Resting from Our Labors

On this day that we rest from our labors, millions upon millions of Americans don’t have labors to rest from. Full employment? I don’t think so.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics alleges that “The number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 7.8 million in August, and the unemployment rate was 4.9% for the third month in a row. Both measures have shown little movement over the year, on net.”

Right. By December, 2014, only 23 out of every 100 jobless workers were receiving state unemployment benefits; that’s how the BLS counts the “unemployed.”

Nicholas Eberstadt notes in The Idle Army that “America is now home to a vast army of jobless men who are no longer even looking for work–roughly seven million of them age 25 to 54, the traditional prime of working life.” Last year, the ratio of employment to population men that age was 84.4%. That’s lower than it had been in 1940 as the Great Depression ended and we ramped up to WWII. No matter what the politicians or the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell you, the U.S. isn’t even close to full employment.

boatbuilding159,463,000 (up from 142,220,000 in 2012).
253,854,000 (up from 243,354,000 in 2012).

The bottom number is what the BLS calls the “civilian noninstitutional population” (no, I don’t know how we institutionalized 58 million people, either). The top number is the number of people employed, the “civilian labor force.”

What we really know is that 7,800,000 people are collecting up to 73 weeks of unemployment benefits (down from 99 weeks in 2012) and the rest, 86,591,000 men and women, young and old, either don’t have, don’t want, or can’t do a job. The BLS does not count them as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the four weeks preceding the survey. That number is virtually unchanged in four years.

“President Obama is creating jobs!” my liberal friend Fanny Guay said.

Good spin.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has an anonymous source — popularly believed to be Al Sharpton — who whispered that he has proof that Mitt Romney never paid income taxes for the past 110 years.

Really good spin.

Sen. Reid again refused to release his own tax returns, even as he continued to demand that Gov. Romney make his own public (sound familiar?). Rev. Sharpton, by the way, has a new tax lien to pay; he still owes $359,973 to the IRS for 2009 personal income tax. He also still owes more than $4.5 million in city, state and federal taxes, including penalties, dating back to 2002.

My new friend Ashley Proctor has been out of work in Madison, Wisconsin, since the Scott Walker cuts eliminated her job at Wisconsin Community Services.

“Losing my job is partly Gov. Walker’s fault,” Ms. Proctor said, “but it’s really the Koch Brothers who got him elected!”

That would be the same Scott Walker pranked by a left-wing blogger who posed as David Koch in a call to the governor. The blogger published that Gov. Walker was gonna take the money. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) later claimed that the Koch Brothers bankrolled Gov. Walker’s campaign to the tune of $8 million.

Great spin.

politifact.com rated Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s claim False. So did the New York Times. Even the Democrats finally had to fire Ms. Wasserman Schultz.

The best spin of all? The Administration telling us they have created jobs.

Meanwhile, Darcy Burner, a failed candidate for Congress in Washington state echoed Ashley when she said, “Our democracy has been bought and sold by people like the Kochs.”

machinist“So basically the Koch Brothers are the George Soros of the Right?” Rufus asked her in 2012.

Ms. Burner didn’t answer.

“Oh, wait,” Rufus said. “They’re like Soros except for being on the Right and in that they make their money by manufacturing stuff? So she wants us to boycott the poor schlubs who are actually working???”

Ahh, George Soros. “The Man Who Broke the Bank of England” did it by short selling more than $10 billion in pounds sterling which devalued the pound and in a few days put more people around the world out of work than Bain Capital did in all the years Gov. Romney was there.

In 2005 the French Court of Appeals convicted Mr. Soros of insider trading. The French Supreme Court confirmed the conviction the following year.

Even left wing darling Paul Krugman wrote about Mr. Soros, “[N]obody who has read a business magazine in the last few years can be unaware that these days there really are investors who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is ‘Soroi’.”

Mr. Soros, like Democrat Joseph Kennedy before him, became busily engaged in buying approbation after looting the financial markets so they could run what Sen. Bernard Sanders (S-VT) always called the “good PACs.”

Simply unbelievable spin. Except for a True Believer.

Rufus has bought and used equipment from Koch Engineering. The rest of us have probably sipped from a Dixie cup, wiped up with Angel Soft™ toilet paper or Brawny™ paper towels, pulled up socks containing Lycra™ and walked on a Stainmaster™ carpet. All told, the evil Koch Brothers Empire™ employs about 100,000 people most of whom have a paid day off today.

The same can’t be said for the millions upon millions upon Americans who still have no jobs and have simply given up looking for work under this Administration.

Just another Labor Day, eh?


This column has mostly appeared before. I updated the numbers and revisited it because Ms. Clinton and many other candidates running on her coattails promise to continue the policies of this failed Obama Administration. My 2011 Labor Day column about how politicians “create jobs” is worth rereading today as well. You might also enjoy the 2010 Labor Day reminiscence, Milestones.

 

:-)   :-(

“This Sunday’s 25th anniversary Summer Sounds Benefit Music Festival [was] a fun way to bring the community together during Childhood Cancer awareness month and to support Camp Ta-Kum-Ta’s year-round programs” said the camp’s Executive Director, Hattie Johnson.

Summer Sounds Concert SignThe Benefit Music Festival took over the Franklin County Field Days grounds yesterday with continuous music on two stages. The proceeds will benefit Camp Ta-Kum-Ta and help the Town of Highgate build a band stand.

Summer Sounds got its start 25 years ago when then-Town Manager Ray Tanguay came to me with $200 in his hand and said “Let’s have some concerts!”

Well.

You can’t put on a major concert series for 200 bucks, so I conned, er, invited most of the local businesses to kick in and it started a plan and a series. The plan was for the municipalities to underwrite the series and for local businesses to sponsor each concert. We encourage local nonprofits to “host” each concert with a social to show the flag and earn a few bucks for their own causes.

Over the years, more than half of the Franklin County towns have welcomed Summer Sounds. The concerts are always on Sunday night, always in a Town Park, always at 7 o’clock, and always free.

Yesterday we capped a quarter century of Sundays with just the best benefit concert: continuous music on two stages from 2 p.m. right through about 9; admission was by donation.

This has been a transition year for Summer Sounds. We’ve had stars from the first years of the series as well as some younger performers who will grow the concerts for the next 25 so we booked the same yesterday. All the bands and everyone else working volunteered their time.

Volunteering is the key. The bands jumped aboard right away. Our hosts had more than 30 “helpers” flipping burgers and serving up popcorn and snacks and coffee and desserts, with even more behind the scenes baking and helping. Half a dozen MVU High School seniors and a couple more BFA seniors helped SWMBO and our son, Karl, dip ice cream, serve sodas, and sell tickets. My friends at TimKath Productions did the sound magnificently and kept us on track despite the monkey wrenches I kept dropping in the schedule. The Highgate Highway Department turned out in force today to put the Field Days site back in order.

We all had one disappointment. We had room for thousands in the audience. We wanted hundreds in the audience. We didn’t get either.

My own daughter dropped in Saturday evening. “What ya doing tomorrow,” she asked.

“Going to the concert,” I said.

“Oh? What concert?”

<sigh>

We were all over our email list, the posters, the newspapers, the event calendars, the television, the radio, the Facebook.

“Oh? What concert?”

It was the Patriots v. Bills that everybody stayed in for (the Pats won). That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I just wish I had a magic wand that let me add my event to everyone’s calendar. Especially yours.

Bunch of people I need to introduce.

Starting in 1994, Jenni Johnson has played more Summer Sounds concerts than anyone else. She is the Billie Holiday of Vermont, except she was once a Supervisor of Physics and Counselor at MIT. Singing jazz, blues and funk has been the center of her life since she was a teen in New York City. Best jazz singer I know bar none and wonderful with kids.
incaHOOTs has exploded in popularity across Northwestern Vermont this year. The Plattsburgh-based band first played Summer Sounds in 2003 and have brought their country-rock-jazz-pop music to venues from Highgate twice this year to Nashville last weekend.
Jon Gailmor is about the most eclectic, emotional, exhilarating, optimistic, and provocative rock star I know and he’s done it in front of the flagpole in Highgate Municipal park and fronting the Vermont Symphony in the Flynn. His low in cholesterol original music, ballads, and ditties will make up for the ice cream and cake. He first played for me in 1997. OK, he’s actually a solo performer who is kind of folkie, kind of rocky, and sometimes a little dirty.
Jennifer McConnell is gifted and inspirational singer and a music teacher in Franklin/Sheldon. She will be one of the two new leaders for the St Albans Community Band.

The Sky Blue Boys are “just” a couple of fellows with a mandolin and guitar, but what a couple of fellows. Banjo Dan and Willy Lindner are actual brothers for this “brothers duet” that was the predominant format in this country in country music of the 1930s and 40s. They first appeared in Summer Sounds in 1994.

We introduced Summer Sounds, Gen II, (we called them the Summer Sounds Singers, musicians still in high school just getting their performance chops). There are a lot of these kids singing at open mics, in talent shows and school musicals, and in some cases in Fenway Park.

Drew Briggs went to school for French and linguistics and learning languages is his passion. He’s a standup comedian who really enjoys running improv games (think Who’s Line Is it Anyway?).
Savannah Burns is 15, lives in Swanton, and attends MVU. She has been in two musicals, Annie and Shrek the Musical. She had a leading role as Cinderella in the one act play, Into The Woods, at Johnson State College.
Soukaina Jamil is 13-year old seventh grader from St. Albans Town has been singing since she was in the third grade. She also plays the trombone and is teaching herself how to play the ukulele.
Mingo Maquera is 17 and a senior at BFA-St. Albans where he is the male lead in the production of Footloose November 12-14th. He’s also an extremely accomplished vocalist and plays keyboard, all manner of guitar and the drums. As Andre and Wendy Maquera’s son, he has music in his blood.
Rosie Newton is 14 and a freshman at BFA-St Albans. She’s frequently on stage in both school and local theater productions and is a member of the Contois School of Music band. Oh, yeah. And she sang the Star Spangled Banner at Fenway last year and for the Lake Monsters this year.
Jaylin Seaman is 14 and a freshman at BFA-Fairfax. She plays Princess Fiona in Shrek the Musical at BFA-Fairfax November 12, 13, and is a member of the Vermont Musical Theater Academy at Spotlight on Dance.

It was a day of the best music around by everyone and wonderful memories for all of us. Here are some of mine:

Wednesday morning on the phone with Russell Crowe. Really. Green Mountain Coffee had promised us a donation but a technical glitch kept us from completing the order. Russell was the calm island in a sea of chaos, something you might not expect from the silver screen. “I wouldn’t mind getting just one of his paychecks,” he said. He also moved heaven and earth and the coffee arrived on time. It was c-o-l-d yesterday and people were glad to have it.

Friday, Hannafords manager Sara helping us load up my truck with a “pallet of pop.”

Sunday morning, early early, the geese in our little cove talking about how cold it was and planning to leave right away for Pennsylvania.

Jenni singing Happy Birthday to Soukaina Jamil who had just turned 13. We surprised and wowed Soukaina.

Chuck (the Junketeer’s pianist) accompanying Savannah.

Rosie singing Hallelujah. In the last decade or so, Leonard Cohen has finally grown into this song and is old enough to sing it. Rosie hit it out of the park. Her voice is right for the song and she brought the gravitas it deserves. That just blew me away.

Jon and I realizing we had spent some of our early childhood (where we never grew up) in Quaker country, 20 or 25 miles apart in Pennsylvania (he likes to say he was born in New York State and failed to grow up in Philadelphia, up by Overbrook when my grandfather was there for Temple). He’s a Penn grad.

I sure do wish more people had been there.

 

Not Bait. Definitely Switched

I went to Walgreens to cash in my 4,050 points against the two gallons of $4.19 milk I bought yesterday. They wouldn’t let me.

“Plenty of points. In plenty of places,” the Walgreens ads trumpet. The store’s “Balance Rewards” appear on featured items in the store fliers and online each week. They promote buying “more for healthy behavior.”

Walgreens, at the corner of Happy and Healthy chocolate barsThis week, the flier offers 1,000 points on Lindt Chocolates, 1,000 points on Schweppes seltzer water, 1,000 points on Planters winter spice or brittle nut medley, and 1,000 points on Hallmark greeting cards. Yep, healthy choices all.

“Oh, we have a policy not to redeem those points on dairy,” the manager said.

Turns out the fine print does say that points are “good on next purchase. Points are not earned if Store Credit or Redemption Dollars are used in a transaction and cannot be redeemed on some items. Complete details at Walgreens.com/Balance.”

I wondered about the policy that sells healthy chocolate and soda and nuts and greeting cards but won’t redeem them on milk, so I turned to the Interwebs.

“Due to state and federal laws, points cannot be earned on some items. Points will not be awarded to anyone who currently is or was at any time in the 6 months prior to purchasing Pharmacy Items covered by Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare or any other government-funded healthcare program. Pharmacy Items must be purchased at participating Walgreens Drugstore, Rxpress, Duane Reade, or Walgreens Pharmacy locations (“Participating Stores”) to earn points. Excludes Pharmacy Items purchased from AR, NJ or NY pharmacies and prescriptions transferred to a Participating Store located in AL, MS, OR or PR. See Balance Rewards terms and conditions for full details.” [Emphasis added]

The Terms and Conditions of the loyalty program offered by Walgreen Co. to its customers (also referred to as “the Program”) (I presume the loyalty program is referred to as “the Program,” not the customers) runs to five dense, single spaced pages of legalese. Buried near the bottom of page 3, I found this:

“Redemption Dollars may not be used for the purchase of the following: dairy; alcohol; tobacco; stamps; phone/pre-paid/gift cards; money order/transfers; transportation passes; charitable donations; prescriptions; pseudoephedrine or ephedrine products; immunizations, health tests or other healthcare items or services; Prescription Savings Club membership fee; clinic services.”

Walgreens may, of course, at any time and without notice, change, eliminate, or terminate the Point earning and redemption procedures and offerings.

I can understand that a drug store might not want to encourage discounts on booze and tobacco and would “lose” money on cash stuff like stamps, cash cards, and money order and the like. I don’t understand why a drug store “at the corner of happy and healthy” would discourage discounts on prescription, immunizations, health tests, items and services.

CVS annoys me, too, but I really wish they hadn’t left town.

“I dislike CVS,” Liz Arden said, “simply because they refuse Google Wallet and Apple Pay forms of payment. I like Walgreens because they accept Google Wallet.”

There is that, of course.

As far as I know, Walgreens does not sell bait. I feel happier and healthier already.