Northeast Times

Election rhetoric and what it means to folks in Philly

River­ward Rant - Just how does na­tion­al polit­ic­al dia­log im­pact our neigh­bor­hoods?

If you pay at­ten­tion to polit­ics, you may feel as though all this pres­id­en­tial-elec­tion rhet­or­ic doesn’t in­clude any ideas that really per­tain to Philly’s prob­lems.

I know that’s how I feel.

Right now, the Re­pub­lic­an-primary talk­ing points are a mix of so­cial-is­sue blab­ber and mean­ing­less buzz words — like “job cre­at­ors” — spoken with little con­text or nu­ance.

I’ve heard more mean­ing­ful polit­ic­al ideas from the grumpy Fishtown drunks I play Quizzo with on Wed­nes­day nights — and Pres­id­ent Barack Obama and the Demo­crats aren’t any bet­ter.

As much as Tea Party-in­spired Re­pub­lic­ans want to shred the so­cial safety net, the Demo­crats don’t seem very in­ter­ested in re­form­ing en­ti­tle­ments to make them more ef­fect­ive or af­ford­able.

Philly is a nice ex­ample of all this talk­ing-point idiocy com­ing to­geth­er. I rarely hear any loc­al Demo­crats talk about keep­ing wel­fare cheats from reap­ing SSI checks for hav­ing ex­tra ba­bies while, at the same time, Gov. Tom Corbett thought it was a good idea to cut fund­ing to state uni­versit­ies.

I guess he just wanted to make sure the na­tion’s best and bright­est minds aren’t lured to Pennsylvania to at­tend Temple Uni­versity or Penn State.

But the talk­ing points get at­ten­tion, which is why they’re so pop­u­lar.

It’s much easi­er for pun­dits and arm­chair politicos to shout “So­cial­ist!” at Pres­id­ent Obama and “Plu­to­crat!” at Mitt Rom­ney than it is to urge cit­izens to vote ac­cord­ingly.

I’ve found, however, a few rarely men­tioned top­ics in our na­tion­al polit­ic­al dis­course that af­fect Philly dir­ectly.

Uni­ons: Very few elec­ted Demo­crats will ever speak out against the clunky, ir­rel­ev­ant nature of mod­ern uni­ons.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pro-uni­on guy. I’ve worked at uni­on and non-uni­on jobs and, guess what, it’s nice to have paid sick time so you don’t have to drag your butt in­to work when you have the flu.

From this alone, uni­ons al­low in­nu­mer­able Philly fam­il­ies to pay their bills.

But these days, uni­ons don’t seem in­ter­ested in help­ing non-uni­on work­ers or­gan­ize. That’s be­cause the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has — un­der both Re­pub­lic­an and Demo­crat­ic ad­min­is­tra­tions — worked to un­der­mine the in­flu­ence of or­gan­ized labor ever since the Taft-Hartley Act, which ba­sic­ally made it il­leg­al for uni­on work­ers to go on strike without first po­litely ask­ing per­mis­sion.

Wild­cat strikes — which are strikes or­gan­ized by work­ers without per­mis­sion from uni­on of­fi­cials — have been il­leg­al in the United States since 1935.

Re­pub­lic­ans want to trash uni­ons and Demo­crats won’t re­form them. In a uni­on city like Philly, there are scarcely less im­port­ant is­sues.

But hey, Rick San­tor­um is wor­ried about who’s-mar­ry­ing-who and Obama loves that labor vote, so don’t ex­pect to hear any­thing about it.

“Job Cre­at­ors”: Every­body agrees that cap­it­al­ism cre­ates a lot of money. Philly cer­tainly knows this, es­pe­cially since all the cap­it­al­ism left the city.

Kens­ing­ton used to have cap­it­al­ism. Now it has meth­adone clin­ics.

All we hear about cap­it­al­ism and “job cre­at­ors” are clich&ea­cute; ar­gu­ments about how the gov­ern­ment should get out of the way and let mar­ket com­pet­i­tion do its thing.

The whole point of Amer­ic­an cap­it­al­ism and its job cre­at­ors is that big busi­nesses in com­pet­i­tion with each oth­er will bring lots of jobs and low prices, right?

Well, what if there’s not as much com­pet­i­tion as you think?

Yes, there is a law bar­ring a com­pany from hav­ing stock in an­oth­er com­pany in the same in­dustry. Gen­er­al Mo­tors can’t own stock in Ford, for ex­ample, be­cause that would des­troy com­pet­i­tion in the auto in­dustry.

But there’s a thing called “in­ter­lock­ing dir­ect­or­ate” that is per­fectly leg­al. Not many voters have heard of it. In­ter­lock­ing dir­ect­or­ate means that large banks can buy small amounts of stock in com­pet­ing com­pan­ies, and then sit on the board of dir­ect­ors of those com­pet­ing com­pan­ies, thus hav­ing con­trol over both.

Ba­sic­ally, if every corner store in the neigh­bor­hood is con­trolled by the same hand­ful of people, are they really in com­pet­i­tion with each oth­er?

If com­pet­ing busi­ness­men are “job cre­at­ors,” what hap­pens when they’re no longer com­pet­ing?

Demo­crats and Re­pub­lic­ans are ba­sic­ally the same.

No, ser­i­ously.

Since 1989 we’ve had 12 years of Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ents (George Bush and George “Dubya” Bush Jr.) and 12 years of Demo­crat­ic pres­id­ents (Obama and Bill Clin­ton).

In that time, really, how much has Philly changed for the bet­ter?

Uni­ons are still clunky and shrink­ing, jobs are hard to come by, and there are just as many “busi­ness­wo­men” work­ing on Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue.

There has been such little no­tice­able change that some­times I won­der if it even mat­ters. Es­sen­tially, Philly is in dire need of new op­tions when it comes to who’s run­ning our coun­try, or at least some new con­crete ideas from the people who do.

Rich­ie An­ti­puna for pres­id­ent? ••

 ldquo;River­ward Rants” re­flects the opin­ions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown res­id­ent, area nat­ive and writer of the Web site PhillyNeigh­bor.com, where he makes cyn­ic­al (and un­censored) com­ments about life in the river­wards. He can be reached at JQuig1984@gmail.com

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