Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, January 04, 2010

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.


Blogger Lew Scannon said...

It's great that communities are holding corporations to their promises. Now if we could only do the same for our politicians.....

January 4, 2010 at 5:50 PM  
Blogger Holte Ender said...

It's to great read that the giant retailers are being asked to honor their part of an agreement, after all they can't take their distribution centers to Mexico, can they?

January 4, 2010 at 8:24 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Those are examples of good news, all right. And just when some good news is really welcome.

Reading about Target, I had visions of an executive staff meeting where the CEO tells about the corp being fined for hiring too few people. And some jerk in a $600 suit pipes up, "Well, let's show them. Why can't we put that distribution center in Shanghai, or something?"

Duh. :)

January 4, 2010 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

It's people like you that want our economy to fail and become a subsidiary of China.

January 5, 2010 at 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Jess said...

Tom, what I am finding refreshing are all the people actually being qualified for the jobs they are appointed to. We don't have any Arabian horse judges doing emergency management these days. The right is all up in a fluff about one of his latest appointments. A transgender woman, appointed to the Commerce dept. and the right is going on about how it is being done for quotas/political correctness. Here is the blurb put out yesterday from those who need to Focus on their own damn family before focusing on anyone elses. I don't know but "teh gheyz" and this agenda they have keeps eluding everyone I know who is gay. It must require some kind of secret decoder ring or a secret handshake to get the actual agenda.

"Is there going to be a transgender quota now in the Obama administration?" asked Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth. "How far does this politics of gay and transgender activism go? Clearly this is an administration that is pandering to the gay lobby." [...]

"We should consider what transgender activism is about," he said," which is essentially recognizing civil rights based on gender confusion."

Matt Barber, associate dean at Liberty University, said the appointment "boggles the mind."

"This isn't like appointing an African-American in order to try to provide diversity and right some kind of discriminatory wrong," he said. "This is about political correctness."

It is about damn time corporations have to give back to cities. Walmart is the biggest one. They have more people taking money out of localities, than any other company. Figure in their shitty wages they pay their employees who then have to go on food stamps and some on public assistance. Sports arenas are the other thing that gets on my nerves. Why do cities and counties have to pony up money to keep these overpaid superstars?

January 5, 2010 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: Holding politicians to their promises? Right, that'll happen.

Holte, SW: As bad as it's been with all the outsourcing and offshoring, I don't think it's been caused by taxes and regulations. I was encouraged that Topeka has had business booming, even though the city government is holding Target's feet to the fire. The Right has spent decades scaring everybody with "businesses will leave if ____________!" I think it's just a rightwing scare tactic.

Randal: Didn't you know? We've already been a subsidiary of China for years now.

Jess: You're right -- people actually being qualified for the jobs they've been hired to do, what a concept.

Maybe there's a secret "gay" sign, similar to all those gang signs that talk about on cop shows :)

I hadn't heard about that transgender woman appointed to the Commerce Dept., but it figures the rightwads are having a hissy fit over it.

Don't get me started on those stadium owners. They're the most blatant example of millionaires getting huge handouts from the public, keeping all of their profits and then packing up and taking their team to another city any time they feel like it.

January 5, 2010 at 5:18 PM  
Anonymous kate said...

a step in the right direction, but target is a drop in the bucket. we need to old accountable the "BIG BOYS"...make them stand up to their promises, said or insinuated.

January 6, 2010 at 4:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are two sides to this economic mess, Bad Laws and Lax Enforcement of the present ones. Fix either one and we could have probably avoided it or been in better shape like Europe which has stronger regulations. When Reagan thought to get business of the Government’s back he got Agriculture of the Meat Packer’s back and we had increased incidents of recalled tainted meat. Clinton put them back and guess what? Less incidents.

The Best a Democratic President can usually do is more enforcement (as the republicans will do their best to block any regulations). Amazing how much confidence is restored in the Government when there is more enforcement. You find out Business really can still remain in Business with regulations (in spite of what conservatives tell you), they won’t all jump to China and as an added extra bonus, Government rakes in more revenue.


January 6, 2010 at 1:13 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

"Don't get me started on those stadium owners."

For the record, our very own Worst President in U.S. History was part of a group that stuck it to a major Texas city/county for a big, fancy stadium in order to keep a major-league team. According to the late Molly Ivins, who wrote about it, city and county taxpayers got soaked while the promoters made out like — what else? — bandits.

January 6, 2010 at 2:32 PM  
Anonymous Bee said...

I'm kind of liking that Solis...I figured she would turn out fine, though, from what I read about her during her nomination.

It's about time the localities start making their corporate welfare recipients live up to their end of the bargain, IMHO.

January 6, 2010 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kate: I'm all in favor of that, holding the "Big Boys" accountable. It's pretty unlikely though, since the Big Boys have a stranglehold on politicians of both parties.

Erik: Good point -- stepping up enforcement is pretty much the best a Democratic administration can hope for. Obama will have to make the most of this opportunity, since the next Republican president will appoint foxes to guard the henhouses, and/or reduce funding for those agencies he doesn't like.

SW: Yup, I remember that. So much for all of Bush's slogans about property rights (a lot of eminent domain abuse if I remember right), self-reliance and limited government.

Bee: Yes, Solis sounds pretty good from everything I've read. And you're right, it's about time large corporations start earning their welfare checks.

January 6, 2010 at 7:45 PM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I think I know how this will all turn out. Companies will just underestimate the numbers. We see that all the time in corporate estimates of earnings. They always underestimate so that when the actual figures come out they come out smelling like a rose.
The other issue here is what's to prevent them from moving to a red "right to starve" state? Texas or South Carolina come to mind. Boeing just did that you know.

January 7, 2010 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Demeur: Good point. I could picture Target or Wal-Mart telling a city official "Our new center will create Fifty new jobs! And all you have to do in return is give us this huge tax break."

As far as businesses moving out if they get taxed or regulated -- that linked article was encouraging because Topeka has a lot of new businesses locating there even though Topeka held Target's feet to the fire. But then, Kansas is a red state. So who knows.

January 7, 2010 at 12:15 PM  

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