Maximizing Wages — How to raise wages without the fascists

Maximizing Wages

How to raise wages without the fascists

3/28/2021

There’s a lot of talk about how to raise the federal minimum wage to a still-inadequate $15 an hour. It’s popular with elected Democratic officials, it’s very popular with the public (around 70% support, including 40% of the voters in the fascist party) and it’s even popular amongst big businesses, who often realize that paying a decent wage would pay for itself in terms of employee loyalty, and decreased theft and absenteeism, not to mention increased business from a wealthier consumer base, but need a level playing field where nastier and greedier competition won’t undercut them by screwing their own employees.

Nobody’s sure how to get this badly-needed raise past the fascists. None of the 50 in the Senate will support it because they believe doing anything to benefit working people is a sign of moral weakness. There’s talk of abolishing the filibuster, or at least making it painful and difficult to use. Old fashioned talking filibusters, for instance. Imagine the look on the face of any fascist Senator who has to stand for hours, even days, in front of cameras and the world, shouting about how $7.25 an hour is plenty for those scummy little workers. Personally, I approve of reinstating the talking filibuster. There are times when a Senator needs to make a principled stand against bad legislation, and so it acts as a safety brake. But fascists will be loath to abuse the filibuster because they will be exposed as always being opposed to the needs and wants of the people.

There’s talk of getting a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian on being able to include the minimum wage raise in the upcoming infrastructure bill, and this comes much closer to a viable answer.

The infrastructure bill is going to happen, because like the Covid-19 relief bill (now the American Recovery Act) it is going through the process of reconciliation, a tactical dodge that allows legislation to pass in the Senate with a simple majority. The fascists can vote against it unanimously and almost certainly will, but it doesn’t matter, because the Democrats have 51 votes.

Now, the infrastructure bill is going to be huge: Anywhere between two and four TRILLION dollars. It will include new highways, new airports, new schools, new water and sewage systems, new bridges, and massive investment in clean and sustainable energy. It will create millions of jobs. Not thousands, not hundreds of thousands—millions of jobs.

Further, large infrastructure projects usually pay for themselves dozens of times over. The Interstate Highway system essentially CREATED the modern American economy. The Tennessee Valley Authority pulled millions out of poverty. The Clean Air/Clean Water Acts resulted in savings to Americans amounting to over $25 trillion dollars by the year 2000, and continue to do so despite the best efforts of the fascists. If we spend $4 trillion now, we can expect a return of $20 trillion by the year 2030—and that’s a conservative estimate!

Back in the day of sane Conservatives in the GOP, it was usually a bipartisan issue. Two of the three examples I noted (Interstate System and CA/CW) happened under Republican administrations. But Republicans are dead, replaced by fascists, and even if they see the economic benefits to be had, they can’t allow Democrats and the government credit for doing things that they could do but won’t.

Yes, there will be pork. Every single rep and senator is gonna want a little bit of sugar for their districts, and that’s ok—after all, that’s what they’re there for. Some will be driven by an earnest desire to better the lives of their constituents, and some will just be looking for an opportunity to steal with both hands. Not just fascists, either. Human nature is human nature. We’re going to have to be vigilant, and keep the grifters in check.

But that brings us back to the matter of wages. It would be nice if the $15 minimum wage were somehow tacked onto this bill, but I’m not holding my breath.

However, all those tens of thousands of projects—road work, construction, upgrading and modernizing—will be hiring. Some may be direct government actions, like we saw with FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Most of the rest will be contract work. In either case, the government has the power to set conditions of work, including such things as time off, vacation time, union membership, health and safety regulations—and wages.

There’s no reason the bill cannot include mandated minimum wages for employees, either directly or demanded of private companies seeking government contracts. Twenty an hour for custodial staff or drivers, 150% of prevailing wages for more skilled positions. Millions of jobs, many unskilled or semi-skilled.

And remember, this will pay for itself, many times over. Most immediately through what’s called “the velocity of money” – people who were making $10 and hour and now are making $25 will be hitting the local stores for clothing and household items that they have been denied before. On average, each dollar received in wages above the existing amount results in between 2 and 3 dollars in increased economic activity. And if the town also has an new or improved highway, and clean and efficient power, and safe clean water…well, that’s fat city, folks!

In the meantime, all the cheap-ass minimum wage employers are going to have to raise their game if they want to compete and keep their workers. Why flip burgers for $10 an hour when you can do it for $20/hour plus benefits?

All the Dems need to do is include a provision for direct and contract labour: 150% of the norm, plus health benefits and vacation and the like. It would immediately start paying for itself, and create an economic juggernaut.

Instead of $15/hour, make it 150% prevailing rates. It’s a winner, and even the fascists won’t be able to stop it.

Prejudicial — Cowardice breeds contempt

Prejudicial

Cowardice breeds contempt

March 25th 2021

When people hear the term “prejudice” they usually think of the cowardly and despicable practice of bigotry; the deliberate denigration of a group of people, usually for social and economic unearned advantages. It is the recourse of a fretful and unconfident population, this need to systematically cheat and harass people who are guilty of no crime but easy to target. It isn’t courageous—quite the opposite. Systematic bigotry is the province of cowards.

There is a second type of prejudice, and with this as well as the first, the American South is all too familiar. It is the type of prejudice that people have against bigots, those cruel small authoritarians who cheat and steal from the weak.

It’s often as unfair and capricious as the first type of prejudice, and the fact that there is a basis for some of it doesn’t excuse it.

But for years it was applied to white people in the American South. The world noticed the systematic and cruel exploitation and subjugation of what were then called “coloured people” and recoiled in disgust. Segregation, Jim Crow, Bull Conner, fire hoses, the Freedom Marches, all of that. All this in a country devoted to the notions of freedom and equality.

And for years the South was subject to scorn, contempt, and ridicule. If you were white and from the South, you were presumed to be a backward and hate-filled moron, a toothless hick whose own sense of self worth lay upon blowing up children and denying people the use of bathrooms and drinking fountains.

The number of Southerners who deserved that sort of contempt were far outnumbered by the millions who didn’t support Jim Crow and segregation. Many of them did so silently, subject to intense social and economic pressure from their neighbors, their town councils, their churches. Yes, Christianity played a fundamental role in the more disgraceful practices of the Old South.

It took the South over half a century to partially claw its way back from the self-inflicted black eye its behavior in the 50s and 60s caused, to the point where it wasn’t automatically assumed that a southern white male was a moonshine-guzzling unkempt yahoo who burned crosses on the weekend. Part of it was a lot of good-faith hard work by people in the South to turn the page on a disgraceful past, and part of it, in the wake of Boston and Watts, the realization that racism and vicious bigotry wasn’t limited to the South.

But now, in the wake of the corrupt and unAmerican Brian Kemp and the GOP of Georgia, that image of the South being a bastion of racism and vicious cruelty is being resurrected by new voting laws that Joe Biden called “despicable” and which are draconian, deeply unfair, and against all American values. It’s so vicious and overreaching that a large majority of Georgians across the entire spectrum oppose it.

It will dawn on the country over the next few months that it isn’t just the Southern disease resurrecting itself. It’s a national problem with voting and Democracy under attack in a large majority of the States, not just in the Bible Belt but in the West, the prairies, and the Midwest. It isn’t a Southern thing, this vile paroxysm of bigotry and cowardice: it’s a Republican thing.

The Republican Party has two main sides these days: the mainstream fascists who put corporate power and Ayn Rand ahead of people, and the Nazis and Nutzis of the Trump movement. Neither side has the faintest interest in holding office with the consent of the governed; they simply want to rule, and are willing to crush anyone who stands between them and that goal.

But it is first manifesting in Georgia, a state that has, for a decade, been the bloody Kansas of the cold civil war being fought between Americans and Republicans.

Which means the South has lost much of the good will it worked so hard for. It adopted Republicans when they opposed civil rights legislation, they stayed with Republicans when they tried to make themselves the avatars of patriotism and godliness, and they are doggedly clinging to them even after they’ve gone fascist—and worse.

They don’t want Americans to vote. They are changing voting laws wherever they can, and with no regard for deliberations or democratic process. Georgia passed their voting law today, savage as it is, in the space of six hours between introduction in the lege to a ludicrous shout of approval in the Senate to a behind-closed door signing by the reptilian Brian Kemp (whose own election was one of the most corrupt in American history) even as a Democratic legislator was dragged away and arrested by Georgia state thugs for demanding to witness the signing.

Republicans don’t want Americans to vote. They don’t want Americans to have any say in how they are ruled. They pass laws against peaceful assembly, make it a crime to insult a cop, anything they can in the cause of turning the world’s second-oldest Democracy into a authoritarian shit hole.

If they succeed, they will fail. John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

If Republicans want to suppress Americans, it will blow up in their faces. And the toothless bigots of the old South won’t be able to save them. Nobody can.

 An Ill Wind — Blows Trump Good

 An Ill Wind

Blows Trump Good

March 14th 2021

From the campaign of 1944 onward until April 12, 1945, rumors about the state of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s health mounted. Although still in his early 60s, FDR had been president for twelve years, seeing the United States through two of the greatest crises in its history, from a wheelchair, smoking two packs of Camels a day, and consuming enough liquor that by today’s standards, he would be considered a problem drinker.

He gave a speech on an aircraft carrier in Seattle in March, wearing leg braces so he could stand in a cold wet wind. He was stuck just as he began his speech with a fairly major siege of angina pectoris, sending waves of pain through his chest. Not only did he keep his balance on the heaving deck, but he somehow managed to finish his speech, although the horrified audience could clearly see something was terribly wrong.

But with typical personal resiliency, he looked and seemingly felt fine just fifteen minutes later.

A few days later a press photographer managed one of the rare candid shots that got past FDRs staff. The shot showed a man nearing his end–”eyes like poached eggs, jaw agape” as William Manchester described it. For a nation used to the ear-to-ear grin, the chin thrust out, the cigarette holder at a jaunty angle, the image was deeply disturbing. FDR himself was shaken by it, and snarled of the photographer, “They’re nothing but a bunch of goddammed ghouls.” Two weeks later he was dead. America was shocked, but not particularly surprised. Most people sensed he had worked himself to death, and he had done it for them.

Donald Trump, just seven weeks out of office, reminded me of that March 1945 photograph. He had a fund raiser at Mar-A-Lago yesterday, and some of his sycophantic attendees snapped some shots of him that they honestly thought to be conveying strength and certitude. The first shows a hesitant-looking Trump being escorted in by Lara Trump, looking almost humanly concerned for someone who has been ripping off a charity for puppies for two years. She is holding Trump’s hand, both to steady him and to guide him into the room. Nick Adams, who took the shot, wrote “President Trump is looking better than ever before!! He is getting in shape for 2024 and the liberals are freaking out!!” There’s a large discoloration on Trump’s right cheek, maybe a bruise, or perhaps he smeared his makeup. His jaw is agape, and what little there was of his neckline has vanished altogether.

The second image is even more disturbing. He is looking around blankly, isolated in a crowd of admirers, in a pose usually seen in people with Parkinson’s or dementia, leaning forward, arms dangling out in front. My own reaction to the image was, “He looks like he should be wandering around a rest home demanding to know who stole the chain out of his toilet.”

Bridgette Gabriel took that one, and wrote, “President Trump looks fantastic! Stronger than ever!”

Gaslighting is a staple with Trump and his crowd, but even those two had to be looking at the man and seeing that he isn’t “in shape” or “fantastic.” He’s aged 10 years in seven weeks, and he doesn’t even look like he knows where he is.

In short, he looks like a man who is at death’s door.

I would forget about him running in 2024. Ain’t gonna happen. He’s going to be fighting to keep out of jail, and to keep even 1% of his wealth after the civil suits have run. He’s forcing a revolt within the GOP by demanding funds go to him rather than the party, and eventually, sooner rather than later, he’ll have to fight that war just to maintain any political viability. And of course, he runs a significant risk of being tried as a traitor within the next year.

Don’t expect pity from me. He’s earned all the grief he will face, including an early death.

But I saw those images, and immediately eliminated him as any sort of viable force in American politics going forward. He’s dying, and the inchoate rage of a movement he formed is dying with him.

Joe’s first White House Speech — Reasonable Assurances and Sensible Warnings

Joe’s first White House Speech

Reasonable Assurances and Sensible Warnings

March 11th, 2021

Day fifty of the Biden presidency, and so far so good. Both politically and psychologically, today was a good point for Biden to stop and have a talk with the people. It came a few hours after he signed into law the biggest rebuilding act America had seen since FDR’s first 100 days. The American Rescue Act will, in the estimate of Goldman-Sachs, result in 8% annual growth over the next 12 months. That, too, is a rate of growth not seen since the 1930s. Best of all, it’s going to people and small businesses, what you could call “trickle up economics.” It will save thousands of small businesses, protect millions from hunger and homelessness. It is, as Biden once put it about the AMA, “a big fucking deal.”

In the glow from this massive legislative victory, Biden addressed the state of the country on the anniversary of the Covid pandemic.

After the past year where lies, braggadocio and delusions were all Americans got from the White House, Biden’s cautionary optimism was a gust of fresh air. Biden extolled the immense gains the vaccine program had made in the past 50 days, but didn’t try to pretend it was all his doing. (In a truly pathetic footnote, Trump put out a brief communiqué under a sort-of presidential seal, from The Office of Donald J. Trump, trying to take credit for the vaccine program.) The program has been pretty much miraculous, despite Trump. When Biden first took office, he spoke of 100 million vaccines in the first 100 days (the last day of April). That was considered a high goal, even before we learned that the outgoing administration had absolutely no plan in place for distribution or even procurement of the needed vaccines.

Now, not only are we well ahead of pace for that, but we may have vaccines available for the entire adult population by the end of May, some 500 million shots all told. The CDC is of the opinion that we’ll have herd immunity by the beginning of May, but Doctor Fauci, on the Rachel Maddow show tonight, cautioned that we are in a race against variants, and we may, even with full vaccinations, end up playing whack-a-mole (his term) with those variants, much the way we do with strains of flu and the common cold. It’s evolution, people.

Biden himself made the same cautionary note, and urged people to keep on social distancing and wearing masks for the time being, despite what the “Neanderthals” in the GOP think we should be doing. It’s not a popular request, but Biden has some courage. Things are a lot more hopeful, but we are not out of the woods. He’s right, Fauci’s right, and nearly every expert in the field is right. Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones and Donald Trump are all wrong, and for vicious, self-serving reasons.

Biden spoke movingly of the loss and deprivation hundreds of millions of people suffered over this past year—well over half a million dead (“more than World War I, World War II, and 9/11”), millions of families separated, millions of jobs lost. Even the most cynical of viewers had to admit that he SOUNDED sincere.

He knows, at long last, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and he just wants us not to derail ourselves by being reckless as we approach the light. It won’t stop the freedumb morons, but it might just keep enough sane people cautious enough that we might get by.

Fauci and Maddow were talking about monoclonal antibody treatments. Two studies showed respectively 87 and 89% efficacy if administered early in the course of the disease, numbers so convincing that they dropped the double blind nature of the studies on the ground that it was not moral to give half the subjects a placebo based on what is known.

This doesn’t mean that you can run out licking random seats in the New York subway knowing you just need to pop two in the mouth and you’ll be all better. The treatments are by infusion only, and still very expensive. And if you get to the point where the symptoms are life-threatening, then you’re far enough along that the treatment will be of little or any help. Fauci is hoping for a treatment that involves simple injections, or even just pills, but that’s an unknown amount of time in the future. It’s not here, and may not be here for years, but there is a cure.

Not mentioned was the spectre of “long COVID”. Roughly a third of people who become infected develop symptoms weeks or months later, even if they were completely asymptomatic to begin with. And yes, you can still be infected, even with the shots. You just are very unlikely to develop symptoms, and in the beginning, they will be mild. Nobody knows how that will affect development of “long COVID.”

Futher, variants are appearing, and while the evolutionary trend is for such variants to become both more contagious and milder (the weeding-out process of evolution means viruses that successfully inhabit live hosts will outnumber the ones that kill their hosts) that is just a trend. The mutations are individually random, and a variety of Covid could show up that is as lethal as Ebola and as communicable as measles. Worst case scenario, to be sure, but within the realm of possibility. And if we are reckless and go on acting as a culture medium for this virus, the higher the chances that something even nastier will crop up. And the more variations, the more types of vaccines are needed unless and until we can come up with an umbrella shot that can block all Covids. Note: we haven’t been able to develop a shot like that for influenza, and with the common cold, it’s pointless to even try.

Because of this, Biden’s speech was perfect for the occasion. He didn’t tell us what we wanted to hear. He told us what we needed to hear, and for most of us, that’s going to help us a lot through the coming year.

 

Swine before Pearls — GOP clutches pearls in trivial outrage

Swine before Pearls

GOP clutches pearls in trivial outrage

March 6th, 2021

Of course you’ve heard about the paroxysms of outrage gripping the snake pits of the right this past week. Mister Potatohead has been desexed. Libruls have taken Doctor Seuss and served him up with green eggs and ham. And worst of all, the President called Republicans Neanderthals! (Yes, that was unfair. Neanderthals greatly resembled humans. Republicans do not.)

Of course, there isn’t much else they can talk about. Every once in a while you hear a murmur about pork in the Covid Relief Package (which passed yesterday!) which amounted to 142 million dollars (about 0.07% of the bill). That pork was removed, making no discernible difference in the size of the bill. Similarly, Manchin of West Virginia got his wish, and ¼ of the supplemental payment on unemployment was cut, which amounted to another $100 million or so. Subtract $242 million from $1.9 trillion and you get $1,899,758,000. My god, the republic has been saved!

The Covid relief bill is widely popular, with even 44% of Republican voters supporting it. But the efforts to derail this badly-needed and popular bill started out tawdry and ended up ridiculous. Ron Johnson, as a delaying tactic, demanded that the poor clerks read every word of the 758 page bill to the Senate, a process that took some 10 very dreary hours. It was so boring that by the end, all the Republicans had gone home, including the estimable Senator Johnson. The Democrats spotted an opportunity, and voted unanimously to limit debate on the bill to six hours. The Republicans had hoped to force votes on hundreds of amendments to the bill, and that tactic was eliminated. So the next day, the bill was passed and awaits President Biden’s signature to become law. Yes, Republicans will stand for their beliefs, but luckily for us, they’re all nihilists.

It was a massive win for the Democrats and Biden, and more to the point, it was a massive win for the country. By the end of summer, life may be generally back to normal for most people.

Republicans don’t want to talk about the vaccination program. Biden on his first day in office promised 100 million shots would be given in the first 100 days, a goal many people had dismissed as unlikely even before it was discovered that the Trump administration had left absolutely no plans to distribute the vaccines—a final little nasty bit of vindictiveness from the defeated Trump.

Instead, we have some 75 million shots administered in the first 45 days, and the Biden administration is now promising that everyone will have had both shots by some time in May. Even by the standards of an America that existed before Republicans privatized it, that’s an extraordinary accomplishment.

The infrastructure bill is next on the schedule. It’s even bigger (some 2 – 4 trillion dollars) and most assuredly will have pork, both Republican and Democratic. Back in the Nixon days, Republicans decided that it would be far more efficient and cheaper to contract government road work out to the Sopranos. The results were predictable enough. Most infrastructure projects will end up in the hands of contractors who will skim 40% off the top and use the cheapest materials they can get away with. But it’s expected to include some items that will be hugely controversial (in other words, will annoy the rich) while providing vast improvements to society. It will include a Civilian Conservation Corps project that will employ up to two million people in public works and public improvements projects. It will eliminate most if not all tax credits for the fossil fuels industries and transfer those credits to renewable clean energy projects. On a level playing field, renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels. This will make it MUCH cheaper.

Republicans will fight this, but they know that even with the inevitable flaws, they are on the wrong side with public opinion.

The mad, deposed Trump is going to be a gigantic problem for the GOP. One Trump official was indicted yesterday for involvement with the January 6th crowd, and Trump himself is lashing out furiously and blindly, attacking all GOP members who didn’t support his stolen election fantasy and even going so far as to send a cease and desist order to the GOP to not use his image or name in their promotional materials. Historians didn’t bother to see if any former president did anything like that. It hasn’t happened before. And in the justice system, a tidal wave of evidence is mounting that will sweep Trump into prison, probably for life. A sizable percentage of Republicans have fled the party and will not return until the Trump movement is dead. That will take a couple of more years.

Republican policy, such as it is, is to cling blindly to power, no matter what it takes. Gerrymandering, stacked courts, 258 different bills in 43 states designed to make it harder for people to vote, and endless attacks on the media. People are realizing that they aren’t doing this for the benefit of the people, and public opinion is mounting against that.

Then there’s the matter of raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. Over three-quarters of voters approve of that, and in any real democracy, the outcome would be a no-brainer. But Republicans will continue to unanimously oppose it, even as many of the corporations and rich people they serve approve of it. In that way, they’re a bit like the Japanese soldiers marooned on Pacific islands for 25 year or more, unaware that World War II had ended.

Given all that, is it any wonder Republicans would sooner whine about Potatohead and Doctor Seuss?