Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Hey, President-Elect Trump: Congratulations on your quick success on Wednesday! [Addendum added.]

Congratulations on your quick success on Wednesday, Mr. Trump!*

Now how ’bout gettin’ to work on that Carrier plant in Indianapolis that is in the process of shutting down, its production being moved to a new plant in Mexico.  And other manufacturing plants that, like Carrier, actually ARE slated to move outside the country.

And then, after Carrier announces its change in plan, could you make a few phone calls to a few companies that outsource their manufacturing and assembly?

And then maybe … Walmart.  Get Walmart’s CEO on the phone.  Can you get Walmart to stop doing virtually all its purchasing from wholesale companies whose products are from China, Vietnam and other countries that aren’t, y’know, the USA?

And when you have an extra moment, maybe you can get your daughter Ivanka on the phone and try hard to persuade her to get her company to stop having its products made in China.

Look. Shouldn’t Bill Ford or at least Ford’s public relations office put out a statement correcting Trump’s, um, misimpression that a plant in Kentucky was ever scheduled to move to Mexico?

I get that that is a dangerous move, given Trump’s nature.  But a courageous move at the outset by Ford’s CEO would put everyone on notice that we’re in for some serious fascist tactics in the next four years, and they need to try to undermine the success of those tactics.

*H/T Paul Waldman

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ADDENDUM: Here’s a detailed article about this in the Washington Post.** Do read the article.  Then ask Trump about whom he plans to pick as his, um, Labor Secretary.  And whether his NLRB member pics will be … pro-union.

No, don’t bother with that last question.  It’s not just that we don’t have to ask, cuz we already know.  It’s also that we know that Trump will say they will be pro-union picks.

One absolute certainty is that Trump will continue to say the opposite of what he is doing is what he is doing, and say the opposite of what happened is what happened. On absolutely everything.

We are about to have Joe McCarthy combined with the Matter Hatter as president of the United States.

Added 11/18 at 12:27 p.m.

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*I switched the link from a Politico article to one by Jim Tankersley in the Washington Post, which provides the full information.

Added 11/18 at 5:44 p.m.

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Don’t buy eggs at Costco. Buy them at Walmart instead. Seriously.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Brad Pitt and Bill Maher say Costco contributes to animal cruelty by selling eggs from caged hens.

Pitt sent a letter to the chief executive of the big-box chain Thursday asking the company to stop selling eggs produced this way. Pitt’s letter to Craig Jelinek says caged birds suffer atrophy of their muscles and bones from years of immobility, adding that the cages have been banned in California and much of Europe.

“As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings,” Pitt writes.

Maher took aim at the company in an editorial published last week by The New York Times.

“Multiple investigations into battery cages document animals with deteriorated spinal cords, some who have become paralyzed and then mummified in their cages,” Maher wrote. “Imagine cramming five cats or dogs into tiny cages, hundreds of thousands in each shed, for their entire lives. That would warrant cruelty charges, of course. But when the egg industry does it to hens, it’s considered business as usual.”

Both commended Costco for its other animal-welfare efforts and called on the company to make good on its 2007 promise to move toward uncaging its egg-laying hens.

– Brad Pitt, Bill Maher slam Costco, speak up for caged hens, Associated Press, today

A few years ago I became a mostly-vegetarian because agribusiness’s treatment of animals was bothering me enough for me to make the change.  I eat fish, cage-free eggs and free-range chicken, but no other meat or poultry. I’ve become very conscious of which stores sell cage-free eggs and free-range chicken, and the relative prices for these.  Trader Joe’s has by far the least expensive cage-free eggs.  Their free-range chicken—they sell two brands—is relatively reasonable, too.  Which is to say, it’s more expensive than non-free-range, of course, but not exorbitant.

A few weeks ago, I stopped in at a Walmart that has a full grocery store within it and as I was passing the eggs saw …  these.  Wikipedia explains:

The Happy Egg Company is one of the UK’s largest free-range egg brands. Originally setup in January 2009 by Noble Foods, the brand’s annual turn over for 2013 was close to £75 million. The brand philosophy is to put the welfare of their hens first and the company claim to operate above established free-range egg production standards. The company’s farms have 20% tree coverage and assorted environmental enhancements.

The brand launched in the US in October 2012. In January 2015, the American Humane Association announced that the company is the first egg producer to receive humane certification.

Okay, they’re expensive—about $.40 more per dozen than a cage-free brand that Walmart sells, which in turn are well more expensive than the eggs from caged hens.  But everyone has his or her priorities.  I love eggs but would no longer eat them if I couldn’t get them from cage-free hens.  And free-range, of course, is better.  And apparently there are a lot of Brits who think the extra cost is worth it, too.  The company is only six years old and doing quite well.

Here in this country an epidemic of bird flu in several western states has caused a significant rise in the price of eggs recently.  And most of the eggs Walmart sells are, of course, other brands, most of them not cage-free.  But let’s hear it for Walmart for offering this brand.  And may The Happy Egg Company find this country a friendly market.

As for Costco, people who care about this issue and who shop regularly at Costco should buy their eggs elsewhere.

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UPDATE: Actor Ryan Gosling beat the other celebs to the punch.  In an open letter to Costco’s CEO last month in the wake of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States, Gosling wrote:

…. Video footage revealed abhorrent cruelty including rows upon rows of birds confined in filth-laden cages with the mummified corpses of their cage-mates—eating, sleeping, defecating, and laying eggs on top of dead birds—and hens’ wings, legs, and necks trapped in the corroded wires of their battery cages.

Furthermore, it is appalling that Costco has been selling these eggs with deceptive labeling on cartons featuring graphics of birds living out in a green pasture. You’re already eliminating cages for veal calves and pigs – don’t you feel that chickens also deserve the same mercy?

So many corporations are meeting public demand for more humane products and transparency in the food chain.

I sincerely hope that Costco will set plans now to go completely cage-free for its eggs.

 

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The Oklahoma Republican Party calls Walmart and the mega-corporate fast-food and hospitality industries animals dependent on food stamps. And its chairman wants a national discussion about it. Oblige him, Democrats.

In any event, it’s completely unclear where people will stop in for hamburgers and fries, and where they will buy extremely cheap household items, once the fast food industry and Walmart have ceased to exist because there no longer are Americans who lack the skills and qualifications for good jobs and they’ve all found good jobs because we elected a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get good jobs is for people to get good jobs.  Rather than, say, electing a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get full-time jobs is for people to get full-time jobs although with no promise that they will be good jobs and instead might be full-time minimum-wage ones.

– MeScott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO, yesterday

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Am I reading too much into this, or did Oklahoma’s Republican Party call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks?

Whoa. If the Republicans keep this up, the Walmart family and fast food chain executives will start their own Super PAC.  To help Democratic candidates!  If a Republican wins the White House, their companies might have to start paying their employees enough for them to afford groceries.

– Me, in an update to Scott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO, later yesterday

This actually is a really serious matter: Apparently, most people do not know that a substantial percentage of people on food stamps work—including many who have full-time, very-low-paying, no-benefits jobs.  Much less do most people know that most of the people who work yet receive food stamps are employed by mega-corporations or franchises of mega-corporations in the fast-food industry, in retail stores and in the hospitality industry, and have dependent children.

Prominent Democrats—Obama, Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and others—need to engage in a mass education campaign on this.  Especially now, in response to Scott Walker.

Key to this is to point out that the food stamp program is, to a surprising extent, corporate welfare—to which these companies have, like the animals in our national parks who have become dependent on the government (or at least on people visiting the parks, which are funded by the federal government) food handouts.

The article I linked to above is from Politico, and explains:

The Monday post, which has since been taken down, first sarcastically declared that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is proud to be distributing a record number of food stamps. It then said, “Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us ‘Please Do Not Feed the Animals.’ Their stated reason for the policy is because ‘The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.’ Thus ends today’s lesson in irony ?#?OKGOP?”

To answer my own question, yes, Oklahoma’s Republican Party did call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks.  Sort of.  The Party said that Walmart and fast food chains and the hospitality industry are like national parks, in that many of their workers receive food stamps.  The Party also said that Walmart, the fast food industry and the hospitality industry are, themselves, like animals who live in national parks, because these business are subsidized significantly by the food stamp program.

They’re right about Walmart, the fast food industry, and the hospitality industry.  I mean it.  And Democrats need to say this, again and again and again, when discussing the minimum wage or the social safety net.

Again and again and again.  No Democrat should ever talk about the minimum wage or about social safety net programs without saying this.

The Politico article, by Eliza Collins, goes on to say:

On Tuesday, Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Randy Brogdon apologized.

“Last night, there was a post on our OKGOP Facebook page, and it was misinterpreted by many. I offer my apologies for those who were offended – that was not my intention,” Brogdon said.

He said the original statement was supposed to compare two separate situations and illustrate “government dependency in America.”

In addition to the apology, Brogdon used the new statement to continue the discussion on welfare programs.

“However I do think that it’s important to have conversations about government welfare programs since our dependency on government is at its highest level ever,” it said. “Quoting President Reagan, ‘We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.’”

Do oblige him, Democrats.  Give the man the conversation he wants.

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Scott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO

The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage. Instead of focusing on that, we need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go well beyond minimum wage.

Scott Walker, yesterday

Yep, raising the minimum wage and instituting policies that get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage definitely are mutually exclusive.  Which I presume is why “the left” never, ever talks about getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage. They’re talking about raising the minimum wage instead!

When Clinton, Sanders, Obama, whoever, proposes free community college and free or low-tuition state university access, they always make clear that those proposals are alternatives to, not in addition to, raising the minimum wage.  It’s one or the other; not both.

So really, it comes down to three alternative choices: (1) raise the minimum wage (the Democrats); (2) or make community college and state universities free or low-tuition, by supporting them through state and federal funding (the Democrats); or gutting state funding for state university and community college systems (Scott Walker).

We do indeed need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And talk, we will.  Or at least the Democratic primary candidates will; not sure that the Republican ones will, since neither Walker nor any other the others has, yet.  But, I mean, maybe Douglas Holtz-Eakin has some ideas that he can pass along to one or another of them.  Who knows?  Maybe to Scott Walker!  Ideas about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage, while further gutting the federal and state tax bases, at least for the wealthy and for corporations.

Of course, we also need to talk about how we get people jobs that employ those newly acquired skills and qualifications—the ones they needed to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  Presumably jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.  Scott Walker apparently is unaware that there are huge numbers of people who have skills and qualifications for good jobs but haven’t found a good job, some of them who lost the one they had.  Or maybe he’s aware of it and wants government to get out of the way.  Let Detroit go bankrupt!  Kill the National Labor Relations Act!  And the Fair Labor Standards Act!

In any event, it’s completely unclear where people will stop in for hamburgers and fries, and where they will buy extremely cheap household items, once the fast food industry and Walmart have ceased to exist because there no longer are Americans who lack the skills and qualifications for good jobs and they’ve all found good jobs because we elected a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get good jobs is for people to get good jobs.  Rather than, say, electing a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get full-time jobs is for people to get full-time jobs although with no promise that they will be good jobs and instead might be full-time minimum-wage ones.*

And certainly rather than electing a Democratic president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law significantly increasing the minimum wage, thus precluding persuading Congress to enact legislation than would assist people in getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And precluding even talking about it!

The good news for us Dems is that if Walker wins the nomination, we won’t have to worry about Walmart and McDonald’s exercising their First Amendment speech rights by donating to Walker’s campaign or Super PAC, since if he wins he will put them out of business.

*Paragraph edited slightly for clarity. 7/15 at 10:09 a.m.

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ADDENDUM: Okay. Just want to clarify, with the following exchange between reader Carol and me in the Comments thread:

Carol

July 14, 2015 3:11 pm

I was just curious, maybe I haven’t been listening closely, but when do Democrats state that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive? The minimum wage would be a short term solution to the fact that we have more and more people working in minimum wage jobs (that require a lot more skills than hamburger flipping, but hey, who cares about that discussion?) who can’t even feed their family, including those who have been pushed out of jobs that paid OK into jobs that don’t during this last and current depression. Education and training are long term solutions to meet a work world that (foolishly in most cases) wants more and more certification for jobs that don’t warrant the training. OJT really should be what should be provided, but most employers are too short-sighted and stupid to invest in their workers (see how many tolerate huge turnover when the real solution would be adequate pay and OJT). Whether education really should serve as the free training ground for employers who don’t even know what is needed is dubious. Education is always a good, but jobs training? Each business has specific skills, and from where I sit no one wants to take the time to show their employees what those are, preferring the sink or swim method. I see the massive stupidification of management as a big issue, and employees suffer.

 

Beverly Mann

July 14, 2015 3:56 pm

Damn. I forgot to say that this post is sarcasm. It’s sarcasm, Carol. The Democrats have not stated that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive. Scott Walker said that; the Democrats have not. The Democrats do understand that raising the minimum wage for people who right this very minute have minimum wage jobs—a large percentage of Walmart employees, fast food and other restaurant workers, hotel workers, and many, many others—does not actually preclude training people for non-minimum-wage jobs.

As [commenter] Denis Drew points out, the Germans have figured out how to train most of their workforce for non-minimum-wage jobs. And, largely because German labor has a big say in how businesses are run there, through co-determination worker councils that bring the workers into the design and manufacturing process throughout, Germany has managed also to actually have non-minimum-wage jobs available to their skilled workers, through increased productivity (the kind that economists talk about; not the kind that Jeb Bush talked about a few days ago).

Now that that’s clear ….

Added 7/14 at 4:10 p.m.

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UPDATE: Am I reading too much into this, or did Oklahoma’s Republican Party call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks?

Whoa. If the Republicans keep this up, the Walmart family and fast food chain executives will start their own Super PAC.  To help Democratic candidates!  If a Republican wins the White House, their companies might have to start paying their employees enough for them to afford groceries.

Added 7/14 at 5:45 p.m.

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Oh no, Walmart is not doing well? Danger, danger Economy Sucks! Not according to the flower shop.

Before this last recession, readers of a long time here might recall that I used my flower shop as a barometer for the economy.  I noted that things were not doing well as our sales had started to decline in August of 2006.    The smart boys and girls called it December 2008 as starting December 2007.

Well, today it seems some people are getting concerned.    I guess Macy’s did not do so well either.   And these smart ones are holding their breath for tomorrow’s Target numbers. 

The analysis?  It’s either the retailers have lost their way but, as noted not likely or the consumer is getting smart and not over spending or and this one just kills me: “The economy is in collapse. That’s what’s going on.”

Really?  The economy is in collapse? 

Disregard the government data. Jobs and GDP and all the rest are at best inaccurate measures of the economy and at worst flat out corrupt. Walmart is capitalism writ large. .. When Walmart misses estimates, it can only mean one of two things: either Walmart or the American economy is weaker than anyone thought.

Yup, that’s what it is the corrupt government numbers are not to be trusted.  Walmart et al are sucking big air right now and that means the economy is going down.  I mean, it certainly couldn’t be the consumer having wised up and got the message of stagnate or declining wages while working whacked out hours and accomplishing little other than having stopped the dehydration. 

I got news for these “smart ones”.  The flower shop says things are holding their own.  It’s not growing, but it’s looking like the first year since 2006 that we will stay even and maybe even up a bit.

“I don’t think we’re in a recession right now, but I think there’s a 50 percent chance we’ll be in one next year,” Davidowitz shouts, and there’s nothing the government is going to be able to do about it. “We’ve spent all the money, we’ve borrowed all the money, and we’re in the tank.”

Who do you believe?  My flower shop and Spencer’s job analysis with Ed’s explanations or Walmart and the “smart ones”?

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