July 31st, 2009
02:38 PM ET

Make the economy work for everyone

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Paul Begala

So here’s the situation. You’re a certified nurse’s assistant, helping seniors get the care they need to live out their final years with dignity. You love your job, but the pay’s terrible, you’re always short-staffed, and the turnover is constant. So you talk to your co-workers and decide you should form a union, to have more of a say in the way things are run. Management’s answer? If you keep speaking out, you’re fired.

Or maybe you work at a metal factory. You’ve worked there for years. Then, one day, you realize that your face is taking on a suspicious blue coloring. And that shiver you thought was just a cold? It’s not going away. You’re terrified to discover the source of your symptoms: Your protective mask at work has cracks in it. You’ve been exposed to dangerous chemicals. When you and your co-workers decide that a union is the best way to make your job a little safer, management announces that they have a plan, too: You’re fired.

Now imagine you’re the CEO of a giant national banking corporation. Things aren’t so hot at the bank these days. But, thank goodness, you have a safety net — tens of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to bail you out. On your watch, the stock’s lost more than 80 percent of its value.


Filed under: Economy
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Terry Gerber

    The banking industry bugs me, handing out billions in Hugh bonuses and that is where I come in. I just got back to work, from a 3 mo. layoff, and was looking a bill that came in the mail, and the final payment to the 2nd. mortgage due, after years of faithfully paying on time. To make the story short, had limited funds the the time, so I paid my usual amount, even tho, the bill was doubled that amount. I thought that it would be ok by the bank, right? Wrong, and the phone started to ring. I found out that I was put into collections, because the full amount was not paid, and was 10 days late. I did receive a final bill in the mail 2 weeks later, the difference between what I paid, and the full amount due, but collections did not want to here it, and my attorney has to handle it. Hurray, for National City Bank, for worrying about the $347.33 that I owed. What about the billions being lost in foreclosures?

    August 2, 2009 at 9:30 am |
  2. Alma Sheckles

    Anderson, I am not writing on any topic at this time. I am writing to let you know that I grew up in the Koppel and Jennings news era. I am 69 years young. I was devasted when Peter Jennings died he was my favorite newsman with Koppel being next. Both men were hardworking and fair in their reporting. In this era Anderson you and Don Lemon are running up there with Koppel and Jennings in my book. I hope that both of you continue to report the news with fairness, dignity,substance and truthfulness. I don't know Don's e-mail address so please tell him what I said and both of your good looks don't hurt either (smiles). Alma

    August 1, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  3. truthislove45

    Face it the only people paid A LOT of money for minimal work is the gov! Gods word says too pray for governing officials. In Jesus name I do, as many of them are being swept by the counsel of the wicked. Obama is a blind guide and FAR from being a Christian. Jesus said a good tree doesn't produce evil fruit and Obama doesn't produce good fruit!

    August 1, 2009 at 7:45 pm |
  4. theresa

    we should all have a choice to express our opinion. besides, it all an opinion about how we feel or what we think. no one has the right to displace someone over there opinion. we all need money to live. so can someone please pay the nurse assistance more money. because we are always putting our lives at risky just like a firefighter or doctor. we are the ones to clean up the mess and get the patients ready for surgery. we are the ones who make patients smiles. our job is very hard and stressful but we enjoy doing it. please don't overlook us.

    August 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  5. Art

    What goes around, comes around. This country may not be heading in the right direction. Our captialistic society seems to be out of control. We have become morally deficient. One question comes to mind, how much is enough?

    August 1, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  6. Donna

    Sadly enough, but true. Daily CNAs put provide quality of life to individuals they take care of, but unfortunately CNAs are not considered credible, in comparrison to those in management.

    Less pay, more risk of contracting any and every disease that ill patients may possess, but CNAs are the backbones of every healthcare facility.

    SOmeone needs to be more of an advocate for CNAs, we are sometime closer than family and often the only family. Without a doubt, the individuals in management do not provide direct care to the patients, therefore, they need CNAs to be their eyes, but unfortunately, CNAs are the least credible workers in the health care field, as evidenced by every TV show or News Station on earth.

    Often, you hear about nurses, doctors, therapist, pharmacist and CEOs, but never do you hear about or from the lower "raked" staff. It would be my wish for CNAs to be acknowledged for being a part of the healtcare team, although, we are less educated, it does not mean that we don't deserve the right to be respected or heard.

    Was this a fair statement, based on the question that is being asked?

    July 31, 2009 at 10:48 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    IT would be great if the economy worked for all of us – if hard work was rewarded as generously at the bottom of the ladder as it is at the top of the ladder. I don't expect to live long enough to see that though – if it ever happens at all.

    July 31, 2009 at 8:48 pm |
  8. Joanne R. Pacicca

    To Howard A. Jaffe, Unions can indeed lay off people indefinitely, if the job no longer exists and has been eliminated.

    July 31, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  9. RLWellman

    The story of Chris Dodd came out this morning about him having prostate cancer. I'm sorry to hear that. He talks about his health care, how good it is, and that the cancer was caught early. His prognosis is good.

    If you are 65 like him, diagnosed with prostate cancer, and on the New Nationalized Health Care Plan. Guess what? There would be a government official that would decide if you were productive enough to receive treatment. If not and you were classified not productive enough or worth the treatment you would be given end of life care. That's it! You won't be able to pay for it yourself either.

    Those of you that think this is "fear mongering", look it up. You only have to read through 1017 pages of the new bill to find it.

    July 31, 2009 at 3:35 pm |
  10. Joanne R. Pacicca

    Exactly. We have no safety net. The American way..principles of hard work reaping benefits is shot. It's the shisters, the cunning and the fortunate who benefit. Is this like kings and serfs? The Dark Ages, revisited?

    July 31, 2009 at 2:16 pm |
  11. Michael C. McHugh

    State and local governments need more direct assistance, either through the Federal Reserve or some other mechanism, since the worst thing to do in a depression is cut back spending. If Keynesians are right, we can end this thing within two years, as we ended the Great Depression during the Second World War, if we stimulate the economy enough, expand consumer demand and create more jobs with public investment.

    I also think there should be a greater federal role in taking over mortgages directly for legitimate borrowers, and for housing subsidies,

    July 31, 2009 at 1:42 pm |
  12. Victoria - NJ

    Shhh! What will the uber-wealthy do when word trickles down that the feudal system created by the industrial revolution isn't sustainable? I'm praying the next Stetson Kennedy will flush out the rotten, bloated heads of these industries "too big to fail" including Insurance companies (the next bail-out recipients no doubt). If government can negotiate humane limits to executive pay at GM then why not at Insurance Companies and Banks? Toward this effort I am publicly ridiculing (albeit they could care if I lived or died) ALL people earning over $250K per year in any industry who are still buying foreign cars and investment properties and complaining about taxes while not donating to local food banks, homeless shelters and family planning programs AND the Republicans AND Democrats who are supported by them. In my opinion I am saving them from themselves (granted, many of us are to busy working, fighting off creditors, malnurished and numb to form a mob). Ultimately, they will suffer if we are too physically weak to afford them their disgustingly inhumane lifestyles. Sincerely, a super pissed-off victim of bank/broker fraud and predatory lending facing foreclosure and the placement of 13 rescued cats – a working peasant in NJ.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  13. Elaine C., Ambler, PA

    Hi Paul,
    Thanks for continuing to track this issue. The sheer scale of greed these people possess is astounding to me. Do they have no shame when middle class people, or anyone for that matter, need to go to food banks?

    I also blame most of Congress for this situation in that they have let these companies get "too big to fail", many of whom have been there for decades. And I do include on that list those from Pennsylvania, whether Dem. or Rep.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  14. Howard A. Jaffe

    Paul's article is sheer nonsense. Firing a worker for union organizing has been prohibited in this country for the last half century at least. The employer would be charged with violation of law, directed to rehire the employee, pay back pay, damages, legal fees and fined. While I , like most people, believe bail-outs of fat cats is un-American and indefensible do not insult our intelligence by attempting to make it seem bad with false comparisons.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  15. JC- Los Angeles

    The bottomline is that our nation has become a morally bankrupt, culturally corrupt, racially charged cesspool with hard working, ethical Americans continually left holding the bag.

    For every horrid corporate executive like Ken Lewis, there are ample politically corrupt leaders like Christopher Dodd and Harry Reid.

    Today's America is a place where if you have one hundred people in a room and ninety-nine of them are lying, everyone wonders what's wrong with the other guy.

    Unless everyone is held accountable, right remains right, wrong remains wrong and race is no longer used as a tool for self interest, the fraud purveyors will turn their attention to universal healthcare fraud and we will never get out of this hole; period.

    July 31, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  16. Philoan M. Tran - Houston

    Ditto Paul, you got it! That is exactly why people in the street are talking. Don't forget about the big bonuses that these bailout firms are also getting at taxpayer's expense.

    July 31, 2009 at 12:08 pm |