Friday, November 23, 2012

Quick Hits - November 20-22, 2012

Perhaps it is just me, but I continue to be stunned when so many of us completely fail to learn the lessons of history - or embrace Einstein's definition of insanity as we continue to try the same thing again and again while expecting different results.  Bloomberg News looks back into history and highlights the links between how things look today (2013) and how they looked in 1937 - as the nation continued to wallow in not only the effects of the Great Depression, but the real failures of FDR's New Deal to stimulate a real economic recovery.

But for many, 1937 is like ancient history - too far back to really understand how the FDR initiatives around entitlements and labor are still vexing and creating problems for us today.  I don't believe we need to go that far back into history to see this cycle at work.  We only need to go back to the mid to late 1970's, in the US, and in Britain, to see the effects of the course we are currently on.

How many people remember the near bankruptcy of New York City -

- or the similar fiscal challenges that affected nearly every major US city?

The 1970's started with the first US Postal Strike - one of the 10 greatest labor actions taken in the US, and continued with the first Major League Baseball strike as well as newspaper strikes in NYC, a NYPD strike, 1974's Baltimore municipal worker, teachers, and police strike which crippled the city, coal strikes, UAW strikes against the auto industry, and sanitation strikes - all of which were designed to generate massive increases in wages and benefits for unionized workers.  The strikes against cities directly contributed to massive fiscal challenges as the cities tried to hike taxes and fees to cover their higher costs - but found that costs and entitlements always seemed to outpace revenues....and efforts to hike revenues via taxes only created new problems as people fled the cities to avoid the higher taxes and fees.

A common element throughout all of these troubled cities was the progressive political leadership of those cities - and their implementation of the progressive agenda which effectively set those cities on the path of stagnation and destruction in the cases where the progressives remained entrenched in power.  The industrial belt cities of the Midwest soon became the rust belt cities of the region - with Detroit becoming the poster child.  Look closely at a city that is trapped within stagnation, massive fiscal challenges, declining population, and ineffective schools, and you will find the common elements around decades of progressive political leadership and politically powerful unions.

Today, these challenges have moved beyond just cities - as there are now states that share not only the same symptoms - but the same cause and effects.  California, the once golden state that in the late 1960's early 1970's was one of the top ranked states in nearly every possible measurement, now ranks in the bottom 5 of states in almost all of the same measurements.  Public and private sector unions dominate and control the political process with hundreds of millions of union dues flooding the airways advocating both the progressive and union agenda.  Politicians elected by the float of these millions now approve sweetheart deals for union workers that cripple businesses and the state.

California's largest city - Los Angeles, is the newest poster child of the fiscal disaster that results from a progressive and pro-union agenda.  The City Council, one of the few across the country that officially endorsed the odious OccupyWallStreet movement, is now bringing a measure to LA voters that will hike it's already highest in the nation sales tax by .5% to try to cover it's growing deficits....despite evidence that hiking these taxes will not result in higher city tax revenues.

Wednesday, one of the biggest travel days of the year, the SEIU union bussed in over 1,000 activists to disrupt traffic going into Los Angeles International Airport - under the guise of complaining about 'unfair labor acts' conducted on workers by a company that provides laborers for the airlines to operate services at the terminals for passengers.  The biased media wasted little time to hype the union demands that the company pays workers far below a 'living wage' and is seeking to eliminate their healthcare coverage (an effect of Obamacare) - but fail to mention the truth of the situation.

One year ago, the workers of that company voted by a 52% majority to remove themselves from the SEIU and the crippling union rules and dues.  Since decertifying their local and leaving the union, their wages have gone up and their benefits have expanded - as the company returned to the workers much of the additional profits they have made.   As a result, of the 1,000+ union demonstrators marching - not one was an employee of the company.

The union thugs were there to send a message to other locals at LAX who see their labor contracts expiring and might be contemplating following the example of the other workers - as well as sending a message to the companies doing business at LAX - kowtow to the union or else.

Today on Black Friday, at numerous WalMart stores across the country, union thugs are attempting to disrupt shoppers in their ongoing effort to expand their tentacles into WalMart stores.  In direct violation of current labor laws, a number of unions have spent months / years trying to 'organize' WalMart stores even as employees resist the efforts - seeing no direct benefit to them to unionize.  WalMart has attempted to fight back by filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board - which is responsible for the enforcement of national labor laws - and gotten nothing back from the NLRB but the sounds of crickets chirping.  Under the Obama Administration, the NLRB has been moved from an unbiased board set on enforcing the labor rules to a pro-union advocacy group that has as its mission of expanding union power and control - not to mention membership.

Hostess Brands Inc, employing 18,500 workers, received approval from their bankruptcy judge to commence the liquidation of the company after the one day mediation effort with the Bakers union, 6,000 Hostess employees strong, failed to generate a compromise that would permit Hostess Brands to remain in business and cost-competitive.

The Bakers union, part of the AFL-CIO, refused to accept an 8% pay cut and 15% in benefit cuts in order to reduce the costs to the company and allow it to compete / exit bankruptcy.  This despite the Teamsters, representing the largest number of company employees, agreeing to accept the cuts in return for an equity stake in the company as well as seats on the Board of Directors.  So adamant was the union about rejecting any cuts - the President of the Bakers union didn't even bother to attend the mediation session.

What is amazing of all of this is not the stupidity of the union leadership playing chicken with 18,500 jobs - but with the moronic and asinine rules imposed on the company by the unions which made the company unprofitable and unsustainable.

Among the brands of Hostess were not only the iconic Twinkie, but Wonder Bread.  But according to union rules, the company had to establish and manage two distinct distribution networks - one for the bread division and another for the snack cake side of the business.  Trucks making deliveries to grocery stores could carry either Wonder Bread or Twinkies - but not both.  Each type of product had to have their own personnel move the product off the truck into the store - and then stock the shelves of the store.  One worker for bread - another for snack cakes.  With this overhead, it's no surprise that the company was unable to stay out of bankruptcy - the unions enforced massive inefficiencies in the operation of the company.

Even with costing their membership, and every other Hostess Brand employee, their jobs, the Union leadership remains unapologetic for their intransigence - now seeking a government bailout to save the 18,500 jobs (just as the Obama Administration 'saved' the Auto Industry) or hoping that whichever organization acquires the liquidated assets will hire the unionized workers to continue their efforts to be irresponsible and greedy.

In the 1970's, the labor unions directly contributed to the economic challenges with their demands for wages and benefits damaged companies and drove up costs for consumers.  We're now repeating this cycle as part of the agenda of the Obama Administration and their progressive allies - as they enact a massive effort towards encouraging class warfare - and buying votes.

The above video is a controversial 'Talking Points Memo' from Bill O'Reilly that highlights the effects of the class warfare promoted by the Obama Administration and his union allies - effects which led to buying sufficient votes to re-elect Barack Obama.  As BOR notes, 20% of those who voted on Election Day earlier this month earned less than $30,000 per year.  Of these, 63% voted for Barack Obama - totaling 7 million more votes for Barack Obama than for Mitt Romney and well more than the 3.5 million votes that separated the popular vote totals between the town candidates.

I disagree with BOR on two key points that he makes.  First, the progressives know that their entitlement programs and open support for labor unions do 'buy votes' and they are quite comfortable with using the power of government to 'buy' votes.  For them, the ends justifies the means.  If they need to buy votes - then they will buy votes because doing so expands and empowers their agenda.

Conservatives see capitalism as providing an equal chance of success with a focus on the individual's efforts and actions towards success.  We also see the importance and need of a safety net that has to be in place that will provide help for those individuals who need a net for failing to achieve success or have been denied the basic tools with which to compete.

Liberals, on the other hand, see their role as being the steward of ensuring success is achieved, of ensuring that 'fairness' exists - and doing so regardless of the actions of the individual.  They also see and promote the division of society into 'special groups' with a goal of delivering 'fairness' to those groups as a collective as opposed to addressing the individual needs.

The second point is with BOR's contention that Mitt Romney was unable to sell to the people the advantages of conservative economics to counter the social divisions and 'buying' of votes promoted by Barack Obama. I contend that Mitt Romney did a fine job selling conservative economics.  But what Romney failed to do was effectively counter the massively negative character assassination he was subjected to via hundreds of millions of negative advertisements and the even greater contributions in-kind delivered by the massively biased media attacking both the GOP candidate and conservativism / capitalism.

What the mainstream media basically did was enact a modern version of the Josef Goebbels propaganda campaign to defame and divide the electorate.  MSNBC, the 'Lean Forward' network of hard left progressives, did not do a single negative story in 2012 about Barack Obama - just as they also failed to produce a single positive story in 2012 about Mitt Romney.

In fact, across the entire mainstream media, they were incredibly 'in the bag' for their candidate, Barack Obama - flooding the airways in  the days / weeks before the election with positive Barack Obama stories and negative Mitt Romney stories.

Unsurprisingly, the media bias has not ended with the reelection of Barack Obama.  The media is hard at work minimizing and marginalizing the increased assertiveness of the labor unions since the election.  They are also hard at work protecting the Obama Administration in the wake of more information, and lies, becoming known over the Administration's incompetence and fecklessness around  the Benghazi terror attack which murdered four Americans.

We now know where the edits were made in the original CIA assessment in the immediate wake of the terror attack which redefined the terror attack as a spontaneous demonstration based on an obscure You Tube video that turned violent - the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

This isn't the first time that James Clapper has demonstrated both his incompetence and his willingness to skew intel / testimony to Congress for political purposes.  During the Muslim Brotherhood sponsored 'Arab Spring' demonstrations intended to overthrow Egyptian President Hosani Mubarak, Clapper attempted to spin the MB as a 'largely secular organization' and not a fundamentalist jihadist organization.

Yet, since the MB took power in Egypt, via the election of Mohamed Morsi, we've seen government sanctioned persecution of Christian Copts, the push for the establishment of Shari'a as the legal basis, and today, President Morsi's unprecedented power grab where he assumes near dictatorial powers - including oversight and control of Egypt's judicial system which has so far been the only remaining obstruction to increased Muslim Brotherhood control of this major MidEast player.

For almost 6 years of the tenure of President George W. Bush, the rabid left and mainstream media, castigated the Bush Administration for their 'obvious politicization' of intelligence information and attempts to mislead the US public (ie - No weapons of mass destruction in Iraq despite evidence being found and that there were, in the 10/10/02 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq passed by a bi-partisan Congress, 27 other reasons to justify the Iraqi invasion) - with little evidence of that Administration actually politicizing intelligence.

But as is commonplace in the projection and moral equivalency fallacies promoted by the progressive left, they are the one's who have embarked down this path - all in the name of political expediency.

I'm going to wrap this post with a large quote from a superb post by Mark Steyn - who writes about the Election Day vote earlier this month in California's Orange County Register - 

On Fox News, Democrat Kirsten Powers argued that Republicans needed to deal with the reality that America is becoming what she called a "brown country." Her fellow Democrat Bob Beckel observed on several occasions that if the share of the "white vote" was held down below 73 percent, Mitt Romney would lose. In the end, it was 72 percent, and he did. Beckel's assertion – that if you knew the ethnic composition of the electorate you also knew the result – turned out to be correct.

This is what less-enlightened societies call tribalism: for example, in the 1980 election leading to Zimbabwe's independence, Joshua Nkomo's ZAPU-PF got the votes of the Ndebele people while Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF secured those of the Shona – and, as there were more Shona than Ndebele, Mugabe won.

Everyone talks about this demographic transformation as if it's a natural phenomenon, like Hurricane Sandy. Indeed, I notice that many of those exulting in the inevitable eclipse of "white America" are the same people who assure me that demographic arguments about the Islamization of Europe are completely preposterous. But in neither the United States nor Europe is it a natural phenomenon. Rather, it's the fruit of conscious government policy.

According to the Census, in 1970 the "Non-Hispanic White" population of California was 78 percent. By the 2010 census, it was 40 percent. Over the same period, the 10 percent Hispanic population quadrupled and caught up with whites.

That doesn't sound terribly "natural" does it? If one were informed that, say, the population of Nigeria had gone from 80 percent black in 1970 to 40 percent black today, one would suspect something rather odd and unnatural had been going on. Twenty years ago, Rwanda was about 14 percent Tutsi. Now it's just under 10 percent. So it takes a bunch of Hutu butchers getting out their machetes and engaging in seven-figure genocide to lower the Tutsi population by a third. But, when the white population of California falls by half, that's "natural," just the way it is, one of those things, could happen to anyone.

The short history of the Western Hemisphere is as follows: North America was colonized by Anglo-Celts, Central and South America by "Hispanics." Up north, two centuries of constitutional evolution and economic growth; down south, coups, corruption, generalissimos and presidents-for-life. None of us can know the future. It may be that Charles Krauthammer is correct that Hispanics are natural Republicans merely pining for amnesty, a Hallmark Cinco de Mayo card and a mariachi band at the inaugural ball. Or it may be that, in defiance of Dr. Krauthammer, Grover Norquist and Little Mary Sunshine, demographics is destiny and, absent assimilationist incentives this country no longer imposes, a Latin-American population will wind up living in a Latin-American society.

Republicans think they're importing hardworking immigrants who want a shot at the American Dream; the Democrats think they're importing clients for Big Government. The Left is right: Just under 60 percent of immigrants receive some form of welfare. … While Canada and Australia compete for high-skilled immigrants, America fast-tracks an unskilled welfare class of such economic benefit to their new homeland they can't even afford a couple of hundred bucks for the necessary paperwork.
We are more firmly on a very tenuous and dangerous path.  We have to look back at history and learn from it - making the right observations over what has happened in the past - and undertaking the correct measures to put us back on the right path.  My fear is that we are not only failing to learn from history - but repeating Einstein's definition of insanity by doing the same things all over again and expecting different results.

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