The Progressive Ensign

insights and analytics to build an economy that works for all

Category: Common Good (Page 2 of 4)

Our Leaders Set the Tone of Civility, Yet We Can Change It

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: cityofhomer-ak.gov

It is next to impossible to have a national conversation toward the Common Good when our POTUS is using threats, invective, fear, hate, mocking and inciting violence as political tools.  The national media repeats all these negative, destructive emotions which invite and give permission to those who would breed and support divisiveness and lack of compromise.  We need to wake up to the fact that the combination of authoritarian politics and instant media will undercut the voices of reason and compromise creating hurricane force headwinds for any reasonable proposal.

Our founding fathers saw that compromise was a critical element in the success of the American experiment which is why they designed a ‘compromise forcing’ structure to our government – Congress, Supreme Court, and President.  They did not want to create a parliamentary democracy as a structure because they saw the majority wielding too much power in both the legislative and executive. Yet the Elite minority and mega corporations run the show in Washington. We have a borderline authoritarian Executive branch, an uncompromising Congress and lifetime conservative appointments to the Supreme Court.  The Electoral College system undermines our democracy by allowing a President to be elected without  a plurality of votes.  The installation of a President who does not represent the selection of the majority of the people sets the stage for more divisiveness because the majority feels their ideas have been left out of the political process. Even worse is the loss of legitimacy toward the Executive branch and the policies and programs it implements.  Citizens then go after these illegitimate policies and those administering them with even more angst applying uncivil tactics to be heard.  Accosting our elected officials, and agency leaders in restaurants by heckling them or otherwise making their normal day to day life miserable is not the way to build bridges of communication, understanding and respect.

What is the antidote to this incivility?  There are at least two things we can do.  First, Melanie Rudd, an assistant professor of marketing t the University of Houston found in her studies on happiness that people felt better after they had done something kind or good for someone else.  This observation makes sense as we all can experience this feeling in our lives particularly if we grew up in a family where our parents demonstrated how service and acts of kindness made our lives happier.  Or, at work when our company leaders support charitable causes ‘doing the walk for cancer research’ etc.

Second,  as in our family or at work our identification with a group doing good things helps to create ‘kindness contagion’.  Jamil Zaki, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University has studied kindness contagion in depth. He found that kindness can be transmitted , “We find that people imitate not only the particulars of positive actions, but also the spirit underlying them.”

So maybe by doing good things in service to others, in a group we can change the underlying spirit today toward civility, compromise and consensus moving our country forward.

Toward A Solutions Focused National Dialog

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Photo: better-angels.org

On the right we have a president who mocks a woman who was sexually assaulted at a campaign rally, on the left protesters stalk legislators at restaurants and taunt them while they eat.

What’s happened to our national dialog?  Why can’t we talk to each other in a way that sets up a supportive communication channel leading to solutions?  Abraham Lincoln saw the need for civil dialog to bring a divided nation together in his first inaugural address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory … will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Recently, volunteers from the left, right and political persuasions across the board were represented at a conversation day hosted by Better Angels in Washington D.C.  The host group takes its name from the Lincoln quote focusing not on changing people’s minds but instead on just helping people to understand and respect each other – on common ground.  The founder, David Blankenhorn, started the group in Ohio after he had become friends with a gay man and changed his position on same sex marriage as a result.  Blankenhorn has developed seven habits of good discourse to keep the dialog on a positive level even in fierce disagreement.  He sees deep polarization due to multiple factors: “The intellectual habits of polarization include binary (Manichaean) thinking, absolutizing one’s preferred values, viewing uncertainty as a weakness, privileging deductive thinking, assuming that one’s opponents are motivated by bad faith, and hesitating to agree on basic facts and the meaning of evidence.”

We underline the last point, agreement on basic facts is missing from much of our dialog today.  As most Americans get their news from non-journalist sources: Facebook, Google, and Twitter.  These social media outlets sprung onto the news stage from opinion based businesses, run by entrepreneurs who are more programmers whose interest is in creating opinion platforms not fact based platforms.  Facebook, Google and Twitter are now scrambling to find journalists and news professionals to rein in the runaway opinions and falsehoods that proliferate on their sites.

As a society we are left with only a few major national newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, the Washington Post for thoughtful in depth analysis, Major television news organizations are more focused on sound bites than drilling into issues in any depth.  The PBS News Hours does bring in experts from multiple points of view on an issues to create context and deeper understanding of the topic.  Yet, the audience of social media is in the tens of millions while PBS News Hour is seen by a far smaller audience.

Where do we go today? Better Angels, Spaceship Media and Institute for Civil Discourse all host conversations across the political divide.  Yet, it is a huge cultural issue tearing apart the fabric of our democracy.  To repair our democracy and return our federal government to the people requires seeking the common good over all our basic positions – or we can never reach enough consensus to move ahead as a unified society.

The Press Needs To Help Build the Common Good

 

Image: epceurope.eu

While, it is necessary that all of us be engaged in building the common good – the press establishes the national dialog on major issues.  When the press focuses on reporting problems only, with no solutions, monitoring or follow up we are left with a sense of frustration, desperation and hopelessness.  One way the press can make a difference is to stick up for the people who cannot defend themselves.  Recently, the PBS News Hour, assigned their correspondent to follow a three year old immigrant girl through her process of being reunited with her parents after separation at the border.  PBS by staying on the story, asking the hard questions and continuing to press the administration for her status illuminated the fate of thousands of other children.  A  week ago, The New York Times completed an in depth analysis of the Trump family fortune and how Donald Trump acquired his fortune essentially as a gift from his father paying very little in taxes.

We see these in depth analyses and vigilant reporting as necessary to keep the truth flowing to citizens to help them make good decisions.  Yet, reporting on major topics often winds up being a sound bite of 30 seconds or a few short sentences quoting a Senator or Congressman with very little context.  The text of what the legislator says is scrolled across the bottom of the TV screen in summary form, with no data, context or way to follow up.

The internet makes available a wide variety of reliable research sources such as local, state and federal government agencies, non-partisan research groups and universities. Corporations have finely tuned their decision processes around a simple approach – gather data from all sides of an issue or topic both qualitative and quantitative, analyze the data, look into various solutions, present multiple solutions to decision makers, then decide.

The public today has major issues that need to be addressed by government agencies and their leaders – we need high quality reviews and analysis available to everyone to make good voting decisions.  The old style of journalism focused on a lead to grab attention and then fill in the details later through the body of the story or at the end needs to be examined in the Internet age.  Front page news can continue to present headline stories, yet they should be placed into context, with qualitative and quantitative data, presented graphically for easy viewing, with expert analysis from 360 degree points of view.

The fact there are only a few national newspapers, which fewer people are reading does not help the situation toward building the Common Good. We need Internet providers like Facebook, Google and Twitter to be the next generation of journalists, instead of feeding the fragmentation and opinion masquerading as news.  A quick reading structure to the story, using multimedia maybe thought of as the ‘teaser’, graphics and charts with expert analysis from multiple points of view.  Every story needs to go the next step and focus on how to solve  the problem presented.  Often, only problems are published leaving the reader with no way to take action.  Some stories, do leave Internet links or ways to contribute to a family who had a fire and needs shelter.  Yet, the major stories of our time: climate change, opioid epidemic, workers being left out of the economic mainstream, loss of hope in ghetto areas, or escalating health costs are not covered in an action enabling format. In this blog we have taken a building toward the common good and action approach by starting with a basic issues, providing a graphic of data from a non-partisan source, then follow up alternatives and action to solve the.problem.

The press needs to take responsibility for the fractionalization happening when a constant drone of problems are broadcast to people with no follow up, no facts for building a common understanding, presentation of alternatives and next steps for action to solve the problem.  We need to become a problem solving society and the press in how they communicate issues to us can take us a long way toward a common good building nation.

Building Economic Independence Can End Hopelessness

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Image: operationhope.org

The greatest threat to a civil society are people without hope.  They are angry, feel the system is rigged and look for scapegoats as the cause of their poor economic standing. This group left out of the economic mainstreams is located in rural regions where globalizations has taken jobs, and in inner cities where companies have fled to the suburbs. These people that John Hope Bryant calls, The Invisible Class, are off the economic grid, and largely left out of the political mainstream as well except when they demonstrate on the streets when a policy has gone too far.

Economic independence is crucial if we have an economy that works for the 99 % not just the 1 %. To build economic opportunities our governmental policies and programs must ensure a level playing field for all people and support a high quality education for all income levels.

It is about building our society for the common good. It means enabling building enterprises, non-profits and organizations that serve people. Our policies should be about enabling the ability of people to build. We need to rethink our framing of labor from a cost to an asset which it always was. Capital means in the Latin root ‘knowledge in the head’ derived from the capital end of a column at the top in a building.  Poverty is not about money so much as a dearth of relationships and know how to build the skills toward a productive life, where money is a indicator of success.

Somehow the early accountants leading to the Venetians who invented double entry accounting systems with debits and credits called assets money, land and equipment while labor was labeled an expense.  Labor is viewed as an expense to this day because the owner-entrepreneur has to pay employees to work.  Workers have had the ‘cost’ yoke around their necks ever since.  Yet, are employees really a cost?  The staff are the ones doing the work, creating the product or service and solving the problems – money does not create the product or service only people do. CEOs are often heard to say that employees ‘are our key asset’ but then treats them like second class citizens in making policies in the company, gaining a fair share of the profits or enjoying job hours flexibility. Today, Wall Street applauds wages being stagnant for the 80 % while profits go up and wealth accumulates for The Elite.

We need to change our perspective about people and their labor. How do we build an economy that works for all? One way is to focus on enabling, The Invisible Class with economic independence.  Bryant points out that most of these people have credit scores at 550 or below, so they can’t get jobs, buy automobiles, or purchase a home.  In short they can’t participate in the economic mainstream. Bryant’s Operation Hope program teaches those in poverty how to increase their credit scores, start businesses and strategies for accumulating wealth.  By bringing them into the economic mainstream they can begin to feel more confident about their lives and the future. Operation Hope has partnered with Bank of the West who invited Bryant to locate Operation Hope offices inside their branches. Bank of the West in a far reaching vision understands educating prospective customers on the good use of credit and finance will make them better customers and likely to come back for additional services.

We need to learn from programs like Operation Hope, understand its key elements and see how to implement its tenets and power on a major scale like the Marshall Plan if we are to make a dent in the level of poverty in the Heartland or cities.  The only way we are going to increase the size of our economy in a fundamental way is to empower millions of workers who are out of the economic mainstream.  We have more companies going bankrupt then new businesses being started for the first time since WWII. It  is time to recognize we have people who are assets with innovative skills to can build an economy that works for all.

What are our goals as Americans?

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Image: bu.edu

We need to come together on what we all want if we are to have a government that works for all not just the rich. What are our goals?  What is our mission as a country?  What binds us together in seeking the common good?

The Preamble to the Constitution provides insights and guidance:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Let’s look at the first phrase ‘ to form a more perfect union’ – this phrase implies that things are not perfect that the country is a work in progress.  To ‘establish justice’ for all means not a system of justice just for the top 1 % or the privileged.  Justice means that the law is blind to outward power or religion, race, color or other personal factors.  Justice says that equality of justice for all under the law needs to happen in applying the law to all, so the poor, black or others don’t feel the weight of justice on them greater than other people. To ‘ensure domestic tranquility’ we won’t enjoy life, raise families, perform in our jobs, or provide service if our country is in constant uproar or unsafe.  Peace needs to be protected and available to every citizen, including those living in ‘unsafe areas’, they have a right to live in a safe neighborhood too.  Tranquility means the political dialogue between difference points of view is conducted in civility and respect.

To ‘provide for the common defense’ means that we expect our government to keep us safe from foreign aggression and the government – not vigilantes are to keep the peace under the Constitution. To ‘promote the general welfare’.  Key environmental elements of our existence we all share; air, water, land  means we will be strident in protecting our natural resources. We need to support institutions that sustain the general welfare like federal, state and local agencies that ensure we have access to all these environment elements but also, education, health and freedom to travel.

Finally, to ‘secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and posterity’ implies that there is equality of opportunity for all.  We all have differences, we have the liberty to pursue whatever goals we have for our lives, our families and our friends.  We need to ensure that equal opportunities are safeguarded and provided for all regardless of wealth, race, color, religion or orientation. Education is a keystone to our providing a path for those at the lower end of the income scale to apply themselves, get a good education and contribute to our country to the highest level of their ability possible.

Our country thrives as the most prosperous country in the world because we let people be free to follow their dreams and help those who come to our shores to pursue their dreams here.  We need to remember the goals the Preamble to the Constitution sets out to establish through a government by the people. We must become united in these shared goals to make real progress in solving the national problems we face.

Civic Service Sustains the Common Good

(Editor Note: Insight Bytes focus on key economic issues and solutions for all of us, on Thursdays we spotlight in more depth Solutions to issues we have identified. Fridays we focus on how to build the Common Good. Please right click on images to see them larger in a separate tab. Click on the Index Topic Name at the beginning of each post to see more posts on that topic on PC or Laptop.)

Image: wikipedia.org

Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman as he walked out from a hundred days writing the Constitution, “Doctor, do we have a Monarchy, or a Republic?”  He warned, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  Franklin’s point was to ensure the new American government would endure, citizens had to get involved, participate in civic pursuits and be concerned about their government.

From Aristotle’s time when civic virtue was proclaimed as an attribute of the good citizen to today’s activists all civic participation is rooted in service.   How do we foster ‘otherness’ in our citizenry?  Starting from birth, a child receives support and love from its mother and father.  Closer to the mother at first, experiencing the nurturing and selflessness of the mother in the home.  Families provide a way for children to learn to support their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents.  They learn to do chores that support the family, certainly this was a requirement in farm based families.

Today, most families are in urban centers with the mother and father likely to be both working, and chores are less clear with household machines and the Internet.  Kids spend more time on electronic devices than talking with family members. So, how do children learn to be selfless?  Volunteering at school, participating in local charities, with their mother and father taking the lead in initiating family service are all good ways to learn service.

Yet, what about our urban core areas or poor areas where families are just trying to survive day to day, do they have time for service?  Or where there is only one head of house to provide or raise the children? They need support, plus as a society we are so segregated by income and residence there is rarely a mixing of classes, ethnicities or cultures.

Domestic service, sponsored by the federal government for all young people 18 – 24 years of age for two years in programs patterned after Americorp is a good start.  Americans from all walks of life have an opportunity to serve their communities, states or travel to other areas of the country to provide necessary support services in areas they would otherwise never live.

We have fewer life experiences where we work with mixed classes working toward a share goal, resulting in a highly divisive and abusive civil discourse.  If we start working together to support our communities, our states, and our country maybe we can discover that we have more in common and build on those common interests in our civic affairs.

 

The Internet Connects Us All in Common

 

Image:  Your Little Planet

We all enjoy the connectivity the Internet provides us today with instant messaging, email, hyperlinking, websites and news.  It was built by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contracting with universities and research centers to build a powerful internetworking protocol and network for the Department of Defense beginning in 1969.  The network evolved with more research centers and government organizations using the system for communication and joint projects.  By the mid 1990s the Internet was opened to the public primarily for email, though soon websites and messaging systems were established.  Commercial common carriers were offered government contracts to provide more communication network support and services.  In 1993 the Internet provided 1 % of all two way communications, by 2000 51 % of all communications were over the Internet, then growth exploded to 97 % of all telecommunications information in 2007.

Built by taxpayer money by DARPA  for military communications,  next universities and research centers, then open to the public and commercial enterprises. So, why do companies like AT & T, Verizon, and Comcast think they should control how Internet is offered to our people?  We paid for it, as it evolved the Internet was envisioned as a wonderful new way to engage citizens in the political process and to level the playing field for new companies.

We certainly, have seen how innovation with a plethora of new services has emerged in the last 20 years, yet now a few giants run the content side: Google, Facebook, Netflix, Disney and the network side run by AT &T, Verizon, and Comcast.  As the content companies merge with networking companies we have huge companies deciding how to make more money from a network entity that is actually a public trust built by taxpayer money.

One way we see inequality growing is access to the Internet for many in poor, or rural  regions of the country is limited in speed and services.  Without Internet speedy Internet access or innovative services for universities, hospitals, and companies in these regions it is difficult for the working class to gain the skills to get a better job, or companies to compete with their high speed competitors.  Investment is declining in some regions of the Midwest and South due to poor Internet infrastructure which means fewer jobs for people living in the area.

The Internet is really a Common Good. It is a utility, not a platform for companies to make profits and not take responsibility for equity in access, speed and content which was the original purpose in designing the Internet as a peer to peer protocol rather than hierarchical.

The present GOP administration installed a company lobbyist as chair of the FCC who immediately decided that the network neutrality doctrine of the Obama administration should be overturned, giving control to for profit entities to charge whatever they wanted for speedy access or content. It is as if we turned the interstate system of freeways over to GM, so GM could give special lanes to GM cars and the others would have to go in slower lanes.

No, we don’t see the Common Good being protected by a for profit doctrine, it just can’t do the job.  Recently, when firefighters in the California Mendocino fire went over their mobile data plan limit, Verizon throttled their data transmission to 1/200 of the speed.  After the outrage over such predatory practices Verizon relented and will now offer all western state first responders standard data plans without throttling.  Why should they even be able to throttle?  If a user needs more data then just charge more over a certain limit – but throttling their network speed is coercive.

Network neutrality for all content, all websites, all messaging is the just doctrine for a Common Good like the Internet built with public funds. The fact that corporations think they should be able to do whatever they want shows once again that The Elite has control and power over the public interest.  Their position needs to shift to supporting the public interest as priority one, not profits. We need to have the common carriers see they have a public trust, and social responsibility in operating a public Internet utility.

Verizon Shows Its More Interested In Revenue Than Firefighters

 

Image: theverge.com

During the Mendocino fire in California last month, firefighters using the Verizon service went over their data plan limit.  So, instead of helping to alleviate the problem, Verizon made it worse by throttling down their data rate to 1/200th until they switched to a new higher cost plan.  Plus, they made the firefighters do the work to switch plans – doesn’t Verizon get the fact that the firefighters are a little busy saving lives and property?

Santa Clara County Fire Chief, Anthony Bowden explained, “Verizon representatives confirmed the throttling, but rather than restoring us to an essential data transfer speed, they indicated that County Fire would have to switch to a new data plan at more than twice the cost, and they would only remove throttling after we contacted the department that handles billing and switched to the new data plan,”   Bowden wrote up the incident to support a law suit filed by 22 state attorney generals to stop the net-neutrality policy from being implemented by the FCC for the major carriers.  Bowden noted that Verizon had throttled firefighter data rates in the past when fighting fires.  A company spokesman said the throttling was a ‘customer service mistake’, and they would try to respond without throttling in future firefighting crisis situations.

Version is a huge wireless company with over 30 % of the wireless market:

Source: Statista – 2018

By size alone they command significant market power over users.  With this market power comes community and public interest responsibility. When Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and others lobbied for a waiver of net neutrality provisions they said they could be trusted to protect the needs of the public and small internet users.  Clearly, Verizon can’t be trusted to be a part of the community and put the Common Good over profits.

Next Steps: 

First, Verizon needs to make restitution to the Santa Clara County firefighters and any other group involved in fighting the fire, by giving a credit for any increased costs and to make sure there is a hot line in place to an executive who can cut through all the bureaucracy and do the right thing.  Verizon has demonstrated they are using people, even at the cost of lives and property to make a profit.  Last year, the communications giant announced a $5.4 billion stock buyback program until 2020 to goose their stock price resulting in soaring executive compensation and shareholder returns.  They could use some of this stock buyback money and help out all first responders!

Second, net neutrality provisions need to be restored so that common service providers are required by law to treat all users fairly no matter their size and not use predatory tactics like throttling to force users into upgrading plans. Verizon and and other common carries did not build the Internet, taxpayers did with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) funds in the 1970s.  DARPA built a breakthrough set of communication and HTML linking technologies with a number of universities to establish the Internet channel backbone in the United States. The government built it, it is a public service and we should not be turning control over to private companies that are not serving the public interest.

It is about time huge corporations started solving the major problems we face in protecting the security of people and build the Common Good rather than being a major obstacle when the community is facing a crisis.

Update: August 24, 2018 – Verizon announced that it would not throttle first responders to wildfires on the West Coast including Hawaii.  The backlash was so strong from the Mendocino fire the firm had to respond. Too bad management did not take the opportunity to be proactive about supporting the Common Good.  We appreciate the late data rate support move by the company.

EPA Relaxes Coal Burning Regulations Endangering People and Economies

 

Image: agriland.ie

The day after that EPA announces relaxation of coal burning regulations scientists announced the first time in all recorded history the ‘last ice sea’ north of Greenland has thawed twice!  ­This assumption that ‘last ice sea’ would not thaw due to climate warming is no longer proving to be true. One scientist described the iconic ice thawing discovery as ‘scary’.

Sources: The Polar Science Center, The Guardian – 8/21/18

At the same time, global warming is causing the seas to rise by 8 inches since 1900 of which 3 inches was since 1993.  Scientists predict the sea level will rise another 3 to 7 inches by 2030. Today, rising sea levels are sending property values in low tidal areas spiraling down. University of Colorado and Penn State University researchers found that homes within just one foot of being flooded from a sea level rise were selling at a 14.7 % discount compared to homes on higher ground. Analysts have totaled property price losses since 2005 for Charleston at $265 million and Miami- Dade County at $465 million. Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg when considering all the coastal properties in the U.S. – losses are in the billions of dollars.

California has experienced the highest number and most acreage of wildfires in its history. Japan sweltered under hot July summer temperatures making new records. During the summer large areas of heat pressure or heat domes scattered around the hemisphere led to the sweltering temperatures. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation notes the heat is to blame for at least 54 deaths in southern Quebec, near Montreal, which sweated under record high temperatures. The worldwide list of new high temperatures goes on and on.  The chart below shows extremely hot temperatures worldwide in a model at 2 meters above ground.

Sources: University of Maine, The Washington Post – 7/5/18

The relaxation of Obama administration clean air restrictions would possibly kill from 470 to 1,400 people per year the EPA admits.  The policy shift would move enforcement responsibility to the states, and allow them to relax regulations on coal burning plants even when installing new equipment.  Utilities would be allowed to use old standards when installing new equipment without having to meet higher air quality regulations.  The Obama era policies were never enforced because the Supreme Court found in favor of the states who sued to overturn the tighter regulations.

Next Steps: 

Enough is enough, the federal government is here to protect American lives not kill more people as a result of policy.  The government’s position makes no sense, it’s time we as citizens take a stand.

As we have said in a previous post:

“we may need to look to how to make duty more of a core value in our culture and in particular business culture.  As we have observed our country is essentially run by Corporate Nation States, they must change their attitude, behavior and operating practices focused on their duty to all the people not just their executives and customers. Everything a corporation does in some way impacts the Common Good. We are the people these corporations serve, and we should expect nothing less than socially responsible behavior from the executives running these huge Corporate Nation States.”

We would like the executives of these coal companies to think about the people that will get ill or die because they wanted to make more money and be ‘efficient and affordable’.  What if their daughter died?  How would they feel.  It seems that we are back to the point we made in last week’s Common Good post we ‘use people, and love things (money)’. This policy is dead wrong, and should never be implemented.  Instead, these corporations should be coming to us with proposals on how to save people’s lives and speed up the process of reducing climate warming. Maybe, these executives need to look themselves in the mirror and ask ‘who am I serving?’.  Time is running out, people are being killed in the heat, economies are being destroyed.  All these forces will cause civil conflict unless we act now to reverse the course of climate warming, before it is too late. 

Families Are the Place to Start Building the Common Good

Image: sleepingshouldbeeasy.com

We all have a mother and father, and may have brothers and sisters.  We come into the world born of our mother with a bonding to her, and if all goes well the father is there to raise us too.  We can all agree that families are a priority – when things get tough our families come first.

Bo Lotzoff, philosopher and counselor helping many prisoners and poor people turnaround their lives, observed about American society that we ‘love things and use people’. It should be the other way around, ‘love people and use things’. Think about this insight.  When we look objectively at what has happened to family life in the past 30 years, the slice of time devoted to family versus work has progressed in reality to not much time, or invested engagement by the working parent.

In Silicon Valley, the heart of technology innovation world-wide, it is the standard expectation for most workers at top companies to be at work until 8 or 9pm, just leaving barely enough time for fathers or mothers to read a story and tuck their children into bed.  Management expects knowledge workers to check for text messages at least 19 hours a day and email before coming into the office, responding to work requests on weekends too.  Even, on vacations, if project reviews are planned workers are expected to phone in for the key meetings and ‘stay on top’ of what is happening.  When global conference calls are involved, the calls may start at 6am to Germany and continue to 7 or 8 pm to Japan or China.  What all this connectedness means is that the company owns the mind and emotions of the worker 24 by 7. At one startup  ‘all hands’ meeting just prior to the Christmas holiday the CEO thanked everyone for their hard work over the past year and declared, “have a fun Christmas or holiday rest for a day, then let’s make our numbers!”  He made the statement kind of in just but half serious, the workers got his point, see your families and friends but stay connected 24 by 7.

Corporate life is destroying family life and our connectedness as a community.  Being totally connected to the corporation is more important if we want to maintain our standard of living is the message.  Corporations are using people and loving things (sounds like high tech).

Nourishing, sustaining and building stronger families would do a lot for solving our societal and economic issues.  Crime would go down as young men who are left to live on the streets would be learning skills, playing a team sport or having a family supporting his life, and where after school programs were funded and staffed well. Groups like Thread, in Baltimore actually use the family structure with Parents and Grandparent surrogates to support youth in poor parts of the city where there may be only one parent and that parent is not home much of the time working two or three jobs to support the family.  Today we are missing millions of our youth to crime, opioids and dead end jobs that could be active productive members of our labor force. Our labor force is declining with the aging of baby boomers, we need all the paycheck workers we can to support our aging population and for young workers to save for their futures.

So, let’s look at the policies of our federal government using the family yardstick which most people right or left, Republican or Democrat agree:

  1. Family Separation – recently we saw that there was consensus that children should be kept with their parents – even immigrant children
  2. Health Insurance – a Pew Research survey showed that 58 % of all Americans believed that every person should have affordable health insurance for which the government is responsible
  3. Childhood Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – most Senator and Congressmen agreed and renewed the CHIP bill to protect children caught between Medicaid and being too poor to afford an individual health insurance plan in this past December’s spending bill.
  4. Flexible Job Definition – more social and family counselors see a need for men and women to have flexible time jobs meaning that when a family emergency comes up like an illness or doctor appointment the worker can take time off and make the appointment without repercussions in job performance, salary or benefits.
  5. Parental Leave – Federal law of 1997 requires private employers to provide maternity leave up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of birth, adoption, or foster care placement (parental leave).  The US is the only country in the developed world that does not have paid leave for parents.
  6. Wages – real wages (after inflation) for the 80 % of workers in the U.S. have basically been stagnant for the last 30 years. Instead, corporate executives use excess profits to juice their stock prices with stock buybacks instead of raising wages. They are wasting nearly $810 billion that Goldman Sachs estimates is being spent in 2018 on stock buy backs. That $810 billion could go a long way to providing decent wages for workers. Analysts estimate the S & P 500 index is at least 20 % higher from what the prices of company stocks would be without stock buybacks. The reality is that workers and their families suffer having to work two or three jobs because of the greed of executive management. 

We could add to the list, our point is made, when we have a consensus that families need to be placed as the first priority, not the second or third or thirty-fifth, then our legislative priorities are clear.  Other countries seem to make a thriving economy and support of families work. Germany has paid parental leave, a net export economy, good wages, employee councils and at least 4 weeks of paid vacation for most employees.  Most German families feel secure.  This author asked a co-worker from Germany if he considered working in the U.S., he noted,  “I would get sharper, get closer to engineering and innovation, yet, there is no real recognition of families, In Germany, I have paid leave for a new child, four weeks of vacation every year, a good guaranteed retirement program, health insurance and I participate in our employee council…I don’t want to live under constant stress in America.”

Families are the basic economic building block of our country.  When corporations take control of our government and run our families into oblivion we all are hurt as a country.  In the end corporate executives need to wake up and support family sustaining policies in their company, their management culture, wages and in Washington to build strong families. Otherwise, someday corporations will discover as is beginning to happen today, that young women having the fewest babies ever since WW II, the lowest level of family formations ever and lowest number of millennials buying homes will lead to shrinking markets, falling margins and reduced sales. We need to monitor what is happening to the health of our families to know if our societal values, economic values, government policies and corporate behavior are strengthening or weakening families.

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