Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Not So Super Wednesday

After Super Bowl Sunday and Super Tuesday, today is a more somber day. Winners gloat and dream big dreams, losers lick their wounds and regroup.

Over a million Giants fans flooded lower Manhattan yesterday to cheer for their champions during a parade through the Canyon of Heroes. Though ticker-tape is no longer used, paper fell from the sky, covering the parade, and creating anew that image that is so uniquely New York: the ticker-tape parade.

I voted, and Mike Gravel was not on the ballot, so I didn't vote for him.

Super Tuesday was also Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) and I feasted on things I generally do not eat: a burrito, two huge glasses of fruit juice (1/3 orange and 2/3 pomegranate), and my primary source of protein, a load of cheese including an impressive dent in a one-pound wedge of stilton.

Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, and I think not of yesterday's elections, but of the writers' strike, now into its fourth month.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported Progress Toward Ending Writers' Strike:
The agreement may come without renewed formal negotiations between the television and movie writers and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, though both sides still need to agree on specific language of key provisions. If that process goes smoothly, an agreement may be presented to the governing boards of the striking Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild of America East by the end of next week, the people said.

The breakthrough occurred Friday after two weeks of closed-door discussions between the sides. Even if approved by leaders of the guilds, a deal would require ratification by a majority of the more than 10,000 active guild members.

I do not know if the writer is being optimistic, or if there really is progress. It is now Wednesday and getting close to "the end of next week."

Though I think most of what is written in Hollywood is crap, I do not think it is because the writers are bad writers, it is because the studios are only interested in releasing middle-of-the-road, formulaic crap. If writers want to work they have to write what the studios are buying.

The studios don't want to pay a fair price for their product. They are focused on protecting the future profits of their shareholders (that magic invisible class of people who is nobody and everybody at the same time -- it's me and it's you and our retirement plans). So, the writers are being asked to sacrifice their future income so that some CEOs and board chairmen can convince a bunch of fund managers that their future is secure. Of course, these CEOs, board presidents, and fund managers would not even consider reducing their 8- or 9-figure salaries; they want the toilet cleaners, secretaries, grips, best boys, and writers to take a cut on their 5- or 6-figure salaries.

And for me: therein lies the rub.

When American capitalism was at its zenith, from the end of World War II through 1980, CEOs and other upper-level managers earned 20- to 30-times the average salary of the workforce that made a company run. With the advent of Reaganomics and the ensuing deregulation under Clinton, those CEOs and other upper-level managers now earn 200- to 400-times the average salary of the workforce that make their companies run.

Still, those CEO types, from George W Bush on down, continue to cut the salaries, numbers, and benefits of their workforces. Hoping, I assume, beyond hope, that cutting a twenty-five thousand dollar salary is going to help the bottom line while they enjoy a two hundred million dollar salary.

It makes no sense, of course, and the first George Bush while running against Ronald Reagan referred to this as voodoo economics, and here we are twenty-five years later with an economy in shambles, a workforce barely able to support itself, and corporate America run amok in an anarchy that would make Reagan himself blush. And the Writers Guild of America not only cannot get a decent deal from the producers, but are made to look avaricious and selfish by the same media that needs them.

The problem with America's economy is not the salaries and benefits of the people on the bottom, but the salaries, golden parachutes, and severance packages of the tiny percentage of the population at the top.

Anyone can make ends meet on $20,000,000 a year, and when the economy is hurting it makes no sense that CEOs continue to earn $200,000,000 a year while the people at the bottom of the ladder lose their jobs, their homes, and their ability to support their families in a nation that has eliminated its social welfare safety net.

At a time like this, it is important for all Americans (wage-earners and managers alike) to remember why the American workplace is as successful and livable as it is: UNIONS.

We work five days a week, not seven, because of unions.

We get sick days and holidays because of unions.

We have health insurance and retirement plans because of unions.

We have safety in the workplace because of unions.

Unions and the labor force they represent are just as vital a part of the success of the American marketplace and the American way of life as all of the investors, bankers, and capitalists who have been along for the ride.

It is time for Americans to speak-up and support the writers union.

Go to the website of your favorite network, find the link that says "Contact Us" and drop them a line saying you are sick of the producers refusing the give the writers a fair deal.

It will be best for all of us if that strike is settled to the benefit of the writers.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Howard Zinn -
You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

Matt Damon, Howard Zinn

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