Saturday, December 29, 2012

Foolishly engaging in a short-sighted culture of thinking--only things that matter are “practical” & “measurable”.

A Teacher of Latin Writes In Defense of Fiction « Diane Ravitch's blog

Exploring fiction allows readers to imagine themselves as someone else. It teaches them about the world around them and what it means to be a human being. To read things like the Odyssey, even though it is nearly 3000 years old, or the Aeneid, or the plays of Sophocles, or Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, or Shakespeare’s plays, gives students a sense of the timelessness of some questions and traits.

It gives us a gateway into discussing the meaning of honor, virtue, love and other things. It encourages us to ask questions, to explore, to be curious.

It gives us the ability learn from mistakes without damaging consequences. These are skills that are useful in any endeavor in life, from the professional to the personal. To assert that this type of learning is less valuable than learning to decode a non-f text is to assert that the human and idealistic is less valuable.

Moreover, no one can point to where inspiration comes from. Think for example of the role of a calligraphy class in Jobs’ development of the Apple aesthetic.

The skills one learns in working with fiction texts are ones that can be transferred to any area. For example, if one could explore and analyze the meaning of violence in the Aeneid (I’m a Latin teacher, so I tend to cite fiction from my content area) and of Roman culture in general, one can certainly explore and analyze the meaning of violence in our entertainment and our society, a topic particularly relevant in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy.

The deepest thinkers are the ones who can draw from a variety of sources and areas to approach things in new ways; yet, by depriving our students of these rich cultural texts by whittling them down to very small portions, we deprive our students of that deep well.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The person most responsible for wrecking the economy is a part of the movement to take it out on Grandma...

That loveable Ayn Rand protege, Alan Greenspan, the guy who helped destroy the economy and create a massive Federal debt played a major role in the creation of 1% pet project--Campaign to Fix the Debt.  

A "project", by the by, that is actually more about using the Wall Street created crisis to slash social security and medicare for our most vulnerable citizens.

Where Johnny Isakson proves A) he knows nothing about economics....

or B) he know the 1% hate Jan. 1.

There is no major crisis that occurs if January 1st comes and goes for anyone but the 1%.  

Dean Baker noted the other day that the media has been in full on propaganda mode when it comes to the "fiscal cliff" of late---Careen Off the So-Called Fiscal Cliff" It's Silly Season at the NYT :

Ever since the election the Wall Street gang has been trying to build up scare stories around the budget standoff between the President and the Republican House. The term "fiscal cliff" is a central part of this campaign since it implies that something ominous happens if there is no deal by the end of the year.

As every economist and budget analyst knows, it makes virtually no difference whatsoever if there is a deal 10 days before the end of the year or 10 days after. However if the Wall Street gang can build up enough fear then it will lead to more pressure to get a deal before the end of the year. Since President Obama will be on much better negotiating turf after the end of the year and the tax cuts have already expired, a deal struck this year will likely be more favorable to the Republicans.

The NYT seems to have joined in this effort, telling readers that we may "careen off the so-called fiscal cliff" if there is no deal. This sort of silly and inaccurate metaphor is best left for fiction. It has no place in a serious newspaper.

"the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language" --George Orwell

At some point today you should go read: George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Epictetus, Jeffery Sachs, and what you can do to protect Social Security.

One of my favorite philosophers is a guy named Epictetus.  He was born into slavery around 55 CE in the eastern outreaches of the Roman empire and his works played a major role in establishing the Stoic philosophy

One of my favorite quotes from him:

We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them. 

Right now there is a push by conservatives to declare us of a "nation of takers" trying to steal from the "makers" of society.  As a guy who loads trucks for a few hours every day I can tell you for a fact that those $469 million in UPS profits recently reported?--yeah UPS CEO didn't build that on his own.

There is an effort to sell you the idea that there is a "fiscal cliff" and a spending crisis.  These things are just not true.

The systemic economic crisis we face is one where the 1% are reaping all the rewards from the hard labor of the 99%.  Whats worse is they are using those profits to recklessly speculate those earnings as a way to make more and more.  We all know--after this past recession who could deny it?--when the 1% speculate, the economy at some point comes crashing down on the rest of us.

But that abstraction--the systemic problems we face--are removed from you and I in a way.  To many conservatives I think when they hear critiques of the 1% they think we are saying we just want something for free.  That's not true, but I believe in my heart that is what they hear when I am speaking to them.

That's why I really appreciated Chapter Nine of economist Jeffery Sach's book, The Price of Civilization, which is entitled: The Mindful Society.  This is getting economics back to its roots as a social philosophy (its not just a math thing people!) and in a way that the likes of Adam Smith, or even Epictetus, would appreciate.  This is the part of the book where Sachs shifts gears from describing and dissecting how and why America has fallen on hard times and shifts into a prescription for what we can do about it.  "The problems of America begin at home," notes Sachs, "with the choices we are making as individuals."

Sachs like Epictetus long before him wants everyday people to pay attention to the way they approach the world. "Through clearer thinking, we can become more effective both as individuals and as citizens reclaiming power from corporations."

I like this chapter because Sachs is acknowledging both the failure of individuals to take personal responsibility for nurturing civic engagement and civil discourse.  He acknowledges the importance of systemic reforms. The great challenge we face in this day and age is to reclaim power from corporations.  But he does so with a call to action that all of us must heed: we must as individuals become more engaged citizens; we can't just throw up our hands to history and inevitability.

In that spirit I hope you sign and then share with your friends and family this petition to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

To learn more about the proposed cuts to Social Security, my union--who, I'm proud to say, has put up one hell of a fight--has more info here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

But it's only a sliver on a graph!--Or why liberal technocrats are wrong on Social Security.


Something struck me as I was talking to members of my union at work (see: "Obama wants to do what!?!?!?!?!?") and in the recent public comments from some public intellectuals and labor leaders.  

As a union steward you get to know your people.  Day in and day out.  Through good and bad.  You can see responses and reactions to political questions and challenges in a way that some some volunteer making a cold call door knock just before election day--never to be seen for four more years--or some opinion-poll questioner getting a person in the middle of screaming kids, and dinner on the stove, won't notice or understand.  

Be they Democrat or Republican, politically engaged or apathetic and disaffected to their core.  Be they union member or  nonmember, every single one of my coworkers thought it was a bad idea to cut Social Security.

Social Security adds nothing to the deficit even though many in the press do not know this.

As Dean Baker points out:

There is no commitment to finance Social Security out of general revenue. The projections from the Social Security trustees show the program first facing a shortfall in 2033 after which point it will only be able to pay a bit more than 75 percent of scheduled benefits. While this date is still fairly far in the future, at some point it will likely be necessary to address a shortfall.

It is reasonable to expect that the changes needed to keep the program fully funded will involve some mix of revenue increases and benefit cuts. However if the chained CPI is adopted as part of a budget deal unconnected to any larger plan for Social Security then it effectively means that there will have been a substantial cut to Social Security benefits without any quid pro quo in terms of increased revenue. This hardly seems like a good negotiating move from the standpoint of those looking to preserve and strengthen the program.

When my co-workers learned exactly what Chained CPI was, how it was a way to "save money" by eroding benefits they got mad.

Both Ezra Klein and Dean Baker have noted the underhanded nature of this approach.

The appeal of chained CPI is its complexity, which allows politicians to pretend they’re making a technical change rather than a real cut. This is a perverse approach to choosing deficit-reduction policies, and I’d like to see it stop.

Klein then goes on to note, "That said, I don’t think chained CPI is a deal killer, so long as the most vulnerable are protected." 


What a perfectly acceptable liberal Wonk position to take.  Its an answer that shows you how liberal technocrats are the wrong people to ask on whether Chained CPI is "worth it".  

I have a number of friends and contacts with respectable jobs in politics and policy that I talk with all the time via phone and email.  I'm often picking their brain for good ideas or catching up to speed on stuff which I don't get to see from the cheap seats loading trucks in a warehouse.

In one recent email:

You have to focus on the entire deal, and right now we don’t know what the deal is.  Even Paul Krugman was going back and forth on whether the rumored deal is good or bad (although this morning he seems more con than pro).  If the tradeoff is Medicare age or SS CPI, the CPI may be the least of the two evils. 

Again.  Perfectly acceptable wonk answer.   We do a cost benefit analysis and boom we have the lesser of two evils.

The only problem is that the wonks, politico's, and politician's higher up the food chain are the wrong people to ask on whether or not Chained CPI should be a "deal killer".

The wonks, politico's, and politicians--god bless their well meaning souls--are the ones in the cheap seats when it comes to knowing the answer to that question.

Out here on the front lines of the class war American's are drowning for leadership and honesty from their leaders.

In the labor movement its time for those labor leaders to start earning those 6 figure salaries and raise some hell on the hill until Obama caves.  

The likes of Trumka and Hoffa need to make it abundantly clear that labor will support primary's of ANY politician that votes in support of a bill with Chained CPI in it.  

The problem with wonky liberal cost benefit equations of "the bigger picture" are that working people don't give a shit about that kind of thinking--because they don't know what it means!  

As someone who every day as a steward, is working to build up union strength and solidarity deep in Red America, I promise you these bigger picture equations are meaningless to working people.  

As someone who is about to have a degree in hand from Georgia State, having spent many a seminar in the Economics and Philosophy Departments doing these kind of complex trade-off questions, I understand why some liberals are saying Chained CPI would be bad--but swallow that pill we must.

See the problem is the people who will have to swallow that pill don't know what the hell you folks are talking about up there in DC and in halls of academia.  

Many of them don't know the first thing about how our Government or economy function--another example of a Reagan Revolution "success story" if there ever was one.  

But they do know a thing or two about the question at hand. They do know they have been getting screwed over the past few decades.  They do know they don't trust politicians to fight for them.  They do know the deck is rigged against them.  

They know that when they say "Dont Touch Social Security" they mean it.

A vote for Chained CPI is going to further erode the confidence of every day working people in the political process.  

At a time when we desperately need to be building up and strengthening our civil society, our common bonds, our collective interests; at a time when faith in democracy and the political process needs to be restored, a vote for chained CPI is nothing short of a failure of leadership.

When I say working people don't understand what all this policy talk is about I don't mean it pejoratively.  

These are good, smart people, who work hard, and want to play by the rules. 

They are fully capable of understanding these complex policy issues given a long enough time line and the right learning environment.  But many, if not most of them are terribly under-educated. Engage them on abstract policy questions and you'll spend a lot of time clearing up misnomers, absurd conspiracy theories, and lots of propaganda the 1% is churning out for their consumption.  Believe me I deal with it day in and day out.  

Liberal technocrats answer to this quandary is just to tell progressives--Hush, else we erode faith in our leader!--an asinine anti-democratic position if there ever was one.  A position that exposes a horrendously prejudiced mentality on the part of technocrats about the capabilities and capacities of working people. A technocratic mentality that is part of the problem of how we got to many of the impasses we now face. 

My coworkers are people who have been conditioned to be spectators and not participants.  Its going to take decades of hard work to educate and empower workers so that the working class has enough political leverage to truly take back from the 1% what has been stolen from them.

But we don't have decades.  We have a faux crisis on our hands.  

The important take away from this post is that politically we have a very clear cut issue question on the table---do you want your Social Security benefits cut?

It doesn't matter their political leanings, it doesn't matter their race, gender, or religion.  To a person the 97 people working the pre-load at UPS in Forrest Park think it is screwed up that the 1% are going to get a tax cut and we are going to help pay for it by cutting social security benefits.

Thats it.  Thats all.  End story.  

Do not allow liberal technocrats to sell you on the idea that its okay since "the bigger picture is worse." 

Working people don't understand the bigger picture talk and the bad stuff that happens by taking Social Security off the table will be the fault of the GOP who wrote the faux crisis into the tax code to begin with.  

Liberal technocrats want to help people, I truly believe that.  But the positive gains you get by leaving Social Security cuts in a "grand bargain" harm you at the grassroots level in terms of building a movement of and for the 99%.

The message from unions and progressives needs to be very clear to the Neoliberal's and Bluedogs within the Democratic Party who want to side with the 1% and erode Social Security benefits---take Social Security off the table or its on!  

To Obama I say lets kick the crap out of the GOP in campaigns in 2014 for whatever it is they take off the table in response to you.  Tell the citizens of this country that you hear them loud and clear and there will be no cuts to Social Security on your watch (just as you campaigned on--ask Joe if you forgot).

We don't need to be done by Jan. 1.   Even though the media keeps trying to sell the crisis (see: Careen Off the So-Called Fiscal Cliff" It's Silly Season at the NYT | Beat the Press

Its time to fight for working people and build a movement to end the war on workers.  We are starting to get there (see here here here here) so saying NO to the liberal technocrats over Chained CPI is a really really important next step.

The other day Paul Krugman caused a stir by rediscovering Marx (gasp!).  Via Philosopher Brian Leiter:

What took him so long?  Krugman has been such a relief to those of us in the United States, because the public culture is so bereft of critical perspective, but the fact remains that he's an apologist for the capitalist system, just not as bonkers as some of the others.  I quote from his recent posting on the implications of the displacement of human labor power by robots, which means profits go to those who own capital, not those who actually work:

Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets. Creating an “opportunity society”, or whatever it is the likes of Paul Ryan etc. are selling this week, won’t do much if the most important asset you can have in life is, well, lots of assets inherited from your parents. And so on.

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.

The public culture of the United States is obviously an embarrassment, so I don't want to knock Krugman too  much, since he's been the most visible voice for civilization in recent years...BUT look what he wrote:  "the capital/labor dimension of inequality....didn't seem crucial back in the 1990s."  He at least does a mea culpa, so kudos to him for that.   Now that the Repugs have been trounced in the latest national elections, we need a real revival of the labor movement in this benighted country to recapture a larger portion of capital from its current heirs, and insure that it meets human needs in the decades ahead.

Leiter goes on to note in a follow up post, "now that Marx is back, it's time for some class warfare... directed at the actual dominant class." 

Its time to start building a militant labor movement in this nation.

Its time to start telling this story to Americans...

That's the story we need to start telling.  Going back to the bigger picture of how we got into this mess--the chaos of the shattered economy workers face every single day. Going back to the story of who is to blame--on both sides of the aisle--for making it happen.

We don't need to compromise.  We need to fight.

Call the White House.  Call Nancy Pelosi.  Tell them no cuts to Social Security.  Lets be sure the Democrats know that every single politician--no matter the political party--who votes for a bill at any point in the next two years with Chained CPI will have a primary opponent come election day. 

Take action.  And ask your friends and family to do the same.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

I want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick too...


So, it appears that the reactionaries are out in force to shut up needed public discourse over a tragic event. 

Emotions run hot in the blogosphere; but the NRA leveraging political power to take on a blogger is an absurd reminder of how conservatives work in this nation (see Cory Robin for more indepth look). 

In my own life, two law enforcement officers saved my life--in what feels like a lifetime ago-- in a suicide attempt with a firearm after I had gone through a long struggle with mental health issues.

I should have never been able to get my hands on a gun and people like Wayne LaPierre and his right wing ilk are responsible for the poor regulatory framework (and underfunded mental health systems) that allowed that to happen.

But it's time to have a discussion, a serious discussion, about gun violence and mental health and this underhanded tactic is meant to stop that discussion dead in its tracks.

Now while I opened the post with a childish spoof of Wayne LaPierre's head on a stick to help raise some awareness about the NRA  witchhunt of Erik Loomis let me end by telling you to go watch Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey talk about the need for change.

Like coach Kelsey, I too am not smart enough to figure out what it is we need to do.  

But I can tell you it is time to get serious about this crisis of gun violence and leveraging political power to shut up bloggers is exactly the kind of shit that has to stop---now.

"Obama wants to do what!?!?!?!?!?"

I was happy to see The Teamster's come out forcefully against cuts to Social Security yesterday:

The Teamsters oppose the chained CPI for Social Security because it would most hurt the oldest and poorest retirees.

"Social Security does not contribute to the budget deficit and should remain off the table in these year-end budget negotiations," Hoffa said. "Americans work all their lives to earn the Social Security benefits they were promised. It would be a terrible mistake to go back on that promise."

Chained CPI is not an accurate measurement of inflation for the elderly, whose primary costs are housing and health care. Those expenses are rising faster than other costs. Using the chained CPI would result in a cut to Social Security benefits by $112 billion over 10 years.

"We are making sure our members are aware of this issue," Hoffa said. "We strongly oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and we will not waver from that position."

Hoffa said the Teamsters also oppose any proposal that would increase the Medicare eligibility age.

So like a good union steward I got up a little early and was out the door by 3am so I could talk to members this morning before the shift.  Get our little political action committee gears a churning at my workplace and get members calling the White House/member of Congress to tell them--No Cuts.

People were floored Obama would support cuts to Social Security.  I mean dumb struck. Even the Republican's were mad!.  

Between the before work pow-wow's, break time, catching a few folks on the way out the door and in the parking lot after the shift--we had an angry bunch of Teamster's in Forrest Park, Georgia.   

If you want to cut Social Security.  Just be up front and cut it.  Why go through the backdoor and erode it?  Only reason I can come up with is if you want to manipulate the fact that everyday working people don't have the time to keep up with the nuanced details of policy and are entrusting you to do the right thing.  As economist Dean Baker noted

The honest way to cut benefits is for Congress to explicitly vote to cut benefits, not to try to hide a cut behind a statistical manipulation. This is the sort of behavior that encourages public contempt for politicians and the political process.

A number of members said they'd be making calls and getting their friends to do the same.  We are working to put the pressure on and kill this deal and we've got a plan of action for raising awareness in our community.  So members are working to spread the word and I'm helping them get the resources/information they need to make that happen.

Fact is, its up to us now.

Robert Kuttner was dead on:

This budget agreement is very dubious politics for Obama and the Democrats on several grounds. For starters, Social Security cuts, disguised or otherwise, should not be in this package at all. Politically, such a deal erases the bright line that is the Democrats’ single strongest distinction from Republicans: We defend Social Security; they are willing to sacrifice it. Further, the politics of allowing the struggling, not-quite-poor elderly to be played off against the very poor are just appalling.

One other set of enablers are those liberals who say that at least a disguised cut in Social Security is not quite as bad as raising the Medicare eligibility age, a Republican demand that Obama has rejected. This chorus includes the sainted Paul Krugman, another resolute liberal who ordinarily earns nothing but our thanks and appreciation. 

But saying that cutting Social Security is not quite as bad as cutting Medicare sets a pretty low bar. Neither should be cut.

What happens now? Progressives in and outside Congress need to shoot down this trial balloon. They need to keep the heat on Obama to consent to nothing of the sort.

I noted yesterday that people just don't know about the proposed cuts and when they find out they are mad--as they should be.

Especially union members.  Those dollars we chip in to the political action committee, the time we put in talking to members, hitting the streets knocking on doors---we built that mandate.

Its not even inauguration day and Obama is going to cave to the GOP?  Not on our watch.  

Its time to make some noise.

Jane McAlevey: We Can't Labor Without Our Lives

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Is this Obama's Rick Snyder moment?

As was noted this morning over at the Teamster Nation Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder's numbers are tanking faster than you can say "Koch Brother Hack".

Snyder was opposed to Right To Work until a few weeks ago when the 1% called in their debts.  In fact you've probably seen the video.

Voters in Michigan are not happy with his quick change of tune to slip the right to work corporate protectionisms through before the new Legislature who would not have passed this pet project of the 1% into law was able to take the reins..

The cuts to Social Security which Obama has put on the table are likely to be Obama's Rick Snyder moment if he isn't careful.

Let's jump to two weeks ago when the White House said Social Security should be off the table.  A reasonable position since it adds nothing to the deficit and is fully funded for the next few decades.


Now we have Obama trying to cut a deal that cuts Social Security to avert a faux crisis?  Hey B.O. when the voters figure this out they are going to be pissed.

This is the kind of crap that makes people distrust politicans and engrains cynicism about our Government. 

As Ezra Klein note's its a slimy DC-beltway effort to pull the wool over voters eyes--The trick Washington is using to cut Social Security and Medicare:

Politicians who are unwilling or unable to offer a persuasive political or policy rationale for cutting Social Security benefits are instead hiding behind a technocratic rationale. We’re not “cutting benefits,” we’re “correcting our inflation measure.”

A similar dynamic is behind the popularity of raising the retirement age, or the Medicare eligibility age: Its advocates can pretend that it’s not a cut, but a technical adjustment made to account for the fact that Americans are living longer. Compared to other approaches to cutting benefits, raising the retirement age is, again, a substantively unwise, regressive approach. But it can be justified as a mere technocratic tweak.

This is bad policymaking. If we want to cut Social Security and/or Medicare, we should have a conversation about how to cut Social Security and/or Medicare, decide what our priorities are — Progressivity? Making the health-care system more efficient? Total deficit-reduction? — and find the policy that does the best job achieving those goals. The effort to mask cuts in technical adjustments just leads to worse cuts, as the top priority isn’t protecting the poorest or improving the program, but finding a policy sufficiently confusing that you can pass it before most people realize what it is.

Salon notes the Liberals are not pleased. But fails to point out that once every day people, who consistently poll in opposition to cuts to Social Security, figure out the ruse they will be ticked off as well.

Obama was given a mandate and the people who created it with their time, money, and energy might just revoke it before inauguration day if he isn't careful.


For more see:

Thoughts on the Chained CPI, Social Security, and the Budget | CEPR Blog

How Obama aims to cut Social Security benefits by 10% « LBO News from Doug Henwood

A Cost of Living Adjustment for Social Security in the Fiscal Cliff? | Next New Deal

How Do the Elderly Spend Money and the Difficulty of Protecting Against Social Security Cuts | Next New Deal

A full betrayal by Obama and Democrats on the horizon--cuts to Social Security

Under the law, Social Security cannot contribute to the deficit.  Not a single penny. It was set up by Congress as a stand alone program that can only spend money from its designated revenue stream.  

Obama and the Democrats are setting course for full betrayal of low income seniors in the name of a "fiscal cliff" crisis that doesn't even exist.

Democrats’ headline concession will be accepting chained-CPI--that is a cut to Social Security benefits.

The best content on this can be found:

This is a horrid move.  Criminals crash the economy and Democrats throw grandma under the bus?

As with the recent firing of union workers in Chicago this would be a clear reminder that the 1% have shifted into full gear in the class war and that Democrats are helping lead the charge.  Lets hope we can stop these cuts in their tracks.

Go make some noise...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Everything you know is wrong--2 interviews on the fiscal cliff that you must check out.

As Chumbawamba once sang, "everything you know is wrong," and when it comes to the "Fiscal Cliff" this is pretty much the case.  

If your only source of news is the mainstream media or Facebook posts from friends you are probably walking around in an upside down world of misinformation as the 1% has put a whole lot of money--creating "think tanks" and talking head echo-chambers--skewing the debate surrounding the fiscal cliff.  

There has been a massive effort to manipulate fears and exploit peoples poor understanding of economic and budgetary issues to push an agenda of unnecessary cuts to very popular social programs.

All you really need to know about the fiscal cliff you can find out in two really good recent interviews.

First go listen to Doug Henwood's radio interview in late November with the economist James Galbraith here.

Also you need to watch economist Dean Baker's recent interview on Democracy Now:

After checking those out I hope you do three things.

First, sign this petition at Democracy For America on the fiscal cliff.

Second, please share these interviews with friends and family via social media and ask them to take some time out of their day to check out them out.

Thirdly, ask them to sign the DFA petition as well.

The only way to bring positive change and rebuild social trust in the political process is to engage ourselves and those we know on the actual issues and take a few small steps putting pressure on our political leaders to fight for working people and not the 1%.  
Just for good measure here is Chumbawamba:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why Aren’t There More Union Members in America?


I think a key to rebuilding the middle class is rebuilding union power---which for many unions/locals will include rebuilding the union itself from the inside out.  

As I've pointed out before, collective bargaining in the private sector provides working people the ability to harness market forces to improve wages and working conditions. Any true champion of a free market system believes in freeing workers from the constraints of Government policy ("right to work" laws) which protect a company from market pressures via Government policy.  That is why conservatives hate unions---they empower working people and overthrow the hierarchy that the boss is always right.  

But the fact the the 1% have bought off politicians to pass laws that protect corporations isn't the crux of the problem in my eyes.  

Way too many rank and file members of most unions see the union as an insurance plan rather than a place of solidarity and collective action in which they are able to take back power and gain some control over their own lives.  

If union's were stronger--not only would union members have taken to the streets today but company's like UPS would have been bombarding the phone's of lawmakers for fear of the economic consequences of unauthorized work stoppages/work to rule slow downs on their bottom line.  

But the fact is union's are not at the levels of organization and militancy needed to align such forces to join together stop bill's like the Right to Work bill shoved through in Michigan today.  

The always excellent Corey Robin wrote a post a while back discussing why there are not more union members in the US.  I'd boil it down to fear, intimidation, coercion, and the political power of the 1%.  Prepare for a decade of labor unrest as we work to rebuild that power and better align the political/economic interests of major players with the concerns and quality of life of working people. 

Anyways Corey's post is worth a read:

1.  Polls shows that a majority of non-managerial workers want to be represented by a union.  Richard Freeman, the Harvard economist who’s studied this issue more than anyone else, shows that in 2005, 53 percent of those workers, if given the opportunity, would have voted for union representation in a union election.  That, he argues, would have produced a unionization rate of 58 percent.

So why is the unionization rate more like 12 percent and decreasing everyday?

2.  Employers rely on a highly sophisticated “union-avoidance” industry to make sure those workers don’t get their unions.  Union-busters try to stop elections from being held.  If elections are held, they try to make sure—through threats, intimidation, and other illegal means—workers don’t vote for the union. If workers make it clear that they will vote for the union, they get fired, harassed, demoted, and so on.  Gordon Lafer, the University of Oregon political scientist who is one of the leading experts on union elections, estimates that 1 in 17 of every eligible voter in a union election gets illegally fired or suspended for his or her support for a union.  And, of course, the ramifications of those individual incidents extend far beyond the worker or even the workplace: when they see what happens to one pro-union worker, other workers (or workers in other workplaces) aren’t likely to step up or speak out in support of a union.

3.  Even when employers don’t break the law, election campaigns are overwhelmingly stacked against unions. Union election campaigns that are run according to the letter of the law, Lafer demonstrates, are more like the kinds of elections we used to see in the Soviet Union, and certainly don’t conform to the election standards the United States claims to uphold around the world.

4.  More generally, labor law excludes about a quarter of the American workforce, rendering many workers ineligible for union representation.  As the authors of this report argue:

There are 140.5 million people in the civilian workforce. Our research found that of these employees, 33.5 million, or 23.8%, have no rights under the NLRA or any other labor law: no legally-protected right to join or form a union, no legally-protected right to bargain collectively for their wages and conditions of work, and therefore, effectively no freedom of association in the workplace.

Now, it could be that Americans in their heart of hearts don’t really want unions, that they’re the individualists  everyone from Will Wilkinson to Will Wilkinson thinks they are.  (Okay, that was unfair: lots of smart people, like Louis Hartz, make the same mistake as Wilkinson.)  But until American workers are given an opportunity to register what they think on these matters, in the workplace but absent coercion and intimidation, I’ll take a pass on what Will Wilkinson thinks on these matters.

I don’t mean to be dismissive of Wilkinson; he’s a smart and charming fellow. (Our little Twitter exchange prompted my clearly delighted 3-year-old daughter to run around the apartment shouting, “Why is Will Wilkinson tweeting?  Why is Will Wilkinson tweeting?”) It’s just that there’s a vast body of research out there—and really smart people like Lafer, Freeman, Kate BronfenbrennerDorian Warren, and others—that Wilkinson might want to consult before he speculates any further on the inner recesses of the American mind.

If you’re interested in reading more about all this, check out these sources:

Paul Weiler, Governing the Workplace (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990)

Richard Freeman and Joel Rogers, What Workers Want (Ithaca: ILR Press, 1999) [there may be a later edition of this]

Corey Robin, Fear: The History of a Political Idea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), ch. 8

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A "Tahrir moment" in Michigan?

Streetheat has a good post up on Michigan at his excellent labor blog Its About Power Stupid blog.

Go read the whole thing but I think the post really resonates with me in one section:

 Where we have failed to defeat these attacks generally it has been because our enemies had generally been more determined than us to win. They have been willing to lie, cheat, steal, and suppress to achieve their agenda. This was true in Wisconsin , Indiana, and Florida and it is true today. Legal challenges notwithstanding, they beat us because they were willing to impose their will on us no matter the cost.

They DID NOT beat us because we didn't mobilize. Incredible mobilizations were carried out in every state where we were attacked, most dramatically in Wisconsin where the capitol was occupied by thousands for a few weeks. We fought hard. But when push came to shove we as a movement choked when the question was called whether we would take the fight to the next level. Obviously some will disagree with me on this assessment, but the fact remains that labor was not only politically defeated we were also outmaneuvered by our opponent's intransigence and political will.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The greatest sell-out of a winning political coalition since LBJ ran on “not sending American boys to Vietnam.”

What's happening in Michigan, explained in 3 minutes and 24 seconds.

Right now 1% and their allies in the Republican Party are trying to jam through anti-worker legislation up in Michigan. 

Rep. Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) does a good job of breaking it down:

Right-to-work is an example of government intruding into the private sector and creates the ability for a worker to benefit from union representation without having to pay for that union representation--in short a "right to freeload".  

What is happening in Michigan right now is another example of how the Republican party is a party attached to protecting the political power and vested interests of a very narrow elite at the expense of the quality of life of working people all across this country.

As I've talked about before, any champion of free markets is a champion of ending government restrictions on organized labor and right now Republicans in Michigan are fighting to be able to use Government policy to redistribute wealth to the 1%.

Dean Baker in his excellent (and free to download) book The End of Loser Liberalism talked about how Right to work is a Government intrusion into the private sector, allowing government policy to skew the marketplace and pick winners and losers--something that Republicans claim they frown upon:

Another example of how labor-management policy is rigged away from market forces is the fact that 22 states currently deny workers freedom of contract with their employers. Under “right-to-work” laws, workers are prohibited from signing contracts with employers that require workers covered by a union contract to pay their share of the union’s costs. The law requires that everyone who is in a union bargaining unit – regardless of whether they are actually in the union – gets the same pay and benefits. The law also requires that the union represent workers in disputes with employers on issues covered by the contract, whether or not a worker is in the union. This means that if a worker who does not pay to support the union is fired, the law requires that the union represent the worker through any appeals process established under the contract.  

While the law requires unions to provide the same benefits to all workers covered by a contract, right-to-work laws prohibit unions from signing agreements with employers that would require workers to pay for the benefits they are receiving. It in effect guarantees representation without taxation. This restriction of freedom of contract is not consistent with a free market. “Right-to-work” laws are just another way in which the right uses the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers. Free marketers are perfectly willing to deny the freedom of contract to accomplish this end.

Dean Baker. The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (Kindle Locations 104-110). Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The economic research is very clear cut Right-to-work has no positive impact on job growth (via Economic Policy Institute pdf):

When scholars are most rigorous about separating out the impact of right-to-work laws from other factors, the evidence 
suggests that right-to-work has no effect whatsoever on a state’s employment growth. One of the most recent and 
comprehensive studies estimates the impact of RTW laws while controlling for a wide range of variables, including 
general economic features of the state economy such as the share of gross state product concentrated in manufacturing 
and the average wages and educational level of the workforce; state policies such as personal and corporate tax rates; and 
a range of labor-specific policies including state minimum wage, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance 
rates. When these various strands of the the state economy are separated out, the authors report that “right-to-work 
laws…seem to have no effect on economic activity.”

A second recent study compared states with and without right-to-work laws, while controlling for multiple 
economic variables, including a state’s general business climate, in order to separate the impact of right-to-work laws 
from other economic policies of the state.

When the question is thus refined, the author reports that right-to-work 
laws, in and of themselves, have no statistically significant impact whatsoever on either the rate of job growth or the 
number of new businesses opened in a state. “An increase in the probability that a state is right-to-work,” the study finds, 
“has no influence on employment, is associated with a decrease in per-capita personal income and wages/salaries, is 
associated with an increase in proprietors’ income, and has no effect on economic growth.”

Right-to-work laws are associated with lower wages and reduced chances of receiving employer-sponsored health insurance and pensions.  Because of their impacts on the labor market it is estimated these laws decrease hourly wages by 3 percent for all workers.  This is happening at a time when corporate profits are at record highs.

But the fight isn't over yet in Michigan as hundreds of workers were preparing this morning for direct action and civil disobedience.

The union hall couldn't hold all the nurses, autoworkers, Teamsters, teachers, members of SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, ISO and other unions. Their families, retirees and pastors came too. The overflow crowd listened carefully to the civil disobedience trainer about what their rights are and what they should do when arrested. They were told to de-escalate confrontation, to keep cool heads in the front of the action and put hotheads in the back.

The civil disobedience training, which is open to the news media, is one of a number of actions planned over the next few days. The actions will lead up to a large rally in Lansing on Tuesday to protest the right-to-work-for-less bill expected to become law that day. There will be flash mobs, rallies, fake auctions of the middle class and news conferences. They'll be held in Flint, Saginaw, Lansing, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo -- well, all over the state. 

Be sure to keep workers in Michigan in your thoughts and prayers these next few days as they organize to fight for their very livelihoods...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Unemployment Rate Edges Down to 7.7 Percent as Job Growth Slows---Reminder we have a jobs crisis!


New job data is out (chart via Calculated Risk).  Its a good reminder that we have currently have a jobs crisis not a "fiscal cliff" crisis on our hands.  

CEPR has a rundown:

The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent in November, its lowest level since December of 2008. However, the immediate cause was a drop of 350,000 in the size of the labor market as reported employment actually fell by 122,000. The establishment survey reported job growth of 146,000. With the prior two months growth revised downward by 49,000, this brings the average over the last three months to 139,000. This is somewhat worse than the 158,000 average rate of job growth over the last year.

The private sector accounted for almost all the November job growth, adding 147,000 jobs. Average growth over the last three months has been 153,000. All the loss in public sector employment over this period was attributable to decline in employment of 50,000 in local government education. Without the loss of jobs in this sector, government employment would have been essentially flat over the last year....

....On the whole, the data in the November report show pretty much the same picture as what we have been seeing over the last six months. The economy is creating jobs at a rate that is a bit faster than what is needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor market. At the current pace, we would not see the economy returning to full employment for another decade. Furthermore, there are more downside risks than upside -- for example, if there were to be severe deficit reduction as a result of the current negotiations between President Obama and Congress.

Paul Solman make a really important point when he takes a closer look at the numbers--Great Jobs Numbers? U-7 Says It Ain't Necessarily So

And at first glance, the "household" survey of actual people made a similarly upbeat proclamation: unemployment dropping to 7.7 percent.

But if the month-to-month payroll number means little, headline unemployment fluctuations may mean even less. Reported as "U-3" by the BLS, the headline unemployment percentage excludes anyone who didn't look for a job in the past 4 weeks. Counted as employed, therefore, is anyone who worked at least one hour in the past week, even if they said they were "part-time" for economic reasons and wanted, desperately even, full-time work.

That's why we tally U-7, which totals everyone who says they want a job -- the BLS asks this very question each month -- and adds everyone who is working part-time but tells the survey taker that s/he wants to work full-time. U-7 dipped from 16.69 percent to 16.60 percent in November, hardly the headline drop from 7.9 percent to 7.7 percent. Without numbing you with the arithmetic, the U-3 drop is five times larger than what happened to U-7. So what explains the difference?

The answer lies deeper in the data. The US "civilian noninstitutional population" grew by a couple of hundred thousand but the labor force shrank by more than a quarter of a million. That's a whole lot of people who didn't die, didn't emigrate. So where did they go? Given the BLS definition of "labor force," they were no longer laborers -- presumably because they hadn't looked for work in the past four weeks.

This would jibe with another downbeat statistic. A full hundred thousand fewer Americans were reported as "employed" (even if only super-part-time, remember), though this could be Sandy related. And the shrunken labor force also corresponds to the "fact" that some 200,000 people were subtracted from last month's "unemployed" total. They are simply no longer "unemployed" by U-3 standards. But they almost surely consider themselves to be if you take seriously the "persons who want a job" number, which rose dramatically in November.

Bottom line, today's "healthy" drop in U-3, it would appear, is nothing to write home about. As for the payroll survey surge, relative to low projections in the wake of Sandy, I don't know what to make of it except to proceed with caution. I can't count the number of times, over the years I've been looking at the BLS data, that the payroll and household surveys have contradicted one another. As economist Dean Baker wisely counseled me long ago, look at trends, not the latest monthly blips.

A bad deal appears to be emerging on the "Fiscal Cliff"

As I've been saying for a while now raising the Medicare age is about the worst thing you could do for your friends, family, and local community.  

It is a shell game that shifts the cost burden onto individuals, businesses, and state Medicaid roles.  But does nothing in addressing the health care challenges we face over the long term--in both the public and private sectors. 

Its a terrible trade-off just to get what will happen with or without a deal--an expiration of the Bush tax cuts for the top 2%.

Ezra Klein reports on a deal that appears to be coming together that is going to do just that---The fiscal cliff deal comes clearer: a 37% top tax rate and a higher Medicare eligibility age

Talk to smart folks in Washington, and here’s what they think will happen: The final tax deal will raise rates a bit, giving Democrats a win, but not all the way back to 39.6 percent, giving Republicans a win. That won’t raise enough revenue on its own, so it will be combined with some policy to cap tax deductions, perhaps at $25,000 or $50,000, with a substantial phase-in and an exemption for charitable contributions. 

The harder question is what Republicans will get on the spending side of the deal. But even that’s not such a mystery. There will be a variety of nips and tucks to Medicare, including more cost-sharing and decreases in provider payments, and the headline Democratic concession is likely to be that the Medicare eligibility age rises from 65 to 67.

Now is the time to start putting pressure on elected officials not to cut a deal that will hurt the middle class.  Now is the time to start pressuring your friends to do the same.  The GOP are pushing to "save money"[sic] in an inefficient manner and do so on the backs of hard working Americans.

Also see: Republicans think you are bad at math---or why raising the Medicare age of eligibility is a really really bad idea...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

If the Medicare age of eligibility is raised we will have no one to blame but ourselves...


As I noted two days ago, raising the Medicare age is about the worst thing you could do for your friends, family, and local community.  It is a shell game that shifts the burden onto individuals, businesses, and state Medicaid roles.  But does nothing in addressing the health care challenges we face over the long term--in both the public and private sectors.

Sadly Republicans are still pushing the issue as part of a "fiscal cliff deal".

Today the health care economist Austin Frakt has a good rundown on why increasing the Medicare age is not "Entitlement Reform" and that we shouldn't take the bait--This is not Entitlement Reform:

Nobody serious will claim it [raising the eligibility age] fixes Medicare. Of course it does nothing for the broader health system. At best it’s a tweak. Yet some speak of it as if it is the most important thing we can do on entitlements today. Really, it is not.

Moreover, it does nothing, absolutely nothing, to increase the efficiency of Medicare or the health system. Contrary to conventional wisdom and all the political hyperventilating, the real problems of the health system are not its cost to the federal government, but the degree of inefficiency of our spending on it, public and private. Shifting spending from one sector (public) to another (private) and piling additional spending on top of that — which is what raising the Medicare age would do — is orthogonal to efficiency enhancement. It has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

Thus, it is not only small potatoes, it is huge distraction. It is not entitlement reform. In time, this will be proven. Mark my words, in no more than one year after a law is passed to raise the Medicare age, Medicare will be back in the spotlight. The words “entitlement reform” will be uttered again, and very soon. Will anyone mean it?

Dean Baker, over at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, notes that part of the problem is media outlets such as the New York Times are not doing their job--NYT Promotes Confusion over Budget:

Politicians often try to obscure unpopular proposals in euphemisms. Reporters are not supposed to help them in this effort.

The NYT failed badly in this respect when it told readers:

"Republicans would demand deep concessions on spending and changes to Medicare and Social Security as a price to raise the debt ceiling a few weeks later."

Of course the Republicans are pushing for cuts to Medicare and Social Security, not generic "changes." They want the government to pay less money and for beneficiaries to get less money. The NYT should be pointing out this fact, not helping Republicans to conceal an agenda that polls consistently show is hugely unpopular even among Republican voters.

Clearly people who should know better an intentionally lying to voters, there are also those who simply aren't doing their homework.  

But I don't think reporters are the only ones to blame, as you too, my dear reader, have an obligation in this social project.  Efforts to scare and manipulate through fear and misinformation are taking place.  But you have a role in choosing to do your homework or stick to whatever "trustworthy" source satisfies your bias and prior commitments.

You can choose to start getting your friends and family engaged on theses issues or you can sit back and let the 1% do all the work--as they are funneling millions of dollars into efforts to slash spending on programs that helps you and your loved ones keep your head above water in times of crisis, programs that create a strong vibrant middle class.  

Between 2007 and 2010, the median net worth of U.S. households fell by 47 percent--the 1% caused this economic crisis and now they are busy working to slash programs more needed than ever.

You have a role to play.  So I join Teamster Nation's call to arms:

To all you hard-working Americans out there: Call 888-979-9806 TODAY and tell your Representative to make no cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but end tax breaks for the wealthiest 2 percent.

I called my Senator's last week and will be calling my Congressman tomorrow.

Can I count on you to do the same? 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Republicans think you are bad at math---or why raising the Medicare age of eligibility is a really really bad idea...


Seems the GOP failed to notice that the middle class had their wealth wiped out after the last economic crisis created by the 1%.  Not only that, now the GOP in DC are busy looking for clever ways to give the 1% a free ride and are hoping you won't notice.

The GOP have decided that bad ideas are better than forcing multi-millionaires and billionaire to pay what would still be historically low tax rates.  

See, they want to increase the Medicare age and sell it to you as "savings" when in fact its going to cost all of us a whole lot more in terms of economic efficiency and quality of life.  The GOP won't talk about the drain on state budget's (this will increase Medicaid roles which state's have to help pay) and about hot this will hit private employers (who pay to subsidize their employee's health care).  They just want to talk "savings" and ignore reality.

Lets take a moment to breakdown the utterly obvious---increasing the age of eligibility for Medicare is a bad idea.  The GOP are running around saying "this will save us $5.7 billion dollars" as if this is supposed to impress you.

First, for those thinking like economists this is a giant waste of efficiency when it comes to analyzing the dollars and cents; the reason is Medicare is more efficient and has better outcomes than private insurance.  So shifting millions onto the private market when they could be tapping into Medicare is a net loss for the economy as a whole.

Secondly, the impacts for middle class families would be huge as people have to scrape together the money to pay for private insurance which--since many in the GOP seem to have forgotten--is astronomically overpriced (FYI...there is a lot of rent seeking and regulatory capture going on in the health care sector thanks to Nanny-State welfare queens with fancy degree's next to their name).

Finally the idea that we are going to increase costs for the middle class, employers (who are helping bear the brunt of our screwed up health care system), and state governments at a time when the 1% are doing just fine is utter lunacy.  

Supporting an increase in the Medicare age directly hits your local economy and the Medicaid burdens on the state budget.
So you need to hit Facebook, twitter, and email and make damn well sure your voice is heard right now because if not, you will see a drain of dollars flowing out of your local economy and into the pockets of CEO's; eventually you will likely see state tax increases to pay for the increased strain on Medicaid.

Raising Medicare's age of eligibility actually costs us more--via shifting costs to citizens, employers, and state governments.  Politicians in DC are hoping you aren't good at math and that you don't give a damn if your neighbor can afford to buy health insurance or not.  

Call your Senator and Congressman and tell them you aren't going to fall for the $5.7billion in "savings."  

No deal on the fiscal cliff is better than a bad deal---raising the Medicare age is about the worst thing you could do for your friends, family, and local community.  Its pathetic the GOP want to avoid an imaginary "Fiscal Cliff" by literally throwing seniors that you know and love, who are nearing retirement; off a very real financial one.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Any champion of free markets is a champion of ending government restrictions on organized labor

As is clear to anyone looking honestly at the situation Republicans are champions of the 1% (many Democrats come in a close second but I'll save that for another day).  

Republicans don't care about "free markets" or ending "Big Government" because if they did there are major points of convergence where they would be building coalitions with progressives and passing reforms which would create stronger free markets; which would at the same time have dramatic impacts on the quality of life of working people.  

The failure of a single elected official in Georgia Legislature to speak out in support of the For Respect movement this past Black Friday, was, for me, an obvious sign of the corrupting influence of the 1% on state and local politics.  

The reality is that the modern Republican party is a party attached to protecting the political power of a very narrow elite at the expense of quality of life of working people and the ability of local economies all over this nation to flourish and thrive.  The irony is the 1% doesn't tend to reside in Georgia so local Republican's are fighting, for the most part, for a group of people who not only don't reside within their districts but look down on the lifestyles and cultural beliefs of their constituents.     

The fact that Republican voters I know are pushing for policies that literally take money directly out of the local community and straight into the financial markets is something that drives me up a wall since this kind of "redistribution of wealth" is supposed to be frowned upon by Republicans.  This money then gets used for the types of needless speculation and risk taking which created the most recent economic crisis (requiring massive bailouts by taxpayers) and it should piss you off--especially those of you who are out of work, looking for a better job, or are struggling to keep your local small business running. 

One place where "conservatives" and champions of free markets here in Georgia, and elsewhere, could prove me wrong would be in standing up to government interference with the rights of organized labor in the private sector.  

One of the results of the "Reagan revolution"--the neoliberal effort to undermine the political power of working people--has been to harness government's power to interfere in the efforts of organized labor.  Restrictions on organized labor have had a devastating impact on the quality of life of American workers and is one of the key culprits of the erosion of wages and the massive disparities of wealth we are now facing.

One easy long term solution which state leaders should be pushing, as we work to get our economy back in order, is to simply get government out of private sector negotiations between owners and workers.  

Lets let the market do what it does best, rather than having Government give mega corporations an un-level playing field, which allows owners to exploit their workers at the bargaining table--manipulating the market outcomes.   

When massive corporations like Walmart, McDonalds, and Starbucks no longer have the ability to harness the state to keep workers from utilizing their collective bargaining power; local economies throughout the nation will begin the reap the rewards, as profits which are currently shooting straight to the top are more evenly distributed throughout the company.  

When the political question of how to distribute profits within a corporation are decided, not by politician's in Washington and state capitals across the nation deciding they should pick the winner in advance, siding with the mega corporations in the process; but are decided within the company via contract negotiations, there will be major changes that will reverberate throughout the economy as working people harnessing market forces are able to put their hard earned dollars into their local economies.  

If we were able to get government out of private sector negotiations and corporate profits began to become more equitably distributed throughout the company we would not only see stronger local economies we would also see the burden on our Federal and State welfare/social safety-net's reduced.  This would be a win-win for any of the Republican's I know; at least if they are honest about their priorities and principles. 

Currently there are many hard working Americans who need to tap into safety-net programs just to stay afloat and if politician's no longer allowed corporations to rig the labor market we could change this state of affairs by simply letting markets do what they do best.   By skewing markets in favor of the political connected corporations--which is a top priority of Republican politicians--we indirectly increase the tax burdens facing our state and local governments.

Remember, government "picking winners and losers" is supposed to be frowned upon by Republican's but time and time again we see Republican's side with corporations and support government interference in the private sector. All at the expense of workers who live in their districts.  Apparently its more important to be seen as "anti-union" than it is to support free market policies which would have positive impacts on the local economies of their constituents. 

Dean Baker gives a good run down in his most recent book The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (which you can download for free here) on ways government interfere's in labor markets resulting in skewed outcomes. 

This government interference ends up transferring millions of dollars of wealth from the hands of working people into the pockets of the 1%.  This is a situation where the "wealth creators" are having their pockets picked by the 1% simply because the 1% have the political clout to buy politicians to write the rules (interfering in the free market) so that they can enrich themselves.  Here is overview from Dean:

Restrictions on organized labor
Yet another area where the government intervenes in the market at the behest of the well-off to diminish the well-being of workers and the disadvantaged is labor-management policy. The accepted view is that progressives want the government to intervene to protect workers, while conservatives would rather let workers and management sort things out for themselves. That’s not quite the story. 

Though labor law provides protections to workers and their unions, it also constrains workers’ power in important ways. For example, it is illegal to organize or honor a secondary boycott. If the workers at a restaurant go on strike and then arrange for the Teamsters to refuse to deliver food to honor the strike, the restaurant can enlist the government to deliver injunctions and impose fines against the Teamsters. If Teamsters officials ignore the injunction (e.g., they don’t tell their members that they cannot refuse to deliver food to the restaurant), they can face imprisonment.[3] This is not the free market; this is the government intervening on behalf of employers. 

Another example of how labor-management policy is rigged away from market forces is the fact that 22 states currently deny workers freedom of contract with their employers. Under “right-to-work” laws, workers are prohibited from signing contracts with employers that require workers covered by a union contract to pay their share of the union’s costs. The law requires that everyone who is in a union bargaining unit – regardless of whether they are actually in the union – gets the same pay and benefits. The law also requires that the union represent workers indisputes with employers on issues covered by the contract, whether or not a worker is in the union. This means that if a worker who does not pay to support the union is fired, the law requires that the union represent the worker through any appeals process established under the contract.  

While the law requires unions to provide the same benefits to all workers covered by a contract, right-to-work laws prohibit unions from signing agreements with employers that would require workers to pay for the benefits they are receiving. It in effect guarantees representation without taxation. This restriction of freedom of contract is not consistent with a free market. “Right-to-work” laws are just another way in which the right uses the power of the state to reduce the power and income of workers. Free marketers are perfectly willing to deny the freedom of contract to accomplish this end.

Dean Baker. The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive (Kindle Locations 104-110). Center for Economic and Policy Research. 

So next time you are talking to a Republican who claims they hate when government picks winners and losers you should chime in and ask them if they agree with you that we should end government restrictions on organized labor.  

The more we start to call out Republican's for their support of the 1% the more we can begin to erode the power and control that the 1% hold over our state and local political elites (who truly have no need to build alliances with the 1% to begin with).  

By beginning the long term efforts to hold conservative's to their claimed principles and exposing the Republican Party for its unabashed support of the 1% the more we will begin to identify allies and build alliances of local politicians across the political spectrum who want to prioritize flourishing economies over picking winners and losers.  

Getting government out of private sector negotiations would be a sane, progressive, place to start.