A Sunday Rant

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

I just spent about three hours watching the Sunday talk shows (Face the Nation, Meet The Press and This Week).  The hosts, Bob Schieffer, David Gregory and George Stephanopoulos had “balanced” panels consisting of political agents of Obama and Romney answering questions about the candidates and the presidential race.

It was painful to watch.  Each panelist cited the employment record of Romney while he was governor of Massachusetts.  O bama’s agents said it was bad because the unemployment rate was 47th among the 50 states when he left office.  Romney’s agents said it was good because the unemployment rate was 51st (I suppose they included Guam ??) when Romney became governor and 30th when his term ended.  No host responded by presenting the correct figures.

It seems to me that hosts of these shows, with support staffs available to help with their homework, could have easily anticipated this problem.  Why didn’t they have the actual facts available?  If one purpose of their existence is to furnish information to the American public, why not take some care to insure that actual information is furnished?  Surely the actual figures are available. Reporters and journalists are supposed to report and disclose accurate information, not just provide a forum for lies and misleading claims.

Paul Krugman was a panelist on This Week.  He did speak up to correct some of the inaccurate nonsense and Stephanopoulos allowed him to do so.  I wish, however, that when Krugman corrected some plain lie just offered by Romney’s agent, Stephanopoulos had turned to the agent and asked, “Would you like to correct what you said about that?”  “Do you disagree with what Professor Krugman’s graph just showed?”

Reporters should cross-examine, not act as emcees for scripted actors.  Mike Wallace was an exception, but he specialized in interviewing swindlers and frauds, not domestic politicians.

What really gripes me is that Fox News doesn’t hesitate to attack any liberal who appears on one of their programs, but CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC are apparently afraid of being labeled “partisan” and “biased” if they point out lies peddled by right wing propagandists.

The other thing that depresses me this afternoon is that Scott Walker seems to be winning in Wisconsin.  The recall election is Tuesday and the latest polling I can find (on Real Clear Politics) has him 7 points ahead of Barrett.  I assume that, after Walker wins, we will have a few days of grim pontificating about the avalanche of out-of-state money that caused the defeat and the evils of the Citizens United decision.

What we won’t see is a major speech by Obama declaring war on right-to-work and initiating a campaign to repeal Section 14b of the Taft Hartley Act that permits the fragmenting of national labor policy by state legislatures.  Union shops should be legal in America.  No one should be required to cross a picket line in order to hold a job.  Secondary boycott rules and laws should be amended.

What is happening right now is a successful campaign to create hostility among non-union workers toward union workers.  “Why should I help those guys have decent wages and benefits when I can’t have them?”  This is especially effective concerning public employee unions.  “Why should I pay taxes so they can have better wages and benefits that I have?” This multi-billion dollar campaign has been waged for years and there has been little or no opposing campaign.

The combination of globalization and the wholesale destruction of labor unions in America will destroy our middle class.   The “iron law of wages” and the dream of the Chamber of Commerce “is   a proposed law of economics that asserts that real wages always tend, in the long run, toward the minimum wage necessary to sustain the life of the worker. ”  An economist, David Ricardo is generally associated with this “law”, but he actually (according to a Wikipedia article I have consulted) argued that cultural differences would cause significant variations of this  “law”.

Ricardo wrote:  “It is not to be understood that the natural price of labor, estimated even in food and necessaries, is absolutely fixed and constant. It varies at different times in the same country, and very materially differs in different countries. It essentially depends on the habits and customs of the people.   An English laborer would consider his wages under their natural rate, and too scanty to support a family, if they enabled him to purchase no other food than potatoes, and to live in no better habitation than a mud cabin; yet these moderate demands of nature are often deemed sufficient in countries where ‘man’s life is cheap’, and his wants easily satisfied. Many of the conveniences now enjoyed in an English cottage, would have been thought luxuries in an earlier period of our history.” (italics added).

Stop and think about how Ricardo’s argument would fit today’s global marketplace.  Our domestic managers well understand what Ricardo observed, but they now don’t have to fit the “iron law” to American standards of decency.  They can take advantage of the cultural differences Ricardo wrote about and move their workforce to those places where “‘man’s life is cheap’ and his wants easily satisfied.”

And what is the Democratic Party’s response to this?  Why, we’re for free trade.  We’d rather have low prices at Wal-Mart than high wages at Chevron or the Toyota plant in  some Southern state. The only significant source of political money for the Democratic Party is union labor.  The man power and skill for grass roots organizing and voter turnout efforts comes from union labor.  Those resources are disappearing before our eyes and as T.S. Eliot wrote, they’re going “not with a bang, but a whimper.”

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