Starting the Decade with some Good News
Yes, the political/economic situation sucks. So far Obama’s “leadership” is more like a substitute teacher who stands there sputtering and waving his/her arms frantically while the whole class is running around, yelling, laughing and throwing spitballs and paper airplanes.
But there are a few silver linings. For the first time in a looong time, the Secretary of Labor is actually sticking up for working people and cracking down on workplace safety violations. Imagine that — a cabinet member who actually agrees with the agency he/she is in charge of, rather than being a Trojan Horse sent to destroy that agency from within. After eight years of henhouses being guarded by foxes, this is a refreshing change.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced that there was a new sheriff in town when she was appointed last year, and so far she’s been backing that up. Last October OSHA issued the largest fine in its history against a Texas oil firm for repeated safety violations. She also has hired 250 more investigators to go after companies that cheat their employees out of wages and overtime pay.
Solis said: “We will not rest until the law is followed by every employer, and each worker is treated and compensated fairly.” What a concept.
In other good news, cities and counties are lashing out at corporate welfare cheats. Their main target is large companies that get huge tax breaks in return for locating in a community and creating X number of jobs. If the number of jobs created is less than X, and/or there are layoffs soon after the company opens its new location — that company’s tax rate goes way waaay up.
One example is DeKalb, Illinois, where Target opened a new distribution center with (supposedly) five hundred job positions. There turned out to be just 434 positions. Boom! Target’s next tax bill will be $600,000 higher. More than half of that money will go to the local cash-starved school district.
Corporations get an estimated $60 billion a year in tax abatements from local governments. Cities and counties are starting to follow DeKalb’s example.
Geoff McKimm, a member of the Monroe County Council in Indiana, said:
“The public is a lot more aware of tax abatements and there's a climate of skepticism about what can be perceived as corporate handouts.”
This article also puts to rest for once and for all the rightwing urban legend that “businesses will leave!” if they get taxed, regulated or forced to live up to their agreements.
An assistant county counselor in Shawnee County, Kansas, said:
“We were told that we were going to ruin Topeka's ability to attract businesses; we'd give Topeka a black eye.”
He was referring to a settlement that requires Target (again) to pay $200,000 a year for ten years for creating fewer jobs than they had promised. Instead of ruining Topeka’s business climate:
“Last year we opened a Home Depot distribution center right next door.”
And finally: well, nobody ever accused meth heads of being intelligent.