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Four More Years

For the record, I'm in the "partially blame the people" category as far as last week's depressing election results are concerned.

You really have to wonder how millions of people could conceivably vote against their economic interests, particularly when those economic interests are in such apparent, grave danger. Middle Americans don't need a flashy news channel to distort facts and figures about the state of healthcare and retirement in the U.S. (although this does happen). They need only look at their dwindling paychecks and their debt-laden credit card bills to see their financial truth. So, as people continue to debate about who and what to blame or not to blame in the wake of George Bush's 51% majority vote mandate to destroy the livelihoods of the people of America (and the lives of people overseas) for four more years, consider this:

The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that over the past two years, companies have become emboldened by federal court rulings to sue retired union workers in order to skirt their responsibility for paying retirees' health benefits. Did you get that?! Companies are asking judges to rule that companies have the right to renege their contractual obligation to unionized workers to pay for their medical bills after retirement. And most times, the judges are complying and the companies are winning - or as they say in Corporate World, they are successfully "engaging in annualized cost savings that would be accretive to earnings."

How can a company just sue random employees? There is a method to the madness. Instead of just simply ending or cutting back on retired workers' health benefits, companies are taking a (ahem) proactive approach and handing employees law suit papers so that the companies can decide the jurisdictions in which the subsequent cases will be tried. Essentially, companies are trying to beat employees to the courtroom punch. While these cases are being tried in corporate-friendly jurisdictions, retirees are stuck footing the bills of their frozen benefit accounts. In many instances, according to the article, financially overwhelmed retirees drop out of the company-sponsored health retirement plans or they retirees die. Either way, the company bringing the suit comes out on top.

Of course, companies couldn't get away with this type of chicanery without the complicity of the government. As reported in the Journal, when asked what workers can do when they are sued by the company they labored for for most of their adult lives, a Labor Department official said it didn't have an answer because retired workers "aren't our constituents anymore."

Four more years! Four more years! Instead of the working class rallying together to defeat the economic war being waged upon it, people are voting based on their hatred for gays and women's right to choose. Why millions of people in the U.S. can't make the logical transition from understanding they are increasingly sinking into poverty when they don't have to, to asking why and because of whom - is beyond me. If anyone has an explanation, I'm a willing convert to the "don't blame the people" crowd.

I'm not saying people deserve this treatment. I'm merely saying that the people who voted Bush into office are not as naive and misinformed (in cases of economic security) as we are making them out to be. So, if so many can look at their bank accounts and feel the pains in their bodies, and can make judgments about values, then why can't they say 'enough be enough?' So far, this practice of companies suing retirees to avoid paying medical bills is not widespread but the practice is gaining momentum, and fast.

Comments

"Why millions of people in the U.S. can't make the logical transition ...If anyone has an explanation, I'm a willing convert to the 'don't blame the people' crowd."

The people are to blame- the people who voted for Bush.

Support for Bush is based on a lack of compassion and a lack of knowledge. The proportion of each depends on people's circumstances which in turn determine how difficulk their shortcomings are to forgive. Lack of compassion is often linked to racism.

So much for the people's shortcomings. What about our own? What prevents the Left for being more effective? We can make a long list of things that are against us, so let me put it this way: What prevents us from making optimal use of the resources and freedoms we have? Must we not evaluate our own level of compassion and understanding?

"So much for the people's shortcomings. What about our own? What prevents the Left for being more effective? We can make a long list of things that are against us, so let me put it this way: What prevents us from making optimal use of the resources and freedoms we have? Must we not evaluate our own level of compassion and understanding?"

I like that, Joe. I think if there's any time for some serious illusion-free hard thinking about who we are and why we are so ineffective, it's now. I was really disappointed by how quickly and reflexively the little sectlets that make up the 'left' started turning on each other. We could all have benefited from a hard look at the ineffectiveness of each of our individual groups, at each of us as individuals, and us as a collective grouping. So much easier not to do that, though.

Anyway there's not much stuff out there, but I got something out of Biju Mathew's work in Samar Magazine (www.samarmagazine.org). He's done 3 editorials in the past 3 issues, and talks about our unwillingness to go beyond the 'comfort zone'. He doesn't have all the answers or get us to where we need to be - but his criticisms certainly describe my experience (I certainly control my level of commitment and I also work in what he calls 'safe' organizations) and some of my frustrations (with 'the politics of self-absorption').

Reading through these comments, i find myself as an outsider to American politics but nevertheless well versed, I am noticing that there is no difference between Republicans or Democrats. We can look at Clinton's 4 years in power where he laid much of the groundwork for Bush's policies as subtle and covert behaviour whereas the Bush administration offering blatant open hostilities. The lesser of two evils in American politics is your present choice. There needs to be a third or fourth alternative to voters and a choice that holds true to good values within and outside the USA.

Joe, I don't think it's enough to say "So much for the people's shortcomings." An analysis of why a plurality of registered voters voted the way they did must happen in concert with an honest analysis of the "left's" shortcomings. The "left's" shortcomings are very much tied to the rise of conservatism in the U.S. (some might argue there isn't a rise, but a vocal majority - 51% - would be loath to disagree with that idea). It's like an inverse relationship on a graph...as cohesion and action in the "left" falls, social conservatism rises, other things equal.

I think the "left" is disconnected with what life is actually like in much of America. Many people who call themselves "leftists" have retreated from the very America they think needs fixing. Not wanting to work the corporate jobs or take part in the electoral process because of their fundamental flaws, many among us have enclosed ourselves in "safe spaces" such as small cooperatives and communities where the reality of working class life in America is something we read about, not experience. How can we make a difference in a process we refuse to belong to? Getting out of these "safe spaces" is key I think.

"I think the "left" is disconnected with what life is actually like in much of America. Many people who call themselves "leftists" have retreated from the very America they think needs fixing. Not wanting to work the corporate jobs or take part in the electoral process because of their fundamental flaws, many among us have enclosed ourselves in "safe spaces" such as small cooperatives and communities where the reality of working class life in America is something we read about, not experience. How can we make a difference in a process we refuse to belong to? Getting out of these "safe spaces" is key I think."

That's actually a very interesting thought. I had always thought the reverse was true. It's the *lack* of sustaining infrastructure in which people can sort of survive and build a decent life while continuing to be engaged, critical, challenge power, win gains - that's why we're so unsuccessful. In the absence of such infrastructure, people drift away precisely because they have to make a living at some point, if they're lucky in some kind of lightweight academic job, which then distances them, as you say, from working people and communities. If they aren't in the academic or at least professional sector, then they have more difficult jobs that are more demanding of their time and energy, and the kinds of left organizations as exist either demand unlimited time and energy or they demand very passive, limited participation, which makes the left very unwelcoming to working people.

I think it's the weakness of left institutions and organizations. But that's not an answer, that's a question: why are they so weak? And to the degree that they make it more difficult for people to be engaged with normal life in America, how should they change?

Justin: I read the editorials by Biju Mathew. Certain lines really hit me between the eyes. For example "To be political outside of organization, at best serves to marginally strengthening movements and at worst deals with a personal desire to political correctness.."

Basically he calls upon people to be less selfish and join mass movements and coalitions even if there aren't perfect. Fine, but I don't think I am atypical in that sectarian issues don't keep me from getting more involved. As for selfishness that's relative but I'll admit to some. But how do I justify time away from family? If I wanted to become an Evangelical I wouldn't have to sacrifce my family of social life. I'd enhance it significantly. But to become a more committed Leftist or unionist I would. Is my selfishness the whole problem? I don't think so.

I really think that goes a long way towards explaining why Left institutions are so weak.

C.P. Pandya: That is especially true for people outside the "safe places". I know quite a few Evagelicals who work in very unsafe placs.

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