Roberts did what he always does: support interests of big business, which likes the healthcare act

I didn’t make a prediction in print on whether the Supreme Court would rule that the Affordable Care Act was constitutional or not, but I told several friends that I thought the vote would be 6-3 in favor of the law. I figured that Roberts always votes for the best interests of large corporations, and most large corporations like the new law because it takes a lot of the burden for paying the nation’s health insurance bill off their backs.  It thus made sense to me that Roberts would support the law’s constitutionality.

Roberts chose to justify his thumb up by reducing the many moving parts in the law to a net flow of money and then characterizing that flow as a “tax.” It was the same type of convoluted reasoning that the court has used in many bad rulings it has issued in recent years, such as Citizens United (which released a flood of corporate money into political waters), Bush V. Gore (which gave the 2000 election to the loser of the popular vote) and Knox v. Service Employees (which says that union members can opt out of providing financial support to political candidates).  In this case, Roberts twisted so that he could support the law without having to deal with states’ rights and other sacred rightwing principles.

President Obama gave the Republican Party some very good advice at the end of his lunch-time speech about the court’s decision when he said that it’s time to move on. Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Eric Cantor are all making inflammatory statements about repealing the law, but unless the fall election gives them both houses, repeal efforts will do nothing but keep the issue in the news and provide another distraction from solving real problems.

Although Romney has initially said that whoever wants to appeal this law should vote for him, I think he’ll lose if he focuses a good part of his campaign around repeal of the Affordable Care Act. A lot of Tea Partiers may hate the idea of government intervention in health care (except for Medicare, of course, which serves a large number of Tea Partiers), but these folk were going to vote for Romney anyhow.  They despise President Obama.

But consider the math. When a Tea Party enthusiast decides to vote for Romney because Mitt supports health care repeal, that’s one vote. The section of the law that keeps children on their parents’ policies until age 26 gets 3 votes: mother, father and adult child.

And that’s the Republicans’ dilemma. There is something for everyone to like in the new law: benefit extensions and protections for the insured, affordable insurance for the uninsured, new funding mechanisms for businesses, fewer noninsured to muck up the finances of hospitals and a lot of potential new customers for insurance companies.

Once Romney and the Republicans start messing with any of these new benefits, someone will get angry.  And if they start giving ground on any of these benefits, the true believing Tea Partiers will object. Of course, they could go radical—what I have started calling “bat-Cantor crazy”—and call for the repeal of Medicare and its replacement by a voucher system. I don’t think a lot of seniors are going to like that idea one bit.

In short, now that the Supremes have upheld the constitutionality of the new law, the Republicans have no short-term winning strategy on health care. For that reason, I think that the health care issue will fade away, as Republicans hammer on Obama and the Democrats for the sluggish performance of the economy and the persistence of high unemployment.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the issue dropped off the political agenda by the end of the summer.


Court backs clean air and science in ruling that EPA can regulate against global warming

Whatever the Supreme Court  announces later this week related to the Affordable Care Act, another court in the land has made a landmark decision that will improve the health and well-being of everyone in the United States, if not the world.

A federal court has upheld a finding by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that man-made greenhouses gases pose a threat to public health that requires the EPA by law to impose limits on the emissions causing the danger. 

The unanimous decision rejected the arguments raised by the hacks hired by some (but not all) utilities, manufacturing companies and business associations. Those who brought the lawsuit against the EPA were trying to sell the old myth that the very idea that the Earth is warming is based on unreliable studies. Luckily, the judges could read and therefore understand with great clarity that the overwhelming preponderance of evidence supports the science of global warming.

As even The Wall Street Journal’s anti-EPA version of the news admits, there is little room in the decision for appeal, as the judges noted several times how strongly the law backed the EPA’s position. Despite the great odds of winning, though, Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia said the state plans to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Virginia was one of 14 states that sued to block the EPA rules; the list of other states that joined in the lawsuit against the best interests of their citizens reads like a roll call of Tea Party hotspots: Alaska, Nebraska, North Dakota and Texas, for example.  

That 15 states, including California, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Oregon, supported the EPA regulations underscores the deep divisions we have in the country right now. To a great extent, those divisions have occurred because one side insists on spewing out lies and questioning the validity of proven science.

In the case of global warming, there are two sets of lies: 1) that environmental regulations hurts the economy; 2) that the science of global warming is not yet proven.  The judges did not have to deal with the first set of lies. To the second, it answered with crushing clarity, exemplified by the most quoted part of the decision: “This is how science works. The EPA is not required to reprove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”   

We should celebrate this victory for everyone—since everyone has to breathe the air and many millions are suffering and will suffer from the severe economic dislocations that extreme weather and resource shortages are causing and will continue to cause.

But in this victory, let’s also look at the sober fact: The appeals court ruled that it was okay for the EPA to make its decisions based on scientific truth.  Opposed to this proposition were the politicians of 14 states and the lawyers of many companies and associations. Their efforts, backed by millions of dollars, slowed down implementation of anti-pollution regulations for some 5 years.

They also acted against the wishes of their constituencies, according to a 2012 study of the public’s attitudes on energy and the environment conducted by George Mason’s University’s Center for Climate Change Communications. In a study that received absolutely zero publicity, George Mason researchers found that:

  • 72 % of Americans think that addressing global warming should be a very high priority.
  • 92 % of Americans think that developing sources of clean energy should be a very high priority.
  • 83 % of Americans think that protecting the environment either improves economic growth and provides new jobs (58%) or has no effect on economic growth or jobs (25%).

Thus even with the law, the truth and the public on its side, the EPA still had to slog through 5 years of legal proceedings just to demonstrate that, indeed, the government can make a decision based on facts. says that all of us can live our dreams, and uses as its example a fictional frog

Four months ago I thought I dispensed with the website, a hodgepodge of feel-good slogans and stories, funded by billionaire Phillip Anschutz through The Foundation for a Better Life.

At that time I wrote about the following about the 88 values touted on

These values can apply to anything. A dictatorship or state ruled by one party would be just as likely to list all these values as a representative democracy would. Virtually all these values (with the exception of “true beauty”) would come in handy in training an elite force to torture and engage in illegal assassinations. Many of these values would make a perfect substitute for “Arbeit Macht Frei,” which means “work makes you free” in German and was hung as a sign over the entrance of several Nazi concentration camps. Those in favor of a woman’s reproductive rights are equally able to find solace in contemplating these values as those who wish to restrict these rights.

The amorphous quality of these values…make the campaign for “values”…mere shills for maintaining the status quo, which as people are discovering is a fixed game in favor of those who already have money and power, a game which 95% of the population is currently losing badly.

At that time, I assumed that the advertising campaign would soon end.

But months later, Anschutz persists.

Strolling along Manhattan’s Upper West Side the other day I saw a billboard on the side of a bus shelter that consisted of a color photo (or drawing) of Kermit the Frog.

Here is the text, all very large:

Eats Flies.

Dates a Pig

Hollywood Star


Pass It On

…followed by the website address.

When you go to the website, you can not only find the billboard, but an inspiring story.   The story is not of how Kermit’s creator, Jim Henson, lived his dream. No, it’s about how the imaginary character, Kermit the Frog, has lived his dream, written in the inspirational style that has characterized American business fiction since the original Horatio Alger stories—not a hint of irony.

Here is the “values” lesson presented at website about the Kermit story: “After all if a Frog can accomplish so much, we can do something, too.”

Where do we start?

Most obviously, anyone can accomplish anything in fiction. A frog doesn’t have to go to college, and if it does, it will surely graduate whatever its level of effort, prior experience or natural capabilities, unless it’s a secondary character. But it’s Kermit so he’ll pass and probably give the graduation speech, because it’s a fiction and he’s a hero. Just as everyone is a hero/heroine of his/her own dream.

But how does comparing what you’ve been doing to what an imaginary animal does to succeed going to help you? You could point to lots of people—Jackie Robinson, Lyndon Johnson, Joe Biden, Lucille Clifton, Beverly Sills, Steve Jobs and Howie Long all come to mind—as people about whom one could say, if they could do it, you can too. But an imaginary frog?

More subtle is the subtext behind the “values” message to “live your dream.” What does “live your dream” mean? Get what you want.

What kind of a value is “get what you want?” Seek the power, money, possessions, friends and whatever else defines your dream—whatever it is.

That sounds like the politics of selfishness, to me. I thought a “value” was supposed to link people to something beyond themselves, to their families, communities, nation, world, philosophies and political beliefs.

Most subtle, are the details that define “living the dream” in the Kermit billboard: He’s a Hollywood star, a celebrity. Not a scientist, not a president of a major university, not a business titan, not even an athlete: a celebrity. Once again, when given the opportunity to promote an ideal to which to aspire, an American thought influencer resorts to the celebrity.

In one billboard, then, uses a conflation or false analogy to propose selfish pursuit as a positive value and defines that pursuit in terms of a primary symbol of consumerism (the celebrity).  The overall impact of the website is to sell the current status quo, while the particulars of the advertising campaign built around “live your dream” provides key details of what the controllers of the website want our values and dreams to be.   

Art experts refuse to stand up to forgeries and mislabeled art for fear of being sued

An article in today’s New York Times details a very disturbing trend: curators, scholars and other art experts are refusing to have an opinion on whether a work of art is genuine or not.

By genuine, what the article and all the art experts quoted mean to say is that the art was created by the person to whom it is attributed, always a famous artist.

The reason that the art experts are afraid to do what their job is—analyze art and determine its authenticity—is that they are afraid of being sued by either a purchaser or a seller who learns that her  Rodin is not really a Rodin. With paintings going for tens and sometimes hundreds of millions, a lot is at stake when someone says that a painting that was thought to be a Leonardo or a Matisse was really painted by someone else—a follower, a member of the school or even an out-and-out forgery. 

When lots of money is on the line, people often sue when they don’t get their way, so it makes sense that they would sue someone who can cost them money because of a studied opinion.

For example, the Times article includes a photo of some of 74 plasters attributed to Edgar Degas. Too quote the caption: “fearing lawsuits, scholars are afraid to declare them genuine or not.”

It may make sense to those who initiate these lawsuits, but that doesn’t change the highly suspect ethical position of the art expert who bites his tongue about his professional opinion. The lack of integrity of the art expert who lets pass a forgery or a mislabeled painting is, as the Romans used to say, “res ipso loquitur or “a thing that proves itself.” It’s similar to a stock analyst who won’t pan a stock because his company is selling it or the public relations executive who lets a company lie in a news release because it’s a large client. It’s just plain wrong. And it’s a betrayal of the trust that society puts in experts and other intellectuals. (The first to use the term “betrayal of the intellectuals” was Julian Benda, who argued in 1927 that European intellectuals of the preceding hundred years often ceased to follow their professional dictates to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for nationalism, warmongering and racism.) 

The most intriguing part of the story, though, is not what it says about yet another betrayal by intellectuals, but what it says about the power of branding.

Just think about it: here is a beautiful work of art that delights or stuns or evokes some emotional and intellectual reaction that is both pleasurable and edifying.  Suddenly you learn that it’s not a Picasso and so it’s worth less money.  Or an absolute monstrosity of a drawing, just as “fuggly” as you could imagine—but then you learn that John Chamberlain did it as a sketch for one of his metal sculptures and suddenly it gains in value. The value of the artwork increases or decreases dramatically by attaching a name to or detaching a name from the work, whose essence remains the same. It’s like bottling tap water, giving it a name that evokes health or purity and selling it as special water, wait…they’ve been doing that for years!

When the name of the artist and his or her general style becomes a brand, the value of which inflates the price that people and museums are willing to pay for the work, people are really buying the name more than they are buying the work itself. As with Coke, Bill Blass or even Paul Newman’s salad dressing, the power of the brand is an integral part of the product. The brand on a product usually stands for a set of values with which the company wants to associate its products, or it enables the company to extend to other markets or other product types easily, because people know the brand. In the case of the name of an artist, the product doesn’t change, just the price people are willing to pay for it.

The power of branding in art is ultimately bad for society, for this reason: rich folk trade this art between themselves or buy it and donate it to museums (often years later for a tax break on the current value which may be many times what was originally paid for the piece). All of this money is thereby kept out of the real economy. It doesn’t create jobs. It doesn’t help the economy grow. It’s just another proof that cutting taxes on the wealthy (as Bush II did twice and Romney wants to do again) doesn’t create more jobs than if the government had used the money to improve our roads, reduce the number of kids in public school classes or invest in advanced technologies.  We should end the tax deduction for giving art to museums or assess a very steep tax on all art purchases of more than $250,000. My solution would be to return to the taxation system of 1979, which will not only result in the wealthy having far less money to spend on frivolities such as signatures at the bottom of paintings, but also help to create a more equitable distribution of wealth.

OMG! sinks to new low in anti-intellectualism: celebs who never graduated from high school

OMG!, Yahoo!’s online celebrity magazine, has commemorated the fact that third-rate actor Mark Wahlberg finally earned his G.E.D. by giving us a list of 11 actors and models who never finished high school.

The photo-story consists of a list that unfolds over 11 web pages (to make it easier for the reader to see all the ads). Each web page tells a celebrity’s “I quit high school” story.

The tease to the story on Yahoo!’s home page is unethically misleading: “This list shows you don’t need a diploma to make millions in show business.”

The statement and the list itself play a deceptive fraud on readers, many of whom are impressionable teens and pre-teens to whom the celebrity mongers are selling a bill of goods about what constitutes success and value. While we can find celebrities and business titans, and even scientists who have not finished high school or college, they are rare and have become rarer over the last few decades.  Writing “You don’t need a diploma…” has the same ring of truth to it as “It will probably snow in January in Rochester,” while in fact the successful person without a high school diploma is a rarity.

To drive home the deception in the article, I want to take a look at this odious list of celebs without diplomas from three perspectives:

  1. The list itself: Of the 11 celebs without diplomas, 4 come from families that are quite wealthy and well-connected, part of the 1%. Most people can’t ask mommy who is “in the biz” to call a business associate or pull a favor, so they might be well-served to get the diploma and the additional training that goes with it.
  2. The celeb lists they don’t give: Wikipedia lists 86 television and film actors who went to Yale, 68 who went to Harvard and 118 who went to UCLA.  That’s only three colleges and it only includes film and television.  If I had to bet on either a college graduate or a high school dropout making it in Hollywood or on Broadway, I’d go with the kid with more training, and the numbers agree with me.
  3. The list of non-celebs without high school diplomas: For every person who becomes a famous celebrity, there are thousands who try and fail.

The article never points out the hard cold facts of economic failure for virtually anyone with no education or certification. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the average wage of a high school dropout is less than $20,000 a year. A high school graduate makes on average more than $27,000 a year. Someone with an associate degree makes about $36,000 and someone with a 4-year degree makes almost $47,000 a year on average. Kids with dreams of fame who don’t quite make it can always fall back on their education—but only if they have one.

And many kids have dreams of fame. There are at least a thousand colleges offering degrees in performing arts that graduate students every year, many of whom want to work in show business. Every city has at least one modeling school and we all know how many college teams there are for every major sport.  Even for those with talent and drive, the chance of celebrity success is slight.

The ideological subtext behind the article is an extreme form of anti-intellectualism, the premise that one doesn’t really need an education to succeed.  The news media feeds us this nonsense with some frequency, but the OMG! article is especially obnoxious because it suggests that kids won’t suffer if they drop out of high school and pursue stardom.

Opponents to minimum wage use illogical assumptions and imaginary anecdotes as their arguments

I have rarely received as negative a reaction as when I lambasted Professor Thomas Sowell the other day for, among other things, his opposition to the minimum wage—any minimum wage. The number of negative comments rivaled what I received when I said that no comic book could be a mature work of art, as a novel or poem can.

In the case of the supporters of Marvel: The Avengers, who called me on my overly general statement about comic books, I admitted I went too far in a retraction a few days later.

But all I have to offer anyone who is opposed to a minimum wage is scorn and contempt.

Their arguments are self-serving and typically built on imaginary anecdotes, as imaginary as Reagan’s welfare queens driving Cadillacs or Santorum’s poor people emotionally crippled by the worst kind of addiction, food stamp dependency.

Let’s start with the imaginary business owner who can’t afford to hire someone to sweep the floors at $7.25 an hour, so he does it himself or the floors stay dirty. For years, whenever anyone proposed raising the minimum wage, critics have painted a grim future of thousands of business owners sweeping floors or living with filth. The floor-sweeping business owner has taken its place as one of the classic figures of right-wing economic mythology.  The first time I heard this metaphor used as the primary argument to oppose the minimum wage was when I was in college making a minimum wage of $1.25 an hour from a part-time job on a Sear’s shipping dock.

My question, then and ever since, is how valuable is the time of the owner if he can afford to sweep the floors him/herself instead of looking at the books, coaching employees, visiting clients or supervising the sales floor, developing growth plans, negotiating with suppliers, serving on boards where he can spread good will about the company in the community, or any of the other high level jobs entailed in running any successful business?   In many businesses such as mine, when a highly ranked employee works an hour, he or she can create dozens and sometimes hundreds of hours of work for other employees. What owner would be foolish enough to waste time sweeping floors instead of creating this additional work?  And aren’t there usually other employees who could sweep those floors, freeing the boss to perform tasks more central to making money?

As to the case of a potential business that depends on a lot of employees but can only make a profit if these employees are paid $4 or $5 an hour—maybe the owner has to take less profit or raise prices; in other words: change the business model.

The idea behind the imaginary owner-sweeper is silly. No well-run business hires additional employees if it hasn’t first figured out how to make money off of them, unless it’s a relative or a friend and the company is doing very well.

There are many factors that determine the current market for every position, including marketplace conditions, the presence of a union at the company or in the industry and the imputed value of the skill base and experience of the employee (which means that in this society, companies are willing to pay more for senior sales executives than for entry-level welders). All the minimum wage does is to put a floor on the minimum value of all jobs, as a protection of individual workers.

Which brings us to the other imaginary anecdote, another classic: the young kid struggling to get out of poverty who just needs a chance, but can’t get it because the minimum wage prevents anyone from hiring him. There is no doubt that there are any number of desperate people who would work for less than the current minimum wage, including lots of illegal aliens and teenagers. And when a recession hits, their numbers proliferate.

Yes, out of desperation, these people will work for anything. But that doesn’t make it right. The minimum wage is society’s way of saying that every person is entitled to a minimum amount of compensation (and dignity) when they exchange their work for money.

Which brings us to the underlying economic theory behind opponents of the minimum wage, including Professor Sowell, a premise so abstract that the right-wing has yet to create an imaginary person to embody its meaning: the minimum wage distorts the marketplace.

Damn right it does, and that’s a good thing. It’s supposed to distort the market place. Here are some other distortions of the marketplace:

  • Using standard weights and measures
  • Laws concerning the enforcement of contracts
  • Regulations to ensure the safety of food products
  • State certifications before people can practice medicine or law or teach children

In fact, every rule or custom of society distorts the absolute free market. Some distortions are good, such as the use of standard weights and measures. Some are obviously bad, such as prohibition of alcohol in the first part of the 20th century.

Those who oppose something just because it distorts the marketplace don’t really oppose marketplace distortions, just the ones that hurt their interests or the interests of those who pay their salaries. The minimum wage raises the wages not just of minimum-wage employees but of all others, and so distorts by redistributing wealth from business owners to their employees. When I look at economic realities—for example, the fact that most of the wealthy and near wealthy run, own or manage businesses and the fact that we have seen a widening split between what the wealthy make and own and what everyone else makes and owns—when I see these facts, I’m not so worried about the marketplace distortion that occurs because of the minimum wage. Even though I own a business, I would be delighted to see the marketplace distortion that would result if the minimum wage were raised to $10 or even $15.

That distortion, by the way, is called economic equity.

Writer’s dream of retirement assumes that no one likes city living

I was going to ignore the silly article by Tom Sightings titled “Dreams of the Ideal Retirement Home” in the latest U.S. News & World Report, but it hasn’t left the home and news pages of the major Internet news portals since it was first posted last Wednesday. With such media penetration, I feel as if I have to warn readers that the article is little more than propaganda against city life.

Sightings’ musings on retirement resemble all the real estate lists that appear in standard general news stalwarts like US. News, Forbes, Bloomberg News, the Associated Press and Reuters. The underlying ideological point of all these lists is to advocate for a non-urban life style, one dependent on cars and malls and in which the thought of going to a museum or serious play never crosses the mind, because we’re all so busy playing golf and camping out. (See OpEdge on April 11, 2012; September 23, 2011; and March 9, 2010, for example.)

Sightings doesn’t create a list. Instead his article does a little collective wishing out loud for his readers. His article flits from one retirement idyll to another, including:

  • In the country
  • In a small house with a small yard in a small town (Sightings’ own retirement dream)
  • Beachfront, or at least near the sea
  • Golf communities
  • A home with access to parks
  • University towns (he mentions Newark DE, Athens GA and Tempe AZ).

He completes his musings with a discussion of some non-geographic attributes—age of home, size of home, proximity to an interstate or airport.

Nothing about living in the exciting cities of Manhattan, downtown Chicago or Boston, Washington or Philadelphia, with their museums, live theatre, top musical performances of all types, experimental arts, major libraries and non-chain restaurants and retail establishments.

Nothing about living in the many quaint and bustling neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Seattle, Atlanta, New Orleans (those that are left) or Milwaukee.

It’s not just city life that the author ignores.  He also ignores those parameters of the decision on “where to live when retired” in which urban life excels, such as:

  • Extensive and dependable mass transit
  • Major healthcare facilities
  • Cultural activities
  • Infrastructure of services and social opportunities for senior citizens

What Sightings does is assume the superiority of the suburbs and rural areas, both when working and in retirement.

Why this hate of the city? It’s a confluence of two trends, one deeply seated in American history and one a phenomenon originating the post-World War II era. The long-term trend is American distrust of “the other”—the immigrant, the foreigner, those of different color. Cities thrive on diversity, which by its nature forges all “others” into a mosaic of “all of us, each different” (that I personally find beautiful).

The other trend—in operation only since about 1945—is the synched messages of car companies, real estate developers and retail chains about the blandishments of suburban living: buy this new house, depend on cars and shop only in recognizable places that look like what you see everywhere else.

No one can say if Sightings buys into the ideology and doesn’t know that his piece is little more than propaganda against cities. But he does know that he’s fooling the readers about something: The article begins with his pulling weeds and dreaming of retirement, and ends with a collective sigh for all of us (including himself) who will have to get through another weekend of taking care of the yard. But the biography that follows the article mentions that he is already retired. He deceives us by saying in the article that he is dreaming of attaining a condition that he is already in.  The deception is purely rhetorical (as the bio admits the truth), but unnecessary. Sightings could have written the same article without the personalization.

Thomas Sowell proved long ago that he has neither soul nor heart for the working class

In his most recent column, which I saw in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Thomas Sowell patronizes the working class by imagining a group of educated people who look down on manual and semi-skilled labor. He characterizes Utopian intellectuals who “lament that many people work ‘just for money’” and want every job to be self-fulfilling, which Sowell says the Utopians say excludes janitors and fast food cashiers.  Sowell ends his article, titled “Meaningful Work,” by lambasting those who tell young people that certain jobs are “menial.”

Sowell, who has been touting rightwing causes as a senior fellow at the ultra-conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford for decades, pretends to be a friend of young people and the working class, protecting them from the hectoring of the elitist college police. 

Let’s forget about the fact that Sowell doesn’t name one of these elitists, although he alludes to an unnamed “internationally renowned scholar who recently said that what low-income people needed was ‘meaningful work.’” Nor does he cite any studies, e.g., of attitudes of educators, the wealthy or some other groups towards manual and semi-skilled labor.  It’s painfully clear that Sowell has created a straw man—I guess I should say, straw group—so that he can assert his pride in the working class.

When it comes time to actually do something for young people, minorities or the working class, whatever the proposal is, Sowell is ready to shoot it down. Money is the ultimate sign of respect in our society, so let’s take a look at how Sowell stands on issues that put more money into the pockets of manual and semi-skilled workers.

Sowell is against any kind of minimum wage, because he says it distorts the marketplace. Like a doting uncle, Sowell worries about the young people who lose job opportunities because employers can’t afford to hire people to do certain jobs. It’s a bunch of malarkey. Employers make money on every employee, either directly or because doing the work frees a more valuable employee to make money directly.  Employers only hire workers they need, and when they need a worker, they hire one. The minimum wage makes sure that everyone gets paid fairly, no matter what the job or the age of the worker.

Sowell also despises unions, which catapulted millions of manual and semi-skilled laborers into the middle class for decades. It’s not a coincidence that as soon as union membership started to shrink, so did the real buying power of the average worker. Unions not only ensure high wages for union members (even college educated ones such as teachers and nurses), but they also put pressure to raise the salaries for all jobs at a company or in an industry, both management and nonunionized workers. Again, like a good uncle, Dr. Sowell says he only has the best interest of workers in mind when he says that “unions are for unions.” Sowell shows only mock concern for employees, who he assumes can buy each other a better deal with the employer than each could if teamed with all her/his fellow employees. After all, it works for Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Durant. And I’m sure it worked for Sowell in his last contract negotiation, too.

In his article, Sowell says that people who lack skills can “take jobs for which they are currently qualified and then move up the ladder as they acquire more experience.” What ladder is he talking about? He’s a social scientist who is supposed to keep up with the literature.  Hasn’t he heard that a recent study demonstrated that it’s significantly harder in the United States to move up the economic ladder than in any other westernized country, and it’s hardest to rise from the lowest rungs?

If Sowell were truly interested in young people, the uneducated or minorities, he would work to instill an attitude of respect towards all jobs and all kinds of labor. Now in America, that means supporting policies that increase the wages paid to the people who perform manual and semi-skilled labor.

Once again, whites losing ground economically prefer the candidate whose party is responsible

You wouldn’t ask a fox to guard a henhouse. Nor would you ask a known thief to serve as treasurer for a charity. And you certainly wouldn’t have a child molester chaperone a two-week Cub Scout camping trip.

And yet the part of the white middle class that is free-falling towards poverty wants to put a former vulture capitalist in charge of the nation’s economy.

A Washington Post­-ABC poll released earlier this week found that white voters who are struggling financially or experiencing job loss believe that Mitt Romney will do more to advance their economic interests than President Obama will, by a landslide margin of 58% for Romney to 32% for Obama.

It’s just crazy to think that so many more people would trust Romney over any Democrat with their future economic well-being. Say what you will about President Obama’s economic track record as president, Mitt Romney has for decades displayed an enormous disregard for the economic interests of anyone but the super wealthy.

It starts with his profession, investment banker who specialized in buying companies, squeezing costs—often through layoffs—and taking enormous profits.  Bain Capital was never meant to be a job or a wealth creator, but rather a wealth transfer agent that would transfer the value of companies into its bank account.  Sometimes the companies Bain bought and sold thrived and often they went under. Didn’t matter.  Romney and his associates got theirs.

While Romney claims that while he was governor Massachusetts was a job creation machine, the Democrats have released reliable figures that show that Massachusetts was 47th in job creation during Mitt’s years in office, while state debt grew.  That sounds like a Republican, from Reagan to Bush II: slow job growth (or in Bush II’s case, job losses) with an increase in debt.

Now let’s take a look at Romney’s economic ideas:

  • He wants to reduce taxes even more than the current low tax regime that has people with high incomes paying the lowest rates of at least the last 70 years. When rich people don’t pay taxes, they spend some of the extra money, but some gets hidden from the economy in investments that don’t produce jobs. But when the government gets the money, it either spends it or gives it to someone who is going to spend it. Spending money creates demand for goods and services which creates more jobs. Create enough jobs and the demand for labor grows and wages increase.  In a profound way, lowering taxes on the wealthy, as Bush II did, activates a transfer of wealth from middle class and poor people to the wealthy.
  • He wants to make it harder for unions to organize, which means that there will be fewer good paying jobs around, since unionization tends to increase the wages not both of the unionized workers and of other employees at the same company and in the same industry.
  • Romney wants to cut spending on programs that help the middle class and near poor and are making things bearable for the white middle class that has lost jobs. Unemployment, food stamps, health care—you name it, if it’s money that’s going directly to people, Romney doesn’t like it., except of course when it’s tax cuts giving more money to his fellow country-clubbers.

Whites who are struggling—or if you prefer, whites without a college education—have been voting against their economic best interests since the time of Nixon.  Nixon’s brilliant strategist Kevin Phillips developed what was called “The Southern Strategy.” (Phillips has since recanted and spent the rest of his career doing penance for developing this inherently racist and divisive approach to grabbing power by writing a series of books criticizing Republican economic policies).

The objective of the strategy was to pry southern states from the Democratic column by taking stands against busing to achieve integration, affirmative action and other steps to give African-Americans equal rights. The strategy also had Republicans making accusations that the government under Democrats gave away money and jobs to the undeserving (code for minorities).   That message resonated with whites who felt that giving minorities (and women) greater access to the workplace threatened their jobs and who were beginning to lose ground economically as the United States pursued policies that favored its multi-national corporations and banks over maintenance of a strong domestic manufacturing capability.  It was classic “divide and conquer” in which the ruling elite divided the middle class against itself.

Reagan refined the Southern Strategy by adding the white knight of the private sector and unrestrained free enterprise who would save the American people from the wasteful giveaways of the federal government. The coded language defined the undeserving who ended up with “our hard earned money” as minorities, thus playing on old racist myths while strengthening them.

After some 40 years of this brainwashing, it’s no wonder that a large part of the population resents the government and doesn’t realize that the so-called “undeserving” getting government benefits are for the most part very much like themselves—white, uneducated and either poor or struggling.  I can understand their frustration (but not the racism) and I also understand that a lack of education often denies them not just the training to succeed in a technologically driven economy, but also the tools to analyze in depth the absurd claims of right wing politicians.  It doesn’t help matters that there is a large right wing media feeding nonsense to the public and a mainstream media that looks to the right to define the issues on the political agenda.

The result is this grotesque situation in which the oppressed throw their support to a man who symbolizes the oppressors and their techniques of oppression.