Politics


I was alerted to this article by the fan page of New York State Senator Diane J. Savino, of whom I am indeed a big fan even though I don’t live in New York. The article is a sad (from my standpoint) laundry list of diets that politicians follow to avoid being called or thought of as fat on the campaign trail. What made me perhaps most sad, though, was Sen. Savino’s comment when she posted the article:

Here I am quoted in a NY Times article on campaign season and dieting: ‘Most women are going on a diet whether or not they have a campaign,’ she said. ‘Since I hit puberty, there hasn’t been a week in my life that I haven’t been on a diet. It’s kind of like an ever-present condition for me.’

Well it’s true! Also we will soon be announcing a get healthy campaign this summer. We will keep you posted.

I can’t think about this too hard because I have seen enough fat hate today and already feel pretty much like shit about both my body and my diet. But I hate to see a woman who has accomplished so much just blithely accepting that it is a woman’s lot in life to diet from puberty until death. How can people consider this unproblematic or entirely a health issue? There are few things in life more apparent to me than the fact that the push to be thin on the campaign trail (and really most other places) is NOT. ABOUT. HEALTH.

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I recently read Laurie Ruettimann’s excellent post at Punk Rock HR on Deficits and Debt and found that I agreed completely with her premise. I left a super-long, hard to read comment to the post (as is my customary practice 🙂 ), and Laurie very kindly suggested that I turn it into a post–so voila! Basically, I don’t think government spending is a bad thing, and here’s why:

I live in Michigan and I see important education, public works, public assistance, public health, etc. programs being cut because lawmakers want to (and know they can) score easy points with a bunch of stingy people who can well afford to pay their taxes but choose to be mad about an expensive painting in the Capitol building or something, and somehow decide that means they shouldn’t have to pay any taxes whatsoever.

Honestly, I think the services we need to pay for and any government waste that is going on are two separate issues and should be discussed separately. As it is, people use (admittedly egregious) anecdotal examples of waste to dishonestly shut down any opposition to their position, so a productive discussion never takes place, especially in scary places like newspaper comment threads. Like, we may all agree on paper that we want to pay for great schools, roads, and services that serve the state’s residents well and attract others to the state. OK, good. Then the fact that a particular bonehead assistant to the department head (or whatever) is wasting money on something (which, let’s be honest, is usually like 1/1,000,000 or less the cost of any real substantive line item) still does not mean that the prioritized programs should not be funded–properly, not with money that doesn’t really exist or with a bunch of symbolic caveats designed only to make it clear that said governmental unit is being “tough on waste.” The two are not really related in my mind. Instead, it means that particular bonehead should be fired or have his budget taken away, or if it is an endemic problem in some department, get someone better in there to clean house.

To my mind it would be better to borrow now, use the money to address some of the situations that are keeping us in this crisis for years at a time (if Michigan works only within what it can immediately pay for right now, then good luck keeping anyone in the state, much less getting anyone else to come here. Of course we have to to some extent because we have a balanced budget amendment. I do not like balanced budget amendments. Anyway). Then pay it back when the situation is better. I would also add that if you can afford to send your kids to private school if you have to, replace your vehicle when terrible roads destroy it, and live in a safe neighborhood (among other things), of course you’re going to feel your taxes are too high because you’re lucky enough not to need any help. To me this is an example of where the majority (reasonably well-off people and those who are making it one way or the other) should not get to decide for the minority (desperately poor people who NEED these services) whether they get to live or die and whether their kids ever get to escape the cycle of poverty with decent nutrition, education, etc. because realistically most do not have that option without some assistance.

…per President Bush in press conference currently taking place. $17.4 billion in loans are being provided until March 31. Thank goodness. Now let’s hope the Obama administration will find ways to get our economy moving again so the automakers can geta back on track.

…Coverage of the Detroit automakers that doesn’t make me want to chew off my own hand. Hint: UAW workers are not actually making $70 per hour, their average wage is the same as that of non-union auto workers, and therefore, MEDIA, the deal-breaking dispute between Ron Gettelfinger and that asshole Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was not over what you keep referring to as “wages.” In order to immediately bring UAW hourly costs per worker in line with, say, Toyota’s, by my math the UAW workers would have to start accepting lower wages and/or significantly worse benefits than their non-union counterparts. The actual dispute is over the total hourly cost per worker, only a portion of which can be controlled by changes to active worker pay and benefits and the rest of which consists of legacy costs.

Point B, foreign manufacturers follow UAW negotiations closely and make sure that their workers are given the same or almost exactly the same (or in some cases better) pay and benefits as union workers. This is so that their plants do NOT unionize. If they offered workers significantly less than the UAW, their plants would BE union by now, and they know it. They are not opposed to unionization so they can screw workers over right this second–they’re opposed to it because contracts might keep them from being able to do so nimbly should future economic conditions dictate.

Also, stop telling me about how “at Nissan they make $14 an hour, so nyah.” Entry-level UAW workers also make $14 an hour (a fact which, incidentally, makes me sad for our nation–even union workers can’t make a decent living anymore). You are not comparing apples to apples and most of you are disingenuous liars. I’m thinking here specifically of the guy from the Wall Street Journal who, the last time Diane Rehm hosted this topic, threw around statements like “they can’t expect to continue making $60-$70 an hour” until another panelist pointed out that the $60-$70 number averaged in all wage and benefit liabilities including retiree pensions, benefits, and surviving spouse benefits. At which point the WSJ guy responded calmly that yes, the other panelist was correct. He KNEW he was misleading listeners and purposely kept it up until someone called him on it. This is nothing but union-busting propaganda, and let me tell you, it is thick on the ground. Don’t believe everything you hear.

But on to today’s coverage:

The Diane Rehm Show–a panel including the Detroit News‘s Washington reporter, another journalist familiar with the industry, and a UAW local president (and, unfortunately–though I thought the other panelists did a pretty good job of letting only his true and salient points stand and debunking his anti-union crap–a guy from the Heritage Foundation) actually explores, in-depth, what is true and what is false about the claim that the UAW’s failure to accept wages in line with foreign manufacturers is the main issue preventing Congress from issuing the loans.

Mitch Albom (via Blogging for Michigan and Flip Flopping Joy)–lets loose with what a lot of us are thinking about the Senate’s disingenuous posturing and the classist double standard applied to the bank bailout vs. the Big 3 situation.

ETA: Also listen to this American Axle employee’s explanation of his wages, the personal cost of their strike earlier this year, and the consequences of a possible Big 3 failure. I guess concessions down to $11 an hour at entry level–that’s about $22,000/year for those of you playing along at home–weren’t enough to convince the senators. Well, I say good for them for protecting themselves and their business concerns from those pesky ordinary Americans… ahem, I mean, ordinary Americans from those damn UAW fat cats.

I think Michiganders are finally getting good and pissed off about coverage that implicitly and explicitly describes us as lazy, entitled, clueless, environment-destroying drains on society. The self-righteousness and failure to understand the potentially disastrous impact of even a small further blow to our fucked-up economy (and bankruptcy or dissolution of one or more of the Big 3 would not be a small blow) on the part of many Americans is breathtaking, and not in a good way.

Look, if someone is making $11 an hour at Wal-Mart and can’t afford to feed his own family, much less subsidize loans to UAW workers through his taxes, I totally get that he’s going to be opposed to being forced to do so. Such Americans, and there are many of them, are at the breaking point already. But on a philosophical level, when did we get so small-minded in this country? When did we start to think “I can’t afford my kids’ health care or my mortgage without crippling credit card debt–that auto worker over there should have to suffer too” as opposed to “Shouldn’t ALL of us have the opportunity to afford the necessities of life and live debt-free? What has happened to the ‘greatest nation in the world’?” We’re blaming the workers when we should be blaming the increasingly stingy, unsustainable corporate structure and privatized health care system under which most of us work. We’re playing right into the hands of corporations, greedy shareholders, and the Republican senators who pretend to have “ordinary Americans'” interests at heart while behind closed doors admitting their true union-busting agenda.

Now if pundits will just stop bloviating about how the Big 3 “need to restructure” and “need to produce greener cars,” as if they had never thought of the former before–and were not in fact doing exactly that before the same greedy, shortsighted banks who were handed $700B+ on a platter with no wage concessions or in fact requirements of any kind caused the credit crisis that actually precipitated the automakers’ current difficulties (my mom heard about a dealer who had 30 customers in his showroom last month, all of whom failed to qualify for credit)–and as if the latter were any kind of reasonable business decision in a climate where consumers purchased and continue to purchase a metric fuckton of trucks and SUVs due to generally low gas prices, my blood pressure might actually go back to normal. I’m as liberal as the next guy and not in the habit of being an apologist for Big Anything, but if I were Rick Wagoner, I’d have punched somebody in the face during those Congressional hearings. I’d still probably make a rude gesture at Sen. Corker if I saw him on the street, but after today the punching impulse has lessened slightly. So yay for that.

What is wrong with these people? Getting funds to an industry that is pivotal to our economy is like pulling teeth and may not happen, but banks ask for a handout and we throw wads of cash at them like they’re in one of those game-show vortex machines where you grab as many bills as you can in 60 seconds? News flash to Secretary Paulson: “The economy” does not consist only of or depend only on businesses directly or tangentially related to the one you personally amassed your fortune in before you were appointed. There is a world outside of Wall Street. I am just disgusted with this whole charade right now.

ETA: It gets worse. I want to throw up.

There are two proposals on the ballot in Michigan this year–one to authorize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, the other to loosen restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. I am basically in favor of both, although honestly I don’t really care all that much about the medicinal marijuana one. But Proposal 2 (the stem cell one)–that I definitely support. Based on the informational brochure that was sent to me regarding both proposals, I am convinced that the measure includes appropriate ethical safeguards, and I think it is a problem both for the health of the citizens of Michigan and for our state economy that we have such stringent restrictions on stem cell research in place in the first place. We have several damn fine research universities in this state, and it frustrates me to think that anti-abortion interests are standing in the way of potential progress that could be made here in finding cures for diseases. So, fine. Case closed, right?

Well, yes; I’ll still vote for it… but it annoys me that the measure exists in the form of a Constitutional amendment. I don’t really like the current trend of amending the State Constitution anytime we pass a ballot measure. Can’t this one just become a normal law like the medicinal marijuana proposal will if it is passed? Don’t get me wrong, it’s far worse when we amend the Constitution to permanently codify bigotry and the ludicrous pretense that racism no longer exists, aka white privilege (on a personal and illogical tantrum-y note, I remain totally incensed at the snotty, privileged whiner who started that whole mess because she couldn’t get into the University of Michigan–how about get better grades in high school, honey? I’m white and though I didn’t end up going to U of M and am glad I didn’t, I had no trouble getting in, so cry me a fucking river. Ahem, better now), but I feel like there is also something… untidy… about amending it for this measure as well. Anyone who’s better versed in law than I am have an opinion on this?

The only possible bright spot I can see is that if it becomes a Constitutional right to perform embryonic stem cell research within basic limits, it would be really hard to turn around and pass some hypothetical future measure granting personhood to embryos, or whatever the anti-abortion sneaky move du jour is at that time.

Read what wizardkitten says in this Blogging for Michigan entry. I am so sick of people acting like Michigan will somehow be anything other than a shithole if we slash taxes, wages, benefits, worker rights, public works, etc. to the extent that some would like to see. You end up with an economy that isn’t appreciably better, and once all these things that make Michigan a great place to live are gone, they will never come back.

Business would be booming if we could just pay our employees $1 an hour, right? And you didn’t need health benefits or retirement plans, either. Or good schools or parks or other “quality of life” things. Silly you. Survival of the fittest, you know. Time for you working class heroes to join the race to the bottom with your southern counterparts. […]

Big money doesn’t mind turning Michigan into the “Mississippi of the North”; as long as they don’t have to pay their employees a decent wage, they will be guaranteed to enjoy a decent lifestyle – and if you’re poor, it’s your own damn fault.

Not to slam on the South too much–I can’t blame the people who live in, for example, Mississippi for the choices their leaders have made, but I do agree with wizardkitten’s characterization of what those leaders have chosen to sacrifice in order to score manufacturing jobs, which I’m sure are currently hemorrhaging overseas because if cheap is good, cheaper is better–but this entry is RIGHT ON.

Do we as a nation seriously believe that a situation where workers must hold down 2-3 jobs to support their families, with paltry or no medical benefits, and still find themselves drowning in debt and unable to afford food or gas, is “uniquely American” and to be commended? If so, what have we come to? Disgusting.