Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Union Pendulum

I read an article today about how the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is making a push to get non-union auto manufacturing plants to become union shops. Here's the article, if you're interested in reading. For those of you not interested in reading the original piece, it basically says that UAW leaders are going to try to convince auto workers who work in American Volkswagen and Daimler plants to unionize.

I'm going to make a prediction that the push will fail, and that the UAW will fade into irrelevance. In fact, I think that unions in general are charging headlong into obsolescence. It's widely accepted that union bosses are corrupt, unions tend to be adversarial with management, and their strong demands erode profitability of union shop companies. Basically, unions have become their own worst enemy.

The funny thing is, unions came about, in part, because of huge disparity between rich and poor, which is happening again in our society. The divide between the rich and poor is growing, and the unions are powerless to stop it. This is partially because non-union shops are less adversarial, and non-union shops tend to hire employees who are invested in the overall well-being of the company.

Unions did, and do, serve a purpose. They help to ensure that greedy individuals and companies don't take advantage of labor. Because of globalization however, companies can simply ship jobs overseas, reducing their costs, and putting Americans out of work. I'm not railing against this reality, I'm just pointing it out.

But unions are stuck in the 1920's. What they need to do is look forward. They need to realize that times have changed, and instead of helping maximize the wages of the individual laborer, they should act as a liaison between management and workers. They should encourage union members to find ways to save the company money and increase profitability, and acknowledge that jobs can go overseas.

Furthermore, they should focus on McJobs... service-based positions that can't be shipped overseas, but require little skill, which allows an employer to pay substandard wages to employees.

But that's not what's going to happen in the near term. What will happen is that union bosses will continue to be greedy, and advocate an us vs. them mentality. Union shops will close as a result, bringing unions effectively to extinction. Then, corporations will smell an opportunity to once again take advantage of the little guy, working conditions and wages will deteriorate, while the rich get richer. Eventually, the pendulum will swing back toward unionization, but it will be in a different form than what we see now. Furthermore, I suspect that next time unionization will be on a more global level, which will undermine corporations' ability to simply ship jobs to a country with low wages.

But then again, on a long enough timeline, any prediction is bound to come true.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm Better Than This Guy

People that know me realize I tend to treat people relatively equally. For the most part, I give the waiter the same amount of respect at the CEO, and the professional athlete deserves the same consideration as the invalid.

With that said though, there are some who earn my scorn and contempt. Con-men, thieves, politicians, rapists, and murderers don't rate very high in my book. Basically, if you consistently, consciously and willingly screw your fellow man in order to fulfill your selfish wants and desires, then you're not worth my time.

JD is a good example of someone who's not worth my time. When we were kids, I used to hang out with JD. He was a guy who lived by his own rules... he stayed out past curfew, cut class, smoked cigarettes and stole his parents' alcohol. In short, he was a lot of fun.

As I got older, I started seeing the dark side of his lifestyle. He stole money and valuables from his parents and friends. When most of us grew up and settled down, JD became a professional vagabond... working carnivals, begging on street corners, staying in homeless shelters, and preying on the lonely and downtrodden. Though he and I are no longer in touch, we do have one or two mutual friends who occasionally hear from him, and then feel compelled to fill me in on JD's latest goings-on.

At one point, several years ago, he was either engaged or married, and it looked like he was going to settle down. We shot some pool at one of our hometown bars and caught up. But this was an aberration. Within a few months, he was back on the road.

Every now and then, JD still calls one of our mutual friends. JD is homeless and jobless, but somehow manages to afford a cell phone. In fact, he even has a laptop, which he (apparently) conned some dumb chick into buying for him. But I'm digressing. JD will ask to stay with this friend, who for some reason, still allows JD to crash at his place. And after every visit, the friend invariably discovers that some moderately valuable item has disappeared. JD hasn't figured out that you don't shit in your own nest.

So... what brought today's story about? Well, it goes like this. Several months ago, when JD got his laptop, he got a Facebook account. He sent me a friend request, which I promptly ignored. Two of our mutual friends accepted his friend request.

JD updated his status a short time ago with something like "You can all just fuck off." One of the mutual friends said "Dude, chill out," and JD went off on him... extending the sentiment to me. I guess that JD is finally learning that people don't associate with you when you continually fuck your buddies. As for me, I didn't accept his friend request because he's one of those guys who consistently, consciously and willingly screws his fellow man in order to fulfill his selfish wants and desires. If JD would start contributing to society, instead of continually detracting from it, I would re-evaluate my opinion. But until then, I'm better than this guy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Twelve Days of (Marine Corps) Boot Camp

With the Christmas season comes the onslaught of Christmas carols. Whenever I hear the Twelve Days of Christmas, I can't help but think of a version I learned while I was in the Marine Corps. I'm going to just write up the list. After all, I know that my readers are all smart enough to apply the list to the song. I know that there will be one or two items that non-Marines may not understand. If you're that curious, you could always enlist :)

Either way, Enjoy.

On the (x) day of Boot Camp, the Marine Corps gave to me...

12 Court Martials
11 Office Hours
10 Page Elevens
9 Tops a' spinnin'
8 Gunnys Jumping
7 Staffs a' Sweatin'
6 Sergeants Bitching
5 F*cking Shots
4 Sets of Cammies
3 Cammy Covers
2 Combat Boots
And a Haircut that wasn't worth a F*ck

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thank you, Adam Carolla

I’ve been thinking about Adam Carolla’s recent rant about OWS. In case you haven’t seen... rather, heard it... (the “view” is merely a still picture of Carolla during his audio rant) here’s a link. But you’ve got to read this BEFORE you listen to his diatribe. This isn't because I want the first shot per se. No, my request is based on a far more practical rationale. Carolla's piece goes on for over nine minutes, and statistically speaking, our collective attention span isn't long enough to read my words AND listen to Carolla's rant in a single sitting. So please, for the love of God, read my stuff first, and then, by all means, go listen to Carolla. (And dammit, I keep wanting to write Corolla... as in the Toyota economy car. Nothing against Adam... that's simply a slip of my fingers.)

Since I've asked you to read my article before listening to Carolla's take on life, I should give you a quick summary, which is my interpretation of what was said. Essentially, he asserts that the Millennials are a bunch of self-entitled whiners who were all brought up to believe that they were unique and wonderful. Now that they're adults, the millennials, who have entered the real world, are crying that life isn't puppies and rainbows, and the OWS movement is a result of this trend.

I'm going to start out by saying that I agree with Carolla -- to a point. When I was a kid, we played dodge ball, red rover, and tackle football. We rode bikes without helmets and rode in cars without seat belts. In school, we were even judged based on (gasp!) our academic achievements. Some kids earned their way into advanced placement classes, and others actually failed. Believe it or not, I know a couple of kids who were held back a year. And, you know what? We turned out okay.

Based on what I've read, Carolla and is only a few years older than me. We're both part of Generation X. We came of age in an era that required a lot of self-reliance, but society made a radical shift in its child-raising technique shortly after we became adults. Somewhere along the line, adults decided that declaring a winner and loser in competitive sports was damaging to the self-esteem of the losing team. They determined that dodge ball was too aggressive. They figured that holding back an illiterate child was counter productive.

Over time, this mentality grew to ludicrous proportions. The fat kid who took 30 minutes to walk 100 yards because he couldn't put down the f*cking twinkie long enough to concentrate on the race was labeled "equal" to the track star. The Mathlete was placed on the same plane as the kid who couldn't correctly answer "2+2." The young Shakespeare was placed in the same class as the kid who struggled to read "See Spot run." Everyone was a unique snowflake in a beautiful, unspoiled winter meadow.

This is an area where I agree with Carolla. The side-effect of this was that mediocrity and failure were celebrated, and excellence was downplayed -- nay, ignored. The best and brightest were stifled, and the slackers were rewarded. Now, in adulthood, they've entered the real world. The laziest of them, thinking that they're wonderful and special, are demanding their due, not realizing that they're actually receiving it... because WE brought them up to think that they're better than they are. The best of them seem to understand this, but have been raised to believe that striving for more yields no rewards.

To use a crappy parallel, this is a microcosm of Communism. Communism, in its theoretical form, is great. "From each according to his ability. To each according to his needs." It's a wonderful idea. In practice though, it sucks. Communism drags everyone down. If we're all treated equally, then nobody excels, because there's no reward for excellence... intrinsically or extrinsically.

But with that said, it's time to diverge from Carolla's point. In order to explain MY position, I'm going to start with a different Carolla piece. Roughly three to six months ago, I heard a different Carolla monologue. I assume that it was a podcast, but I can't find it. In that monologue, he used an analogy that discussed pushing a car. The point was that the top 1% of wage earners paid about 50% of America's taxes. So, picture the economy as a stalled car. In his discussion, the top 1% is already pushing half of the weight of the car, and he cries that it's not fair. And not only is it not fair, but some of the other half -- the ones that aren't carrying their weight, are screaming that they're tired, and that one percent isn't doing enough... that they should push more.

On the surface, Carolla makes a great point. If all things were equal, everyone pushing that car would be putting an equal amount of force into getting that car to move. What Carolla ignores though, is the fact that those pushing this theoretical car don't all have the same amount of strength. Some of the people pushing this car are old women. Some are in wheelchairs. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some of them are bodybuilders. To take this loose analogy a step further, some of the people involved are quadriplegics, and their only place is inside of the car. Let's say that there are 20 people pushing a 2000 pound car. If all things were equal, everyone would push with 100 pounds of force, and the car would move. (Okay, my physics is off, but the analogy remains.) But the fact of the matter is, two or three of the guys are quadriplegic. One guy is an Olympic power lifter who could theoretically push half of the car himself. The remaining seventeen of the people pushing this car are a few fifty-somethings who are past their prime, a couple of kids who haven't reached their potential, a couple of 90-pound weaklings, and a few average Joes. While it's reasonable to expect that everyone do their fair share, it's not reasonable to expect the quadriplegic to push with the same amount of force as the Olympic power lifter.

THAT is the idea behind asking the rich to pay more in taxes than the poor. During Carolla's discussion of the car analogy, he went back to the money issue. He basically said that he makes a lot of money, and he resents that he should be asked to pay for the poor. I'm not disputing what he's saying. In fact, I agree with what he's saying to some extent. But at the same time, he shouldn't expect the quadriplegic guy to push the car beyond his physical ability. That's just not reasonable. In fact, the quadriplegia should be sitting IN the car, and everyone else should push the car with the disabled dude inside of the vehicle. I agree with his assertion that there's a 20-something guy, in his prime, who's giving lip service to moving the car. These people do exist.

But reality is far messier than the analogy. We basically have two choices. We can either acknowledge that we won't tolerate people not carrying their weight, and screw the legitimately disabled in the process, or we can help the legitimately disabled, acknowledging that some people won't carry their weight. That's the reality of the situation. What that means in practice is that we don't assist everyone who genuinely needs it, or we agree to help everyone in need, with the understanding that some people will play the system and receive assistance that a moral person would not accept. In a pure capitalistic society, we are willing to let the least of us fall through the cracks. In a highly socialistic society, we allow the lazy to sponge off of the system. This is the crux of the moral dilemma we're facing right now. Personally, my best hope is for some sort of middle ground. I am willing to accept that some of us will fall through the cracks, while acknowledging that a few undeserving, immoral individuals will receive aid that they don't deserve. Realistically, that's the only answer that I can find. I just hope that whatever we come up with -- something that's open to refinement along the way -- will minimize abuse AND collateral damage.

In the end, it seems that the best answer will come from average, everyday citizens. When I am elected as your President, here's what I'd like to do... assemble a group of 50 to 100 Americans who will be tasked with the goal of implementing a sustainable economic agenda. They will propose an overall policy, in plain language, that will be forwarded to Congress for approval. This will have many ramifications. 1) It will show the public at large that finding a real solution to our current problems isn't as easy as it sounds. 2) It will accurately reflect the will of the people. 3) It will prove that average Americans from disparate walks of life are able to work toward a common goal. 4) It will reflect the will of the people at large. 5) It will expose politicians who are more concerned with their personal quest for power and wealth, those who are focused on the will of lobbyists, and those who genuinely care about the will of the people. 6) It will consider the reality that we need to live within our means... something that our current elected officials are unable or unwilling to understand.