SATURDAY 6-PACK: January 13, 2018

A weekly listing of articles, audio clips, and other tidbits I’ve encountered that seemed interesting, insightful, or otherwise useful …

 

Things were a bit busy last week and I didn’t have time to get to this.  There wasn’t much, either.  Some book, oddly enough with the word fire in the title, was consuming almost all the oxygen in the news cycle.  But it’s another week … and another cycles of stories and events.  Here’s my curated collection for the 51st week of the current administration … interregnum? …

 

First, when the nation’s largest employer announces wage increases and bonuses, the sheer number of employees potentially impacted makes it hard to ignore.  The announcement sounded good — $1000 in bonuses for current employees and a bump up to $11/hour in starting wages.  But as the details emerged, maybe not so much.  The top bonuses go to employees (does Wal-Mart still call them “associates”?) who have been there for 20 years.  The average store employee will get a bonus of around $190.  Also keep in mind, the estimated savings to Wal-Mart from the new tax policies amount to $18 BILLION; what’s being shared with the employees is no more than 2% of it.  Plus, there was an attempt to cover over the closing of more than 60 Sam’s Club locations.  Tends to make one wonder where the money in the bonuses  is really coming from.  But at least wages are going up — that’s something, right?  Maybe not.  Consider these insights from The Motley Fool:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/what-living-on-an-dollar11-hourly-wage-looks-like/ar-AAuyJLc?li=BBnb7Kz

 

This was on the tentative list for last week.  But perhaps it’s even more timely with the news about Wal-Mart this week.  Here’s a three-fer from Marketplace, a series of stories about the life and times in the retail sector — especially for the workers:

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/02/business/coming-retail-apocalypse

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/03/business/retail-workers-are-taking-cue-coal-miners

https://www.marketplace.org/2018/01/05/business/are-fulfillment-center-jobs-good-fit-laid-retail-workers

 

This was a small story that caught my ear, in no small part because my daughter is three semesters away from joining the ranks of school teachers.  We’ve known for a long time that teachers are generally underpaid.  We’ve known for quite some time that workers at the lowest end of the wage scale are being priced out of housing — renting as well as ownership.  But what does it mean when educated, highly skilled professionals (such as teachers) are being priced out of housing in the places where they work?  Consider this:

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/11/577279624/subsidized-housing-my-help-school-districts-retain-teachers

 

Now … onto the latest cause for widespread outrage at the current occupant of the Oval Office.  First of all, did he really say that?  Sen. Durbin says “yes, he did.”  But Durbin’s a Democrat, so can his accuracy be trusted?  Sen. Graham was in the room, too, but he’s only willing to say that he said his piece at the moment to the boss of his party.  Others who were in the room claim they didn’t hear such language.  Here’s how the situation developed and who is saying what.  Bottom line: while Graham is too much of a team player to publicly confirm something like this, he has acknowledged Durbin’s account as essentially accurate.  As for the others supporting Trump in his denials, well, they were there only because of his invitation and they openly share his already well-established highly negative attitudes towards immigrants, particularly immigrants who would not be considered “white”.  That’s my take, but you can read it and do your own math:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-it-happened-donald-trumps-shithole-countries-remark/

 

The disgusting word itself is not the problem here.  The real problem is the attitude behind it: the sheer racism and bigotry that underlies, enables it, and makes it acceptable.  The claim that “Trump was only saying out loud what lots of people are thinking” is a genuine one.  Until that line of thinking that justifies racism and bigotry stops, this will happen again and again to the delight and applause of a significant number of our fellow citizens.  I wish I knew how to stop this, but I don’t.  Read or listen, and weep:

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/13/577833629/how-political-media-reacted-to-trumps-vulgarity

 

Finally, about “that book” … Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.  I haven’t read it and don’t plan to.  Wolff’s reputation for slipshod work and the sloppy style of reporting that’s more suited for gossip columns that real journalism or analysis is considerable.  However, even a broken clock has the right time twice a day, and no doubt some of what he describes is accurate.  But that’s been abundantly clear for some time now.  There’s a deeper question that isn’t answered, which Leonard Pitts draws out: “Yours truly had hoped this book would answer a nagging question about Trump’s White House: What should we make of these people? When they turn reality inside out like a sock, when they stand before calamity and assure us there is no calamity, when they insist Trump is a misunderstood genius whose only problem is our failure to see his greatness, are they lying to us — or to themselves?    The former would make them fools. The latter would make them something worse.”  Which is it?  That’s what we really need to know.  Read the whole piece here: