Monday, October 29, 2012

Vote. (Just a Little Bit)

It’s been tough to unearth, but I think I found my reason to vote for Barack Obama. Don’t get me wrong—I’m a loyal Democrat. Just a very disappointed one.

Even acknowledging that Obama has faced fierce opposition, his failure to marshal the super-majority he enjoyed in his first two years in office and the abundant largess he has shown our corporate banks and Wall Street investment firms is appalling.

But here’s a reason to get back on board: Supreme Court appointments.

One of the perks of the office is that sitting presidents get to nominate Supreme Court justices. And with four of the nine justices in their seventies, it’s likely that over the next four years the Supreme Court will require some new blood. It is an opportunity for the acting president to recast the court.

This could change the course of debate and policy for years, and presents Obama with a legacy he could point to with pride.

The opportunity to replace Antonin Scalia with an individual of a more moderate-stripe is especially appealing, eliminating the 5-4 tallies so many decisions end up with.

With the court split so evenly, it is critical that progressive be replaced with progressive. And that conservative be replaced with progressive in order to create a Supreme Court majority.

It speaks volumes that Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell stated without any fear of reprisal whatsoever that Republican agenda item number-one was to make Obama a one-term president.

And that Speaker of the House John Boehner unabashedly held 99% of the American population hostage in January of 2011 until the one-percent and moneyed corporate interests had their lavish tax breaks extended.

Never mind the Great Recession or the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nah. That’s back-burner stuff. The real issue is how do we take back in the White House? How do we make the already-wealthy wealthier and further-empower the powerful?

And we Americans swallowed it without a second thought.

“Marginalize my existence in exchange for a selfish and short-sighted desire for still-more power? Okay. But it’s not going to make my cable bill go up, is it?”

So yeah. We have a bunch of slobbering, feral knaves as our elected representation, and are a citizenry either too over-scheduled or hardened by cynicism to care.

But here’s our chance to exert a bit of influence with a time-saving minimum of effort and no messy emotional involvement. Vote for Obama, and in the event he is called upon to replace a Supreme Court justice, you at least know we are unlikely to end up with another Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist or Antonin Scalia.

And voting for a president based on such a modest expectation couldn’t be more fashionable in this, the Age of Reduced Expectations. No grand ideas, no hope, no change. Just a seat on the Supreme Court.

Maybe.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Irony Strikes

It’s a great time to be a have in America. Even better than normal, I mean.

Despite budget-cuts and a nation-wide dollar shortage, the gold coins falling into their pile continue to mount. Meanwhile, those in the pile of the have-nots continue to disappear. It's a fact that America’s income disparity now resembles that of a third-world nation.

Remarkably, this dynamic also applies to union membership, where lavish pensions and recession-defying raises are the norm for haves, while the nots watch a bitter stream of concessions and pay-cuts erode what were once self-sustaining livelihoods.

What does it mean when even our unions—once bastions of hope for America’s labor against the absolute power of corporate ownership—have succumbed to this exclusionary and destructive trend?

I’m confused how this is supposed to revitalize our much-talked about manufacturing base. About how this is supposed to draw the best and the brightest and reverse the brain drain I hear so many industries complaining about.

I’m concerned because I know what serfs are. And what feudalism is. And the degree to which the twentieth-century is increasingly appearing as an anomaly, and not a societal model. This resonates with me because I’ve lived it.

As a former salesman for one of the Baby Bells spun-off in the wake of anti-trust litigation brought against AT&T, I watched in shock and horror as my union rolled over for the labor-hating victor of a hostile takeover:

Can we fluff your pillow for you, Mr. Nacchio? Freshen your drink? Exactly how far would you like us to bend over, Mr. Nacchio?

There was no fight. There were no negotiations. To my knowledge, not a single attempt was made to bash in Joseph P. Nacchio’s head with a brick. (Which isn’t to infer that I endorse workplace violence.)

Our jobs were radically reconfigured to ensure failure.

I can confirm with absolute certainty that sales goals require sales calls. While statistically conceivable, calls from angry customers who have taken a third day off of work for a technician that never shows do not generate much in the way of sales.

But they do make it very easy to dismiss a floor full of sales reps for non-performance.

So yes. I’m jealous of any union that not only remains functional, but powerful.

And that jealousy turns to something much warmer when it becomes apparent that the only unions remaining powerful are those representing the well-off. I mean, do Kobe Bryant and Albert Pujols really need union-backed protection?

The answer is no. Or rather, hell no.

Beyond the finger-pointing and the politicking and the nostalgia, the fact remains that America was strongest when its middle-class was largest. And in a consumer-based economy, why don’t you want the most money in the pockets of the most people?

Seems like a no-brainer. A win-win.

But what the hell do I know?