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The Projo reports today that over a hundred thousand dollars is being
invested by government agencies to help develop a "knowledge economy."
Presumably this will bring high tech jobs developing hardware, software
and bolstering design jobs. All of which sounds wonderful, of course.
But still I have to ask myself, who's going to be working in these jobs
of tomorrow? Currently the overwhelming majority of jobs in this state
are in the service industry. These are mostly unskilled or semi-skilled
positions which pay modest wages. A lot of these jobs ought to be
transitional ones at best; minor rungs on an upwardly mobile ladder.
Only they're often not. Social mobility tends not to reach thousands of
workers in the service sector. Part of the reason is because they lack
the skills and training opportunities of workers in other sectors. When
money is tight, educational expenses can be hard to justify. So when I
see the prospect of hundreds of possible high skilled, high tech jobs
coming to Rhode Island, I can't help but wonder who will benefit most.
Whoever it is, I doubt it will be the workers who are here now,
struggling to make a decent living for themselves and their families.
As if undermining the competitive advantages of unions weren't
concerning enough, Wisconsin's governor-you-love-to-hate is now
reportedly seeking to emulate a recent Michigan law which grants the
governor's office sweeping powers over cities and towns. Some have
already argued that the states have always had the power to tell cities
what they should or should not be doing, which in general they do. But
the key difference in the Michigan law, is that this power has been
taken from the legislative branch and given to the executive. As it
stands right now in Michigan, the Emergency Financial Manager can,
almost at will, dissolve city councils, school boards, dictate what
policy they can or cannot pursue, even what kind of meetings they can
have. In short, an appointed official is able to literally destroy an
elected body. This might not seem that extreme to some, considering the
dire straits many municipalities find themselves in these days. And
indeed, one would be a fool to argue that simply being an elected
official means you practice good governance. Plenty of duly elected
officials have run the gamut from incompetence to outright fraud. But
does that mean we should shift decision-making power - and
responsibility - away from the general assembly toward the governor's
office? I try, as a general rule, to steer clear of alarmist rhetoric.
But I can't seem to get past the idea that the supremacy of executive
over legislative power is a defining feature of totalitarian regimes.
Which isn't of course to say that I think Mr. Snyder counts as a
dictator. Nor do I think you can argue that Michigan has suddenly
turned into a fascist state. But I do think the health of a democracy
can be measured by the health quantity and quality of its social
competition. By that metric, anything which limits political influence
to a only few powerful interests is something we all ought to be
concerned with.
The battle against workers continues apace. Ohio is considering an
anti-union bill that would strip public sector workers of the right
collectively bargain and to strike. But what's perhaps more interesting
are the actions of the governor of Maine this week. Republican Governor
Paul Le Page took a far more symbolic move against workers when he
ordered a mural to removed from the department of labor. The mural,
which depicted the struggles of organized labor, was removed on the
grounds that the labor department was not an "appropriate venue," to
discuss the history of worker's rights. Apparently the labor department
needs to be less concerned with labor. This illustrates a more
troubling aspect of the current wave of anti-unionism sweeping through
GOP controlled state houses. By depicting public sector unions as
greedy special interests getting in the way of our prosperity, the GOP
are perversely arguing that the only interest group worthy of
government attention is business. The main thrust of their narrative -
that nurses, teachers and state employees are interest groups while
businesses are not - is of course, utter nonsense. Any group that
lobbies the government to seek a favorable legislative outcome is an
interest group. Business organizations do this all the time. So, if and
when the GOP does succeed in eviscerating workers organizations, they
are not removing special interests from the legislative process.
Rather, they are whittling down the effective interests to the one that
most often supports their party. Competition among interest groups is
not something we should be trying to stop. On the contrary. It is in
fact, the way our democracy works. Whether or not you think unions are
the best way to organize a labor market, this attack on the political
capacities of American workers should be a concern for anyone
interested in the health of our system.
Here's a thought: All through this election, substantive talks about
fixing our numerous problems have been overshadowed by senseless
bombast. Media, backed by finance, is reporting on things which anger
and frighten voters but do little to address actual issues. The
Internet, while making it easier to get information to the masses, has
no filter to distinguish information from misinformation. So it has
actually been easier to focus attention on divisive issues. Of course,
you probably know this all ready. My question is, as we go out to vote
today, does anyone know what either party's agenda would actually be if
they won??
We're nearly half way through October and the press still seems
mystified by the strength of grass-roots conservatism. The race between
perennial candidate and some-time witch Christine O'Donnell and her
mealy eyed opponent, is a nearly perfect example of how this year's
midterms continue to be weave a narrative the mainstream media just
can't seem to get its head around (see here for example). Does the
tea-party represent a rightward shift in the American electorate, or
has the election of a black president really driven white America over
the edge? What no one seems to be asking, however, is whether or not
this movement might actually be a big red flag for the red-party.
Considering that GOP turnout for the Delaware primary was just 32%. you
would think the press would have been less impressed with O'Donnell's
win than they were. Granted, 32% is pretty good for a midterm primary,
but it also means that Ms. O'Donnell won by just over half of that. And
that's 32% of registered Republicans, not the entire electorate.
Libertarians and moderates, it seems never even bothered to show up. So
far the tea-party phenomenon looks less like a barometer of the
electorate's mood and more like an internal struggle for representation
within the Republican party - something that goes on in every primary,
every election.
While it is possible that the take over of the GOP by its most extreme
fringes very well could mean that the party has gained conservative
converts, it could also mean that the GOP has lost the confidence of
moderate conservatives. And it's this latter case which could spell
trouble for the GOP going forward. Even if they can win enough seats to
claim victory in November, a tea-party dominated GOP is likely to
alienate moderates even further. With nowhere else to go, these voters
might swell the ranks of the unaffiliated, distilling the party even
further, which will alienate more voters, distilling it further and so
on. In other words, the less appealing to the middle GOP candidates
become, the more they risk increasing the appeal of the opposition - or
worse, inciting moderates to just not show up at all. This mass of
unaffiliated, generally turned-off voters would be a prime recruiting
ground for a third party. It is, of course, nearly impossible to tell
which scenario is currently playing out. However, if it is the latter,
then big tea-party wins in November will likely only mean big-time
trouble in 2012. The GOP is banking on the tea-party to gain influence
in Congress. Maybe in this case they should have been more careful with
what they wished for.
Washington Resists Calls for Big Fix on Foreclosures - BusinessWeek
Here's another example of the administration closing the barn door
after the cows are out. If they had gone with the so-called "bad bank"
idea from the beginning, this current problem might not even exist.
With a bad-bank, they could have bought up the troubled mortgage assets
for less than they were worth (but more than what the bank would have
gotten through foreclosure), refinanced so the owners could at least
try to stay in their homes and then sold them back to the industry once
the market had stabilized. Possibly even for a profit. Instead they
threw that seven-trillion dollars at the bankers and shouted, "YOU FIX
IT!" Predictably, throwing wads of cash at the very people who
bankrupted the system didn't really accomplish much. So now, when faced
with the real-world consequences of this melt-down, the administration
has precious little room to maneuver. Of course, the fact that the
seven-trillion dollar TARP program was Bush's swan song might lead
conspiracy theorists to think this is just want the bankers wanted. But
Obama had a ample chance to stop it. Instead, he chose to trust the
bankers. Let's hope that TARP turns out to be Obama's Bay of Pigs - a
crisis from which he'll emerge a stronger president. Just don't emulate
JFK too closely, please.
- NYTimes.com
There's a lot of finger pointing going on right now, after massive
bailouts and government spending has failed to translate into new jobs.
But as the above quote suggests, there's certainly one place to point
it. Corporations are still seeing substantial growth in profits even as
the job market continues to shrink. Why is this? In part it's because
they're hoarding what capital they have (which, not incidentally, often
includes the public dollars we spent to bail them out). But rather than
reinvesting this into the economy, they're protecting profits by
cutting costs - especially workers. Fiscal conservatives look at this
like an austerity measure. The shedding of workers is just the
proverbial "tightening of the belt," that we all need to do in lean
times. Another way to look at it is that hoarded capital is capital
which is not being circulating in the economy. That means that in order
to create the liquid capital needed to get money moving again, the
government has to print more of the stuff - which of course, devalues
the currency and more or less defeats it's own purpose. Now, I'm no
economist, but this looks to me like a damn fine argument against
letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Tax hikes on the very corporate
profits (i.e. hoarding) that's helping to stall job growth can and
should be redirected to state and local governments to prevent those
jobs from being lost as well. It's basic Keynesianism (which I know
will irritate some people no end). When the economy contracts, private
sector corporations - the ones who control most of the capital - begin
hoarding by cutting costs and shedding jobs. This lowers demand which
induces further hoarding, etc, etc. To make up for this, Keynes argued
that the government should make up for it by expanding it's own work
force to compensate, thus keeping people employed and demand stable. If
the federal government can't do this, then that tax money should go to
the states where it can protect libraries, schools, police and roads.
These things create jobs. And while I'd always prefer the private
sector to be the job creators, the reality is, right now, they aren't.
And if they aren't who will be? This is something we need to keep in
mind when people start arguing against any and all forms of taxaton. Of
course people out of work and small business don't need more taxes when
they are struggling. But corporations are not struggling - they're the
reason you're struggling. Try to remember that the next time some one
tries to scare you with the tax hike boogieman.
State Dems turn on the Brother's Lynch, endorse Providence Mayor.

From: http://ping.fm/Rr0lT
This isn't my normal type of post, but the idea of the New England
Revolution's top keeper coming off the disabled list makes me all sorts
of happy. After the year these guys have been having, they need all the
help they can get.

- Frog

Google tells her to walk down a country road that turns out to have no
sidewalks. She gets hit and tries to sue Google. Clearly their fault.

From: http://ping.fm/3joKI