Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How is everyone this morning?  We are supposed to get snow followed by a mix of snow/sleet/rain with rising temps.  Mom and I are hanging loose to see if we will feel comfortable with the driving conditions to make it to my sister's for Christmas Eve.  We won't know till tomorrow morning.

I found this little bit of unpleasantness on Congress.org this morning.
"Under existing law, as part of a deal to give up outside income from speeches and other sources, Congress receives an automatic pay raise unless it votes otherwise. In January, Congress will receive a raise of $4,700, this will increase the average Member's pay to about $174,000, or a 2.8 percent increase. "
They have a link for you to chime in with your support or opposition.  In answer to the question of whether I oppose or favor:  the first one--in spades.  They have done little to deserve it and should follow the lead of Caterpillar's CEO who, according to a news item last night,  is getting a pay cut of 50%. (Note on that, another source, David Rosenberg on Mauldin's Outside the Box blog entry, says this is really 20%.  Other top management will see a cut of around 30%.  

Another item on the news was somewhat bittersweet.  An increasing number of companies are cutting hours and benefits but not jobs.  It is nice that they are trying to keep people on but I wonder how many can really afford to take an unpaid vacation of between a week and a month.  I noticed also how the news spot focused on those employees who were so grateful for their jobs that they are willing to accept the cuts.  I didn't see a single interview with an employee who expressed anything more than mild regret.  No serious hardship--no major complaints.  An Anti-Walmart site, The Writing On The Wal, saw the same thing and noted that that is what Walmart has been doing all along.  How many of those employees will now be looking for part time jobs to fill out their depleted paychecks?

John Mauldin (Sorry I can't link to this. It comes as an e-mail.)  has posted a piece by David Rosenberg from Merrill Lynch that makes a point that has been in my mind every time I listen to accounts of Obama's plans to boost employment by 3 million jobs (as of his latest projection which was upped because of the worsening jobs news.) 
"We have 1.2 million unemployed construction workers. We have 123,000 unemployed architects and engineers. We have 83,000 unemployed machinery workers. We have 145,000 unemployed transportation-related workers. So that brings us to barely more than 1.5 million of a labor pool the government can tap into for all the new building activity. But the bulk of the joblessness is in financials (up to half a million), retail/wholesale (1.2 million), leisure/hospitality (1.3 million) and health/education (1.2 million). And if investment bankers, shopkeepers, bell captains and medical chart technicians have anything in common it is that they don't have much experience in shovel-ready activities."
My point:  what about the rest of us??  Rosenberg also notes the trend to cut hours and benefits as well as the fact that Americans are not as willing to uproot themselves for jobs which indicates a frozen, deflationary labor market.  But, as I have pointed out in a previous blog, this has been going on for sometime.  I worked for a time in a law office starting at $10/hr.  When that job ended, a year and a half later,  the starting pay had dropped to $7.50/hr for experienced workers.  I worked for a time as an inventory auditor starting at $9.50/hr.  A year after I left that job the starting pay for the same job at the same company was $8.50.  I worked for a time as a sales associate and balloon artist starting at $7.25/hr.  During the last year and a half that store was open we had two new clerks who were started at $6.50/hr.  That is deflation, People.  But no one noticed.

John Aravosis at Americablog links to Arianna Huffington at the Huffington Post who has some very good comments on the economic situation.  The gist of the argument is that free market capitalism is a vampire that needs to be staked as thoroughly as Soviet communism.  We are not where we are because people in high places failed to see problems.  Rather:
"... the mistake was the ideology that led to the problems. Communism didn't fail because Soviet leaders didn't execute it well enough. Same with free market fundamentalism. In fact, Bush and his team did a bang-up job executing a defective theory. The problem wasn't just the bathwater; the baby itself is rotten to the core."

I think that is enough ranting for the day.  See you all soon.


Kay Dennison said...

Well said!!!

We're supposed to get ice this afternoon -- I hope it waits until I get done at the doc's office.

Boomer Chick said...

No snow, no ice, but really cold here on the east coast. I think it's crazy when Congress can give raises and the rest of the world is unemployed and for once America started voicing their opinions during the presidential campaign...hope those voices are still going strong because we can't step back, we must step forward and let our voices be heard.