Monthly Archives: July 2009

Republicans recycling 50 year old failed arguments

Just watched a movie about the founding of the Canadian Healthcare system. Amazing. The exact same lies were used then as are being used here, now. And the conservatives in Canada resorted to violence there just like they do here. And they were just as wrong there and then as they are here and now. Because the system they screached about has become a model of success, revered around the world.

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Filed under health care, Politics

New on the Agenda: Fire Protection Reform

Taking their cue from the healthcare debate, Conservatives are setting out to bring the US socialist fire protection system into the capitalist fold.  A new measure being proposed by Republicans in the House of Representatives will require firemen to make sure that home owners, businesses, and other property owners present proof of insurance and sign an acknowledgement that they are ultimately responsible for all charges, before any attempt is made to put out a fire.  Industrial concerns, large retail complexes, owners of multiple family dwellings and high-rise office buildings will also need to have their insurance company provide prior authorization and a confirmation number before services are provided and public expense is incurred.  An amendment that has been proposed, but not yet voted on, would require fire departments to access the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify database before extinguishing a fire to ensure that home-owners, tenants, landlords, and any overnight visitors are properly documented and in the US legally.

Conservative blogger TeaBaggingFan69 states that “it is about darn time fire protection consumers had a choice as to who their primary fire protection service is.  For too long, the overbearing, lib’ral government has dictated which fire departments respond to our emergencies.  Heck, we don’t even get to choose which fire trucks are sent or which firemen come!”  Reverend Richard Weed, who has previously testified about the subject in front of the Commerce Committee summed up the feelings of many Conservatives when he said “Now, look, any time a house is on fire there’s a good chance that it will be lived in again.  Many Evangelical Christians resent the idea that a faggot  might be traipsing through their house squirting God knows what everywhere!  These people go against the grain of nature every day… who can even imagine what they might do in a private residence after they have forcibly carried family members outside”

While popular among many on the right, the measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate even if it passes the House.  One individual who claims to have inside knowledge but who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the subject, said that Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid may recently have been quoted as stating “That’s the dumbest damn idea I’ve ever heard.  Democrats will only support that if Republicans say they really, really, should.”  A spokesperson did not immediately return our call.

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Filed under health care, Politics

Conservatives Strongly Support Healthcare Reform To Keep America Competitive

Fiscal conservatives promote the idea of government thinking and acting like a business.  Businesses survive and thrive by relentlessly pursuing the best value for the goods and services they purchase.  The United States of America is not getting the best value for its healthcare dollar.  In fact, it is effectively buying from the high-cost, low-quality producer.  We spend two to three time as much per capita as our industrialized peers, so we should be getting a premium product.  In fact, our healthcare outcomes rank 19th among industrialized nations.  The United States is being swindled.

US per capita healthcare spending compared to our industrialized peers.

US per capita healthcare spending compared to our industrialized peers.

Among industrialized nations, the United States of America has the

  • lowest ranking in overall health outcomes
  • highest infant mortality rate,
  • highest maternal mortality rate
  • lowest life expectancy.

France has 64.8 preventable deaths per 100,000 deaths due to treatable conditions. Japan has 71.2.  Australia has 71.3.  The United States of America, due to lack of access to care, has 109.7.  We But look at that spending!  This high cost / low quality investment makes conservatives absolutely bat shit crazy, and it should.  This is no way for America to compete successfully on the global stage.

This is why conservatives realize that there is no future in the current American system of delivering healthcare.  Conservatives feel that to sabotage America’s competitive capability in the global marketplace by continuing to spend more than our competitors and get less in return is akin to treason.

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Filed under economy, health care, Politics

Employee Free Choice? Maybe.

Individual employees have several disadvantages when they are negotiating with a large employer.  First and foremost is that the employer has an information advantage because employees are forbidden from discussing their wages… but the employer knows all of them.  There is also the fact that for most jobs, excluding very specialized ones, having and holding a job is a make or break business for the employee.  Employers, however, are often so lacking in need that managers can’t find the time to conduct interviews.

At their best, unions and collective bargaining in general level the playing field.  They eliminate the information advantage and they make the importance of labor decisions as high to the company as they are to the employees.

At their worst, unions become tools to force companies to employ more workers than are, by any stretch, needed and to create work rules that go beyond safety and fairness and instead head toward abusive.

Unions were created when corporations were badly abusing employees and came under the most vicious and successful attacks when they had grown so powerful they were abusing employers.  After 30 years of union busting, we’re back to a point now where corporations are once again abusing employees with their lopsided power.

The Employee Free Choice Act currently being watered down in the Senate provides a conundrum.  The single most important aspect of it, that unions have stridently wanted, and business has stridently not wanted, is something called the “card check” or “majority sign up” rule.

For this rule to make any sense, you have to understand just a little about the current, highly regulated process of a union “organizing” a workforce.  Without getting into nuance, it is a process with several steps.  The first step involves employees as individuals filling out cards expressing their interest in being represented by the union.  If enough employees fill out cards, then an election is scheduled.  The election, when it happens, takes place by secret ballot and if a majority of employees vote for the union, the union goes in.

This heavily regulated process places strict requirements on both the company and the union.  The union, for instance, is not allowed on company property, and union organizing for the most part is not allowed on company time, until and unless the union is voted in.  Meanwhile, the company is free to hang posters, call meetings, distribute memos and brochures, etc. providing employees with information and, usually, misinformation about what it means to be represented by a union.  Companies, meanwhile, are not allowed to take any adverse actions against employees engaged in union organizing activities so long as they are following the rules.  They often do, though and proving that they have done so is a difficult and costly process few workers can take on.

What the card check rule would do is eliminate the election process if, and only if, during the first phase of seeing whether enough employees are interested in the union to warrant an election, over 50 percent of them filled out the cards.  The goal is to reduce the opportunity employers have to punish union organizers before they have protection and to limit the amount of propaganda the company can deploy before an election.  This curtails some major advantages companies have today.

Unfortunately, it does so by giving the unions a major advantage that is also, not necessarily, in the interests of the workers.  You see, while the unions and union organizers aren’t allowed on company property there is nothing to prevent them from any organizing activities conducted off the property and on workers own time.  In particular, unions have an ability companies don’t have to meet with employees individually, in their own houses, around their kitchen tables, to explain the ins and outs of union membership and, of course, present their own propaganda.

It is often in just this circumstance that workers fill out the cards that express their interest in having an election.  And companies have a valid point when they say that a worker who fills in a card while a burly and passionately motivated co-worker, who can let everyone else in the company know whether or not support was given for the union, sits across from him at his kitchen table, may well be doing so out of a feeling of intimidation.  When the card just expresses interest and the actual voting is secret, that doesn’t matter.  When the card itself gains the weight of the election, it becomes very important.

As much as I want unions to be stronger than they are, as much as I want it to be easier for workers to organize and much more difficult for companies to intimidate and penalize employees, the card check rule does seem to have its own problems.  We’ve all be on the giving and receiving end of peer pressure.  We know how powerful it is.

This one issue has been so important to both sides of the legislation that I’m not sure anybody has any idea what is left to the bill if the card check rule is stripped out.  I certainly don’t know.  I will look into it though, because I do want to see unions strengthened and I do want it to be easier for them to organize.  I hope that the bill, even without the card check rule, still moves in that direction.

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Filed under labor, Politics