Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Strike? Well....maybe

For the past few months House Speaker John Boehner has continually told us that we need to lower taxes and cut regulations for the Job Creators if we want the jobs picture to improve.  He's been pretty vague about exactly who these Job Creators actually are, although he did invite ten of them to sit in his box during President Obama's recent address to Congress.

It's worth noting that the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which are one of the largest elements in the current deficit, are now ten years old, but somehow they hasn't inspired the Job Creators, so apparently we need to do more.  Now, Speaker Boehner has clarified the situation by stating that the Job Creators are on Strike. we know.

In the usual labor vs. management situation, only Labor can strike.  Management imposes a lockout.  Since the Job Creators are businesses, it would make more sense to say they've imposed a Lockout, but maybe that's just a technicality.  In any case, let's look at what this Strike is all about.

In somewhat simplistic terms, when workers go on strike it's because they wish to exert influence over their employment situation.  Although it's not truly this simple, the usual view is that workers are on strike to "get more."

They can strike over working conditions, which was often the case in the early days of labor unions.  Back in the days of the sweat shop, 16 or 18 hour days, no days off, and near-slavery conditions inside factories that was often the case.  Now, with the advent of OSHA (whoops, too much government regulation no doubt) worker safety is much better and working conditions are typically focused more on things like classroom size.

The other things workers tend to bargain about, and hence strike about, are economic issues.  These are things like wages, possibly overtime, contributions to pension plans, and benefits like health insurance.  All of these usually end up lumped together as Money Issues.  Management, understandably, wants to keep the cost of labor as low as possible, so they'd prefer workers don't cost them too much.

So, oddly enough, Speaker Boehner's choice of the word Strike might be completely appropriate.  According to many, companies are sitting on bunches of money, but not hiring.  Why?  Well, simply because they're greedy.  They want more!  They believe, with some good reasons, that they can sit on their windfall profits and demand more...and the Republicans will deliver.  The vocal elements of the Tea Party want very much to deliver, and they're not timid about saying so.

The Republican Party desperately want unemployment to stay high, at least until the 2012 election, so this Strike is a great deal.  Remember, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated the goal clearly and succinctly:

The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President.

With that as their stated goal, they've encouraged the Strike, and continue to do so.  They accuse the President of being unwilling to compromise, while standing stock still and stating they won't reduce the deficit by raising taxes or closing loopholes.  They demand lower taxes and less regulation.

Lower taxes?  Assuming you agree with the idea, exactly how do we give corporations, those pesky, striking Job Creators, lower taxes.  Last year GE reported $14.2 billion in profits and paid exactly $0 dollars in taxes.  Unless we're prepared to pay them, they can't get a better deal than that.

Less regulation?  Let's look at what the Lack of Regulation does and then decide.

First, I'll ignore the collapse of the housing market and the bailout of Wall Street banks.  We already know about that.  Let's look at something closer to home for most of us: the price of gas.

In 2008, oil hit $140 a barrel.  Gas prices went through the roof.  Why?  Well, it's actually pretty simple.  Here's one example:

In the summer of 2008, Goldman Sachs bought 860 million barrels of oil.  They're a bank.  They don't make refine oil or make gas.  However, they bought oil because they could make money doing so.  Of course, to make money, they sold it later at a higher price, and you paid for that at the pump.  In simple terms, your gas price was higher so Goldman Sachs could make money...which they very nicely shared as million dollar bonuses to their over-paid executives.  Gotta like that Rich Get Richer program.

According to Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, excessive speculation may have increased the price of oil by 40%.

Forty Percent!  That means a barrel of oil that costs $100 should probably cost only $60 if only the people that actually work with oil were playing.  The other $40 is going to line the pockets of the folks who are on Strike for less regulation.

Who pays for this?  Well, you do.  Twice!  First, you get gouged at the pump, and second, you can't find a job.  The ultimate double whammy!  Oil, and the gasoline it makes, is the ultimate opportunity for this because the price floats, unrelated to supply and demand at the retail level.

So, the Job Creators are just plain Greedy.  They've got a great deal going, but want more.  They know that if they can continue to Strike, with John Boehner and the Republicans on their side, they believe they can affect the 2012 election.  For them, it's a win-win.  For you, it's nothing but lose.

Now, back in the beginning I said Strike was probably the wrong term, and I think it is.  Since the Job Creators are "management" they are actually conducting a Lock Out.

A Lock Out means management wants their deal, and won't allow the workers to work until the knuckle under and submit.  If you don't agree with them, you don't have a job.  To me, that sounds a whole lot more accurate.  In fact, it's the ultimate Lock Out.

There is one group that would immediately recognize this economic extortion...the Serfs of the Middle Ages.  They labored hard, were beaten down by the feudal lords, and lived in a time when the rich and the poor were widely separated.  There was no middle class, and the little people had no future.

If we allow Congress to cave in to this extortion, we will have no choice.  Just like the folks back in the Middle Ages, it will eventually come time to have a revolution, and if the Republicans thought 2008 was a bad year they haven't seen anything yet.

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