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(Un)intended Consequences?

IMG_1110

The last vacation I took: Bethany Beach, Delaware, July 2011

In a day or two, I will relate my own ongoing struggle with Obamacare (it’s not positive, believe it or not).  But for now, I want to talk about something I saw yesterday on Corrente regarding the Clinton papers and what Hillary Clinton had to say about the individual mandate.

But first, let me tell you about Jobs4NJ.  When I was laid off back in 2011 from the job I loved, I signed up for the NJ job matching service.  You upload your CV to their database, spend 2 hours correcting all the formatting mistakes, and wait.  By the way, we were told at the NJDOL that we could also apply for state jobs but that each job application would require a $25 fee.  That fee was non-refundable whether you got a job or not.  Imagine asking a bunch of unemployed people to cough up $25 for each job opening they saw on the state employment site.  I’m wondering if that was a Christie innovation.  The DOL employees were extremely kind, helpful and treated us with dignity and respect and even they thought the fee was outrageous.

Anyway, getting back to Jobs4NJ.  They sent me some job listings.  The good positions were gone, gone, gone from NJ.  The postings I got had descriptions that seemed a bit vague, as if the companies themselves weren’t really sure what they wanted.  Most positions in “science” were really business positions.  Apparently, R&D has an unmet demand for marketing and finance specialists.  Labrats?  Ehhhh, not so much.

I applied to some of the few low level lab positions that were available, and, as is the custom these days with companies, never heard back from any of them that they even received my CV and cover letter or what exactly the mismatch was.  This was not the example of malignant narcissism run amok that I alluded to a couple of days ago though.  I would be grossly exaggerating if I characterized this all too typical insensitivity towards jobseekers as evil.  I’m saving the story of true senseless malice for a book.

I still get email from Jobs4NJ, though you’d have to drag me kicking and screaming to go back to that state.  But I noticed something the other day about the new positions.  Quite a few of them have the word “CONTRACT” in the post.  Hmmm, that’s a new one, thought I.  And then, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Over a year ago, I predicted that the ACA would lead to a greater number of contract positions.  And why is that?  There are a couple of reasons.  One, it allows many corporations to go “weightless”.  They don’t have to offer their workers benefits if they get a third party vendor to handle their human resources needs.  That third party vendor becomes a middle man, matching up contractors with the company.  The middle man becomes the tax collector who processes the paperwork and handles the  untidy business of interacting with the people who, you know, get their hands dirty in the labs.  (Sidenote: It always amused me when I compared the executive cafeteria with the R&D cafeteria.  The business workers had bespoke prepared foods, plenty of healthy and delicious options and an on-call nutritionist who would consult with you on your dietary needs.  I witnessed this personally one day.  The R&D cafeteria served the kind of high fat, high calorie limited entrees that would be perfect for coal miners, not a bunch of bespectacled, skinny geeks.  But since the executives rarely interacted with us, we may perhaps excuse them for thinking we were grimy blue collar lumberjacks who needed 5000 calories per serving of bland, greasy food.)

The other reason why the ACA is leading to a greater number of non-full time, contract positions is that because the employer mandate keeps getting put off, indefinitely, it seems, the employee is now responsible for carrying the weight of the health care premiums, which, by the way, are still astronomical when the deductibles and OOP expenses are factored in.  An increase in precariousness shouldn’t be surprising.  Why should an employer invest money in training and retaining an employee when they don’t have to?  It’s a kind of moral hazard, is it not?

So, it came as no surprise to me that Hillary Clinton saw a flaw in the individual mandate back in the 90s.  Let’s be clear, that’s not the same as a universal mandate, which seems to be a cornerstone of successful national health care systems around the world.  It’s important that all stakeholders, employees and employers, buy in to the system or it doesn’t work.  But to put all of the burden on individuals and letting employers get away with no responsibility?  According to the papers, Hillary Clinton said that was a problem:

“That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got — a much harder sell,” Clinton said. “Because not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility.”

Yes, this is exactly what is happening.  EVERYONE is potentially affected.  Even worse, there may be a two tier system of employees.  I can just imagine the better connected, legacy ivy league graduates becoming fully vested in the employee benefit system while the state school graduates scramble from job to job trying to find a foot hold.  It’s already happening in the pharmaceutical industry where what the MBAs consider the cream of the crop get the few coveted positions in Cambridge and San Francisco and the rest of us run from contract position to contract position, or stuck in an endless series of low paying post doc positions.  (Sidenote: you politicians are crazy if you think we former scientists are going to let you get away with the “there aren’t enough STEM workers” schtick.  We are already all over the comments sections and posting loud and clear that there is no shortage.  We’re not going to let our children languish in the labs for decades while they make less money than a first grade teacher for all the education they have.)

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!!

What else do contract workers not have besides health care benefits?

Well, I will tell you because I have been there.  They don’t have pensions, 401K plans, sick days, holidays or vacation days. They don’t get tuition discounts or reimbursements.  They don’t get to ride the buses for free nor can they get a spot in the employee parking lots.  And if you are a temp or contract worker, you don’t really have ANY labor protections.  You may have trouble getting paid due to the way companies pay their invoices.  In some cases, you have no protection against discrimination.  Think of how gay contractors fare with even the federal government.  YOU’RE a CONTRACTOR.  Your boss could call you in at any time of the day or night and make unreasonable demands on your time.  He may decide to arbitrarily cut your hours in half one week and let YOU worry about how you’re going to pay the rent or health insurance premium while your kid is in the hospital. As a temp worker “you do not have a salary”, as I was so brusquely  and dismissively reminded one day.

See where this is going?  Sorry, people, this is where we already are.  It’s not the future of employment.  It is the now.  Check out the Freelancer’s Union to see what employment is turning into.  A rational person would become debt free as quickly as possible and build a tiny house with solar panels and no plumbing and grow their own food.  We can let Krugman wax rhapsodic about what would happen to the economy if everyone cut back and accrued as little debt as possible.  Talk about lack of demand.  But that’s where we’re headed.  Those of us who were lucky enough to have some savings when the masters of the universe decided to pull up stakes and grab the pie for themselves have decided to stop spending money.  It’s self preservation but it’s not healthy for the country.  No more Royal Caribbean cruises, no more vacation rentals at the shore.  We question whether we really need that bentwood coffee table and agonize over hair cuts.  We save up for the days we have to call in sick.  We put off replacing our broken phones.

I think it’s time we stopped making excuses for our politicians that let this happen.  In fact, I’m not blaming Republicans for the recent, drastic, horrible negative turn of events that working people are experiencing right now.  They were like snakes and we knew what they were.  Their poison was already well understood by the educated working class.  We have no one to blame but ourselves for allowing the stealthy predators into our midst in the last 6 years.  Some of us were so bedazzled by being called “creative” that we failed to look closely at who our new friends were.

But whether the war on the working class by the financiers was intentional or not, we can no longer deny, or should I say, we deny at our peril, that our nation’s top politicians have provided a moral hazard for finance and businesses both large and small, to continue to shed benefits and worker protections via the contracting route.  In the pharmaceutical area, this was accomplished easily by laying off hundred of thousands of R&D professionals in the wake of the Great Recession and now hiring us back as contractors.  Indeed, the high unemployment rate of the last several years coupled with the delay in the employer mandate for the ACA has created a perfect storm where the stripping of compensation is going to pick up even faster and reach deeper into the American workforce just as Hillary predicted decades ago.

It’s happening so fast that many of us don’t even realize the predators are on us until we’re being forced down the gullet.  Will this become a harder sell politically in November 2014?  We will see.

The Democrats’ big mistake. HUGE

So, it looks like the federal healthcare exchange site is not going to meet its deadline. And there are a bunch of Senators getting all antzy about Obamacare (really? Just now? Didn’t you guys READ what you passed??). And to top it all off, Obama is going all Waffle Man on us, all right?

Now, I’m not going to claim that Hillary Clinton would have given us a better healthcare bill, although I’m going to bet she would have researched it to within an inch of her life. But what I am absolutely sure of is that damn healthcare site would have been up and running on time because it would have been tested thoroughly two years ago. Because, you know, some people do their homework and are diligent pains in the asses and some people aren’t, all right?

Here’s a blast from the past from Tina Fey to remind the party where it went wrong. Well, first, it listened to a bunch of overeducated grad student guys who had problems with women and were quite willing to saddle us with an untested corporate schmoozer type from their tribe. This was clearly more important than poor and sick people getting healthcare. Some accomplishment.

Thanks for ruining everything, Assholes.

I wouldn’t count on complacency

Krugman wrote a post on The Political Economy of Permanent Stagnation pointing out that the economy just plods along with high unemployment and sluggishness and people are just getting used to it:

But won’t there be an ever-growing demand from the public for action? Actually, that’s not at all clear. While there is growing “austerity fatigue” in Europe, and this might provoke a crisis, the overwhelming result from U.S. political studies is that the level of unemployment matters hardly at all for elections; all that matters is the rate of change in the months leading up to the election. In other words, high unemployment could become accepted as the new normal, politically as well as in economic analysis.

I guess what I’m saying is that I worry that a more or less permanent depression could end up simply becoming accepted as the way things are, that we could suffer endless, gratuitous suffering, yet the political and policy elite would feel no need to change its ways.

Given that I am sort of *living* the rude awakening from the American Dream and see many people in similar distressing circumstances, I can tell Krugman that there is definitely not complacency out here.  There’s anger, bitterness and resentment.  The resentment is not because we want to be rich or have two or three nice Lexus SUVs and a Pied a Terre in Lower Manhattan.  It’s that some of us can’t afford rent on a small row house in a 70 year old affordable housing development and pay for a health insurance policy on an exchange.

The administration should not get complacent and assume that the great unwashed masses out here have no idea what a raw deal they’re getting with Obamacare.  I am quite surprised at the number of people making a lousy $11/hour at their less than full time jobs who know better than some bloggers exactly how much they’re going to have to pay in taxes and penalties if they can’t afford a policy. I’ve met young healthy guys who can’t afford a doctor and physical therapist to treat their possibly dislocated, inflamed shoulders that they use every day to dig trenches.  They know exactly how the bonus class is screwing them.

All they need is a charismatic, take-no-prisoners, energetic politician to speak for them and there will be plenty of change.  That’s why the moneyed elite will fight back tooth and nail and smear any such politician who challenges it.  That’s why we have Obama.

They’re going to try to run a woman next time.  The Republican campaign against modernity will make her extremely attractive.  I don’t think it will be Hillary for the same reason that Krugman feels that stagnation is something we have gotten used to.  Hillary’s best chance was 2008. Her policy wonkiness, knowledge of the executive branch and vision would have been well suited to tackling the financial collapse and turning back the worst of the Bush policies.  That’s why she didn’t get the nomination in 2008.  The moneyed class didn’t want experience, knowledge and competency.

By the time 2016 rolls around, Republican policies will be more firmly set and it’s going to take someone who is bold enough to shake the foundations to really make a difference and roll back 16 years of stingy conservatism and bad financial and business decisions.  Can she do it?  Sure she could.  But the forces who kept her out in 2008 will either make her kiss their rings, in which case, she’d be useless to us, or they’re going to try to take her out again.  If the establishment Democratic party starts pushing her as their nominee genuinely, I’d have to question how much she’s been co-opted.  She’d almost have to run against her own party.  I haven’t seen that yet and given what a loyal Dem she is, don’t expect to.

Anyway, my point is that there’s plenty of discontent.  The people in charge might want to seriously consider what they’re doing.  The people I’ve been talking to are majorly pissed off right now at their prospects and we’re talking about manual labor all the way to the most educated among us.  A whole swath of Americans of all socio-economic levels are just waiting for a sign.  At this point, I don’t know if it’s going to come from the right or the left but when it happens, it’s going to be big.

One other thing: The bonus class shouldn’t sit on its laurels after the Voting Rights Act was gutted last week.  The discontent has spread so wide now that it is no longer confined to the generational poor and minority voters.

I have lettuce!

And radishes!

And Deer!

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Funny, I don’t remember planting any Deer.

My cousin gave me a moonflower.  Going to put it in the flower bed right outside the back door once I get rid of the gigantic hosta and the poison ivy.  Why, yes, I DO have an itchy rash on my wrists and ankles.  Why do you ask?

PLUS!

Hillary Clinton just verified her Twitter account.  Here’s what her account profile looks like:

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 1.00.48 PM

That doesn’t look like a presidential candidate’s profile.  That looks like someone who wants to express an opinion or two.

Excellent.

You can follow her debut at #tweetsfromhillary.

O-care

Paul Krugman’s latest column is about the mess of our national health care system.  He makes a good point about how social insurance programs make us freer people, allowing us to change jobs and start new enterprises without the fear of economic catastrophe.  But I’m not sure the so-called “jahb creators” care about economic catastrophes that happen to ordinary people.  To them, the only thing that counts is success.

I’ve got to admire Paul’s sunny optimism about Obamacare but, frankly, I think it’s a pretty fricking bad piece of legislation that didn’t rein in health care costs, locked us into a decidedly UN-free marketplace  with zero competition, and was only achieved by throwing women’s right to an abortion under a bus.  So, you know, there’s that.  I don’t particularly like Obama’s method of getting universal healthcare.

It beats me why he didn’t take his own state of Hawaii as a model for healthcare where employers can choose from several tiers of coverage for their employees, from basic coverage to more swank.  Oh, wait, that sounds more like what Hillary proposed during the 90s.  You know, the system that everyone whined was too complicated?

At this point, I would take even a basic plan.  My COBRA coverage runs out at the end of this month. I can’t complain about my insurance provider, except for the outrageous premium, even with group rates.  The coverage was superb. That’s what my French company negotiated for us. But getting insurance on the open market is fairly terrifying.  I will be looking into CHIP programs for the kid.  It’s going to be an adventure.  Spending hours and days trying to justify my need after the decades I spent as a hard-working taxpayer is not how I want to spend my time.

Throwing down the gauntlet

So, Kos is extending the olive branch, eh?  Not so much, as it turns out.  His reluctant, teeth clenched embrace of the possibility of a Hillary Clinton presidency is still full of Obama mythology and outright lies as Lambert conveniently points out.  But it doesn’t matter, really.

We’re not stupid.  We know that there was a coup in the party in 2008 and it’s now owned by the financier class who have made sure that Obama does not inconvenience them in any way.  Kos played a big part in 2008 in making sure that the financier class operatives that infiltrated the party and his website eliminated all voices of opposition with brutal efficiency.  It would be an understatement to say that Kos sold out.  Given the evidence we see everyday about how Obama’s two terms have locked us into a country ruled by the financiers, ruining people’s lives and careers, perhaps permanently, you’d think he’d be a lot more contrite.  But he’s had to lie to himself for 5 years to do the junta’s bidding and it’s really hard to admit the truth now without looking like a fool.

All that tripe about the DLC, Mark Penn and a disorganized campaign apparatus that supposedly doomed Hillary Clinton?  Horseshit.  When the financiers wanted their asses saved in the catastrophe they saw coming in 2008, they pulled out their checkbooks and funded the desperate and craven Democratic party generously.  That included quite a few advertisements on DailyKos and all the unlimited misogyny and deception they could pump out on the site.  Hillary was potential rehab and they didn’t want rehab.  They wanted some inexperienced corporate ladder climber, one of their own, to be their enabler in chief.  That’s what they paid for and all the hagiography that goes with it.

PUMA was only tangentially about Hillary Clinton.  We thought she was the best candidate in 2008 but the fact that she was a woman was only icing on the cake.

PUMA was about voters.  When the party decided to manipulate the delegate count to get their predetermined outcome, ignoring 18000000 voters, they crossed the line with many of us.  If Obama had won fair and square, we would have voted for him.  The fact that he didn’t signalled to us that he wasn’t going to listen to voters.  When the party turned over our votes and our protestations were squashed by the likes of Kos, Obama figured that he could do just about anything without any reference to the voters in his base.  And that’s just what he’s done.

We know that the financiers are going to want to continue to solidify the America they bought.  It’s just the way they like it.  We’re all one paycheck and missed mortgage payment from indentured servitude.  They are not at all inconvenienced.  Women?  Collateral damage.  Sucks to be female but what can you do?  It was either their asses or ours and we lost.  To most people, that would be a heavy and shameful legacy to have to live with but to not to people like Kos.

So they’re going to try to run a female candidate in 2008.  Well, it worked so well in 2008 with the first African American.  And by 2016, women will be desperate.  All they need to do is sign some woman on.  Someone who will want to be first so badly that she will agree to whatever the junta wants.  She will take orders, accept the advisors the junta forces on her and not rock the boat.  Since Hillary is the best candidate at this time, why not push her?

Well, I’m not stupid.  What I want to see from the next potential nominee is war against the people who took over my former party.  I want those bastards out, every one of them.  If she can’t force a turnover in the party leadership and run as her own person, then she’s no f^&*ing good to me or any other American.

This is a heads up to the other PUMAs and former PUMAs.  If the next candidate buddies up with Kos and the rest of the party without demanding and getting changes in top leadership, it doesn’t matter who the person is or what gender he or she is.  Nothing will change in the economy, the bankers will go unpunished and the country will continue to slip into third world status complete with not just one but two manipulative and corrupt parties.  No female candidate is worth that, not even Hillary.

I don’t think even Hillary wants the presidency so much that she’s willing to let her ambition and ego trump every other good thing she could possibly do.  But if she does want it, she’s going to have to publicly take those assholes on and get rid of them first.  The Democratic party needs to be distinct from the Republicans and get in touch with its roots and it won’t be able to do that as long as Wall Street has its tentacles firmly wrapped around the party’s testicles.  That goes for any other candidate as well regardless of gender.

In other words, when Hillary Clinton has neutralized the likes of Kos and his sneaky bunch of sexist asshole party activists and the leaders they follow, I’ll vote for her.

As for Kos, as John Proctor said in The Crucible, you only have your name.  You cannot have another in this life.  Once your reputation and integrity are compromised, your name is worth nothing.  Why should we pay attention to Kos any more than we pay attention to Glenn Beck?  As it turns out, we don’t.

What will be her next act?

Hillary said goodbye to the State Department yesterday.  While there will be endless speculation of her running in 2016, I think it would be a mistake to table our anger and disappointment over what is happening now in order to focus on a savior in four years.  I’m going to continue to pay attention to what’s going on in the present and assume that she isn’t going to run.

What will she do now?  No clue but there are very few women with the authority mojo of Hillary Clinton.  What the country desperately needs right now is to see a woman who has the riveting attention grabbing power of a man.  Someone who can be linked to from multiple blogs and op/ed pages with regularity.  Someone who shows up in the Plumline all the fricking time based on what she says and knowing that what she says comes from a place of experience, knowledge and doing her homework.  We need a powerful voice that comes from a woman but does not come from a “feminine” point of view, if you get my drift.

So, if I were her and the New York Times offered me a gig on the op/ed page, I’d probably take it.  I mean, among all the other things I had planned before breakfast.

Just sayin’.

Here’s the State Department farewell:

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