From the Inside Out

There’s the City of Brotherly Love in Pennsylvania, and then there’s Philadelphia, Mississippi:

Philadelphia in June 1964 was the scene of the murders of activists James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old Jewish anthropology student from New York City; and Michael Schwerner, a 24-year-old Jewish CORE organizer and former social worker, also from New York. Their deaths demonstrated the risks that activists took to secure the constitutional rights of African Americans, but many more blacks than whites had been killed in the struggle.

Ku Klux Klan members (including Cecil Price, the deputy sheriff of Neshoba County) released the three young men from jail, took them to an isolated spot, and killed them, then buried them in an earthen dam. It was some time after they disappeared before the bodies were discovered, as a result of an FBI investigation and national media attention. The national outrage over their deaths helped procure support for Congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

And at the fairgrounds there, fifteen years later:

On August 3, 1980, Ronald Reagan gave his first post-convention speech at the Neshoba County Fair after being officially chosen as the Republican nominee for President of the United States. He said, “I believe in states’ rights … I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment.” He went on to promise to “restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them”.

The site of that first post-convention speech was carefully chosen, and Bob Herbert has explained what Reagan meant by states’ rights:

He was tapping out the code. It was understood that when politicians started chirping about “states’ rights” to white people in places like Neshoba County they were saying that when it comes down to you and the blacks, we’re with you.

And Reagan meant it. He was opposed to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was the same year that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were slaughtered. As president, he actually tried to weaken the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He opposed a national holiday for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He tried to get rid of the federal ban on tax exemptions for private schools that practiced racial discrimination. And in 1988, he vetoed a bill to expand the reach of federal civil rights legislation.

Congress overrode the veto.

Reagan also vetoed the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Congress overrode that veto, too.

So, Reagan kicked off his 1980 campaign with an in-your-face appearance near the site where those three bodies were found, the bodies of those uppity kids who had tried to upend the natural white order or something, but in office, when he tried to restore that order, Reagan got slapped down again and again. In June 2013 a very conservative Supreme Court, by a slim margin, finally managed to gut the Voting Right Act of 1965 – long after Reagan was dead and gone. But perhaps he had been doing all this the wrong way. Reagan had been working from the outside in, as with all the voter-ID laws and time-and-place voting restrictions that have been put in place in the states where the Republicans have a governor and a fully Republican legislature. Those do keep the “wrong people” from voting, but those keep getting shot down in the courts. Reagan got shot down by Congress, responding to public opinion. That’s what happens when you try to change what is long-established from the outside. You need someone on the inside.

That may be why Donald Trump nominated Jeff Sessions to be his new attorney general. In 1986, Reagan nominated Sessions to be a judge of the District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, and the Senate would not confirm him. He had called the NAACP and ACLU “un-American” and “Communist-inspired” and had called a white attorney working on voting rights “a disgrace to his race” – and had called the Voting right Act of 1965 “an intrusion” and then used it to sue the NAACP for voter fraud when they tried to register new black voters, and lost the case spectacularly.

He was an embarrassment, but now he’ll be on the inside, where he can change things from the inside. He can reorganize the Department of Justice. He can phase out the Civil Rights Division. If the parents of an unarmed black kid, shot dead by the police, ask the justice department to file federal civil rights charges against the cop when the cop is cleared, he can decline to file those charges. That’s how the justice department used to get those guys who killed civil rights workers in the sixties, when Southern juries wouldn’t convict them. There’ll be no more of that. He can also have the department decline to pursue any disenfranchisement charges when the next Republican state says that folks in black neighborhoods can only vote from 9:15 to 9:20 in the morning, if they have a notarized copy of their birth certificate with them. The possibilities are endless. He can finally change things from the inside out. Reagan had it all wrong. Don’t attack the system. You’ll lose. Become the system. You’ll win.

It’s the same with the EPA:

The selection of Scott Pruitt as Donald Trump’s choice to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns among some scientists and people who’ve worked with the EPA.

Pruitt, the Republican attorney general for Oklahoma since 2011, has interacted most directly with the EPA by suing it over what he sees as over-reaching federal regulations. Some scientists have also questioned his fitness to run the environmental agency considering he has publicly stated that he believes the debate over the cause of global warming is “far from settled.”

His nomination to now lead the agency is akin to putting “someone in charge of the Defense Department who doesn’t believe we should have a military, or someone in charge of the Transportation Department who doesn’t like roads,” said Dan Kanninen, a former White House liaison at the EPA.

But Pruitt, 48, appears to pride himself on his work against the EPA, describing himself as a “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” in his biography on the official Oklahoma state website.

He’s on the inside now. Don’t attack the system. You’ll lose. Become the system. You’ll win. He won’t have to do this sort of thing anymore:

Pruitt and his office this year helped prepare a lawsuit, which included other states and was led by the West Virginia solicitor general, in which the plaintiffs are fighting the EPA to stop its plan to reduce power plant carbon dioxide emissions (the Clean Power Plan).

“This administration continues to treat states as mere vessels of federal will, abusing and disrespecting the vertical separation of powers defined by our Constitution,” Pruitt said after a day of hearings in the West Virginia v. EPA case in September.

“That is why attorneys general, senators and congressmen from across the country have joined together today to maintain rule of law and checks and balances in this very process. I am committed to ensuring the ultimate payer in this matter is not overlooked – the consumers.”

This position is in keeping with his overarching commitment as Oklahoma attorney general to eliminate what he calls “unwarranted regulation and overreach by the federal government,” according to his biography on the state website.

Like Reagan, he was fighting for states’ rights. The point is moot now – the EPA will wither and die. The states can do what they want. There will be no more federal environmental statements required to build this or that. States can do that if they want, but they’ll lose businesses and ruin their economies, and so on and so forth. Mileage standards for cars, emission standards – forget all that. Don’t fight such things. Change the system from the inside:

Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by NASA as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

NASA’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century.

This would mean the elimination of NASA’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena.

You can’t fight about the data when there is no data, so this is just whining:

Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University, said NASA has a “critical and unique role” in observing Earth and climate change.

“Without the support of Nasa, not only the US but the entire world would be taking a hard hit when it comes to understanding the behavior of our climate and the threats posed by human-caused climate change,” he said.

“It would be a blatantly political move, and would indicate the president-elect’s willingness to pander to the very same lobbyists and corporate interest groups he derided throughout the campaign.”

Yeah, well, what are you going to do about it, Michael? Things are changing from the inside out, and you’re on the outside now. Trump doesn’t have to say another word about climate change. No one in our government will be able to prove that there is such a thing now. You lose.

It’s all about getting someone on the inside:

Betsy DeVos is hardly a household name, but the Michigan billionaire and conservative activist has quietly helped change the education landscape in many states, spending millions of dollars in a successful push to expand voucher programs that give families taxpayer dollars to pay for private and religious schools.

Now DeVos is poised to spread her preference for vouchers nationwide. President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday named her as his nominee for education secretary, a pick that suggests he aims to follow through with campaign promises to expand the movement toward “school choice” – including vouchers and charter schools – in an effort to break up a public education system that he has called “a government-run monopoly.”

The nation’s public education system will soon be in the hands of someone who can, and will if she can, dismantle it. What is spent will be spent on vouchers so parents can send their kids to Jesus-schools. There will never be another Scopes Monkey Trial. Is science bunk? If you wish, it is – the government will step back from that discussion. Those who want their kids to grow to be engineers or scientists, or cosmopolitan deep-thinking world citizens, can use their vouchers to pay for that. Others want their kids to be godly. The government will have no interest in either, but this woman prefers godly. This item indicates that’s been her mission all along, and instead of fighting for that from the outside, as she had for decades, she’s on the inside now. That too moots all arguments about such things.

And then there’s the latest appointment:

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday chose Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that franchises the fast-food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor.

That’s odd, given the Department of Labor’s mission statement:

Our Mission

To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Forget that:

On policy questions, he has argued that the Obama administration’s recent rule expanding eligibility for overtime pay diminishes opportunities for workers, and that significant minimum wage increases would hurt small businesses and lead to job losses.

He has criticized paid sick leave policies of the sort recently enacted for federal contractors and strongly supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, which he says has created a “government-mandated restaurant recession” because rising premiums have left people with less money to spend dining out.

Speaking to Business Insider this year, Mr. Puzder said that increased automation could be a welcome development because machines were “always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall or an age, sex or race discrimination case.”

And on the political incorrectness front, Mr. Puzder’s company, CKE Restaurants, runs advertisements that frequently feature women wearing next to nothing while gesturing suggestively. “I like our ads,” he told the publication Entrepreneur. “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American.”

That’s quite a list:

Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said Mr. Puzder was “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people.”

Yeah, but he’s on the inside now:

As labor secretary, Mr. Puzder would oversee the federal apparatus that investigates violations of minimum wage, overtime and worker safety laws and regulations. According to a Labor Department database, many Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr stores have been investigated over the past 15 years, and some have been fined or ordered to pay back wages…

He can fix his own problems now, from the inside now, and one of those problems is the minimum wage:

In an appearance on Fox Business in May, he said that he was “not opposed to raising the minimum wage rationally; I’m opposed to raising it to the point where lower-skilled workers, working-class Americans, young people, minorities, are losing the jobs they need to get on the ladder of success.”

Though he did not explain what a “rational” increase would entail, he opposed the Obama administration’s efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 from $7.25, where it has stood since 2009.

He does not seem to have read that mission statement, and there’s this:

On other issues, Mr. Puzder has taken hardline positions that leave less room for negotiation. Perhaps most prominent is the so-called joint employer doctrine that the Obama administration and its agency appointees have put forth in recent years.

Under that doctrine, large companies that have franchises or hire other companies as contractors are more likely to be held liable for violations of employment laws by those contractors or franchisees. Parent companies typically argue that they have no legal responsibility in these cases.

Mr. Puzder has been unambiguous in his disdain for the new standard. As labor secretary, there are certain immediate steps he could take to undo it, though there are some applications – like to the law governing unions – that would require action by the National Labor Relations Board or federal courts to overturn.

He cannot get all he wants there without a little help, but he is who he is:

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Mr. Puzder is how he would be perceived as a wealthy chief executive charged with looking out for workers’ interests.

According to a 2012 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr. Puzder’s base salary that year was more than $1 million and his total compensation over $4 million, down from more than $10 million the year before. “Annual base salaries should be competitive and create a measure of financial security for our executive officers,” the filing said.

He wants HIS money, damn it, and oddly, there’s a special bonus with this guy:

According to a 1989 article in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mr. Puzder helped draft a Missouri law banning most abortions at public facilities and requiring doctors to test the viability of fetuses starting at 20 weeks. But according to another Post-Dispatch article, after his ex-wife accused him of domestic violence, he offered to resign from a task force convened by Gov. John Ashcroft to study a Supreme Court decision upholding the law.

Okay, he has worked hard to make abortion illegal again, one way or another, and he beats his wife – not job-related here, but interesting – and Ed Kilgore adds this:

In some respects, the reported selection of fast-food executive Andy Puzder to head the Labor Department is consistent with the pattern Donald Trump has set in choosing an administration populated at the top level mostly by plutocrats (Steve Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross, Betsy DeVos, and Todd Ricketts) former generals (Mike Flynn, James Mattis, and John Kelly), and grim conservative ideologues (Jeff Sessions and Tom Price). Puzder, who heads the company that owns the Carl’s Jr and Hardees chains, is a plutocrat who could give any conservative economic ideologue a run for his money.

Puzder is, however, a simply grotesque choice for Labor secretary, particularly for a president who owes his election to working-class voters. Aside from his stated opposition to higher minimum wages and most regulations protecting workers, Puzder is a central figure in an industry that is the current chief battleground of U.S. labor relations.

Yeah, the guy who owes his election to working-class voters just gave them all the middle finger. But they’ll still love him. Go figure, but the writing is on the wall:

The idea that the parent company of franchise businesses has no responsibility for franchise workers is something we can definitely expect the Trump administration to champion. A 3-2 decision by the National Labor Relations Board in 2015 that allowed unions representing such workers to bargain with the parent company is almost certain to be reversed once Trump appointees get in charge of the agency. Puzder’s selection should also eliminate any doubt the Labor Department will overturn the Obama administration’s decision to revise overtime rules to keep companies from just reclassifying workers as “management” and working them to death: Again, his industry is the biggest culprit in the proscribed practice, to the point that there are serious conflict-of-interest concerns about letting him oversee such regulations.

Ah, but he’s on the inside now. There are no serious conflict-of-interest concerns when you’re on the inside, and change comes from the inside out. The only thing he breaks with Trump on is that he loves the idea of immigration reform that lets all that cheap labor remain here without penalty – someone has to mop the floor in those burger joints. He and Trump will have to work that out.

They will, and the Washington Post offers this assessment of what’s going on here:

Pruitt has spent much of his energy as attorney general fighting the very agency he is being nominated to lead.

He is the third of Trump’s nominees who have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run. Ben Carson, named to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has expressed a deep aversion to the social safety net programs and fair housing initiatives that have been central to that agency’s activities. Betsy DeVos, named education secretary, has a passion for private school vouchers that critics say undercut the public school systems at the core of the government’s mission.

They forget Jeff Sessions and Scott Pruitt.

There’s a pattern here. Trump, over and over, is nominating to each government agency those who are opposed to what each agency has been doing for the last fifty years or so, or longer, and thus will reverse or even end what they’ve been doing. It’s a way to make government disappear, although that might not be his intention. Trump is new to government. He may not know what each agency does or is supposed to do. He’s been busy with that real-estate stuff and his reality show. Forgive him.

Or don’t. He’s ripping the government apart from the inside out. It kind of makes you miss Ronald Reagan and his dog whistles down in Mississippi long ago.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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One Response to From the Inside Out

  1. Randy says:

    “There’s a pattern here. Trump, over and over, is nominating to each government agency those who are opposed to what each agency has been doing for the last fifty years or so, or longer, and thus will reverse or even end what they’ve been doing. It’s a way to make government disappear, although that might not be his intention.”
    So, does this tie in to the reports that Trump’s transition team has not been engaging with most existing departments? Why bother when the plan is to essentially eliminate them.

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