Tom's Thoughts

Location: Granite Falls, North Carolina, United States

I'm an ordained United Methodist minister no longer pastoring churches, a former media producer with skills ten years out of date, a writer trying to sell my first novel, and a sales associate keeping body and soul together working for the People's Republic of Corporate America. I'm married to the most wonderful woman in the world, who was my best friend for 17 years before we married.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Living Wage

I have been in the work force for 40 years, full- and part-time, and I have seen that every time the minimum wage has gone up, unemployment has gone down. You would think people would learn from that real-world experience, wouldn't you? But no. They prefer their ivory tower theories that don't take every factor into consideration.

The standard argument against raising the minimum wage is that small employers can't afford to pay more, so more people will be laid off, blah, blah, blah. Then why does unemployment go DOWN when the minimum wage goes up? Try this: Take demand into consideration along with supply. Low-wage people, when they get more money, spend it. They don't put it into hostile corporate takeovers or Cayman Island secret accounts. They need the money to buy basic necessities. So when low-income people get more income, they spend it right away, creating more demand, which means merchants have to provide more inventory, which means suppliers have to stock more, which means manufacturers have to increase output, which means hiring more workers all the way around.

It has been estimated that if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968 it would be over $11 per hour now. And if it had kept up with the increase in CEO compensation it would be approaching $50 an hour by now. Workers need an average of around $10 an hour to maintain a family of four at a minimal standard of living. Therefore, I propose that the minimum wage be raised to $10 an hour, and adjusted for inflation every year after that automatically.

That, combined with public demand for American-made goods, will help bring our unemployment problem under control.

Monday, April 25, 2005

On Family Farms

I grew up on a family-owned dairy farm. When my father and his twin brother started selling milk in 1949 they were getting more per hundred pounds (the unit at which bulk milk is priced) than they were in 1970 when they sold out. Every time the price of milk went up on the store shelves, their check was reduced.

Government subsidies were set up to prevent such as this from happening. Unfortunately, the bulk of crop subsidies go to large factory farms and to wealthy investors. Thirty years ago I read that Queen Elizabeth and Bob Hope were large beneficiaries of government farm subsidies. Do people like that really need that much corporate welfare?

Americans pay a higher price for sugar than they need to because of government support for the sugar beet industry, which also hurts sugar cane growers in Latin America.

Here is the proposal: Farm subsidies should be for small family farms. Agricultural enterprises above a certain level should be discontinued. Major producers should not be given the use of public land for grazing, etc. at below market value rates.

At the same time, trade negotiations should be worked out with third-world farmers to provide a market for their produce in such a way that it would not hurt small American farmers. The details for such an arrangement are not clear at this point, but the idea does deserve further study.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

On Corporate Welfare

Some time in the late 19th. Century the Supreme Court held that a corporation had the standing of a person before the court. Recent analyses have shown that if American corporations were persons they were sociopaths.

The only reason a corporation exists is to make money. They employ such people as they need to produce the products they sell, they buy and use equipment as needed, and the two are equally dehumanized in the eyes of the corporation's management.

Martin Buber called this the "I-it" relationship as opposed to the "I-thou" relationship between people which respects mutual humanity. Humans who engage in "I-it" relationships with other people are often locked up for criminal behavior. Yet corporations get away with the same behavior, and are rewarded for doing so.

The time has come to end the government's subsidy of anti-social corporate behavior. American companies do not need our tax dollars to help them advertise overseas; American corporations do not need our tax dollars to promote their products in America. For example: Archer-Daniel-Midlands does not need subsidies for ethanol to be added to our gasoline. If it is saves drivers money on their gasoline bill, then the market will support it. If it does not, then why do we need to have this chemical added?

American corporations also should not be given tax breaks as a reward for throwing their American employees out of work and moving the jobs overseas. These practices should be ended immediately.

Finally, the Internal Revenue Service should be empowered to track down and prosecute those who hide their income in dummy off-shore companies, and corporations who set up such dummies should be ineligible to bid on federal contracts.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Education Plank

I am glad to be of the age where my children are grown and gone. I love my children and I'm proud of them, but I'm glad I don't have to be concerned about having teenagers around, or worrying about how they're doing in school. I've done all that, and I'm glad they turned out the way they did.

However, that does not mean I have no interest in education. The next generation will be paying my Social Security, assuming the Bush Administration does not succeed in destroying it. Furthermore, those of us who have investments in the stock and bond markets need healthy companies where we can place our investments. So even without Social Security, all of us have an interest in the coming generations.

Traditionally, our schools were set up to train future factory workers, training them to sit in straight rows and raise their hands before speaking. They were taught to regurgitate on tests what the teachers told them, rather than thinking for themselves, all the better to be obedient factory workers.

Unfortunately, that paradigm is no longer relevant the way our economy is developing. Industrial work is on the way out, and it is being joined in it exit by technical and knowledge work. The only thing left is service work, which can't be outsourced or conducted on-line.

Therefore, the next generation needs to learn entrepreneurship. They need to learn how to set up their own businesses, providing needed products and services that the major corporations cannot or will not deliver in the way the customers want.

Our schools need leadership to guide them into this new century's world. This will not be found in vouchers which take resources away from public schools, nor in charter schools which have not lived up to their promise.

Instead, we need to hire superintendents, principals, and teachers with new vision, and we as a society need to give them the resources they need, and the administrative support they need to bring about the changes needed.

The Whig Party we're proposing here comes out on the side of this new vision.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Sunshine Week

This is being posted a week late, but Sunshine Week was important enough to talk about every day.

A basic tenet of the new Whig Party I'm trying to start is that government governs best which governs most openly. I base this on John 3:19-21. "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it mayh be clearly see that their deeds have been done in God." (NRSV)

Official secrets have a tendency to cover up incompetence, dirty dealing, dishonesty, even illegal activity. Thus, we need to have openness in government, and sunshine on all government activities that are not directly related to covert actions directed at foreign enemies and domestic criminals. Any politician, or civic leader, or church leader who opposes openness surely has something to hide and is not to be trusted.