Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Metal Trades Disappointed at NGS Restructure Announcement; Hopeful That a New Strategic Alternative at Avondale Can Emerg

The following is a statement from Ronald Ault, President of the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO in response to the announcement by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding that it will consolidate its shipbuilding capacity into its Pascagoula, Mississippi shipyard.

Northrop Grumman Corporation’s announcement that it will consolidate its Gulf Shipbuilding operation is disappointing and regrettable. The Metal Trades Department recognizes the inevitability of that news given the Navy’s earlier decision to constrain its shipbuilding budget, but that doesn’t make the potential impact on workers at the Avondale yard any less painful. Nor does it make a total shutdown inevitable. The Metal Trades and a number of our key affiliates—specifically the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB)—began a serious campaign to sustain Avondale on May 10, 2010, but we were cautioned against going “public” with our concerns at that time by the Company and members of Congress, each of whom told us that publicity might upset “delicate negotiations” seeking a solution. Obviously, those authorities were unable to achieve that solution.

The economy of the Gulf region is on life support. Shipbuilding is the largest single employer in the region. The combined impact of the Metal Trades-represented Northrop Grumman shipyards in New Orleans and Pascagoula is $12.6 billion—six times that of the seafood industry. If Avondale, which represents 40 percent of the region’s shipbuilding industry, disappears—the economic impact will be devastating. We can’t blame shipbuilding woes on the oil spill or on a catastrophic storm; but we can say that the demise of Gulf Coast shipbuilding is the result of neglect—benign or otherwise. Regardless of the cause, it is an unacceptable outcome.

We reiterate, for the benefit of the Obama Administration, Congress, elected officials at every level and the American people, America needs a shipbuilding industry. We are rapidly nearing the tipping point where any further loss of capacity may mean that the industry could go from shallow breathing into a comatose state. Any shutdown of a large shipbuilding facility corrodes our strategic national interest and ripples throughout our economy subtracting good paying jobs not just in direct ship construction in the Gulf region, but in the thousands of large and small enterprises that feed the shipbuilding industry’s needs for components. America has neither the resources nor the national resolve to recreate such resources from scratch.

It is clear that New Orleans and its surrounding areas can ill afford to lose one of the last reservoirs of decent middle class jobs that exist today. The economic circumstances for this area cry out for attention and urgent action. We stand ready to help.

We intend to hold Northrop Grumman to its promise to work to explore alternative uses for the facility even before work on the two remaining Navy vessels now under construction.

We will encourage collaboration among private investors, elected officials at the federal state and local level, and the Obama Administration, to work with us to develop a strategic alternative to the complete dissolution of the Avondale facility. We believe that—through a combination of innovation, vision and courage—a new enterprise can emerge that can utilize the skills of the Avondale workforce to address urgent national needs for shipbuilding and energy applications.

It would only take a small measure of policy adjustment—such as stricter enforcement of the Jones Act, especially as it applies to the offshore oil industry; and DOD’s abandonment of its long-term ship leasing policy—to breathe new life into private shipbuilding. We believe that Avondale could economically produce ships for a domestic market as long as that domestic market can be nurtured by rational and stable policies.

Among the other options that can and should be pursued would be the conversion of portions of the Avondale yard to construction of containment vessels for nuclear facilities. At present, there is no domestic source for those vessels and their construction process is not significantly different from that of shipbuilding. The Metal Trades and our affiliates have been suggesting these remedies in various forms for over two decades.
The Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO is an umbrella organization comprised of 17 national and international unions. Chartered in 1908, the Department negotiates collective bargaining agreements and coordinates representation in shipyards, nuclear facilities, manufacturing, mining and petrochemical operations throughout the United States.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Silent Majority: Why Don’t the Smart Southerners Speak Up?

Ron Ault
June 17, 2010
I happened to catch Congressman Stupack’s hearing into the causes of BP’s “accident” today. Then I watched the CNN coverage with Gulf Coast residents’ responding from a local diner in Metairie, Louisiana. I kept thinking “I sure hope there is a ’silent majority‘ of Americans out there, otherwise we are in deep do-do.”

I know the media sometimes deliberately picks the absolute dumbest “bubba” they can find to interview on the air to make inflammatory remarks, but come on…this guy sounded just like a Sarah Palin Tea Party nut case.

The man chosen by the media to be the public representative of the entire region’s views was a perfect example of the old adage “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” He was lamenting the “fact” that the oil spill was worse than Hurricane Katrina. Duh! Thousands of human beings died in Katrina, dude, many after the storm passed because there was no planning or logistics prepositioned to get immediate assistance and supplies to the survivors! It took five days to get drinking water to the Superdome after the storm passed. There is a big difference in the federal response to this man-made disaster.

But, CNN chose to spotlight this guy who accused President Obama of caving in to unions because he won’t waive the Jones Act and allow foreign vessels to come in and clean up the spill…Where do these people get this from? He must be watching “fair and balanced” Fox TV. Did he think a onetime cleanup was going to fix the millions of gallons of oils still spewing from the well? Did he think that there are millions of foreign built vessels lined up, just waiting to come in and clean up the oil? This guy was saying that under former President Bush’s leadership the Jones Act was waived for the oil industry. Yes, that is the one thing this guy said that was a fact. George W. Bush did that.

Does anyone out there know anything about the Jones Act? Ignorance is bliss but once in a while the networks should do a little bit of fact checking before they broadcast what they heard someone else say. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but broadcasters have an obligation to at least refrain from spreading mis-information, especially if the source is a man-on-the-street.

“Ditto heads” simply repeating what shock jocks Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck say on a national TV interview gives an entire region a bad name. The Jones Act is an 80-year-old law designed to insure that America has a shipbuilding industry and a merchant marine to build and crew Navy ships in time of war. It requires that vessels engaged in US, port-to-port trade, be built and assembled entirely in US Shipyards, crewed by US crews and owned by US citizens.

Bush gave his friends in the oil and gas industry a pass from the requirements of the Jones Act. That is why the Deepwater Horizon wasn’t built in a shipyard in Louisiana or Mississippi. The drilling platform was built in South Korean-owned by Transocean, a Swiss company, not an American Company that would observe U.S. law…And that is why British Petroleum could “drill baby, drill” with little or no oversight.

Jones Act waivers, once given, are difficult—if not impossible to retrieve. President Obama had little to do with anything associated with the Deepwater Horizon disaster except to try to hold BP accountable. The Jones Act does permit foreign vessels to operate in coastwise trade if there are insufficient US domestic vessels available for the needs. There is no need to grant additional waivers under the Jones Act. They already exist, but “Fair and Balanced” Fox TV and CNN didn’t tell you that, did they?

Not one Gulf Coast job was generated in the building of the Deep Water Horizon even though the largest private employers in Mississippi and Louisiana are the Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi and the Avondale Shipyard just outside New Orleans, Louisiana. Both shipyards (and many more Gulf Coast shipbuilding facilities) could have easily built this rig, but why give American folks jobs when you can build it cheaper in South Korea as long as you don’t have to follow US Jones Act laws? Cheaper, faster, cut corners to save money. Isn’t that BP’s track record in this disaster. Save money even if it costs lives, ruins the environment and kills American jobs?

The people on the Gulf Coast don’t know what they want President Obama to do about BP’s mess. They criticize him for not showing up on day one after the explosion. They criticize him for not meeting with every man, woman and child in the area when he does come down to the Gulf Coast to survey what the Coast Guard and BP crews are doing about the tar balls and oil washing up on the beaches and in the marshes. They criticize him for not getting money to reimburse residents who have lost their jobs and livelihood in the region fast enough. Then they accuse him of an illegal “shakedown” for making BP put up a 20 Billion dollar “slush fund,” as Congressman Joe Barton put in the congressional hearing as he apologized to BP saying he was “ashamed.” (And, Joe Barton should be ashamed!)

You hear these folks (and the Tea Partiers) say that they are opposed to the President’s policies and they are going to “take our country back” in the next election….That’s an incomplete sentence. Who are these folks going to take the country back from? There are some in the South who are still fighting the Civil War and still sore about desegregation.

What they are really saying is, no matter what President Obama does or doesn’t do, they are not going to support him. Obama didn’t carry the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama in the 2008 Presidential election and it would be difficult for him to have much support there today no matter what he does about the oil in the Gulf.

Boy, I sure hope that there is a big, silent majority of Americans that are out there thoughtful and making intelligent decisions, and not a majority of “ditto heads” blindly following the talk radio hate jocks and the flame throwing race baiters.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Challenges are Opportunities to Succeed

Ron Ault
June1, 2010
The Deepwater Horizon disaster spewing raw crude oil into the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico points out the problem with allowing private enterprise lead in developing cutting edge technology in energy or any other critical commodity. As we have seen, a massive failure can bring a nation to its knees and arouse public opinion on a grand scale. The BP spill is to the oil industry what Chernobyl was to Russia’s nuclear energy program. Chernobyl, with the catastrophic pile meltdown and fire that killed hundreds and sickened thousands over a generation came about a decade after our own near miss nuclear disaster at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. The major difference between the U.S. experience and Russia’s is that the reactor containment at Three Mile Island worked.

The Deepwater Horizon was built in a South Korean shipyard. It was owned and operated by Transocean, a Swiss company. Are bells going off anywhere? Are the warning lights flashing, America? The Jones Act is an 80-year-old law that requires ships engaged in commerce in the US coastal trade to be built in the US, owned by US owners and have US crews. This is the US Merchant Marine. In hearings into the cause of the explosions and fire aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, Congressman Gene Taylor specifically asked the Obama Administration to invoke the Jones Act for all the oil and gas drilling in the Gulf.

The other two corporate entities implicated in the Gulf disaster were Haliburton, now headquartered in Dubai; and BP, incorporated in the UK and headquartered in London.

We have a shortage of naval shipbuilding work to keep our six major U.S. shipyards in business. There is a discussion about Avondale Shipyard of New Orleans— one of only six major US Shipyards, being sold or closed, Avondale and its sister shipyard, Ingalls, located some 120 miles away in Pascagoula, Mississippi, are the two largest private employers in Louisiana and Mississippi. Both yards are capable of building complex combat vessels for the U.S. Navy, and that has been their forte.

Avondale has built commercial ships, including double hulled oil tankers for the US Alaskan oil trade after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound. No one has designed and built deep water equipment for a disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon. Why not? Why doesn’t the US government develop the design and build the safety equipment necessary to cap runaway oil well in deepwater? No one can argue we don’t need it. We could put thousands of the people who live in the area being slimed by the oil spill tomorrow morning to work building this equipment. The people directly affected would have a stake in the development and construction of the equipment that would protect their very way of life and their quality of life.

With BP’s oil billowing into the waters of the Gulf, whose job is it to staunch the flow? Americans and the press are badgering the federal government to “do something” about it, but the federal government doesn’t have the technology because it hasn’t ever focused on a problem of this dimension. Until now, it was the domain of private industry. Well, that hasn’t worked out so well now, has it?

If we want bold decisive action to plug the hole and stop the oil spewing into the Gulf- this is it! Turn American ingenuity loose and give American shipbuilders the job of designing and building the deep water disaster response for this and similar drilling disasters just waiting to happen in our costal waters. Saying this will never happen again is sticking our head in the sand and ignoring the facts that say otherwise. This challenge is an opportunity for success, let’s get started!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

America for Sale

Ron Ault
Memorial Day, 2010

Are you paying attention to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that threatens the entire Gulf, all of Florida and even the East Coast?  Republicans are saying this is Obama’s Katrina!  What is the Federal Government doing about the oil spill? Why hasn’t Obama taken over and plugged the leak?

Duh! What is wrong with this picture?  Has everyone in America eaten a stupid pill? Dumbass is somewhat contagious, but this is pure stupidity on a grand scale!

How can the federal government be responsible for what the private sector does to us?  If our food is poisonous, is it the fault of the federal government?  If the medicines we take cause cancer, is it the fault of the federal government?

Didn’t we sell yours and mine mineral rights on our public lands to energy companies?   Yes, we did. We voted to do it .…You and I agreed to give millions of dollars worth of public mineral rights to millions of acres of public land for just pennies an acre mineral lease rights to these companies.  And then we agreed to deregulate these very same industries so they didn’t have to invest any money in safeguards against neglect and unsafe mining and drilling techniques that kill workers and poison our air and water. YES, we did, don’t deny it!

And we are still demanding more – look at the “Tea Party” demonstrations. What do they demand: smaller government; no taxes; “take back our government;” deregulate; no rules; free markets… stop “socialism!”

Well, Gulf Coast residents, welcome to the returns on the investment that the “Free Market” oil industry brings you! Foreign ownership, foreign built rigs, foreign technology, all used to drill and then when all hell breaks loose and millions of barrels of crude oil is spilling into the US coastal waters, it is the United States federal government that is supposed to jump in and bail out BP and the foreign governments who own these companies?

Remember what the eminent Grover Nordquist said would be the ultimate in conservative government: Make it small enough to drown in a bathtub. Now, the bathtub is full of oil, and we’re drowning in it!

Didn’t we vote for the Contract for America when Newt Gingrich and his Republicans pledged to roll back regulations, make government smaller less intrusive that would free up investments and be more business friendly?  Didn’t we vote for George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?  Didn’t we go to war in the Middle East in Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom to keep the oil flowing? Didn’t we support those politicians who deregulated the coal mining and oil exploration industry? Didn’t we vote to re-elect these same Senators and Congressmen and women term after term, rewarding them for their votes? Meanwhile, these lawmakers de-regulated, dismantled and removed federal safeguards from the banks and energy companies that are harming us today. 

Free enterprise isn’t free for you and me. It is free from regulation – free from federal inspectors checking up on cheats and unscrupulous businesses; free from mine inspections and meat inspectors; free from DOL Wage and Hour inspectors, free from CDC scientists working on new vaccines that only affect a few thousand Americans (so it isn’t profitable for drug companies to do); free from border patrol and law officers; free from public school teachers and fire fighters; unburdened of all those federally-supported services that our taxes provide. Wall Street is lobbying our Congress so they don’t have to pay the same taxes as you and I pay. And, 36 lawmakers lined up to support Wall Street over you and me…including some Blue Dog Democrats who should be voted out of office, like Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas. 

But I digress…America is for sale. Private industry has waged an expensive decades-old public relations campaign to brainwash the general public into believing that any government regulation is bad and only totally free enterprise, free trade is good. Kinda like saying sin is great and virtue is bad. Say it loud enough and repeat it often enough on every TV channel and soon it is no longer an ad, or just an opinion – it is the truth….it is the Golden Rule: Those with the gold rule.

Don’t you get it? America is being sold to foreign interests every day of the week. We are a third world country being mined by foreign national governments for our raw materials. Huge tracts of American farms are foreign government-owned and the crops harvested in the USA go directly to those nations…Same story for our forests. Raw logs are loaded in ships and shipped directly overseas for raw materials; not as a finished, valued-added product. Why should we be surprised that crude oil is being drilled in the deep water US coastal Gulf by foreign government owned businesses like BP, the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company, the United Arab Emirates, China Development Fund, etc? As Sarah says: Drill, Baby, Drill!

Almost nothing that has benefitted Main Street America in our entire history is from private enterprise.  Required reading in every school in America should be Jeff Madrick’s “Case for Big Government,” a book written in layman’s language, (so that even an old country Boy from Arkansas like me can understand it) that details his conclusion that a public relations campaign has been systematically waged against America so we vote against our own interests and with greedy corporations who, with our help, legally steal money from the general public (that’s us).    

Jeff Madrick is the editor of “Challenge” magazine and senior fellow at the New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis. He creates a fact-filled, “connect the dots” road map for every day citizens to understand the complexities of economics in plain language. After reading this book, you will clearly see the lies and deception heaped upon America by the greedy and unscrupulous mining and energy corporations who use public lands to make billions of dollars of pure profits that belong to you and me, and then avoid paying anything for the land and avoiding taxes on their profits. Incredible! 

So shut up America. You asked for this. You paid for it. You voted for this, and you continue to support the system that is dumping millions of barrels of oil in the Gulf. You made the deal; so live with it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Memorial Day Message

Ron Ault May 23, 2010

The last Monday in May has been observed as the Memorial Day federal holiday since 1971.  Before then, it was known as “Decoration Day” to decorate the graves and monuments that honor our fallen servicemen and women.  This observance goes all the way back to 1871 to honor the dead servicemen who served in the Civil War. 

This history of Memorial Day shows that the more things change, the more they remain the same, especially when we are in a temporary time of peace between the numerous wars our nation has fought since 1871.

Today, the  public’s perception is that we are at peace with other nations, although that isn’t entirely true.  We are at war and it is with nations; not just a loose group of so-called terrorist groups;  al Qaeda  may be the face of their surrogate, but these terrorists are sponsored and supported by nation states hell bent on harming America. At the same time, we are in the worst economic recession/depression since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

2010 looks an awful lot like the state of the world in 1938, before World War II.  History has a way of repeating itself. The world of the “haves” and the “have nots” during the Great Depression actually triggered World War II. Adolph Hitler came to power united behind a starving Germany that was largely unemployed. Today, we are seeing riots in Europe, political uprisings in the Far East and an angry American electorate that is voting long-term incumbents out of office.  We have sleeper cell terrorists attempting to bomb New York City’s Times Square just to kill innocent civilians.

The United States Constitution specifically requires the US Congress to provide a Navy for the national defense…not the Department of Defense; not the President of the US; but Congress. Yet, in these dangerous and uncertain times, what is happening to our Navy?

The Navy’s recently released 30-year shipbuilding plan is fraught with faulty assumptions that are based purely on shortages of shipbuilding funding. And, if Congress simply rubber stamps the recommendations of this report, it will be giving up its constitutionally mandated responsibility to provide a Navy to auditors and bean counters.

It costs a lot of money to have a modern two ocean Navy and our nation doesn’t have any money to spare. The war in Iraq bankrupted America. This war has actually lasted longer than WWII —it is the longest and most expensive war we have ever had. To shift money to fight the war of our choice in Afghanistan, the US has decided to cancel new defense programs saying that no other nation on Earth has the technology we currently have in our military, so we don’t need new systems. This decision will have long term consequences.

By cutting the development of future weapons systems we are dismantling our national defense industrial base, and by doing so we give up our ability to build our own weapons systems we will need to defend ourselves.

Any nation that cannot build their own defense weapons cannot be considered a world power and must buy whatever weapons other nations are willing to sell to them.  This is especially true in the Naval Shipbuilding industrial base. America has only six major shipyards that are capable of building complex large deck Naval combat ships and submarines; listed from West to East: National Steel Shipyard owned by General Dynamics Corporation located in San Diego, California; Avondale Shipyards, owned by Northrop Grumman Corporation and located just outside New Orleans, Louisiana; Ingalls Shipyard owned by Northrop Grumman Corporation located in Pascagoula, Mississippi; Newport News Shipbuilding, owned by Northrop Grumman and located in Newport News, Virginia; Electric Boat, owned by General Dynamics Corporation and located in Groton, Connecticut; and Bath Iron Works, owned by General Dynamics and located in Bath, Maine.

Newport News is the only shipyard currently building nuclear powered aircraft carriers and Electric Boat is a nuclear submarine yard. Bath Iron Works, Ingalls, Avondale and National Steel Shipyards are building the non nuclear, combat surface ships, including destroyers, amphibious ships, fleet underway replenishment ships (formerly called fleet oilers), minesweepers, frigates and cruisers.

We haven’t built a modern icebreaker in decades and considering the Russian race for oil exploration in the Arctic Circle, seems pretty short sighted.

The modernization of the aging Coast Guard fleet and the US coastal trade, Jones Act fleet of US Merchant Marine ships requires more than six shipyards, but without federal support for such programs, America will lose the last vestiges of heavy industry manufacturing left in America and we will have to buy our ships from China and South Korea with money we borrow from them.

What most Americans don’t realize is that these shipyards are the largest private employers in their respective states and generate and additional $7.80 for every dollar they spend in economic activity in their regions and within the shipbuilding supplier base.

The income taxes on wages paid to our workers offset some of the costs of Naval and Coast Guard purchases, but no one accounts for that.

Every single state in the US has industries that supply the US shipbuilding industry. Every job in these shipyards is a good-paying, middle class job.

When all variables are factored in the economic pie that is sliced up, I submit that the economic impact of shipbuilding is self-sustaining. Once any of these shipyards is closed, there will never be another shipyard built in the United States again.

No one can afford to invest the billions of dollars into the infrastructure to build a shipyard, and the environmental permits would NEVER be approved to dig and build dry docks, dredge berthing and outfitting spaces, waterfront piers, machines, electrical conduits, piping, sheet metal and steel fabrication shops and massive heavy lift cranes and weight handling equipment used in modular construction of massive metal ship structures.

America’s shipyards are national treasures and should not belong to private enterprise, but they do and as such they are operated on a supply and demand basis. They must make a profit or be closed, sold and disposed of, regardless of the impact on our national security.  Had America closed down its shipbuilding base between the crash of 1929 and December 7, 1941, we would have the axis flags of Germany and Japan flying over Washington, D.C. today. History ignored is history to be repeated.

This Memorial Day as we honor our fallen and our currently serving American armed forces, let’s not put future generations at risk by short sighted defense policies based on budget rather than on our national needs. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld candidly said when asked by news reporters about why our Humvees were not ordered built with IED armor to prevent unnecessary US causalities: “We go to war with the Army we have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

Our shipbuilders build every U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ship knowing it is their sons and daughters who will crew and fight in those ships.
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Friday, May 21, 2010

America’s Fractious Two Party System

by Ron Ault
May 20, 2010
Results from the so-called Super Tuesday elections are in.  A friend of workers, Senator Arlen Specter, lost his bid to be elected as a Democrat and will retire after 30 years of service. Senator Specter is caught up in the anger of America at a broken two-party political system that doesn’t work. To work there must be a willingness on the part of the minority party to abide by the will of the majority. And both sides must be willing to compromise to achieve bipartisanship.  Instead the partisan rancor has been ratcheted up a notch and nothing is coming out of the Senate where Democrats hold a razor thin majority over Republicans.
In the 2008 general election Americans voted for a change.  In the special elections last Tuesday they continued to vote for change.  Hello, professional politicians, didn’t you hear the voters? Where is the CHANGE we voted for?
Why is there a so called “Tea Party”?  Why are incumbents losing elections right and left?  CHANGE is what we want; not more of the same. Using a minority status and abusing the rules of the Senate to block any change in government is a sure fire strategy to piss off America and that is exactly what Senator Mitch McConnell’s political strategy has been.  McConnell believes that if his party can block everything in the Senate and mire down government so that nothing gets done voters will blame the Democrats and vote for Republicans in the mid term elections. McConnell’s strategy is purely self-serving, hard-ball politics above the good of the public. In carrying that strategy out, the Republicans are hurting America in the worst economic recession in our lifetime. And this negative strategy of could not have come at a worse time for our nation. We need bold, new ideas from our legislators to recover from the recession, not gridlock.
The voters are smarter than McConnell thinks they are.  Voters say throw them all out. So we are seeing the baby thrown out with the bath water, so to speak in the special elections.  Since there are more Democrats running for re-election in the 2010 mid term elections than Republicans McConnell’s strategy might work- but not as he intended.
America wanted to change the direction we were headed under Bush- so far, Senator McConnell has blocked the will of the 2008 election. How is it possible for a minority to block the will of a majority?  Want to know the answer? The rules of the Senate empower a single Senator to put a hold on confirmations of Presidential appointments, effectively stopping the President from putting his new government in place.  The rules of the Senate allow for endless debate unless a “super majority” of 60 votes to invoke cloture and end debate. These rules are not part of our constitution, they are made up by the Senate. They are not really required and should be scrapped in today’s poisoned partisanship climate.
Gridlock strategy is frustrating the base on both the left and the right. The outgrowth is parties within the parties—the Tea Partiers, Club for Growth and others among Republicans and, among Democrats, a range of political approaches—from “Blue Dogs” to “Progressives”. This factionalism weakens the mainstream of each of the two parties and encourages extremists to hijack party platforms that, for better or worse, express the vision and ideals of a political party. In place of platforms, the extremists find it safer, easier and more appealing to play to anger and frustration—in other words, demagoguery in place of idealism. Although we continue to maintain that we have a two party system, the reality is that we have a multi-party system, but the two institutionalized parties retain total control over the fund raising and organizational machinery.
What America really needs is to abandon the two party political system, but neither party is willing to do that. Both political parties like the system in place. They like being able to block elections and stymie the will of the majority of voters so they don’t have to listen to you and I. Change is something neither political party wants.  America is in deep doo doo.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Anti Worker Policies that Kill the Middle Class

By Ron AultMetal Trades Department, AFL-CIO

May 7, 2010

The Bush Administration left us a lot of excess baggage in anti-worker federal policies. One especially onerous policy came out of the National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy. It was proposed in order to eliminate defined benefit pension plans and post retirement health care programs for all the contract workers who perform the nation’s nuclear weapons work. Organized labor blocked the policy by having Congress pass a bill that said in essence that DOE could not spend any funds to implement that policy. Shortly afterward, then-DOE Secretary Samuel Bodman met with me and several other national labor leaders, including then-AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, to tell us that DOE was withdrawing the DOE directive over defined benefit pensions.

We relaxed and moved on to other battles. Big mistake. DOE was secretly implementing the directive by including it within the procurement bid process, called “solicitation for bids,” that would require any successful contractor to implement the DOE/NNSA policy that Secretary Bodman told us they were withdrawing.

We worked night and day to elect a worker friendly administration in 2008 to stop attacks on workers and the elimination of a middle class in America. We welcomed President Obama and applauded his appointment of Secretary Chu as Energy Secretary.

On January 21, 2009, I sent Secretary Chu a letter asking for an opportunity to sit down with him over the issue of DOE policies that were harmful to workers we represent. In June, almost exactly ix months later, I received a cryptic email thanking me for my communication to Secretary Chu, but due to his busy schedule he could not accept my invitation for a meeting. In the meantime we were locked in battles at DOE Sandia National Laboratory with Lockheed (DOE’s prime contractor that runs the lab for them) over the elimination of defined benefit pension for workers that have had this provision in their union contract at Sandia for more than fifty years. The defined benefit pension plan at Sandia is virtually free. It currently operates at no cost to the government and it is currently overfund by 167% (as of May 17, 2010) AND WILL NOT REQUIRE ANY ADDITIONAL CONTRIBUTION IN THE FORSEEABLE FUTURE! Apparently, for DOE, facts should not get in the way of a policy. In this case, the overfunded status was irrelevant for DOE.

The agency insisted that the contractors take away the defined benefit pensions in collective bargaining negotiations even if it meant a strike and required that the employer start a new defined contribution pension program (a 401 (K) program) that actually increased the costs to the government and added to the federal budget deficit.

The Metal Trades took a strike vote at Sandia, but the bargaining unit turned it down in face of the worst recession in modern history.

Same story at DOE Hanford in Richland, Washington; at the Oak Ridge Tennessee facility; and at all other DOE/NNSA nuclear weapons programs, in addition to our Idaho Falls Naval Nuclear Reactor facility that is a joint Navy/DOE facility. For more than two years now Secretary Chu has refused to meet with me over these DOE anti-worker policies even though he has met with many of our Metal Trades Council and Atomic Trades Council local presidents when he makes visits to the many thousands of Metal Trades Department-represented workers at all these DOE locations.

On Good Friday this past month before the Easter Holiday, NNSA/DOE posted on their website a new requirement for contractor bids on a combined operations and maintenance contract our Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant in Amarillo, Texas; our Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge Tennessee; and, within two years, at the DOE Savannah River Weapons Complex in South Carolina. The plan is to link these operations together under a single contract, with a new provision that the successful contractor will have the “flexibility” (for the first time in history) not to hire the present employees, who have decades of seniority and valuable experience after (in many cases) decades of working at these DOE facilities for every previous DOE contractor. Even worse, the successful contractor is free to set wages and benefits without regard to the rates of pay and benefits contained in our collective bargaining agreements.

How many thousands of highly skilled, high security, nuclear qualified employees could this affect? What classifications will be affected? Will this be a wholesale replacement of the entire present workforces in all three locations with brand new kids fresh out of high school? Hell, don’t ask me. I am only the National President of the largest labor organization representing workers within NNSA- they haven’t seen fit to even brief me or any of our unions. We read about this just like John Q. Public did.

I recently wrote DOE Secretary Chu a letter similar to the January 21, 2009 letter I previously had sent to him, again asking for a meeting to discuss these disturbingly anti-worker developments by his Department of government. We haven’t heard a word from DOE.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Death, Injury & Illness: America’s Shameful Legacy of Workplace Dangers--WMD – 2010

By Shel Samuels, Special Representative
April 25, 2010  
Washington, DC - The global threats of Weapons of Mass Destruction share more than a set of initials with Workers’ Memorial Day: WMD. As this was written, eleven workers were missing and 17 injured in an exploding and sinking oil drilling rig in American waters of the Gulf of Mexico, owned by a Swiss company, leased to a British multinational oil company, and built in South Korea. The same day, the President of the United States delivered a eulogy for 29 miners killed in a West Virginia coal mine disaster to satisfy the insatiable production demands for coal. On April 28, 1971—almost four decades ago—the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect, opening what we hoped would be a new chapter in the struggle to protect ourselves against death, injury and illness at work.
Like the Texas City refinery disaster preceding the passage of the OSHAct in 1970, the disasters in the Gulf and West Virginia are fast-running scenes from films that spur legislation, but slower motion scenes depict death from chronic work-associated disease for hundreds of thousands of other workers easier too easily ignored, for whom the eulogy is mumbled with closed eyes. 
From the first day of enactment, the law was corrupted by the historic failures of the workers’ compensation systems. There are no accurate actual counts of death and disease generated in the American workplace. The first— and last [1972]— honest estimate published by the government, was calculated by its top biometrician, Bill Lloyd: 100,000 excess deaths per year. The size of the great pandemic of death in the workplace in America was greeted with corporate derision, governmental inaction and bi-partisan political orders for official silence!
The First Line of Defense: Prevention
Affiliates of the Metal Trades Department went to court to force the slow process of setting OSHA standards, beginning with asbestos. About 125 million people worldwide are still exposed to asbestos even though it is ostensibly banned in 52 countries—including the European Union. Some two-thirds of the nations of the World Health Organization (WHO) continue to sell and use asbestos. WHO estimates between 100,000 and 140,000 asbestos-related deaths from cancer alone (ANNUALLY???). Professor Joseph LaDou of the University of California-San Francisco estimates that “the asbestos cancer pandemic may take as many as 10 million lives before asbestos is banned worldwide and all exposure is brought to an end.”
The MTD and its affiliates—in partnership with labor’s doctor, Dr. Irving J. Selikoff of the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, began the equally slow and difficult work of clinical intervention, the second line of defense for worker’s health. Dr. Selikoff, whose work ultimately focused the world’s conscience on the full effects of asbestos, and his team began with the screening of asbestos-exposed workers in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. With what we learned in the shipyards and in other industries, we then fought for medical surveillance programs for all workers. One positive result, at least in Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities, is a program of employer-conducted medical surveillance and sheltered workshops for active workers exposed to beryllium. A separate program supposedly conducted by “independent” physicians was congressionally-mandated for all former DOE workers, but has been limited by tight budgets, government micro-management and contractors tied to the employer.
Another, massive human tragedy had been unfolding for centuries in the uranium and beryllium mines and mills until (at least in this country in the 1950s) a handful of civil servants in the diminutive National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health aided by doctors of the Indian Health Service, initiated critical studies uncovering endemics of silicosis and cancer. In 1967, then-Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz testified that these tragedies could have been prevented under a 1936 federal law. Forty years later —despite concerted pressure by Native Americans and our unions for stronger protections—the Mine Safety and Health Administration established the far less stringent radon standard in force today in mines and mills.
After passage of the OSHAct, NIOSH also conducted studies that paved the way for OSHA’s first attempted beryllium standard, an effort that has been frustrated by White House-supported DOE interference (that continues to this day). The delays have resulted in hundreds of unnecessary cases of debilitating and deadly beryllium disease in the nuclear weapons system and other industries!
In the United States, besides workers in the nuclear industries, the number of industrial and remediation workers exposed to beryllium dust has increased with growing applications, even though the total number of industrial workers has decreased.
In the United States, in 1975, a union petition proposed replacing the 1949 Atomic Energy Commission so-called “interim” exposure standard with a ‘permanent’ standard, the number of industrial workers exposed was an estimated 30,000. Today that estimate has risen, to an estimated 800,000 workers in the United States alone who could be currently or previously exposed to debilitating and cancer-generating beryllium dust.
No agency has bothered to do a definitive count.  The government has chosen to identify and count the sick and dying only in the primary beryllium industry and Department of Energy weapons facilities, although the toxic dust is also generated by production and waste disposal in other industries. Almost nothing has been done to look at the devastation of entire families, and the burden on their communities, but that omission is typical for all occupational disease, not just beryllium disease.
And we aren’t ‘safe’ behind the third line of defense for occupational health: compensation to our families for lost wages and medical care.   
Political Compromise
The Congress had before it a century of prior experience with state workers’ compensation systems, and the sad history of the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) of 1990, before writing and incorporating similar provisions in the Energy Employees Compensation law in 2000. RECA was written to compensate communities exposed to testing and underground uranium miners. However, the new law incorporated traditional records-dependent cost containment provisions, records that most often are inadequate or don’t even exist. If they are found, their meaning is twisted to meet political compromises that date back to the first workers’ compensation statutes were written in Europe and in the Americas in the early 1900’s, predating the modern labor movement a generation later.
Compromises are the root of widespread intellectual corruption in occupational and environmental health science. Legislated lists of compensable disease distort the science in ways that were questionable even in 1900, and indefensible today. The medical expert is forced to twist what is known of risk in populations to pinpoint legal and social responsibility for individual cases, an objective unachievable with precision even with perfect records. Inevitably all parties are forced into what President Ron Ault correctly calls the “paper chase” and maladministration.
These effects are clearly seen in the radiation dose reconstruction program, mandated by Congress and administered by NIOSH, as illustrated by the four-year-old [2006] MTD petition for a Special Exposure Cohort (SEC) for Pantex workers. SECs are based on an escape clause in the law to cover instances where records do not exist. We claim the records do not exist and reconstruction cannot be done.
The National Academy of Science goes further, and objects to NIOSH’s fictional reconstructions used to calculate “probability of causation”, because that concept “applied to populations and not individuals and could not be interpreted as the probability that a given cancer was caused by a given radiation exposure.” NIOSH – and Congress - have ignored that expert advice.           
The result, as in the case of the 2006 pending petition for an SEC to be established for Pantex employees, not one but whole sets of claimants are subjected to unjustified, unnecessarily prolonged delays while NIOSH and its consultants argue with still other consultants about presumptions made in the absence of hard data.  
Writing the End to This Tale      
NIOSH claims that records are not necessary, because:   “…the routine weapons operations at Pantex were technically contamination free …” The basis for this claim is the presence of product acceptance seal of approval on each weapon or material component, claiming that the component is “contaminant free.” This invalid claim is belied by the actual tasked behavior of both management and workers, and is contrary to the recorded observations of those actually engaged in or supervising assembly operations.     
This sad tale will only end when the weapons of mass destruction among the workforce—asbestos, beryllium and thousands of other toxic agents in the work environment, along with the corrupted science —come under control, when the labor movement in America and globally develops the strength of numbers and allies. Only then will Workers Memorial Day become a true celebration of life, and not an occasion for still more funerals of brothers and sisters taken from us before their time. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


We had eight years of Bush and Cheney, but now you get mad!
You didn't get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount an appointed a President.
You didn't get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.
You didn't get mad when a covert CIA operative got ousted.
You didn't get mad when the Patriot Act got passed..
You didn't get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.
You didn't get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.
You didn't get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.
 You didn't get mad when you found out we were torturing people.
You didn't get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.
You didn't get mad when we didn't catch Bin Laden.
You didn't get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.
You didn't get mad when we let a major US city drown.
You didn't get mad when we gave a 900 billion tax break to the rich.
You didn't get mad when, using reconciliation; a trillion dollars of our tax dollars were redirected to insurance companies for Medicare Advantage which cost over 20 percent more for basically the same services that Medicare provides.
You didn't get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark, and our debt hit the thirteen trillion dollar mark.
You finally got mad when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.
Yes, illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all okay with you,but helping other Americans...oh hell no.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Double Cross at National Nuclear Security Administration of the Department of Energy

When a government agency decides to do a dirty deed the evening before a holiday, you know it’s not going to be good. So, when NNSA/DOE revealed on Good Friday that it intends to award a combined contract to run the Oak Ridge Y-12 National Security Complex and the Amarillo Pantex Nuclear Weapons Plant without requiring the winning private contractor to use the incumbent workforce, it was clear it was something they’re not proud of. The decision didn’t surface in the mainstream media, and that was just what they hoped.  

Maybe it was the choice of words (“giving contractors flexibility”) that aroused our suspicion. Flexibility has become a buzzword for employers who don’t like such “rigid” requirements as fair wages, pensions, decent working conditions, making safety a high priority or allowing workers a voice on the job.  

As our Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Atomic Trades and Labor Council President Garry Whitley pointed out: It doesn’t make good economic sense to toss aside a trained and experienced workforce in the first place. If the winning bidder decides to hire off the street, he’ll be trading off immediate efficiency—no learning curve—to save a couple of bucks on wages. And, what does that matter? Not much, unless the workforce is working around nuclear material and highly classified sensitive data—which they are. Can you imagine the consequences of a major nuclear incident caused by someone inexperienced mishandling highly radioactive nuclear material? Or a security breach involving highly classified plans and documents that could compromise our nation’s nuclear weapons program?  

The NNSA decision to scrap the practice of successor hiring breaks more than 50 years of past practice and it gives a sour taste to the concept of Labor Management “partnership” that the White House has been touting in its own personnel relations. There was no phone call or warning that this was coming down.  

Our present relationship with the Department of Energy is at best, strained. We can’t get a straight answer about their heavy-handed implementation of DOE Directive 351.1 (their regulation that gives contractors every incentive to end defined benefit pension plans in favor of 401 (K) plans). DOE denies that they have interfered with collective bargaining, on pensions, but our experience says otherwise.  

Another suspicious development—DOE’s budget proposal contains extensive plans for changing accounting processes for pensions. But, the information is so well camouflaged that it is impossible to tell whether it’s another ruse to cheat the workforce or actually what they claim it is.  

That, brothers and sisters is exactly the point: when it comes to communication between unions and management, DOE’s credibility is zilch. This latest move simply confirms our suspicions. They do not want an experienced skilled workforce; they want the disposable, throwaway variety.  NNSA/DOE has taken a page from the “Wally World” Human Resources manual—always the low price…and, if that’s the course they have chosen—they’ve got a fight on their hands.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Making Sausage

Being an old country boy from the hills of Arkansas, I know a lot about making sausage. I’ve made some this year at home. It is messy and requires a lot of preparation, but the end result—fresh, tasty home-made sausage—is worth it.
Last night I watched the Democrats finally stand (almost) united and pass health care. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, or a perfect bill. It is a compromise that is a lot better than the status quo. It doesn’t achieve universal coverage. It doesn’t do a lot of things I wanted to see in a health care reform bill, but it is a vast improvement over the preset system of allowing the insurance industry to monopolize health care without any meaningful oversight or regulation to protect our citizens. 
Every U.S. President since Teddy Roosevelt has talked about trying to fix health care. Seven Democrats—Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and now Obama, proposed concrete plans to fix the healthcare industry, but until now they all failed. Every time ANYONE tried, there were merciless attacks by the business community, the insurance lobby, the healthcare industry and the US Chamber of Commerce. Opponents of health care reform poured obscene amounts of money into campaigns to block reform. After the “Harry and Louise” industry TV campaign against the Clinton health care reform, I didn’t think anyone would ever take them on again in my lifetime. Last night not a single Republican voted for anything. Every single member of that political party voted in lock step as obstructionists. They were all the hand maidens of the Healthcare Lobby. I was mad as hell at the 34 Democrats that voted with the Republicans. I had helped many of those Democrats in their elections.
But here I am PO’ed at these 34 Democrats, and at the same time what about the Party of NO? At least under the big tent of the Democratic Party, there is room for members of Congress to vote differently from the leadership. Is that allowed by the Republicans? Hell no.
I have been railing against the Republican party because it demands total control, blind allegiance and total party discipline. Does that make me a hypocrite for then criticizing the 34 Democrats who voted against the Health Care Reform? If you look objectively at this (and it is hard) at least this highlights the major difference between Republican and Democrats. One is actually delivering the change the voters demanded in the last election, while the other wants to ignore the 2008 election as if it never happened.
The majority of voters demanded change and they are angry when it has taken so long to get it. Now, maybe the rest of the changes we want are beginning to happen as well.
Our system of government moves slow, it is messy, can be nasty and is a lot like making sausage. The animal is killed before the entire nation, gutted, cut up in pieces in town hall meetings and criticized by the most vocal activists who are hostile to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The meat is then publically ground up in hearings, speeches, TV ads, and paid political PR campaigns. Spices and flavorings are argued over. Competing recipes are trashed, berated, and down right insulted by the different cooks on the floor of the chambers. Then different members throw in special private secret spices. And, finally after all that hostility and hot debates, the bill is voted up or down. Just like making home-made sausage.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pay to Fight: Making War Pay

Last November, Rep. David Obey (D-WI) made a suggestion that bears serious consideration. In the face of the then-pending troop surge in Afghanistan, Obey proposed a “war tax” amounting to a 5 percent surcharge on high incomes and lower percentages for low-income taxpayers to underwrite the $40 billion a year cost of that surge. With the exception of our courageous and recently departed friend, the late John Murtha (D-PA), Mr. Obey’s proposal got no traction whatsoever.

Now, as we hear a clamor of concern over America’s growing budget deficit, especially from conservative Republicans in Congress, it’s time to resurrect Mr. Obey’s proposal.

I recall right after George W. Bush declared his vaunted “global war on terror” and reporters asked him how Americans might show their commitment to that war effort and demonstrate their patriotism. Bush’s response was classic: “Go shopping,” he said. Well, going shopping and buying more Chinese made goods hasn’t worked out so well.

What’s happened to America? Most of us heard our parents and grandparents describe the sacrifices they made during World War II. From rationing eggs, meat and milk, scrap collections, victory gardens, war bond drives and rationing gasoline for their cars—America had a near universal outpouring of support for the troops on the frontlines. Sure, there were some cheaters, but the overwhelming attitude was solidarity and sacrifice for the cause. That’s why, when World War II ended, America became the breadbasket for the devastated economies of Europe and Asia. That’s how American influence helped Japan transition from a monarchy to a democracy. That’s how America was able to fund the Marshall Plan to help create European economies that were even more productive than they had been before the war destroyed them.

Not long ago, a popular beer adopted an advertising slogan that went something like: “Who says you can’t have it all?” That slogan is a perfect reflection of the pandering expectations that too many politicians from both political parties practice today. It’s also the essence of Reaganomics. It assures us: “You can have a $1 trillion-plus expenditure on defense and security (23 percent of total government spending), another $3 trillion on health and education, consumer protection and law enforcement. You can fight wars half way across the globe, protect your shores, secure your transportation systems, keep food and drugs safe, while leaving no child behind and, oh, if we run a little short, just put it on the credit card.” Don’t blame that attitude on Obama—it originated even before Reagan, but his administration perfected it.

Today, the tea baggers say, we don’t need any government besides defense and security. We hear these Right Wingers screaming that any new spending program has to be paid for with a cut somewhere else.

Okay, let’s use that same thought on any war we fight.

Let’s pay for it with a temporary tax that runs the duration of the war….Talk about an incentive for an “exit strategy”, that would be the greatest peace incentive in history. The Lefty Liberals say, we can do away with defense and security, but we need to spend even more on the other 75 percent of government. But, you don’t hear many from either side say: If you’ll tell us exactly what these programs will cost, we’ll gladly pay our fair share.

Then there are the corporations and super rich: They say, make sure the nation is “friendly to business” and “secure enough” for commerce, but let the suckers pay. Corporations think they’re doing their part with their political contributions and under the table payoffs to maintain the status quo.

Fast forward to 2010: Lot’s of people proclaim their support for the troops with yellow ribbons on their bumpers. I’m sure the troops appreciate the gesture, but come on, what does it mean? Do those yellow ribbons mean you’re willing to pay for full funding for VA hospitals and VA benefits? To pay to build the ships, planes, weapons and material that the troops need to carry out their mission?

No, Mr. and Mrs. America, we can’t “have it all,” but we can have what we’re willing to pay for. And, if we don’t think it’s worthwhile to pay a tax to pursue a global war on terror, we can let the politicians know that, too.

We don’t need a deficit commission, we need a reality check and we need it now.


The blizzards of "Snowmegaladon" have me suffering (like most of the Mid Atlantic region) from cabin fever. I have the TV on and noticed that several CNN stories have been devoted to billboard ads against President Obama. One in Montana has former President Bush with a big smirk on his face captioned: "Do you miss me yet?" Another is in Wisconsin with the Caption "Impeach Obama"… "America's small businesses are failing"…paid for by an attorney who isn't a small business. Seems like America has a very short memory. The first year has been a bit rocky as the recession President Obama inherited keeps deepening (even though nearly every economist predicted that unemployment wouldn't bottom out until the spring of 2010 and that it would remain high through 2012.)

Is it fair? Is it even realistic to think we could come out of the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression this soon? Remember, this catastrophe was caused by the de-regulators in the anti-government Right Wing.

Meanwhile, the defenders of the status quo and big Wall Street bankers have banded together to block President Obama's cabinet appointments (the highest number of Congressional holds in the history of America.)

Their strategy is pretty obvious. They just say "NO" to everything and create total political gridlock, then blame the President for not doing anything. Both sides are aware that the vast number of Americans are angry that they don't have jobs, can't pay the mortgage, can't afford gas to fuel up the car and warm their homes and will blame the party in power come election day. Most of these Republicans are in safe Republican districts and not likely to be touched in the next election, so they feel safe by being obstructionists.

There are enough southern and western Right Wing Conservative Democrats that frequently vote with the Republicans because they share the exact same political philosophy to block the will of the majority by using parliamentary procedures in Congress. So, passing sweeping laws in Congress is something that President Obama isn't going to be able to do. Forget that. It isn't going to happen until enough Americans get fed up with the body of Congress and wholesale replace them…and I don't see that happening in my lifetime. For some reason that defies logic, most voters blame Congress as a whole but not their own Senators and Congressman or woman. They curse the rain for being wet!

So let's look at exactly what the President can and has done within his powers to do independent of this "Just Say No Congress."

His appointments, by and large, look pretty much like mainstream America: women, Hispanics, Asians, Caucasians, Blacks, and members of the opposition party…He has issued Executive Orders that correct decades of waste, fraud and abuse of federal contracting. Despite the sniping from his critics, President Obama has blocked all terrorists attacks, and there are no headlines saying "Thousands of Americans have died from Swine Flu."

But President Obama doesn't get any credit for doing a good job preparing the nation for a deadly pandemic and marshalling the world to produce an effective vaccine against this new deadly strain of flu. Obama didn't allow the swine flu to become his "Katrina." Did the President get any credit for saving untold thousand of American lives? No, but he would have gotten the blame had we not developed an effective vaccine and vaccinated a very large population center that stopped the pandemic in its tracks.

We hear a lot of bad press about the stimulus bill not creating millions of new jobs. Okay, how about the thousands of workers who didn't get laid off? Do their jobs count? The police, fire departments, school teachers, and public safety personnel whose jobs were saved as a result of stimulus money going to the state governments?

No one wants to talk about the jobs NOT lost. You hear that only 25-30 jobs were created in the construction industry by building a bridge across a highway. What about the thousands of jobs in the steel mills that produced the steel used in the bridge; or the concrete manufacturers that made the concrete that went into the bridge; or the factory that produced the paint used to paint the exposed steel portions of the bridge; or the electrical supply house that supplied the wiring and lights for the bridge? One thing most folks don't understand: construction projects need good weather for maximum efficiency. Why do you think you see so much construction taking place in spring and summer? This spring we will see the maximum effect from the stimulus bill on public projects.

Before any major project is undertaken—it takes time to write contracts, secure bids, evaluate and score the bids, then award the successful contractor the work. After all that takes place, then and only then, are the first workers hired. It takes months before the first shovel full of dirt is turned after the stimulus bill was passed. Patience is something missing in the American voting public.