Category Archives: Politics

The State of the Union – – Candy-Coated Visions of US “Exceptionalism”

Unemployed men queued outside a depression soup kitchen opened in Chicago by Al Capone

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

           This short piece has nothing to do with workers’ compensation. It does have much to do with US workers. In the recent State of the Union speech, and its accompanying hoopla, President Obama and the Republican “counterpoint” presenters predictably extolled the underlying greatness of the good ol’ USA, essentially ignoring the primary rot to our nation that has occurred during my adult lifetime.

           Few in our national power structure – – either on the left or right – – want to acknowledge the devastating impact of income and asset inequality on our core social, economic, and political values. Occasional bursts of activity here and there to raise minimum wages to realistic levels chip around the edges of the problem. But until there is the political will to rebuild our decaying infrastructure, rethink our hemorrhaging defense budget, and massively transform our taxation scheme in this country, the future is not a rosy one.

           Some factoids underscoring the problem were recently outlined in Rolling Stone magazine:

  1. The amount of new income generated since 2009 going to the top 1%: 95%

  2. Financial wealth controlled by the bottom 60% of all Americans: 2.3%

  3. Record combined wealth of the top 400 richest Americans: $2 trillion

  4. Real decline in median middle-class incomes since 1999: $5000

  5. Federal minimum wage: $7.25

  6. What the minimum wage would be if it kept pace with worker productivity since 1968: $21.72

  7. Number of US workers earning at or below minimum wage: 3.6 million

  8. Taxpayer subsidies to the fast–food industry to pay benefits to fast-food workers earning poverty wages: $7 Billion

  9. US defense spending in 2012: $682 billion; amount spent by China, our nearest plausible military rival: $166 billion

  10.  Federal deficit in 2013: $680 billion

  11.  Official unemployment rate: 6.7%

  12.  Unemployment rate which includes Americans who have given up looking or only have part-time employment: 13.1%

           That there are at least some stirrings of recognition here and there of the corrosive effect of these conditions on our way of life is a somewhat hopeful sign. However, don’t count on the national media – – owned by six or seven behemoth corporations – – to elevate this conversation above the whispers and murmurs below. This issue usually only gets its attention, as recently occurred, when some clown–like multibillionaire capitalist equates complaints about the ultra-rich to the attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany. And every so often a former corporate “insider” or CEO will blow the whistle on his cronies, such as acknowledging that since 1950 the ratio of CEO to employee pay increased by 1000% and that these execs sit on the governing boards of companies dramatically underperforming against the market while they draw millions for the “value” of their “expertise.”  But, it will take a sea-change in the political representation of the economic underclass – – that is, of about 90 to 95% of the population – – before anything happens.   

           But we’re the greatest, aren’t we?! A Canadian journalist recently authored a book entitled Merger of the Century in which she proffered the merger of Canada with the United States as the solution to both countries’ problems. This thesis prompted another well-known Canadian columnist and author to react and observe some reasons not to take this course:

            “Over the past decade, the US has debased its currency and destabilized the world financial system, thanks to venal and incompetent Wall Street tycoons. Its foreign-policy has lost its way into costly wars that have made the world less safe, not more. American education and health care are both outrageously expensive and deliver relatively poor outcomes while its once–admired justice system has become a conveyor belt into the bloated and corrupt prison system. Absorbing Canada would be great for the US – – it would gain an immense source of natural resources and an infusion of some 34 million educated and law-abiding citizens. But Canada is by every measure a better–governed country than the US. So why would Canadians want to take such a great leap backward?”

           So, will the general public of this country actually find the willpower to insist we do what is needed to make the USA the truly exceptional place it was 50 years ago? Or are we just going to sit around mouthing the words and beating our chests about past glories?

 Photo credit: Unknown or not provided / Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0

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A Day In The Life Of Ted the Tea-Partier

Today’s post comes from guest author Jay Causey, from Causey Law Firm.

     Ted gets up at 6 A.M. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee.  The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for government-enforced minimum water-quality standards. 

     With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to have the government insure their safety and that they work as advertised.  All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer’s medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance – now Ted gets it too.

     He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs.  Ted’s bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat-packing industry. 

     In the morning shower, Ted reaches for his shampoo.  His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.

     Ted dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath.  The air he breathes is far less polluted than decades ago because some wacko liberal environmentalist fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.

     Ted begins his workday. He has a good job with decent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards.  Ted’s employer pays these standards because Ted’s employer doesn’t want his employees to call the union.  If Ted is hurt on the job or is laid off, he’ll get workers’ compensation or unemployment because some stupid liberal didn’t think he should lose his home because of his temporary misfortune.

     It’s noontime, and Ted needs to make a bank deposit so he can pay some bills. Ted’s deposit is federally insured by the FSLIC because some godless liberal wanted to protect Ted’s money from unscrupulous bankers who ruined the banking system before the Great Depression and nearly collapsed the banking system again in 2008, saved only by a tax-payer bailout.

     Ted is home from work, and drives to visit his father this evening at his farm home in the country.  His car is among the safest in the world because some America-hating liberal fought to have the government enact car safety standards.

     He arrives at his boyhood home.  His was the third generation to live in the house financed by Farmers’ Home Administration because bankers didn’t want to make rural loans.  The house didn’t have electricity until some big-government liberal stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and demanded rural electrification.

     He is happy to see his father, who is now retired.  His father lives on Social Security and a union pension because some wine-drinking, cheese-eating liberal made sure he could take care of himself so Ted wouldn’t have to. Ted gets back in his car for the ride home, and turns on a radio talk show.  The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and hate their country.  He doesn’t mention that his radical, anti-government Republicans  have, over many decades, fought against each and every one of these protections and benefits Ted enjoys throughout his day.

     Ted agrees:  “We don’t need those big-government liberals ruining our lives!  They’re taking away our freedoms!  After all, I’m a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have.”

Photo credit: outtacontext / / CC BY-NC-ND

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