Thursday, March 01, 2007

The LuLac Edition #164, March 1, 2007



On Monday March 5th, The Lu Lac Political Letter will have a major announcement concerning its very survival and future. Please join us on the 5th for that compelling news.


Did you ever see the musical “The Music Man”? I saw it in 1963 at the American Theatre in Pittston. It starred Robert Preston and Shirley Jones. The premise of the movie was that a flim flam artist (Preston playing the role of Professor Harold Hill) came to the little town of River City and promised all the folk there a better life by appealing to their better natures. His selling point was that if he could form a marching band and provide band uniforms for all the youth of the depressed town, life would be so much better there. The future would be golden and no trouble would come to the little town.
I don’t think about that movie much until I hear another scheme for economic development in Luzerne County. It seems like every few months, we are getting a visit from a Professor Harold Hill who is trying to sell us the band uniforms. We hear about incredible plans for an airport in Hazleton that will provide 4500 jobs, (they even produced a handy dandy counter to show you just how high those job numbers can climb!) an actor, Paul Sorvino tells us he’ll build a movie production studio in Scranton and real estate moguls who make hundreds of thousands of dollars in rents will redevelop a property. It all sounds good until all of them cry poverty and tell us they need a tax break on the property they want to buy, or the business they want to start. Like Professor Harold Hill, they come into our area with slick talk, big promises and the magic carrot on the stick that this area has been chasing for generations: HIGH PAYING JOBS. The phrase HIGH PAYING JOBS is the Music Man version of BAND UNIFORMS. I get the impression that all one has to do to get any tax forgivceness or start up money for a business is to utter the words HIGH PAYING JOBS. Let’s take a look at the record of those companies who have come in here and promised high paying jobs. The Industrial Park in Mountaintop has its Pepsico plant and there are a few other national concerns. But in Scranton/Wilkes Barre, where are those companies that got public funding? How’s that Call Center on South Main Street doing? Busted, now owned by a non profit entity, Wilkes College. And remember that big bank concern that relocated in downtown Scranton a few years back only to exit the area in a flash? We were told First Union would stay forever because the CEO was a local guy!
We in this region are constantly being duped by the Harold Hills of a new century. They aren’t wearing band uniforms, they’re wearing Armani. And our Kranson’s sport coat wearing Commissioners and public officials constantly buy the line of crap by these corporate welfare people who wouldn’t dream of parting with one red cent of their own. Did you ever notice that none of these guys ever lose their huge mcmansions or fancy classic cars when the businesses they run into the ground, supported by tax payer dollars grind to a halt? And the Public Officials can’t be blamed by party, this is bi partisan stupidity. Both Republicans and Democrats have fallen for this line. “Give me your tax money and I’ll give you jobs!” The jobs that are promised are high paying ones but that promise never becomes a reality. They tell us how important NEPA is to their business, how close we are to the major commercials centers of the country and my personal favorite, how good our work ethic is. Yet when a company in Olyphant lays off 200 workers, the company says they’ll hire them back, but with reduced pay! Yeah, that sounds real fair.
At the turn of the last century, the workers in this region were subjected to company stores, terrible working conditions and virtually little room for advancement. Things have changed, a bit, but not much. There are no company stores, no land or coal barons and for the most part workers are employed in a safe environment. But the economic stability and status of those jobs are just as perilous as they were a century ago. Companies, who got tax breaks from our governing bodies can fire anyone at will. And if you try to contact an Attorney in this area to see if you were treated unjustly, you won’t find any lawyer with any guts or balls willing to even look at your case. There seems to be an abuse of area workers that is unheard of in the rest of the country. We’ll lay you off, bring you back but reduce your pay! Who wins in that scenario? Anybody? Certainly not the working families in this area.
We need to have government stop doling out tax money to businesses just because they come in here, talk a good game and promise us high paying jobs. We need to keep track of those taxpayer investments to see if it was worth our while to give that money away. And we need to quit relying on out of town sharpies and connected insiders that promise us things out of hot air. (Remember Congressman Kanjorski’s Wall Street West crap? Even the Wall Street people debunked that fiasco. And while we’re at it, why are county and state taxes going toward the people at Hillside Farms to provide a “working farm” for an individual family that is personally worth millions?)
NEPA taxpayers are being Harold Hilled to death. We berate welfare mothers sometimes trying to get jobs under the table to support themselves. They are far more honest than the corporate people who take our money and run. This has to end.
Voters and taxpayers need to start saying no to the guys who tell us their band uniforms are going to save us economically. To be fair, there might be someone out there sincere enough to become a good corporate partner and employer, but that’s as likely as trying to find a virgin in a bordello. And if they are a good corporate citizen, they’ll have their own money and not have their hand out.





At 10:56 AM, Blogger Joe Leonardi said...

Great post Dave,

Unfortuately the voters never vote for change. They keep the same entrenched officials in even after promise after promise goes bust.


At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even Tony Soprano used his own money to invest and mentor people. Honestly, I have more respect for guys like him (fiuctional or otherwise) than some of these community leaders and business people who fleece the working Joe and Jane.

At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


From what I understand, the new slots at Pocono is another "Promise Them and Dump Them" deal.

One of my friends went there for $14/hour but only got $8.75 -- his work week was jammed into four days of 12 hours each, pushed harder and harder as time went on.

"Call me Bobby" Soper is quoted as having said things like (paraphrasing): "I know we promised you $14 but we can't afford it" when the help complained.

In other words, it's another company brought in to utilize what is advertised as the area's "work ethic." Another phrase meaning "they'll work for minimum."

Yeah, 1200 jobs here, 800 there, 750 at the next place -- but at what real pay level?

The coal barons just switched to another industry.


Tom, I had a friend who in the early 90s was hired at Sam's Club for $10.40 an hour. Three days later, her girlfriend applied for the same position and was offered a rate of $8.01. Sam's made my friend at the ten buck rate an Assistant Manager's Helper or something like that. But they cut her hours to match her girl friend's rate to even things out. My point here is that someone whispered into the ears of the people at Sam's between the time my friend was hired and the time her friend was hired. Someone on the radio said today he hoped local government and businesses don't conspire to keep wages down. Well, they do, on a consistent basis.

At 8:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I thouroughly enjoyed your book and can't wait to read your next one! You have a great talent and wonderful sense of humor. I liked the concept and it's a good list for everyone to make.
Take care and PLEASE keep writing.

Ann from the book signing

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Tom Carten said...

Someone on the radio said today he hoped local government and businesses don't conspire to keep wages down. Well, they do, on a consistent basis.

FWIW, and I'm not convinced this is more than paranoia, I've heard that some local pol's kept a large company out of here because they would have paid a higher than average wage and that would have ruined it for all the other places that do minimum.

Again, I pass on what I heard. Not at all sure it's true, but the person (I forget who) swears it's true.

Heard this?

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The story holds that somehow business interests in this area convinced Ford Motor Company from building a plant here(somewhere in Minooka)in the 50s, because they didn't want UAW wages to become the going rate when they were paying dogshit to other skilled employees.

The fact is, anyone in this area who was part of collective bargaining in the 50s, 60s, etc., was already making a decent buck, and that included those working in the anthracite and railroad industry. My best guess is that that the story is pure bullshit.

There is only one answer to making a decent buck in this area, regardless of what business you may be in, and that answer is ORGANIZE. Contact an international rep from a union that would serve your needs and get people to get off their asses and organize, get a union in place. Believe me; Wal-Mart and Sam's will probably be organized within ten years, or they will go out of business. Collective bargaining is the only hope.

Sadly, it will never happen. Americans consistently vote against their own best interests. They(NOT ME) put Bush back in the White House, despite the fact that his party has been an enemy of organized labor since it first struggled to its feet in the 19th century.


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