Union Busiting: No News; Stock Market: Big News!

United SteelworkersThe American steel industry is still highly unionized. And the United Steelworkers (USW) union is coming to the end of its current contract at the beginning of next month. As a result, the steel businesses are doing everything they can to break the unions. Hey, why not? That’s the American way, right? The rise of unions, wages, and the middle class was just an aberration that went totally against the true nature of America, which is the extreme inequality and strife of a banana republic. And we are almost there. As I note often, most people who aren’t in unions have given up hoping they will one day be in one, and instead focus on being angry at the few people who are still in unions.

Allegheny Technologies Inc (ATI) is trying to bust the union in a big way. According to USW, “More than 2,200 members of the United Steelworkers have been locked out of their jobs by Allegheny Technologies since August 15, 2015. Workers have offered to continue working while negotiations proceed, but ATI’s management team has rebuffed the offer and demanded that the union submit to deep concessions before allowing workers back to their jobs.” Charming. But that’s the way it is in modern America. There is no sense of community, and now CEOs are applauded for destroying thousands of jobs.

I’ll make a guess that this is the first that you’ve heard about this. It certainly is the first that I’ve heard about this and these people have been kept from working for two weeks. But I know something that you have heard about: the big stock market plunge earlier this week. Oh. My. God. You would have thought that Armageddon had arrived and Jesus was riding a horse through Galilee wielding a sword — lopping off the heads of nonbelievers everywhere.

My understanding is that a big part of the stock crash was automatic, computer trades. These are really a pox on the world. They don’t do anything. The purpose of the stock market is to get capital to where it is needed. It is a special kind of bank. But these micro-trades are just a way that people use the system to siphon off money from other traders. In other words: it is just a way of making less capital available to do its work in the regular economy. As Dean Baker wrote this last week, The Stock Market Is Not the Economy. So really: who cares?

Of course, sadly, we all care! That’s because what is happening in the stock market is crammed down our throats. The S&P 500 went down 12% (and then almost immediately gained it all back, but let’s table that for now). Did that mean that the US was going to produce 12% less steel? Certainly not. It meant that a bunch of rich people whose wealth doesn’t represent much that is real were going to be slightly less rich (for a day or two). Meanwhile, ATI is advertising for scabs to replace the workers they refuse to use:

Must be able to lift up to 50 lbs and work in a standing position for entire shift (12 hours/day) in a high heat/temperature manufacturing environment. Workweek is 84 hours/week.

Previous experience in a metal manufacturing or processing facility is required. All positions require working for unknown duration and are temporary. THIS IS A LABOR DISPUTE SITUATION — EMPLOYEES WILL BE TRANSPORTED ACROSS A PICKET LINE.

But this isn’t news because people like you and me are being badly hurt. But if a rich person gets a hangnail, well, stop the presses!

What Americans Want on Both Sides

David Cay JohnstonThose turning out to hear Sanders and Trump may not understand the economics of aggregate demand and the government policies that prompt their anxiety. However, they do know that 35 years after Ronald Reagan won the presidency with promises that lower income tax rates and the handcuffing of government regulators would make America prosper, the results are dire: falling incomes, flat to falling wages except at the very tip top, a severe narrowing of asset ownership, slow job growth, and job insecurity — all while the rich get ever richer.

Thus while Sanders and Trump draw people with very different perspectives, in many ways their underlying appeal is similar. They both speak to anxieties about jobs, pay, and Social Security, even if they propose divergent solutions. Sanders, 73, promotes democratic socialism, under which government regulates business for the public benefit and provides education, more Social Security, and other services that reduce individual economic vulnerability. Trump, 69, promotes a government that would block offshoring jobs, round up undocumented immigrants in the US to open more jobs to Americans, and protect Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the individual economic vulnerability of citizens only.

Numerous polls show broad agreement across the political spectrum on economic issues that vex people. Vast majorities want to increase Social Security benefits, reduce offshoring of jobs, close corporate tax loopholes, and impose higher income taxes on those making more than $1 million annually (a position that even millionaires favor).

This broad agreement means that except for those in Congress who would block it, plenty of room exists to build a larger, more solid American economy.

—David Cay Johnston
The Antidote to Economic Anxiety Is Better Government

Why Wouldn’t Evangelicals Like Trump?

Elizabeth Stoker BruenigElizabeth Stoker Bruenig asks a good question, Why Is Donald Trump Winning Over Evangelical Voters? The truth is that evangelicals are not actually more interested in Trump than other Republicans. Still, it is telling. And they have other good choices. They have Ben Carson, a man who got through college and medical school while still believing the universe is only 6,000 years old. They have a minister (who is friends with the writer of “Cat Scratch Fever”). They have the guy who said, “And it’s only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I’ve been redeemed from my sins.” She noted, “And yet, with all of these perfectly serviceable choices, evangelicals still appear curiously interested in Trump, whose Christian bona fides add up to exactly nothing…” Yet it is Trump they prefer.

Bruenig has a curious answer to the question. She thinks evangelicals have spent so much time getting lip service from the Republican Party, that they are revolting. They like the fact that Donald Trump isn’t offering them anything, because they know that nothing is what they are going to get regardless. I love this theory, but I think it has a huge problem: it depends upon the idea that the Republican Party has used evangelicals and given them nothing in return. That just isn’t true. In fact, it isn’t close to true.

Donald TrumpOn the federal level, conservative Christians got the Defense of Marriage Age and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The entire country has turned against the Christian conservatives on LGBT issues, but that is hardly the fault of the Republican Party. And the Republicans have done everything they can to counter Obergefell v Hodges — which would now require a Constitutional amendment. And on the Supreme Court, Republicans have put on four extreme social conservatives. On the state level, abortion has been effectively made illegal in many places — all thanks for the Republican Party.

I think the answer to Bruenig’s question is much simpler: there isn’t anything different between evangelical and non-evangelical conservatives. The evangelicals may whine about the gays and about abortion, but they primarily care about one thing: those people. They want to “get” those people because those people are the reason that their lives are so bad. It’s a great irony, of course, that what has most hurt the lives of these conservative voters are the policies of the party that gets them to vote for it by promising to get “those people.”

For years, I’ve been writing about the fact that for the vast majority of people religion is nothing more than a cultural signifier. I know that Bruenig takes religion very seriously herself. And so she doesn’t want to think that for most Christians, their religion is just a reflection of them being the right kind of people. But it’s true. And there is another irony, because Mexico (and when conservatives talk about immigrants, they always mean Mexicans) is more religious than the United States. Meanwhile, Canada is much less religious than we are. But they are okay. I wonder why that is? I don’t mean to suggest that it is racism; I mean to say it right out: it’s racism.

So it doesn’t even make much sense to ask why evangelicals like Donald Trump. They may be evangelicals, but that doesn’t mean that they are religious in the way that the early Christians would have understood the word. But that’s okay, because the evangelicals would have hated the early Christians as much as they hate the Mexicans today, even though some, I assume, were good people.

See also: Why Donald Trump Appeals to Evangelicals.

Peggy Noonan Thinks She Has a Latino Friend

Peggy NoonanPeggy Noonan seems to think that Donald Trump can win the Latino vote, America Is So in Play. She thinks this because she spoke to a Dominican who listens to a Hispanic radio station and people called into say how much they liked Trump. I guess it isn’t quite as bad as Thomas Friedman thinking globalization is good because a cab driver in Dubai complained about regulation. Still, it’s pretty dumb. But I’m not interested in that. Trump, Noonan, Hispanic radio stations. I’m interested in one sentence from Noonan’s article, “My friend Cesar works the deli counter at my neighborhood grocery store.”

I’m a friendly guy. I’m also polite to a fault. But my friends are people I have over for dinner. We go to see movies. We exchange email. When I’m almost dead in the hospital, my friends come and visit me. I buy them (or their kids) presents — at least when I’m not too poor. So unless Cesar is such a person in Peggy Noonan’s life, and he just happens to work the deli counter at her neighborhood grocery store, he isn’t her friend. The conversations she has with him always involve a deli counter between them and what they talk about is equivalent to, “How ’bout them Mets?!”

Noonan of course thinks that Cesar is her friend because she could, if she wanted, invite him to a dinner party and because she is a minor celebrity, he would probably come. But she never would do that. He isn’t part of her class. And imagine if it were reversed. If Cesar asked Noonan over for dinner: it would just be weird. Noonan would probably start going to a different neighborhood grocery store and Cesar might well get fired.

I have some experience in this regard. For years, I stood behind a deli counter where I had many pleasant conversations with people who were overwhelmingly of my own class. Yet I never referred to them as “friends.” Well, that’s not exactly true: sometimes my friends came into the deli, but that’s obviously a different matter. But I have more recent experience with my older sister who has spent almost her whole working life as a grocery store clerk — which just so happens to include a lot of time working behind the deli counter.

My sister will often tell me stories about the people she serves. She refers to them in a general sense as “the regulars.” If she is referring to a specific person, she will say something like, “There’s this one customer who I really like.” Never, in a decade and a half of listening to my sister have I ever heard her refer to a customer as a “friend.” It would seem bizarre to her for a simple reason: if she stopped working at the store, she would never see them again. In fact, she talks about how older customers sometimes disappear and she assumes they died. It’s sad that people die, but it is different when friends die.

What Noonan’s claim about her “friend” Cesar reminds me of is the master who thinks, “Of course my slaves love me!” It is a delusion that only those with power have. If Cesar were her actual friend, she wouldn’t only have conversations with him when she “went by” the deli counter at her neighborhood grocery store. I’m sure if you asked Peggy Noonan, she would say, “Some of my best friends are Latinos!” What she means is, “I’m friendly with a number of Latinos who are paid to serve me.”

Morning Music: Charm City Devils

Sins - Charm City DevilsCharm City Devils are not exactly my kind of band. But I appreciate standard hard rock in the tradition of Blue Öyster Cult or early Black Sabbath. But maybe it is more correct to say that Charm City Devils are more like the very early Nirvana. Regardless, back in 2012, they recorded a cover of “Man of Constant Sorrow” off their album Sins. And I really think they make it their own.

Given most of us around Frankly Curious are a bit long in the tooth, I’d be curious to hear what others think of it. “Man of Constant Sorrow” is a great song that really can work in any format at all. It’s just a question of performers deciding that they want to do it. And as much as I love the Dan Tyminski version of the song, I’m glad to hear very little of it in his version.

Anniversary Post: Last Beatles Performance

The Beatles at Candlestick ParkOn this day back in 1966, The Beatles played their last commercial concert in Candlestick Park — right outside San Francisco. And can you blame them? If you’ve ever listened to those early live concerts, they are mostly just girls screaming. Also, and I don’t want to hammer this too hard, the music isn’t that great. Given the environment, you can’t exactly complain. Their voices sound like they are blown out — especially John’s. And most of those early songs don’t do that much for me.

They had the opportunity to stop performing and it was a good idea to do it. Of course, I’ve never cared that much for live popular music. Jazz is a different matter where any given performance — wherever it occurs — can be something very special: unique. A good example of this is Flamenco Sketches from Kind of Blue. The first take of it (which was put at the end of a later release of the album), just isn’t quite right. That’s jazz.

But with pop music, the songs are all set. There is very little interaction between the performers. And guitar solos? Maybe — sometimes. But certainly The Beatles were not better live. In fact, if you ask me, Paul was the only interesting musician of the bunch. John and George were capable. And Ringo was and still is a joke.

But here’s the performance. I don’t recommend it:


And before any fans complain: it did say “last commercial concert.”