According to an article by Mark Gongloff in Huffington Post, a study by the right-leaning Peterson Foundation has found that Republican austerity measures have cost 900,000 jobs. The current government shutdown has led to a 0.3 loss in economic growth. Gongloff cites Larry Summers who argues that the American economy needs stimulus, not deficit reduction in the form of large cuts in government spending. During the last presidential election, Republican led by Mitt Romney fell in love with the phrase “job creators.” According to the Peterson study, it seems that the GOP might be better labeled as “job killers.” Hopefully, this problem won’t grow even worse if the government defaults on its debt payments. Given the news out of Washington, I’m not very hopeful.
Several articles on two of my favorite websites, Daily Kos and Common Dreams¸ are reporting on or reflecting on worker actions against Walmart. I call what’s going on “worker actions” because Walmart employees have no union or rights. Hopefully worker actions will turn into consumer conscience and citizen action. We need to understand that we are all in this soup together. Exploitation of one worker demeans all of us.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos gives us Rush Limbaugh’s take on the protest. Naturally, it’s not positive. Limbaugh whines about an assault on “capitalism and the private sector.” He never mentions how Walmart treats its employees, or how the Walton family has benefited from changes in the tax code, which makes them the biggest “Takers” of all time, beneficiaries of corporate welfare.
Meteor Blades, also from Daily Kos, covers the protests and offers links to follow the action. What I found most inspirational is that the protest are shouting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, slave wages have got to go.” The problem is not that these good people aren’t working or working hard. The problem is that Walmart and so many other employers want to keep every damn dime, nickel, and penny. Who makes up for their miserliness? We do when our taxes pay for supplemental rent, food vouchers, and health care. We help Walmart keep its employees housed, fed, and healthy. That’s corporate welfare.
In Common Dreams, Adbusters aims its Buy Nothing Day cannon at Walmart and blows apart a company whose sole mission seems to be profit based on exploitation of workers (let’s not forget our Chinese brothers and sisters that do so much to keep the Walton Family so rich). Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich adds to a historical viewpoint to this critique. He also points out that a 1% increase in prices at retailers like Walmart would lift 700,000 people out of poverty. But that would not be fair to “Job Creators” like the Waltons. I guess freedom requires poverty and misery.
I don’t shop at Walmart or Sam’s Club or Target. I try to buy local and find new ways to shop for American-made products. Our choices can bring real freedom to many people who live poor lives so a few can be rich beyond reason or morality.
Daily Kos has linked to a great chart from Forbes that documents 20 years of CEO compensation. As Kos writer Shanika puts it, “If you are a low wage worker busting your butt harder than ever before for a large corporation, you've probably just wanted to say to the Man, "Show me the money!" Here's why most of them won't: They continue to keep a lot of it for themselves.” Smells like Mitt Romney!
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said today that he likes to fire people who provide bad service. His opponents jumped on this poor choice of words and linked it to Romney’s past as a venture capitalist for a company that often “reduced headcount” at firms it purchased.
Earlier in my career I was a manager. Firing an employee was a task I hated, even when I disliked the employee and had heavy documentation to justify my action. When I had to let an employee go, it meant that I had failed in hiring, training, and managing that person. Somewhere along the line, I shared the responsibility of the person being terminated. One of the main reasons I hope I never have to manage again is that I never want to fire another human being.
One of the clients I met today was fired and replaced by a relative of his boss. He understood the “game,” but the dismissal still hurt. He put in extra time to complete a special project only to be told: “Thank you. There’s the door.” Many American workers over the last 35 years have heard that line. They build profitable companies only to see executives pursue even greater profits in low wage countries.
Mitt Romney’s choice of words was telling. He didn’t say, “I like to change companies or vendors when I get bad service.” He used the word fired. For many Americans, that word brings anger and tears, bad memories of an economy that puts profits over people and cheers for “job creators” who don’t seem to create any jobs. I liked hiring people because that was a hopeful activity. We need more hiring – more hope.