Trivia 118

The March issue of the Washington Monthly magazine provided just a peek into what exactly is horribly wrong with America. According to the magazine's Tilting at Windmills by Charles Peters, a survey conducted by UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute showed that only 26.7% of today's college freshmen believe that "keeping up to date with political affairs" is an important life goal, down from 1966's 57.8%. It was also learned that interest in cleaning up the environment has dropped from 33.6% just five years ago down to only 19.4% today. Finally, a commitment to promoting racial understanding fell from 42% to 31.8% in just five years. Ah, yes! It is most assuredly "Mourning in America"!

Out of work? Interested in getting a job quickly? Just get sent to prison, it's that easy. According to the Wall Street Journal, "economic reality and criminal justice intersect in America". They go on to explain that Corporate America is finding that parolees and inmates in halfway houses and drug abuse programs make "good employees" because, "the parolees do so well in part because they are under tight supervision and risk returning to jail if they fail a drug test". Another unstated reason for Corporate America's love affair with convicts is that they are not required to follow federal health and safety laws nor are they even required to pay their "employees" minimum wage. Next time you or someone you know is downsized you can be pretty certain the it wasn't your job that they wanted to be rid of, it was just the person who they had to pay a living wage to.

An interesting political cartoon in the July/August issue of Z Magazine (I simply could not decipher the cartoonist's name) Shows a destitute looking Uncle Sam sitting on a broken down chair. The point it makes in its pointing out various problems with "The World's Richest Nation" such as; no national health care, corrupt politics, repression of union rights, no job security, persistent poverty and real wages down 18.5% since 1972. I would add a few more such as executives earning an average of 212 times the earnings of their employees even in failing companies, the practice of the Conservative Media's ignoring the reality of America's children living in poverty and the outright lies whenever the unemployment figures are reported and the vast number of otherwise law abiding citizens whose lives are destroyed for enjoying the wrong drugs (wrong being defined as any drug not used by our representatives) and the destruction of America's environment purely in order to make the rich even richer and leaving the clean-up to the same government departments which the Right then refuses to fund and on and on and on. Personally, I think America should hang its collective head in shame at the many, many ways where we fall so short of being even a decent, let alone great, nation. Sigh!

The magazine Business Week has explained exactly why capitalism has become the excuse for the Right's unceasing attacks on everything that was once decent in America. The rag recently complained that Japan isn't pulling its fair share in the Global Economy's headlong rush to world-wide slavery. They moaned that Asia's current economic problems have led the Japanese people to "save even more and spend less". These "no-growth" policies will lead to and economic nightmare, the magazine claims. Further, and even worse according to them, Japan has "an obsession with the care and feeding of its aging population". This ridiculous stance has effectively forced Japan to resist deregulation "for fear of unleashing unemployment on its older workers." Japan's unwillingness to embrace America's "high-growth solution" (meaning vastly higher unemployment and increased poverty) has undermined its "prosperity".

Okay, let's take a deep breath and try to figure out exactly what Business Week, one of Corporate America's major mouth pieces, truly is complaining about. Apparently, because Japan honors and respects all of its people, they are refusing to kneel before the God of Greater Profits and are, instead, going about their business while keeping people employed and trying to minimize the number of citizens living in poverty. How awful! How can they be so uncaring as to keep their citizens employed and to keep the number of their poorer citizens to a minimum? How, shall we say, un-American of them?

Finally, if your corporation has a long history of workers filing claims for back injuries and you want scientific proof that these claims are unfounded, where do you turn? Well, if you're UPS you simply donate $2.5 Million to the University of Washington to establish a research chair in occupational orthopedics. You then request (demand) that the chair be filled with one Dr. Stanley J. Bigos and that he be granted tenure. You then send the university a memo which blatantly states "Awarding Dr. Bigos' objective scientific research is the only intention and motivation for offering an endowment". Just why does UPS so energetically want only this one person to be given this chair" Because this doctor led a 1991 study of back-injury claims by employees at Washington-based Boeing plant. His conclusion was that the worker's claims were related to "psycho-social" factors such as life distress rather than physical problems arising from the job's requirements. Now, understand gentle readers, he didn't condition the statement that the claims were false by saying "many of the claims" or even "most of the claims", he simply stated that all of the back-injury claims were not the fault of Boeing and that Boeing wasn't responsible for the workman comp claims. UPS has decided that, by giving this same doctor the chair at the university, they can then use his supposedly neutral testimony to refuse to pay the many back-injury claims that they constantly face as they demand more and more work from fewer and fewer employees. In other words, they have created a very friendly source for expert testimony in order to cheat their injured employees out of their rightful awards due to the working conditions that UPS demands. The only question I have is why hasn't every sector of Corporate America taken this one step farther and just outright buy every student entering college in whatever field most affected by the obstacle of honest and fair research therefore negating any possibility of ever again having to honor their legal commitments to their workers? Actually, that may not be too far away, as it is. UPS is probably only the very first volley in Corporate America's war on American workers. Better duck!

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Copyright 10/2/98