Labor Day Parade

My wife asked me to join her in the Labor Day parade today, which this year was held yesterday, the Saturday after Labor Day.  She’s a member of the Screen Actors Guild.  My previous time in the parade was in 1982, when I was a newly-minted member of the Transport Workers Union.

The announcement from SAG indicated that the first 25 members to show up would get a free T-shirt.  My wife and I arrived late, but she was #18 on the list, and even though I’m not a member, I got one too.  I’m not an actor: I just play one for the Labor Day parade.

Tropical Storm Hanna,  which had threatened to douse the city all day, held off until mid-afternoon.  It didn’t rain, but it was really, really muggy.  Still, it was a festive occasion, walking up Fifth Avenue.

However, there were very few spectators.  Along the 28 blocks, there were perhaps a couple of hundred people who seemed to be actually watching the parade.  Foot traffic on Fifth Avenue was about normal for late on a Saturday morning,  In recent years, interest in the parade has flagged: is it that the parade didn’t take place on Labor Day (and why is that?), loss of interest in labor unions, or that parades aren’t enough of a public spectacle to hold a crowd anymore?  (When I was with the Transport Workers in 1982, it was really on Labor Day, and there were a good few thousand spectators.)

Many of the parade participants wore Obama for President buttons, and Obama posters appeared on some of the floats.  Of course, Barack Obama, as the Democratic candidate, is favored by the labor unions because he proposes to use government to help the working people.

And why not?  Over the last eight years, we’ve seen the Bush administration use the power of government to favor big business and the wealthy.  He cut taxes and then embroiled us in an expensive war.  He promoted the New Feudalism, also known as the Ownership Society, where one is what one owns.  Under his watch, hundreds of thousands of Americans signed up  for mortgages they couldn’t afford, as a path to home ownership, and then found themselves homeless when their payments ratcheted up, and their income didn’t.

And who wins, ultimately, when hundreds of thousands of Americans go bankrupt?  The people who have assets to begin with, who stay calm, and  can acquire the foreclosed properties cheap.  The rich get richer….

On the other hand, when I was an impressionable teenager in the 1970s, I saw how the opposite premise, that government should use its power to help the people, could backfire.  My parents had steady jobs, so there was never a question of not having a roof overhead or food on the table.  But we had both inflation and unemployment, something classical economics said wasn’t supposed to happen.

In the early 1970s, we had the energy crisis when the Arabs refused to sell us oil. The Federal government has spent billions since then to try to encourage alternate sources of energy.  And while there has been progress, we’re still addicted to oil, and moaned this spring when the price of gasoline shot up.  So I have to wonder what would change to make the next infusion of Federal billions actually accomplish something.

For my part, I’d like to see a government that doesn’t use its power to particularly help anyone.  But it’s far more compelling campaigning to suggest what the government can or should do than what it can’t or shouldn’t.  So we’re stuck with the candidates as they stand.

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I was impressed with the speech made by Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska and the Republican candidate for Vice-President,  at the convention last week.  She’s a good orator, and if her cover story is to believed, a good leader and administrator.  She’s also suffered the slings and arrows of life to a greater extent than your average politician.  All in all, it’s a compelling package, and more relevant than the average Vice Presidential candidate because her running mate, John McCain, will be the oldest person to become President if he is elected.

To some degree, I resented the commentary in the press about her lack of experience, and whether or not she had been properly vetted before her selection.  When I’ve had to hire someone, and have chosen experience over energy and a positive attitude given two otherwise similar candidates, I’ve generally been disappointed.  And I can’t get too terribly upset over Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter when I consider that Palin herself got married in her early 20s.  Some people get married earlier in life than others.

But as I contemplated the Obama buttons at the Labor Day parade, it came to me.  I’m sure that, in fact, Palin was very thoroughly vetted.  Her positions on issues, which didn’t really come out in the convention speech, are very far to the right.  She plays to the Republican base, more so than McCain.

She’s portrayed as a ‘reformer.’  Let’s grant that premise for a moment and consider: of everything that was and is wrong with the Bush administration, it never was in need of ‘reform.’  Our Fearless Leader made his decisions because he believed they were right, and not because someone paid him to.  Yes, all of his friends are in Big Oil, and he aspired to be a Big Oil man himself, but we knew that from the beginning, and voted for him anyway.

Sarah Palin is not a pit bull with lipstick: she’s Dubya with lipstick.

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