Take the Fast Food Boycott Poll

Lowpayisnotok.org is a website that is galvanizing fast food workers today, 8/29/2013, to go on strike against low wages. After reading about a single mother who has been supporting two kids on $8.25 an hour for the last ten years, I am still shocked, saddened, angered and awed.  I am shocked that such a prosperous culture can, with a straight face, advocate that $300 gross per week is enough to live on anywhere in the United States.  I am saddened that this horrible lack of income for so many struggling Americans forces them into dangerous living situations, abysmal living conditions and sets them and their children on a path of poor or non-existent healthcare, obesity and disease.  It is truly infuriating that our government permits bloated, self-serving corporations to take advantage of struggling Americans while expecting tax payers to subsidize their businesses through food stamps,  and worst of all that these same corporations  continue to churn out blatantly poisonous non-food that endangers the health of every taxpayer who ingests it.  Lastly I am awed by the perseverance and the inner strength of the parents who work in the fast food industry and simply “do what must be done” for their families.

American citizens and taxpayers should take this as a call to arms that we’re tired of supporting McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and all the other fast food corporations that push fat laden, disease causing non-food with the right hand.  With the left hand the same companies are pulling in profits from not paying decent wages because they KNOW that the government via the taxpayers, will pick up the slack.  How is it that corporations are treated like people under the law yet they exhibit none of the signs that a decent, sentient human being would?  Yet government is the entity that sympathizes, assists and gives hope to thousands of minimum wage workers.

Thursday August 29th, 2013 will come and go.  On Friday August 30th as many of us head out to enjoy a long holiday weekend that celebrates labor and how well paid, dedicated labor has made our country strong, we should vow to put an end to an industry that poisons us from the inside out, weakens our government, and perpetuates a culture of obesity and disease in America.

The QOL Covenant

What is quality of life?  We all have a broad concept of what it means; however when it comes down to constructing an actual definition “quality of life” (QOL) is different things to different people.  In its simplest form we could say that QOL is the wellbeing, or absence thereof, in a society.  Nonetheless, the CDC has identified social, mental, and environmental constructs that all contribute, negatively and positively, to the overall QOL of a culture, political region, or civilization.

Wellbeing is the state of being happy, healthy and prosperous, and that is the promise that leaders and potential leaders make to their constituents. “Vote for me, and I promise to vote for your wellbeing.”  It is the covenant, or promise, that exists between an elected leader and his/her voters.  When God made His covenant with the Israelites, he promised to take care of them and lead them to the Promised Land.  In exchange all they had to do was honor and worship Him, and follow the rules that He laid down (see the Ten Commandments, should anyone need a refresher on this).

So it is with our elected officials.  We promise to elect them over and over and over and over, and they promise to vote with our best interests in mind – to take care of us.  Three people who have promised to vote with Kentucky’s “best interests” at heart have voted to:

  1. Abandon the most vulnerable women and children in Kentucky by voting against the Violence Against Women Act.
  2. Repeal the Affordable Health Care Act
  3. Desert fellow Americans in New Jersey by voting against federal disaster relief
  4. Continue America’s dependence on fossil fuels and Big Oil by voting against bio-fuel refinery development
  5. Disallow agricultural reform and increased funding to grow fresh fruits and vegetables
  6. Prevent jobs coming home
  7. Thwart small business tax relief

These government initiatives represent critical elements of Quality of Life.  Who says that the government should step aside and let people take care of themselves, regardless of how vulnerable and helpless they are?  We have all been helpless although we don’t remember it.  When we were infants, most of us were not told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and take care of ourselves.  Those of us who were blessed enough to have parents or guardians to care for us were nurtured and guided until we were able to fend for ourselves.  Hopefully we were prepared to nurture and guide the successive generation. 

How exactly is that different than the government providing assistance to at risk children, people whose homes have been destroyed, families, seniors and veterans who need federal nutrition assistance through SNAP, and giving tax breaks and other economic development opportunities until they too can stand on their own?  Shouldn’t our goal be to prepare all Americans to nurture and guide successive generations toward prosperity, wellbeing, and the best QOL possible?

Take a look at the above list of seven government bills and funding initiatives, and tell me that each of these don’t support QOL.  You can’t.  Nobody can.  Because they do.  Democrats are about QOL – we want those vulnerable populations to be supported until they can stand alone.  We want a strong, healthy nation which can be achieved by assuring everyone has access to basic healthcare.  We want a secure nation with a foundation of economic strength and national security.  All of these are QOL issues, and all of them are supported by legislators other than the three Kentucky representatives on the Hill.

Those legislators have already broken their covenant with us, their constituents.  Let’s make a new covenant with candidates who truly will act in Kentucky’s best interest.

It’s Not About FTA’s (Free Trade Agreements) – A Letter to Labor

Dear Labor Unions,

Please know that I support you and I see the tremendous value in an organized, highly skilled workforce.   Labor’s focus on technical education is exactly what the US need.  We NEED a larger segment of workers that are technical experts; that is the only way that our economic development in advanced industries like biotech, alternative energies, and construction using new architectural engineering will be successful.

In a recent conversation with a labor representative whom I respect greatly, I mentioned that a new free trade agreement (FTA) was on the horizon.  The labor rep responded heatedly that FTA’s are a terrible evil working against unions.  Now, I am not an expert on organized labor, but I do know my way around FTA’s.

FTA’s are about opening foreign markets to US exports – goods that are manufactured by US workers that hopefully include members of organized labor.  “The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trading and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets. Forty-one percent of U.S. goods exports went to FTA partner countries in 2010, with exports to those countries growing at a faster rate than exports to the rest of the world from 2009 to 2010, 23% vs. 20%.” (International Trade Administration website: http://trade.gov/fta/)

Yes, FTA’s also eliminate customs duties on goods imported to the US, which may make production in other countries appear to be a good business decision.  But I guarantee that US import duties, which average roughly 4% of an item’s value, is nowhere near to the savings in labor.  If a business can save 4% on import duties, but 80% on labor, where will they go?

We have no FTA’s with China, however production in China is so attractive because Chinese labor costs a tenth of US labor, and Chinese workers they typically work longer hours.  Chinese workers are, however, more than three times more likely to be killed on the job (Huffington Post, March 8, 2012).  Also, contrast the types of items produced in China (low cost apparel, electronics, furniture) with the higher value items produced in the US, like airplanes.  The outcome is that US workers are more productive because the durable goods produced are more sophisticated, better made and therefore more expensive.  That’s where the strength of organized labor comes in.  When our skilled workforce grows and amasses more technical knowledge the US can be confident as a global economic leader because quality wins every time.

 So it’s not about FTA’s. It’s about labor and more importantly, it’s about what we make here in the US and how we make it.  Raw materials can and should come from lesser developed economies.  Same for products that are the result of less sophisticated manufacturing (cut and sew, simple assembly processes, etc.)  THAT is the natural evolution of economies.  And a more highly evolved economy will make products for aerospace, nanotech, and green tech industries.

So in closing, I would say to my labor friend and his colleagues shoot for the moon and the green…..technologies.