Molly Ivins March 5
AUSTIN — Ah, good. The New York Times has started a seven-part series on layoffs and downsizing. Among the factoids in the first article is: "Nearly three quarters of all households have had a close encounter with layoffs since 1980 ... in one-third of all households, a family member has lost a job, and nearly 40 percent more know a relative, friend or neighbor who was laid off."
Fifty percent more people are affected by layoffs every year than are victims of crime in this country. The Times noted in its splendidly understated way: "Until Patrick J. Buchanan made the issue part of his presidential campaign, it seldom surfaced in political debate."
And that tells you everything you need to know about the divide between the people and the leadership in this country and the divide between people's lives and the elite media. In fairness to the Times, it has done an excellent job of covering downsizing on its business pages.
Gene Roberts, a great editor, often talks about the importance of stories that "seep and creep," the ones no one ever calls a news conference to announce. The classic example is the decades-long movement of Southern blacks to Northern cities, which was covered only by the black press. No public-relations firm ever got a zillion-dollar account to whoop up "the greatest internal migration in our history," but it sure has made a lot of difference in American life, hasn't it?
Now that the pols have discovered downsizing — and are cleverly planning to deal with it by building a giant fence along our border with Mexico (every other Thursday, I try to remember that politicians are probably doing the best they can, but sometimes I even have doubts on odd Thursdays) — the phenom is still being met with denial. In addition to those who are still telling us that our lives have never been better and we're just a bunch of crybabies, we are now hearing from a more sophisticated version of "So what?"
This is the gig where you make yourself look wise by tugging your chin and opining: "Well, yes, there is a problem, but there's really nothing we can do about it. Blah, blah, economic globalization, blah, blah, technological change, blah, blah, only long-term solutions.
Following the First Rule of Holes, we need to stop digging. We could, for example, stop aiding companies that move abroad. Yes, Virginia, there is a special tax break for companies moving operations overseas. Numero Two-o, we could stop the tax breaks that encourage mergers and acquisitions. Then, we might even consider doing something of a positive nature about getting out of the hole.
The policy wonk who knows all about this and used to talk about it before the Republicans beat him about the head so bad is named Bill Clinton. You remember Clinton, the guy the Republicans accused of having "an industrial policy" and believing in "activist government" and other heinous crimes?
Watching the reaction of our politicians to the blinding news that people are actually upset about downsizing and its happy follower, the McJob, reminds me that there are a few other minor things that no one has brought up during this presidential campaign.
When was the last time you heard our noble candidates mention the word women? Well, OK, they have been telling us that henceforth when we are raped by horrible criminals, we will have to bear their offspring. This is certainly good news and will inspire a lot of women to vote for these guys. And, of course, the Republican candidates did dump all over Shannon Faulkner, who, having spent one week at The Citadel, has more military experience than three of the four candidates in that debate.
Excuse me — does anyone care that the Republican Congress is cutting funding for reproductive health services and that they are bringing back the gag rule that prevents doctors from telling women when they need abortions to save their lives? The family-planning clinics that serve poor areas are often the only access to health care that many women have.
In all the blather about family values, has anyone so much as mentioned improving and extending day care? Working mothers, who are, in my opinion, the most heroic people in America, were once considered worth helping. Believe it or not, there was a national system of day care for the children of working mothers, with pretty nurseries built right at the work site so moms could visit their kids on lunch hour or come right away if they got sick. That was during World War II, but, of course, the system was dismantled after the war because it was too expensive and we needed to build highways instead. Family values were big then, too.
Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
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