Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Contempt

You may have already heard about this:
When things looked their darkest for Gov. Mark Sanford — when he was in danger of being impeached for running off to Argentina to see his mistress — his best insurance policy may well have been South Carolina's lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer.

Lawmakers knew if they removed Sanford, they would end up with Bauer, a fiercely ambitious Republican with a reputation for reckless and immature behavior.

Now Bauer has folks shaking their heads again, after he likened government assistance to the poor to feeding stray animals.

At a town hall meeting Thursday, Bauer, who is running for governor in his own right now that Sanford is term-limited, said: "My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that."

The link tells us all the possible excuses Bauer may now use to cover up what he really thinks about the poor. But whatever made him flash us his Freudian slip, we now know what Bauer really thinks about those on government assistance.

Oddly, Bauer's silver-foot-in-the-mouth disease didn't anger me nearly as much as overhearing a discussion on Ford's new remuneration policy on Marketplace, a public radio program.

The particular program which made my blood go cold was about Ford auto company's new policy of paying its workers: Those who have been employed a long time get to keep their pensions and health insurance benefits, those who enter employment now will not. One woman in the latter category points out that people doing the same work now earn different amounts of money. She is treated as a contractor and must cover her own retirement and health care needs while someone next to her gets those from Ford on top of the wage package.

You could argue that firms have always been allowed to pay more on the basis of seniority which can be seen as a proxy for work experience.

But here's the snag: It's not the seniority which matters here but when the latest employment contract was signed. The woman the program interviewed had worked for Ford before but had taken a break in the employment and later returned. So it is the date on the latest contract that determines the total amount of earnings.

All this can cause bad blood among the workers. The program then interviewed one of those opposing voices who argued that new workers at Ford should not compare themselves to the old workers at Ford but to the workers at McDonald's and at Walmart. They can then congratulate themselves for making three times as much!!!

What contempt! Just tell people to compare their situation to the lowest paying jobs and firms in the country, without letting the fact that the jobs might be completely different intervene. Or was it a threat this voice expressed? If the new Ford hirees are unhappy, let them remember that they could be taken down much further?

To give all this some context, the automobile industry jobs used to be the blue-collar gold standard jobs. The kinds of jobs with which America's prosperity was once built.