September 28 , 2012 : The Governor and the Growth Matrix
Most people I know live their lives moving in a constant forward direction, the whole time looking backward. Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in A Science Fictional Universe
is an amazing paradox! The very employers and politicians and
publishers who talk most loudly of class antagonism and the
destruction of the American system now undermine that system by this
attempt to coerce the votes of the wage earners of this country. It
is the 1936 version of the old threat to close down the factory or
the office if a particular candidate does not win. It is an old
strategy of tyrants to delude their victims into fighting their
battles for them.
Roosevelt wrote in 1936. A sitting President, he petitioned the electorate for a second term.
He named the obstacles standing in the way of the new America : “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.”
Only Occupy, and portions of the Labor movement, use such language today.
FDR, perhaps being already a man of wealth, or owing to his unique physical challenges, spoke frankly, without fear or adornment. His assessment mirrors the current economic environment. However his response was unique. It is unimaginable for a politician – with the possible exceptions of Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders –maybe a few others - to use such language today.
In that same speech, FDR issued a challenge :
“Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me--and I welcome their hatred.”
Part I : Final Weeks of Presidential Election 2012, Occupy on the Outs
Soaring income inequality, advancing poverty, citizens in the street – all back burnered. Issues-driven reporting recedes in the face of Mid East turmoil, the Death of an Ambassador, and the familiar haven of a Presidential election.
Campaigns, the oasis for pundits, politicos and pooh-bahs lost in a desert of uncertainty created by upending – and endless - technological change.
There's little room for occupiers, even less for their issues in the midst of the spectacle. The medium becomes the message, all over again. Two locked-down conventions and a first anniversary later, Occupy finds itself squarely on the outs. Reports of its demise circulated, widely. Boston Globe
Occupy is losing relevance. Perennially starf—kd media breathe a sigh of relief.
What they post : Occupy Loses Relevance. What they're thinking : Occupy, Lose Relevance... Please.
Underneath the self-satisfied I-told-you-sos : a quiet, gnawing worry, the kind that keeps establishment execs like Jeff Bewkes awake at night.
The for decades dependable mediums of television and print – now completely disrupted by the new media. Given the rate of technological change overtaking their industry, it's a dizzying transition. Imagine UPS and Fed-Ex dealing with simultaneous upheavals in transportation and packaging and you get the idea.
In an election season with billions of dollars flowing, traditional media turn to bloggers to round out election panels. But problems arise : no one in their coveted demographic is watching.
Admittedly, it's tough when the mandate from on high is “non partisan coverage” that’s presented “in a very compelling and more engaging way than we’ve been doing of late.” Could it get any more boring?? deadline.com
Secondly, the problem : covering Occupy – or any direct action - stretches resources and disrupts business. Companies need predictable forecasts, especially these corporations, larger than some nations. They owe it to their investors, shareholders, and sponsors.
So they cover events, not issues. Events have the needed beginnings and endings that circumscribe reporting. In the world of Occupy, this means : police confrontations, arrests, court cases, rallies, disruptions. When these cease, so does the reporting.
When events overtake the news, establishment media shine. They're on the spot in Libya, having the resources – and at times, journalistic sensibilities – to narrate or dramatize events. It's more of a stretch to leave mid-town for Queens or Brooklyn. Too much traffic. Nothing much happens there anyway, the thinking goes nationofchange
Rule of thumb number 1 for Media Congloms : deliver your audience to advertisers in two states – captive and confused. Both are essential. People buy that way. Except from the drug companies...whose ads simply scare the living sh-t out of people.
Certain outlets, bell-weathers of the old establishment, try leveraging Gen Y's trademarked snark. Unleash the hounds. It makes for a punishing reporting environment. Outlets like 60 Minutes discover that securing the interview – broadcasting it, purely and simply - scarcely makes as much news as the opinions about it NY Times
Candidates scramble, wondering where the good old days went. Citizen Romney – smiling almost sheepishly as he was coronated by the Old Guard at RNC– now deals with reporters calling bullsh-t on him. With everyone listening. One could almost feel bad - were the candidate not so inherently unlikable.
Part II : The Demise Of Occupy
When queried about his belief in an afterlife, American writer William S Burroughs responded “how do you know you're not dead already?”Establishment logic is similar: if we’re not talking about you, you must be dead.
Occupy takes it on the chin for diminished relevance. It's the perfect catch-22. Stand in the street with a bunch of different signs – you're too disruptive and not specific enough. Do grassroots work on issues that matter in your community, you're losing relevance Boston Globe
The role of authorities is hardly mentioned. Little publicized is the fact that some cops - part of the 99% - support Occupy. As public servants, they're also under attack by anti-collective bargaining legislation in states like Wisconsin. They're in the lousy position of having their sworn mission – to protect and serve the public – conflict with their orders.
Do not be surprised if more officers begin to figure this out. Two local law enforcement groups issue a joint statement that reads, in part :
We believe that the recent policy change at the Capitol presents a substantial safety risk to the officers who are tasked with its implementation. Simply stated, these officers are being forced into emotionally-charged confrontations that are neither necessary nor advisable. Occupypolice.org
Stories the media ignores include :
Citizen Action, of any kind, occupy or otherwise
Let us know others
Part III: in Which We have Disagreements
Establishment media ignore Occupy for the fundamental reason that their goals are different.
Viewers and readers are caught in between. Join those who challenge the status quo...or move reluctantly forward, always looking backward?
Candidates aren't the only ones who long for the good old days. Citizens may recall the post-war salad days of the middle class. When personal income tax rates hovered between 70-90%, GDP was high, unemployment was low, and housing mostly accessible.
Disagreements have existed in America going back to the time of our independence. All politics boils down to how you feel about the status quo. Some will always prefer to uphold it regardless of the cost. The American Revolution, let it not be forgotten, was born of such ideas that were in fact radical and revolutionary. Which a bare majority of the population supported, with a significant minority (15-20 percent) opposed, remaining loyal to the British crown. The historical reasons given : they were “older, better established, and resisted radical change.”
If it works for you, why change it?
Status quo upholders like Citizen Romney appeal to the one
percenters. The citizen and his ilk continually make the case that the American
Revolution was fought for the right to “free enterprise.” Never
mind that for most entrepreneurs and small businesses the road to
prosperity today begins with financiers who control capital and
opportunity. And require government assistance when their businesses and lofty compensation packages are in trouble.
America's founding fathers are rumored to have felt somewhat differently about the matter, weighing the role of public service vs. the private gains of the individual :
"There must be a positive Passion for the public good, the public Interest, Honour, Power, and Glory, established in the Minds of the People, or there can be no Republican Government, nor any real Liberty. And this public Passion must be Superior to all private Passions. Men must be ready, they must pride themselves, and be happy to sacrifice their private Pleasures, Passions, and Interests, nay their private Friendships and dearest connections, when they Stand in Competition with the Rights of society."
FDR drew a similar distinction, chiding those who “had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs.”
AFF (America's Founding Fathers) could not have foreseen the current circumstances. They responded to their own. Circumstances move and create nations, today as in 1776. Americans are faced with the challenge of responding to runaway capitalism, so-called free enterprise, in its current form, not its variations in the late 1700s.
The larger the enterprise, the more government support. Many of America's successful corporations enjoy significant tax breaks at the Federal level, and stick the municipalities in which they operate with the bill. Here are 30 that pay no federal taxes either. Motherjones
Such manuevars enjoys bipartisan support. It takes on different names, Contract for America, Welfare to Work, but the goal is the same –the creation of a permanent temporary, low-wage workforce to ensure profits. Some people refer to this as an underclass. Others call it the 47 percent.
Refer to it as the Staplesization of America or the Romney Wealth Pyramid, where the primary goal of a business or its subsidiaries is – duh - to throw off cash to its investors. Concern for workers, and their wages, extends as far as the spreadsheet column. Costs must be reduced, continually. Ideally, the government – meaning the public - picks up the tab.
Occupy gets slammed for helping the “least among us.” Like serving free food to drug addicts and the homeless, some of whom were brought (initially) to their camps by police.
The camps dissolved, in part, because, their
needs surpassed the community's resources. They also provided a
perfect pretext for authorities to cite the camps as a public safety
hazard. Discussions on how to handle the situation
occurred frequently, and were at times intense, according to some
Occupiers. Yet through it all, no one was excluded, unless they represented a danger to the community.
It's the exact opposite of the approach taken by former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich, who gloats over the Occupy “fizzle.”
Ehrlich begins with a legitimate premise, that Occupy missed the point that most Americans wish to be part of the one percent. Fair enough. Who wouldn't? But he swings wildly off base in an effort to land a few gratuitous shots.
For one thing, he faults Occupiers for seeking “cradle to grave” dependence on government. It's an interesting take, given that he's talking about citizens tenting - at some sacrifice- in what were once largely self-sufficient encampments.
Ehrlich opines :
“a clear majority of working Americans have skin in the game — they work hard and expect that their hard work will elevate their standard of living. They do not, however, expect a guaranteed result from the government.”
In today's political jargon, it's difficult to get the 99 percent to resent the 1 percent when much of the 99 percent wishes to join the 1 percent.
At first glance, it seems Ehrlich is merely defending the middle class right to get ahead. but there's more afoot.
The real game here is bringing the conversation over to Citizen Romney's new talking point – Take Home Pay. Someone got through and told the candidate that actually, it's not the jobs that are the issue, it's the lousy pay. You've gotta look like you support better pay. Somehow, workers earning more take home equates with lower taxes for the one percent. This is what FDR means by those who delude their victims into fighting their battles for them.
The wage question is not one that either Ehrlich- or Citizen Romney – can win. Check out the business analysis model the Citizen apprenticed on at Boston Consulting Group, the so called growth share matrix that divides companies into a neat quadrant, labeling them as “Cash Cows, Stars, Question Marks, or Dogs.”
The labeling reflects the return on investment (ROI) that financiers may expect from their targeted companies. It also illuminates the prism through which Citizen Romney and his underwriters view the world – and workers.
David Corn weighs in with another, equally revealing look – a video featuring the candidate in younger days spelling out his firm's goal of “harvesting companies,” creepily calling to mind Ridley Scott's landmark Alien Mother Jones
It's a world former governor Ehrlich knows well, having returned to the private sector, as Senior Counsel for the global law firm King and Spalding, representing “the least among us.” If by that you mean : working to defend the largest, most profitable operations in the world – such as Wal-Mart, Chevron, and others. dailyreportonline
Ehrlich is an attorney by trade, but not the kind you'll see in court arguing for the working poor – or even the middle class. He works primarily for those able to pony up approximately $350/hr for his expertise. This includes :
Advising clients on a broad array of policy matters and their interactions with the federal government. Having served as Governor, U.S. Congressman, state legislator, and civil litigator, he counsels clients on an array of government matters, with particular expertise in health care, finance and economic development. Kslaw.com
The least among us are the poor. Many now belong to the growing “working poor.” They make up a large part of the Citizen Romney's 47 percent. Many have served in the military or live on social security. It's not a good group of voters to kiss off.
Many of them work for the minimum wage. Of those, fully one fourth (1/4) work for America's largest and most profitable companies. Working at these enormously profitable operations has done little to elevate their standard of living, however. Most would earn more waiting tables. Like at Outback Steakhouse – another Bain-backed business. Good (well, better) work, if you can get it. truthout
When faced with such data – the Citizen is a data-driven kind of guy – there's a lot of smoke about having to “take any job” and “work your way up.” But working your way up has little or nothing to do with the career paths of the Citizen or acolytes like Bob Ehrlich, once viewed as a politically moderate Republican. That label is now meaningless, speaking of political jargon.
This space has profiled moderate Republicans, such as the Citizen's father, George Romney. uwsdigitalnews
Another example : the oldest living Republican Senator in Ehrlich's party. Someone he could learn much from, were he willing to put in the time and effort.
Before there was a Barack Obama, there was Ed Brooke, the nation's first popularly-elected African-American Senator.
Brooke served with distinction in World War II, earning a Bronze Star. Like George Romney in his time, he backed affordable housing for workers and the poor. He fought hard for women's rights during his tenure in the senate, including reproductive care for medicare recipients. Such positions were not popular in the GOP. Still, in 2004, Brooke stood on stage as President George W Bush hung the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck.
Such public servants – along with the responsibility they embodied - are these days few and far between.
For Governor Bob Ehrlich, such political moderation stands in sharp contrast to positions he took both as governor and in his work as a private citizen.
One of Maryland's largest employers is Wal-Mart. A shining example of the wealth pyramid in action. To put it in perspective, you could put the Walton Family in a class all their own. The aforementioned Sen. Bernie Sanders notes they hold more wealth than the bottom 40% of all Americans, a statement rated as true by online fact checkers politifact
The State of Maryland tried to correct the fiscal imbalance and threat posed by freeloaders like Wal-Mart. Marylanders - most of them, anyway - got tired of subsidizing the company's profits by picking up the tab for its workers' health insurance. In Maryland, state legislators mandated that the corporation – whose profits create an amazing lifestyle for the Waltons, not so much for its workers – contribute to the public cost of keeping its workers healthy. The legislation, Maryland Senate Bill 790, became known as the Fair Share Act, or “Wal-Mart bill.”
Ehrlich vetoed it. State legislators, sensing the urgency, overrode the veto. Business groups howled, claiming the bill was illegal. The Maryland State Attorney General dismissed these concerns. Finally, a Reagan-appointed judge stepped in and threw out the legislation on a legal technicality.
While the legislation failed in the end, the citizen action led Wal-Mart to come out with a new, allegedly more affordable health plan for its associates. In other words, put more money in their paychecks.
(As Governor of Massachusetts in 2002, when presented with such data, Citizen Romney decided to offer affordable care to Massachusetts' citizens. This became known as Romneycare. A pragmatic decision to reduce healthcare costs that's easier when you're out of the national spotlight – and less beholden to your party's flank. Now, the Citizen says, for those who get sick, there's the Emergency Room. You figure out how to pay for it on your Wal-Mart/Staples/Target/Dominos salary later. huffpost)
When it came to increasing take home pay for the working poor, Ehrlich tried to defeat that too, vetoing an attempt by the legislature to raise the minimum wage. That veto ultimately was over-ridden, and the minimum wage went up – to a whopping $6.15 an hour. Or approximately what his legal mega-clients pay him for 60 seconds on the phone. Washington Post
The legal expertise is billed at such a rate because Ehrlich knows the game – and how to play it – from the inside out. Such skills are useful at a legal firm that secured a key judgment in the notorious Ecuador vs. Chevron lawsuit – providing important relief for the plaintiffs. Which in this case was Chevron, trying to wiggle out of a $8B judgement imposed by the country's highest court for polluting the Amazon river and destroying the health of its residents.
The relief constituted a $700M judgment in favor of Chevron. The case drags on, with the most recent news being that the true plaintiffs - the indigenous villagers suing Chevron - are demanding a US Federal judge turn over a “trove of documents” relating to on “Chevron's extensive misconduct in judicial proceedings in Ecuador.” reuters
It's not like the company needs much additional help with their profit margins, what with the Federal government helping they and their long-suffering industry out. Current estimates of federal subsidies are in the $10-$52 Billion range, annually. The full break-out included at priceofoil.org
Big profitable companies prefer the overseas environment for their operations – and profits. Legal, environmental, and labor standards are usually more lax than in the US, where workers and citizens still have some say. Like Chevron, Wal-Mart is also facing legal issues under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for attempting to get its way in Mexcio. Baltimore Sun
Occupy has lots of problems to work on, with no easy solutions.
Citizen understanding, and participation, is limited by passivity. Passivity impairs perception and inhibits action. Great for advertisers, bad for democracy. Hence the “occupy opt out” of the electoral process and focus on direct action, and assisting the least among us.
Passive audience reaction is generated by the mobilization of nearly half the country's creative minds into the advertisement industry, which never cases to grow. Viewers and readers are left to ponder the issues as presented by politicos and pundits. Transfixed, glued to increasingly miniaturized devices that transmitting information, in one sentence chunks and sound bites.
Always the choice – move forward looking forward or backward.