Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Proud, proud, a little bit worried, proud

I am so proud of my friends, Paul Mulshine and Andi Getek, both of them former Daily Times reporters, for staying in their home in Bay Head, N.J., and doing what news reporters do -- report.
Paul, a columnist for the Newark Star Ledger, and Andi, a teacher who teaches journalism in a middle school in Monmouth County, stayed in their home, about seven or eight blocks from the beach, and are currently without food and water, except what they stockpiled, and without electricity.  I don't know, but I suspect, that their oldest daughter, Molly, also a reporter for a local newspaper/blog, also stayed.
It's what I would have done.  It's what any reporter I know would have done.  A reporter does not turn his or her back on the story of a lifetime in the face of a little danger.  War correspondents, so many of whom have been killed, do not opt out of danger.
The list is long, but I am thinking now of Marie Colvin, who you probably never heard of, who died so heroically in Homs, Syria earlier this year.
New Yorkers are the toughest people on earth and Newersyites are the second toughest people on earth, and Gov. Chris Christie and President Obama are heroes without equal.
I lived in New Jersey -- Camden, Trenton, Toms River - for 23 years of my life and I remember several wonderful moderate (wild-eyed liberal) Republicans, including Clifford Case, Edwin Forsythe and Millicent Fenwick (on whom the Doonesbury character was based) who held office during those years. 
If that fat-assed, obnoxious, insufferable Christie runs in 2016, I may find myself forcing my right hand with my left hand (think Dr. Strangelove) to pull the lever for him.
Hurray New Jersey.  We have your back.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grandma's coming home, are you ready?

"Government does not create jobs."
"I will create 12 million new jobs."
"Teachers don't grow the economy." 
Mitt Romney has said each of these things.  At least one of these statements is not true.  Actually, I think none of them is true.
Government -- federal state and local -- actually creates one hellava lot of jobs and can cut one hellava lot of jobs.
Mitt Romney says 600,000 women have lost their jobs in the last four years.  True.  But what he doesn't say is that many of them teachers, social workers, state workers other public sector employees in states now controlled by Republican governors and legislatures intent on breaking public sector unions and cutting spending on the social safety net to the bone.
But the laid-off workers know that and their families know that and their mortgage companies and car payment companies and utilities providers know that.  Their grocery stores and doctors and clothing stores and insurance companies know that. 
Here in Pennsylvania, 232 unemployment division workers have been laid off themselves, making  it nearly impossible for all of those who have been recently unemployed to even apply for unemployment insurance.  Brilliant, (one-term) Governor Corbett!
One concession those unemployment division workers won -- they could submit their own unemployment benefits applications before they walked out the door.  
If the Republicans succeed in being elected, seize Congress and implement their wonderful plans to turn Medicaid into block grants to the states -- because the states know so much better how to spend our money -- you can expect Grandma and/or Grandpa to wind up on your doorstep or the nearest street corner very soon
Medicaid pays for hundreds of thousands of destitute seniors to be cared for in nursing homes.  By the very existence of this benefit, it creates thousands of nursing home jobs.
Want the states to take that away?  Congrats, here comes grandma.
The nursing homes will disappear and the seniors it provides with care (after they have spent every last dime they have except Social Security and Medicare), will not have any place to go but home -- your know, the place where if they knock on your door, you have to take them in.
But there are many other ways in which government creates jobs or services, both directly and indirectly.
Take for example, the military -- and by "the military," I do not mean the troops, I mean the military industrial complex that builds weapons and provides all the goods and services that the troops need at 200 bases around the world.
Just by giving out contracts to private companies, the government creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and  enables small companies to become big companies.  Mitt Romney keeps saying he wants to support small businesses, although by his definition, a small business can employ 10,000 workers.  That ain't your corner McDonalds or your local insurance broker.  
Here's a sampling of the military contracts that were given out to private companies just in the month of October in no particular size or order:
* $59 million to the Raytheon Corp. "for the modification of an existing contract to support the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor"  and $240 million in other contracts for whatever, all given out in one day (Oct. 5). 
* $490 million to General Dynamics, Electric Boat, in Groton, Conn., for plans, drawings and technical data for a new nuclear submarine (just the plans, mind you), plus $72.5 million to "exercise an option" for the decommissioning of the U.S.S. Enterprise.(Oct. 16).
* $8.5 million to Boeing Corp., St. Louis, to "procure 12 virtual Mission Training System kits and spares in support of the T-45 aircraft platform" (Oct. 16).
* $9.4 million for research and development for the Air Force Radiation Effects Laboratory (Oct. 16).
*$45 million to Communications and Power LLC for a "simplified driver traveling wave tube to be used by the Navy and Missile Defense Agency" (Oct. 3).
* $21 million to J. W. Clark Enterprises"for painting and vinyl wall covering throughout Hampton Roads, Va." (Oct. 3).  Pretty sure they mean the military installations in and around Hampton Roads.   Now there's a small painting company that went big. 
* $90 million for airfield pavement construction services at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam (Oct. 12). Wonder if a local company won that contract or if they have to fly workers and equipment in. 
* $349 million to Raytheon Co. for "TOW missiles wireless precision-assault capability" (Oct. 8).
That's just a very small sample of the contracts that the federal government gives out every day to private companies to maintain our military and all its gadgets and all its paving and painting and food service and uniforms and flagpoles and jeeps and barracks mattresses and toothpaste and golf courses and officer's clubs and training facilities and who knows what else.
The moving of military families from one base to another (moving companies)  is huge as is family housing (construction companies) as is clothing (the garment industry) and shoes and hats and vehicles and soda machines and fences and sand bags and flights and doctors and dentists and hospitals and VA hospitals .... and ...
Our military is already larger and more powerful than the next 10, 20 or 25 countries combined.  When you see that we are spending this kind of money on it day in and day out, you just have to say, "Wow."  
How many employees do these contracts support?  How small did these companies start out and how big have they become? 
And these are direct jobs.  Think of all the indirect ones.  Some companies have to formulate all those tests we are constantly giving to our students, soldiers, civil service employees. 
Some companies have to develop the forms and training programs and manuals and Internet sites that our governments use to contact, register, screen and eliminate applicants for jobs, welfare, food stamps, unemployment, bids and contracts. Some company has to provide the vehicles, furniture and supplies that keeps government going.
Some companies develop the computer programs and supply the computers, printer, radios, walkie-talkies, nightsticks, Tasers, police cars, prisons, courtrooms, schools, playgrounds, sports equipment and offices our public employees use.
The truth is, not many small companies become big companies without having anything whatever to do with supplying or servicing government.
And government employs a great many people.  How many teachers, police, firemen, trash collectors, road construction workers, economists, agricultural specialists, water and electric workers, state, county and municipal workers, doctors, nurses, janitors, judges, bailiffs, prison guards, parole officers, social workers, school nurses, bus drivers and cafeteria workers do we employ every single day?
Hell yes the government creates and sustains jobs, scads and scads of jobs.
Here's the bottom line -- government is an industry, perhaps the biggest industry we have left.  We are all shareholders in it and all consumers of it.  
No matter who is elected, we will all have to pay more taxes to support this industry.  That is the pain that is coming. 
But perhaps if we keep government employees working and taking home a paycheck, they can pay their own taxes and mortgages and bills and share our pain.  Otherwise, we will be paying for them, but they will not be paying for us.