Saturday, June 30, 2012

A new kind of slavery...or just another way to make cheap shirts.


Everyone is concerned about the loss of jobs in the United States. Some blame the illegal immigrants, some blame outsourcing to cheap overseas labor and some blame automation.  As for the illegal immigrants, we can stop beating up the Mexicans, the flow has slowed and many are going back home. We aren't going to have them to kick around anymore. Some of us might even  have to begin cutting our own grass!

Automation is only a problem because with the destruction of he unions, workers have no way of claiming any of the fruits of increased productivity.  Since 1980, average labor productivity in the US has increased 2% per year yet average worker pay has remained stagnant and the average number of hours worked has not decreased.  The great promise that increased productivity would lead to increased wealth and leisure time seems to not have come true for the majority of workers.  Increased productivity has led to increased profits instead of higher wages.  Increased labor productivity has also led to increased levels of unemployment.  Fewer workers are needed to produce the same amount of goods and services.


Outsourcing of jobs to cheap labor markets will continue to plague us as long as international corporations can control public policy by pouring seemingly inexhaustible sums of money into election campaigns. Only the overturn of the citizens united ruling by outraged Americans can impact that. 


These aren't the only threats to job loss. They are not even the most insidious or undesirable.  The secret job destroyer or wage depressor is the burgeoning privatization of prisons in the United States.  The movement towards the privatization of corrections in the United States is a result of the convergence of two factors: the unprecedented growth of the US prison population since 1970 and the emergence out of the Reagan era of a political environment favorable to free-market solutions. Since the first private prison facility was opened in 1984, the industry has grown rapidly; gross revenues exceeded $1 billion in 1997. 


"The birth of the contemporary American private prison industry may be traced to 1984, when the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service became the first federal agency to contract for private correctional services, with the Corrections Corporation of America. This initial movement toward the federal privatization of corrections was quickly followed by contracts for outsourcing developed by the US Marshals Service and the US Bureau of Prisons in 1986. The first county-level private prison contact was signed in 1984, between Hamilton County, Tennessee and the Corrections Corporation of America. Shortly thereafter, in 1985, the first state-level contract was signed, between the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the United States Corrections Corporation (NCPA 1995)." Today, nearly 150,000 prisoners are incarcerated in privately operated prisons and the number is growing rapidly. With the pressure put on legislators by the billions of dollars spent on lobbying for such things as longer sentences, more control by the prison management over paroles and pardons, it will continue to grow. 



The study cited above can show no clear indication that the move has improved the prison system or eased the burden of the tax-payer.  In fact, when the issue is studied in depth, the opposite appears to be true. Prisoners are being increasingly used in production of products that could be made by free workers.  the Federal Prison Complex produces one hundred percent of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet proof vests, Identification tags, shirts, pants tents, bags and even canteens.


Not only are prisoners used to manufacture military equipment, prison workers provide ninety eight percent of the total market for equipment assembly services.  They produce ninety three percent of paints and paintbrushes, ninety two percent of stove assemblies, forty six percent of body armor, thirty six percent of all home appliances, thirty percent of all microphones, headphones, and speakers, and they even manufacture twenty one percent of all office furniture.



The enormous profits being made and the potential for even more by the private prison operators provides an incentive to keep prison populations large and will pose a greater threat to jobs.  Prisoners work for what they are told to work for, sometimes a low as $2 a day, they can't strike, the tax-payer pays for their health care and housing and finally, they have no sympathy by the public.  Who cares about criminals. 


 Never-the-less, the study cited above brings us some serious questions about safety, justice, rehabilitation and legitimacy. 


Safety

Opponents of private prisons argue that their incentive to cut costs to maximize profits presents a threat to the safety of prisoners, prison staff, and the public at large. They argue that private prisons tend to have fewer guards with less experience, which results in an increased rate of violent incidents behind bars. One study found violent incidents to be as much as 50% more frequent in private prisons (Greene, 2001). Also, private prisons may pose an increased risk of prisoner escape; a study cited by the Reason Public Policy Institute, no foe of privatization, found that government-run prisons have fewer escapes, less substance abuse and greater recreational and rehabilitation measures in place (Moore, Adrian 1998).
Further, some critics of privatization claim that the relative ease with which private industry can construct new prison cells leads to an over-reliance by government on incarceration at the expense of preventive social programs-- programs which, they argue, are more effective in preventing violence (Logan, 2002, Currie 1998). A study by Grassroots Leadership found that discretionary funds in the state of Mississippi were being routed from education to private prisons (www.grassrootsleadership.org).
Industry supporters, on the other hand, argue that through innovation in prison design and operation, private prisons are made safer than public facilities. Proponents argue that the profit motive creates incentives for safety, as violent disturbances in facilities leads to greater costs in the long run (Lissner et al, 1998) . A safe prison, they argue, is a profitable prison.

Justice

Those who oppose prison privatization make the case that the industry has the incentive and the wherewithal to extend the amount of time convicts will remain in prison, and that this presents a threat to justice. The industry, they say, can extend sentences in two ways. First, it has thrown its influence, through lobbying and campaign contributions, behind “tougher” laws such as "three strikes", mandatory minimum sentencing, and "truth in sentencing" that increase the duration of sentences. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been extremely active in advocating truth-in-sentencing and three strikes policies throughout the United States. This organization is heavily funded by the corrections industry, and indeed ALEC's Criminal Justice Task Force is co-chaired by Brad Wiggins, a former director of business development for the Corrections Corporation of America (Bender, 2000). The strength of these kinds of political influence, opponents fear, will only increase as the industry grows. As one observer notes, corrections corporations have "paid handsomely to play the public policy game, and will likely do so again"(O'Connell, 2002).
The second way opponents of privatization worry that private firms will distort the administration of justice is by exerting undue influence on parole hearings. Opponents argue that since prison firms are generally paid per prisoner per day, they have an incentive to extend inmate stays as long as possible, and so are liable to reduce prisoner’s chances for parole or good time off by exaggerating or fabricating disciplinary infractions (DiIulio, 1990).
Industry supporters point out in response to these concerns that industry campaign contributions are smaller than those made by public sector unions ( Moore, 1998). There is no evidence, they say, of private prison officials manipulating parole decisions.

Rehabilitation

The profit motive, opponents of privatization say, distorts the function of prisons towards incapacitation and away from the provision of rehabilitative services that would help prisoners rejoin society productively, and curb recidivism. Corrections firms have no incentive, they say, to provide costly rehabilitative treatment and services. Industry analysts respond that it all depends on the contract. There is much potential for contracts to be structured in ways that provide incentives to firms to provide services such as drug treatment (Lissner, et al, 1998.). Indeed, in Puerto Rico and Australia, pilot programs are being conducted with so called "outcome-based contracting", wherein fees are tied to the impact and measured outcomes of incarceration (Cornell et al, 1998). 



Legitimacy

Opponents of privatization argue that it is an illegitimate delegation of government authority to allow private companies to take control of an integral part of the justice system. Proponents of privatization disagree. They make a distinction between the function of the courts and that of the prisons. It is the proper duty of the public sector, they allow, to determine just sentences for violations of the law. But the duty of the prisons, they argue, is merely to carry out the sentence of the courts, and they see no reason why this task ought not be delegated to a private entity. Opponents of privatization claim to the contrary that it is difficult or impossible to distinguish these two functions, given the level of control that prison officials have over the nature (and, potentially, the duration) of an inmate's stay. Prison officials have the prerogative to impose disciplinary measures ranging from revocation of yard privileges to the imposition of solitary confinement, and so have a great deal of control over just how punitive an experience each sentence truly is (DiIulio, 1990).

This is just another step towards elimination of the bargaining power of the American workers and the attack on the middle class. 


Thursday, June 28, 2012

What was saved by the Supreme Court Ruling

Why the health care industry hates Obama.  Why the health care consumer shouldn't. This isn't what most of us liberals wanted but as the provisions go into effect, acceptance by the consumer and it's popularity will make it the most significant health care legislation since Medicare.  As you read the provisions, you will see that there is NO intrusion by government in the daily provision of health care and the relationship between doctor and patient.

1. No More Denials For Pre-Existing Conditions: Health insurers cannot deny children insurance because of pre-existing conditions. A ban on the same discrimination against adults will take effect in 2014.


2. Small Business Tax Credits: Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will receive tax credits covering up to 50 percent of employee premiums.


3. Seniors' 'Donut Hole' Rebate: Seniors will receive a rebate to fill the "donut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, which severely limits prescription medication coverage of expenditures over $2,700. As of next year, 50 percent of the donut hole will be filled.


4. More Young Adults Covered On Parents' Plans: The cut-off age for young adults to continue to be covered by their parents' health insurance rises to age 27.


5. No Lifetime Caps: Lifetime caps on the amount of insurance payout an individual can receive will be banned. Annual caps will be limited, and banned in 2014.


6. Adults With Pre-Existing Conditions Covered: A temporary high-risk pool will be set up to cover adults with pre-existing conditions. Health care exchanges will eliminate the program in 2014.


7. New Insurance Plans Must Include Preventative Care: New plans must cover checkups and other preventative care without co-pays. All plans will be affected by 2018.


8. The End Of 'Recissions': Insurance companies can no longer drop someone when he or she gets sick.


9. Transparency In Insurance Companies: Insurers must now reveal how much money is spent on overhead.


10. Customer Appeals Process: Any new plan must now implement an appeals process for coverage determinations and claims.


11. Indoor Tanning Services Tax: A 10 percent tax is imposed on indoor tanning services. This tax, which replaced the proposed tax on cosmetic surgery, is effective for services on or after July 1, 2010.


12. Enhanced Fraud Abuse Checks: New screening procedures will be implemented to help eliminate health insurance fraud and waste.


13. Medicare Expansion To Rural Areas: Medicare payment protections will be extended to small rural hospitals and other health care facilities that have a small number of Medicare patients.


14. Deductions For Blue Cross Blue Shield: Nonprofit Blue Cross organizations will be required to maintain a medical loss ratio -- money spent on procedures over money incoming -- of 85 percent or higher to take advantage of IRS tax benefits.


15.Nutrient Content Disclosure:  Chain restaurants will be required to provide a "nutrient content disclosure statement" alongside their items. Calories should be listed on both in-store and drive-through menus of fast-food restaurants.


16. Better Coverage For Early Retirees: The law establishes a temporary program for companies that provide early retiree health benefits for those ages 55‐64 in order to help reduce the often-expensive cost of that coverage.


17. Better Consumer Information On The Web: The Department of Health and Human Services will set up a new website to make it easy for Americans in any state to seek out affordable health insurance options The site will also include helpful information for small businesses.


18. Encouraging Investment In New Therapies: A two‐year temporary credit (up to a maximum of $1 billion) is in the law to encourage investment in new therapies for the prevention and treatment of diseases.





Monday, June 11, 2012

Mitt Romney's dilemma

Although hated by those now in control of the republican party, with the help of the International corporate money that will be pouring in thanks to the Citizens United Decision, , Mitt Romney has an excellent chance of becoming the next POTUS.  If a flood of flood of money can elect a bad man like Scott Walker, it sure can elect a good man.  I share Romney's religion.  I know that he is a good man.  You don't hold the callings that he has in our Church if you are not a good man.

Make no mistake, Romney is not running as a Mormon, he is running as a republican.  As a matter of fact, he is running as an extreme right wing republican. I don't believe that is his true position...and that makes his public persona a posed one.  He, by nature, is an honest man and can't lie very well.  His campaign directors are trying to make him something he is not. But shame on Romney for permitting his ambition to overcome his inner self.  This is summed out very well by Rocky Anderson former mayor of Salt Lake City and good friend of RomneyWhile he is not running a Mormon, neither can he run away from his basic beliefs.  Early on, he was challenged on the Mormon belief that Christ and Satan were brothers in the spirit world.  Instead of admitting it,  he ran away from it.

Here are some of the dilemmas Romney must face as his campaign progresses and, indeed, in the very possible likelihood that he becomes president:

Romney vs Jesus Christ. Matthew 19:



16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the ccommandments.

 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

Romney posing with money stuffed in pockets.  Money earned at Bain capital by cutting labor costs (fringe benefits)


Some feel that this is anathema to the advice Jesus gave the young man. 


Acts 4:
31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were aassembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that bought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, andof the country of Cyprus,
 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Romney is not concerned about the very poor. He went on to explain that he meant he was not concerned about the very poor or the very rich but only the middle class but his support for the Ryan budget means he is supporting the existing tax structure which has led to the greatest income disparity since 1929.  These figures are supported by the Economist.
Romney vs King Benjamin (Book of Mormon):
Mosiah 4:
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
 17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
 18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
 19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
 20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
 21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
 22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
 23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.
 24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
 25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.
 26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
This is what Romney did at a Marion, Indiana, paper plant owned by Bain Capital:
The Marion strike began after Ampad bought the plant in July and within hours released some 250 plant workers. It later hired back all but 58. Among those laid off were two pregnant women, union officials said.  Ampad then cut the hourly wages from $ 10.22 per hour to $ 7.88, did away with the retirement plan, and tripled the co-payments for the health plan.
Romney vs Alma (Book of Mormon)
Alma 4:

 6 And it came to pass in the eighth year of the reign of the judges, that the people of the church began to wax proud, because of their exceeding riches, and their fine silks, and their fine-twined linen, and because of their many flocks and herds, and their gold and their silver, and all manner of precious things, which they had obtained by their industry; and in all these things were they lifted up in the pride of their eyes, for they began to wear very costly apparel.
 7 Now this was the cause of much affliction to Alma, yea, and to many of the people whom Alma had consecrated to be teachers, and priests, and elders over the church; yea, many of them were sorely grieved for the wickedness which they saw had begun to be among their people.
 8 For they saw and beheld with great sorrow that the people of the church began to be lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and to set their hearts upon riches and upon the vain things of the world, that they began to be scornful, one towards another, and they began to persecute those that did not believe according to their own will and pleasure.
 9 And thus, in this eighth year of the reign of the judges, there began to be great contentions among the people of the church; yea, there were envyings, and strife, and malice, and persecutions, and pride, even to exceed the pride of those who did not belong to the church of God.
 10 And thus ended the eighth year of the reign of the judges; and the wickedness of the church was a great stumbling-block to those who did not belong to the church; and thus the church began to fail in its progress.
 11 And it came to pass in the commencement of the ninth year, Alma saw the wickedness of the church, and he saw also that the example of the church began to lead those who were unbelievers on from one piece of iniquity to another, thus bringing on the destruction of the people.
 12 Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted.
Romney sees corporations as people and has elevated their profits and those of their CEOs by reducing the wages and benefits of workers. At the same time Romney owns six homes: One in La Jolla, two in the Boston area, a ski lodge in Utah and two lakeside residences in New Hampshire and a half dozen or more cars; including  a few in La Jolla that will have their own elevator. 
This isn't exactly what Jesus commanded in Acts 4 and King Benjamin preached in Mosiah.  I don't know about other Christians but Mormons need to take a look at Romney in the context of what we are taught in the scriptures.