Article 43


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Class Warfare


By Peter Dreier
Huffington Post
December 23, 2007

Just a week before Christmas, President Bush gave corporate America two big presents. On Tuesday, his Federal Communications Commission changed the rules to allow the nation’s giant conglomerates to further consolidate their grip on the media by permitting them to purchase TV and radio stations in the same local markets where they already own daily newspapers. As a gift to the country’s automobile industry, Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency ruled Wednesday, over the objections of the agency’s staff, that California, the nation’s largest and most polluted state, and 16 other states, can’t impose regulations to limit greenhouse gases from cars and trucks that are stronger than the federal government’s own weak standards.

So far, no major politicians or editorial writers have labeled these actions “class warfare,” although this is precisely what Bush is engaged in—helping the already rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. Class warfare is, in fact, the very essence of Bush’s tenure in the White House. In thousands of ways, big and small, Bush has promoted the interests of the very rich and the largest corporations. Corporate lobbyists have the run of the White House. Their agenda - tax cuts for the rich and big business, attacks on labor unions, and the weakening of laws protecting consumers, workers and the environment from corporate abuse - is Bush’s agenda.

For example, Bush has handed the pharmaceutical industry windfall profits by restricting Medicare’s ability to negotiate for lower prices for medicine. He targeted huge no-bid federal contracts to crony companies like Haliburton to supply emergency relief, reconstruction services and materials to rebuild Katrina while attempting to slash federal wage laws for reconstruction workers. He repealed Clinton-era “ergonomics” standards, affecting more than 100 million workers, that would have forced companies to alter their work stations, redesign their facilities or change their tools and equipment if employees suffered serious work-related injuries from repetitive motions. He opposed stiffer health and safety regulations to protect mine workers and cut the budget for federal agencies that enforce mine safety laws. Not surprisingly, under Bush, we’ve seen the largest number of mine accidents and deaths in years. Bush’s Food and Drug Administration lowered product-labeling standards, allowing food makers to list health claims on labels before they have been scientifically proven. His FDA chief announced that the agency would no longer require claims to be based on “significant scientific agreement,” a change that the National Food Processors Association, the trade association of the $500 billion food processing industry, had lobbied for. Bush resisted efforts to raise the minimum wage (which had been stuck at $5.15 an hour for nine years) until the Democrats took back the Congress earlier this year.

Virtually every week since he took office, the Bush administration has made or proposed changes in our laws designed to help the rich and powerful while harming the most vulnerable people in society and putting the middle class at greater economic risk. The list of horrors can be so numbing that one can lose sight of the cumulative impact of these actions. Taken together, they add up to the most direct assault on working people, the environment and the poor that the country has seen since the presidency of William McKinley over a century ago.

Bush has been a persistent practitioner of top-down class warfare , but the media rarely characterize his actions that way. In contrast, when progressive activists, unions, environmental groups, community organizations and politicians support legislation and rules to redress the balance of power and wealth, they are inevitably described as engaging in c lass warfare . Top-down class warfare seems to be OK, but bottom-up class warfare is apparently a no-no.

The class warfare rap is now being used against John Edwards, when he talks about challenging the power of the insurance and drug corporations. In a recent speech, Edwards said that his campaign was about challenging “the powerful, the well-connected and the very wealthy.” But wary of being criticized for fueling class resentments, even Edwards felt it necessary to say “This is not class warfare. This is the truth.”

Yes, the truth is that the rich have been at war with the rest of the country. It isn’t a question of “"rich against the poor,” which is often how leftists describe things. That leaves out most Americans. Its the very rich versus everyone else.

As Robert Kuttner observes in his new book, The Squandering of America, from 1966 to 2001, the wealthiest one-tenth of all Americans captured the lion’s share of society’s productivity growth. But it was the top one tenth of 1 percent that gained the very most. Those between the 80th and 90th percentiles about held their own. Those between the 95th and 99th percentiles gained 29 percent, while those between the top 99 and 99.9 percentile, gained 73 percent.

“But,” Kuttner writes, “it was those at the very pinnacle --the top one tenth of 1 percent of the population - one American in a thousand - who gained a staggering 291 percent.”

Wealth has become even more concentrated during the Bush years. Today, the richest one percent of Americans has 22 percent of all income and about 40 percent of all wealth. This is the biggest concentration of income and wealth since 1928. In 2005, average CEO pay was 369 times that of the average worker, compared with 131 times in 1993 and 36 times in 1976. At the pinnacle of America’s economic pyramid, the nation’s 400 billionaires own 1.25 trillion dollars in total net worth - the same amount as the 56 million American families at the bottom half of wealth distribution.

Meanwhile, despite improvements in productivity, the earnings of most workers have been stagnant, while the cost of health care, housing, and other necessities has risen. The basics of the American Dream - the ability to buy a home, pay for college tuition and health insurance, take a yearly vacation, and save for retirement - have become increasingly slippery. And for the 37 million Americans living below the official poverty line - $17,170 a year for a family of three - the dream has become a nightmare.

In many ways, America today resembles the conditions in the late 1800s that was called the GILDED AGE. It was an era of RAMPANT, UNREGULATED CAPITALISM. It was a period of merger mania, increasing concentrations of wealth among the privileged few, and growing political influence by corporate power brokers called the ROBBER BARONS. During the Gilded Age, new technologies made possible new industries, which generated great riches for the fortunate few, but at the expense of workers, consumers, and the environment. The gap between the rich and other Americans widened dramatically.

It was also an era of massive immigration to the US from people fleeing political persecution and economic hardship. In the growing cities of the early 20th century, there were terrible poverty, child labor, sweatshops, slums, and serious public health crises, including major epidemics of contagious diseases.

But out of that turmoil, activists created a “Progressive” movement, forging a coalition of immigrants, unionists, middle-class reformers, settlement house workers, muckraking journalists, clergy, and upper-class philanthropists. They fought for, and won, better working conditions, better housing, better schools, and better public services like sanitation and public health laws. Those reforms began at the local and state levels, but eventually laid the foundation for a wave of reform at the federal level - the New Deal.

In 1939, in the midst of the Great Depression, the balladeer Woody Guthrie wrote a song about bank robbers and outlaws. “Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered, I’ve seen lots of funny men,” Guthrie wrote, “Some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.”

Throughout his Presidency, Bush has used his pen to sign regulations and laws that make the rich richer, allow big business to pollute the environment, reduce wages, and rip-off borrowers and consumers.

But Americans finally seem to have caught on. Iraq, Katrina, Enron, the current wave of foreclosures, and other events have helped wake them up to the reality that Bush’s top-down class warfare has done great damage to our country. We now may be on the brink of another progressive era. Bubbling below the surface is a new wave of social activism.

Today’s progressive movement is almost invisible to the mainstream media, but it is obvious to anyone involved in the struggle for social justice. It has many of the same elements as 100 years ago. There is a new wave of activism across America among labor unions, community organizations, environmental groups, immigrant rights activists, and grassroots housing and health care reformers. In the last decade, for example, more than 150 cities, dozens of counties, and now one state (Maryland) have adopted “living wage” laws to lift low-wage workers out of poverty, the result of solid organizing efforts by networks of unions, religious congregations, and community groups like ACORN and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. Environmentalists and unions - who were barely on speaking terms for many years - are now forging alliances to push for “green” jobs and waging joint campaigns, such as the coalition of Teamsters and environmental activists working together to clean up the Los Angeles/Long Beach port, the nation’s largest port and also its most polluted, and unionize the immigrant truck drivers.

Like the Progressive and New Deal eras, there is now a growing number of politicians at the local, state and national level who help give voice to this burgeoning movement. When they do, they are accused of engaging in “class warfare.” They should wear it as a badge of honor.

Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and director of the Urban and Environmental Policy program, at Occidental College in Los Angeles.


Posted by Elvis on 12/23/07 •
Section Dying America
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We Have A Problem

By PZ Myers
December 23, 2007

The archbishop of Wales thinks ONE OF THE GREATEST PROBLEMS FACING THE WORLD IS ATHIEST FUNDAMENTALISM. The only problems he seems to be able to ascribe to it, though, are a dearth of school nativity plays and stewardesses failing to drape themselves with religious paraphernalia, neither of which seem to be exactly pressing crises, especially since it is quite clear that there is no worldwide shortage of public piety. If all outspoken atheism has done is offend a few sanctimonious old bishops, it sounds to me like a virtue that we ought to encourage.

There are DEMENTED FUCKWITS running for the office of president in the most militarily powerful nation in the world. They think they can have conversations with an all-powerful cosmic being who INSTRUCTS THEM in the right things to do, and that they have the approval of that being, no matter what they do: they can initiate an unjust and futile war that kills and maims our soldiers and slaughters the civilians of another country; they can endorse torture; they can deprive people of their civil rights; they can treat loving couples as pariahs if they don’t meet their abstract notions of who is allowed to fall in love; they can poison the planet; they can oppress the poor; they can enrich their corrupt cronies; they can pretty much run roughshod over any notion of justice, liberty, and equality. And what does their imaginary god do? He gives them a phantasmal thumbs-up and an ethereal “Good job!” and assures them that he is on their side. That’s all he can do, since all he is is a projection of a mob of venal bluenoses’ sense of entitlement.

And of course, archbishops and other such foolish figureheads will support their delusions, pointing their bony claws at a woman who isn’t wearing a crucifix around her neck as the great problem of the world. Wouldn’t it be better to point to men with armies who get marching orders from hate-filled apocalyptic holy books as a slightly more plangent concern?


Credit: Cernig

Posted by Elvis on 12/23/07 •
Section General Reading
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Rising Of The Telecom Underclass Part 6


Here’s some more long-winded HOT AIR blowing out of the mouths of CWA union officials, talking about new jobs at AT&T for SLAVE LABOR WAGES

As much as we NEED UNIONS badly - WHAT CAN THE CWA OFFER these new hires - really?



We need unions allright - but not unions that support companies laying off it’s members, then getting them REHIRED by temp firms like Tucker Technologies, for half the pay with no benefits - doing the same job they did before layoffs. That makes the unions a bunch of HYPOCRITES AND CO-CONSPIRATORS in the RACE TO THE BOTTOM mentioned in their empty words.


CWA Com-Tech
December 21, 2007

First AT&T laid off their call center reps in the US so they could move the work offshore to obtain cheapest wages in the world. Now they are moving the work back to America for wages that are half of what AT&T originally paid the reps before they laid them off. [And what’s the CWA doing about it? ed]

To add insult to injury, AT&T then obtains subsidies and tax breaks from state and local governments to build the new call center in North Carolina. How does a multi billion-dollar company get away with this? How can our legislators let Corporate America get away with this kind of legal and unethical theft, when it is occurring right under their noses? [Because Corporate America and UNIONS are primarily INTERESTED IN THEMSELVES. If their members’ interests are ALIGNED WITH THEIRS - so much the better. ed]

There were thousands of call center reps laid off at wages that could support families; now [THANKS IN NO SMALL PART TO THE EFFORTS OF THE CWA AND TEMP AGENCIES LIKE TUCKER TECHNOLOGIES, ed] those same jobs are returned at LESS THAN HALF OF THEIR ORIGINAL PAY and half of the North Carolina statewide average wage. Our legislators should be taking notice and representing Working Americans and not behaving like they are in the pockets of the Telecoms? THERE IS NO LIMIT to Corporate Greed. It’s become business as usual as the rich get richer, while we the workers pay the price of lost wages and benefits.



AT&T to Hire 350 at Goldsboro Center

By John Murawski, Staff Writer
News Observer
December 12, 2007

AT&T plans to hire 350 people for a customer support center in Goldsboro, about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh. The state’s biggest phone company plans to spend $4.5 million to renovate a former Winn-Dixie grocery store in the city.

Last year, AT&T agreed to bring 3,000 outsourced jobs back to the U.S. so that federal regulators would approve its acquisition of BellSouth. Other conditions by the Federal Communications Commission included offering DSL Internet service to first-time customers for $10 a month.

AT&T has announced similar facilities in Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and Kentucky to provide over-the-phone technical assistance to high-speed Internet customers.

AT&T was awarded $600,000 in state and local incentives for choosing Goldsboro over other Southeastern locations.

The city of Goldsboro, Wayne County and the Wayne County Development Alliance each committed as much as $100,000 to help offset renovation costs. In addition, the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center has committed as much as $300,000 from its building renovation fund, which was created to help stimulate investment in rural areas of the state.

“This was a chance to have a name brand company bringing in a high number of jobs,” said Joanna Thompson, president of the Wayne County Development Alliance. “They’ll be hiring kids out of high school and with one or two years of community college who might do some shift work. That’s their employment base.”

The grants are based on creating new jobs, but terms have not been set for how long AT&T would have to maintain the jobs, Thompson said.

The $300,000 from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center is contingent on creating 50 full-time jobs with health benefits and keeping the jobs for at least a year after building renovations are complete.

The wages at AT&T’s center will start in the low $20,000 range, below the Wayne county average of $29,120 a year. The statewide average is $40,040.

Wayne County’s unemployment rate was 4.6 percent in October, the same as the state’s.

AT&T projects a total payroll of $8 million, averaging about $23,000 per employee, for the facility at the Neuse River Shopping Center, 2441 U.S. 117. AT&T will begin hiring within 30 days and is accepting applications at AT&T’S WEBSITE.

“Granted, they may not be high-paying jobs, but there will be people who will compete for these jobs,” said Patrick Woodie, a vice president at the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.


Rising of the Telecom Underclass
PART 1 · PART 2 · PART 3 · PART 4 · PART 5 · PART 6

Posted by Elvis on 12/23/07 •
Section Job Hunt • Section Telecom Underclass
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Best Buy Bait And Switch

When’s the Best Buy website not the Best Buy website?


Best Buy Still Embracing Deceptive In-Store Kiosks

December 22, 2007


Best Buy still uses a secret internal website to deceive customers, according to the L.A. Times. The website appearing on in-store kiosks resembles Best Buy’s official site in every way, except for the prices. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was surprised to hear that his investigation failed to end Best Buy’s bait-and-switch, telling the L.A. Times: “We thought Best Buy had addressed this. That’s what they said to us. Apparently that’s not the case.” A tipster in Virginia also reports the continued existence of the secret website.

According to our tipster:

Not that anyone should be surprised, but Best Buy is still at it.

My wife spent several hours at home researching digital picture frames online, and Best Buy actually had the best price on one, as well as being the only way to get it in time for Christmas. Last night we went to our local Fairfax, Virginia, Best Buy. They didn’t have the frame at first, and I actually have to commend the staff, they searched for about 30 minutes because one of them thought he had seen it somewhere. They finally came up with one, the Kodak EasyShare EX1011. I took it to a different station and asked them to price check it, and it came up at $255.99, well over the $234.49 that was listed online.

We went to one of their public computer terminals and searched it and it came up at the $255.99, no surprise.

iPhone to the rescue. At first it was showing the $255 price on my iPhones browser, then I realized it was connected through WiFi, so they have it blocking the external Best Buy site and feeding the fake one. I disabled WiFi and searched again and bam, there it was, $234.99.

The electronics department said I had to go to customer service for such a thing, and they promptly took care of the price change.

Keep up the great work, Consumerist.

The L.A. Times called Best Buy’s pen of Pinocchios to provide an explanation:

[Sue Busch, a Best Buy spokeswoman] said the kiosks were never intended “for price-match purposes,” but admitted that “a small percentage of customers did not receive a price match when they should have due to errors in policy execution.”

What is a “small percentage of customers?” Maybe a Best Buy salesman in California can clarify:

“Every day we get at least one person asking why he can’t find a price he saw online,” the salesman replied.

I said I was looking for a DVD player I’d seen online that was selling for $71.99. I said it wasn’t on the kiosk site.

“Here,” the salesman said, “let me show you a secret.”

He switched to a different screen, typed in his employee I.D. number, and the real came up. “Try now,” the salesman said.

I asked why the real website wasn’t available to everyone.

He shrugged. “I wish I knew.”

Maybe that’s something California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown should also be wondering.

Posted by Elvis on 12/23/07 •
Section General Reading
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Layoff’s Bad Side X2

It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising their sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin.
- James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, 1817

There’s a couple of things to keep in mind while reading the articles below.

1 - It’s becoming PAINFULLY OBVIOUS these days that executives in BUSINESS are as IMMORAL, corrupt and SHORT-SIGHTED as the politicians in their pockets.

2 - Corporations LAYING OFF THIER BEST PEOPLE under the cloak of REORGANIZATION to be more competitive may BACKFIRE for the business, end EVENTUALLY ALL OF US.

Circuit City’s stock has cratered since last March’s LAYOFFS, and their response has been to offer $1 million retention bonuses to executive VPs.

It’s NOT ABOUT keeping business healthy. It’s about PERSONAL GAIN for executives. 

ANY WAY they can do it.


Santa Claus Comes for Failed Business Executives

By Dean Baker
December 23, 2007

The Washington Post had a good story on the dealings of the electronics retailer Circuit City. Unfortunately, it was buried in the business section where no one will see it. It should have been plastered at the top of the front page.

The basic story is that last March, the wise men who run Circuit City came up with the BRILLIANT IDEA of laying off their more senior salespeople, who get $14-$15 an hour, and replacing them with new hires who get around $9 an hour. It turns out that this move was not very good for business. One of the reasons that people go to a store like Circuit City, rather than buying things on the Internet, is that they want to be able to talk to a knowledgeable salesperson. Since Circuit City had laid off their knowledgeable salespeople, there was little reason to shop there.

Apparently Circuit City came to this same conclusion earlier this fall and tried to hire back some of the people it had dumped. In any case, things have not gone well for the bottom line. The company is now losing money and its share price is down more than 75 percent from its value earlier this year.

We all know what happens when you mess up in the dog eat dog world of big business—you get retention awards (that’s because your stock options aren’t worth anything). The Post reports that Circuit City’s executive vice-presidents will get retention awards of $1 million each. That’s 35 years worth of pay for one of sales clerks who earned $14 an hour. And that’s just the bonus.

This touching account of Santa Claus visiting Circuit City’s executive suites belonged on the front page of the Post and every other newspaper. What better way to get in the Christmas spirit?


Posted by Elvis on 12/23/07 •
Section Dying America
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