Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s take on the minimum wage. According to the governor, the minimum wage and income inequality are only problems because Democrats keep talking about these subjects. Christie thinks that more “opportunity” is the real solution to what plagues the U.S. He refers to President Obama as a “class warrior.”
In my view, Christie is the one playing politics. He is a leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, and he is now on the trail campaigning for other Republican candidates. The issue of the minimum wage is political, but it is also about people’s lives. It’s a fact that most working people and those in the middle class have fallen further and further behind since 2008. “Opportunity” works well for the investor class and corporate executives. For everyone else, income and benefits have been problems. Not talking about the problem won’t make it go away.
[“Sabbath” is this blog’s Sunday feature that looks beyond jobs and careers.]
The Week Ahead
This very well could be the week the U.S. government defaults on its debt. If that happens, experts say the world economy will be harmed. So why don’t Republicans in the Congress do what their predecessors have done, which is to increase the debt limit? Politics. The GOP and its Tea Party wing have become so desperate in their hatred of President Obama that they are willing to do anything to ensure that his presidency is a failure. I am not being partisan in saying this. Why did the same members of Congress – Boehner, Cantor, Ryan – raise the debt ceiling under President Bush and allow two wars and the new Medicare program to be put off the books if they cared so much about the debt and spending? The simple answer is that Republican leaders in the House only care about politics, and they see default as a path to power. They believe the public will come to blame the President for the consequences of a default, which could include an instant jump in interest rates and a quick trip back into recession.
I’m not a great fan of President Obama. He’s been too soft in all of his dealings with the Republicans. He negotiates by starting with the compromise and then giving away even more. In some way, the GOP’s action could be based on this behavior: They’re sure he will give in again. So far, the president has been steadfast in refusing to compromise, asking to be treated as other presidents have been in the past. The problem is that the current group of Republicans is unlike any politicians we have seen in their ability to invent a reality to fit their rhetoric. They are also very flexible in shifting from demand to demand, moving from healthcare to spending and now a mix of spending and social issues. Many Democrats are gloating that this is the end of the GOP. I’m not so sanguine. If their action drives a weak economy into a tailspin, neither party will benefit, at least initially. Then when the problem isn’t solved fast enough to fit a media news cycle, all blame will be shifted to Obama and the Democrats. Even if the GOP caused the problem, the Democrats didn’t fix it. This seems to be a very high stakes game of chicken. I fear there will be a very ugly crash, and it will begin later this week.
We often think of Rev. Martin Luther King simply as a champion of civil rights and racial equality. In today’s Daily Kos, Laura Clawson reminds us that King’s struggle also focused economic justice and working people. She points out that 10% of working families today are living in poverty. King put the workers’ plight in these words: “If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.”
King used the word we, a word often invoked in the president’s speech today. Let’s hope that this country can come together, and work together, to see that we all rise up – together.
On today’s Ed Schultz radio program, Senator Bernie Sanders did a very odd thing. The most “liberal” senator quoted conservative icon Ronald Reagan: “Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit.” Senator Sanders is rallying his allies to oppose any change in benefits. He argues that Social Security is paid for by a fund that is outside the normal budget. Therefore, it should not be part of the current budget debate.
Working people need to pay attention to this debate. As fewer people have pensions and as those with 401K have less to contribute and get smaller employer matching funds, we need to think about how we will fund the years when we can no longer work. Bernie Sanders is a hero to working people. We need to stand with him and fight against big money interest that want to privatize social security so they can profit from fees. We need to have a guaranteed pension that keeps seniors out of poverty.
[“Sabbath” is Career Calling’s Sunday feature on life and work beyond the office.]
Getting It Done
Long ago, I resolved to make no more New Year’s resolutions. Like most people, I would make promises to myself that were forgotten or abandoned sometime before January 7. A new year motivates us to change. More importantly, it makes us think about what we want to be different in our lives.
So why don’t we keep our resolutions? Change is hard, and it is frightening. The novelist Steven Pressfield has defined this problem as the “resistance,” an ever-changing force that keeps us from doing “our work.” Those two words say it all: “our work.” For some people (like Pressfield), the work is art, writing a novel, creating a painting. For others, it could be starting a business or getting a new job. The classic “work” of the New Year is losing weight. Whatever your work, what’s stopping you? You are.
O.K., it’s not that simple. In his book The War of Art, Pressfield outlines over 20 ways that resistance pushes us away from our goals and our real work. He writes, “Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and erectile dysfunction. To yield to resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we were born to be.” Even successful people fight this force. Pressfield cites the actor Henry Fonda whose self-doubt was so strong that he would often be sick before going on a movie set. What made Fonda great was his ability to face this fear even if he could never conquer it.
Our personal lives and careers intersect, and the resistance impacts both parts of our life. Many unemployed Americans are facing foreclosure, divorce, and so many other severe challenges. They are also being held back by a form of resistance that infiltrates too much of our life: statistics. Some experts tell us that unemployment will be a problem for 2-5 years. Others claim it will be 5-15 years. I’m taking these numbers form “The Waiting Game,” an article in today’s Sun-Times by Francine Knowles, who has written many outstanding columns about the job market and challenges facing working people. This column, however, bothers me because it focuses too much on experts and their predictions.
Go back and look at any type of prediction, including the weather. How often is the forecast wrong? What team was projected to win the Super Bowl or World Series? How often did they win? There is no way a junior Senator from Illinois named Barack Obama can beat Hillary Clinton. We all heard that. Just as twenty years earlier experts told us there was no way an actor Governor from California could be elected President. Wasn’t he in a movie with a chimp called Bedtime for Bonzo? The experts scoffed – and they were wrong. I’ll write more on this issue in the coming weeks, but let’s get back to the challenge of change and our “work.”
When was it ever easy to find a new job? When is any kind of change easy? This period is very difficult, especially for middle-aged and older workers who commanded higher salaries. People are still finding jobs if they are persistent and able to adapt. It is no different for people who want to quit smoking or lose weight. Most will not reach their goal because of some resistance. However, some succeed. We all know people who set goals and achieved them. They knew their “work” and they did it. There’s no easy formula for success. One thing I know for certain: playing the “waiting game” gets you nowhere. Moving forward in the face of fear and rejection is difficult, falling and getting up is hard, but it’s the only way to reach our goals.
Don’t let the resistance win. Don’t wait. Get start and keeping going until you’ve reached the finished line. You manage your life and happiness. Leave the statistics to the experts, and remember that their predictions are usually wrong.