influx of new, unhealthy patients who will be added to the rolls.  If you apply the same lack of logic to auto insurance as Obamacare applies to health insurance, what would you, a careful driver with a twenty year-long record of no tickets or accidents think if suddenly your auto insurance company advised that because now, all drivers are “equal” risks, your premium is going to quadruple since they have to insure people at the same rate as you, who have been arrested multiple times with DUI’s on their record?  The phrase “p*ssed off” comes to mind.

Well there still is good news I could find in this scenario.  At least one CEO of a major casualty insurance company, Peter B. Lewis of Progressive Insurance, a major Obama contributor, might see a significant increase in his company’s bottom line.  And the better good news is that Flo wouldn’t have to apply to an online University to get training in Mortuary Science.

But let’s do just a quick recap on the situation of the average now full-time, soon to be part-time employee:

She will take a pay cut of approximately one-third of her income;

She will now be forced to pay for insurance out of her own pocket at rates that are far higher than those today, which are already unaffordable;

Failing that, she will have to pay a $695 penalty to the government on her tax return for not having insurance;

The only healthcare available to her will be Medicaid – arguably only one or two steps better than going to a witch doctor – and thus will add to the burgeoning cost of that program which is already bankrupt;

And she will now probably qualify for assistance for food stamps because of her reduced income – another program that is rapidly bankrupting and enslaving us both financially and morally.

What’s not to like?

I see a few hands being raised on the left side of the auditorium.

“Yes, sir?  Do you have a question or comment?”

“I think it’s disgusting that those fat cat, money grubbing people who own companies are going to lay-off or reduce the hours of workers just because of their own selfish self-interest.”  (I cleaned up and deleted the expletives in this statement as this blog is designed for a general audience.)

“Do you, sir?  As I understand your statement, you object to their doing what they believe is in their own best self-interest?  But let me ask you – isn’t that exactly what you and millions of people who share your view did when you voted for a President who created this whole mess?  You thought it would be a good thing for YOU.  So why should anyone else act any differently?”

At this point a significant contingent of those in attendance left the room.  So to those remaining, let me offer a suggestion.

Just so we know what we’re really dealing with, I propose renaming the President’s healthcare bill to what it really is:  “The Obama-I-Couldn’t-Care-Less Act.”  Because less care is what we really can all expect – and the lower you are now on the financial totem pole, the worse it’s going to be for you.

Mark my words.


There is a stock listed on the NYSE which has one of those most coveted of all ticker symbols – a single letter. In this case the symbol is “X” and it represents the United States Steel Corporation.  It has maintained that distinctive symbol for a century.

There was a time in America when economists and investors waited anxiously for U. S. Steel to report its earnings.  A good report could mean a surge in the general stock market.  A bad report could mean a nasty selloff.  Of course, this was at a time when America owned a large share of the global steel industry.  Those times have passed.

In the decade beginning in 1910, the amount of steel that was manufactured in the United States gradually increased as a percentage of worldwide steel production to the point where we consistently produced between 30% – 50% of all the steel made in the world.  Cities like Gary, IN became boom towns – welcoming workers to the state of the art mills that had been built.  Good jobs were plentiful and the steel industry was the backbone of American prosperity.

But things changed.  Other countries learned how to manufacture steel of equal quality to our American product – and they learned to make it less expensively than we could.  One of those countries was Japan.

If you know anything about that island nation you know that Japan, unlike America, is blessed with few natural resources.  The raw materials to manufacture steel have to be shipped in from other countries where they abound.  Despite that additional cost, Japan has still been able to manufacture a quality product at a fraction of the cost of its American counterpart.

How is that possible?  Perhaps the answer lies, at least in part, in the demands and entitlements which American unions have been able to extract from U. S. steel companies.  The cost of labor is an essential component of the way that any product is priced.  And if your costs are significantly higher than your competitors’ you simply will not be able to offer your product at a price that is going to be attractive to buyers.

Recently I’ve been covering the flap about “outsourcing” as it pertains to the presidential race.  Although I think this should have about the same level of importance as getting a peek at President Obama’s college transcripts, allow me to play devil’s advocate and assume that there is something that is actually material in this conversation.

Let me further assume that Gov. Romney’s Bain Capital outsourced some jobs to countries overseas.  How many jobs?  Well, considering the nature of the companies that Bain owned I am going to take a stab at estimating that number.  I’m going to suggest that number is between a few hundred and a few thousand.

By contrast, the number of American workers employed in the steel industry shrank from 500,000 to 224,000 in the period between 1980 – 2000 – a loss of 276,000 jobs that were essentially outsourced to countries overseas.  Thank you union leaders for your excellent work.  You certainly deserve to be recognized for your achievements.

By 1980 the United States’ share of global steel production had declined to 12%.  By 2000 our market share had declined further to 8%.  Today it stands at 2%.  And that once great boom town of Gary, IN has an unemployment rate of 13.1% which is more than half again as much as the national average.

Given these statistics, even if Gov. Romney is an “outsourcer”, he is a veritable neophyte at it.   He needs to sit in on a few AFL-CIO leadership meetings to see how it really is done.

If we want to make outsourcing an issue in the November election, let’s look at the real causes and perpetrators of it.  Our unions which demand that their members earn wages and benefits which make our products globally uncompetitive; our politicians who enact onerous rules and regulations which detract from productivity and add significantly to cost; and ourselves, for being willing purchasers of products manufactured overseas because they are less expensive and we can save money.

Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.”  I guess that was back in the days when “X” marked the spot.

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