A Message From Your Conscience: Consider the Retail Workers

Friday, December 7th, 2012

(By NCrissie B)

Hi, it’s your Conscience.  I’m here to talk about your holiday shopping.

I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, yeah, buy more thoughtful and sensible holiday gifts this year. Nag, nag.”

Actually, that’s not what I’m here to say. Yes, I could remind you that giving your Special Someone a new putter that just happens to be the putter you wanted – when your Special Someone doesn’t even play golf – was tacky. But your Special Someone pretty much let you know that, so I don’t need to mention it.

No, I’m here on behalf of the people you’ll see without really seeing … the retail workers in the stores you’ll patronize over the coming weeks.

Okay, I know you had a retail job once, back when you were in high school or college. You mostly talked with other colleagues who were your age. Yes, I used “talked with” as a euphemism for “flirted with.” Relax. It was normal behavior at that age and you don’t do that anymore, right? Right?

My point is, your own retail work experience shaped your impression of who retail workers are. I say “retail worker” and your mind pops up an image of a teenager, or a senior supplementing a retirement income or taking a job to stay busy.

But while you’re shopping, look at the retail workers. Most of them aren’t teenagers working for gas and pizza money or seniors looking for an excuse to get out of the house. Most are adults trying to pay their bills and feed their kids. Nine-in-ten are age 20 or older, and about half provide at least 50% of their families’ income. One-in-five provide their families’ entire income.

And most retail workers who provide at least half of their families’ income … live near or below the poverty line.

Many qualify for government assistance, from the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Tax Credits to direct aid like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, school lunch programs, and housing or home heating subsidies.

In other words, the few pennies you save on each shopping trip because retail workers don’t earn a living wage – the Demos report estimates your savings at just $18 a year – are offset by your taxes that pay for the programs to help retail and other low-income workers survive.

When billionaire restauranteurs tell you that you shouldn’t have to pay an extra 17 cents for a meal to pay for their workers’ health insurance, try to remember that you’re already paying for those workers’ health care. Right now, those workers go to public clinics or to ERs, and you pay the bill through your taxes. You don’t save any money … but the restaurant chain owner who underpays his workers gets to buy an extra vacation home.

“Those retail workers should learn some skills and get better jobs,” you think.

Yes, I hear you thinking that. But I also hear what you think when the shelves are a mess, or you can’t find the item you want or an employee to help, or you’re seventh in line at the only open register lane. Then you think: “This store should have more employees!”

Fact is, you expect retail workers to be there, to stock the shelves neatly, to help you find the items you’re looking for, and to check you out once you’ve found everything. If all of today’s retail workers got better jobs, you’d expect someone else to take their places.

Those retail workers make your life better. You can buy stuff you need, and stuff you don’t need but want anyway. You can buy stuff that, just a few decades ago, only a handful of incredibly rich people could afford. You can buy stuff that, only a few decades ago, existed only in science fiction. And you can buy that stuff at almost any hour of the day, almost any day of the year.

I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty. Guilty Conscience is over on aisle three. You and he can sort out those chocolate chip cookies. If not, Waistline and Digestive Tract will take care of it.

I’m saying this to help you feel gratitude. You can’t fix our unbalanced economy all on your own. I get that. But here’s what you can do….

When you meet a retail worker, this weekend or over the coming weeks, take just a moment to smile and say: “Thank you. You do good work and I appreciate it.”

Think back to when you worked retail. Think about how rarely people said that. Think about how good it felt when someone did.

Be that someone, and I’ll be a Happy Conscience.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on strategy for liberals, government subsidies to corporations, how John McCain never really was an independent maverick, the steps needed to improve service sector jobs, and how Bush v. Gore played a role in stopping the GOP’s voter suppression efforts in 2012.


A Strategic Plan for Liberals – a collection of essays from leading liberals about how we can build more political power and move the country to the left over the coming years and decades.

As Companies Seek Tax Deals, Governments Pay High Price - an in-depth investigative report by the New York Times about the approximately $80 billion per year that state and local governments spend in corporate subsidies in a desperate attempt to lure businesses away from other communities. The article includes an interesting interactive map of the subsidies, and a video report about the costly subsidies battle between Kansas and Missouri over businesses located in the Kansas City area.

The Man Who Never Was – as Senator John McCain (R-AZ) continues his outlandish battle against Susan Rice, this 2010 article reminds us that it is questionable whether the independent maverick that many people view McCain as ever really existed.

Economic Recovery and Social Investment - a report detailing various steps that need to be taken to transform the service sector of our economy into one that provides good jobs.

The 2012 Voting Wars, Judicial Backstops, and the Resurrection of Bush v. Gore – a law review article on the legal battles regarding the GOP’s voter suppression efforts and how the Supreme Court’s infamous Bush v. Gore decision was relied on by courts to find such efforts unconstitutional.


An Open Letter to Undecided Voters

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

 (By Brian Frederking of the Toward the Common Good blog)

Dear undecided voters,

You are not really deciding whether to vote for Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. You are deciding whether or not to vote for the Republican Party.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

Republicans are systematically trying to prevent the poor, the elderly, and racial minorities from voting in key swing states. There is one documented case of widespread voter fraud this year – committed by a Republican group.

Republicans have fueled the birther movement with routine references to birth certificates, including the presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Not one Republican leader has publicly criticized this obviously racist movement.

Republicans are lying about the Obama administration changing welfare rules in order to stoke white racial resentment.

Republicans have an explicitly racial strategy to win the election – deny voting rights to minorities and make racist appeals to whites.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

Republicans have shattered all the records for filibusters in the Senate. They say no to everything, even to their own ideas when they are embraced by the president. They are more interested in denying the president any political victories than they are in solving the country’s problems. Republicans have killed numerous jobs bills, including one for returning veterans.

Republicans in Congress have the most conservative voting record in the history of the party. Repealing Obamacare is only the start. They want to roll back much legislation passed in the 20th century. House Republicans have passed bills that would outlaw abortion and contraception. They are against equal pay for equal work. They are against enforcing the Voting Rights Act. They want to privatize Social Security, voucherize Medicare, and pulverize Medicaid. Say goodbye to student loans, consumer protection laws, and food safety.

Republicans have turned the word ‘freedom’ to mean that everyone is on their own. Congratulations – you are free! Now try and find some affordable health insurance.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

Republicans peddle an ideology that is completely in the economic interests of the 1%. But that ideology does nothing to solve our everyday problems. Limited government does not lead to a better education for our children. Limited government does not lead to energy independence; or deal with climate change; or prevent the next financial crisis; or make sure everyone has access to medicine; or prevent jobs from going overseas. It simply enables the rich to get richer. It enables corporations to pay more in CEO compensation than taxes.

Please consider the last 20 years. Where were we when Bill Clinton left office? Where were we when George W. Bush left office? Obama is offering us Clinton policies, and Romney is offering us Bush policies. It is as simple as that.

Please do not reward the Republican Party. They have lost their way. They do not deserve your vote.

(Crossposted from Blogistan Polytechnic Institute (BPICampus.com))

Weekend Reading List

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles about how Mitt Romney would be a servant of the right wing if he were to become President, how Romney’s “jobs” plan would destroy jobs, the cost of Romney’s plan to abolish Medicare, the flimsiness of Republican’s Benghazi criticisms, and why progressives should not cast a third-party “protest” vote.


Mitt Romney, Servant of the Right – a good overview of just how reactionary the agenda that Mitt Romney is running on is, which disproves the fantasy that Romney would somehow be a moderate if he were to become President.

Party Animals - recent history shows that were Romney to become President, his Administration would be run by the same right-wing Republican insiders that ran the George W. Bush White House.

Mitt Romney Has No Real Jobs Plan - an in-depth report on how Romney’s “jobs” plan relies on failed economic theories and would actually cost jobs, rather than creating them.

The Benghazi Controversy, Explained – an accounting of the Benghazi attacks that shows just how flimsy are the Republican criticisms of the Obama Administration’s response to the attacks.

Transforming Medicare Into a Premium Support System – an independent analysis finding that Mitt Romney’s plan to end Medicare as a guaranteed universal insurance program for seniors and replace it with vouchers would increase costs for the majority of seniors.

The Case Against Protest Voting - an argument that the importance of who gets lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary is a sufficiently compelling reason for any progressive to resist calls from some on the left that they should vote for a third party as a “protest” against President Obama



So I Crawled out of my Binder….

Friday, October 19th, 2012

(By The Pragmatic Pundit)

To say…I TOLD YOU!!! 

I fell asleep watching MSNBC  and woke up to “Morning Joke” and someone saying, “Robme owned the argument on the economy.”

Is it me?

I keep waiting for a little forthright journalism.  It isn’t as if the man doesn’t have a governing record.  He was Governor of Massachusetts!  Here’s what that record tells us:

Job creation:

Massachusetts ranked 47th in job growth during his time as governor. Job growth was just 0.9 percent, while the national average was better than 5 percent.  Only Katrina-ravaged Louisiana saw a bigger decline in its labor force.


The Washington Post reports:

during the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas….”

Massachusetts lost 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs; double the rate that the entire nation lost. In fact, Romney vetoed legislation that would have banned companies doing business with the state from outsourcing jobs to other countries.


He enacted the biggest tax increase in Massachusetts’ history, increasing corporate taxes and state fees by $750 million a year.

Romney left Massachusetts residents with $10,504 in per capita debt, the highest of any state in the nation when he left office in 2007. Debt increased by 16%.  The state ranked second in debt as a percentage of personal income.


As Governor of Massachusetts, in 2006, Romney signed an agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that would have permitted State Troopers to arrest and seek deportation of suspected illegal immigrants they encountered during the course of their normal duties.

Soon after signing an executive order, Romney left the governorship to run for President.  In his television ad he said, “As President, I’ll oppose amnesty, cut funding for sanctuary cities and secure our borders.”

I could go on and on.  The man doesn’t have an honest bone in his body.  Personally, I believe anyone who lies as much as he does has a mental problem.  Mitt’s mendacity should matter!

The Debate

Regarding the debate, if I hear one more person focus on what they should have said, didn’t say and the issues that went unmentioned, I might scream.  The debate was an hour and a half.  We’ve watched the President for more than 4 years and listened to Mitt’s lying, flip-flopping, etch-a-sketchery for what seems like forever.

I’m grateful for the “plant” who inquired about Benghazi, because nothing was greater for me than the moment when President Obama looked Mitt in the eye and declared, “I AM THE PRESIDENT!”  Booyah!!

Then there was the sole Black man’s question that focused on his “disappointment”, stating, “you let me down”.  This is a declaration that simply drives me nuts.  I can’t reconcile the idea that so many people seem to behave as if we sent Zeus to Washington armed with the Blade of Olympus….capable of fixing an economy and system that has been broken for decades.  I’ve been saying since 2010 that it’s time to stop whining.

If you ask me, too many Americans are confused.  One cannot believe, on one hand, the government does not create jobs and then turn full circle and rail against the President for lack of job creation.  One the other hand, one cannot believe businesses are the “job creators” and then accept that businesses, who have been enriched by the present economy should be exempt from creating jobs.  It is impossible to reconcile an objection to outsourcing of jobs and then embrace someone who has a history of doing exactly that.  How do people place confidence in a man who makes taxation the center of his economic plans who has himself spent a lifetime not only avoiding taxes for himself, but helping foreign companies avoid contributing to the American treasury? Heck, Romney won’t even release his own tax returns.  So what can anyone possibly be undecided about?

And women?  Don’t get me started, I haven’t enough time.  My son-in-law is on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan and by now my daughter is in surgery with a wounded warrior, so that leaves me to make certain my little grandsons are not running around with AK-47s.  Just think, if they weren’t in the 47%, I could crawl back in my binder and sleep all day long.

2nd Presidential Debate Liveblog

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Below are some in the moment thoughts about the second Presidential Debate.  Our take is that President Obama stood up proudly for his record, offered a positive vision, called out Romney’s lies in a calm and cool way, and, most importantly, showed some real fire in the belly.

Keep in mind that the post-debate impressions spread by the chattering classes in DC often shapes voters’ views about who won or lost a debate, so let’s all go out there and trumpet President Obama’s strong performance in social media, with your friends and family, in letters to your local newspapers, and by signing up to volunteer for the Obama campaign.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I missed the first 25 mins of the debate, and tuned in to Romney lying about his tax plan. What a shock.

Is Romney also going to give us all magic unicorns? No. In reality, he’s going to raise taxes on the middle class and take away our Medicare and Social Security.

Nice. President Obama ties Romney to the House Republicans, while linking Democratic policies to economic growth under President Clinton.

So what will Romney do first – produce his tax returns, or tell us what tax exemptions he will eliminate?

If Romney cannot stop his own Bain Capital company from shipping jobs overseas, then why would we think he would create American jobs as President?

The only “sources” that Romney can claim supports his mystical tax plan are blogs and articles written by Republicans.

Let’s see if Multiple Choice Mitt takes a position on Lily Ledbetter Act. He has refused to in the past, because his party opposes every effort to achieve gender equality.

The difference between Romney and W. Bush is that Romney is offering the Bush agenda on steroids.

Romney simply lied about access to contraception. He vowed to “get rid of” funding for Planned Parenthood, and supported the Blunt Amendment, which would have allowed any employer to deny its employees health insurance coverage for contraception.

President Obama has the real record of supporting actual small businesses.

President Obama has taken steps to make Medicare more efficient, without cutting benefits. Romney opposes those efficiencies, and wants to eliminate Medicare.

Under President Reagan, government employment increased significantly. Under President Obama, the GOP required massive layoffs of state and local government workers, which is largely what is holding the economy back.

Here’s how reactionary Romney is on immigration – he vowed to veto the DREAM Act, and wants to make life so difficult for immigrants that they will “voluntarily” leave the country through “self-deportation.

Here’s the details on President Obama’s sensible policy to stop deporting DREAMers – law abiding immigrants who were brought here by their parents when they were children.

And the Obama Administration took on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB1070 all the way to the Supreme Court, while Romney calls Arizona’s law “a model for the nation”.

Romney’s “blind trust” is not blind - as he said, “blind trusts are an age old ruse.”

Nice to see the moderator call Romney out for being flatly wrong about Obama’s statement on Libya.  Here’s what President Obama said in a Rose Garden statement on September 12 – “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.”

Back in April, Romney went and kissed the ring of the NRA leadership, buying into their silly conspiracy theories rather than calling them out for opposing sensible gun safety legislation.

On jobs, Romney could begin by making sure his Bain Capital companies stop shipping American jobs to China, like Sensata is doing in Freeport, Illinois.

Here’s an example of what Romney’s Bain Capital is doing to every day Americans by shipping their jobs overseas.

If Romney cares about 100% of Americans, why did he tell his wealthy donors that he does not care about 47% of us?

President Obama knocked that closing answer out of the park – absolutely beautiful how he showed passion for every day Americans while making clear that Romney doesn’t care.