Cynical Synapse

Sun, 20 Feb 2011

Opportunity Knocks; Jackson, Sharpton Run to Answer the Door

Filed under: Behavior, Deceit, Economy, Government, Greed, Hypocrits, Media, Opportunists, Politics, President, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:50 pm

Revs. Jackson and Sharpton

Politics is full of opportunists and there’s certainly no shortage of people weighing in on the Wisconsin budget protests in Madison. The main stream media has become complicit in the rallying cry this is about preventing Gov. Scott Walker (R) from union busting. As a result, people and the media liken the Madison protests to those in Egypt. The reality is the budget repair bill limits public employee unions to wage increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. Unions can still bargain for higher raises, but the bill calls for those to be approved in a referendum before the people.

It’s no secret unions back Democrats and, not surprisingly, Democratic politicians tend to be pro-union. Thus, Pres. Obama has decried Walker’s blatant attempt to disempower workers. Never one to miss an opportunity to be a famewhore, Rev. Jesse Jackson descended on Madison to demonstrate his solidarity with the embattled workers.

Forty-nine million Americans are in poverty, 44 million are on food stamps, we give the wealthiest Americans tax cuts at Christmas time, and now lay off public workers. It’s not right, the workers ought fight back, and they are fighting back…That spirit of fighting back to close the north-south gap between the surplus culture and the suffering culture.

I payed for your pension

Jackson’s co-opportunist, Rev. Al Sharpton joined the labor movement under attack set, as well. Besides efforts to dimish public unions’ collective bargaining rights, Sharpton decries the detrimental effect on take-home pay the budget repair bill includes. Key elements elements at issue is the increase in pension contributions to 5.8% and in health insurance premiums to 12.6% for state employees.

Do you have a pension? Only 31% of US workers have a pension. I submit those are on the surplus side of Jackson’s culture divide.

got your race cards ready?

Another unfair burden Sharpton takes exception to is the higher health insurance premium costs Wisconsin workers may have to pay. But wait. According to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US workers pay 26.7% in health care premiums, more than double the 12.% proposed for state workers. Am I missing how downtrodden these guys are? They sure don’t seem to be just a step away from Jackson’s references to those in poverty and on food stamps.

Regarding public employee layoffs, Gov. Walker promised no furloughs and no lay off for 6,000 state workers if the bill passes. The only ones not working right now are those who are protesting, most of whom are teachers. Wisconsin teacher salaries average $77,718, nearly $24,000 more than the average of $53,724 for workers in Milwaukee. In 2009, the average statewide salary in Wisconsin was just over half that of the teachers: $38,500.

Sharpton, Jackson, and Obama have not come out in behalf of the downtrodden or even union rights. They participate in fomenting an issue to keep the working people of the suffering culture in their place. Sustainability is irrelevant.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011

Is Wisconsin Being Set Up as Republican Governors’ Egypt?

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Economy, Government, Politics, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 8:59 pm

Protestors outside Wisconsin capitol

Wisconsin public employees are protesting the bill they claim will destroy public employee unions. There are marches on the capital and the matter is very contentious. Gov. Scott Walker (R) hasn’t helped the situation, saying he’ll call out the National Guard. One cannot help but see some similarities between recent events in the Middle East and upcoming budget battles in a number of states with new Republican governors. Michigan’s Rick Snyder seeks concessions from public employees, as well.

There is much discussion—at least in Michigan—about how public employee wages and benefits compare to those in the private sector. One can cite statistics to substantiate whatever position you want. I can tell you, from personal experience, I had very good, and inexpensive, healthcare benefits while on state duty with the Michigan Army National Guard. When I became a Federal employee, my benefits were actually less than I was acustomed to in the private sector, yet entailed similar employee contributions. It sounds like great benefits for Wisconsin state workers is also the case.

Support Wisconsin workers

Still, the main stream media is painting Wisconsin’s budget bill as union-busting. Teachers, in particular, have taken up the hue and call. The fact is, the Wisconsin bill does not break unions. It places limits on pay raises, tying them to the Consumer Price Index, but doesn’t affect most other collective bargaining topics. Calling the bill anti-union is disingenuous and fails to recognize the other side of the coin.

Gov. Walker promised no furloughs and to not lay off 6,000 state workers if the bill passes. Seems like a pretty fair deal to me. The reality is Wisconsin has a structural deficit that needs to be addressed one way or another. There are only 3 options: increase revenues to cover expenses (raise taxes and/or fees), reduce employee expenses (concessions), or cut costs (employee layoffs).

Sun, 30 Jan 2011

TSA Tightens Fascist Grip; Stamps Out Competition

Filed under: Business, Citizen rights, Flying, Government, Hypocrits, Politics, Take action, Travel, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:16 pm

US Department of Security Theater

Only a couple months after the uproar over full body scanners, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has put a halt to the private screening option. Only 16 commercial airports, out of 494, use private security screeners in lieu of the TSA. Amazingly, the TSA and its union are obviously intimidated by privitization. John Gage, President of the American Federation of Government Employees, said:

The nation is secure in the sense that the safety of our skies will not be left in the hands of the lowest-bidder contractor, as it was before 9/11. We applaud Administrator Pistole for recognizing the value in a cohesive federalized screening system and work force.

Clearly, the union is happy to not face challenges from privatized (whether union or not) security personnel. Despite what he says, there’s no mistaking Mr. Gage’s primary concern is not losing dues-paying members.

TSA pats down old lady in a wheel chair

Just two months ago, TSA was “neutral” on private screeners. Now Administrator John Pistole’s attempt to protect his fiefdom is thinly veiled, at best. Loss of airports to private security means reductions in personnel—and funding—for the TSA. Pistole’s comment:

“I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time.

Since when does government have the authority to limit free enterprise? If private companies can meet (or exceed) the government standard of service, why are they being denied the opportunity to do so? And why is capitalism being stiffled in deference to the interests of a monopolistic government agency? If the Screening Partnership Program is no longer part of TSA policy, why is it still on their website?

More importantly, why are Americans willing to surrender more of their freedoms to Government? Ask your Congressman and Senators to question TSA’s business unfriendly position.

Previously on security theater:

Tue, 30 Mar 2010

Granholm’s “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal”

Filed under: Budget, Education, Government, Governor, Michigan, Politics, Schools, Taxes, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 6:15 am

Granholm pointing down

I’m not sure what Michigan’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) has in her pipe, but she continues to say the wildest things, even if she means good. Granholm told MSNBC Michigan has “a big, hairy, audacious goal of doubling our number of college graduates.” Now, what kind of phraseology is that with respect to higher education?

Of course, Granholm’s remarks, 29 March, are more about her call to extend Michigan’s sales tax to services. I’m sure the Governor is all the more anxious about this since the Republican-led Michigan Senate passed a budget measure, cutting K-12 funds by $112 per pupil. Increasing taxes is the easy, but unsustainable, short-term fix to Michigan’s structural deficit.

The Senate’s cuts to K-12 funding follow on the heals of there chopping 3% from public universities and community colleges. So, how does Granholm expect to get more graduates with less money across all levels of education?

student hostages

“The long-term future of the state depends upon strong universities,” said Peggy Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan. In an effort to double the number of college graduates who stay in Michigan, Granholm proposed a revised Promise scholarship. Michigan college graduates would be eligible for a $4,000 refundable credit on their income tax return after working a year in Michigan past graduation. Students don’t like it and the state Senate didn’t take the bait.

Education, and students, are being held hostage by state politicians, educational institutions, local school bureaucracies, and teachers’ unions. Per pupil funding is not the issue nor is the state’s stipend to community colleges and universities. The problem is per pupil costs, about half of which are not attributable to the classroom or education. There are a lot of cost reduction efforts schools should consider before raising taxes. Remember those so-called “legacy costs” of the automakers that were in the news a year ago? Guess what? Schools have “legacy” costs, too, and they’re blatant about it. Everyone wanted Big 3 retirees to give up benefits. How about school retirees? I choose whether or not to contribute to automaker retirees by what car I buy, but I have no choice with school retirees.

protest in front of MEA

Michigan didn’t fare well at all in Race to the Top, the Federal educational dollars competition. Michigan lost points, ending up 21st, because teacher unions didn’t sign on. They don’t care about education, they only care about member benefits.

Granholm’s problem is she has great ideas, but they’re all “blown away.” She wants to double college graduates, but both K-12 and higher education are under-funded. She says college graduates are key to Michigan’s future, but the Promise grants are gone. I’m seeing big and hairy, but I’m not seeing audacious coming through.

Sun, 28 Mar 2010

On the Constitutionality of Health Care Reform

dog attacks receiver

The passing of health care reform is just the beginning. The bill itself is more than 2,000 long, which is why John Conyers didn’t bother to read the bill. And, why should they have read the bill, besides the obvious you should know what you’re voting on? I don’t know. Maybe because bill porked them in the ass?

Still, the bill, now law, doesn’t include the specifics of how to implement health care requirements. So, what will make it all work? Why, hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations from a variety of government agencies. Many of the health care changes won’t be implemented for several years, perhaps to permit time for government agencies to draft those implementing regulations. None of those regulations has to undergo consideration by Congress and they don’t get voted on. Implementing regulations just become ipso facto laws we all must comply with.

In the meantime, several states have enacted or are considering bills to limit Federal health care impact on the states. Honestly, these are an exercise in futility since Federal law trumps state law when the federal government has jurisdiction.

US Constitution

Which leads us to the fundamental question. Does the federal government, as embodied by Congress, have jurisdiction over health care? Many would argue no, and that’s the basis the lawsuit by 13 states attorneys general who claim the insurance mandate is a living tax. This is the most plausible assault on health care reform, since it contains a provision requiring everyone to buy health insurance. The usual argument made in support of this mandate is the interstate commerce clause of the constition. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution provides the following powers for Congress:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;

To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;

To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;

To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

John Conyers

Most Representatives and Senators aren’t concerned about the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate in the health care overhaul legislation. In fact, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) cited the “the good and welfare clause and a couple others” as the Constitutional basis for the health care legislation’s requirement that individuals buy health insurance. But there is no “good and welfare” clause in the Constitution. And, we’ve already looked at Article 1, Section 8, regarding welfare. The word “good” only appears once in the Constitution, in Article 3, Section 1, which deals with the Judicial branch, not the powers of Congress. Seems to me a longtime Member of Congress is failing his oath of office.

Conyers also said, “there’s nothing unconstitutional in this bill and if there were, I would have tried to correct it…” Um, how would he know? This is the same guy who said “What good is reading the bill?” Did I mention Conyers is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee?

Still, many argue the health care legislation is not constitutional. Regardless of the commerce clause, requiring people to buy health insurance may violate their constitutional right to individual liberty. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled on the side of the individual in several cases regarding medical treatment. The Court held individuals have a “constitutionally protected liberty interest in refusing unwanted medical treatment,” in Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Department of Health. Even more interesingly, in Washington v. Harper, the Court held prison inmates have a “significant liberty interest” in refusing antipsychotic medication. Similarly, children have a significant liberty interest in refusing medical treatment even if their parents requested it, according to the Court’s ruling in Parham v. J. R. It seems, then, requiring individuals to buy health care insurance is contrary to their liberty interest.

Andrew Napolitano

Judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano noted the Federal government cannot commandeer state legislatures. There have been several Supreme Court decisions affirming states rights. Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge explained.

The Constitution does not authorize the Congress to regulate the state governments. Nevertheless, in this piece of legislation, the Congress has told the state governments that they must modify their regulation of certain areas of healthcare, they must surrender their regulation of other areas of healthcare, and they must spend state taxpayer-generated dollars in a way that the Congress wants it done.

Napolitano believes the State Attorneys General lawsuit to overturn health care reform stands a good chance in the Supreme Court. “The states for 230 years have had near exclusive regulation over the delivery of healthcare,” he said. “The feds have had nothing to do with it.”

Congress dunce

Referring to the backroom deals used to garner enough support in the Senate, Napolitano said the “create “a very unique and tricky constitutional problem.” The Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, Gatorade Exception and others create a disparity in treatment among the states. Of the deals, Napolitano said they “clearly violate equal protection by forcing people in the other states to pay the bills of the states that don’t have to pay what the rest of us do.” Similarly, the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans can’t fairly be exempted for union members.

“The problem with the constitution is that those who take an oath to uphold it don’t take their oath seriously,” Napolitano said. Congress only has authority to craft legislation in the 17 aspects enumerated in the Constitution. That might explain why my Senators and Representative failed to answer my question as to what clause in the Constitution authorized the health care reform bill.

In short, the Constitution does not authorize Congress to regulate health care nor does it allow for mandating citizens buy anything, not even for their own good. The commerce clause allows for regulating interstate commerce, not creating it. Disparate treatment among the states and between groups violate the equal protection clause. And, for the record, there is no good and welfare clause in the Constitution. Someone please tell the Chairman of the House Judicial Committee.


Tue, 02 Feb 2010

Toyota Downshifts, Grinds Gears

Filed under: Bailout, Business, Cars, Congress, Greed, Politics, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 7:07 pm

Toyota rollover

Although, to their credit, the so-called foreign automakers were largely silent on the collapse of domestic US automakers, it seems they weren’t that far above the fray. I don’t mean this as a vindication of domestic auto manufacturers. There’s no doubt their arrogance has been part of their legacy. The Big Three have been working on quality since the 1990s and have made great strides.

It is, therefore, particularly ironic to find that Toyota sacrificed quality, resulting in a major recall action. The recall involves more than 4 million cars across 8 nameplates. This should be a significant emotional event, although the mainstream media isn’t portraying it as such. What if this had been GM, Chrysler, or Ford? They’d be all over it like stink on rice.

Brake, accelerator pedals

Unfortunately, it seems Toyota has been ducking the issue for years. Don Slavik, an attorney representing a California man, said, “I think Toyota is still scrambling to find the root causes of all the sudden acceleration that’s been reported to them.” Slavik’s client’s wife died when their 2005 Toyota Camry crashed off a cliff.

There have been hundreds of complaints about Toyotas’ sudden acceleration, however. The complaints date back at least to 2003, but NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) routinely agreed with Toyota’s data that showed no evidence of defects. Some sources claim the issue dates back to the ’90s.

Since this problem surfaced, Toyota has issued two recalls. One, for floor mats, has been greatly expanded, as has the other, for gas pedals themselves. As part of an agreement with NHTSA, Toyota is applying a software change to shut down accelerator pedals when the brake is applied.

Toyota City

Everyone seemed quite comfortable dissing domestic automakers despite increasing quality gains. Where are those folks now that Toyota is having quality problems? Long-standing ones, I might add. Toyota’s January sales were down 16%, largely due to the recalls. That just adds to the woes of a sluggish economy which is hammering Toyota City, Japan’s own motor city.

Toyota has factories in 8 different US locations. They’re represented by 5 Democratic Senators and 9 Republicans. Of those, one Republic did not vote on the domestic automaker bailout while 7 Republicans voted against saving US-based car companies. They are Richard Shelby (R-AL), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Kay Baily Huthison (R-TX), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Roger Wicker (R-MS). Of these, Hutchison and Wicker voted for the Wall Street Bailout. How does that make sense? The point is half the Senators—all Republicans—from states with Toyota factories didn’t vote or voted against the domestic auto industry. Coincidence? I think not. Question is, what was their motive? Pro-Toyota? Anti-union?

Wed, 04 Nov 2009

TWU Local 234 Thinks SEPTA is Wall Street or Something

Filed under: Behavior, Government, Politics, Transit, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 7:03 pm

TWU members pass out picket signs

Not too long after the last Philadelphia World Series game finished, Transport Workers Union Local 234 went on strike. Picket lines went up at city transit division subway stations and bus terminals about 3 AM on November 3rd. This leaves some suburban Philly bus routes and the commuter rail lines running. The last time the union walked off the job was for 5 days in 2005.

Talks between the TWU local and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) have been going on for some time. Without a contract, the TWU was threatening to strike. They kept their promise to wait until after the Series, however. TWU pickets went up at the 69th Street Terminal the morning of the 4th, essentially shutting down service on the non-striking suburban Victory Division lines.

Get back to work

The union has been working without a contract since spring. While I’m not a pro-union guy, I do support unions having contracts. I also believe in fairness to workers and management, union workplace or not. Since I went to Villanova University my freshman year and truly enjoyed Philly’s mass transit system, I have an interest in SEPTA. I took regular advantage of Philly’s transit system to get to New Jersey where the drinking age was 18 at the time. But that’s another story.

Like issues facing many unions in today’s economy, maybe SEPTA is asking for onerous concessions. Well, no, not really. SEPTA must want reduced pension costs then. No, no they don’t. So, what are the agregious contract terms union members find so burdensome, then? SEPTA is offering a mere 11% in pay increases and increased pension contributions of 11%, with no increase in members’ 1% health insurance premiums during the 4 year contract. On top of that, SEPTA offered a $1,200 signing bonus.

Fat cat unions

SEPTA’s offer is unacceptable, why? Well, because the union wants 4% pay raises every year along with a 33% increase in pension contributions. Sheesh! These guys make about $52,000 a year!

Even Pennsylvania’s Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) tried to get the two sides to agree. Concerning SEPTA’s offer, he said, “Whose pension has been increased in this day and age?” Even Philadelphia’s Mayor Michael Nutter (D) thinks union demands are unreasonable. When Democratic politicians think the TWU is all ate up, they should take a look in the mirror. Those clowns should be happy they have jobs!

Just one question. Gov. Rendell says the contract with TWU Local 234 will be done with no increase in fares. So, where’s that 11% pay raise and 11% pension increase coming from? Why, it must be from taxes. Voters should wonder what tax increase is coming next. And then they can thank a transit worker.


Sat, 19 Sep 2009

Michigan Holds the Lead for 40 Months; Unemployment Hits 15.2%

Filed under: Budget, Detroit, Economy, Government, Life, Michigan, Politics, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:08 pm

Michigan’s unemployment rate is back up to 15.2%, the highest in the nation. In fact, Michigan unemployment rate has led the nation for 40 months! That’s almost 4-1/2 years!

In August, Michigan lost 42,900 jobs, including 15,000 in manufacturing. In all, Michigan unemployment exceeds 3/4 of a million people!

If you live in Michigan, chances are pretty dang good you know someone affected by this. That is, if you’re not affected yourself. In my case, my brother took a buyout from his employer due to economic conditions rather than risk a layoff. And my friend Bob, who works for one of the Big 3, isn’t sure. His job is up in the air at the moment. So, yeah, the economic crisis has ramifications right here in the neighborhood.

Areas around Michigan are in particularly dire straits. Metro Detroit’s unemployment rate was 17.3% in August. The rate in Detroit itself is nearly 30%: 28.9% for August! Even the Church is affected!

Why do you suppose the city’s unions think Mayor Bing is out to get them? Didn’t they learn basic math in school? Maybe they just find a word problem too confusing.

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