The Widdershins

Posts Tagged ‘Economy

Hello Widdershins!

Another week, more shenanigans from Sinenchin. AZ Senator who caucuses with Democrats went to fundraise in Europe while steadfastly insisting the filibuster is saving democracy and Manchin finally drew one red line on what he is willing to support: transitioning from coal to sustainable energy. We all thought Manchin objected to the cost of Biden’s BBB bill, but that ain’t it. It’s the pretty cheap part of the bill that transitions his state from coal. Manchin can’t have that. Coal must flow!!!! Even though it is a tiny part of the state’s industry (Arby’s employs more people than the coal industry). But Manchin looooooves coal. So.

Also Bernie Sanders released a blistering statement criticizing how the media is obsessed with the price tag of the bill, while the public has no idea what’s in the bill. Bernie is right (someone check hell, it must be freezing.) The press only talks about the $3.5 trillion price tag and the negotiations. They barely mention what’s actually in the bill. Naturally this sent the press (people like Magga Haberman!) into a tail spin of “This isn’t our fault, it’s your fault! It’s never our fault!” social media posts. Fact check: It is the media’s fault. 3.5 trillion % the media’s fault. The same media still insists their coverage of 2016 election was perfect. But I keep going back to Harvard’s Shorenstein Media Center’s study that ABC, NBC & CBS Nightly News shows – the most watched news programs in the country – spent 100 mins of 2016 discussing Hillary’s email. 30 mins discussing all political issues combined. And 0 of those minutes were on climate change. And yet, the media continues to insist their coverage is above criticism. Trump was right about one thing, if for the wrong reasons: media is the enemy of the people.

Rose-shaped galaxy (Hubble telescope)

Happy Weekend, Widdershins!

Biden’s economic strategy seems to be a banger. The jobs report says almost a million jobs were added in July. Of course Washington Post had this story as the 9th leading story of the day. Joe Manchin’s boat -where Lindsey Graham got Covid – was a bigger story than the economy adding almost a million jobs in a single month. The media continues to fail us.

Meghan McCain (did you know John McCain was her father????) has finally left The View. Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar must be breathing a sigh of relief. Except I can’t even imagine what conservative moron they will choose to replace her. Doesn’t it seem like each conservative co-host has been worse than the one before? I think they’ll pick Kaleyigh McNinny or whatever the hell her name was. One of Trump’s big blond press secretary liars.

And Jeopardy is heading off a cliff. Their lengthy search for a permanent replacement for Alex Trebek is nearing its end and the recently hired Executive Producer is looking to hire himself. Literally, no joke. Mike Richards, the executive in question, is nearing final negotiations to hire himself. He used to be an Executive Producer of The Price is Right and his tenure was rife with lawsuits of sexual harassment and discrimination against the models. So this is going to go splendidly if the network goes through with this disaster. The Jeopardy brand will be permanently damaged.

How was your week?

This is an open thread!

A good Friday to you Widdershins!

With Prolix’s laptop giving up the ghost on him and tin cans and string not working well for internet connectivity, Fredster here is going to do a post in his absence.  Prolix has been kind enough to take a post or two for me, so reciprocating is fine with me.  But as one of the tags to the post says, “Not Prolix”, so don’t hold me to that standard…puhleeze!

In some of my readings around the internet I found articles that I thought were interesting and so I bookmarked them for future reference.  I think that will work out just fine today.  This isn’t exactly current events, nor earth shattering, but something I found interesting and perhaps you will also.

* * * *

The topic I want to cover is from Bloomberg Busisnessweek and concerns the auto manufacturing  and auto parts manufacturing companies that have come to some of the southern states and in this case to Alabama.  The piece is subtitled “Cheap Wages, Little Training, Crushed Limbs“.  And that is about right.

Bama’s experiences with the auto manufacturing business began when the state was able to entice Mercedes Benz to build an assembly plant near Tuscaloosa Alabama.  “In 1997…That gleaming M-Class SUV was historic. Alabama, the nation’s fifth-poorest state, had wagered a quarter-billion dollars in tax breaks and other public giveaways to land the first major Mercedes factory outside Germany.”  I don’t know this personally but I’m sure the employees at that plant have decent wages and working conditions because: German company.  And after that initial company, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai opened their own assembly plants in Bama.  The car assembly plants opened in other southern states too; Tennessee and Georgia as examples.  And one reason the plants came was because most of these states are right-to-work states.  U.A.W. ?  Nah, we don’t need no stinkin’ unions here.  And after the car assembly plants, the parts suppliers started opening up in the state.

The parts supplier companies are usually foreign-owned and supply the parts for the assembly plants.  And though the companies may both be from South Korea, there’s no love lost between them.  The assembly plants have contracts with the parts plants and have very fixed quotas on how many widgets for a car those plants must make or they’ll be penalized.  So those suppliers take chances and cut corners, and the corners usually involve worker safety.

Take the case of Regina Elsea.  She had great plans, was going to attend Auburn University with desires to be a pediatrician.  But love called in the form of her kindergarten sweetheart who was a stocker at a local Walmart.  Regina dropped out of school so they both could work to get a place of their own.  She got a job at the Ajin plant which made parts for Hyundai and Kia cars.  Regina was working 12-hour shifts 7 days a week in an effort to go from temporary paying $8.75/hr. to full time permanent with a raise to $10.50/hr.   Here’s what happened to Regina one day:

On June 18, Elsea was working the day shift when a computer flashed “Stud Fault” on Robot 23. Bolts often got stuck in that machine, which mounted pillars for sideview mirrors onto dashboard frames. Elsea was at the adjacent workstation when the assembly line stopped. Her team called maintenance to clear the fault, but no one showed up.

[snip]

After several minutes, Elsea grabbed a tool—on the video it looks like a screwdriver—and entered the screened-off area around the robot to clear the fault herself. Whatever she did to Robot 23, it surged back to life, crushing Elsea against a steel dashboard frame and impaling her upper body with a pair of welding tips. A co-worker hit the line’s emergency shut-off. Elsea was trapped in the machine—hunched over, eyes open, conscious but speechless.

(No one knew how to release the robot)

A team leader raced to get a maintenance worker in the break room.  But the maintenance worker worked in a different part of the plant and wasn’t familiar with this equipment.

When emergency crews arrived several minutes later, Elsea was still stuck. The rescue workers finally did what Elsea had failed to do: locked out the machine’s emergency power switch so it couldn’t reenergize again—a basic precaution that all factory workers are supposed to take before troubleshooting any industrial robot. Ajin, according to OSHA, had never given the workers their own safety locks and training on how to use them, as required by federal law. Ajin is contesting that finding.

An ambulance took Regina to a local hospital and then to a trauma center in Birmingham where she died the next day.  Regina’s mom says she still hasn’t heard a word from Ajin’s owners or senior executives. They sent a single artificial flower to her funeral.

Regina’s isn’t the only horror story involving these supplier companies where the goal is “meet the quota or we lose money or we’ll be penalized”.  Some more examples:

  • A man had worked a 12 hour shift but was summoned to work on a metal press  The press had not been working well all day.  A hole puncher didn’t deploy and then it did…at the wrong time – on his finger. “I saw my meat sticking out of the bottom of my glove,” he says.
  • In 2015, a 33-year-old maintenance worker was engulfed in flames at Nakanishi Manufacturing Corp.’s bearing plant in Winterville, Ga.—after four previous fires in the factory’s dust-collection system.
  • A man working at a plant supplying parts for Mercedes Benz was working cleaning ventilation ducts over dipping pools of acid used to anodize the parts. There were no handrails, gangways or cables. He was working one day cleaning the ducts and “His hands slipped, and he tumbled backward into a vat of sulfuric and phosphoric acid 4 feet deep.”

OSHA (under Obama) began noticing this and cracking down:

The agency cited one year, 2010, when workers in Alabama parts plants had a 50 percent higher rate of illness and injury than the U.S. auto parts industry as a whole. That gap has narrowed, but the incidence of traumatic injuries in Alabama’s auto parts plants remains 9 percent higher than in Michigan’s and 8 percent higher than in Ohio’s. In 2015 the chances of losing a finger or limb in an Alabama parts factory was double the amputation risk nationally for the industry, 65 percent higher than in Michigan and 33 percent above the rate in Ohio.

From David Michaels who headed OSHA under President Obama:

“The supply chain isn’t going just to Bangladesh. It’s going to Alabama and Georgia,” says David Michaels, who ran OSHA for the last seven years of the Obama administration. Safety at the Southern car factories themselves is generally good, he says. The situation is much worse at parts suppliers, where workers earn about 70¢ for every dollar earned by auto parts workers in Michigan, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Many plants in the North are unionized; only a few are in the South.)

Michaels in a meeting with the car companies themselves said to them:

“I gave them a very strong message: ‘This brings shame on your reputation. American consumers are not going to want to buy cars stained with the blood of American workers,’ ”

Summing all of this up:

When Trump suits and ties are made in Mexico and when Ivanka’s clothes are made in sweat shops in Asia, do we really believe that any of these situations are going to improve?  MAGA indeed.

* * * *

Okay Widdershins I hope this wasn’t too boring or snooze-worthy.  And also I violated Prolix’s 800 word rule by about 400 extra words.  Yikes!  Please take the conservation in any direction you wish.

 

rapture

Does anyone else feel like we are living through The Rapture? The Chosen ones – David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, etc., – are being carried off to a better place while the rest of us heathens stay behind to suffer Drumpf for all eternity. We can all agree 2016 has been literally the worst. I’m not sure saying goodbye to it will make anything better though. Just when you think things can’t get any worse – they can. Do we have any reason to think 2017 will be an improvement with Drumpf – aka. King Jesus – and Pence leading the way?

light-at-end-of-tunnell

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve also had some bizarre murmurings about HRC’s loss from Obama and everyone’s apparently favorite uncle Joe Biden. (Nevermind that Biden is a gaffe machine who once said it was nice that Obama was so clean, among many other stunning pronouncements). Obama declared he definitely would have won if he ran against Trump (thanks Obama!) and Biden said Hillary never figured out how to run. This is from a guy who has run for President how many times and always dropped out with single digit support? Now Biden says he might run in 2020. Ok fantastic, good luck with that uncle Joe. With friends like these who needs friends? So how about Obama and Biden shut the hell up at this point? And while they’re at it, can they shut Bernie up too?

Speaking of Bernie, I’ve had it up the wazoo with Bernie and his Bros. We are still hearing them tell us how much we don’t understand the suffering of poor white men in the rust belt, and how we should not look down on them, and our condescension of their deplorableness is one big reason HRC lost the election (they don’t really care about the popular vote any more than Drumpf does.)

Ok look, this might sound harsh, but we don’t care about political correctness anymore, right? And these are tough guys, they’re men damn it, they can handle the truth.  So here goes: I have no doubt poor white men in the rust belt are suffering. But whose fault is it? Whose freaking fault is it? Apparently it’s HRC’s fault, and my fault and all of your fault Widdershins. We just don’t take care of them enough. Boohoo poor babies. Wahwahwahwahwah. My coal job is gone and I can’t get black lung disease anymore! And “fixing” Obamacare might get rid of my black lung health insurance!

woe-is-me-e1346181134882

Ok, you know what? I’m done being blamed for that shit. The world evolves and people must evolve with it. Once upon a time everybody was a farmer. Then the Industrial Revolution came and people had to evolve and adapt. So they lost their farming jobs anddinosaurs-missingark-jpg-w300h308 moved to the big cities and started working in factories. Now we are living in a post-Industrial world, we are in a technological age. Maybe these poor white men in the rust belt could turn off NASCAR and crack open a damned book and learn something? Maybe go to a community college and get a degree in something instead of longing for the golden age of coal mines? It’s just a suggestion. Stop mocking the coastal elites who work long hours in offices and who went to college and got college degrees and massive student debts. I have a friend who works full time at Teach For America and goes full time to the New School. He has asked me for small loans to buy food a few times because his entire salary is spent on school and rent (with roommates.) These are the choices he made and I’ve never heard him blame anyone for them. He chose to go to school to get a masters while working full time and living in Brooklyn. So how about these poor white men in the rust belt stop whining and demanding things from everyone, blaming coastal elites for their troubles, while accepting no responsibilities for their own choices and actions. And how about Bernie Bros stop patronizing them and treating them like little children who are apparently so stupid that after a two year Presidential campaign HRC was somehow unable to connect with them. Excuse me, are they complete idiots who are incapable of critical thinking? Well, I tend to think “Yes, they are.” These are the people who year after year vote against their won self interests. In 2016 they voted for Drumpf. Seems pretty stupid to me. But Bernie/Bros tell us to stop condescending to them. Ok fine, let’s stop condescending to them, let’s treat them like adults with a few still living brain cells and hold them accountable for their own actions. Stop blaming everyone for these people’s stupidity and maybe spread out some blame for our current predicament to these people themselves? I mean, go ahead and blame HRC for her failures (I’ll assign one: it was obviously a mistake to spend time, money and resources trying to flip Georgia blue.) But stop blaming HRC for these poor suffering white men’s own failures as well as her own. I think we are all tired of being everybody’s whipping boys/girls, no? Take some responsibility for your actions folks in the rust belt and Bernie Bros who love them. You voted for Trump because you don’t like women, because you get bored by policy, you never looked at HRC’s plans for job creation in your regions, you only watched Faux News and read Breitbart for your breaking news, you thought e-mails were a really big deal. Own it. Hmmkay thanx bye.

emotional-rollercoaster

What’s on your minds Widdershins? This is an open thread.

Apologies to Carly Simon, but…Carly Simon

We’re so vain, we probably think this economy is about us,
We’re so vain, we bet future swaps this economy is about us,
Don’t we? Don’t we?

A few years ago, when the Chinese economy was booming, politicians said it was an orchestrated plot to take America down.  Now that the Chinese economy is struggling desperately, those same politicians are just as convinced it is – wait for it – a plot to take America down.

The political discourse around this issue is genuinely unhelpful.  Just like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi, Scott Walker snapped, “No state dinner for Xi,” the Chinese President Xi Jinping scheduled for a formal state visit.  I guess the closest Benihana will have to do.  Given the impetuous inanity passing for policy, here’s what you need to know about the China Syndrome of the Chinese economy in less than 800 words.

Chinese Stock MarketChina’s stock market is relatively small.  It’s mostly mom and pop investors who have borrowed the money to buy stocks – a majority of them don’t have a high school education.  After gaining 140% last year, this year the Shanghai Composite Index has fallen 40% in the face of a tremendous amount of active intervention by the Chinese central government.  It seems as though the Politburo can’t stop the crash.

The reason all these unsophisticated investors got into the stock market was the implicit support of the Chinese Communist Party.  It appears to have been an overly optimistic act of faith in the Chinese Politburo’s economic stewardship.

With an abundance of labor, China bet the farm on being the world’s low-cost manufacturer and assembly line.  Such an economic model is not sustainable for an economy needing to grow at a double-digit multiple to service a burgeoning middle class.  The Chinese government has been notoriously optimistic in its economic forecasts (some say notoriously deceiving).  There are more than a few economists who believe the Chinese economy is on the verge of recession, if not already there.

This is how it happened:  When global demand went kaput in 2008, China decided to focus on massive domestic Empty cityconstruction projects.  There has been a massive, and I do mean massive, overbuild in China with unused stadiums, skyscrapers, and even whole cities.  They sit empty.

Add to this the relocation of 250 million Chinese from rural settings to cities in just twelve years as official state policy.  In essence, this top down policy from the Politburo turns China into a majority urban country in a dozen years.  Put another way, it would be the equivalent of relocating 5 of every 6 Americans in the span of three presidential terms.

Chinese leadership is terrified of political unrest reminiscent of Tiananmen Square.  Without sustained growth at a level sufficient to service a growing middle class, the leadership of China is at a crossroads.  At once they are both risk-willing to try just about anything to thwart economic upheaval and at the same time, risk-averse against any potential calamities resulting from their actions.

Chinese Stone SoldiersThere is a group of millennial Chinese numbering about 300 million – about the size of the total U.S. population.  This group is better educated and likes its taste of the middle class lifestyle.  The Communist Party worries most about this group.  Quelling political unrest in this group would be difficult, almost impossible, because of the nomadic nature of these 300 million workers and their widespread geographic dispersion.

In its simplest terms, the problem is transforming a manufacturing, rural economy into an urban, consumption-based economy in less than a generation.  For perspective, it took Great Britain 200 years, the U.S. 100 years, and Japan 50 years to do the same thing.

As with all instances of massive historical change, there are naysayers within the Chinese system.  China’s top-down, hierarchical structure ensures elites have control over policy and decision-making.  These traditionalists are wary of many of the enacted economic reforms.  This current economic tsunami strengthens traditionalists at the expense of reformers like President Xi Jinping.

How does this affect us?  Throughout history, when absolute control is threatened in China, it retreats back in on itself.  Hibernation of the world’s second largest economy would be the equivalent of a worldwide recession and catastrophic to our economic well-being and the world economy in general.Chinese Stone Soldiers

Even more sobering is this:  Political instability in a country with a standing army of 200 million soldiers and perhaps 3,000 nuclear warheads is indeed a worrisome thing.  This is especially true in a region where China is surrounded by emerging economies – the “if you can’t make it, take it philosophy” would indeed present existential threats.

Again, my apologies to Ms. Simon:  “Instead of clouds in my coffee, clouds in my coffee,” there are clouds on the horizon, clouds on the horizon.

Take the conversation in any direction you might like.

 

 


Biden illustration: REBUILD WITH BIDEN

Nice picture of our gal

Madam Vice President

Our President

It’s here: QUARANTINE BINGO!

Wanna Be A Widdershin?

Send us a sample post at:

widdershinssubmissions at gmail dot com

Our Frontpagers

Blog Archive

October 2022
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31  

Not done yet with you

Friggin Lizard people

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

Only the *best* politicans bought by the NRA

Marching for their lives

Need Reminders?

IOW Dumb = Happy?

Dems are coming for ya