Archive for January, 2014

Jingle Bells, Something Smells…

January 6, 2014

Image

It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and The Grapes of Wrath were just on my libturd, Obamanation, communist TV this holiday season. It is part of the left-wing media’s war on Christmas, every Christmas. These movies are brainwashing workers into thinking they deserve a share of the American dream, when in truth, they need to earn it. Business succeeds by crushing the competition and minimizing costs – and wages are one of those pesky costs – so if you want more go out and earn more.

To hear it told by some Foxy commentators, Henry Potter is the real hero of It’s A Wonderful Life and Tom Joad should be thanking the farm-owners and the camp “guards” as job creators in The Grapes of Wrath. And isn’t Scrooge just a rational businessman in a secular world? Why should his workers get time off for their religious celebration when profits can be made? Propaganda they say and maybe they’re right.

Consider this:

It’s A Wonderful Life  – The Bailey Building and Loan was poorly run – a quaint family business with an incompetent relative charged with critical fiduciary responsibilities. Who can blame Potter when opportunity falls at his feet?

The Grapes of Wrath  – The murderer, Tom Joad, whines when his pay is reduced. What he didn’t realize is when 20,000 workers show for 800 fruit picking jobs wages were bound to head south. It’s the law of supply and demand and Joad wants to break that law, too. This criminal should be thankful he has any work. He should quit his bellyaching or get another job, duh!

A Christmas Carol – Poor Scrooge just wants to pay his workers what they earn – no more and no less. If his workers take time off, why should he pay them? His only true concern is his business, not his employees’ personal lives.

And now consider this:

All of the above makes sense – because business is all about maximizing profits and opportunities. That’s the story of business as told by Wall Street players and mega-banks and they are pitching their story hard.

In It’s A Wonderful Life the Bailey Building and Loan’s product to provide the people of Bedford Falls a valued alternative to slumlord Potter’s rents. Good for many, but cut into maximizing Potter’s profits.

In The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad wants to earn enough to feed his family and for them to be treated fairly. The farm owners are all about the money, workers be damned.

We are also told that small business is the backbone of America; that they are the job creators. Every small business begins with an idea for a product or service and every successful small business has customers who find value in that product or service. Finding those customers and creating enough value is the real action of an entrepreneur, profit is the reward.

Henry Ford understood this. He also understood his workers could be his customers if he paid then enough – a short term loss versus long term gain. That is what the bankers and players don’t understand. That doesn’t feed their quarterly bonus programs.

These are the folks who came up with mortgage-backed securities and made money on both ends of a bad deal – Put your home on the line… no worries…oops, my bad… all the way to the bank.

Charles Dickens’ father was in a debtor prison because he owed the town baker £40. Luckily his mom died and left him enough dough to pay off his daily bread. These prisons and poor houses were the workfare of the day and were created so the poor would pay for themselves by working as a collective and, hopefully, generate enough revenue to reduce the tax burden on those well-off enough to have to pay taxes. When the forced labor didn’t produce enough money then fees were added – room and board fees, ankle-chain removal fees, skull crusher removal fees (seriously). All this was designed to teach the poor a lesson – don’t be poor.

In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Scrooge is asked to make a charitable contribution to help these poor, but he thinks he has done enough. This is how Dickens crafts the exchange:

“I wish to be left alone,” said Scrooge. “Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned — they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.”

“Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.”

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. Besides — excuse me — I don’t know that.”

“But you might know it,” observed the gentleman.

“It’s not my business,” Scrooge returned. “It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!”

Much like Cain, he denies knowledge of his brother’s condition and wonders why he is asked to be his keeper.

Each of these stories pits the good of the many against the good for the few; the 99% versus the 1% and now we are being these stories have it wrong. If the 1% were left alone they would help the rest – honest… with sugar on top.

Does anyone remember the killing of Anna LoPizzo during the Bread and Roses Strike in Lawrence? Or the lynching of union organizer Frank Little? The seventeen workers shot in the back in the Anaconda Road Massacre? The actions of the Pinkertons during the Homestead Steel Strike? The Ludlow Massacre? The Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago? The Bay View Massacre? These were the actions of owners against workers who wanted improved working conditions.

This is not just in our past like the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that killed 146 garment workers who couldn’t escape because exits were blocked or locked in the name of loss prevention. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India employed cheap, under-trained workers in a building where safety systems were shut off and maintenance was cut as cost saving measures. This plant exploded in 1984 killing 3787 and exposed a half a million more to toxins whose effects are still to be determined. In 2012, 117 garment workers were killed in a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh and in 2013, in that same city, the owners of another garment factory building were told it exhibited cracks and was unsafe. The next day they demanded their workers return to work in the morning and the building collapsed crushing 1129 more workers.

This is business as lord and the workers as replaceable serfs. This is not theory. Businesses are run by humans and humans are greedy animals, be they boss or worker. But the boss has the power to act on his greed and the weaker worker can only react.

From the 1916 report for the U.S. Congress by the Commission on Industrial Relations:

Violence is seldom, if ever, spontaneous, but arises from a conviction that fundamental rights are denied and that peaceful methods of adjustment can not be used. The sole exception seems to lie in the situation where, intoxicated with power, the stronger party to the dispute relies upon force to suppress the weaker…

The origin of violence in connection with industrial disputes can usually be traced to the conditions prevailing in the particular industry in times of peace, or to arbitrary action on the part of Governmental officials which infringes on what are conceived to be fundamental rights. Violence and disorder during actual outbreaks usually result from oppressive conditions that have obtained in a particular shop or factory or in a particular industry. Throughout history where a people or a group have been arbitrarily denied rights which they conceived to be theirs, reaction has been inevitable. Violence is a natural form of protest against injustice.

The principal sources of an attitude leading to violence are … arrogance on the part of the stronger party. This may result immediately in violence through the use of force for the suppression of the weaker party… Such physical aggression is seldom used by employees, as they are strategically the weaker party and the results are negative; only under exceptional circumstances can an employer be coerced by the use of force or intimidation…

Many instances of the use of physical force by the agents of employers have … come before the Commission, indicating a relatively wide use, particularly in isolated communities… The instruments of industrial force belong chiefly to the employer, because of his control of the job of the worker. Their use is more common and more effective than any other form of violence at the command of the employer. The most powerful weapon is the power of discharge, which may be used indiscriminately upon mere suspicion, which under certain conditions may be almost as potent, either in use or threat, as the power of life and death. It is the avowed policy of many employers to discharge any man who gives any sign of dissatisfaction on the theory that he may become a trouble maker or agitator…

I am not condemning businesses here nor am I leaving workers blameless. The needs of both must be balanced, but will only happen if both sides have power. Now we have American CEOs making 273 times more than their average employee and their compensation is up 37.4%1 (for some context CEOs made about 20 times the average worker back in the 70s and that is still the norm for Germany). U.S. workers have averaged .9 to 3% increase over the same time period depending on region and job sector yet we are being sold the idea that unions are the problem. Union workers are a scant 11.3%. 2  Can they balance the power of the CEOs?

With the stock markets at an all-time high, bonuses are filling the clutching hands of the Wall Street brokers and the bankers are lining their personal vaults with millions. They tell us government oversight and union bullies have handcuffed American business – they are the real problem with our economy.  They tell us these classic movies that grew from the struggles of the Great Depression have it all wrong. They tell us we need to unleash American business on the world unencumbered and they will pull us all up from our weakened state! Who is telling us this? Let me take a guess…

Somebody once said to get to the bottom of a story follow the money. To paraphrase Shakespeare – Wall Street and the bankers doth protest too much.

Sing it with me people – Jingle bells, something smells, time to join a union…

1 http://www.epi.org/publication/ceo-pay-2012-extraordinarily-high/

2 http://www.bls.gov/news.release/union2.nr0.htm