Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Fence I'm Straddling has Barbed Wire - Ouch!

Sometimes it's hard to be a liberal however one likes the meaning of the word. It is equally hard to be a conservative with respect to wanting to conserve institutions that work and get rid of or modify the ones that don't, which is, by the way, the true meaning of conservatism, or at least a truer meaning than the one touted by so-called conservatives nowadays in the radical Tea Party and its radical friends. David Brooks is usually "too" conservative for me, although I don't see him as a radical, but in this Op-Ed Columnist - The Paralysis of the State - NYTimes.com, I can't disagree with him. I'm straddling the fence again and I'm uncomfortable.

As a general rule, I hate union busting for a couple of reasons. First is that unions have been somewhat successful in making sure the everyday worker is paid a reasonable, living wage or at least paid a wage that is not less than the wage of ten, twenty or thirty years ago. Unions built the middle class, and it is the middle class that has driven America to a level of prosperity that so-called "management" would have never been able to do. Management, as I interpret it to mean, are those CEOs that pay themselves multi-million dollar bonuses and stock options, and other ridiculously expensive benefits. The middle class built America because the middle class had "Purchasing Power." Well, all of that turns out to be only half true. Management, it seems, according to a recent report that I've forgotten where to find, has managed to sell us hocus pocus, voodoo capitalistic ideals that management knows best over the past forty years and so the everyday Joe worker has not really seen an increase in wages since the 1970s, if you count inflation. Perhaps I heard that from Robert Reich, who seems to have his facts and logic together. So, it makes sense to me to "redistribute" a little of the top wealth back to the middle class and the poor through tax changes, i.e., tax the rich and not the poor or middle class - that is if you want them to buy anything.

There are some cases of union busting that simply fly in the face of all reason, and that's what I hate about union busting. Take the case of Gibson County's Commissioner Bob Townsend's attempt last year. As I understand, the Gibson County Local 215 employee union is now operating without a contract, so he was somewhat successful. If Townsend had made a reasonable attempt to bargain with the union, I probably wouldn't have said a word, but he didn't. In fact, there was every appearance of graft, favoritism and corruption at the center of it. The fuss was all about the County's health insurance policies, purchased through the so-called "city and county" insurance agent, the one and only John Dyer, for non-union workers and the "group" insurance policy purchased by the union . I suspect that the group policy is the better and less expensive policy, because group policies usually are. But, Dyer, it seems, has the sole right to sell the City of Princeton and Gibson County their insurance policies. Was he the only agent in town? How about competitive bidding? The other troubling aspect in the comedy skit was the Princeton Clarion, the newspaper. While there was trouble in River City, the Clarion said not one word other than reporting, verbatim, what was said at an "open and public" County Commissioner-Employee meeting that included both union and non-union people. It didn't "investigate" one iota of the situation. Instead, it reported on a lost dog and the November garage sales and other such articles, and lamented on the coming of Winter in its Op-Ed pages. Big deal! Later, after I joined Facebook and befriended the Clarion, I learned that the Clarion is basically a Tea Party newspaper and it won't investigate nor print anything contrary to Tea Party views or the shenanigans of Republican administrations. In other words, anyone reading the paper will never know about hanky-panky at the County seat. That's usually the case in union busting, it's all rigged against the worker and for the rich managers, including newspaper publishers. If I lived there, I'd send Andrea Howe, the editor, an email every day telling her the "what for." And, I would keep sending them until she either quit or got off her ass and did some real investigating. I sent her a couple anyway. She didn't respond when I asked a few pointed questions.

But, David Brooks, and the study he cites, has a point. When unions become too big and begin to have enough influence to elect their bosses, then we need to worry. That the unions have become big enough for states to pass laws that give them 90% of their working salaries for retirement is outrageous. When did we ever believe that we can afford that? But, the real question is, why wasn't there a BIG STINK raised when it happened? Where were the newspapers and news media back then? Silent, like the Princeton Clarion is on the Gibson County back-room favoritism, wheeling and dealing with John Dyer.

The other "real" question is what is the most significant "cost" that makes a high pension necessary in the first place? What makes the unions scream so loud? The answer is: HEALTH INSURANCE. And, the real point to that is that perhaps we could pay Joe worker a real, honest-to-goodness wage if we didn't have to pay the outrageous Health Insurance Blackmail. Then, taking the next reasonable step in that argument, there is the one thing that we could do that would punch the Health Insurance Companies squarely on the nose: Pass the Public Option law and circumvent the Insurance Companies entirely. But, that too is a Republican No-No vote. Go figure.

So, from union busting, graft, favoritism, corruption, health insurance loving, bug business loving to not investigating and reporting those things by right-wing news media, I still see Republicans as the Party Without A Clue, but I have to agree that powerful unions are just as dumb and greedy in their demands on taxpayers. That barbed wire on the fence I ride sometimes hurts.

I guess we could go one step farther, too, and that is to ask: How did we come to a time when Unions and Corporations have so much clout in our elections as to elect the people who will return favors? I guess we could take that to the Supreme Court case: Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission. Wonder who bought the five Supreme Court Justices who made that decision and, by the way, changed the law? Are you really thinking they were not paid for? If so, you're delusional.


No comments: