But now comes this newspaper story in which Amazon warehouse workers in Allentown, Penn., say they've been subjected to sweatshop conditions. Temperatures have soared above 100 in that warehouse, and they've had to haul out dehydrated workers on stretchers.
Workers said they were forced to endure brutal heat inside the sprawling warehouse and were pushed to work at a pace many could not sustain. Employees were frequently reprimanded regarding their productivity and threatened with termination, workers said. The consequences of not meeting work expectations were regularly on display, as employees lost their jobs and got escorted out of the warehouse. Such sights encouraged some workers to conceal pain and push through injury lest they get fired as well, workers said.
This news is forcing us to rethink our position on this sales tax deal. How much will it cost Tennessee to make Amazon leave?
Update: At his little media availability a few minutes ago, we asked Gov. Haslam about these Pennsylvania reports. He came out strongly against sweatshops (“Sure, no question” employers shouldn't treat their workers like dirt, he said.) But he admitted he hadn't heard about any of this and didn't know what we were talking about.
It's over — sort of.
After months of Capitol Hill grandstanding that further debased an already debauched national political discourse, the Great Debt Debate is (for now) at an end.
President Barack Obama this afternoon signed into law the House-tested (269-161), Senate-approved (74-26) debt ceiling increase that raises the nation's borrowing capacity by $400 billion, institutes $917 billion in spending cuts over 10 years via discretionary spending caps, and does virtually nothing to reign in the gluttonous salaries of the very hedge fund managers and Wall Street tycoons whose astronomical tax cuts comprise the bulk of the very budget deficit so popular with elected officials of the Tea Party persuasion.
Providing a seal of approval to this slash-and-burn stratagem toward fiscal solvency is none other than Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who offered the following wisdom today in a speech on the Senate floor (bold emphasis added):
Finally, Washington is taking some responsibility for years of spending money we don’t have. At a time when the federal government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, this is a welcome change in behavior that I am glad to support. Make no mistake. This is a change in behavior—from spend, spend, spend to cut, cut, cut.
Echoing his Senate colleague, U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper said in a press release that he supports "the Budget Control Act because it protects America from default and starts cutting unnecessary spending." He adds that "much more needs to be done but Congress has finally stopped bickering and started solving our deficit problems.”
Per the deal struck by party leaders, a second round of cut-cut-cuts ($1.5 trillion) has yet to be specified, leaving the fate of so-called entitlement programs (e.g. Medicare, Medicaid, Community Development Block Grants, etc.) to be determined by a "Super Committee," comprised of six Republicans, six Democrats and whatever Superfriends happen to be on hand. (Probably Aquaman.) What's more, it'll probably cost the already ailing economy at least a million more jobs, but hey: If it burns, that means it's working!
Despite the lack of specificity, Nashville's social services providers — and by proxy their working-class clientele — are bracing for a major funding drought.
Perhaps less expected is the No. 3 ranking for Nashville, Tenn. The country music capital, with its low housing prices and pro-business environment, has experienced rapid growth in educated migrants, where it ranks an impressive fourth in terms of percentage growth. New ethnic groups, such as Latinos and Asians, have doubled in size over the past decade.I wonder if he really meant to say "educated migrants." A migrant is someone who moves regularly in order to find work, especially in harvesting crops. I'm sure we have migrant workers here, but I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest he meant to say "educated immigrants." Call me crazy. Everyone else does.
Two advantages Nashville and other rising Southern cities like No. 8 Charlotte, N.C., possess are a mild climate and smaller scale. Even with population growth, they do not suffer the persistent transportation bottlenecks that strangle the older growth hubs. At the same time, these cities are building the infrastructure — roads, cultural institutions and airports — critical to future growth.
The caption from Nashville's page on the accompanying slide show:
The country music capital, with its low housing prices and pro-business environment, has experienced rapid growth in educated migrants, where it ranks an impressive fourth in terms of percentage growth. New ethnic groups, such as Latinos and Asians, have doubled in size over the past decade. A high quality of life, a vibrant cultural and music scene and a diverse population also make Nashville a desirable place to live.
Every once in a while, you learn about something the state is doing that is so weird, so counter-intuitive, that you wonder, just for a moment, if you're the subject of some kind of Punk'd-style TV show. Such is the case with the new "Career Coaches" the state has just rolled out:
Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development today unveiled three vehicles designed to improve outcomes for those looking for work. Three “Career Coaches” were customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines, and flat screen TV’s with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction. The intent of these roving offices is to bring job matching and training to rural communities that have limited access to a Tennessee Career Center.
This is baffling. Is the reason rural Tennesseans are unemployed simply because they didn't have an RV in which to fill out applications? Seriously?
Want an hour-by-hour breakdown of how HCA's whopping $3.79 billion IPO trading went yesterday? Erin Lawley and Geert de Lombaerde at NashvillePost.com charted its progress throughout the day (in some cases down to the minute). A few snapshots:
• 7:33 a.m. • Speculation Wednesday afternoon that HCA might look to push the offering price to $31 turned out to be off the mark, but one market watcher points out the total number of shares sold by the company’s investors rose from the expected 124 million to 126.2 million. The 2.2 million difference came from the company’s investors alone. ...
• 9:12 a.m. • Shares are now trading and opened well above $31 before retreating a bit. Still, they're up 3 percent, another sign of the strong demand that led to yesterday's talk of pushing up the price. Check out the price action here. ...
• 11:20 a.m. • Industry experts expected the health care services sector would get a collective boost from HCA’s IPO, but today’s ugly market conditions indicate the hospital giant can only help itself. All three major stock indexes have tumbled today on disappointing economic news, including a rise in initial U.S. jobless claims. The hospital stocks — CHS, Tenet, LifePoint, UHS and HMA — have followed the downward trend. The fact that HCA’s shares continue to trade in the $31 range illustrates the demand for shares was much larger than the number of shares offered. ...
The final tally: $31.02, up 3.4 percent from the initial price, with 64.6 million shares changing hands.
Got any idea of what it's like to be among Nashville's working poor and trying to live somewhere safe you can afford? The lede of Anne Marshall's cover story in today's City Paper grabs you by the collar:
First came the thunderous boom, then what sounded like a marble bouncing on a steel drum. Tashia Harrington ran downstairs thinking someone might be in her house. It was midnight. Another boom. Then another. Glass crashed. Dishes exploded. When Harrington got to her front room, it was the Fourth of July: Sparks everywhere. Drywall bursting with each boom. The smell of sulfur hanging in the air.
Someone was shooting into Harrington’s apartment. That steel drum sound? A bullet smacking the open lid of a washing machine and tumbling down into the empty drum.
Harrington crawled upstairs, terrified, snatching up her four stunned children. Shattered glass littered 11-year-old Kanacia’s bed, which sat under a window. Harrington pulled the four girls and herself into her bedroom closet and called 911.
Harrington heard from neighbors that gangs eyeing a kid next door likely got the wrong address.
Read the rest of the story, which addresses the shortage of low-income housing for Nashville families, the financial reasons why even nonprofits have to offer higher rates than they'd like, and how a single parent making little more than $17,000 a year in full-time employment hopes to keep a roof over her kids' heads — without fear of bullets ripping through the walls.
Our friend Merle Hazard, the man in beige who stands at the vortex between country music and economic theory, ponders the possibility of a double-dip recession in his latest video, shot (where else?) at Bobbie's Dairy Dip on Charlotte Avenue. See if you can spot the hidden mathematician.
Two literal big-picture views of economic malaise — one courtesy of LaToya Egwuekwe at American Observer.net (above), the other at The New York Times (updated last week). (The interactive Times map has Davidson County's unemployment rate at 9.1 percent as of June.)
One sobering detail from the Times graph: Scott County, in northeast Middle Tennessee, has a higher unemployment rate at 20.9 percent than almost all of Michigan. As for Egwuekwe's animated graph (which is best viewed full-screen), the metastatic darkening of the map pretty much speaks for itself. (Hat tip: CF/TD.)
It's a two-fold problem.
One, these demographic shifts are happening no matter what we do.
Nashville's own Merle Hazard, the troubadour of economic travail, has a new song about the Greek debt crisis. Snippets of the video, shot appropriately enough at the Parthenon, were featured in a piece about Greece's fiscal austerity that aired on last night's PBS NewsHour.
NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman blogged about Merle's new tune, which is actually the product of a collaboration of sorts between Merle and Solman:
Merle went more than the extra kilometer on this one, and came back with an opus so extravagant it could have formed the basis of a NewsHour piece all by itself. He assembled his very own Greek band; took online Greek dance lessons to make the choreography more authentic; and shot the whole thing in front of the full-scale replica of the Parthenon that happens to be in his home town of Nashville.
And since Merle is a personal friend of mine, I do need to state for the record that I am not the commenter "Bruce" on Solman's blog who spews: "The inclusion of that ridiculous performance by 'Merle Hazard' in Solman’s piece on Greek debt this evening represents terrible taste and poor judgment on the part of the NewsHour....If Paul and his staff is so fond of this guy, let THEM spend time with him — but don’t foist him on us." It ain't me, Merle.
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