Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Fezziwig Papers

Fezziwig was smarter than Scrooge

"The Fezziwig Papers" is a project that's been bouncing around in my head for quite some time.  Fezziwig, as you may know, is the name of Scrooge and Marley's old employer.  It has always seemed to me that Fezziwig could easily be seen as the hero of  "A Christmas Carol", as he did not need to be visited by a ghostly quartet (including Marley, of course) to know that all an employer needs to do is treat one's employees with respect and dignity to get a good day's work out of them.  The idea of "The Fezziwig Papers" is a series of essays relating to this point.

Anyway, I was struck rather forcefully a couple of days ago watching Chris Matthews interview Phillip Dennis, a Tea Party organizer from Texas, who was proposing the federal government lay off 15% of its workforce. Matthews asked him if he knew how many people would be out of their jobs under this plan.  Here is Mr. Dennis's response, verbatim via MSNBC's transciption:

PHILLIP DENNIS, TEXAS TEA PARTY ORGANIZER:  Well, if they‘re federal workers, not enough because I think we‘re going to happy when we get all of these federal workers off the backs of the American producers and taxpayers out there.  Those are non-producing jobs, and they are—they take money out of our checks to pay their salaries.  They have over-the-top salaries and benefits and pensions, and it‘s a disaster zone.  And that—my answer is, there‘s not enough federal jobs being cut.....Those people will become productive or they will starve, if we can get rid of some of this cradle-to-grave Welfare.

In this I hear the echo of Scrooge's, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" How in the name of Christmas's past and future did we get to the point where federal workers are held responsible for irresponsibility in the financial sector that caused this Great Recession?  What is the logical reasoning that shows that the proper response to pervasive unemployment  is to fire hundreds of thousands of people?

We are witnessing one the great acts of misdirection ever seen. Working people have been taking it where the sun don't shine for the last ten years.  Their salaries have not risen one damn dollar.  Rather, they were handed out credit cards and encouraged to go into debt. They were sold home equity loans and talked into mortgages with terms they didn't understand or just weren't told about.  The clowns that sold them these time bombs passed them like hot potatoes to investors who were assured they were A-rated instruments, insulating themselves from the entirety of the risk. When Lehman Brothers sneezed on this house of cards and the entire global economic milieu came down with the flu, the so-called capitalists came crying to suck at the teat of Momma Government while the suckers at the bottom lost their jobs and their homes - presumably to become productive or starve. And now they held responsible for this mess, while the financiers on Wall Street collect bonus checks and ship more jobs overseas?

Milt Friedmen must be turning in his grave.