P.O. Box 230351
Encinitas, CA 92023
December 7, 1992
President-elect Bill Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500
Vice President-elect AI Gore
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20500
Congratulations to Bill Clinton and Al Gore for winning the election. They are the best and the brightest that America has to offer, and I wish them and their families well as they take over the helm of the ship of state. We need the efforts of Hillary and Tipper, too, and I think they have a lot to offer. Perhaps now some sanity and humanity will be restored to this nation which for the last 12 years has suffered under ruinous economic policies and an unenlightened foreign policy 1 which neglected the real security interests of this country while allowing Reagan and Bush to strut the world stage like the statesmen they weren't. In fact their amateurism ranged from sending cakes to Tehran to arming Sadam Hussein to allowing Russian submarines to be sold to Iran which we must now surveil. It wasn't bad enough that we had to follow them around for all the years of the Cold War; now we have to continue to follow them around.
THE THREE BIGGIES
Bill Clinton and AI Gore should concentrate on a few agenda items which they set themselves and which are badly needed, get them passed and enacted into law quickly during the "honeymoon" period and then go on from there, The most pressing need—a national health care plan with universal coverage and strong cost containment features. It is sickening to read 2 that people with health insurance have it canceled after they contract some disease that is expensive to treat like the man who had his maximum benefits slashed from $1 million to $5000.00 after he got AIDS. The fact is that insurance companies have been taking advantage of people in their most vulnerable moments by denying benefits and then making people take them to court to obtain them. Either way the insurance company wins. If the people are too bereft to pursue a law suit, they win; and, if the people take them to court and win, they rarely have to pay more than what the original settlement would have been.
The second most pressing need is to stabilize the job base. The aim should be a full employment economy with the majority of the jobs paying wages that will enable a middle class lifestyle i.e. home ownership, pension, kids through college etc. The unemployment figures are an unreliable indicator as a measure of economic health since they don't indicate how many are truly unemployed. 3 If a person works one hour in the preceding week, he is considered employed; and, if a person has not looked for a job in the preceding week, he is considered a discouraged worker, out of the work force, and so is not considered in the statistics as unemployed. The way these figures are computed is a travesty to rational thinking. The only curve worth considering is the number of jobs as a function of wages. It should be a nice bell curve.
The third most pressing need is deficit reduction. Last year this letter went into detail about the trillions added to the National Debt during the Reagan-Bush years and how we are paying billions each year just to service the debt, that amount being the fastest rising category in the national budget. This is a direct result of Reagan's policy of slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy and increasing spending on defense. As a result, the deficit and the debt ballooned. The deficit for fiscal year 1992 which just ended was $290.2 billion. Interest on the national debt was $292.3 billion, the largest item in the national budget—bigger than defense, bigger than Social Security, bigger than Medicare and Medicaid. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that, were it not for the amount paid in interest, we would have essentially no deficit. We are borrowing the money each year to pay the interest on the national debt thus compounding the problem, not to mention the fact that this almost $300 billion spent on interest is money down the drain that might have bought a lot of school lunch programs and repaired a tot of infrastructure. Now the new President, we are told, has to be careful not to "spook the bond markets" and raise interest rates or the cost of borrowing money—a lot of which is loaned to us by foreigners—will be even higher. The result—the President's hands are increasingly tied; foreigners are increasingly calling the shots. In fact things are worse than I predicted in my letter last year in which I predicted that interest on the national debt would exceed the defense budget by 1996. In fact it exceeded it this last year!
HONK IF YOU'RE A HEALTH CARE POLICY WONK
The sad thing about health care is that it is becoming a battleground on which patients, doctors, insurance companies and lawyers fight bitterly over payments. My dentist has a sign in his office that co-payments —the payments the patient has to pay in addition to what's covered by insurance —have to be paid in advance of scheduling an appointment! This is really nothing compared to the horror stories that some people have to relate. Norine Rogers’ first child was born premature. 5
“When Norine and Alan Rogers' son Bryce was rushed from Fallbrook Hospital to Children's Hospital in San Diego, Alan called their New York Life Insurance agent and was told everything would be taken care of ... ‘I called the agent to find out what New York Life would pay. He wrote me a letter that itemized everything they would pay, and signed it.’
“Yet a week after she received the note from the agent, New York Life representatives were telling her nothing would be covered. She and her husband would have to assume the entire $30,000 cost alone, they were told.
“‘They said it was because I didn't get a preauthorization number for Bryce,’ she said. ‘But when we went to Children's Hospital, I was told someone from the billing department called New York Life and got a pre-authorization number.’
“She contacted the Children's Hospital clerk, who gave her the name of the New York Life representative who issued the number. The New York life representative confirmed that a number had been issued, but months later, as the battle escalated, ‘she had a memory lapse’ and refused to admit a number had been issued, Rogers said.
“Rogers asked how she could get a pre-authorization number for a premature baby, one who arrived before the projected due date. But New York Life was unshakable in its stance, she said.
“In addition, the ambulance company wanted $850.00, and there were many other bills associated with the hospital procedure, she said.
“‘I wasn't working, and here 10 to 12 different individuals were asking us for money,’ she said. ‘New York Life kept giving me the brush off, and finally made me call their attorneys in New York. The attorneys kept saying they had to review our file, and said we were in the wrong.’
“Rogers told the claims department that the New York Life agent had sent her a signed paper indicating everything would be paid, but that didn't get her anywhere.
“‘The woman I talked to said he was an independent agent, and anything he told me didn't necessarily hold true for New York life,’ she said. ‘I said, ‘I don't care. He represents you. You're responsible for what he does.’ They kept saying he didn't know what he was doing.
“As the unpaid bills mounted, the Rogers' credit rating began to slip, Rogers said. The couple had to take back a deposit on a new house. Angry creditors were calling and sending threatening letters.
“The Rogerses finally went to an attorney—another $100.00 out of their pockets—which resulted in New York Life canceling their policy, as well as the policy for the small computer store where Alan worked, Rogers said.
“No insurance company wanted anything to do with a premature baby, or a mother who'd had a Cesarean section, for fear future complications would result in more medical costs, Rogers said.
“Even more frustrating for the Rogerses was the fact that the family had been eligible for state aid, which is available for premature babies. But Rogers had turned it down, because she had been told New York Life would take care of everything.
“The couple's third attorney filed a lawsuit for more than $1 million against New York Life, not only for all the medical bills, but for mental distress, Rogers said. Bryce was 2 years old by this time...
“Four days after the suit was filed, Rogers got a letter from New York Life.
“‘They sent a form that said the bill at Children's had been paid,’ she said. ‘I called the claims department and wanted to know why, after all this time, the bill had been paid. The woman told me there was a lift-off on the file and it was OK to pay the bills. Even the ambulance bill had been paid.’
“Relief was the first emotion Rogers felt, knowing creditors wouldn't be knocking on her door anymore. Then she began to feel angry.
“‘They put me through hell for two years,’ she said. ‘To this day, I am still shocked that they informed me that way. There was no explanation. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken them to court. I was so relieved at that point to have it taken care of that I didn't. They probably hoped I'd drop the suit if they paid.’
“Rogers said the entire experience has left her paranoid about health insurance.”
Is this the type of society we want to live in—where insurance companies refuse to pay until you threaten or actually file a law suit because it's cost effective for them to do so? This is ruthlessness carried to the nth degree. Contrast this with Canada or Denmark where visiting Americans have been treated for sudden illnesses including heart attack at no charge. 6
The subtitle of the article is: “Flat on his back in a coronary unit, the author had plenty of time to appreciate Danish medical care.” The writer goes on to say, “Being an avid traveler and convinced that one sees a city best on foot, I must have overdone my walking. Whatever the case, by evening of my third day in Copenhagen, it was clear that something was radically wrong: I was experiencing intense chest pressure. Following the instructions of the tourist brochure, I asked the hotel to dial emergency and within a few minutes, two tall young men arrived and placed me in their ambulance. As we drove to the hospital, one of them gave me oxygen and, leaning close to my ear, said, ‘You're in good hands now.’ I was more than convinced.
... “I was placed in the 14th-floor Coronary Unit in a double room with a private toilet, and monitored in more ways than I thought possible. It almost seemed like one of those trips on Japan Air Lines where they keep you so occupied that you never have a moment of boredom, except that my entertainment consisted of blood tests, frequent EKGs, blood pressure, an injection of this, a few pills, an injection of that, ice water and a series of visits by nurses and doctors.
“The care was overwhelming, the facility impressive. The Rigshospitalet is Denmark's largest hospital, affiliated with Copenhagen University, and it includes all areas of specialization as well as a research institute. Founded in 1719, and dramatically enlarged just 20 years ago, it has 1600 beds, 8000 employees and last year served 57,000 patients.
“Each day as I began to walk about more, I discovered new indications of a sense of style, like a truly fabulous collection of contemporary prints hanging in the halls and elegant Danish flatware used for meals marked with the hospital’s crest. New elements of thoughtfulness and sociability became apparent, too: a TV set in the hall where one joined other patients to hear the news and watch standard TV fare; a table rolled into the hall in late afternoon and evening stocked with cookies, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and cold drinks, and another table called ‘The Patients’ Table’ with such things as tape, pens, and note paper. I was delighted to discover a number of showers available and fresh garments whenever requested.
“When I arrived I had, of course, to change many plans. The nurses were most helpful and warmhearted in making phone calls, domestic and international, to cancel flights and reservations and to arrange to have my luggage brought over from my hotel. Going way beyond the call of duty, they allowed me into their office to make a number of long-distance calls to family and friends, since I was traveling alone and had no personal contacts in Denmark.
“As one can see, the essentials of first-class medical care were there, along with careful, affectionate nursing, rather than the luxuries of television in each room and private telephones. This helped to bring the patients together into the wider circle of the hospital and to increase my admiration for the Danes...
... “How much did I pay...? Enough to make me go into cardiac arrest? Not at all: It cost me the price of my phone calls. As the tourist brochure had assured me and I later verified, ‘All foreigners staying temporarily in Denmark are entitled to free treatment in hospitals and casualty wards in the event of sudden illness or aggravation of chronic disease, provided the patient has not come to Denmark with a view to obtaining treatment, or is not strong enough to return to home country.’
“How can one forget the warm hospitality and kind generosity of a people so welcoming and friendly? It is difficult to know how to repay all the handsome treatment I have received. One thing I do know: I don't want too much time to pass before I am again among these big-hearted people, to watch that golden sun rising from the bay outside my window. But next time I hope it will be a hotel window.”
This is the epitome of compassion. The case quoted above involving the Rogerses is the epitome of compassionlessness. Which one better epitomizes the Christian spirit? Is this the kind of America we want?
Americans are even cared for in foreign countries at their governments' expense because they wouldn't be able to find care if they returned to the US. “A 6-year-old American girl has spent nearly a third of her life in a children's hospital in Vancouver because Canadian officials have been unable to find an American hospital that will supervise her care.” 7
“Despite more than a year of intensive efforts, ‘we have been unsuccessful in getting any jurisdiction in the US to take responsibility for the care of this child,’ said John H. Tegenfeldt, president of British Columbia's Children's Hospital, where Zahra has lived since July, 1990. ‘It is a real reflection of problems in the health care system that exist in the [US].’
... “Dr. Paula Braveman, a health policy researcher at UC San Francisco, said the situation is ‘really disgraceful’ and a ‘particularly poignant example of where our health care system is headed, unless we take some dramatic action. The safety net isn't there.’”
Although the Canadians feel that their primary responsibility is to provide care for Canadians, “We are not going to just dump this child,” Tegenfeldt said. About 9.8 million children in the US or about 15% of all American children were uninsured in 1990. In Canada everyone is covered, the patient never sees a bill, never has to fill out any paperwork, doesn't have to provide any “numbers”, and can choose to see any doctor or go to any hospital he or she prefers. Canada spends far less of its GOP on health care than does the US. Canadians have longer life expectancies, and Canadian babies are less likely to die in their first year than American babies. The Vancouver Province editorialized, “So which is the better system?.., Yours with instant [heart] bypasses for those who can afford them, or ours with little waiting lists for some surgery but instant care for those who can't afford health insurance in your country.”
We need a health care system similar to the Canadians’. There is a single payer—the provincial government—thus eliminating 20% of American health care costs which is red tape. Costs are set in negotiations between a doctor's group and the government. This is the only fair way to limit health care costs in my opinion. We don't need Magnetic Resonance Imaging labs on every street corner that are fantastically expensive but under-utilized. Patients, who have unusual and special needs, can be transported to regional centers where the ultimate in high-tech medicine is practiced. HMOs are not the solution since we lose the freedom the Canadians have to choose their own doctors and hospitals on an individual basis. In Canada doctors are in business for themselves and hospitals are privately owned. Insurance is the only thing that's socialized. How nice it would be to walk into a doctor's office and not see a prominently displayed sign to the effect of “payment is expected at the time of (or before) treatment.” Since it is Christmas, maybe we should reflect on the meaning of the Biblical passage in which Jesus says words to the effect of “Whosoever would hurt a child, it would be better for a millstone to be hung around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.” Anyone responsible for not treating a sick child due to lack of health insurance or ability to pay should think about that.
NOBEL PRIZE WATCH
A couple of years ago we called for the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Mikhail Gorbachev for his predominant role in ending the Cold War. We were pleased that the Nobel Committee decided to do so shortly afterwards. Now it is time to recommend that the Nobel Prize be awarded to President Jimmy Carter whose tireless efforts have promoted democracy through his election oversight work in Latin America. He has been concerned with human rights around the world, the provision of homes for the poor through his work with Habitat for Humanity, and there have been his efforts on behalf of Project Atlanta to help the inner city poor, and perhaps a Project America also. This man has done more to help his fellow man as an ex-President than all other ex-Presidents combined in my opinion. He didn't deserve the political excoriation he has received from numerous Republicans, and it is time he is recognized for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of the poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, the oppressed. He embodies the spirit of Matthew 25:35-45. “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in.”
PLATZ FÖR BARNVAGN
When my wife and I visited Sweden a couple of years ago, we were struck by the prosperity, the lack of poverty and the lack of crime. We felt safe walking the streets of downtown, "inner city" Stockholm, late at night, riding public transportation, even getting lost. We found that the Swedes put their money where their mouth is when it comes to family values. On all the public busses, there is a “platz för barnvagn”, a place for a baby carriage. This kind of thoughtfulness makes Stockholm a more “user friendly” city. It's just a small thing; it doesn't cost much money, nor do the ramps for baby carriages leading up and down the steps to the “tunnelbanan” or subway, but it makes one feel that, “Hey, the society that I live in cares about me.” I didn't see one homeless person or poverty case anywhere in Stockholm, and I was all over the city using public transportation. Of course they have free education up through post-graduate work, universal health care and generous pension plans not subject to cancellation. 8 Five weeks paid vacation each year is standard and most Swedes have a "stuga" or summer cottage as a second home and a boat as well.
Usually they have less than 2% unemployment and I think we as Americans could learn something here. In Sweden everyone who can work is encouraged to work. They are dedicated to the principle that every able-bodied person should have a job—this is a jobs policy. Consequently, they, the government, do everything in its power to get people jobs, private sector jobs. That means that welfare, as we know it, is provided for the most part only to those who truly need it—those who can't work. One of the neat high tech things that I would like to see emulated in this country is the employment centers. These are storefronts into which one can walk and get a computer printout of all the available jobs in the country for which one is qualified. They have a large computerized database listing every available job in the country. If need be, they will help with relocation expenses. Because the government will do everything in its power to facilitate getting people into the job force, there are very few people on welfare that actually are capable of working. The basic philosophy is that everyone who can work should work, and those who truly can't will be taken care of. Now if a person is offered three jobs and refuses them all, they get no more unemployment or welfare benefits. So getting paid for doing nothing is greatly discouraged. I would like to see, as the first use of the “information super-highway,” that Vice-President Gore has proposed—the high speed computer and telecommunications network—a link-up between computers in all major cities to a national job bank database listing every available job in the country. I think this is in line with Bill Clinton's approach to getting people into the work force and individual responsibility—a hand up rather than a hand out. Oh, and maybe on that high speed rail link between Washington and New York—there should be a platz far barnvagn!
DOES IT HAFTA BE NAFTA?
In my opinion NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) is not about free trade at all. 9 Free trade is a utopian concept developed by an 18th century English philosopher, Adam Smith. At the time England was the premier and predominant trading nation in the world, and free trade provided a rationale for their activities since the concept favors the nation who's on top. Today we are not the world's premier trading nation, and the nations that are ahead of us—Japan and continental Europe—don't give a fig for Adam Smith and never did. These countries are set up in such a way that government and industry are intimately involved. They have industrial policies. Japan has MITI-the Ministry of International Trade and Industry which oversees Japan's overall economic health. For us to insist that these countries eliminate subsidies is to ask that they dismantle their societies and recreate them in our image which they will never do. It's a losing strategy. Besides our hands aren't so pure. We subsidize dairy products; agricultural crops; honey, wool and mohair production; foreign advertising for wealthy US businesses like McDonalds, Pillsbury and Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery among other things like paying farmers not to plant crops.
What's happening with our current phony free trade rhetoric is that Japan and Europe are penetrating and devastating our markets and driving many domestic producers out of business. On the other hand French family farmers have demonstrated that they won't sit idly by and be put out of business by American corporate farmers. Market devastation by foreign interests isn't good from a national security standpoint or an economic security standpoint. If we don't produce shoes any more, are we going to send our soldiers into battle with bare feet? Instead I propose a trade policy based on self-sufficiency. That is, if a product can be produced here, it should be. If all products consumed here were produced here, this would tend to maximize US employment. Of course, as productivity increases and more economic output can be obtained with less labor, a secondary problem emerges. Either the remaining work must be spread around by reducing the work week or we go towards a two tier society in which a decreasing number of people hold jobs and an increasing number are jobless. Once the industrial and job base is stabilized and all key industries are represented, there is no harm in accepting imports up to say 15% of the overall market as long as this is balanced by equivalent exports. Then there is no net job loss. This philosophy of self-sufficiency is basically what Japan practices already. “Despite Japan's status as a high-wage nation with a propensity to focus aver more on sophisticated, higher-profit manufactured goods—like the US—Japan is still producing electric fans at home. America is not.” 10 “The determination of Toshiba and other electronics giants to remain in the business of making electric fans underscores a philosophical commitment to the value of a domestic base for manufacturing as a prerequisite for engineering advances—a commitment that appears to be disappearing in the US.”
... “Japanese firms, on average, still manufacture less than 5% of their total production overseas. American firms, by contrast, produce about 21% of their total output abroad.
“A continual pursuit of ever-higher profit margins often induces American firms to drop production of specific goods even without red ink. TV sets are one example.
“‘US management tends to go wherever low costs are available,’ (Toshiba vice president) Yoshida said. He noted that Zenith, the last of the American producers of TV sets in the US, is about to transfer all its production to Mexico. After Zenith leaves, the only TV manufacturers in America will be companies headquartered in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and France.”
Yoshida goes on to say, “From the start, we think in terms of how to keep jobs at home.”
“US Losing Its Edge in 10 of 11 High-Tech Fields” 11 was the headline. We're losing market share in aircraft, semiconductors, supercomputers, robotics, telecommunications and many more. Airbus is taking market share away from Boeing.12 Just this year United Airlines chose Airbus over Boeing when it placed an order.13 Aircraft are still a major export, but it's only a matter of time. Smith-Corona last July closed the last factory of the last American manufacturer of typewriters moving their production facilities to Tijuana. High paying American jobs that supported middle class lifestyles and home ownership are being transferred to $2.00 an hour, shack dwelling, open sewer inhabiting Mexican labor. So it goes—industry by industry,
Getting back to NAFTA, it's not so much about free trade as it is about setting up a trading block—a block that will be every bit as protectionist against countries not in the block—namely Europe and Japan and even other Caribbean and Latin American countries. So why do it? It was conjured up by President Bush as a way to save American business by transferring the labor input in the manufacturing process to Mexico where labor is cheap. This may be good for American business, but it's bad for American workers. It's the opposite of Japan's and Europe's approach which stresses keeping jobs at home. With NAFTA, we end up vitiating our sovereignty as a nation, limiting our freedom of movement in negotiating trading agreements with other nations and being part of a protectionist system. Wouldn't it be better to negotiate with each trading partner individually as the US rather than as part of NAFTA? Besides, Europe and Japan already have plants in Mexico. They're still set up to sell into our markets on favorable terms. They would just shift production there. NAFTA is a Venus fly trap that would limit our ability to maneuver as a sovereign nation, shift jobs to Mexico and create a more protectionist system than if we operated as a sovereign nation, had an industrial policy which guaranteed domestic production for key industries and kept a high-paying job base at home.
This last election was about the economy, but now it seems the economy has improved, short. term anyway. This improvement is deceptive. There are major, long-term, structural problems, 14 and I think Bill Clinton, fortunately, is prepared to deal with them. Even Denmark, with free medical care and five weeks paid vacation for all workers and after footing the bill for visiting American heart attack victims, surpasses the US in its ability to compete internationally! Everything must be done to stop the hemorrhaging of the job base. That includes stopping the closing of plants here to be replaced by plants in Mexico and abroad—replacing $15.00 an hour American jobs with $2.00 an hour Mexican jobs. How did we get into this mess?
Actually, the Cold War had a lot to do with it. American companies, with their penchant for high profit margins as opposed to market share, discontinued making such mundane things as sewing machines, refrigerators and TVs and went in for things like sophisticated avionics systems that they could sell to the military industrial complex. Why? High profit margins. $500.00 hammers and $600.00 toilet seats result in some hefty profits. Meanwhile, other countries—Europe and Japan— were tending to their knitting and developing high quality products for the commercial marketplace. The result was that American companies all but abandoned many low and medium tech technologies in favor of very high tech military technologies. Companies that were producing for the domestic economy were, as pointed out in Vance Packard's “The Wastemakers,” designing in planned obsolescence i.e. they were making products designed to fall apart shortly after the warranty expired. This was alright as long as they had a captive market. However, as superior products from abroad began to encroach on our marketplace, “the wastemakers” had to scramble to catch up. As a result of turning to production for the military, falling behind quality-wise in other markets and pursuing high profit margins, we have seen the wholesale abandoning of many traditional markets, markets which continue to earn billions in foreign exchange for foreign producers who didn't think they were too mundane or low tech—markets such as cameras, steel, textiles etc.
When I was a young engineering student just out of high school and alternating quarters of work and school, I worked for a place in New Jersey called Picatinny Arsenal. My impression was that very little work was performed there and that it was basically a welfare program for the middle class. One day one of the people in my group declared, “I haven't done a lick of work in ten years, and, if I don't get that raise I'm up for, I never will do any.” Every morning we drank coffee for an hour or two and then adjourned to another building that was set up as a workshop with drill presses, lathes—everything a home hobbyist could want! The guys sat around and told war stories for awhile, and then went to work on “home projects.” Especially around Christmas time those lathes would hum; the sounds of drill presses and power tools could be heard. It was almost like Santa's workshop. That's because it was Santa's workshop. All that stuff went home. I even heard about a guy that built a yacht in one of these workshops, and then they had to tear out a wall so he could get it out and get it home. This was my introduction to the work world. I went on to work for some of the major companies in the military industrial complex—Lawrence Livermore, General Dynamics Convair, Naval Electronics Laboratory, which later became Naval Electronics Laboratory Center which later became Naval Ocean Systems Command which later became Naval Research and Development—the name constantly changing to protect the guilty. I guess the higher ups felt that, as long as you changed the name every decade or so, it gave the impression that something dynamic was happening there. What was happening there was that people were building their own little fiefdoms inside the lab. It worked like this: every department head was essentially a salesman going to Washington frequently to sell various funding agencies in Congress and the Pentagon on various projects of dubious value to the national defense. They knew what pots to tap and how to do it. The more successful ones would build up their departmental budgets which allowed them to hire more people underneath them. The more people underneath them, the higher their budget, the more they would be promoted on the GS scale. The less successful ones would have departments that would fade away while the more successful ones would preside over little empires. There were several layers of management and then on the bottom were the technical people who actually did the work. Of course everyone wanted to move into a management position. That was the only way to get promoted. Any engineer actually doing technical work after five years in the work force was looked on as a failure. When I was in college, the guys who couldn't hack it in engineering went into Industrial Management, the easiest department in the school, but out in the work force these guys are bossing you around. This whole system seemed like such a farce that I got out of the military industrial complex and started my own business—window cleaning—where at least I feel that I'm making an honest living. Now I’ve started my own software development company, and I hope to have a better high-tech mousetrap soon.
As much respect as I have for Clinton's economic advisor, Robert Reich, I don't agree with his basic thesis. 15 Reich's trip is that you can do nothing to prevent business from going wherever labor is cheapest, and that a nation must just train its citizens so that they are an attractive work force so that business will be enticed to set up shop there. Another important book 16 by Lester Thurow shows that he has his feet more firmly planted on the ground. With Reich's philosophy you just end up training and retraining people for non-existent jobs. The jobs have to be there and not just high tech jobs but jobs across the whole spectrum. German workers are doing well not just because they are highly trained, but because they are highly unionized. The problem in America is that labor is so weak that it can't pursue its rightful role of keeping high-paying jobs here.17 When Caterpillar workers went on strike earlier this year, management just terminated them and hired new workers. The strike has become management's, not labor's, tool. By contrast, when German transportation workers went on strike earlier this year, they got what they wanted. We need a much stronger labor movement to prevent jobs flowing to wherever labor is cheapest if we want to uphold our standard of living. If Mr. Reich thinks that just having a labor force trained in high tech is going to attract jobs here, I suggest that he think again. Already there are highly professional software cadres in India among other places and even high tech jobs are moving off-shore. “Over the last twenty years, organized labor's political power has declined disastrously — a fact that is central to virtually every economic question fought out in contemporary Washington politics. Labor unions, notwithstanding their rigidities and autocratic crust, were the core liberal force within the old Democratic Party and committed their considerable political resources to other progressive causes, including both the civil rights and environmental movements. Their weakness has weakened many other causes — especially the ranks of unorganized workers.” 18 Whereas Reagan did everything in his power to destroy the labor movement starting with busting the PATCO union and largely succeeded, Clinton and Gore should do everything they can to strengthen labor. A well-meaning President and beaucoup training and retraining is not sufficient.19
REAL SECURITY MEANS PROTECTING OUR BORDERS
While Reagan and Bush have been strutting the world stage, they have totally neglected the real security threat to our nation — a southwestern border as porous as a sieve. Illegal aliens have been flooding across our border changing the whole demographics of the southwest. While I'm not against legal immigration, immigration that proceeds according to a rational, democratically arrived at process, I am against uncontrolled, flooding of people into our country equivalent every year to a Napoleonic Grande Armee. The lack of integrity of our borders vitiates our national security and demeans and undermines the meaning of American citizenship. Let's remember a little history. The southwest was won in a war of conquest with Mexico, the Mexican-American War, less then 150 years ago. There might: be a few Mexicans with long memories who might: think it was taken from them illegally. After all the Roman Empire fell when the Romans got tired of protecting their borders and some illegal aliens like the Goths, Visigoths and Vandals came in and cleaned their clocks. Hispanics are emerging as a clear majority in LA and San Diego. 20, 21 In some schools less then 10% are English speakers. There are Spanish Yellow Pages, Spanish Classifieds in the local newspapers, many Spanish TV stations. This is not a melting pot. This is a wholesale onslaught of Spanish culture. Everywhere hundreds of young Hispanic men loiter on street corners waiting for a day job. Although many are illegal, they have more rights than homeless American citizens as Hispanic advocacy groups fight every attempt to clear them off the streets while American homeless are asked to move along.
These folks are here supposedly as “migrant workers.” American business in its unremitting appetite for cheap labor uses these guys to pick tomatoes and other crops paying them sub-minimum wages. The rap is that these are jobs American citizens “don't want.” The problem is that there are so many of them that only the lucky ones get the sub-minimum wage jobs. The rest are essentially unemployed. Most of the illegals are consumers of tax-payer provided social services, but don't pay taxes. That's one reason for California's state budget crisis. I say that, as long as there's one unemployed American citizen, we don't need “migrant workers.” Let the tomato farmers pay at least minimum wage and meet occupational and safety standards. Then American citizens on unemployment or welfare should be given a choice of these jobs, but if they turn down three jobs, they don't get any more welfare just like the Swedish system. We shouldn't be paying people to do nothing, and then providing jobs to foreigners. And if the price of lettuce triples because farmers are forced to pay minimum wages, so be it. One reason for Europe's relative prosperity compared to us is that consumer goods are relatively more expensive there. But more expensive consumer goods support relatively higher paying jobs. Our cheap consumer goods are being produced by $1 an hour labor in Third World countries. Sweden puts its prisoners to work in the fields with the result that they learn the work ethic and are more likely to be rehabilitated; they pay for their own keep instead of costing the tax. payers $40,000. a year to support like here, and the government actually makes a profit off the sale of agricultural goods so that it becomes a funding source instead of a funding drain for the government. The prisoners are treated well and live in college campus-like accommodations. Here the prisoners are provided with free medical care, free meals, access to libraries, recreational facilities etc. 22 They have more rights than American homeless citizens that have committed no crimes. They should be required to work in order to pay their own way instead of being provided for at taxpayers' expense. We need to put American citizens to work, not provide jobs for non-American citizens!
If we have the technology to read a license plate in Iraq, why don't we have the technology to secure our borders? I think we could use satellite technology to electronically sweep our borders to identify any penetration both of individuals and of contraband such as drugs. Some kind of organic barrier such as a super strain of brier patch could be planted which would both beautify and slow down anyone attempting to cross long enough so that they could be intercepted by helicopters dispatched from regularly spaced lookout stations. Automated computer technology could sound the alert and provide location of attempted penetration. This could also be used to guard against illegal approaches by ships or aircraft. We need to keep drugs and illegal aliens out while encouraging legal trade and orderly immigration.
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1. “Legacy of Failure in Defense,” by Ralph Vartabedian and John Broder, LA Times, January 9, 1991.
2. Newsweek, November 23, 1992, p. 48.
3. “US Jobless Figures Fail to Add ‘Hidden Unemployed,’” by Bob Baker, LA Times, April 11, 1991.
4. “Bond Market Packs a Punch Clinton Is Already Feeling,” by Victor F. Zonana, LA Times, November 21, 1992.
5. "Insurance woes haunt families," by Leslie Ridgeway, Oceanside Blade-Citizen, March 18, 1992.
6. “From Copenhagen With Gratitude,” by Leonard C. Pronko, LA Times, February 23, 1992.
7. “Ailing US Girl Suspended in a Health Care limbo,” by Robert Steinbrook, LA Times, July 26,1992.
8. “McDonnell to Ax Retiree Health Benefits,” by Stuart Silverstein and Ralph Vartabedian, LA Times, October 9, 1992.
9. “Protectionism slips into NAFT A,” by James Bovard, San Diego Union, November 22, 1991.
10. “Japan's Companies Keep Factories-and Jobs-at Home,” by Sam Jameson, LA Times. June 2, 1992.
11. by William J. Eaton, LA Times, November 18, 1992.
12. “Airbus Shows Why We Need Industrial Policy,” by James Flanigan, LA Times, June 24, 1992.
13. “United Signs Airbus Deal in Blow to Boeing,” LA Times from Reuters, July 9. 1992.
14. “US Falls to 5th on List of Best Competitors,” by Joel Havemann, LA Times, June 22.1992.
15. Robert Reich, “The Work of Nations,” Alfred Knopf, 1991.
16. Lester Thurow, “Head to Head,” William Morrow, 1992.
17. “Sun Is Setting for America's Unions and All Workers May Rue the Day,” by Guy Molyneux, LA Times, April 19, 1992.
19. “For Many, Retraining Is a Myth,” by Jonathan Peterson, LA Times, October 22, 1992.
20. “Ratio of Whites Hits City Schools Low," by David Smoltar, LA Times, December 1, 1992.
21. “Los Angeles 2010: A Latino Subcontinent,” by Michael Meyer, Newsweek, November 9, 1992.
22. “Homemade meals and cable TV: America's top 10 penitentiaries,” AP, the Oceanside Blade-Citizen, June 14, 1992.