Saturday, February 25, 2017

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "I Got Cut Off (At The...)"

<Courtesy Of: The Highwayman

<For The Full Effect...Click On The Image!>

It's been a tough week at Highwayman HQ, from what our friend tells me...for six days last week, give or take, his phone got cut off, apparently because a) he didn't receive his disconnect notice, nor b) did he get the robo-"courtesy call" that he's been conditioned to dread for the last year or so.

No matter, Mr. Phone Company Manager assured the Highwayman. "Don't always expect that." 

"But aren't those things usually automated?" our bewildered Guest Cartoonist Hero ventured.

"Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't," Mr. Phone Company Manager responded. "We don't always have staffing to do that."

"But how can I make a payment arrangement with you, when I didn't even know I was in trouble? I've been a customer of yours for 10 years. It's not like I ask you for favors every time we talk," the Highwayman sputtered.

"Unfortunately, a promise to pay isn't good enough," Mr. Phone Company Manager responded. "We need at least $87.03 to get you turned back on. Have a good day."


Pen in hand, the Highwayman vented his feelings....and this is the end result. He tinted it blue to match the mood. If you've ever found yourself in a similar strait...I'm sure you can relate. --The Reckoner

Monday, February 13, 2017

Fun With Your Clothes On: Meet Andrew Puzder, Anti-Labor Secretary In Waiting

<The Daily Beast:>
 <"I Want You...To Wear Scanty Outfits And
Help Me Make More In A Day Than You Make In A Year">

Andrew Puzder, Donald Trump's Labor Secretary nominee, epitomizes that old line: "If he didn't exist, you'd have to invent him." Bulging bottom line? Check. Defensive to criticism? Double-check. Ethically challenged? Triple-check. Hostility to those below him, or his department's mission? Quadruple check. Tin-eared to any notion that he, well, crosses a line or two? Quintuple get the idea. Supposedly, America will get its first in-depth look at him during his initial confirmation hearing on Thursday, one that's already been called off four times. We'll see how that one works out.

Although American CEOs, by and large, are hardly a warm and fuzzy bunch, Puzder's public posture suggests an extreme caricature of the tone-deaf prick at the top of the pyramid. His demeanor resembles that of a "Batman" TV villain like, say, Mr. Freeze, who can't fathom why nobody fancies being turned into a human Popsicle. Unlike his relentlessly manic colleagues -- like, say, Joker, Riddler, or Penguin -- Mr. Freeze, er, Puzder, doesn't exude the sense that he's actually enjoying himself.

Unless, of course, he's sticking it to the rest of us. Like most of his tribe, the CEO of CKE Restaurants -- the corporate daddy for the Carl's Jr. and Hardees restaurant chains -- sees nothing hypocritical letting taxpayers pick up the slack for his fast food empire, whether it's forcing his (largely part-time) army of underpaid workers to go on food stamps and Medicaid, while they forgo little things like health insurance, pensions, and savings. (For an analysis of how much this, ahem, slight inconsistency costs the taxpayer, read the National Employment Law Project link below.) But that doesn't stop him from putting his foot in his mouth, all the same.

Don't believe us? Take this Ramen Noodle Nation economy tour of Mr. Puzder's wackier, less nuanced statements, and judge them for himself. There's a saying in the business world that describes the situation perfectly: "Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior." For further snapshots of life in Puzder-land, read the links below, make up your own mind...and then, run like hell.

<I've got the world on a string, sittin' on a rainbow

Got the string around my finger
What a world, what a life, I'm in love!
I've got a song that I sing
I can make the rain go, anytime I move my finger
Lucky me, can't you see, I'm in love
Life is a beautiful thing, as long as I hold the string
I'd be a silly so and so, if I should ever let go>
"I've Got The World On A String"

1. Bye-Bye, Pesky Workers, Hello, Machines"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case." (Puzder to Business Insider on his dream of pursuing a totally automated restaurant) 

2. Closet Michael Moore Fans, Unite (It's Only Entertainment): "If you were buying products or going to movies based upon the politics of the people involved, well, I probably couldn't go to half the movies I go to."

3. Guess My Talent Tool Got A Little Polluted: 
"In fast food, you sort of compete for the best of the worst. In other words, you're not getting the Microsoft guys. At Hardee's we were getting the worst of the worst. Nobody wanted to work at Hardee's." (Puzder's summary of his talent search troubles in a speech at California State University, as reported in CNN Money)

4. It's Those Horny Young Guys, Stupid
 "I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it's very American." (Puzder's response to his infamous ad campaigns that featured scantily-clad women hosing themselves with water and riding mechanical bulls in peddling his burgers)

5. Lighten Up, Folks, It's Only A TV Commercial: "We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don't sell burgers." (CKE's corporate rationale behind its advertising, as outlined in its press release)

6. Look, Parting With A Nickel Of My Bottom Line Would Only Hurt You: 
"This is the problem with Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage. Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?"

7. McJobs Are Just That...McJobs: 
 "I started out scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins at a dollar an hour. I learned a lot about inventory and customer service ... but there's no way in the world that scooping ice cream is worth $15 an hour, and no one ever intended it would ever be something that a person could support a family on. ... Those jobs just don't produce that kind of value like a construction job or a manufacturing job does." (Puzder reflecting, to the LA Times, on his rise to the top of the fast food heap 

8. Oh, That's Why You Want This Gig: "
I think it would be ... the most fun you could have with your clothes on." (Puzder's response to FOX Business in November, on whether he'd want a Cabinet position)

9. Scrooge McDuck Says (Stay Away From My Money Bins): "Low-skill jobs are important because that’s what gives you access to the high-level job. If you focus on redistributing income, you’re not going to create growth.”

10. Trust Me (I've Been Around The Block On This One)
"It sounds good to say we're going to give everybody a raise, but I don't think people think about the implications of that. If the business community doesn't speak up, the politicians who garner votes by making those claims and passing this legislation are just going to keep saying things that just aren't accurate. It's important to speak up, so I did."

UPDATE (1/15): Unhandy Andy withdrew his nomination today, apparently after a growing number of the Republican herd in the Senate couldn't stand the stench that never stopped swirling around him...proof positive, depending on your theological orientation, that a) there is a God, or b) if there is, His sense of the absurd is no less attuned than our own. However, we couldn't allow Unhandy Andy to exit the stage, without one posting more goofy quote to his credit (or discredit):

Oh, That's Why Apu Mans The 7-11 Counter 24/7: "They're very hard-working, dedicated, creative people that really appreciate the fact that they have a job. Whereas in other parts of the country, you often get people that are saying, 'I can't believe I have to work this job,' with the immigrant population, you have the 'thank God I have this job' kind of attitude." (Puzder, apparently waxing lyrical on why immigrants make ideal fast food employees -- versus those ungrateful, underpaid natives)

Links To Go (Hurry, Before Andy Hoses You Down):
National Employment Law Project:
Bilked: How Trump's Labor Secretary Pick
Costs Taxpayers $250 Million Per Year:

The Washington Post: Andrew Puzder
Will Be A Disaster For Workers: I Know He Was For Me:

U.S. News & World Report:
Andrew Puzder Won't Work For Women

Monday, February 6, 2017

Guest Cartoon: The Highwayman: "Out Of Money Experience"

<Courtesy Of: The Highwayman
<For The Full Effect...Click On The Image!>

This latest Highwayman effort slipped over the RNN (Ramen Noodle Nation) email transom yesterday after I got back from my latest trip to Family Dollar. One of the cashiers and I started running over the political situation. I mentioned some local anti-Trump protests are already underway, and she said, "Yeah, it's either when I have to work here, or take my kid somewhere. But I'm hoping I can make one of them."

She further noted that her eldest daughter happens to be good at science, but isn't likely to capitalize on that interest any time soon. "Why's that," I asked. The answer? "Well, she still owes about $45,000 in school (college) debt. That's why she's waiting tables." She paused. "Oh, and they just told us our hours are getting cut." I waited for the punchline. "Guess that minimum wage was just too much!"

I promised to let her how the protests pan out. In the meantime...enjoy the cartoon. If that's the right word for these truly desperate times. --The Reckoner

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Lottery Winners, Your Medicaid Days Are Numbered (So Says Fred Upton)

>Snapshot Of Satisfaction (2014-Style)<

Lottery winners, your Medicaid days are numbered. That's the gist of a news release from U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St.Joseph) that slid over the email transom this week, and -- like nearly all of the current Republic majority's communiques, is a masterful snapshot of satire. That is, unintentional satire. However, I'm being much too modest. Fred's style speaks well enough for itself, Orwellian grey front and all:

"U..S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, introduced legislation, H.R. 829, the 
Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act of 2017, in the U.S. House of Representatives that would strengthen Medicaid for those who need it most.

“Medicaid is meant to help the most vulnerable amongst us – not high-dollar Lottery winners,” said Upton. “Our common-sense solution would alter how Medicaid eligibility is determined for those lucky enough to hit it big playing the Lottery, while continuing to prioritize the low-income population the program is meant to assist. I will continue to work on a bipartisan basis to strengthen critical programs like Medicaid to ensure they best serve our communities.”
"Under Medicaid regulations, income received as a lump sum, such as lottery winnings, is counted as income only in the month received. As a result, states are effectively not allowed to dis-enroll lottery winners from Medicaid. This forces taxpayers to bear the burden of paying the health care benefits for individuals who no longer require assistance. H.R. 829 will close this loophole by requiring states to count monetary winnings from lotteries of $80,000 or more as if they were obtained over multiple months, even if obtained in a single month.
In 2015, Upton created a Medicaid Task Force to strengthen and sustain the critical program and has a long record of working hard to ensure programs like Medicare and Medicaid are there for those that need them now and solvent for future generations. "

Got that, then?

Mind you, I don't personally know any Lottery winners living it up on Medicaid, but in UptonWorld, that's who we apparently need protection from -- as exemplified by what he catchily calls his proposed bill (Prioritizing the Most Vulnerable Over Lottery Winners Act). This, of course, is a time-honored Republican trick: slapping some fuzzily-sounding Orwellian euphemism to mask the real purpose, however vague or ill-defined, (Undoubtedly, when Trump and his finks push their bills to put Medicaid and Medicare on the chopping block, they'll be named: The Preserving Medicaid & Medicare For Future Generations Acts, or something along those lines.)

The other issue is, what constitutes a big enough payday: As former Replacements frontman Paul Westerberg once noted, there are times when no amount feels like it's enough: 
“I’ve never really worried about money. I’ve had enough to get by. I was a millionaire for one whole day and then came the manager, the taxman and I bought a house. This was around the ’14 Songs’ album. I signed a deal with Warner Chappell. The money was gone in an afternoon, literally.” (Classic Rock, November 2004)

Some states, like Michigan, have pushed aggressively to protect the Great Unwashed from those lottery-wnning freeloaders, as the clipping below makes plain. In most cases, though, the winners turn out to be elderly, the poor, or people with disabilities, whose lifetime needs are way bigger than any one-time payout. (And, don't forget, those amounts shrink drastically, once the state and federal taxmen take their cut.)

Of course, this is the far right Republican mentality laid bare. (And we can put those phrases in the same sentence, because, many liberal GOP'ers are walking the landscape these days?) When you try to take a buck from them or their overstuffed buddies in business, they howl with outrage: "That's class warfare, man! You can't do that!" But when it's time to take that figurative candy away from a baby, especially one from a poor area, they don't even blink. Out come their greedy, greasy, grimy, grubby little fingers to snatch it away. 

However, if the barrage of boycotts, lawsuits and protests that are already greeting Trump, Upton and the finks who walk, talk -- and smell -- just like them are any indication, this baby is beginning to show distinct signs of keeping a kung fu grip on its lollipop. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry, Before The GOP
Bumps You From Public Assistance):
800-Plus Michigan Lottery Winners Kicked Off Public Assistance