Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gingrich: No pay for work

Hello, Onion editors? Are you out there?

DES MOINES, IOWA -- In response to sagging poll numbers ahead of Tuesday's caucuses, Republican presidential hopeful and former frontrunner Newt Gingrich unveiled a plan to decouple wages from jobs that he insists will bolster a struggling economy.

The plan, Gingrich's first major policy announcement since unveiling his child labor initiative last month, would give businesses the option of paying employees in something other than money.

"In this time of economic crisis, we must re-examine this outmoded system of financial compensation for work performed," Gingrich said in a speech before the Iowa Chamber of Commerce. "Government must free job creators from the burden of paying employees with currency. That's currency businesses could use to expand and to create jobs -- although they are under no obligation to do so. Actually, there's nothing stopping them from simply pocketing this windfall.

"Nothing whatsoever," Gingrich added.

Instead of money, the plan calls for businesses to pay employees in the form of tickets redeemable for merchandise at Dave and Buster's Restaurant, Bar and Arcade.

Children enrolled in Gingrich's child-labor initiative would receive tickets redeemable at Chuck E. Cheese's.

Stopping short of abolishing payment in the form of money, the plan would simply reduce the federal minimum wage to zero.

"And we would let our partners in the business community do the rest," Gingrich said.

The plan already has received a warm reception among congressional Republicans, with both House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicating that they would support such a plan, but only if it were accompanied by concessions from Democrats.

The announcement comes on the heels of Gingrich's child labor initiative, which polled well among Republican voters.

Gingrich's jobs plan for children, widely referred to as the "Clean the School You Once Attended" initiative, would teach financially disadvantaged children in poor school districts the value of underpaid menial labor through what Gingrich calls "little-hands-on" experience.

Gingrich campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond pointed out that the plan would free struggling school districts from the burden placed on them by "greedy janitors." In addition, he said, because the plan calls for pulling students away from classroom instruction for two thirds of every school week, the plan also addresses the potential problem of an educated lower class.

"I think the problems that would present are self-evident," Hammond said.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that Gingrich introduced this plan in a speech before a joint meeting of the Iowa Nazi Party and a local klavern of the Ku Klux Klan. Although the confusion is entirely understandable, we regret the error.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

One in two

That's half, folks. Half of all Americans. So it ain't just you.
Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax reduction, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.
And in case you think establishment conservatives are unsympathetic to your plight, they are.
Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, questioned whether some people classified as poor or low-income actually suffer material hardship. He said that while safety-net programs have helped many Americans, they have gone too far. He said some people described as poor live in decent-size homes, drive cars and own wide-screen TVs.
What? Some poor people still have cars they aren't living in? So much more work to do, eh Robbie?

In the meantime, you poor folk should stop complaining and watch that big-screen TV.

UPDATE: I have been kicking this story around in my head for a little while and I wondered why a quote from a Heritage Foundation douchebag is even in the story. I went back to the story and saw no corresponding quote from an advocate for the poor. The closest thing was the quote, included in the snippet above, from Sheldon Danziger, the poverty expert from the University of Michigan. Being an expert in poverty doesn't necessarily mean he is an advocate for the poor, although he may be. It just means he knows what he is talking about.

It's just another example of the MSM's fetish with the bullshit idea of "balance," which in this case apparently means that if you report that nearly half of all Americans are impoverished or low income, you have to find some asshole willing to say that poverty isn't so bad.

I guess the next time the AP reports on a rape, it will have to find someone to say that rape isn't so bad. You know, for balance.

Hey, if you are a reporter writing about a rape and need that "rape isn't so bad" quote to ensure complete, balanced reportage, try this guy. One caveat: The victim has to be Latino.

Cross-posted at Suburban Guerilla.

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

We don’t need no stinkin’ principles

I think pieces like this, which analyze the incoherent, inconsistent public positions of candidates, in this case Newt Gingrich (with an honorable mention to Mitt Romney's "ever-changing stripes"), while valuable in calling bullshit in very specific terms on bullshit artists masquerading as public servants, miss the larger point.

If politicians' words and deeds seem to be connected more to the prevailing political winds than to the deeply held beliefs of the speaker, maybe there's a reason for that. Maybe it's time to abandon the notion that these politicians apply their deeply held principles and values to their public utterances and policy positions, or that such deeply held principles and values even exist. Rather than respond with shock and outrage every time a politician does or says something that contradicts what they have done and said in the past, we should look for a metric that more consistently explains (and could predict) what we see. Maybe the only underlying political philosophy at work here is winning, and the only relevant deeply held values are those of the wealthy individuals and institutions that can make or break the political ambitions of these aspiring lapdogs.

If the trainwreck George W. Bush administration was good for anything, it was for the development of a powerful sense of political cynicism. That administration's polices were widely criticized as being dumb because they did nothing to help the vast majority of Americans (99 percent, according to some estimates), let alone mankind. But those policies appear dumb only if one assumes they are actually designed to help the vast majority of Americans and/or mankind. If one assumes that those same policies were designed to move vast amounts of money into the hands of the wealthiest humans on earth, then one can't possibly argue with the ruthless effectiveness of those policies.

Here's a handy rule of thumb: If politicians have to stop to think before discussing one of their "deeply held values," it ain't all that deeply held. Peoples' principles don't have to be written on note cards (or their palms) to be remembered. And unless you are very rich, stop assuming that politicians care about you. Their individual utterances might change, but the class of people that benefits from their actions doesn't.

And those stories that call bullshit would be more valuable if they focused less on the bullshit and more on who benefits.

Cross-posted at Suburban Guerilla.

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