By traveling to an Amazon distribution warehouse full of temporary wage slaves and calling for a cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 to 28%. And on top of that, bestowing our financial overlords with even more monetary incentives via training, at government expense, the workers for those low-paying jobs, and then rewarding the freeloading CEOs with even more financial perks when they then deign to hire the trainees. It's a trifecta for the plutocracy, a triple whammy for the rest of us. It's a perfect example of privatized profit at public cost. Or, if you prefer, corporate welfare.
The little guy pays the higher effective tax rate. The tax revenues, in turn, get sucked out the Treasury door by the corporate tax evaders. Most of it stays in their pockets, and only some of it goes to hiring a token number of laborers on the cheap. The already-manipulated unemployment rate will drop by a few points and politicians will make themselves look good for doing something that is actually quite bad. And that is the enablement of the closed feedback loop where money begets power begets more money begets more power. Ad infinitum.
And all this will be accomplished as President Obama purports to be concerned about the widening wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. We are not supposed to notice that ever-widening gap between his words and his actions. Amazingly enough, there still appears to be a sizeable enough segment of his personality cult remaining willfully and faithfully blinded to how badly they are being had. I think this may have something to do with his recent guilt-inducing trip down racial-profiling memory lane. Gifted orator and social identity politics liberal that he is, he still enjoys an approval rating just south of the 50% mark. Not bad for the leader of a country ranking a dismal 27th in per capita income, 27th in life expectancy, and where four out of five people are now threatened with imminent poverty.
So I am now taking bets on how many times he will utter "middle class" at his speech today in Tennessee. Along with his usage of the word "folks," we should probably take Noam Chomsky's advice* and, Run Forrest Run! like a million desperate Gumps.
My only consolation is that many, many folks are taking sharp notice of the locale of his latest outburst of demagogy. Amazon was elevated to the ranks of history's most notorious employers a couple of summers ago when word leaked out (call the NSA!) that the company had actually stationed ambulance crews outside their buildings because workers by the dozens were passing out from the intense heat. According to one investigative report, Amazon actually plucks its workers from an outside agency taking its own pound of flesh and rarely elevates them to permanent positions. A story in the Huffington Post recounts how workers are forced to wait in line at warehouse security checkpoints for up to half an hour -- without pay -- to make sure they haven't stolen any merchandise on the way home.
And it's not just critics of Amazon's working conditions who are disgusted with Obama's choice of venue. The American Booksellers' Association has protested the visit, claiming that Amazon hurts small businesses by flouting sales tax laws and putting small independent bookstores out of business through predatory pricing.
Obama, meanwhile, will laud the fact that Amazon workers get health insurance cards, benefits not specified, as temporary, part-time and low-wage as they may be. It's called lowering expectations and calling it a win. Or, if you like, peeing on my leg and telling me it's raining.
I also got to wondering whether New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman had anything to do with the president's choice of Chattanooga as the locale for another stop on his Magical Mystery Tour. Friedman, who has been described as one of Obama's favorite media mavens, did after all write a piece last fall that he dubbed Obama's Moment. He waxed rhapsodic about that Tennessee City being a hub of IT nirvana and thousands of crappy factory jobs and the perfect geographical symbol of Centrism. Or, if you prefer, untold riches for the few and immiseration of the many.
There is a huge amount of innovative thrust building, bottom-up, in the U.S. economy today. If Washington could just get the macro picture right, you could see a real growth surge in America. We’re just a couple of grand bargains away from something big.
And that brings me to the news. It’s good to see the budget talks between President Obama and the Republicans getting off to a solid start, but we know there will be plenty of partisan fireworks before any deal is cut. With that in mind, I hope the president will reframe and elevate the debate. It is vital that he not frame this as a discussion of just new taxes and spending cuts. His guiding principle should be “growth.” Right now, the whole budget discussion reeks too much of castor oil — and which side will have to swallow the biggest spoonful.
And that brings me back to Chattanooga, where, Mayor Ron Littlefield says, city elders looked themselves in the eyes 15 years ago and realized that “we were a dilapidated city going the way of the Rust Belt.” But, by coming together to make the city an attractive place to live and getting both parties to agree to invest in a fiber-to-every-home-and-business network in a 600-square-mile area, Chattanooga replaced its belching smokestacks with an Amazon.com fulfillment center, major health care and insurance companies and a beehive of tech start-ups that all thrive on big data and super-high-speed Internet. “We’ve gone from being a slowly declining and deflating urban balloon, to one of the fastest-growing cities in Tennessee,” said Littlefield. The fiber network now attracts companies that “like to see more and more of their employees able to work some of the time at home, which saves on office space and parking,” the mayor said.Friedman spoke, and the president listened. That Big Data part especially had to have been a turn-on. NSA-Amazon Partnership, here we come! Obama put Chattanooga on his calendar, post-haste. After all, it's only a short verbal technocratic hop from Friedman's ridiculous Bottom-Up bromides to Obama's latest Middle-Out catchphrases. I'll be paying attention to Obama's words today just to see how many Friedmanisms (along with middles classes and folks and dropped Gs) manage to worm their way into his rhetoric.
Meantime, here's my comment to the Friedman column as published last year:
So, Mr. Friedman is advocating a massive government propaganda campaign to convince the proles that cutting back on our Social Security and Medicare and other "middle class" goodies will be fun for us. Something like a Mary Poppins for grown-ups. A spoonful of sugar in the form of better internet connections will help the medicine of retiring at 70 go down. Or some such nonsense.
CEOs and pundits throughout the land are serenading us with the same tired old tune called "Love the Pain." And Friedman's use of such words as "thrust-building" and "bottom-up" even add a sexy new slant to the genre of fiscal S&M. The plutocrats wield the whips, and we will swoon under their lashes. The president will do his part by making austerity excitingly patriotic. Friedman's multimillionaire financial guru is at the ready to impart some economic Viagra, keeping that dreaded deflation at bay.
Risky start-ups, here we come! But, if the addition of an Amazon warehouse to the Chattanooga landscape is your idea of boom-time, think again. These fulfillment centers have a less than stellar reputation in how they treat their poorly paid, no-benefit workers.
You know what would really stimulate the economy? A national living wage law to lift retail and warehouse workers out of poverty. Scrapping the cap on FICA Social Security tax contributions to make the trust fund solvent for generations to come. Medicare for All.
Forget the shared sacrifice. We should be demanding some shared prosperity.Keep in mind that Obama's latest new and improved "Grand Bargain", while purporting to be a call for jobs, is simply Austerity by another name. Obama's offers of chained CPI as a method of cutting Social Security, along with other safety net cuts, are still very much on the table. He is not calling for taxes to pay for infrastructure and a government jobs program. He is calling for we the taxpayers to keep funneling our dwindling resources straight to the top.
He is advocating pure Trickle-Down Reaganomics. He always has. Only the weasel words have changed due to circumstances that were never beyond his control at all. (see: Geithner, Rubin, Summers) The natives are restless, so now he is pivoting, out of pure political necessity, from Tighten Your Belts to Feel Your Pain mode. But make no mistake. Those belts are still being tightened. Or, if you prefer, the nooses are being finessed.
And that, said Forrest Gump, is all I have to say about that.
* "When a politician uses the word 'folks' get ready for the next series of lies."