The recent issue of 850 Magazine featured an article by the title of Wilting Engagement, by Todd Patkin, in which he offers twelve simple actions which can help reinvigorate employees’ commitment to their employer and productivity. He addresses none of the requests that large swaths of hourly-wage employees have been making over the past few years (decades, even), such as minimum wage increases, acceptance of collective bargaining rights, or more stable retirement options.
[The following is a letter I submitted to the local paper, the Tallahassee Democrat, today. I’ll update this post with a link if it runs.]
On October 23rd, representatives of our city and county approved nearly $900,000 of public funds to be reimbursed to the Double Tree Hotel’s planned expansion and renovation of the building’s outside sections. [Source]
The funds are coming through the Community Redevelopment Agency which is tasked, through the Florida Statutes, Chapter 163, Part III, with revitalizing areas meeting the conditions set forth by Section 163.335 of the statute, including,
slum and blighted areas which constitute a serious and growing menace, injurious to the public health, safety, morals…contributes substantially and increasingly to the spread of disease and crime…onerous burdens which decrease the tax base and reduce tax revenues…aggravates traffic problems…and consume an excessive proportion of its revenues…
There’s been some outrage over the propriety of these funds being used in the downtown area, especially given the campaign contributions made to local officials by the hotel’s owner and the owner of the construction company awarded the project being related to a county commissioner.
I think, however, given the proximity of the Double Tree to city hall, the county courthouse, the state capital and several lobbying firms, that the area meets perfectly the listed requirements. The decision, made by our elected representatives, is clearly of sound judgment.
[Background info: Gwen Graham is the Democratic candidate in Florida’s second congressional district race. She is running against incumbent U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland, a Republican. They had their first debate on September 23rd, which can be seen here.]
Dear Ms. Graham,
I don’t like Steve Southerland. I dislike his brand of individualist, anti–government, “free” market capitalism; the same brand sweeping Republican politics across the nation. If only the Democrats had such a radical swing to the left to match, then we would be in for some serious debate on the issues of our day.
I’m highly skeptical of politicians, I think it’s extremely important that I (and everyone) evaluate what they say, what they’ve done and what they promise. Mr. Southerland has not passed my examinations.
Neither have you.
You see, an alternative to a radical leftward swing within the Democratic Party would be the Republicans returning to more centrist positions. I suppose you’ve seen clearly that there is no real hope for that to happen and you’ve decided to run as a Democrat, carrying center–right values.
But I am not a centrist—I am far left of center.
I recognize that many people make many claims against your campaign each day, why should this one be any different than the typical hate–filled slander that comes your way? I do this not to discredit or dissuade you from your path, but because I believe I deserve representation in our government as well. There was a time when those left–wing voices, such as mine, could turn to members of the Democratic party to amplify their voices. It seems, now, that Democrats are chasing the Republicans right, more interested in keeping the gap between them the same than in providing a true alternative. Is this the case, or has our population just become that much more conservative?
I want to highlight some of the points in which your centrist Republican sentiments stand abundantly clear to me.
- What is not Republican about telling small businesses that you will lower their taxes to better compete with large corporations?
- I see lots and lots of rhetoric surrounding the middle class, this comes from all sides, but who is representing the poor? The lowest classes? Who is arguing on behalf of the families struggling just to provide for themselves? This cannot be done by offering some platitude of “expanding the middle class.”
- Referring to outsourcing as another nation “stealing” jobs which belong to Americans. This is both harmful and inaccurate. These jobs were given to them—quite eagerly, I should add—by corporate policies which sought to maximize production and minimize cost. The notion that these countries, and the people of these countries, are willfully stealing employment from American citizens helps to promote feelings of xenophobia and distrust.
- In your September 23rd debate, you told a group of small business owners you would repeal the employer mandate within the Affordable Care Act. This is possibly your mostly clearly Republican stance. If anything, the employer mandate needs to be ubiquitous: all positions, all businesses. To tweak it, to modify it somewhat and make the language easier for businesses to follow, that’s one thing. To remove it is to step backwards on what the Affordable Care Act sought to achieve.
- In your debate, you didn’t have a chance to rebut Mr. Southerland’s point about military action in Syria and Iraq. You have completely ignored this issue on your website and I am presuming you march lockstep with the vast majority of national politicians in the sentiment that we must engage in military combat against amorphous terrorist networks in order to keep ourselves safe. Is anyone anti–war anymore?
- Anti–amnesty for immigrants? Even children who were either sent, or brought here by their parents?
In an effort to show goodwill and to give appreciation where it is rightly deserved, I will finish this letter by highlighting the points where I wholeheartedly agree with you, and wish to see successes.
- You advocate raising the minimum wage, which is a great first step.
- The Paycheck Fairness Act is a hugely important action which can be taken in policy to help foster a more equitable society for all.
- You say you would ensure families receive paid sick leave and other benefits, does this mean you would support a mandatory paid sick leave effort? And, if so, how would you balance that with removing the employer mandate from the ACA?
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you will take the time to think on some of my points and address them in further debates or speeches.
This week has flown by, which is good because I still don’t feel properly recovered from last week.
On Tuesday I took the motorcycle down to Orion’s and asked them to replace the tyre. They upgraded me to the Pirelli (no extra charge). The mechanic (John, I believe?) who changed the tyre can back from the test drive and said, “I noticed your speedometer wasn’t reading. It looks like the cable has fallen out.” I told him I had parts on order to fix it (a half–truth), and thanked him for noticing and for fixing the tyre.
In the following days I proceeded to spend the rest of what little money was left in my checking account.
I made some progress on a personal project I’ve been working on, something which will be placed here for everyone’s reading [dis]pleasures, but will not be done for a month or two.
I’m also working on a significant blog post but haven’t felt too inspired about it this week, so it’s sort of idling.
On the 11th I listened to President Obama’s speech on ISIL and the United State’s response to them. A lot of what I feel about this has been more eloquently expressed by Paul Thomas in this article on The Becoming Radical.
There are two aspects of this situation which really cause me to hang my head.
The first is Congress’ apparent unwillingness to debate and vote on this. Personally, I believe they should vote against it, but, for or against only becomes an issue once a congressional debate has begun.
The second aspect is the rapidity with which the majority of the American public has become favorable to military operations in the Middle East expanding. An MSNBC poll shows something in the neighborhood of 60% of Americans in favor of military action. Really?
[I say expanding because we’re already undertaking military operations in the region.]
Do we have absolutely no hindsight? Can we not look back on even the past 15 years and say, wait a minute, this hasn’t been entirely successful the last couple times we tried this? There’s a plethora of writing available on the futility of waging a war against those who “hate us”, but this futility isn’t really an effective counter argument against the campaign against terrorists anymore. Obama said it himself:
We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.
Firstly, it’s problematic from an egalitarian perspective to refer to anyone or any belief as simply evil. It removes the reasoning, the logical, sequential, sometimes hard to follow lines of reactions that lead to people’s beliefs. An honest evaluation of what people see as threats, problems and important can, often, lead us to a more significant summation of their beliefs than evil. Maybe even we can come to a conclusion that treats those who threaten us as human beings. Maybe that’s being avoided on purpose.
Secondly, the President is acknowledging that we will never win. We will never kill ’em all; never live in a world free from external threats. What this means is that making the argument of a never–ending war is rendered ineffective.
What does that mean? That anyone in favor of taking military action against a terrorist group is therefore in favor of perpetual warfare? And what happens when our airstrikes, our strong language about us being good and them being evil, our inability to treat people with accents, beards and ancient languages as equals creates a never–ending cycle of anti–American terrorist factions? Do we accept that war against oft–unknown enemies will be persistent, indeed, constant, for the remainder of our future? Do we become the heavy–handed police of the developing world for the sake of our own fantasy of safety? And, in doing so, do we create more enemies than we would otherwise?
I don’t have answers to all these questions. I don’t know who does, but I do think they’re questions worth asking.
Proudhon says, in What is Property, that we all get as much as we give in terms of our rights as members of society (what are often called natural rights).
[…]security is an absolute right, because in the eyes of every [person their] own liberty and life are as precious as another’s. […]in society each associate receives as much as he gives,—liberty for liberty, equality for equality, security for security, body for body, soul for soul, in life and in death.
Perhaps an alternative is to look at the ways in which we expect to be treated by other peoples of the world which we do not extend to them. We expect to be able to defend our interests [read: business interests] in various parts of the world, many of which are harmful to local citizens in a variety of ways, yet the anger, pain and suffering felt by local populations should never affect us here at home. We expect to be able to spread our versions of republicanism, liberty and morality across the world [nation building?], yet never be the target of the ethnocentrism of others.
We stand as highly critical of the human damages caused by radical Islamic groups [as we, and everyone, should be] without ever truly reconciling with the human damages we’ve caused in Vietnam, in the Middle East or even at home through policies of discrimination and enslavement. It doesn’t lessen the atrocities committed by any radically violent group anywhere, but we must also turn the lens onto ourselves.
Until we can consider all people, everywhere, with equal dignity and respect our only option will be violent oppression of dissident groups, in which case the best reaction for dissident groups will be violence.