Misreading ElectionsPosted: March 3, 2011
Politicians these days represent narrow interests and are deliberately misrepresenting recent election results as support for policies not presented to the general electorate during their campaigns. Some of this agenda may have been possibly inkled to their extremists supporters through code words but from the looks of polls, most of it appears to have come as a complete surprise to their electorate. This is probably because people generally don’t pay attention to primaries and the types of candidates supported by the most vocal and most extreme partisans.
No where is this disconnect more clear than in Wisconsin where poll-after-poll shows buyer’s remorse for their right wing extremist governor, Scott Walker. The latest Rasmussen Poll shows support for Budget Cuts but not state usurpation of collective bargaining rights for state workers.
Most Wisconsin voters oppose efforts to weaken collective bargaining rights for union workers but a plurality are supportive of significant pay cuts for state workers. Governor Scott Walker is struggling in the court of public opinion, but how badly he is struggling depends upon how the issue is presented. There is also an interesting gap between the views of private and public sector union families.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Wisconsin voters shows that just 39% favor weakening collective bargaining rights and 52% are opposed. At the same time, 44% support a 10% pay cut for all state workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) are opposed. That’s partly because 27% of Wisconsin voters believe state workers are paid too much and 16% believe they are paid too little. Forty-nine percent (49%) believe the pay of state workers is about right. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Strong support for collective bargaining rights showed up in a WSJ/NBC Poll yesterday where only 33% supported limited collective bargaining rights. This result supported an early poll done by US Today who found the same 33% level of support. Yet, we continue to see bills advance that would erode these rights. Ohio state senators barely advanced a bill with drastic limitations. I’m getting qualified in a few months as a professor in one of the few high demand, high paying areas. That would be finance. I’m one of very few white, American women to do so also. This implies I have two additional job skills that are very difficult to find these days in people with technical doctorates. I speak and write in coherent American English. Many of my peers struggle to do their lectures and research in cogent English. You can only imagine what this does to students. I don’t have to imagine. I hear the complaints all the time. This is a problem for candidates coming from top tier schools. Ask me if I’m interested in any place in Wisconsin or Ohio at the moment. The answer is a big fat no. I’m looking outside Louisiana for similar reasons. I’m not going to be drastically underpaid in cash without some compensating benefits. I can’t imagine that similarly qualified folks in engineering, accounting, medical fields, and computer sciences aren’t having the same thoughts. I pity the poor administration that’s going to try to find qualified people in those areas under these circumstances.
Why do politicians find people like me so terrible and unprofessional that they seek to deny us a place in determining our working conditions and remuneration?
Ohio state senators narrowly approved a bill that would prohibit public-employee unions representing 400,000 state and local workers from bargaining over health benefits and pensions, while also eliminating the right to strike. I’ve never particularly felt the need to strike except in the private sector where I basically just have voted with my feet after finding another job. The private sector is filled with capricious and overtly-political bad managers. It’s why most corporations can’t compete unless they scramble to find extreme cost cutting measures. They don’t want to be bothered with the higher callings of research and development, customer service, or any other type of innovation that would actually benefit employees and customers. This now appears to be the model that many of these folks want transferred to the public sector where you still had a chance of being paid and promoted on how well you do your job instead of whose ass you’re willing to frequently kiss. The problem now is that there is so much market in the hands of so few businesses and some jobs are only available through the public sector. The power to abuse is very much in their favor. This brings me back to the 2/3rds of the electorate that appreciate checks and balances. Union power checks the power of huge oligopoly and monopoly employers.
This brings me to a story of excess and the Northern Mariana Islands and Jack Abramoff. This also includes notorious B I G Felon, The Hammer, Republican Tom Delay (H/T to Bostonboomer for reminding me about this.). It’s a story of sex trade, Republicans, a deregulation haven, and the type of things that Republicans would like to see hoisted on the US and American workers. I have to admit to having to do some reading up on this since most of the story broke in 2006 and I was busy recovering from a little thing called Katrina at the time. You may recall we were a ‘petri dish’ of privatization and no bid contracts at the time and still are the guinea pigs of US privatization scams. What they did to us pales in comparison to the treatment of people in the US Territories of the Marianas Islands.
The Marianas Islands situation serves as a cautionary tale that would be worth remembering today because the same people who took jaunts to this paradise of no regulation and slavery are the same people stripping US citizens of rights our grandparents fought for during the gilded age. Here’s NPR describing work compounds that delighted and tingled the legs of visiting Republican politicians. JOHN YDSTIE is the NPR host. He introduced his guest as “Wendy Doromol was a schoolteacher there in the 1980s and ’90s, but became a human rights activist fighting sweatshops after guest workers on the islands came to her with tales of abuse“. Now remember, this is the work environment that Republican politicians like Scott Walker and John Kasich admire.
Ms. DOROMOL: The barbed wire around the factories face inward so that the mostly women couldn’t get out. They had quotas that were impossible for these people to reach and if they didn’t reach them, they’d have to stay until they finished the quota and they wouldn’t be paid for that work. They were hot, the barracks were horrible. A lot of the females were told you work during the day in the garment factory and then at night you can go and work in a club and they’d force them into prostitution at night.
YDSTIE: And they also experienced things like coerced abortion?
Ms. DOROMOL: Yes, if some female got pregnant, they either had to go back to China to give birth or have a forced abortion.
YDSTIE: Guest workers were lured to the Marianas by recruiters in countries like China, the Philippines and Bangladesh, who told them they were going to the United States. The recruiters charged workers around $5,000 for the trip. Nashir Jahidi(ph) is one of the workers Wendy Doromol befriended. He came to Saipan, one of the Northern Mariana Islands from Bangladesh by way of the Philippines. He says when he got on the plane, he thought he was going to America.
Mr. NASHIR JAHIDI (Ex-Worker): And not only me, there was some people that recruiter exactly told him that he can be going to Los Angeles by train from Saipan. So when I hear that the plane, you know, the host or somebody’s saying they were about to land in Saipan and I when I looked out the window and I saw it’s like blue water everywhere and small island and I was like, how?
YDSTIE: So you thought that you were going to be going to California or somewhere on the U.S. mainland?
Mr. JAHIDI: Not only me, most of the worker. They were surprised when they see the United States flag and the local island flag and we used the U.S. dollar, we used the U.S. stamp and everything, then people understand that this is only a small island. There is no way that you have the opportunity like what’s in the United States.
YDSTIE: Garment manufacturers were attracted to the Marianas, which had become a U.S. commonwealth in 1976, because clothes made there could be labeled made in the U.S.A. and didn’t face import quotas or duties. But despite flying the U.S. flag, the islands were exempt from many U.S. labor and immigration standards. As the abuses that Wendy Doromol helped uncover came to light, garment manufacturers there were sanctioned by the U.S. Labor Department. Then in the mid-1990s when it looked like Congress might force the Marianas to adopt U.S. Labor and Immigration laws, the island’s government took action. It hired lobbyist Jack Abramoff to protect its special status. Abramoff was paid millions for his work.
You may remember that Tom Delay got a lot of freebie trips to this Republican paradise via Jack Abramoff. Please notice the comments that I highlighted in bold. They should put into perspective the moves made by these extremist Republican governors, congressional critters and legislatures.
And, DeLay himself was recipient of several “free” trips paid for by the notorious lobbyist. One such trip was to the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. DeLay and his family enjoyed some golf and some diving, while immigrant workers, predominately from Asia, slaved away in squalid conditions on the island to make clothes bearing the “Made in USA” label for companies like Gap and Liz Claiborne for about half of US minimum wage. Workers there enjoy living behind barbed wire in shacks without running water, 12 hour work days 7 days a week and forced abortions.
After the trip, the Hammer declared the working conditions in the Marianas “A shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party,” and “everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system,” “a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It’s like my Galapagos Island.” I don’t think he was lying. I believe he thought it was grand. So grand in fact, that in 2000, as Republican House Whip, born again Christian DeLay blocked consideration of a bill written by UBER conservative Frank Murkowski of Alaska that would have offered the same protection and rights enjoyed by workers on the US mainland to workers in the Marianas. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, but DeLay put the hammer to it before the House could even consider it.
Maybe it was the huge and unavoidable red light district in Saipan that had DeLay so distracted on his trip that he did not notice the atrocities being committed in the name of the free market. Many of the immigrants are forced to turn to the sex trade to pay off the contracts they believed were getting them good jobs in “America”, so that they can finally go home. An estimated 90% of Marianas’ prostitutes are former garment workers. Even if the prostitutes so caught his eye, surely he couldn’t miss the Department of Interior’s documentation of “forced abortions”.
The 30,000 or so immigrant workers were working to the tune of about $2 billion in retail sales at one time. It is, therefore, no surprise that the local Mariana government and the influential garment industry were opposed to any proposed changes to their “perfect petri dish of capitalism.” They hired Abramoff for about $11 million, who, you know, sent good religious right Christians like Delay on cushy trips and garnered their support. Who says you can’t buy love? Or loyalty – to this day, DeLay stands by the “things he has said in the past and he stands by the votes he’s made (or blocked) that pertain to the islands,” said his spokesman to Ms. Magazine.
Here’s some more information on what American’s business warriors did to the people on the Marianas Islands from PBS and Bill Moyers. I think that it’s absolutely ironic that his article starts with this question: Should U.S. territories be subject to the same laws as the United States itself. If so, why? If not, why not? The question now should be why are they trying to remove our current laws and make us more like the Marianas islands? I’ll refer again to the bolded Tom Delay quote above. He and other Republicans consider it the perfect Republican business model right down to the forced abortions.
Aside from Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands are the only other insular commonwealth of the United States. The arrangement, which began in 1978, grants all indigenous inhabitants of the islands American citizenship and allows them to elect a local island government but excludes the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections. The government of the Northern Marianas benefits from substantial U.S. federal funds-in the form of subsidies and development assistance-administered by the Department of the Interior. The United States benefits by having a strategic military site in the Pacific.
Under the terms of their commonwealth agreement, the Northern Marianas also maintained the right to label “Made in the U.S.A.” all products manufactured on the islands — despite the fact that they had been given exemption from some federal labor laws, customs laws, immigration laws, quotas and tariffs laws. By the late 1980s, this state of affairs had become a boon both for the island’s garment industry and for a slew of American apparel giants who could count on abundant cheap labor without sacrificing the sacred “U.S.A.” label.
During those years, the Northern Mariana’s garment and textile businesses exploded, with companies importing tens of thousands of foreign workers from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to stitch in their factories for roughly half the American minimum wage. These immigrants often paid thousands of dollars to loan sharks to bring them to Saipan with the promise of work and spent months, if not years, paying off their debts, if they found work at all. Workers were often housed in barracks behind barbed-wire fences, often in unsafe, overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, and were charged exorbitant amounts for their room and board.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Labor began looking into allegations of garment industry worker abuses, focusing on factories owned by one of Saipan’s biggest employers, Willie Tan. In 1992, the department filed suit against Tan and ordered him to pay $9 million in back wages and damages to workers at five of his plants-at the time, the largest fine ever imposed by the Department of Labor. The suit alleged that employees were forced to work more than 80 hours a week, below the islands’ already low minimum wage and with no overtime. Further, workers were kept locked inside their barracks and were not allowed to leave during their off-work hours
So, deliberating misleading voters into thinking that it’s all about saving a few dollars is just one of the issues that we need to worry about when it comes to these governors and these legislators.Not only do we have them misreading the public’s intent on this, there’s another WSJ poll worth mentioning here: Poll Shows Budget-Cuts Dilemma.
Many Deem Big Cuts to Entitlements ‘Unacceptable,’ but Retirement and Means Testing Draw Support
The electorate is looking for a sensible, rationale middle ground which they believed they were going to get if they set up more checks and balances between the two party interests. Poll-after-poll shows that they are not interested in absolute austerity, tax cuts for billionaires, and complete removal of the safety net and working conditions that use the Marianas Islands as a model. Voters’ lack of confidence in the crew that brought us so-called Health Care Reform was not a mandate for wholesale return to the gilded age.