Tag Archives: workers rights

Lies Liberal Tell, Part 6

Lies Liberals Tell, Part 6

Copyright Joseph Urban 2017,2018,2019

Lie # 6. Inevitability of Progress.

One of the lies liberals tell themselves is that we always move forward toward a better, more tolerant society. Two steps forward, one step backward. But always moving forward in the end.

Yet, the facts speak otherwise. For example, average worker incomes, adjusted for inflation, have  barely budged since the 1960s. And for lower wage workers the increases have sometimes not kept pace with inflation. In the 1970s tuition costs were approximately 7% of the median male income. By 2015 the tuition costs were 25% of the median male income.

What does this mean? A higher education is the path for the working poor to a better life. Always has been. That is how we train teachers, scientists, engineers, etc. As tuition rises, relative to income, it does two things. First, it prevents many children of the working poor to achieve a higher  education and therefore better paying careers. Second, for those who do borrow (the only way to finance the education) they start their adult life burdened with massive debt. The opposite of progress.

Take the healthcare system. Since the time of FDR we have known we need some permanent health care solution for everyone. FDR could not get it done, though he tried. Along came Medicare and Medicaid. Slow progress that guaranteed the poorest of the poor and the elderly would have access to basic care. But not the younger working poor. They were left out. Until the ACA. Which is now under attack and being cut slowly but surely. The opposite of progress.

We can look at the end of the EPA, the Department of Education, the National Parks, the Consumer Protection Agency. All being gutted . All under the control of people who want to turn back the clock on basic human progress.  Major steps backward.

We see the same thing with the unrelenting attacks on women’s basic health services. The Supreme Court rules that a company (Hobby Lobby) can deny basic coverage to their employees if that coverage somehow does not fit the beliefs of the owners of the company. The mentality that the business owner owns not only your labor, but your health care. The Supreme Court majority, which calls itself “strict constructionists” finds in the Constitution the right of a corporation to have “religious beliefs”. And to impose those beliefs on its workers. Of course, there is not a single mention of the term “corporation” in the Constitution.  The Bill of Rights, envisioned to protect individual citizens from the government, is turned on its head and used to deprive citizens of rights.

We see that new voter suppression techniques are being used to deny some people the franchise. In 2019 the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives proposed their first bill, HR 1. That bill would guarantee people the right to vote and provide resources for  that purpose. The conservative in charge of the Senate refused to bring it to a vote . He called it a “power grab” by the Democrats. The American people voting, according to the far right, is a liberal “power grab”. Progress is a power grab. Democracy is a “power grab”.

Liberals need to learn that progress is not automatic or inevitable. The reactionary forces are strong and currently hold power. And they are stripping the safeguards that took so long to develop. In the end, they want to privatize and deregulate everything.

Progress is not inevitable. 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Constitution, Democrat, GOP, government, Politics, Religion, Society, Supreme Court, United States

Corporate Rights #2: The Hobby Lobby Religion

Central to the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court is whether a corporation can exercise the right to religious freedom. And thereby excuse itself from laws it finds religiously offensive.

We have a long history of allowing religious institutions and sometime even individuals exemptions from the law. Or parts of the law. For example, the Affordable Care Act exempts religious employers from paying for health insurance costs related to some areas of contraception and abortion. The principle, not really tested yet in court in the case of the ACA, being that legitimate religious beliefs trump this part of the law. While I personally do not agree that any institution or individual is above the law, the Congress disagrees. Perhaps the lobbying power and financial clout of non-tax paying religious organizations may be part of the reason for this exemption. At any rate, it is there. It exists. It is legal.

But other times the courts have ruled that certain practices of religious groups are not above the law. Polygamy, for example, was considered essential for the leaders of the Church of Latter Day saints. But the government ruled otherwise. Even though it was, at the time, a central doctrine of the faith. The Mormons believed in it. The US government said “No”.

And no one would argue that child marriage, slavery, human sacrifice  or actions which obviously harm individuals should be protected, no matter how sincere the beliefs of the religious group that holds them. So, the courts have ruled that religious freedom has  limits, as does  any right.

Individuals who may object to joining the military can apply for conscientious objector status, which precludes them from taking part in combat. But even in this case, it does  not exempt them from military service. They are given other jobs to do. So,  in that sense, they are not exempt.

What about Hobby Lobby? It is not a religion. It is not a church. It is a junk store. It does business in the United States as a multi-million (perhaps billion dollar) corporate entity. Not a mom and pop operation. Not your local Jewish deli. It is a corporate chain, like a MacDonalds or a Dollar Store. What is it’s claim to a religious exemption?

The family that owns Hobby Lobby has sincere religious beliefs. As do the owners of thousands of businesses. And the CEO  of Exxon  or GE or Boeing.  But Hobby Lobby is claiming that the beliefs of a few people, because they are owners of a business enterprise,  somehow allow them to impose their terms on a secular labor contract. While the law says that any business must provide certain things…overtime pay, safe working conditions, minimum wages and now minimum health care benefits, Hobby Lobby is claiming that it does  not have to  abide by those laws. While it uses a religious argument, the actual substance of the case is about money. After all, no one is forcing the Green family to pay for anything out of their own pockets. They have the legal protections of a corporation, but do not want to fulfill the responsibilities of a corporation under the ACA.

The workers earn benefits. Can a corporation limit or reduce or deny benefits based on some new and radical idea of “corporate religion”? If so,  any reasonable person can follow the thread and see where it leads. Any corporate lawyer worth his salary will be codifying “religious beliefs” for Wendy’s and GM before the ink dries on a favorable court decision.

Of course a corporation cannot claim religious freedom to avoid labor laws. A corporation is an artificial , man-made legal construct.  Can anyone claim with a straight face that the original intent of the Bill of Rights was to shield business entities from the powers given Congress in Article 1 ?

Perhaps. After all, some members of this court have already turned the Constitution and themselves  into a logical pretzel with the Bush v Gore decision and the Citizens United decision. While both were obviously politically motivated the majority managed to mangle the interpretation to mean “whatever I say it means”.

So, while an honest interpretation of the law (which already exempts religious groups) and the Constitution would seem to indicate a 9-0 decision against Hobby Lobby, there is no telling how far some members will go in their homage to corporate power. We shall see. Just as Citizens United has turned our elections into a livestock auction,  (“twenty dollar, eighty dollar, five thousand dollar, two million dollar…SOLD, to the two brothers in the back of the room slinking in the corner”) this court decision could eviscerate any worker protection and undercut Article 1 of the Constitution. Believe it.

1 Comment

Filed under ACA, Conservatives, healthcare, neoconservatives, Obamacare, Religion, Supreme Court, Taxes