I’m creeping towards 1,000 hits on this old blog of mine. It’s exciting, but at the same time, there are things about my numbers that perplex me. One thing, actually, and that is how in the heck people find my blog using the search engine terms they do. I would expect people to find my blog somewhere down the pike looking for “mental health” or “foodies” or “OCD.” You might even find my blog if you’re looking for a post on Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Icing. I’ve decided to list for you, straight from my statistics, some of the more amusing but obscure examples of what people have typed in the Google search box and then mysteriously come upon my blog. I swear I did not make these up:
“white people stole my car did you mean black people stole my car” All I can say is, “Wtf?”
“medication for temp insanity” If you’re lining up a defense in a legal case, all I can say is, “Good luck, partner!”
“i am a great flirt if i fancy the pants off you.i am a cuddler” Ba hahahahahaha!
“why am I not catching mice” If you figure that out, will you help me?
“water and its uses fill in the blank” Huh?
“eating snot iq” OMG!
“why hasn’t my flaky pastry not flaked well?” This one I get, but I’m sorry you won’t find the answer here.
“mental illness gotta catch them all” Ha ha! Why would you want to?
“pink foil hat” My favorites are all of the assorted “foil” searches.
“did Martin Luther King ever have an affair” Wha?
I couldn’t get back any further than 30 days ago, or I’d have some really great foil queries. Some of these I get, but others stymie me. I believe these would make true the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. But damnit, I’m grateful for each and every one of those hits. There are times when I’m writing, like yesterday, that I feel I’m not doing a very good job at being educative, informative, or funny. I usually try for all three, but will easily settle for one. Yesterday I felt I was rambling on just to say something. And I was, actually. The reason for that is I really wanted to write about was politics, but I felt I needed to hold back. For some reason that just isn’t a place I want to go with this blog. But then again, it is my blog, so I can say damned well anything I please! So I think I’m going to get this off my chest. It has to do with Wisconsin and unions.
A friend of mine asked me why we need unions. I had to go back to some of my history coursework books from college and other sources to help formulate an answer. But this is what I came up with.
I’ll be glad to pontificate for you. I’m a thoughtful liberal, never considered myself to be extremely liberal. But here’s what I think about unions. Of course unions have pathologies. Every big human institution does. And anyone who thinks they’re on the wrong side of an issue should fight it out with them. But unions are also the only large-scale movement left in America that persistently acts as a counteracting power against corporate power. They’re the only large-scale movement left that persistently acts in the economic interests of the middle class.
The decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition. No matter what doubts you might have about unions and their role in the economy, never forget that destroying them destroys the only real organized check on the power of the business community in America. If the last 30 years haven’t made that clear, I don’t know what will.
Income inequality has grown dramatically since the mid-’70s—far more in the U.S. than in most advanced countries—and the gap is only partly related to college grads outperforming high-school grads. Rather, the bulk of our growing inequality has been a product of skyrocketing incomes among the richest 1 percent and—even more dramatically—among the top 0.1 percent. It has, in other words, been CEOs and Wall Street traders at the very tippy-top who are sucking up vast sums of money from everyone, even those who by ordinary standards are pretty well off.
How did we get here? In the past, after all, liberal politicians did make it their business to advocate for the working and middle classes, and they worked that advocacy through the Democratic Party. But they largely stopped doing this in the ’70s, leaving the interests of corporations and the wealthy nearly unopposed. The story of how this happened is the key to understanding why the Obama era lasted less than two years.
Representatives of organized labor unions were sources in a mere 2% of all the economy stories studied. It wasn’t always this way. Union leaders like John L. Lewis, George Meany, and Walter Reuther were routine sources for reporters from the ’30s through the ’70s. And why not? They made news. The contracts they signed were templates for entire industries. They had the power to bring commerce to a halt. They raised living standards for millions, they made and broke presidents, and they formed the backbone of one of America’s two great political parties.
They did far more than that, though. The strength of unions in postwar America had a profound impact on all people who worked for a living, even those who did not belong to a union themselves. Wages went up, even at non-union companies. Health benefits expanded, private pensions rose, and vacations became more common. It was unions that made the American economy work for the middle class, and it was their later decline that turned the economy upside-down and made it into a playground for the business and financial classes.
Some changes are needed. Workers should contribute more to cover their health insurance. State-employee unions in Iowa, for example, have grown into powerful lobbying forces that sometimes work against the public interests. Examples include preventing bad teachers from being fired, and blocking public access to information about government employees.
Union employees aren’t better than us, but they do have it better than us. Most private-sector employees can only dream of the public retirement benefits. But no one goes into government–whether inspecting restaurants or patrolling highways or teaching kids–to get rich. Many public employees with college degrees trade higher salaries in the private sector for job security and frequently thankless work. And many of these workers do not even belong to the unions that represent them in bargaining talks. Only 36.2 percent of public-sector workers were union members last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There is room for some changes in compensation and benefits for government employees and the power of public-sector unions. But there is no room for demonizing the workers or devaluing the jobs they do. And there’s no room for the politics that contaminate honest discussion. Unions are a major faction within the Democratic party. When Republicans attack unions and public employees, they’re really taking a swipe at the opposing party. It’s political. And it takes the focus off the real cause of state budget problems: an economic recession caused by bankers, speculators and other “big money” players. Not social workers and park rangers.
That’s my take, sugar, for what it’s worth.
I feel so much better. I’ll try not to do that much. But it’s just so damned important. Thanks for the listen. Thank you very much.
1.) The right to free speech, thanks to everyone who has suffered or died so that I have the right to speak my mind.
2.) Union organizers and members, past and present (except, of course, the corrupt ones).
3.) My children, I do my best to fight for your future.
4.) Trey*, my sweet petunia ; )
5.) Pennie and Lady, because they don’t give a damn, they just love and entertain.