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Missing 20th Century Republican Roots….

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Regarding the desire of many on the left and among Democrats to see the GOP die, I have very mixed emotions. I remember a very different GOP: one which had lived through the Great Depression and WWII and was firmly committed to fiscal responsibility, rebuilding and renewing the homeland, staying out of foreign military engagements as much as possible, and creating economic growth and security for everyone.

With this ignorant and bombastic GOP, I say keep up the publicity ’cause they’ll continue to lose and maybe lose even more sooner if the current Democratic fundraising push has legs, provided, of course, that the GOP doesn’t rig the electoral game too much more in their favor regardless of what is in the best interests of a constitutional democratic Republic. (FYI, a lot of these sneaky gerrymandering, etc., actions were Cheney’s grand idea. Another reason to hate that rotten old SOB.)

Movement conservative GOP libertarian ideology

Yes, I do want them to lose because they do not represent the GOP I grew up knowing and appreciating for their conservative yet economic moderation, understanding and knowledge of fiscal realities, their desire to rebuild and renew the American physical and economic landscape, and to keep Americans out of more wars. The modern conservative movement, and its many faceted coalition, no longer represent, let along understand, what those earlier Republicans stood for or helped build. Let alone why.

On the other hand, I’d like to see a renewal of a more centrist, post WWII like GOP, aka Eisenhower or Rockefeller Republican party, who were fiscally responsible (as in raised taxes to keep deficits and spending down), did not believe in American Imperialism or being the world’s great cops and liberty bringers, and recognized that the way to create both wealth and a strong functioning society was build the up middle class by providing economically family sustainable jobs and economic opportunity (including quality k-12 and affordable higher education) to anyone who worked hard enough to rise up through the ranks as two of my uncles did within major corporations to senior management ranks.

Those same old-fashioned Republicans, now called RINOs and who have been driven from the party by the Limbaughs, Ericksons, Coulters, and Hannitys of the GOP infotainment media universe, were the ones who also believed in efficient but enforced financial regulations that kept our financial system sound for 50 years. A financial soundness they knew had never happened before in the nation’s history, but at the same time empowered tremendous growth and development of new businesses, quite often through the sharing of financial and information resources of combined government and private enterprise.

Those Republicans had lived through the Great Depression and deeply understood the economic, family, and social harm caused by that speculative financial crash. Even Reagan proudly said he was an FDR Democrat (and a union head) until the ’60s when Democrats went too far left (and yes, Reagan was wrong on Medicare – the best thing the nation could do today economically would be to let go of its obsession with employer provided health care for one of the other OECD models in order to save well over a trillion dollars annually. But many like Reagan believed the AMA denunciations of Medicare way back when).

They, too, had experienced real war, unlike most in the GOP today who either like McCain cannot forget, let alone forgive, leaving Vietnam without winning, or hold to a Cheney-Kristol neo-con belief in American Imperialism that would have been antithetical to the Greatest Generation Republicans who fought WWII. Anyone who had read the dispatches of Ernie Pyle – there’s an out of print book of them and his diaries – quickly understands why Eisenhower kept the US out of more wars. Most of today’s leading GOP pundits and followers hold fast to their guns but have absolutely no knowledge or experience with actual realities of war. I’d bet few of them have ever seen the mid-1950s TV series, “Victory at Sea” that was aired every Sunday morning. They think guns, shooting, et al, are all fun and games kind of like a video game. But Ernie Pyle wrote about the dirty, bloody underside of war. Embedded with Army, he wrote about slogging through the mud, the American GIs (and himself) exhausted and worn out; seeing the bombed, bloody body parts of American GIs he knew spread across the landscape; seeing and feeling death and destruction everywhere as the Army moved north in Italy towards Germany.

My father and mother’s generation had lived through the hell of the Great Depression and WWII. My Dad rode the rails as a teenager, looking for work to send money home to his family and to support himself. My mom’s family lost their home and moved into a cousin’s barn, while my grandfather walked the highways and streets of eastern Washington, selling spices door to door. My dad convinced his mother to lie about his age so he could join the Army and later transferred to the Army Air Corps because he was allergic to horses. He and two other uncles became part of the USAF during WWII. Dad flew missions over Africa. My two other USAF uncles flew missions over Germany. Another uncle was lost when his ship was sunk in the Pacific. That is what Eisenhower knew about war and what today’s neo-cons have never experienced war and do not know…and have never experienced. They never joined up. They have never known the dirt and exhaustion, the horrors of the killing and the ugliness of death.

These prissy gun-toting haters of our social safety net have never experienced the fear, loss and devastation that my parents and grandparents went through. Worse, they don’t care to even learn or even understand. But the Eisenhower and Rockefeller Republicans knew just as Democrats of that era knew. Just as my Republican parents and grandparents knew. They had seen and lived through the worst of deregulation and speculation as well as the real horrors of war. They demanded stability, economic growth and opportunity for a better life than the one in which they had grown into adulthood. They demanded some sense of economic security and the knowledge that the killing was over. They supported reasonable, sound gun laws, as did the NRA in those days, to end the killing of which they had seen far too much.

They supported a social safety net because they knew how easily it was to lose everything they had worked years to achieve to be left with nothing: not homes, not jobs, not businesses, and often without families. They approved of restrictive regulations on Wall St. to prevent another Great Depression, caused by over speculation and gambling. Even the very McKinley-like Lochner SCOTUS eventually finally gave way to public demand for more social equity that put workers on a equal footing with owners and eventually gave way for more new business development and opportunity.

These are the reasons why Reagan was an FDR Democrat until the overreach of Democrats in the ’60s. For all of the GOP’s glorification of Reagan, they have quite literally forgotten, or chosen to ignore, what he had lived through and who he really was. They’ve twisted him into a McKinley laissez-faire hero he never was. In truth, he probably felt closer to a Rockefeller Republican with a great deal of sympathy for 1950s McCarthy-Bircher anti-communistic ideology. There is no where in his record of actions, legislation or speeches in which he preaches a laissez-faire, libertarian ideology. He was a real product of both the Great Depression and World War II…not of the cynical, selfish, ignorant modern movement conservative. I know. I lived in California, as an adult, during his Governorship as well as his Presidency. I watched him and I saw him. He is nothing like what modern conservative claim him to have been. Even his breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers Union was a product of union over reach rather than a hatred of unions. As a union negotiator, he knew and understood the values of unions in protecting the membership’s wages and benefits as opposed to inflating corporate profits at the expense of workers.

So, if and when the GOP returns to its 20th Century, post Great Depression, roots, I will begin to root for it as my parents did. Until then, I will pray – and work towards – for the national and state wide demise of its current incarnation. I believe our nation – and all her people – deserves better than the current GOP.


Creating a Low Wage America

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Ikea StoreNathaniel Popper’s account in the LA Times of labor disputes at Ikea’s factory in suburban Danville, VA, points out the decline of non-highly educated workers, especially when compared to similarly skilled and educated workers at the same company in Europe:

Laborers in Swedwood plants in Sweden produce bookcases and tables similar to those manufactured in Danville. The big difference is that the Europeans enjoy a minimum wage of about $19 an hour and a government-mandated five weeks of paid vacation. Full-time employees in Danville start at $8 an hour with 12 vacation days — eight of them on dates determined by the company.

What’s more, as many as one-third of the workers at the Danville plant have been drawn from local temporary-staffing agencies. These workers receive even lower wages and no benefits, employees said.

Swedwood’s [Ingrid] Steen said the company is reducing the number of temps, but she acknowledged the pay gap between factories in Europe and the U.S. “That is related to the standard of living and general conditions in the different countries,” Steen said.

I wonder if these low wages and benefits is what politicians and pundits mean when they talk about creating jobs in America? It sounds like a strategy for turning America into Europe’s Mexico.

Written by Valerie Curl

April 11, 2011 at 12:14 PM

When will logic and reality become part of the conversation?

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George WashingtonI don’t believe in ideology. I believe in logic. If this action, then those results. That’s why whenever I hear a politician or political pundit, I ask what are the intended…and more importantly unintended…consequences. How will these actions play out over the long term for the American people at large. To me, politics is not a game of right vs left but rather the lives of millions of American people and the economic viability of the nation. I don’t believe in politically simplistic – or sophistry – answers. I believe in discovering the roots causes, much as scientists do for a disease, of a problem and resolving those root causes. Whether it’s illegal immigration or the budget deficit. However, sometimes I find myself overwhelmed by political stupidity and partisanship. One would think that after 200+ years of this nation (actually well over 300 years since the first settlers) the American people would have gone well beyond ill-informed partisan wrangling. One of the things our founders agreed upon was the inherent evil of political partisanship, which is why Pres. Washington spoke against it so often. Yet, from the first, political parties argued and engaged in partisanship via news outlets. Nothing new now. What has changed is the volume of the partisan news media.

This evening, I’ve listened to replays of Republican Congressmen who publicly vetoed any help for the Big-3 auto companies, even from those who voted for the bail out of the Big 5 Wall St. financial companies under Pres. Bush in Sept 2008. Much of their “so-called” reasoning was that the unions presented too much of a drag on company profits so they could not support loaning money to these companies.

Yes, it’s true that Ford did not need federal help. But that was because they sought out financial help a year prior to the financial meltdown, through the sale of shares and loans that raised enough cash to tide Ford through the downturn to remodel their facilities and their cars. Ford publicly announced the fact that had they not sought funding a year earlier, they would have been the in same position as the other two American auto companies. Fortunately for Ford, their company leadership recognized the wave of the future. GM and Chrysler did not have such leadership.

Nevertheless, the facts remain that if the Fed Government had not LOANED GM and Chrysler (remember Lee Iococa asking the Fed gov’t for a loan way back when?) both companies would be out of business now (would a bankruptcy court have dealt with bondholders and shareholders any differently?) along with thousands and perhaps millions of suppliers all across America. Even foreign car companies argued for the loans as their businesses would be irreparably hurt if all the small production-chain suppliers were put out of business as a result of the loss of GM and Chrysler buying power.

Not only would the unemployment rate be much higher than it is now, but also all auto manufacturing in this country effectively would have come to an end. Yet, the taxpayer continues to pay subsidies to Exxon-Mobil, Massey Energy and ADM. Not LOANS such as the car companies have to pay back, but outright corporate welfare. Taxpayer subsidies to corporations that have no obligation to pay back a single dollar for their taxpayer help to the tune of $550,000,000.00 – but are very profitable within their own industry sectors and across of the board.

Let’s get real, people, and stop playing into partisan political hyperbole and rhetoric. You can hate unions for much of what their leadership has done (abused the system) through the years, but to deny workers the opportunity to bargain for better salaries and worker conditions from a profitable company – or a company that is paying its’ senior managements billions of dollars each year – is beyond ludicrous. Furthermore, it smacks at how much corporate PR…and their congressional enablers and apologists…have come to dominate the public conversation. Since when did a worker earning a decent yet modest living income become anathema?

Many still continue to argue that labor unions are the biggest problem for auto companies. But, aside from ideological free market view points, has anyone even taken the time to discover what auto unions (and the auto companies) are paying new workers? $14 per hour. At an average of 40 hours per week that salary amounts to $540 per week pre-taxes or $27,000 for 50 weeks of work before taxes. How many people really think that is a wonderful salary? Even the $28/hr for older workers only net a pre-tax salary for the same period of time of $56,000. That’s hardly high living. Yet, somehow, still, unions are a huge problem in many people’s minds. Why? Is it because they’ve been told over and over again in the media that it’s a problem…because corporations say it’s a problem or because it changes the ill-informed paradigm of worker vs management and the ideologic rhetoric of free-marketers who apparently don’t believe in assembled group negotiations? What, after all, is a union but an assembly of like-minded individuals seeking a common outcome? Speaking as a buyer of goods and services, that’s what negotiations are all about. Each comes into the negotiations wanting the most or best they hope for and settle on something in between. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango.

Sometimes I worry about the lack of public knowledge and its ability to see the beyond the now to the end results of any action. When I was in school, we were taught logic: “if, then” theory. Now all we get hyperbole and partisan rhetoric in place of sound logical arguments as well as an uninformed voter public.

One of the things I remember from school was publisher Randolph Hearst telling his people, you manufacture the war (with Spain over Cuba, et al) and I’ll deliver public opinion and the Congress. Are we back to those dark days where media fails to do its job to inform the public accurately? Does not the public deserve honest reporting? Does not the media require honest reporting of “if,then” scenarios from which the voting public can then make an informed decision? When the media fails to investigate and provide logical consequences to certain actions, the public is done a disservice. The public is not properly informed. Worse the public is not taught to investigate and inform themselves.

When the media becomes dominated by corporate sponsors – and their apologists – and becomes afraid to ask the important questions, real democracy is lost.

Such seems to be the case now as so many people who comment on blogs and major news sites spew the latest partisan rhetoric – and much, much worse – in order to gain what? Both the questions and answers are simplistic and ideologically oriented with very little thought regarding long term solutions or serious discussions of causes or strategic and tactical thinking about 50 years down the road.

I wonder what Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison and Adams would be thinking if they could see us now.

Written by Valerie Curl

July 31, 2010 at 9:24 AM

Need a Job? The three growing industry sectors in the U.S.

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Here are a few facts on which sectors are growing:

1) Every single day another prison somewhere in the U.S. is being built.

These prisons are needed to house the growing numbers of people convicted of crimes that even judges think are far too punitive. At a cost of more than $1M/prisoner per year, this sector continues to grow as the recession continues. As a side note, States have cut spending on schools even though the cost per student per year is less than 10% of the cost of housing a prisoner…and nets a far greater benefit to society and the economy as a whole.

2) Armaments – military, arms manufacturers, private contractors, mercenaries

Recently released, the cost per soldier per year in the war zones is one million dollars. The cost of the latest approved bombers which the generals did not want is billions. Manufacturers of bullets, to meet both increased military needs and civilian wants, have stretched manufacturing abilities to the breaking point, causing those prices to increase. The cost per contractor, or mercenary (think Blackwater), has been well publicized, showing overpricing, corruption and misappropriation of funds accounting to billions in lost federal (voter) dollars.

3) Health care – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and physical or occupational therapists.

Beyond the fact that the largest percentage of the populace is aging – as millions of baby boomers are on the verge of retirement – which means an increase in the need for medical care, there are now millions of young people who are suffering innumerable affects and disabilities caused by war injuries. And as long as the country continues to support interminable war, the need for health care workers will increase.

So if you’re looking for a job, you might look into these three industries.

In case you missed it…

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The Washington Post today reported

The Institute for Supply Management reported Tuesday that manufacturing expanded in August for the first time since January 2008. The institute’s index of business activity rose to 52.9, from 48.9. Any number below 50 signals a contraction.

[…] Separate reports showed that construction spending on residential real estate rose 4.5 percent and that pending home sales increased for the sixth consecutive month, supporting other recent indications that the decline in the housing market is leveling off.

Taken together, the reports show that two of the hardest-hit sectors have, at the very least, ceased to be a drag on growth. The new indicators, in fact, suggest that manufacturing and housing could drive the incipient recovery, accounting for an unusually large share of growth and stimulating a rebound in more sluggish areas such as consumer spending.

“The key we’re looking for is consistency,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group. “The more we see of these types of indicators all sending the same message, the more confident we are that the worst is over and the economy is on track to recover.”

Jobs recovery still remains a few months in the future, but businesses are signaling their desire to begin hiring in the coming months as business volume picks up. Surveyed businesses report they expect to begin hiring – expanding their staff – in the next few months.

So the worst is over…but we still have major endemic problems to solve which cripple our national competitiveness. If anti-competitive costs, such as the increasing costs of health care, are not solved, US businesses will never be able to compete, domestically or internationally, with companies that do not have to account with those costs in their prices.

Meltdown 101: What jobs might the stimulus create?

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An Associated Press story reveals the number and types of jobs the Stimulus Plan could create.

If it works as planned, the stimulus proposal would create thousands of construction jobs building and repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure. But it also aims to boost employment in the manufacturing, information technology and energy sectors, among others.

The stimulus includes a whopping $550 billion in spending and about $275 billion in tax cuts.

Asked if the Stimulus Plan would stop job losses,

Not necessarily. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, estimates that the stimulus package would simply reduce the number of jobs lost in the next two years.

Zandi, who favors the stimulus and is a former adviser to Arizona Sen. John McCain, said in a paper last week that without it roughly 8 million jobs would be lost by the end of 2010, pushing the unemployment rate to more than 11 percent.

If the stimulus is approved, he forecasts that job losses would be held to 5 million and the jobless rate would peak at 9 percent.

In his recent report on the U.S. economy, Zandi states

[The] Democratic plan proposed in mid-January includes both increases in government spending and tax cuts. The plan costs approximately $825 billion, equal to 5.5% of the nation’s gross domestic product. This is not as costly as the public works projects of the 1930s, but it is costlier than the 3% of GDP spent to stimulate the economy during the tough downturn in the early 1980s. The cost of the current package would thus be consistent with expectations regarding the severity of this downturn. At 5.5% of GDP, the stimulus would also be about enough to ensure the economy stops contracting by the end of 2009 and that GDP returns to its prerecession peak by the end of 2010—reasonable goals.

The mix of tax cuts and spending increases in the stimulus package is designed to provide both quick relief and a substantial boost to the struggling economy. The tax cuts will not pack a big economic punch, as some of the money will be saved and some used to repay debt, but they can be implemented quickly. Aid to state and local governments will not lift the economy, but it will forestall cuts in programs and payrolls that many governments would be forced to make to meet their states’ constitutional obligations to balance their budgets. Infrastructure spending will not help the economy quickly, as it will take time to get even “shovel-ready” projects going, but it will provide a significant economic boost. Because the economy’s problems are not expected to abate soon, this spending will be especially helpful this time next year.

Zandi’s report, given to Speaker Pelosi prior to the recent House debates on the Stimulus Plan, lays out a detailed scenario of what occurred over the last several years. Facts which few Americans are aware. In reading this report in its entirety, it becomes easy to comprehend the reasons for this recession as well as the numerous benefits to the American public of the Stimulus Plan.

For example,

The House stimulus plan includes some $100 billion over two years in income support for those householdsunder significant financial pressure. This includes extra benefits for workers who exhaust their regular 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits; expanded food stamp payments; and help meeting COBRA payments for unemployed workers trying to hold onto their health insurance.

Increased income support has been part of the federal response to most recessions, and for good reason: It is the most efficient way to prime the economy’s pump. Simulations of the Moody’s Economy.com macroeconomic model show that every dollar spent on UI benefits generates an estimated $1.63 in near-term GDP.x Boosting food stamp payments by $1 increases GDP by $1.73 (see Table 2). People who receive these benefits are hard pressed and will spend any financial aid they receive very quickly.

Click to retrieve the report’s Chart on this economic factor.

Zandi concludes:

Now, a new policy consensus has been forged out of collapse. It is widely held that policymakers must take aggressive and consistent action to quell the panic and mitigate the economic fallout. An unfettered Federal Reserve will pump an unprecedented amount of liquidity into the financial system to unlock money and credit markets. The TARP fund will be deployed more broadly to shore up the still-fragile financial system, and another much larger and comprehensive foreclosure mitigation program is needed to forestall some of the millions of mortgage defaults that will occur otherwise. Finally, another very sizable economic stimulus plan is vitally needed. While there will be much more discussion about the size and mix of government spending increases and tax cuts to include, the House Democratic plan is a very good starting point. This is important, for while such debate is necessary it must be resolved quickly. Unless a stimulus plan is implemented beginning this spring, its effectiveness in lifting the economy will be significantly muted.

While not everything in the current House plan meets the criteria of good spending – far too much money is being thrown at private, pet projects of powerful, individual Congressional members which fail to address the jobs revival and long term economic competitive issues facing this country. Nevertheless, the overall the plan appears to have broad support among the business, investor and economic communities.

Hard times in the workplace – a few ideas to make it better

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As a professional marketer, I understand the concepts of marketing a product. But marketing oneself, especially in an economic downturn, is often extremely difficult to do. Most of us never grew up thinking of ourselves as a product. And HR people or employment specialists rarely tell us how to market ourselves successfully in order to achieve the best outcome in our job search. Yet, that is exactly what we must do in a market like this one.

We need to market ourselves exactly as if we were a product, because that is exactly what we are to prospective employers. And like any buyer of a product, employers want to know what you can do for me, what problem can you solve. We’ve all heard these words before, but to most of us those words don’t translate into actionable items.

Today, I received an email from the American Marketing Association, which has relevance for everyone who currently is looking for a job…or who expects to be looking in the near future. It is well worth reading as it describes how to create a personal brand that can translate into a job.

The article is adapted from Managing Brand YOU: Seven Steps to Creating Your Most Successful Self, by Jerry S. Wilson and Ira Blumenthal (AMACOM, 2008).

In it, the authors state:

What if you thought of yourself as a brand?
Successful brands—Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, and so forth—convey a consistent message and create an emotional bond with consumers. Don’t we all want to convey a consistent message and create a similar emotional bond with those important people around us? The process of building such brands is widely used in the commercial world, and now you, too, can use these techniques to build a brand-new you—a Brand YOU!

Just imagine, for a moment, that you are, in fact, a brand. Step outside yourself and look at you: your background, lifestyle, philosophy of life, and your views on right and wrong, as well as the expressions you use, the stores you frequent, the foods you eat, the clothes you wear. Think of your educational background, your experiences, your special areas of expertise. Consider the features that others respect about you, the features of people you respect and why. These are your personal brand attributes. And now you’ve made the first move toward establishing your Brand YOU.

Finding out and developing Brand You is not easy, but it definitely is worthwhile if you plan to succeed during the predicted continuing recession.

Good luck!

Written by Valerie Curl

January 6, 2009 at 3:27 AM

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