Not Dead but Comatose

Edward McClelland (“Detroit Isn’t Dead Yet,” 12/15/08 TPP) says, “... environmentalism and the labor movement are intertwined.” Well, yes, but they are hardly arm-in-arm. But many (most?) jobs produce byproduct that environmentalists work to decrease. Now I’m a pro-job Union Man, and I’m not the first to observe that seemingly built-in conflict.

We (well, most of us) are in favor of bailing for the “Big 3,” but we favor such not for the company, the shareholders, the management or even the product, but for the jobs. Let’s face it: the jobs are the product. Nothing new about that. Cities and states have been enticing companies, with a promise of jobs for locals, with subsidy/no tax favors for years. This at the same time companies are tax-incentivized (and shareholder prodded) to emigrate to some low-wage land. Very confusing.

But about US auto companies: To become profitable they will have to lay-off more workers. That was in the works; that is what has worked in other industries. The purposes of “insertion of capital,” i.e., sustainable profitability and jobs are in conflict. Quite confusing. (And $14.50 per hour? What could be more indicative of a global “regression to the mean”?)

But about those industry-killing wages: The way I heard it, that $72 per hour (the quotient) is based on the sum (the dividend) of the wages/benefits of workers and retirees, but is divided by (the divisor) the number of present-day workers. Friend Everett, a big-time beneficiary, is included in that misleading dividend but is not a divisor, probably personally pushed that fictive quotient over $70.

Jerome Bronk
San Francisco, Calif.

Gorilla in Driver Seat

Healthcare, SUVs, quality control, and gas prices get top billing when it’s time to cast blame on the US auto industry. However, there are two other 800-pound gorillas in the room.

Few mention federal laws (for which auto execs probably lobbied) passed during Reagan’s reign that allowed automakers to spend employee pension funds on executive bonuses and bad investments. GM alone spent billions on ill-advised investments that should have gone into worker retirement and healthcare. Further, auto execs have been lamenting the cost of worker healthcare for years. Funny how they can jet down to D.C. to request a bailout but never made it to town years ago to lobby for single-payer healthcare.

The biggest gorilla that gets the least mention is the fact that automakers killed their customer base. How many hundreds of thousands of autoworker jobs have been shipped abroad since the late ’70s? How many more suppliers and auxiliary businesses that relied on the auto industry had to cut jobs or close up shop? These are the people who bought Big 3 vehicles and supported kids who grew up and did the same. When they lose good-paying jobs and take lower-paying ones, there is less (or no) money for new cars and trucks. There’s a reason used car lots often dwarf new car ones—nobody has any money to buy new.

Outsourcing, union busting, and wage suppression may generate mega profits for shareholders and execs in the short run but in the long run such tactics will bite the company in the ass.

Beverly Rice
Charlotte, N.C.

Gorilla in Waiting Room

I am pleased that Froma Harrop recognized the need to address our health care crisis (“Health Care Reform Must Start Now,” 12/15/08 TPP). I agree that “Now is precisely the time to strike” and “Health care is part and parcel of the economic crisis.” And who could argue with computerizing medical records and managing chronic illnesses?

However, Harrop blatantly ignores the 800-pound gorilla in the room which must be shown the door: health insurance companies. While she stresses that reform must be comprehensive (providing care for all medical necessities), she includes private insurers in the mix. Health insurance companies are a major part of the problem, not part of the solution. Cutting out the unnecessary middleman will eliminate the waste of 20 cents(+) on every health care dollar spent.

We’re all familiar with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.)’s public single-payer bill in Congress, HR 676. It would be fabulous if it had a chance of passing, but with no sponsors in the Senate and President-elect Obama clearly not committed to single-payer reform, its prospects do not look good.

A bright light does appear on the horizon, however. Here in Pennsylvania we have in our state House and Senate bills for a Pa. single-payer approach which will be reintroduced when the new legislature is seated in January. The nonpartisan legislation provides for publicly funded, publicly administered, privately provided comprehensive universal guaranteed health care for all. For about 3% of income from residents and 10% of payroll from employers, the system offers care with no caps, no deductibles, no co-pays and no limitations for preexisting conditions.

It can provide an economic stimulus, as well. Fewer consumer dollars go to health care expenses. Health care expenditures by school districts, municipalities, counties, and the state can be cut in half, saving those entities tons of money while providing comprehensive care to their employees (as well as all Pennsylvanians), lowering their bottom line and the amount of tax dollars they require.

The many supporters of the Pa. Family and Business Health Care Security Act are determined to make it become a reality in 2009. I invite my fellow Pennsylvanians and all other interested parties to join us in this effort. Please visit www.HealthCare4AllPA.org and health care related articles at www.CommonSense2.com to learn more about this lifesaving legislation.

Rosie Skomitz
Reading, Pa.

Prosecute War Crimes

Let’s review some ancient history: WW2. After our enemies were defeated, some of those in command positions in the Nazi regime were tried as war criminals.

Some of those that were found guilty paid with their lives for their crimes. Others were confined to prison to serve long terms of incarceration.

The Nazi government was charged with violating the law prohibiting “preemptive military assault” against other nations.

The Japanese Empire was charged with violating international law that forbade torture of military captives.

One particular case stands out: A Japanese officer was tried for the crime of torturing a US civilian. His punishment was 15 years at hard labor. His crime? A practice quite similar to water boarding.

Now scroll down to the present situation in Iraq. Records of enemy combatants captured by the American and allied military forces revealed that the crime of water boarding was committed by the CIA at undisclosed locations.

Which division of the American government authorized this criminal torture? Recent news items have revealed that not only did Vice President Dick Cheney approve this specific torture, but also that even today he has no regrets and has said that, given the same circumstances, he would not hesitate to authorize this again.

It has been reported that, if the United States does not try and punish those government officials found guilty, more than 20 nations of the world now have the universal jurisdiction laws that would allow them to indict US officials on the charge of torture, try them and punish them if found guilty.

Only through the American justice system can we collectively have this stain on our national character removed. Our shame will only be exacerbated if we leave this responsibility to the rest of the world.

Percy Pascoe
Cuba, Mo.

No Justice for Elites

I once committed a serious crime. I got 13 years. Dick Cheney should do his time for his crimes also, as the progressive comments sections seem to suggest.

Otherwise, it is all too clear that “equal justice before the law” is just a pretense that wealthy and powerful people make, sort of like tossing sand in your face.

If the rule of law is actually a state of lawless arbitrary rule by men (and some women), then tyranny is the only rule.

Surely an entire nation which boasts constantly of its “greatness” and “bravery” can do better.

It must be hard on those doing long stretches inside now, knowing only the crimes of the relatively powerless are justly (or unjustly) punished, while the ruling elite and their friends flout the rules ... It gets in the craw of ex-cons, too.

David Tyler
Lafayette, La.

Bush on Minimum Wage

Re: Donald Gutierrez’s review of Bugliosi’s book, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, I would like to give G.W.B. a life sentence ... I would like to add a special provision. He could get out of prison in one year if he would work for the minimum wage for a year and live on that income. This would include medical care. Gifts would be strictly limited and of course he would have to be closely watched. If he didn’t follow all the rules, he would go back to prison. He could try another year if he chose to.

Second thoughts! Why not try this for all nonviolent prisoners? Prisons could have low-cost housing, organic gardens and recycling facilities. Some prisoners could clear brush in forests. This could greatly reduce the prison population and save a lot of money.

One problem—prisons might be a better life for some people than freedom.

Ruth Hamilton
Watsonville, Calif.

End War on Drugs Too

Excellent piece by Froma Harrop in the 1/1-15/09 issue (“Booze or Drugs, Prohibition Senseless”). I wish to offer the following pertinent side issue.

Unlike real crimes that have real victims, the consumption of a controlled substance is ultimately the result of a personal choice made by a free citizen in the privacy of his or her home. In that context, there is no way to enforce the controlled substances law without the use of tactics of questionable constitutionality.

And so we have the narcs, the informers, the corruption. We have the SWAT teams. We have instances of entrapment, euphemistically referred to as “stings.” And we have the Gestapo-like spectacle of drug-sniffing dogs sweeping through school corridors in full view of students who were just told in their civics class that they live in a great country where such things never happen.

Following passage of the “Patriot Act” several years ago, Bush administration flacks were dispatched to various regions of the country to sell the public on its virtues. In Boston, one such individual was pressed by a reporter about the desirability of such tactics as warrantless wiretapping and other forms of invasive surveillance. The gentleman responded: “Well, these are tactics that we already use in the War on Drugs.”

Indeed they are. We should not be surprised by such escalation, for this is what governments do. Let’s get rid of the War on Drugs. Declare victory and start chasing real criminals.

J.F. Dacey
Lowell, Mass.

Billions Wasted on Dope from Mexico

What is our newly elected rock-star president going to do about all the dope flooding into the United States from Mexico?

Our present stupid government has given Mexico millions of dollars to fight the drug gangs, but time after time we read where higher-ups in Mexico police are involved with gangs.

Mexico is a criminal rat hole with dope gangs killing each other for control of the billions of dollars they get from selling dope to stupid dopers in the USA.

Something is wrong in America with so many out of jobs, and losing homes, and no money to buy food for their children, yet billions are being spent to enrich Mexico’s drug gangs.

These anti-drug programs like DARE and paying overtime to police to fight this social disease is a joke when there is no effort to crack down on illegal aliens, who are the mules that pack dope into the US.

A better way is to have a cash bounty paid to anyone who turns in those who sell dope. ...

If US citizens raised a real protest fight against these drug gangs from Mexico, I just bet the newly elected Democrats in Washington would be crying about losing the vote of legal Mexican [Americans] and would not support a citizens’ revolt against this dope invasion from Mexico.

Al Hamburg
Torrington, Calif.

Not All Jobs Worth Saving

Re: “Seniors Burned by Free-Market Collapse” by Sam Uretsky (12/15/08 TPP), Sam started off well documenting the failure of “trickle-down economics,” but wound up worrying about all the jobs that would be lost if Medicare part D was taken away from the insurance companies and put into government-operated Medicare.

Well, when you get change things change. Buggy whips went out of style when the auto came on the scene. If and when renewable energy comes in oil workers will have to get new jobs. I certainly hope the new administration will put prescription drugs under Medicare and mandate that they negotiate the best price for the drugs, just like the VA does.

Thanks to NAFTA the real economy, the factories and workers who create wealth, have largely been sent overseas. What we have is a false economy that just moves wealth around and mostly moves it upward to the coffers of the rich. Insurance companies, banks, and S&Ls create no wealth but collect a toll at each transaction. And, just like a casino, the insurance company has the odds all figured out and if like in Katrina the odds were wrong, they just ask for government help or they can just refuse to pay off.

All useful jobs don’t necessarily create wealth. Some service workers are essential: nurses, policemen, doctors, plumbers, auto mechanics, retail clerks, teachers and lawyers. But a community without a farming or manufacturing base would not be able to sustain these professionals.

Sam, when the coding and billing clerks are no longer needed they will need to retrain. I wouldn’t recommend smashing the machinery that was making their jobs obsolete.

Carroll Johnson
Douglassville, Texas

Bring Troops Home ASAP

No one can accuse TPP of not being broadminded, but maybe there are limits even to broadmindedness (David Quintero letter, “Restore Honor,” TPP, 1/1-15/09). His suggestion that Obama repeat Bush’s lie to the world that he “acted under faulty intelligence ...” goes over the edge of what should be printable, even in a progressive publication. What Obama should do is take George McGovern’s suggestion, not Bush’s or Quintero’s. That is, put our troops and mercenaries on trucks, drive them to the border and get the hell out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and every other G.D. hellhole that we have created all over the globe, over the past 150 years or so. And let’s give the pro-death penalty folks something to cheer about: Turn the entire Bush Junta over to the Nuremberg Tribunals and put people back to work building scaffolds. 

Bernard J. Berg
Easton, Pa.

From The Progressive Populist, Feb. 1, 2009

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