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The Return Of The Morning Grumpy – 9/4/12

Filed under: Morning Grumpy

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

I wonder whatever happened to this version of the Republican Party?

1. Did everyone enjoy Labor Day? Did you take a few moments to remember how American labor unions, fought and died for the rights and privileges you enjoy? Don’t you wish we still had a strong army of labor unions fighting on our behalf in this country? I sure do. Here’s a simple reminder as to how we stack up against the other first world workforces when it comes to just one issue, guaranteed pay for holidays and vacation.

2. With an essentially limitless pool of funds at their disposal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is kicking the ass of Democrats across the country.

If you live in a state where a competitive race could help tip the balance in the Senate this fall, you’ve almost certainly seen ads, laden with menacing theme music, light on the facts and funded by the US Chamber of Commerce. The nation’s largest business lobby is showcasing bold ambitions this year in an effort to build on gains made in the 2010 midterms, when at least $33 million of Chamber advertising helped push the nation dramatically rightward. The group began placing ads in swing districts as early as November 2011. Since then, it has rolled out a campaign aimed at influencing at least fifty House and eight Senate races, and according to Politicoit has set a goal of $100 million in spending for this electoral cycle.

Watchdog groups believe the strategy in 2012 is similar to that of 2010: the Chamber goes into a district, blitzes it with attack ads to soften up the opposition and then steps back to let other deep-pocket groups come in. The intent is to force Democrats to play defense across the board, thus spreading their resources thin. According to the liberal online publication ThinkProgress, twenty of the twenty-one ads the Chamber released in May were hostile to Democratic candidates.

This strategy has been in the works and gaining steam for decades.

The Chamber has been developing a carefully structured political strategy since the early 1970s, when Lewis Powell (who would later become a US Supreme Court justice) penned a famous memo advising the group on how to tackle what he believed to be the growing anti-business environment in the United States. To reclaim influence over the political and regulatory processes, and to shape public opinion in corporate America’s favor, he urged a more aggressive lobbying effort and called for the creation of a network of think tanks and research groups that could promote pro-business messages.

I wish labor and the working class had these kind of resources.

3. As we’re in full silly season for national politics, I’d like you to read a great article written by Thom Hartmann called “The Two Santa Clauses” to balance out the talking point nonsense. It’s a wonderful breakdown of how Republicans have conned America for thirty years.

Jude Wanniski had had enough. The Democrats got to play Santa Claus when they passed out Social Security and Unemployment checks – both programs of the New Deal – as well as when their “big government” projects like roads, bridges, and highways were built giving a healthy union paycheck to construction workers. They kept raising taxes on businesses and rich people to pay for things, which didn’t seem to have much effect at all on working people (wages were steadily going up, in fact), and that made them seem like a party of Robin Hoods, taking from the rich to fund programs for the poor and the working class. Americans loved it. And every time Republicans railed against these programs, they lost elections.

In 1976, Wanniski rolled out to the hard-right insiders in the Republican Party his “Two Santa Clauses” theory, which would enable the Republicans to take power in America for the next thirty years.

Democrats, he said, had been able to be “Santa Clauses” by giving people things from the largesse of the federal government. Republicans could do that, too – spending could actually increase. Plus, Republicans could be double Santa Clauses by cutting people’s taxes! For working people it would only be a small token – a few hundred dollars a year on average – but would be heavily marketed. And for the rich it would amount to hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. The rich, in turn, would use that money to import or build more stuff to market, thus increasing supply and stimulating the economy. And that growth in the economy would mean that the people still paying taxes would pay more because they were earning more.

There was no way, Wanniski said, that the Democrats could ever win again. They’d have to be anti-Santas by raising taxes, or anti-Santas by cutting spending. Either one would lose them elections.


4. A whistleblower exposes the domestic spying program being conducted by the National Security Agency.

Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004.

“The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me and the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying.

5. How not to talk to your kids; the tough choice between praise and criticism.

Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise.

From 1970 to 2000, there were over 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem and its relationship to everything—from sex to career advancement. But results were often contradictory or inconclusive. So in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science.

After reviewing those 200 studies, Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort.

Research is finding that praise can actually have negative effects.

Fact Of The Day: Before the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, scientists were convinced the Universe was no longer expanding. Not only is the Universe still expanding but it’s expanding at a rate of 48 miles per second.

Quote Of The Day: “Kids don’t have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don’t have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns of the Northeast. Why? Because we organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. Kids ought to know that. That’s why I sing these songs. That’s why I tell these stories, dammit! No root, no fruit!” – Utah Phillips

Cartoon Of The Day: “Goofy and Wilbur”

Song Of The Day: “Return Of The Mack” – Mark Morrison

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

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  • I wish we had labor unions that didn’t overreach in the 1970’s and 80’s, line the pockets of organizers and leaders, and defend entrenched workers at the expense of innovation and progress as well. Sigh. If unions made Germany’s vacation rules their #1 nation priority, I wonder if they’d become more publicly popular. 

    • BlackRockLifer

      Of course the vast majority of unions didn’t overeach or line the pockets of their organizers and leaders. My father, grandfathers, and uncles all belonged to unions that never demanded more than a fair shake for the workers. None of these guys lived large and all worked hard. The abuses the right likes to point to were only in a few of the largest and most powerful unions.
      I wish management wouldn’t have outsourced, offshored, and downsized with no allegiance or loyalty to the people and communities that made their success possible. If American business put the good of the country ahead of stockholder and CEO compensation we would enjoy a much more promising future.

      • If your largest and most powerful unions are the worst abusers, then that’s bad enough for me. It doesn’t matter if your local carpenter’s union had a great apprenticeship program if auto/steel/teachers/civil servants are corrupt, standing in the way of school reform, or prioritizing “protecting” themselves from average citizens (respectively).

        It is an unfortunate truth that (legally) publicly traded corportations would be shirking their fiduciary duty by putting the country above shareholder value. All praise the privately held corporation, free to base success on whatever measure they deem fit.

      • BlackRockLifer

        The majority of unions shouldn’t be lumped together with the bad apples, most had no part in the abuses. I think the last few decades we have seen  a revisionist history of unions, an easy sell to those too young to remember the gains and growth during America’s great expansion of the middle class.
        I think it is a stretch to say “corrupt”, prioritizing and protecting themselves is in your words “their duty”. That duty applies to the union  just as it does to the corporation. Difference is the union seeks to spread the wealth to those that actually produce the product or service and contribute to the community, not just the shareholders.

      • One last reply, that you may or may not get.

        The democratization of stock ownership makes demonizing the stock holder more and more troublesome. The majority of Americans own stock, and if they don’t directly (or indirectly through a mutal fund), then their pension or retirement plan does. When an evil corporation puts its stock price first, it puts union retirements first, and my mutual funds, and yours, and everyone else’s. Not the best, most efficient, or most equitable system, to be sure, but the collective corporate America (in the stock market) is funding the retired life of many workers. We’re all in this system together, failed as it might be.

      • BlackRockLifer

        I do realize we are all stockholders if we are fortunate to have a retirement plan. I think we still need to find some balance between the rate of return and the rate of compensation to the workers. I agree we are all in this system together, the welfare of the workers is directly related to the welfare of the retiree. There is room for improvement and we should not just accept the present system but move towards a more equitable and fair system that rewards productivity as well as investors.
        Been a pleasure, I appreciate your reasonable and polite debate.