Sunday, November 4, 2012

Vote Romney Or Else!

“In the general course of human nature, a power over a man’s subsistence amounts to a power over his will.” —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 79

It always amuses me when conservatives and libertarians point to things like Mao jackets in China as the ultimate sign of a totalitarian collectivist society. "Look, they all dress the same!" they cry with amusement. Then I walk into my local Target or Home Depot or McDonald's (well, not often), or get a delivery from UPS or FedEx and what do I see? Everyone told what to wear and everyone dressing the same. Even the drab, collectivist communist workers uniforms did not go so far as to emblazon "how may I help you?" on them. I doubt the socialists would put up with such humiliation; they probably would have gone on strike. And certainly even the most despotic, oppressive communist regime did not demand to examine someone's bodily fluids at any time, as is commonplace in the American work force today (random drug checks). I'm not defending the murderous persecution of dissidents of these regimes, I'm merely pointing out that our "freedom" in America is more and more of a marketing buzzword than an actual reality.

Of course the rejoinder is always the fact that they are all there by "free choice;" they just made the perfectly rational decision with no coercion whatsoever to sell the moments of their lives away to McDonald's or Wendy's or Target or WalMart or FedEx. Never mind that these companies have monopoly control over vast segments of the economy or that they employ a significant fraction of the workforce. Besides, once you're off the clock you can strap on the normal American apparel - ill fitting day-glo colored clown clothes made in a third world sweatshop or a sports jersey*.

And you thought those cute little Communists had to rationalize things away to accept their socioeconomic system.

Anyway, that's all by way of introduction to the point that employers are becoming ever more totalitarian over their employees lives. remember, you're only "free" when you're off the clock.Perhaps you've heard the latest trend of employers sending threatening letters to their employees warning of "unfortunate consequences" if Obama is elected. It's an interesting insight into the fact that the business in the U.S. is more of a cult than an actual enterprise. Of course the Koch brothers did it to all 45,000 of the burdensome parasites who sponge off their greatness (what used to be called employees). But they are hardly alone:

More CEOs Send Letters to Their Employees Warning Them To Vote For Romney Or Else (Class Warfare Exists)

But it really hit home when a local CEO and cult member decided to jump on board:
Mike White, the chairman and owner of Rite-Hite, a major Milwaukee manufacturer of industrial equipment, wanted to be sure his employees understood what he feels is at stake in the presidential election.

In an email sent this week to employees, White said his workers "should understand the personal consequences to them of having our tax rates increase dramatically if President Obama is re-elected, forcing taxpayers to fund President Obama's future deficits and social programs (including Obamacare), which require bigger government."

The email, which may conflict with state election law, stunned some employees. One employee said he felt threatened by the email. "It's a good company, but for this to come out, it's absurd," said the employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution from management.

The employee said even supervisors were surprised by the tone of the email. "Many were really disappointed to see this," the employee said.

The email doesn't mention GOP candidate Mitt Romney by name, but the employee said workers felt it was implicit that they were being encouraged to vote for him.

The firm employs an estimated 1,400 people worldwide.

In his email, White said neither he nor the company wanted to "prejudice any employee for their political views and totally respect your right to vote as you choose. I am simply trying to present the facts as I know them and to protect the business you have helped build! Please think carefully about your vote on Nov. 6."

White did not return several calls and an email requesting comment. He is a trustee for the Village of River Hills and serves on the Summerfest board and the Concordia University Wisconsin Foundation board, among others. He is a member of the board of directors for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, an organization that "advances the public interest in the rule of law, individual liberty, constitutional government, and a robust civil society."

The institute is led by Rick Esenberg, an adjunct law professor at the Marquette University Law School and former general counsel for Rite-Hite. Esenberg also is a community columnist for the Journal Sentinel.

In his email to workers, White said the firm's retirement savings program contributions were based on after-tax profits.

"The tax rate we pay is not 17%, as Warren Buffett would have you believe; with state taxes it is roughly 45%. President Obama has announced that our planned tax rate would increase to roughly 65%, reducing our after tax income by 36% and dramatically reducing, if not eliminating, your and my RSP contributions."

As a result, White said the company's profits would not be reinvested. Instead, he wrote, "the money will be sent into the abyss that is Washington, D.C. So, on top of the burden of having your personal taxes increase dramatically, which they will, your RSP contributions and healthy retirement are also at risk, all for the sake of maintaining an oversized government that borrows 42% of every dollar it spends."

John Vitek, a Milwaukee tax lawyer, said it was possible that the company's combined tax rate would be near 45%. "But I don't know where the 65% is coming from," he said.

And while White was critical of President Barack Obama's tax policies, government records indicate his firm was awarded a grant of $26,471 in economic stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

White also wrote that Obama's re-election means there is a "good chance of losing Rite-Hite insurance and being put into Obamacare."

White explained that employers can continue their existing insurance plans or "pay a penalty and have employees go into the Government Plan. Our plan costs much more per family than the penalty and hence the possible competitive need to drop the Rite-Hite Health Plan. Every opportunity to make up for lost profits to taxes will have to be re-evaluated."
Rite-Hite owner warns employees of risks of voting Obama (JSOnline)

What is more disturbing, the letter itself or the numerous false partisan claims that it makes? CEOs really do live in their own alternative reality. What does it say that CEOs who are theoretically chosen for their judgement and knowledge of the world have disappeared into the greed-driven anti-tax Ayn Rand cult that modern American business has become? Threatening people's livelihoods is an act so despicable, so beyond the pale, you have to wonder what this country is coming to.

Anyway, it gives me the opportunity to post this excellent article from a few months back at Crooked Timber: Let It Bleed: Libertarianism and the Workforce.
On pain of being fired, workers in most parts of the United States can be commanded to pee or forbidden to pee. They can be watched on camera by their boss while they pee. They can be forbidden to wear what they want, say what they want (and at what decibel), and associate with whom they want. They can be punished for doing or not doing any of these things—punished legally or illegally (as many as 1 in 17 workers who try to join a union is illegally fired or suspended). But what’s remarkable is just how many of these punishments are legal, and even when they’re illegal, how toothless the law can be. Outside the usual protections (against race and gender discrimination, for example), employees can be fired for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason at all. They can be fired for donating a kidney to their boss (fired by the same boss, that is), refusing to have their person and effects searched, calling the boss a “cheapskate” in a personal letter, and more. They have few rights on the job—certainly none of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendment liberties that constitute the bare minimum of a free society; thus, no free speech or assembly, no due process, no right to a fair hearing before a panel of their peers—and what rights they do have employers will fight tooth and nail to make sure aren’t made known to them or will simply require them to waive as a condition of employment. Outside the prison or the military—which actually provide, at least on paper, some guarantee of due process—it’s difficult to conceive of a less free institution for adults than the average workplace.

In addition to abridging freedoms on the job, employers abridge their employees’ freedoms off the job. Employers invade employees’ privacy, demanding that they hand over passwords to their Facebook accounts, and fire them for resisting such invasions. Employers secretly film their employees at home. Workers are fired for supporting the wrong political candidates (“work for John Kerry or work for me”), failing to donate to employer-approved candidates, challenging government officials, writing critiques of religion on their personal blogs (IBM instructs employees to “show proper consideration…for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such as politics and religion”), carrying on extramarital affairs, participating in group sex at home, cross-dressing, and more. Workers are punished for smoking or drinking in the privacy of their own homes. (How many nanny states have tried that?) They can be fired for merely thinking about having an abortion, for reporting information that might have averted the Challenger disaster, for being raped by an estranged husband. Again, this is all legal in many states, and in the states where it is illegal, the laws are often weak.
Freedom in America has always meant the freedom to do whatever they want to you with no consequences whatsoever.

* [mini-rant] Seriously, when did wearing sports clothes no matter who or where you are (elderly, women, children, work, social gatherings, shopping) become socially acceptable? When I was a kid, the only people who wore sports jerseys were, well, people who were actually playing sports, or going to or coming from playing a game. Maybe you wore a jersey to a sporting event. But it wasn't an article of "normal" clothing. Now it seems fully grown adults think it's normal to dress up in sports uniforms as they go about their daily life like some sort of wish fulfillment fantasy. Downtown it's basketball tanktops, and on Sundays you cannot be seen not dressed from head to toe in Green Bay Packers regalia.  And most of these people look like they can barely walk much less actually play a real sport. Get a grip, people!

UPDATE 11/05: 
When William Jennings Bryan squared off against William McKinley for the presidency in 1896, the head of Steinway piano warned his workers, “Men, vote as you please, but if Bryan is elected tomorrow, the whistles will not blow Wednesday morning.” Big insurance companies offered low-interest loans to farmers in the swing states of the Midwest—explicitly contingent on a McKinley victory.

History is essentially repeating itself. Mitt Romney has urged large contributors to “make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.” More and more employers have been following through in recent weeks. In coming years, we expect them to develop McKinley-era techniques by offering special workers deals that will pay off only if the employer-favored candidates win. Who’s to stop them?

The answer should be Congress. The corruption of politics in the Gilded Age led to the passage of the Tillman Act in 1907. The statute banned corporate political contributions for the first time in American history, but it failed to confront the problem posed by coercive employer arm twisting. The Supreme Court’s ruling a century later in Citizens United stopped short of striking down the Tillman Act, but the Court’s underlying rationale puts it at grave risk in the next round of litigation.
Election Bosses. How to stop employers from telling workers whom to vote for (Slate)


  1. Hard for me to get outraged. We DO still have a more or less functioning democracy and look at the choices the voters have been making. They really have no one but themselves to blame:

    It's a slow process, but in another 20 years or so, I think the majority of voters will finally wake up and realize something has gone wrong. The question is whether we will still have a functioning democracy then or only a sham democracy. If the latter, then a revolution will be necessary to seize power back from the plutocrats. That will require bioterrorism. Won't be pretty.

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