Barb Caffrey's Blog

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This Labor Day, We Know Fewer are “Laboring”

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After a horrible August, where zero jobs were created whatsoever in the United States, we know that as of this Labor Day, fewer workers are working than ever before — thus, fewer are “laboring,” which is part of what is keeping the American economy down for the count.

I don’t know what the answers are, but I do know a few things could be instituted right now that would help.

For example, in Betty Jin’s recent article at, she suggested the following:

1) Cut the corporate tax rate by 5%; this may stimulate jobs.  (The risk in doing so is that it would probably increase the deficit in the short-term.)

2) Print more money, and start taxing corporate savings.  This would force companies to invest, but could cause inflation.  The hope here is that the American companies would invest in American workers, which would keep inflation down to a manageable level.

3) Increase “infrastructure” spending — in other words, start building roads, bridges, and other things like rail lines, as this definitely would create jobs.  Also, everyone of every party wants safe roads and bridges — this one seems like a win/win, especially if President Obama stops calling it “infrastructure,” something very few people seem to realize means “roads and bridges,” and starts calling this exactly what it is — putting people back to work doing something that’s vital and necessary.

This last one, to my mind, is the strongest of the 10 things Jin says can be done right now to improve the economy (it’s third on her list; to see the other seven, click on her article) because Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican President, was the one who pushed for the Interstate highway system we all take for granted back in the 1950s.  So it would be really hard for the current crop of radical Republicans to say that this is a bad idea, considering it was started by their own party.

Next, there’s the New Republic’s article, written by Jared Bernstein, that’s headline states “Obama’s Got Plenty of Options to Right the Economy — He’s Just Got to Fight for them.”  This article is part of the New Republic’s “Symposium on the Economy” that’s sub-titled, “Is there Anything that can be Done?”  Other articles in this series can be found here.

At any rate, here’s the first few paragraphs from Bernstein’s article:

Here’s the policy reality facing the president: The economy is stuck in the mud and the American people are losing faith that policy makers can do anything about it. As long as GDP growth is persistently below trend—trend being around 2.5 percent—the unemployment rate won’t be going anywhere good anytime soon. Paychecks, meanwhile, are declining in real terms, so we’re stuck in a cycle where the weak job market hurts household budgets, which trims consumption, which discourages investors.

The only games in town are fiscal or monetary stimulus—there, I said the ‘s’ word—but the president is boxed in, it is said, by three forces: First, he’s got no job-creation bullets left; second, even if he did, and American people don’t believe the government can help on the jobs front (a pathetic 26 percent have confidence in Washington’s ability to solve economic problems); and, third, Republicans in Congress will block any idea he proposes anyway. Thankfully, none of these challenges are as insurmountable as they might seem, and pushing relentlessly to overcome them is the president’s best, and only, chance to change the fundamental direction of the debate, find his footing, and create some momentum for the economy and for himself.

Mind you, all of this means one thing: President Obama must lead, and the country must follow wherever the President leads with regards to the economy.  This means a comprehensible strategy must be created, and thus far, I really haven’t seen very much out of the current Administration that leads me to believe there’s much going on there except reactionary spending — that is, Timothy Geithner, current Secretary of the Treasury, and Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, have performed well in their jobs but they haven’t really seemed to set policy so much as react to it instead.  This may be an error on my part; I’m no financial wizard by any stretch of the imagination.  But it seems to me that if these two men have a grand, overarching vision, it surely hasn’t been well-explained to the “men (and women) on the street” like me.  And it also seems that if these two men do have a way out of this mess, the President doesn’t seem to know what it is, either — or, perhaps, he’s just not saying because he knows the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t like it and would say so with great vigor and dispatch.

Note that at a Labor Day rally and speech that President Obama gave today in Detroit, Michigan, the President seemed to not only understand the high stakes of this “game” (if he loses public opinion on this issue, any chance he has of a second term will be gone), but understood the need to boldly counterattack the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates including Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Gov. of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney according to today’s AP article listed at Yahoo News.  Obama said:

“I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to, because I still believe both parties can work together to solve our problems,” Obama said at an annual Labor Day rally sponsored by the Detroit-area AFL-CIO. “Given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together. But we’re not going to wait for them.”

“We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party,” he said.

Now, this sort of rhetoric is exactly what most Democrats and Independents have been waiting for, but until voters see some action beyond the words, it’s unlikely to help overmuch.  Still, this is the right message — people are hurting, and the President seems to “get” that — and one can only hope that the President’s advisors are reading the same articles I am that offer some real possibilities rather than just allowing the economy — and workers — to continue to be flushed down the drain.

Odds and Ends

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Today’s post is going to be a catch-all of various things.

First, I had been pursuing a job in Madison, WI; it was a writing/editing gig and I felt I could really help the particular company in question, and that it would be something I could do that would not set off my particular round of health issues (I am partially disabled, physically, though there’s nothing wrong with my mind or work ethic).  But this job has said “no” even though I apparently got to the very last round . . . this might be considered a triumph after eighteen months of unemployment (I’m certain my late husband Michael would find it so), but it’s hard to see it that way now as I’m still among the ranks of the unemployed, nor do I have a job that’s right up my alley as I’d truly hoped this job would be.

So back to the drawing board, there.

As for the Wisconsin protests against sitting Governor Scott Walker and his atrocious “budget repair bill” that would strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights and would drastically cut Medicaid and our low-income health program Badgercare (I’m on the Badgercare waiting list as I qualify, but last I knew there were nearly 100,000 on the waiting list before it was frozen last September), they are still happening.   There are protests all over Wisconsin; there was a protest in Racine a few days ago that I unfortunately was unable to attend that netted two hundred or so in the freezing rain, while in La Crosse a bunch of university professors joined the local teacher’s union (perhaps the one their teaching assistants belonged to; I’m unsure on that — note that when I was a graduate teaching assistant at Nebraska, we were not unionized, though my brother, who is a teaching assistant at Indiana, is) even though they didn’t need to do so for their jobs in solidarity with the protestors.  There have been protests in Superior, which is across the Mississippi River from Duluth, MN, against this “budget repair bill” of Walker’s . . . there have been protests in Oshkosh, Green Bay, Eau Claire, and elsewhere along with the usual places to protest, Madison (our state capitol) and Milwaukee.  In addition, many Republican legislators homes are being picketed, including my own newly-elected state Senator, Van Wanggaard (it’s not a constant thing, but it has happened in the last ten or eleven days more than once, and with more than one person) . . . the state remains opposed to Walker’s union-busting provisions while being divided on whether or not Walker’s budgetary proposals are good or bad for the state.

However, many commercials are being aired by the so-called Wisconsin Club for Growth, which is no such thing — that is a front group funded by the wealthy Koch brothers (they of the infamous “prank call” fame, where Gov. Walker admitted he was trying to bust the unions along with many other things that may get him into hot water with the Government Accountability Board here in WI), and is headquartered in Washington, DC — to recall state Senator Bob Wirch of Burlington/Kenosha.   These commercials are obnoxious, and offensive, aping the “All Points Bulletin” of a policeman’s call to his dispatcher . . . when I heard them, I immediately wrote a letter to Wirch expressing my support for his position and told him I’m glad he’s sticking up for Wisconsin’s voters because goodness knows, aside from the “WI 14” Democratic Senators, no one else is.  (That they’ve had to flee the state in order to avoid a quorum is the only thing they could do to slow this process down.)

I truly hope Bob Wirch isn’t recalled, mind, but even if he is, it’ll take time.

Speaking of recall, I know I’m already planning on recalling Van Wanggaard in a year’s time, the first permissible date as he’s newly-elected, because he obviously does not represent Racine voters — according to a recent article in the Racine Journal-Times, Racine Assemblyman Cory Mason has had 1057 calls against the “budget repair bill” of Scott Walker’s, while he’s had 97 for it, and Racine Assemblyman Robert Turner (my particular Assemblyman) has had over 1000 calls against while only 20 in favor as of earlier this week on Monday.  (What does that tell the rest of you about what Racine thinks about this, hmm?  Do you really think Wanggaard, who’s said he’ll vote “yes” on this bill, is properly representing Racine on this issue?  I know I sure don’t.)

In sports news, Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy has had surgery on his right pinkie finger (his throwing hand) and may miss the start of the season as he’s not supposed to throw for a month.  They put a pin into his right pinkie finger and Lucroy says he will catch (but supposedly not throw; how is that supposed to work again?  Will he have a coach sitting there who will take the ball out of Lucroy’s glove, then toss it back to the pitcher in question in the bullpen before the pitcher throws again?) and that he doesn’t plan to miss any time whatsoever.

What is a little bit frustrating about Lucroy’s assertion is that he’s a very young man.  He needs to be careful of his health.  If he tries to come back too soon, he’ll be hurting himself, long-term.  He seems to be worried he’ll lose his starting position, or maybe he’s even worried about being sent back to Triple A (AAA) ball due to injury, but I think that’s highly unlikely.  If Lucroy rushes himself now, he may end up worsening this injury down the line and perhaps even shortening his overall career (as throwing arms are important, and messing with your motion due to an injured finger is very common) if he over-does.  I hope the Brewers new training staff (with a new manager came new coaches and staff) will “sit” on him and get him to back off working so hard; it’ll be difficult for Lucroy to sit and watch, but it’ll be much, much better for his team overall if he just lets this heal without hindrance.

Other than that, in Brewers’ news, Zach Greinke said he’s having issues with his new medicine for Social Anxiety Disorder (or SAD) and the sports talkers in Milwaukee seem concerned about it as Greinke said that the new med makes him “more tired” but didn’t really clarify in what way; some talkers seem to believe that means he’ll have trouble with his stamina on the mound, but I doubt this . . . I’ve never had SAD, but my grandmother needed anxiety medicine in her last years of life — I know this isn’t exactly the same thing, mind you — and changing a medicine’s dosage, even, can make you feel more tired at the end of the day, or perhaps when you wake up.  These feelings wear off after a little bit, but can get in your way if you don’t know what’s going on at first . . . anyway, Greinke probably meant that he’s getting used to the new dosage, doesn’t like it, and would rather not have to deal with it, but not that he’ll have any trouble pitching.

At any rate, the way Wisconsin is going right now, I’ll be glad to see the Brewers in action.  I know that I’m ready for some baseball, and I’m more than ready for some healthy interest in something beyond the asinine behavior of our current, sitting Governor.