Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good Corp, Bad Corp

Kudos to the Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids for respecting the hard work of their employees.
On October 3, Local 386 members employed at Country Fresh Dairy in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ratified a new contract. The new agreement increases wages and pension benefits, while protecting health care coverage and increases sickness and accident and life insurance coverage. [...]

The five-year contract contains wage increases totaling 11 percent over the course of the agreement, and the company’s contributions to the employees’ RWDSU pension will increase by $2 per week each year. By the last year of the contract, the company will be contributing $80 per week to the plan.
I've always liked and bought Country Fresh products, and now I have another reason to remain a loyal customer. Not only do I help the company's profits, but I help the 156 employees who overwhelmingly voted to ratify the contract.

The polar opposite of Country Fresh is Boeing. The company decided to put a new assembly line for the 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. Boeing claims they chose right-to-work South Carolina in part "because of frustration with labor strife in Seattle, where four strikes in the past 20 years by the machinists union delayed deliveries." However, according to the Seattle PI, the union offered a 10-year, no-strike contract and was willing to discuss a longer agreement to get Boeing to commit to locating the second 787 line in Everett, Washington.

And this little tidbit from the same article is infuriating:
Boeing already took billions in tax credits and handouts... Now, the company is taking the jobs promised by the 787 program and leaving Washington workers and taxpayers high and dry.
What's the company getting from South Carolina? A package that eliminates income and other taxes for a decade and the state will provide low-interest construction bonds.

The problem with all these incentives according to this journalist is that they're a downward spiral on our race to the bottom.
Of course the problem isn't a lack of "commitment" to the aerospace industry in a region where generations of workers have devoted their lives to making Boeing planes. The problem is that people in Washington just don't come as cheap. We have this bad habit of paying people a decent wage, and providing good unemployment pay and benefits for people who are injured on the job--all things that apparently must change if we're to be competitive.

But then, if you consult the advocacy groups trying to insure the "competitiveness" of South Carolina, they say the same thing. "South Carolina's workers' compensation costs are the highest in the Southeast for small business" frets the South Carolina Civil Justice Coalition, a group that works to improve the business climate in Boeing's new home. They won't be satisfied until South Carolina's "climate" has been made as cheap as Georgia's, Tennessee's, and Virginia's.

And on down it spirals. It's not a winnable game, not if we want to keep any allegiance to our own values. In a few years, Boeing will be playing S.C. off Mississippi.
Boeing could learn a few things about values from Country Fresh.

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Opting In, Opting Out, Why The Next Election Is Vitally Important

As Cordelia Lear pointed out at Blogging for MI yesterday, the opt-out choice that allows states to withdraw from the public option is no panacea. Read what she says about Mike Bishop and Andy Dillon to understand why opt-out is a bad idea, but it's basically because the public option choice will literally be in the hands of lawmakers who don't care about us.

I originally figured I could live with the opt-out plan because it's loosely modeled on Medicaid, "which originally allowed states to “opt-out” of the program and today enjoys the participation of all 50 states." And, as TPM pointed out, there was good reason to believe that the public option would have been a lot scarier as a GOP straw man than it would as a real world option for people who can't get private coverage.
And if the public option is available in North Carolina, just to pick a hypothetical, and not South Carolina, after a while, people in the South Carolina might start to wonder what the logic was of denying them a lower cost health insurance option. And if that's true, presumably, pressure will build in the opt-out states to opt-in. So even if a substantial number of people aren't covered at the start, there's good reason to believe that will change over time.
There's just one tiny problem with the "presumably, pressure will build to opt-in" scenario. We're dealing with politicians who often put party ideology ahead of people. If pressuring our leaders worked, we would have had health care a long time ago.

And, as Cordelia mentioned, it's not exactly clear who gets to do the opting-out. Will governors be able to unilaterally make that decision or will it take action by both houses of the state legislature? As Jon Walker at FDL pointed out, depending on how the opt-out is written, millions of people in states controlled by Republicans could find themselves disenfranchised.

If a Republican becomes Michigan's next governor, or they manage to pick up any seats, we can kiss opting-in goodbye. Seriously. That makes the next election extremely important because there's just one thing standing between national health care and the 1.13 million uninsured adults in our state - Republicans (and DINO's like Dillon).

(Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mainstream America Is Not Red

The Democracy Corps released a survey last week about conservative Republicans that highlights how they're a world apart from most of us. I know, shocking!
  • These voters identify themselves as part of a ‘mocked’ minority with a set of shared beliefs and knowledge, and commitment to oppose Obama that sets them apart from the majority in the country. They believe Obama is ruthlessly advancing a ‘secret agenda’ to bankrupt the United States and dramatically expand government control to an extent nothing short of socialism.

  • They also believe they possess a level of knowledge and understanding when it comes to politics and current events, one gained from a rejection of the mainstream media and an embrace of conservative media and pundits such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
  • There was one area where we shared common ground though: "These voters had virtually nothing positive to say about the Republican Party. They see their own party as weak, old, and out of touch."

    It's what the survey showed about independents that I found most interesting though:
    The independent voters ... share the conservative Republicans’ disdain for the current Republican Party, but their critique is not that the party has abandoned its conservative principles but instead that it advances the interests of the rich and big businesses at the expense of the middle class. They worry about the Democratic Party’s proclivity to spend tax dollars and provide ‘freebies’ to those who do not do their fair share, but they appreciate the Democrats’ focus on ‘the little people’ (among which they included themselves) and the fact that ‘it’s not all about the money.’
    It appears the GOP's single-minded focus on corporate America and tax breaks for the rich is a failure in terms of increasing market share - a.k.a. voters.
    In late January, a USA Today/Gallup poll recorded 27 percent of respondents saying they identified with the Republican Party, 36 percent with Democrats and 25 percent as unaffiliated or independent. Now in mid-October, the average data compiled from dozens of surveys over more than a year shows Republican ID at 22.5 percent, Democratic ID at 33.7 percent and Independent ID at 35 percent.
    Mainstream America is represented by nearly 70% of the electorate consisting of Democrats and Independents, a group that cares about the common good, the "little people." It is not represented by the 22% of Republicans that to a large degree are defined by voters who embrace Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

    If only we could get our lawmakers in Lansing and Washington to remember that.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Mike Rogers Defends Wasting $700 Billion Annually

    Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) receives a lot of money from the pharmaceutical, health and insurance industries, which probably explains why he's pushing false information about health care reform. While speaking at the Michigan Business and Legislative Forum last week, where he repeatedly bragged that he had read all 1000+ pages of the House health care bill, he argued that the House reform legislation would allow the federal government to use the results of comparative effectiveness research to ration costly treatments.

    Rogers is wrong (he would have known that if he had read page 524 of the legislation). Pulitzer Prize winning says this claim is false:
    But in this case, there actually are provisions in the bill about comparative research to make sure it is not used for rationing. Language in the House version of the health bill specifically states: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer."

    And let's be clear, comparative effectiveness research has been done by the government for years and years. The Obama administration wants to greatly expand the amount of research. The economic stimulus package also included more funding for comparative effectiveness research. And the bill included a similar disclaimer that it would not mandate insurers to cover or reimburse one treatment or medication over another. also says this claim is false, and so does the AARP:
    "It boggles the mind" said AARP spokesman Jim Dau, how comparative effectiveness research has been portrayed by opponents of the health care plan as government rationing of care.

    "It's just good common sense," Dau said of the research. "It's giving individuals and doctors better evidence-based research so that they can make better decisions."
    What exactly is comparative effectiveness research? The Center for American Progress explains that "it evaluates different drugs, medical devices, and clinical procedures for the same illness against each other. In contrast, the bulk of research done today examines whether a specific treatment works compared to doing nothing, but comparative effectiveness research evaluates which therapy works best among a range of possibilities for the same illness or condition." This research is important because it can save money.
    It’s estimated that one-third of procedures and treatments administered in the United States have no proven benefit and account for up to $700 billion annually in current spending. Moreover, some of these treatments can have harmful side effects, produce worse health outcomes, and then, as a result, add to the soaring costs of medical care.
    I don't know about Mike Rogers, but I don't like paying $50 dollars for a pill that's not anymore effective than one costing a buck, and the media is full of articles questioning whether cholesterol drugs do any good or if angioplasty is advisable in all patients. My favorite story is from last fall when the NY Times published an article about one of the biggest medical trials ever organized by the federal government. It showed that generic diuretics (water pills) costing only pennies a day, and in use for high blood pressure since the 1950s, worked better than newer drugs that were 20 times as expensive. Not only that, the research revealed that the pricier drugs increased the risk of heart failure and stroke.

    As CAP points out, "There is no incentive for the companies to fund research that compares their treatment to another since it is not in their best interest to determine if another treatment works as well or better than theirs. Because of this the federal government must invest in this research."

    It just doesn't make sense for Rogers to criticize comparative effectiveness research unless he's hoping to protect his big donor's profits. Republicans want us to take charge of our health and spending on health care dollars, yet they seek to limit information about over-priced or hazardous medications or treatments. Not only can that be harmful to our health or downright deadly, it's a waste of money - as much as $700 billion annually.

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)

    Tuesday, October 06, 2009

    The Bible Has a Liberal Bias

    Just when I thought conservatives couldn't get any crazier, I read about some men who think the Bible needs editing, not just for accuracy, but because it's too liberal. They're the inspiration behind the Conservative Bible Project:
    Liberal bias has become the single biggest distortion in modern Bible translations. [...] Large reductions in this error can be attained simply by retranslating the KJV into modern English.
    Here's an example of the liberal bias they find problematic:
    Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification. This improperly encourages the "social justice" movement among Christians.

    For example, the conservative word "volunteer" is mentioned only once in the ESV, yet the socialistic word "comrade" is used three times, "laborer(s)" is used 13 times, "labored" 15 times, and "fellow" (as in "fellow worker") is used 55 times.
    Social justice=socialism? No wonder this Catholic writer said about their project: "Right wing dementia marches on apace." And conservative BeliefNet writer Rod Dreher had this opinion:
    More seriously, the insane hubris of this really staggers the mind. These right-wing ideologues know better than the early church councils that canonized Scripture? They really think it's wise to force the word of God to conform to a 21st-century American idea of what constitutes conservatism? These jokers don't worship God. They worship ideology.
    Sorry, Conservapedia guys, but Jesus was the ultimate liberal progressive revolutionary of all history. You can't change that - no matter how hard you try to rewrite the Bible into your own image.

    Thursday, October 01, 2009

    The White House Fact Checks Glenn Beck

    The Michigan Chamber of Commerce's keynote speaker lied in an attempt to discredit President Obama's efforts to bring the 2016 Olympics to our country and the White House called him and Fox News on it. As they point out, "hosting the Olympics has been a source of pride and unity for the country, but once again Fox News' Glenn Beck program has shown that nothing is worthy of respect if it can be used as part of a partisan attack to boost ratings."

    Lie #1:
    RHETORIC: BECK SAID VANCOUVER LOST $1 BILLION WHEN IT "HAD THE OLYMPICS." Glenn Beck said, "Vancouver lost, how much was it? they lost a billion dollars when they had the Olympics." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

    REALITY: VANCOUVER'S OLYMPICS WILL NOT TAKE PLACE UNTIL 2010. Vancouver will host the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games from February 12 – 28, 2010 and March 12-21, 2010, respectively. [, accessed 9/29/09]
    Lie #2:
    RHETORIC: CHICAGO IS CLOSING THE GOVERNMENT SEVERAL DAYS A WEEK BECAUSE THEY CANNOT AFFORD TO BE OPEN. Beck's guest Caddell said, "Chicago is closing the government several days a week because they cannot afford to be open. They are going to go and reward -- this is the biggest scandal." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

    Lie #3:
    RHETORIC: VALERIE JARRETT [who is accompanying Obama to Copenhagen] WILL BENEFIT FINANCIALLY. Beck asked, "Is it possible that she is going to benefit if the Olympics come to Chicago?" Caddell responded, "Well, that’s the word. She has certainly had a lot of dealings going on in real estate." [Transcript, Glenn Beck Show, 9/29/09]

    REALITY: UPON ENTERING GOVERNMENT, VALERIE JARRETT DIVESTED ALL HER REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT HOLDINGS EXCEPT FOR A SINGLE INVESTMENT THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE OLYMPIC BID. Valerie Jarrett divested all her investment real estate holdings upon entering government except for a single real estate holding that she was unable to sell. This single real estate investment has been determined by White House Counsel and the independent Office of Government Ethics to present no conflict of interest in performing her duties as a White House advisor. It has nothing to do with the Olympic bid.
    Our country is the throes of the Great Recession and the Olympics could generate $22.5 billion in economic activity and create 315,000 new full-time jobs. It makes me wonder why Glenn Beck hates America, and why business chambers embrace a liar like him.

    (There's more on the White House blog.)

    (Cross-posted at Blogging for MI.)