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Stiehm: Two strikes and an out: A tale of three towns

By Jamie Stiehm - | Sep 21, 2023

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Jamie Stiehm

Summer’s lease has all too short a date, wrote Shakespeare, but he was wrong. Thank goodness it’s gone.

2023 delivered the summer of our discontent. It’s striking that three company towns, Hollywood, Detroit and now Washington, D.C., are just about shut down.

The job is not getting done in these industry towns. That’s a firebell for fairness in workplaces and labor movements across America. It’s high tide and time.

The writers and actors guilds, and autoworkers union, had good reason to rise up and strike over changing conditions and pay.

They’ve had enough of the vast income inequality that defines our age. General Motors paid its CEO $29 million; a starting assembly line worker makes about $20 as an hourly wage.

“Ill fares the land/where wealth accumulates… and men decay,” wrote Oliver Goldsmith in 1770.

Meanwhile, House Republicans, back from summer recess, are the mad men and women under the dome. They have a luxe three-day workweek, yet even so seem to hate doing their jobs as lawmakers.

Instead, they threaten to make the government go dark on Oct. 1 and impeach President Joe Biden.

What a gang, the “Freedom Caucus” within the House Republicans. Loaded for bear, some stalk the hapless House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Others circle the Capitol like a murder of crows. Don’t ask why. They can’t help it. But there’s a price to be paid for havoc in the House.

The autumnal equinox falls soon. Late September days come with a crisp chill that scents the morning air. October foliage shall not be far behind. Lemonade with mint is out; apple cider is in.

Sunflowers are taking their last breath and black-eyed Susans have just their black eyes left. The cicadas are still singing, but they won’t be for long. Nights fall faster.

Yet this summer is no ordinary time, but an unforgettable season in politics and weather.

Between scorching sun in sweltering Texas and Arizona, a catastrophic fire in Hawaii and serious storm floods and power outages from Florida up to battered New England, we’re ready for a break from a burning and angry summer.

Mark this summer as a herald, perhaps a point of no return to all we think we know. Climate crisis is real, whether you “believe” or not.

To see the historic heart of Hawaii, Lahaina, turn to ashes on the ground broke hearts across the ocean. To see authorities caught blind, deaf and dumb was a grim metaphor for other climate emergencies. A hundred people died in the fast-moving flames.

How many states and cities are taking preventive measures for survival in extreme climate events? How many of us are heeding warnings by the United Nations and climate scientists — that we have little time enough and world to spend on cutting fossil fuels before it’s too late?

We are entering a new geological age because of humans’ imprint on the earth. And it is reckless, how we squander a gorgeous inheritance, especially farmers, drillers and ranchers, who treat natural gifts in land and sea like private property.

Farmers get away with environmental waste and runoff polluting our blue lakes all the time. The lakes our parents swam in.

Mother Nature is saying, Me Too. We nearly wiped out the last of the bison and the prairie, cherished by Natives, in our hurry to build a country. What’s next?

The commons is a concept we Americans never learned to respect, with our emphasis on individual rights and possessions.

That brings us to the current class of billionaires and executives who have “never had it so good,” in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ words. They make the robber barons look good for their arts and library philanthropy. Today’s crop gives little back to the greater good.

As profits for the richest spiraled up, labor pay fell, measured against inflation. The autoworkers union went without a cost-of-living increase during the government bailout and financial crisis of 2009. That loss hurts to this day.

The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, wishes to escape to Mars once our planet is used up. Let him go. We have work to do on sharing and caring for the wealth and weather here at home.

A sweeter new year, 5784, to you.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit Creators.com.


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