Stephen Greenhouse chronicles the growing fight for a decent wage.
Often relegated to the background, America’s low-wage workers have been making considerable noise lately by deploying an unusual weapon — one-day strikes — to make their message heard: they’re sick and tired of earning just $8, $9, $10 an hour.Feel? I think they do more than feel there's a cap on their wages. Even people in full time positions are very aware that service and technical tracks within companies are often strictly limited in their pay, while for management the only limit is what they can get away with.
Their anger has been stoked by what they see as a glaring disconnect: their wages have flatlined, while median pay for chief executives at the nation’s top corporations jumped 16 percent last year, averaging a princely $15.1 million, according to Equilar, an executive compensation analysis firm.
Many low-paid workers feel their employers have put an invisible ceiling on their wages, with little prospect of ever making more than $10 or $11 an hour, as corporations have focused on keeping wages competitive and maximizing profits to benefit shareholders. The richest Americans have benefited mightily from corporate America’s record profits and the stock market’s repeated highs.
Why are workers so angry that they're willing to risk their jobs? Well, because of situations like this.
Caterpillar has pioneered two-tier wage systems, in which workers hired after a certain date are consigned to a significantly lower wage scale than others, and it recently pressed its longer-term employees into accepting a six-year wage freeze. Many Caterpillar workers ask why the company insisted on a pay freeze when it reported repeated record profits — $5.7 billion last year, amounting to $45,000 per Caterpillar employee.A system that rewards management for starving workers is intrinsically immoral. That's not capitalism, it's just cruelty.
Caterpillar’s chief executive, Douglas Oberhelman (whose compensation has increased more than 80 percent over the last two years), says the freeze was vital to keep wages competitive with rival companies. “I always try to communicate to our people that we can never make enough money,” he recently told Bloomberg Businessweek. “We can never make enough profit.”
Leonard Pitts tosses in his two-cents on the subject.
As fast food workers around the country protest for higher wages, we learn that McDonald’s offers advice to help them live on the wages they make which, while not technically bupkes, do amount to a paycheck you can pretty much have the driver cash for you on the bus ride home. In December, for example, Bloomberg profiled a Chicago man who, after 20 years with the burger giant, earns $8.25 an hour — and doesn’t get 40 hours a week. This, as McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson pulled down, according to the Wall Street Journal, a compensation package worth $13.8 million last year.There should be a strict relationship between executive pay and the pay of the lowest paid workers at a company. Nothing else is going to force this gap to narrow.
The impossibility of doing so has been attested to by everyone from writer Barbara Ehrenreich in her book Nickel and Dimed to noted obstetrician Cliff Huxtable, in that episode of The Cosby Show where he uses Monopoly money to teach young Theo the value of a good income. It has also been attested to by the people trying to do it. But all that notwithstanding, the McBudget insists it can be done.
Come on in, let's see what else there is to talk about.
The New York Times editorial board looks into efforts to fill the enormous hole in civil rights that the Roberts court dug earlier this summer.
In a federal lawsuit first brought by black and Hispanic voters against Texas over its redistricting maps, the Justice Department relied on a rarely used provision of the act, Section 3, to ask a federal court to require Texas to get permission before making any voting changes in the state.Stephen Stromberg looks into the apoplexy that's broken out on the right over Holder's application of the Voting Rights Act post-gutting.
Until last month, Texas already had to get such permission under the act’s “preclearance” process. This process had long been the most effective means of preventing racial bias in voting laws in states with histories of discrimination. It required state and local governments that wanted to change the laws to first show there would be no discriminatory effect. In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the act as unconstitutional; that provision laid out the formula that determined which jurisdictions had to get permission.
This is why Mr. Holder’s decision to rely on Section 3 in the Texas case is so significant. Section 3 — also known as the “bail-in” provision — may be the most promising tool we have to protect voting rights after Shelby. It allows courts to identify jurisdictions that are passing intentionally discriminatory voting laws and then “bail” them in as needed — that is, require them to get permission before establishing new voting rules.
If you believe a handful of Texas Republicans, Attorney General Eric Holder’s new effort to enforce the Voting Rights Act in their state and elsewhere brazenly defies the Supreme Court, which struck down part of the law in June. “This end run around the Supreme Court undermines the will of the people of Texas,” Gov. Rick Perry said.Any time I heard the "Don't Mess with Texas" phrase these days, I can't help but think of Lewis Black.
“The Supreme Court message to the Justice Department was clear — don’t mess with Texas,” Rep. Lamar Smith insisted. “But Eric Holder and the Justice Department aren’t listening.”
It would be amazing if that’s actually what Chief Justice John Roberts and the court majority said. But, in reality, the attorney general’s move to use the Voting Rights Act provisions the Supreme Court left in place is perfectly consonant with the ruling, and not just in a technical sense. It also comports with the court’s logic. Anyone who says otherwise didn’t read it, didn’t understand it, or didn’t let that stop him. Lamar Smith apparently confused the 24-page decision with an asinine bumper sticker.
Ross Douthat cranks up the way back machine for the GOP.
What [the GOP] lacks, for now, is the self-awareness to see how it falls short of its own ideal, and the creativity necessary to transform its self-conception into victory, governance, results.Douthat wins the award for most convoluted theory of what's wrong with his own party, least accurate depiction of what the right wing of his party is about, and absolutely no understanding of how his party is viewed outside of pundit land. Just think of it as the George Will In Training Award.
The theory goes something like this: American politics is no longer best understood in the left-right terms that defined 20th-century debates. Rather, our landscape looks more like a much earlier phase in democracy’s development, when the division that mattered was between outsiders and insiders, the “country party” and the “court party.”
Bolingbroke is largely forgotten today, but his skepticism about the ways that money and power intertwine went on to influence the American Revolution and practically every populist movement in our nation’s history. And it’s his civic republican ideas, repurposed for a new era, that you hear in the rhetoric of new-guard Republican politicians like Rand Paul and Mike Lee, in right-wing critiques of our incestuous “ruling class,” and from pundits touting a “libertarian populism” instead.
Theirs is not just the usual conservative critique of big government, though that’s obviously part of it. It’s a more thoroughgoing attack on the way Americans are ruled today, encompassing Wall Street and corporate America, the media and the national-security state.
Emily Barker launches into a comparison of the often tricksy rules of magic vs. the difficult interpretation of some legal matters. Which should be fun, but never gets there.
Anne Hornaday goes to Fruitvale Station and finds not just racial prejudice, but white privilege
When Hollywood tackles race directly, it’s usually by way of uplifting allegories like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” “Crash” and “The Help,” each of which, in its own way, perpetuates the consoling idea that eradicating racism is simply a matter of purging our negative prejudices.Dana Milbank creates the most fearsome, and disgusting, hybrid in history -- the McWeiner.
Rarely do films ask audiences to grapple with the deeply embedded, race-based habits that give white Americans an edge in everything from housing to employment, or the positive racial profiling that grants white people countless free passes.
Indeed, far from being confronted with the pernicious legacies of official discrimination, white audiences tend to have their assumptions about race reinforced. Black people are far more likely to go see movies with majority-white casts than vice versa. And whereas movies about African Americans have tended to be confined to comedies and urban dramas, the white experience has long been represented across a diverse range of genres, stories and characters.
Most news accounts treated these as two separate scandals: Anthony Weiner, the disgraced Democratic congressman and would-be mayor of New York, had been exposed again as a digital flasher, sending “selfie” pictures of his privates to women. Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of Virginia, was found to be taking gifts and loans from a businessman McDonnell had helped. ...Mark Udall and Ron Wyden call for an end to the NSA's mass data collection.
Their offenses are similarly pointless: Weiner threw away a promising career by exchanging smut with women he claims he never met. McDonnell, once mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, undid his reputation by accepting sums — a $6,500 Rolex, a $15,000 splurge at Bergdorf Goodman — that were trivial compared to those he could have earned after leaving office.
We have had concerns about domestic surveillance authorities for several years. Through our oversight work on the Senate intelligence committee, we have become convinced that the government needs to scale back overly intrusive surveillance activities to better protect Americans’ constitutional privacy rights and that this can be done while protecting U.S. national security. We have not been able to fully engage the public on these issues because the executive branch insisted on keeping its interpretation of the law secret. Although we would have preferred that this discussion had been sparked by a more transparent executive branch, rather than by unauthorized leaks, we welcome an open debate about the federal government’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.They have my support. I'm not so frightened of terrorism that I'm willing to give up... well, anything, really.
Our view of this program is shaped by our experience with the NSA’s bulk e-mail records collection program. Concerned about this program’s impact on Americans’ civil liberties and privacy rights, we spent a significant portion of 2011 pressing intelligence officials to provide evidence of its usefulness. They were not able to do so, and it was shut down that year. This experience demonstrated to us that intelligence agencies’ assessments of the effectiveness of particular collection programs are not always accurate, and it led us to be skeptical of claims about the value of collecting bulk phone records.
Doyle McManus says that President Obama's best defense, is going on the offense.
President Obama sounds like a man back on the offensive.The bolding is mine. No matter how you measure it, the Congress is a failure. But then, failure is what the Republicans want.
The president is reprising his core message that what the economy needs is more federal spending on popular priorities such as infrastructure and education, not less.
And his stump speeches last week in Illinois, Missouri and Florida put Republicans on notice that he will blame them if a standoff over spending results in a government shutdown or a financial crisis over the federal debt ceiling this fall.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn't seem to think so. When asked recently about the glacial pace of legislation in the House, he responded: "We should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws that we repeal."
Boehner has a point. The number of bills a Congress passes is no guarantee that it's doing important work. Roughly a third of the measures Congress passes are inconsequential actions such as renaming post offices.
But there's also a flaw in Boehner's argument. Although the current Congress is on pace to pass even fewer laws than the previous one (which set a modern record for lack of productivity), it hasn't succeeded in repealing many laws either. The GOP-led House has voted nearly 40 times to repeal all or part of Obama's healthcare law, for example, but hasn't succeeded in overturning the act — although it has cut its funding.
Andy Coghlan says you can blame your poor night's sleep not on what's on your mind, but what's in the sky.
The new analysis showed that by most measures, the 27 volunteers tested closest to a full moon experienced the worst sleep. For example, they showed brain activity related to deep, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep for 30 per cent less time on average, relative to participants who slept during a new moon. "You feel less refreshed if you don't get enough NREM sleep," says Cajochen. ...Hey, at least we only have one moon. Imagine trying to sleep around Saturn.
It took full-mooners five minutes longer on average than those in the other groups to get to sleep, and they also rated sleep quality as 15 per cent lower.