Saturday, March 10, 2007

Case In Point By Joe Koester, Councilman Ward 9

An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.

Very recently a shift in the discussion of outsourcing occurred in the media. The national news has run stories with experts questioning the downside to outsourcing. Where have the media been? Americans have been having this discussion for a long time now. Citizens have watched their income stagnate and erode for the past six years. Costs have risen and wages have not kept pace with inflation. For the first time in scores of years, there has been “job growth” and a downturn in home sales. Prognosticators are long-windedly telling us why this is. All of us already know the answer – this so-called job growth came after years of job loss. The current “growth” is the re-employment of millions of Americans only at lower wages with fewer and fewer benefits. Ascending health care costs have eaten away any real potential pay raises for millions of Americans, but the CEOs have done just fine, thank you. They have enjoyed grandiose salaries and benefits and staggering bonuses and stock options. All the while, the national news has sheepishly went about its business not wanting to do the hard-hitting news stories that confront these corporate raiders and corporate sell outs who tell us that our country doesn’t want the jobs that have been sent overseas anyhow. The news media do not want to upset their advertisers, after all.

After the Katrina debacle in New Orleans and Mississippi the media found their voice if only for a moment. Americans watched as reporters asked tough questions and pushed the bureaucrats and criticized the Administration. If the national news networks had paid attention they may have realized that people listened, tuned in, and cared about the news. The news was real, it was poignant and it was reminiscent of how news used to be. I think many people hoped that this new take on national news would stick, but it was not to be.

It wasn’t long before the oft-over jovial morning news casts and the evening talking heads were back to telling us very little about politics, the war in Afghanistan or Iraq, much less investigating the hordes of possible stories that have surrounded the current Administration. Once again our national news was in a race to the bottom by spending time telling millions of viewers stories of actors and their babies. The public again renewed their disdain for the lack of serious news brought you by ABC, NBC, and CBS.

I wish I could ask the news the following question, “How will you end your promotion of meaningless harmony with corporations and the Administration?” I got this question from a recent public forum – I have altered it slightly.

This leads me to address the Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum from February 28, 2007. All that you were supposed to learn from the forum was that the current council is disharmonious. Over and over again, the Chamber asked, “How would you promote harmony among council and the mayor.” Did you wonder who came up with this question?

Other City Issues: An issue that has been thrown out by a local columnist made me smile. It was stated that we each are using dollars allotted for our wards to win votes right before the election. Money came available from building permits a few months back and each ward received an equal share to spend on issues that they felt were important. Anyone familiar with the pace of getting things done through government realize that most every project begun takes months to achieve; even simple tasks to have to go through a bid process that can take weeks on end. Projects that I wish would have been done last year might be done by April. In fact, I’m not even certain if any of the projects using this allotted ward money will be begun, much less completed by the April elections. I also was glad we got money that we could spend in our wards for some things that we see as important. We are elected to represent our wards and we should have a general idea of some things that need to get done. This is why one of the projects planned is a retaining wall that will help residents more safely exit their neighborhood. I was glad that this money came available and I could use it to enhance public safety in the ward as well as upgrade some infrastructure.

Finally, It has been refreshing to see Congress bring up several matters that, well, matter. One recent issue that sticks out is the fees and fines that credit card companies charge their customers. They seem to be able to charge whatever they choose and have answered to no one. Long forgotten are most usury laws that prevented such arbitrary increases in interest rates and fines that often do not jibe with the offense. Congress passed laws lowering interest rates on student loans. Finally some oversight has entered the picture in D.C.! Scooter Libby has indicted his old boss and now there is talk of a presidential pardon. Don’t believe for one moment that this is not a possibility and if this man does receive a pardon, listen for deafening silence coming from Fox News and other critics who screamed about presidential pardons six years ago…

To Wrap up:
Let the workers organize. Let the toilers assemble. Let their crystallized voice proclaim their injustices and demand their privileges. Let all thoughtful citizens sustain them, for the future of Labor is the future of America
John L. Lewis