Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The thin edge - we're hoping

OK, I admit it. I am more satisfied making $8.50 an hour, and even happy making $10 an hour, because my feet remember so well making $3.25. I gladly sit in front of a computer for $350 a month, or stock produce or run a cash register for $300 a month, because it seems like only yesterday I was toting a claw bar down a dry, dusty railroad track - pines in the distance wavering in the 110F heat - through Sharp's Bottom, a snake pit punctuated by coyotes and pistols just far enough from the paper mill that the acid rain that hung around the smoke stacks didn't take the skin off unless you had to service that part of the track ... for $4 an hour.

So after Reagan and Bush, and Clinton, and then another Bush - meaner, nastier - yeah, I'm positively goo-goo over some of Obama's doings. Like today: anybody who wants bailout money from here on in, he says, pays no more than $500,000. See, I just got no problem at all with that. In fact I'll take half. Easy. And I'll throw in a bonus even though nobody has asked: if I manage to screw up the business, any business, let alone the world economy, even a fraction as monumentally as my predecessor(s) ... hell, I'll give back half of the salary I did keep.

I'm actually pretty confident that bonus would never be implemented. But that's beside the point: how come nobody's asking?

But even if they were, seriously, would it be enough? Do we really believe the executive's out-frigging-rageous pay grades are the biggest kink in our collective hose? It's so micro.

Sure, it's longterm stupid to pay people a commission to dismantle our economic base one factory at a time - that is, assuming a perspective of "promoting the general welfare," which I don't - but the hole we're dug into is way too deep for a long, sloping incline out. We've got to get macro on their asses.

How about, just for starters, something like: You want bailout money? Stop spending it busting unions and conspiring to block the Employee Free Choice Act. Stop dodging OSHA regs, the EPA, overtime protections and discrimination cases with merit. You want the money? Settle those legitimate lawsuits, fix that pollution problem, and pay your damn workers what they've earned. And by the way, federal inspectors get unfettered access to every square inch of your operations - including offshore subsidiaries - and 24-7 access to all the books (both sets). Congress calls you up and says, How'd you spend the money? and you say, Dunno, and if I did, wouldn't sing - and you can just whip out that big, fat corporate checkbook and pay it all back - at about 15% APR.

Still want it? I got some ideas for a "Social Monetary Fund" to talk to you about. There's a certain flexibility we expect from you, too. No, I don't mean logistics or whatever you call outsourcing these days. I mean you need to be about developing technology that will re-tool for new trends in the economy, and new priorities for energy and social margins, not just for the latest model of the miracle of built-in obsolescence you sold us last year. We - it is we who will have to demand it - want to see swords beat into plowshares, just about literally: military capital converted for local and global standards of living. And so on.

Is Obama the savior who'll bring us all that? It's the wrong question. The real question is what are we going too do to get started in that direction?

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