My parents, Al and Ethel, may have been the only married couple at Woodstock who didn’t take drugs. They were covering the festival for the newspaper my father ran, the Middletown NY Times Herald-Record — the only paper in the world to publish daily stories, witnessed from the ground, for which, they were told, they almost won the Pulitzer Prize. In a Huffington Post piece, my mother explains just how that happened:
I actually did know that. But it’s worth noting that in addition to all this direct public sector spending on health care, we have a very large set of hidden subsidies in the tax code. Basically, when a company gives you health insurance as part of your compensation, the firm can deduct that as one of its costs. Which makes sense, because it’s a cost. But you don’t pay taxes on the benefit, even though the benefit is clearly part of your income. That creates a pretty strong incentive, at the margin, for firms to pay people lower wages and offer them more generous health care benefits than they otherwise would. That’s good for some people and bad for others, and most of all is a large subsidy for the entire health care industry. But it’s hidden from view when people scrutinize the public accounts.
And there’s rather a lot of this sort of thing going on in the United States. Part of the high price of our political system’s insistence on relatively low levels of taxation is massive reliance on tax subsidies and regulatory mandates to do work that could be better done through taxes and public disbursements of funds.
For a number of years, the closest supermarket to my house was a Whole Foods. During that time, I shopped there a lot. Since October I’ve lived around the corner from a Safeway and have been pretty much “boycotting” Whole Foods ever since. Recently, however, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey piped up with a renewed expression of his longstanding right-wing political views leading to renewed Netroots interest in a Whole Foods boycott:
I am a Nashville area surgeon and a loyal customer of the Nashville Whole Foods ever since it first opened. This is true no longer. I was stunned and deeply disappointed to read Mr. Mackey’s right-wing propaganda piece in the WSJ. He has his right to speak his point of view. I have the right to take my money elsewhere.
I saw that link via my friend Tim Lee who tweeted “Do Daily Kos commenters really want a world where CEOs are expected to pander to their customers’ political prejudices?”
And I’ll admit that at first I was pretty dubious of this notion. After all, if you don’t want to buy products that are sold by businesses whose owners and managers are conservatives, you would basically have to stop buying everything. Corporate managers are more right-wing than the country as a whole, owners of stock are more right-wing than the country as a whole, and owners of small businesses are much more right-wing than the country as a whole. Democrats are backed by the exciting categories of unskilled workers, professionals, routine white collar workers, and people with part time jobs.
That said, there’s asking a CEO to pander to your prejudices, and there’s pressuring a CEO not to go out of his way to offend your prejudices. Corporate executives have a lot of social and political power in the United States, in a way that goes above and beyond the social and political power that stems directly from their wealth. The opinions of businessmen on political issues are taken very seriously by the press and by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Once upon a time perhaps union leaders exercised the same kind of sway, but these days all Republicans, most of the media, and some Democrats feel comfortable writing labor off as just an “interest group” while Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and Jack Welch are treated as all-purpose sages. One could easily imagine a world in which CEOs were reluctant to play the role of freelance political pundit out of fear of alienating their customer base. And it seems to me that that might very well be a nice world to live in.
At any rate, very few businesses go as far as Whole Foods in marketing their products specifically as part of a quasi-politicized left-wing lifestyle and few CEOs go as far as Mackey in public advocacy of political views that are only tangentially related to his business. If Whole Foods shareholders were to start to wonder whether having their corporate brand dragged into the health care debate is really a smart use of their assets, I would call that a good thing. More like this please, in other words.
“New “Air Force One” Tail Number and yes, please forgive me, I’m really sorry, I really, really tried not to laugh, but …………………..!”
Attached to the e-mail was an Photoshopped image of Air Force one with NI66ER written on the plane’s tail. As OhioDaily writes, “This type of message is offensive coming from anyone, but coming from someone in the position of dispatching police and prioritizing calls, it’s downright horrifying. The North Canton police have a hard enough job as it is without rogue dispatchers trying to incite a race riot or stirring tensions during the hot months of summer.”
This Atlantic article on our badly broken health care system by David Goldhill is very good. It makes the case, correctly, that the entire health care system should be totally different from how it is. I agree with a lot of it. But I think Goldhill is deploying his insights to the pretty insidious purpose of arguing against the kind of health reforms that now exist in the congress. The simple fact of the matter is that defeating the current reform effort is not going to lead to the emergence of some alternative, radically different health care reform. Defeat of the current legislative effort will demoralize proponents of health reform, teach politicians that any talk of modifying Medicare is politically toxic, and basically result in another 10-15 years of the status quo followed by some kind of budget crisis.
Passing the kind of ideas that are currently on the table would still leave us with a system with a lot of problems. But it would ameliorate several of those problems, and solve a few. It would also, I think, teach politicians the lesson that it’s possible to change the health care system. And that might lead to more and better reforms down the road.
Eco-labeling is becoming globally hot, thanks in part to Walmart. Here are two perspectives. The first is from Stephen Stokes of AMR Research, by way of Climate Inc., edited by David Levy, Professor of Management at UMass, Boston.
Addressing climate change and other environmental issues requires real action at the facility and process level – just creating product labels may not be effective
Walmart’s product environmental labeling aspirations went public in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal last month and sent ripples of fear and excitement considerably more widely. Excitement for software and service vendors who anticipate a lucrative business supporting Walmart’s product labeling program. Fear for its 100,000 suppliers who will be required to generate the detailed data needed for Walmart’s environmental labels. Walmart will soon be sending an initial survey to all its suppliers with questions regarding their sustainability practices.
Walmart plans to develop labels based on a standardized index of the environmental impact of every product on its shelves. This ambitious project demands that Walmart’s suppliers develop accurate and defendable estimates at the SKU level of the greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, air pollution, and other measures for all the inputs required to source, manufacture and ship their goods. Walmart’s Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming made clear that it would require participation from suppliers across the board.
In designing environmental initiatives, there is a need to pragmatically consider what’s achievable, what’s desirable, and what is likely to actually make a difference to the environment. Rushing to force a product labeling agenda too quickly will result in a lack of standards and expectations, and potentially lead to disappointing outcomes and a great deal of consumer confusion.
Transformation from the Grinch to the Gentle Green Giant
I find it extremely frustrating how reluctant progressive legislators are to condemn procedural practices in congress that make progressive change difficult. So good on Rep Jay Inslee (D-WA) for speaking out:
The filibuster is so undemocratic it just defies defense. Particularly, as you said, it used to be this once-in-a-generation regional conflict issue that’s meant to protect the regions that has now prevented majority rule in this country. It’s a huge, insidious problem. I have to tell you in my conversations with senators, including in our party, I’ve gotten nowhere on this issue. When they get into that fine institution, they kind of like the idea one person can stop the entire country dead on its heels to keep a post office open in Schmuckbucket or wherever. I have to tell you, I’m very frustrated by it.
I particularly like Inslee’s point about the blinkered perspective of his senate colleagues. It doesn’t surprise me that most Senate Democrats prefer to put their own parochial interests ahead of the interests of the country, the world, and the progressive movement. But I’d like to think that at least a handful of people might be interested in doing the right thing and becoming catalysts for future pressure and change.
Corzine on Christie: He’s ‘a lawbreaker’ who ‘gets the reputation of being the king of law enforcement.’
For years, GOP leaders have been eyeing former U.S. attorney Chris Christie for national political office. In recent congressional testimony, Karl Rove revealed that “he had conversations with Christie about a possible run for governor while Christie was serving in the non-political position of U.S. attorney.” Christie’s campaign has said it was just an “informal conversation.” However, Christie’s challenger in the New Jersey gubernatorial race, Gov. Jon Corzine (D), contends that it was a violation of the Hatch Act, which says that federal employees can’t even engage in “any act in furtherance of candidacy” for an elected office. Yesterday at Netroots Nation, Corzine met with a group of progressive bloggers and sharply criticized Christie’s discussion with Rove:
It is hard to understand how a lawbreaker gets the reputation of being the king of law enforcement, and uses that as a platform. It’s the Hatch Act.
Blue Jersey has an exclusive interview with Corzine at Netroots Nation.
The White House speechwriting team delivers in the latest radio address with a helpful brief phrase that sums up the goals of health insurance reform: “No one in America should go broke because they got sick.”
It also offers this nice ditty on the right-wings decades-long record of fearmongering on social insurance:
We’ve seen it before. When President Roosevelt was working to create Social Security, opponents warned it would open the door to ‘federal snooping’ and force Americans to wear dog tags. When President Kennedy and President Johnson were working to create Medicare, opponents warned of ‘socialized medicine.’ Sound familiar? Not only were those fears never realized, but more importantly, those programs have saved the lives of tens of millions of seniors, the disabled, and the disadvantaged.
Well said. Of course today a large and powerful minority of people continue to believe that Social Security and Medicare should be dismantled. And those people provide the intellectual and financial pillars of the movement currently opposing the creation of a national health care system. But rather than admit that their opposition to reform is of a piece with their opposition to Social Security and Medicare, they’re trying to convince seniors and others that they’re the defenders of the high-quality publicly-provided health insurance that they already enjoy.
In an interview with ThinkProgress yesterday, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) — who is now running for Senate — warned that special interests’ influence over Congress has impeded efforts at health care reform. Insurance companies are now promising to cover individuals with preexisting conditions. Meek told us, “That’s major. That could have happened 10 years ago, but because of the special interests and the protection of some of these individuals that are in Congress now that are saying, ‘We have your back,’ they didn’t have to worry about that.” Meek went on to explain that health insurers have a strong “arsenal of communication and also of political influence” among members of Congress “in keeping the status quo.” Watch it: