You wait. When this whole presidential election gets rolling in earnest, pensions are going to be a whole lot sexier issue than condoms. People just haven't figured it out yet.
Josh Gotbaum, director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., is quoted in a Q&A in The Dallas Morning News today saying the decision by American Airlines not to trash all its pension plans is a good thing because it's "a sign that American and the constituencies in this bankruptcy can reach agreements."
Um... sure. And the nice thing about stick-ups is that the two parties can agree on the handing over of the wallet and the watch.
But don't blame Gotbaum. The most important thing in a Q&A is the Q, not the A. The PBGC is a federally created, privately funded agency charged with back-filling private pension plans that get dumped by the employers who were supposed to guarantee them. For a much better take on how Gotbaum feels about the pension issue, see his March 9 Newsday column.
He cites a 2011 Gallup poll that found more Americans were worried about retirement income than about any other financial issue, including healthcare.
With good reason. What does the scenario at American really tell us? What's the real news here? It's not news to us that big airlines are struggling. We knew that. It's not that companies in bankruptcy have to make tough choices. Please. We're not idiots. That's why they call it bankruptcy.
There were two big news pegs. The first news in the American story was that their very first impulse was to shaft their own employees by dumping their pension plans, even before they named a single other major creditor they were thinking about stiffing.
Second big news? They said they didn't have to do it after all. Sorry, Gramps, we were just hanging you out the fifth floor window of the nursing home as a bargaining position. And now, sir, we believe you should change your trousers.
Now all they're going to do is "freeze" the plans. I assume in days ahead we'll learn more about what that means. Maybe it's just Gramps goes out the third floor. We shall see.
The important thing is the first impulse. The very first strategy that comes to mind is to screw the little people. Why? Because they're just so damned little.
For all the calumny heaped on unions by people like Governor Rick Perry and the Koch Brothers, there are no unions that can match the sheer heft of Big Money. Unions hire lawyers. Big Money hires lobbyists. Unions might go to court to work the laws in their own favor. But Big Money doesn't go to court until after it already owns the laws.
When American threatened to use bankruptcy to screw its own employees, the American Airlines unions fought back fast and hard. Maybe it's a good sign that their resistance was a credible counter-threat. American must have spied some kind of political/commercial impact out on the horizon that the company did not want to chance.
But how many regular American citizens get what American Airlines employees now understand -- that the basic thrust of Republican Big Money politics is to shaft the working and middle classes that built this country?
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It's Bain Capital, man. It's the whole How-dare-you? Wall Street and banking industry response to regulation. It's Mitt Romney saying he doesn't give a shit about the 500,000 jobs that would have been lost and multiple state economies that would have been tanked had Obama not bailed out the auto industry. Our own bankrupt airline company here in Dallas/Fort Worth may be the standard-bearer for Screw-America-First at the moment but it's by no means the author.
Sure, right now during the Republican primary, the Great Misdirection still works: People can be still be conned into thinking about condoms instead of their own survival. But wait until this stuff starts getting out there for real and full force, out beyond the Big Money filter. Big Money wants to keep everybody thinking about how everybody else has sex. And you can do that for a while, or we wouldn't have Hollywood.
But nobody thinks about sex when he finds himself dangling by the heels out the fifth floor window. I defy you to think sex when you're ... oh, wait a minute. Maybe I don't defy you, human nature being the marvelously complex thing it is.
No, I'm just saying wait for this thing to get going in earnest. Wait until America finds out it's not just American Airline's idea but the real Republican mantra. Screw America First. Don't Use a Condom.