Conventional wisdom seems to be that the financial difficulties of the Post Office are due to the rise of email. The Postmaster General noted this himself as he announced the end of Saturday delivery. But to only look at competition from email is to miss the larger ideological picture -- namely, that privatizing USPS has been a goal of market absolutists for decades. The real "crisis" faced by the PO is the absurd requirement, set by Republicans in Congress, that the agency fund retiree benefits for the next 75 years -- paying for future employees who haven't even been born yet! This article on Alternet provides an overview of how the service is under attack. Never mind that the Postal Service isn't taxpayer-funded; privatizing it is still part of the Cato Institute's agenda. It seems obvious to me that replacing USPS with a patchwork of private mail delivery companies would be an unmitigated clusterf#ck. Believe it or not, the private sector is not always the most efficient (see: health insurance).
I've said it before, but you can't cut workers' wages and benefits -- and generally destabilize their lives six ways from Sunday -- at the same time that you slash the social safety net. That's simply uncouth.
I guess I could have had the shopper trampling a bunch of Walmart managers to help the cashier, but given the news about the Walmart security officer who apparently killed a shoplifter with a chokehold, I didn't want to make light of Black Friday-related violence. Personally, I find staying home and working instead of going shopping on Black Friday to be the best way to save money.
As if we needed any further proof that trickle-down economics is a joke, along comes massively-profitable Caterpillar's decision to freeze the wages of its Joliet, IL factory workers from now until the cows come home, and then some. Meanwhile, the compensation for Cat CEO Douglas Oberhelman shot up 60% in 2011, to $16.9 million. It's not like the workers were being lavishly paid, either; the top tier had average salaries of $55,000 before overtime.
Unfortunately, I can't boycott Cat, as I won't exactly be in the market for a knuckleboom loader anytime soon.
You would think at some point, conservatives would wake up to the fact that workers can't buy stuff without money. I mean, you can't keep stomping the crap out of the middle class and expect awesome economic growth. That's magical thinking -- a phenomenon not uncommon among Republicans, granted.
I recently finished Robert Frank's Richistan, which provided the inspiration for this one. If you aren't familiar with the book, it's about the hermetically-sealed reality inhabited by today's ultrarich. Trust me, it's even worse than you think. Frank is far too blithe about political corruption, but otherwise the book is a fascinating read. Some of the people described are real pieces of work.
I don't wish to impugn the many good philanthropists out there. I'm talking about the jerks who spend their lives making things difficult for ordinary people, the suddenly feel a pang of noblesse oblige to "do good." Like, maybe if Mr. Aristopants didn't fight environmental laws to reduce cancer-causing pollutants, his money wouldn't be needed so much by that children's cancer camp. It is, like so many things, a cycle of absurdity.
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I realize creative destruction happens when technology changes, and to some extent it's inevitable. (The kind of "creative" destruction Romney practiced at Bain: not so good.) But some people become cheerleaders for economic disruption without the appropriate amount of empathy for affected workers, and that annoys me.
If you think the pundit in the cartoon bears a passing resemblance to Thomas Friedman, I won't argue with you. Friedman isn't as empathy-challenged as they come, but he's pretty bad. He endlessly fantasizes about retraining Americans to be high-tech imagineers, even though our current unemployment woes are broad-based, not structural.
"In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle... Average is over," he wrote in a recent tone-deaf column that glowingly referred to the above-average workers in China who were roused in the middle of the night to work a 12-hour shift installing iPhone screens. Aside from his apparent lack of concern that such labor conditions totally suck, it's kind of haughty to imply that the unemployed are suffering from a case of averageness. There are plenty of highly-educated Americans who can't find jobs -- never mind the fact that many jobs out there barely utilize your education. If we are to dismiss the average or subpar, then perhaps Friedman's column should be the first to go.
I assume most people have heard about Mitt Romney's dog-on-car incident, especially now that even Newt Gingrich is attacking him over it, but to recap briefly: back in the '80s, Mitt stowed the family pooch in a carrier on the roof of the family station wagon for the duration of a 12-hour drive to Ontario. After several hours, the dog, an Irish Setter named Seamus, developed gastric distress that made itself evident on the windows of the station wagon. Mitt stopped at a gas station to hose down the dog and the car, and continued on his merry way, Seamus still riding aloft.
As I drew Mitt's bus, I got to thinking about the Romney campaign logo. I find the symbolism of these things fascinating. The Romney logo divides the "R" into red, white and blue stripes. It sort of looks like three people standing in a row, or an abstractly-shaped waving flag. But what I see most is an R within an R within an R: the rich protecting the rich protecting the rich.
So Mitt Romney has taken to giving speeches chock full o' sound bites for the Tea Party, invoking Cold War paranoia and demonizing people who, god forbid, need to use the social safety net during hard times. An excerpt (via Washington Monthly):
"[Obama] seeks to replace our merit-based society with an entitlement society. In an entitlement society, everyone receives the same or similar rewards, regardless of education, effort and willingness to take risk. That which is earned by some is redistributed to the others. And the only people to enjoy truly disproportionate rewards are the people who do the redistributing — the government."
What's remarkable about that quote, aside from the fact that it is ludicrously false, is that Romney and the rest of the Republicans seem hell-bent on destroying what little meritocracy is left in this country, and replacing it with aristocracy. Would Mitt be running for president today had his father not been CEO of American Motors and Governor of Michigan? What if George Romney had been a victim of corporate restructuring instead? Would Mitt still have joined Bain Capital, and would he still be passing on that cool $100 million to his sons? And the fact that son Tagg touts his interest in "private equity" in his Twitter profile... surely that's just meritocracy in action, having absolutely nothing to do with the Romney legacy whatsoever.
I really enjoyed drawing Mr. Perkins as Mitt, by the way. I think he plays the part well!
This cartoon, of course, references Grover Norquist's famous line about wanting to reduce government to the size where he could drown it in a tub, like some unfortunate critter. One concept anti-government types aren't too clear on is that waste is hardly unique to the public sector. I'm not saying government programs are necessarily more efficient than privately-run ones (although in the case of health care, public plans are massively more cost-effective). But money out of your pocket is money out of your pocket, whether it's going to the guv'mint or a corporation.