It’s been a while since the postman rang twice, but he won’t even be ringing once on Saturdays, if new proposals to downsize the U.S. Postal Service go into effect. Like so many of the economic wars being waged today, the attack against the post office doesn’t make financial sense. The USPS is immensely profitable and it is not a department of the federal government, nor are its operations paid for with tax money. It also remains one of the most efficient and popular services — putting a movie DVD in your mailbox may have been Netflix’s neat idea, but that company isn’t the outfit whose employees deliver those movies to your home.
And yet closing down the post office and parceling out its services (or at least, the profitable ones) to private companies occupies a special place in the ether dreams of anti-government radicals and free-market privateers.
“We’re off-budget,” Larry Brown recently told the Frying Pan,
Just about every day we hear about how consumer spending is the main driver of the economy. If only we’d spend more money, we could get the economy back on track. (Of course, this is overly simplistic, and fails to account for any number of factors, not least being the continued drag of housing on the economy, as well as the mountains of cash that businesses are sitting on as they fail to hire workers.)
So I’m doing my part—in fact more than my part.
You see, in a few days, I’m getting married. I never would have imagined the amount of money that my wedding is plowing into our local economy: thousands of dollars to a caterer, a bartending service, an equipment rental outfit, a DJ. We’re renting a municipally-owned venue, so the City should be getting a taste,
There’s something eerily Orwellian about the recent blog post, by L.A. Area Chamber of Commerce president Gary Toebben, entitled “L.A. Should Vote Down New Bureaucracy to Regulate Banks.” Mr. Toebben claims that a proposed new city ordinance that would reward banks that act responsibly toward L.A. consumers with the city’s deposits is “overly burdensome” and an “unnecessary regulation.” This is because, Mr. Toebben argues, “the federal government oversees a heavily regulated banking industry” — implying that businesses like banks and other job creators need to be left free to make lots of money, create lots of jobs so that the benefits can trickle down to everyone else.
The banking industry in the United States is “heavily regulated?” Really? Did the L.A. chamber somehow miss the great recession of 2008? You know, that one where the under-regulated banks got into so much trouble that we had to spend more than $700 billion in taxpayer money to bail them out?
We know Los Angeles is in dire need of both jobs and a transportation system that works. Recently, the Metro Board of Directors took action by moving forward on a sweeping, agency-wide Construction Careers Policy covering Metro construction projects for the next 30 years, including projects funded under Measure R, the half-cent sales tax.
The vote at Metro was preceded by more than a year of hard work by LAANE, the L.A./O.C. Building Trades Council, and a coalition of community, environmental, labor, and transportation advocates – all united to make sure that our tax dollars are used to make Los Angeles a working, greener city. This policy brings together the taxpayers’ wishes for better public transportation and our critical need to get Americans back to work.
Anthony Mitchell, an electrician and single father of two whose family is facing foreclosure, attended the vote.
As reported in a leading New York business paper, “the National Taxi Workers Alliance, which is not formally a union, is the first non-traditional labor organization to join the AFL-CIO since a farm workers group was chartered in the early 1960s.” This is exciting news for a few reasons: first, because it illustrates that labor leaders are thinking more creatively about how to reach hard-to-reach workers, and also because it shows how those organic worker organizations are getting formal institutional support. This is a good thing for both sides.
Beyond this, as the AFL-CIO blog entry describes, these are marginalized workers, workers who have historically been deprived of their legal rights because they have been misclassified as independent contractors. This is a problem we have seen again and again, and which we have visited before on the Frying Pan. As employers continue to push the envelope with these legal shenanigans,
What would cause 13 mostly 30- and 40-something electricians to come up with an event like the “Solidarity Sleepover” at Occupy LA? It all started with a text message. Howard Brown, adventurer, electrician and Occupy LA supporter wrote me, “would like 2 c mas union presence.” I had not been down to Occupy LA and before I put my name near it, I needed to do some recon to check it out. I had heard that it was this leaderless movement that really had no strong positions on anything because they could not get a consensus from the group. Being a lifelong Democrat, that sounded vaguely familiar. So down to City Hall I went with my good friend Gary in tow. I figured I needed some backup in case somebody tried to put a red Che Guevara beret on me when I wasn’t looking.
What Gary and I found instead were really cool,
I am particularly fond of Kenny Rogers’ song “The Gambler.” At a recent hearing for the Los Angeles City Council Ad Hoc Committee on Waste Reduction and Recycling, I kept thinking about this song as I heard many business groups and trade associations lobby against true reform of L.A.’s waste collection system.
The debate stems from how the City of L.A. should reform its system for dealing with waste at businesses and large apartment buildings. On one end, you have the Don’t Waste L.A. coalition, to which I belong through the Natural Resources Defense Council. It is a broad coalition of environmental, community, faith-based, economic justice and labor groups, advocating for a comprehensive solution to dealing with L.A.’s waste woes, instead of kicking the can down the road. You can read more about the coalition’s positions here and here. On the other hand, some business lobbying groups and trade associations are advocating for a system that keeps the status quo in place.
The great journalist Lincoln Steffens visited the USSR shortly after the Russian Revolution and infamously declared that he had “seen the future and it works.” My wife Mickey and I recently returned from a touristic trip to Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Most of our time was spent in typically touristic ways, but inescapably (and with help from our excellent tour guides) we got a taste of policy and politics in the current Scandinavian way. What we learned makes me want to say that we saw one future that seems to be working.
Norway is still responding to the horrifying July 22 terrorist massacre—but Norwegians are likely to say, as did Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg: “You will not destroy our democracy or our commitment to a better world. We are a small but proud nation . . . but no one will ever frighten us away from being Norway . . . the answer to violence is even more democracy,
The L.A. Times had two interesting pieces on college football this last season. The second (don’t worry, I’ll get to the first), is an editorial calling on the NCAA to reform the sport by improving conditions for the so-called amateurs who generate millions of dollars every Saturday.
The piece calls for some sensible and straight-forward steps, largely echoing the basic demands of the National College Players Association, a project sponsored by the United Steelworkers.
Its heart, however, comes from a fantastic piece in The Atlantic by Taylor Branch, best known for his trilogy of books about the civil rights movement; if you haven’t read them, your life is incomplete. That gives him a certain moral authority in describing what he calls “The Shame of College Sports.” Go read this piece. It’s long, but worth it.
Okay, it’s long,
After visiting a few times, I decided to go for broke and join the occupation to see it all first hand. It was very interesting to entertain the misconceptions people might have about this movement. Some may think it’s populated by arrogant 20-somethings looking for attention and a party atmosphere with leftovers from Burning Man and Coachella attendees. Some may think it’s a few leftist apologists and homeless people intermingling uncomfortably. Some may think it’s a breeding ground for anti-American anarchists and communists plotting the takedown of our infrastructure. Others think it’s just a passing fad like pointy shoes and Bedazzler jackets.
I had some of these misconceptions myself. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had to reject these doubts before I could really see what was taking place. I visited during a Demands Committee meeting and the General Assembly, the nightly gathering for decision-making, to get a better reading of what was taking place.