Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

Class Warfare in the Bayou State

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Rep. John Fleming

By Bob Gaydos

Poor John Fleming. He lives in Louisiana, generally regarded as one of the worst — if not the worst — state in which to live, yet he has been specifically targeted by President Obama as someone who should pay more taxes to the federal government. What’s a poor millionaire member of Congress to do?

Apparently what all conservative Republican politicians do today: Go on TV to rip Obama with absurd claims that only further serve to illustrate how far removed the Tea Party and its GOP sycophants are from reality.

Fleming appeared on MSNBC to criticize Obama’s jobs plan, which includes a provision for a higher tax rate for millionaires. That’s a concept that sits well as fair and just with a solid majority of Americans every time it is proposed. But the anti-tax party, which is what the Tea Party really is, will have none of it. When Fleming was asked why he shouldn’t pay more taxes on the $6.3 million he makes each year as a family physician, congressman and owner of several Subway and UPS franchises, he said: “My net income is more like $600,000 of that $6.3 million… By the time I feed my family I have maybe $400,000 left over to invest in new locations, upgrade my locations, buy more equipment.”

OK, you’re trying to figure out how he manages to feed his family on only $200,000 a year, right? And getting by on a mere $400,000 a year after everything is paid for? Every year? Seeing as this was not FOX News, the interviewer challenged him: “You do understand, congressman, that the average person out there who’s making maybe 40, 50, $60,000 out there, when they hear you only have $400,000 left over, it’s not exactly a sympathetic position. You understand that?”

“Class warfare has never created a job.” Fleming replied. “This is all about creating jobs, not about attacking people who make certain incomes. You know in this country, most people feel that being successful in their business is a virtue, not a vice, and once we begin to identify it as a vice, this country is going down.”

Poor successful John Fleming. Even if he believes what he says, you would think he would be smart enough to display some compassion for the majority of Americans who would be happy to have a mere $400,000 left over to play with at the end of their working careers, never mind each year. But maybe he’s not concerned with the average American, or those struggling to survive on the poverty level income of $22,000 a year for a family of four. He brags on his website: “I have never believed in the fallacy that the federal government can buy its way out of economic troubles through needless spending. For that reason, I am proud to oppose ‘stimulus‘ packages and endless corporate bailouts, which will do little but weaken the long term integrity of the American economy.”

Fleming, of course, argues that taxing wealthy business owners more makes it harder for them to create more jobs. It’s a rewrite of “trickle down.” Let us keep our money and we’ll create jobs. Except that they don’t. And Fleming ignores the fact that Obama wants to provide tax cuts for businesses that actually create jobs.

John Fleming is a family physician who owns businesses that employ about 500 people. He is in his second term in Congress. He has been a church deacon and Sunday school teacher. He and his wife have been married 33 years. They have four adult children and two grandchildren. I get this from his website. What I don’t get is how he can live such an apparently successful life and seem to be so unsympathetic to the lives of so many of his fellow Louisianans.

I mentioned Louisiana was at the bottom of the list of best states to live.* It is also 48th out of 50 in median household income, second in percent of people living below the poverty level, and next to last in an interesting category — next egg index. That means how much people have put away in savings, investments and other assets to live their lives. Like the $400,000 a year in “leftovers” Fleming complains about.

Since he’s a doctor, it should be noted that his state had the highest gonorrhea rate in the country and the second highest chlamydia rate and was dead last in the prevalence of poor mental health. Its health index, which measures a variety of factors, was the worst in the country. It also was second among states in firearms death rate and alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Among the 50 states and Washington, D.C., Louisiana is next to last in percentage of residents with a high school diploma or higher and, not surprisingly, next to last in percentage of children under age 6 who are read to every day.

These are Fleming’s people. His constituents. I certainly don’t blame him for all of Louisiana’s ills. But I do fault him for seemingly being unsympathetic to the real life problems his neighbors face. Simply being automatically opposed to all tax increases, even when common sense and consensus say some are necessary, is not a viable management principle. It’s dumb and Republicans at some point are going to have to acknowledge it. But pleading poverty on top of that when you’re netting 400 grand a year (and feeding your family for 200 grand) is worse. It suggests you have no clue as to what real life is like for millions of Americans, or that you don’t care.

If you want to find class warfare, Mr. Congressman, go home to Louisiana and look around.

bob@zestoforange.com

* Data from statehealthfacts.org

What Life is Like in Perryland

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

By Bob Gaydos

Some national political pundits are already promoting Texas Gov. Rick Perry to the head of the Republican class of presidential candidates because he is the chief executive of a state so large it can be regarded as a “mini-nation.” If you haven’t been paying attention, Perry is another folksy straight-shooter who once vetoed a bill that would have made it illegal to execute mentally retarded inmates. He has bragged a lot lately about his record insofar as creating jobs is concerned. Since he wants to be the chief executive of the whole dang nation, I thought it would be a good idea to check out exactly what kind of country we’re talking about. What is life like in Perryland, aka Texas?

For a detailed analysis, I went to the Texas Legislative Study Group’s fifth annual report on the state of their state, entitled “Texas on the Brink.” (You’re sensing something, aren’t you?) Full disclosure: The Texas Legislative Study Group does research on issues affecting Texans and prepares reports and policy papers for state legislators to help them decide what to do. It is a liberal-leaning group. However, all I’m presenting here are facts the group has compiled in assessing where Texas stands today in relation to other states. Texans do not quarrel with the study group’s facts; they merely disagree on their relative importance. That’s fine, I guess, if you’re happy living in Texas, but, as I said, Perry, who is as rigid as any other conservative candidate out there, wants to turn the whole USA into Perryland.

So, let’s start with jobs, shall we? Perry’s braggin’ on how Texas has created more jobs than any other state during the recession. True enough. Yet its unemployment rate in June was 8.2 percent, which was higher than New York’s. And last year, nearly 10 percent of the state’s work force, more than half a million people, were paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or less. That ties Texas with Mississippi for having the highest percentage of minimum-wage hourly workers. Not where you want to be number one.

Of course, Texas always has available jobs because of its huge energy industry. It also isn’t big on regulating business, has low taxes and housing prices and a warm climate. Those factors may attract people from other states to go to work in Texas, but as a national policy for creating jobs, it cannot work — unless we ease immigration policies on Canada. Mexico is clearly another story.

And what do people find when they settle in Texas? A snapshot of Perryland compared to the other 49 states:

  • It ranks 38th in average hourly earnings of production workers on manufacturing payrolls.
  • Government employee salaries rank 24th.
  • Percent of workers who belong to unions: 41st.

Of course, Perry has offered the usual argument about creating more jobs leading to greater wealth, better education and more opportunity. Here’s the state of education in Perryland (where teaching creationism is the governor’s answer to so many ills.):

  • The average salary of public school teachers (2009-2010): 31st
  • Current expenditures per student: 38th
  • State and local expenditures per pupil in public schools: 44th

Now, for a lot of our more conservative countrymen, these numbers might seem encouraging, since they feel New York and other states spend far too much on education in relation to the results. Well, the proof is in the pudding. Here’s how going cheap on schools has paid off in Perryland:

  • On SAT scores, Texas ranks 45th in the country.
  • Its high school graduation rate is 43rd.

And for real braggin’ rights:

  • In the percent of the population 25 and older with a high school diploma, Texas ranks 50th, dead last, in the country. (Some cynics might say that explains the election of the state’s last two governors.)

That takes care of opportunity, but that’s not all folks. All those low-income workers coming to Texas where the living is cheap have this to enjoy, courtesy of Gov. Perry:

  • Texas is 1st in percent of the population without health insurance.
  • Percent of non-elderly uninsured: also 1st
  • Percent of low income population covered by Medicaid: 49th
  • Percent with employer-based health insurance: 48th
  • Per capita state spending on mental health: 50th
  • Per capita state spending on Medicaid: 49th
  • Physicians per capita: 42nd
  • Dentists per capita: 39th
  • Registered nurses: 44th

Stay healthy, man.

And as far as being a low-tax state: A 2009 study found that families in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale pay more than three-and-a-half times as great a share of their earnings in taxes as the top one percent of Texans.

It all sounds like a very 21st century Republican approach to governing. Now, I’m all for reassessing budget allocations and belt-tightening all around, but I reckon I’m just not ready to turn the whole goldarn country into Perryland. Not just yet.

Bob@zestoforange.com