Eat raviolis while Enron eats your pension
and ups your power bill


Expanded from the 2-3-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Sniff around you and breathe in the testament to shallowness. To make newsprint, it has butchered thousands of trees which now cannot make oxygen to repair the earth's atmosphere. The air up there has needed all the help it can get as production of the nouveau testament has eaten new holes in the ozone layer in order to provide electricity for malinformed e-media.

Tears both human and crocodile have been cried in adequate volumes to water forests and power hydroelectric dams.

Damn, can't anybody see the forest for the trees? Has the proliferation of the five-second TV station commercial i.d. stunted our mass attention span to the point that anything pre-dating the puberty of Britney Spears is declared irrelevant?

If a tree destined to become newspaper fell in the forest and nobody cared, can the sound it made be declared as never having existed?


Witness the roots of Enron. If anybody has seen, heard or read anything dating its cause to 1947, please let me know.

As George Herbert Hoover Bush found out the hard way in 1992, and as Dubya may learn in two years, popular wartime leaders usually get dumped at the first opportunity. The public says "we don't want to think about death and dismemberment anymore."

Winston Churchill, the prime minister whose leadership saved England -- and the launching pad for the Normandy invasion -- was defrocked as soon as WWII ended in 1945. Harry Truman inherited the presidency when Franklin D. Roosevelt died that same year.

In 1946, with no presidential election scheduled until 1948, the American public elected a Republican congress, the Newt Gingrich revolution of its day.

The American people still suffer from the effects and will continue to hurt well into the new millennium.

Well over 40 million Americans, a lot of them poor children, today have no health care or health insurance. President Truman tried to get a national health insurance bill passed but was thwarted by the GOP congress and the American Medical Association, which successfully tarred the concept as a dirty Communist plot by them subversive Russkies.

Today, we have a patchwork, partially socialized system (Medicare, Medicaid) which leaves most people uncovered or struggling to pay increasingly higher premiums and deductibles. Dubya is turning the screws even tighter.

Documents released yesterday by the Associated Press "show that Bush's $2.13 trillion budget for next year, to be released Monday, will draw upon (cuts) from Medicaid and a health-insurance program for low-income children."

The Republican congress of 1947 also passed the Taft-Hartley Act over Truman's veto. Its goal was to destroy organized labor and it's done a helluva job. American unions peaked at about 35 percent of the workforce in the 1950s. Today, they stand at about 14 percent, only nine points of which are in the private sector.

U.S. employees today labor under the most repressive labor laws among the first-world industrialized nations. The shrinking union base is the result. The purchasing power of American wages has been on a parallel downhill slide since peaking in 1968.

Taft-Hartley allowed states to impose "right-to-work" laws. Sounds good, right?

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Would you vote for a right-to-tax law? You'd probably say "hell, no." But labels can be confusing.

If right-to-tax worked like right-to-work, it would mean that you could choose not to pay taxes while still getting the full benefits of citizenship. Somebody else would get stuck with the tab for government services like roads and schools.

Would you still vote no?

A right-to-work law forces union members to subsidize union services for non-members. Under the federal law, when a state imposes a right-to-work (aka open shop) law, a worker who gets a job with a unionized company gets all the union-negotiated wages and benefits, even free representation in grievances against the boss, but can choose not to pay union dues. A free ride. (Union dues, averaging about $15 or $20 a month, seem like a pretty good deal to get better pay.)

About 40 percent of workers in right-to-work states take the free ride, forcing unions to provide 100 percent service for 60 cents on the dollar. Result: overworked, shrinking unions.

A lesser-known provision of Taft-Hartley allowed employers exclusive control of pension funds. It made union control a federal crime. The reason: workers, led by John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers of America, were buying up company stock. If you own enough stock, you can call the shots, especially when the boss wants to export your job to Mexico or Bangladesh.

The roots of the Enron meltdown and the destruction of the life savings of so many lay in the union-busting laws of the 1947-48 congress. They did so much damage that Truman was able to run against a "do-nothing congress" in 1948 to win the biggest come-from-behind upset in U.S. presidential history.

All of the calls for pension plan reform, especially Dubya's, fall far short of the mark. Companies should have no ability to manipulate and loot workers' retirement nest eggs. But in the past 20 years, pirating of "overfunded" pension plans has allowed corporate raiders like Marc Rich to get obscenely richer and live the fat life, immune from justice.

It's thus ironic and laughable that Dubya offers baby-step non-reforms to pension plunder while at the same time calling for privatization of Social Security so that workers can have some degree of control over their government-vested pension plan, the only one that's safe.

And if you're angry about your power bill, Enron had a lot to do with that, too. (Go to the Energy Crisis War Room which contains several enraging items.)

SHOW UP, DAMMIT — in Sparks at Mendive Middle School for the SPP rate hike consumer hearings, 6:00 p.m. Monday...Before the Reno City Council, which will decide Tuesday whether or not to appeal Judge Steve Kosach's decision allowing a northwest Reno Wal-Mart big box...To Casale's Halfway (between Sparks and Reno) Club on E. Fourth Street for legendary ravioli chef Inez Stempeck's 75th birthday celebration all this week.

I like the antiques at Casale's, especially the last remaining "Union Shop" sign behind any bar in northern Nevada.

Be well. Raise hell. | U-News | C.O.P. | Sen. Joe Neal

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Copyright © 2002, 2005 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 33-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.

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