5 Quick Political Facts for Today (2/19/15)

Lies and income inequality, oh my!

  • Israel is lying about the West’s negotiations with Iran.  Not exactly shocking but this sums it up nicely:

(U.S.) State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that there was a “selective sharing” of information.

“I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks,” she said.

But, hey.  It’s Israel.  I’m sure they’ve never lied about anything in the past, particularly when they’ve claimed they needed to “mow the lawn” in Gaza.  And, honestly, does anyone think they care if they get caught in a lie?  It’s not like they’ve had to pay for any of the more vicious acts, like the despicable war crimes they’ve committed against the Palestinians.

  • Speaking of lying, a new report by the U.S. Army War College finds “‘dishonesty and deception’ among Army personnel is common, often encouraged to maintain a false sense of integrity.”  This isn’t overly shocking in terms of the psychological aspect but the word “encouraged” should be a little disheartening in the sense that this suggests it’s a top-down action.  The integrity part begins at the top and, if it isn’t being displayed by the highest ranks, it’s not surprising when those in the lower ranks take things like torture even farther than the rules state.  This is the reason why holding those at the top accountable for their despicable orders is so important.
  • Middle-class wages dipped again last year, but the story isn’t all bad.  If we push our elected officials to intervene with the right legislative actions, things can get better:

Still, wage trends last year underscore that policy makers can do a lot to boost workers’ pay. Take the rise in wages for the country’s lowest-paid workers, which the EPI says is proof that policy changes are positively impacting American families. Those states that raised their minimum wages last year — including New York, Florida and California — witnessed a pay gain of 1.6 percent for the lowest-paid workers, compared with a 0.3 percent increase for those without a rise in a state’s baseline pay.

Just another example of how the government can do things to reduce the dangerous levels of economic inequality in the U.S., something the voters want as pointed out next.

  • 60% or more Americans want higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, and requirements for time off after the birth of a child.  As inequality continues to get worse, these numbers will just continue to grow over time.  The question now becomes, how high will they have to get before change will come?  I’m sure Congress will consider all of these quickly since it’s filled with so many middle-class workers that have no sick time and will soon be having children…
  • Walmart will be hiking wages to $10 per hour a year from now.  Yes, you read that right.  Income inequality has gotten so out of control that one of its biggest villains is giving in to the pressure.  Soon, Walmart employees will be able to climb the economic ladder from desperate poverty to just regular poverty.  Walmart’s stock price took a hit today because of the announcement since doing even the slightest thing to help the 99% really angers the 1%.  Remember folks, capitalism is not about the wealthy exploiting the poor!*

*Statement approved and paid for by Exploiters of the 99% of America.

Wal-Mart Protests

Walmart workers on strikeMany protests occurred at Wal-Mart stores yesterday on Black Friday with protesters demanding “…wages of at least $25,000, more full-time openings and an end to retaliation against workers who speak out about their conditions.”

Read Here.

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Wal-Mart Worker Black Friday Walkouts

As the busiest shopping day of the year – Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, depending on your views – approaches, a very interesting development is occurring in the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart.  It seems the employees of this giant are gaining more and more traction in trying to unionize their jobs and have planned a mass walkout on the biggest moneymaking day for the corporation.  The question is, will it work?  Maybe is probably the best answer that can be given at this time.

No Worker's Rights Here
No Worker’s Rights Here

Wal-Mart has long fought the unionization of its workforce with tactics that some would view as borderline illegal, such as restricting “the dissemination and discussion of pro-union views, threatened to withhold benefits from workers who organize, interrogated workers about their union sympathies and sent managers to eavesdrop on employee conversations.”  A couple of the most notorious actions are documented in one of the linked articles:

Butchers at a Wal-Mart supercenter in Jacksonville, Texas, voted to form a union in 2000 — the first time employees had done so. But soon after that, Wal-Mart eliminated butcher departments in its stores across the country, he said. It has been reported that Wal-Mart said it got rid of its meat department as a cost cutting measure.

A similar thing happened when workers at a Quebec store attempted to unionize in 2005, Bianco said. Wal-Mart closed that store a few months after that.

Wal-Mart rebuts the talk of unionization with one of the most ignorant points of view anyone could put forward.  “A Wal-Mart spokeswoman said the number of workers who are raising concerns is very small and don’t represent the views of the vast majority of its workforce of 1.3 million.”  Yes, because the vast majority of laborers around the country, or the world for that matter, would want no part of higher wages or better benefits, particularly the ones working for minimum wage with no benefits or close to it.  I hope my sarcasm didn’t slap you in the face too hard.

The retailer is prepared to retaliate and has now stated, “If [the store employees] are scheduled to work, we expect them to show up and do their job. If they don’t, depending on the circumstances, there could be consequences.”  But the movement to unionize is slowly growing and it seems an inevitable change may be coming.  At some point, potentially very soon with actions like these, there will be a breaking point where the union movement into Wal-Mart will be unstoppable.

But, again, will it work?  Wal-Mart has gone to drastic measures to stop the unionizing of its workforce and we must wonder how much farther they will be willing to go.  Could they even go so far as to close up their shop and say they are done doing business all together?  Seems like a crazy thought and is probably unlikely but is worth considering.

Taking Their Golden Ball and Going Home
Taking Their Golden Ball and Going Home

The Walton family, the owners of Wal-Mart, certainly have little to worry about.  As stated in the link, “In 2011 six members of the Walton family have the same net worth as the bottom 30% of American families combined.”  Which leads to a bigger issue of the effect of enormous income inequality in the country and how situations like these could play out.  We have seen the threats of CEOs who warned their employees about voting for Obama in the election and closing their businesses in the event of his reelection.  If the owners at the top are so wealthy and have little incentive to continue working, how can people take any action toward improving their working conditions even in the (arguably) freest nation in the world?

So, whether you will be out shopping or staying in to avoid the chaos of the day or maybe even staging a peaceful protest to improve your standard of living, there will be one very fascinating story to watch in terms of the battle between the rich and the normal this Friday.  Will Wal-Mart finally cave in to the demands of their workers’ plea for better wages and benefits or will they once again use immoral and deplorable tactics to suppress the poor in the United States?  Only time will tell.

Why Americans Should Pay Attention to the People of Mexico

2012 is not only a presidential election year for the U.S. but also for Mexico.  The first televised debated occurred in Mexico between the presidential hopefuls and it was covered by television stations in a way that may surprise most Americans: it wasn’t aired.  As reported by the BBC:

It is unclear how many voters were watching, with the main TV channels opting to show a dance show and a football match instead.

Ouch.  For a political junkie such as myself, that one hurts.  This must be what a Kardashian feels like when they walk into a room of ten people and only nine know who they are.

The lack of interest in the government, its policies, and who is running it in Mexico is no surprise considering its most recent scandal:  a bribery scandal involving Wal-Mart (Mexico’s largest employer a.k.a. an entity with a lot of friends in the Mexican government) that is now almost hard to remember considering how fast it disappeared from the news cycle in just two weeks.  But hey, those news organizations have bills to pay too and no reason to go after a big corporate advertiser too hard.  That could hurt profits and that’s just bad business/journalism.

But the real point Americans should be paying attention to about this scandal was the reaction of the Mexican people in the aftermath.  Americans should pay attention to the reaction because well…there really wasn’t one.  A line from the Huffington Post sums this up:

While Wal-Mart says it is probing the allegations and U.S. Congress members are demanding answers, Mexican authorities say they have nothing to investigate.

Not everyone likes politics and that is understandable.  It’s just not as interesting as watching people sift through other people’s garbage, observing overly dramatic rich people cry about nothing, or seeing some of the dumbest and most self-centered people on the planet go club hopping.  Boring people in Congress stand no chance up against that.  In fact, it might be the only conspiracy theory I really believe: politicians strive to make themselves so boring no one will actually pay attention to them when they are doing something horrible.  It may be why Obama has attracted so much criticism.  Like him or not, he is simply more engaging than others in politics when he speaks.

I’m kidding, of course, but the bigger issue here is when the people of a country, even in a democracy like Mexico or the U.S., lose interest in their leaders and their government, the government can be as corrupt as it wants with no repercussions.  The Mexican people should be vehemently angry and demanding justice.  But they aren’t going to get it and, because of their apparent lack of interest, they may not even know they should be angry.  Americans take note.  Your lack of interest can lead to these types of results.

The more explosive side note to this story is the Mexican people should be just as angry with the U.S. government as they should be with their own.  It seems, recently, when something goes bad in Mexico, it is originating from the U.S.  The biggest problem in Mexico is the drug war that has claimed the lives of around 50,000 people in just six years, including a gruesome slaughter of 23 people last week.  (Mexico’s population is about a third of the United States so, by comparison, this would be the equivalent of 150k violent deaths in the U.S. in that time.) Heavily at fault for this drug war is the U.S. government for not tackling the problem of drug use in a rational way within its borders as well as not properly regulating the sell of the most dangerous weapons which are now being smuggled and used by these drug cartels.  They are now armed well enough where sending in the Mexican military is the response by the government instead of an expansion of the now under-armed police forces.

The people of Mexico should be outraged but are not and their lack of attention is at least partly to blame.  Americans should learn this valuable lesson.