Death by Liberalism.
This time it's Twinkies.
In October it was Newsweek.
Who's next? What does this lemming-like liberal instinct mean for America?
What is it that bakers and editors had in common as they looked into the abyss that would spell their own professional death? And then jumped?
Answer: They'd rather be dead than Not Liberal. Unfortunately for the rest of us -- they are not alone. Worse, they are in charge.
Presented with multiple opportunities to survive in a jobless economy -- the bakers and editors willingly jumped into the abyss that would kill their own professional way of life. Forever.
With all the brio of Paul Newman and Robert Redford as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid cornered by the law and yelling "Ohhhhhhhhhh Sh……………t" as they presumably jumped to their deaths, both the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union -- a.k.a. the 18,500 Americans who make Twinkies and other Hostess company products -- and the editors who produced the once economically viable newsmagazine Newsweek faced a stark choice. Adapt to survive and prosper -- or kill businesses that are respectively 85 years old and 80 years old. Thus killing their own jobs.
Either be fair and balanced in their union demands for baking and delivering Twinkies. And fair and balanced for their editorial product in producing a Newsweek magazine that once presented itself as just the news of the week.
The bakers union and the magazine editors chose death.
The bakers union chose to professionally execute their own members -- not to mention James Hoffa's Teamsters -- taking with them a legendary baking company's 18,500 jobs. The editors of a legendary magazine's still unannounced "staff cuts" -- as the magazine does a physical vanishing act, departing from newsstands never to be seen again -- chose non-physical publication over editorial fairness.
Fittingly, one of Newsweek's last covers is a depiction of Barack Obama as a post-election Emperor Napoleon. There not being a trace of irony about a soon-to-be defunct magazine last owned by a 90-something year old rich liberal white guy headlining the GOP as, no kidding : "You're Old, You're White, You're History!" Nor is there a glimmer of irony about how exactly the real Napoleon ended his career.
Do the names "Waterloo" and "St. Helena" ring a bell?
What to make of this lemming-like phenomenon?
Let's start with the bakers.
Our friends at the Wall Street Journal have laid out the basics.
- A strike by one of a dozen Hostess unions, the Bakers, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union.
- Hostess had "sales of $2.5 billion in 2011 but lost $341 million and lacked the cash flow" to survive a strike.
- One of the reasons for this was "a labor-rule burden that by comparison makes Detroit look like Hong Kong."
- ·Hostess had $52 million in workers' comp claims in 2011, per an earlier bankruptcy filing.
- ·Hostess had 372 collective bargaining agreements "to maintain 80 different health and benefit plans, 40 pension plans and mandated a $31 million increase in wages and other benefits from backrooms to shelves."
- Union rules forbade cake and bread products from being delivered to a store in one truck. There had to be two -- one for cake, one for bread. "Drivers weren't allowed to load their own vehicles, and the workers who loaded bread weren't allowed to load cake."
There's more but you get the picture.
When the company said they could do no more, especially after two bankruptcies induced by all of this, the union refused to accept the latest offer. (Note: Last night, a federal bankruptcy judge ordered both parties into mediation.)
Result? Twinkicide. Death by liberalism. Some 18,500 employees are now out of a job. Yes the brand has value, and someone else may pick it up. Small consolation to the abruptly unemployed.
Then there's Newsweek. Folding (so to speak) after 80 years. Yes, it will be online, but no more print version.
Once owned by the Washington Post, the magazine had so hemorrhaged readership -- and as a result advertisers -- that the Post wound up selling it for a dollar. You read that right -- a single dollar bill.
What happened to Newsweek? Doubtless 21st century technology took a toll. But there was something else. A big something else.
Newsweek -- ironically founded by a former reporter for Time -- was ostensibly begun with the goal of publishing the news and some commentary or analysis to go along with it. Eighty years ago, like all manner of other publications of the day, if it ran a news story it was a straight news story. A "just the facts" kind of news story. With the commentary or analysis elsewhere.
But as with its cronies elsewhere in the world of mainstream journalism, by the 1960s Newsweek had begun to change.
There are two eerily similar incidents that have been discussed before in this space which will serve to illustrate, both involving popular liberal Democrats in the White House.
Incident One centered around President John F. Kennedy, and one of his close friends, Ben Bradlee -- the latter then the Washington bureau chief for Newsweek. Long story short, a year after JFK's death Bradlee's sister-in-law, Mary Pinchot Meyer, was mysteriously found murdered on a canal towpath in Washington. Bradlee and his horrified then-wife Toni went to Meyer's Georgetown residence only to find a CIA agent -- a high ranking CIA agent named James Jesus Angleton -- scouring Meyer's living quarters, having staged a break-in. Confronted, he left. And came back later to Meyer's studio -- again to be discovered (in the act of picking the lock) and depart. Eventually Bradlee and his wife located what was being sought. Meyer's diary. Bradlee and wife found the diary and read it. To Bradlee's shock it turned out his separated sister-in-law, herself married to a senior CIA official, had been having a secret affair with JFK. The whole tale was in the diary, including revelations that Meyer and her presidential lover had been smoking pot -- in the White House.
What did Bradlee do? Take this mammoth scoop and put it on the cover of Newsweek? Nah. Instead his wife destroyed the diary -- and Newsweek readers, not to mention the larger world, were none-the-wiser. Until 1976 when a third party who had seen the diary gave the story to, yes, The National Enquirer. In his memoirs Bradlee confessed that every word of the story was true, that he detested the fact the story had ever seen the light of day and had zero regrets about trying to kill it.
Incident Two revolved around President Bill Clinton. The famous story of Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was a Newsweek scoop, the result of the efforts of the magazine's investigative reporter Michael Isikoff. The problem? Newsweek editors in 1998, employing precisely the liberal instinct that seized Bradlee and his JFK scoop, spiked the story. This time, however, the results were very different. Why? The Internet's Matt Drudge got a hold of the fact that Newsweek had this explosive story about the President -- and had spiked it. Drudge promptly ran it on the Drudge Report -- and the rest, as they say, was history.
The point? Newsweek over time earned for itself the reputation not, as its very name "Newsweek" implied, of being a magazine that would report the truth and then analyze. To the contrary it started down a slippery path of deliberately not telling the truth in order to protect its favored liberals of the day, or just skewing the news against conservatives -- i.e., part of its readership base.
Over time, this became understood by the general reading public -- and conservative readers stopped buying Newsweek. Presented with innumerable opportunities to right the ship, to restore the magazine to what might be called a "fair and balanced" publication, Newsweek's editors simply insisted on saying something no one believed: that they had no liberal bias.
Back in 2009, the then managing editor of Newsweek, Jon Meacham, appeared on The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly grilled him about the magazine's decidedly visible left-wing tilt, visibly incredulous at the response:
Meacham: "No, I don't -- We're not a partisan magazine. We're just not."
O'Reilly: "Come on."
Meacham: "We're not. We try to be provocative. We try to break news. We try to contribute to the conversation. You can decide whether we do or not."
At the time, the magazine had made a big deal of actor Mel Gibson's marital problems. As NewsBusters pointed out, when O'Reilly challenged Meacham on this the pose of the non-partisan instantly vanished. Why was Gibson's marriage fair game for Newsweek?
Meacham: "The -- Gibson's a literalist, he's a conservative. And he was part of the popular culture, he put himself out there."
O'Reilly: " (Leftwinger) Sean Penn has had recent marital trouble, I didn't see that on Sean....Don't you think that's a little unfair, Jon?"
Meacham: "No, I don't."
So Newsweek kept right on using the magazine advertised as straight news to showcase the latest liberal personality or cause of the moment while not so subtly sticking it to the leading conservatives of the day like Mel Gibson. As the advertisers stopped coming back, as the readership plummeted, the editors' effective answer to change, as Meacham personified in that O'Reilly appearance, was not only "no" but "hell no."
Results: Twinkicide. Death by liberalism. Newsweek in print will soon be no more.
Twinkies and Newsweek aren't the only American institutions to suffer from this phenomenon in recent years either.
Take Mainline Protestant Churches. The Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and United Church of Christ among others.
Once a central pillar of Protestant America -- not to mention of America itself as we are reminded this Thanksgiving week with celebrations of the Pilgrims -- these denominations have been in a slow but certain decline since the 1960s. In the forty-five years between 1960 and 2005, the Mainline denominations lost some ten million members. In 1970 they were 30% of the American population; by 2009 they had dropped to 15% -- and are headed slowly down, down, down. Individual churches struggle simply to stay alive, when they aren't shuttering their doors outright.
What caused this? It's no accident that the denominational declines coincide exactly with the rise of the far-left in America. Without consultation with their own members, church leaders struck out on journey into the wilds of far-left politics, confusing God with leftist politics.
Exactly as with the bakers and the editors, the men and women of the cloth simply denied the facts, blaming their failures on anything but their own liberalism, as seen here in this jewel from the Episcopal News Service.
Result: Whole liberal-led denominations -- hundreds of years old -- are now headed down the path of Twinkicide.
Then there's the Twinkicide of the public school system.
Here we are in the 21st century. Technology and American innovation and freedom have provided new opportunities for basic education in the form of charter schools, school vouchers, home schooling and public schools.
What is the reaction of the teachers' unions? To throw themselves in front of the progress train, demanding ever greater resources even as their own union rules slowly strangle the quality of public schools, make it impossible to fire incompetent teachers (can you say "rubber rooms"?) and, most glaringly and unforgivingly, ruin the lives of kids trapped in these hell holes through no fault of their own.
So the credibility of good teachers dwindle because of horrendous decisions by their liberal union leaders. And meanwhile the public school systems slowly tank.
Result: The Twinkicide of the American public school system.
Then there's the state of California.
The place is a disaster. Once a rich state, the center of the American universe with California Dreamin' an anthem to the state's magnet-like ability to draw people from not only around the country but the world to its glamorous precincts, it is now busily driving people away as it slowly sinks. Sinks into a morass of high taxes, out-of-control debt, lousy schools and fleeing businesses. Only this month Governor Jerry Brown sold his tax-addicted constituents that yes, what California needed was another tax! Up went taxes -- again -- on higher incomes, while a sales tax increase was approved for everyone. The state has a $16 billion deficit while carrying the highest debt load of any state in the nation -- $618 billion. Notes the Weekly Standard's Charlotte Allen:
That latter amount includes up to $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities for 220,000 state employees plus billions in unpaid bills, delayed payments to schools, and amounts raided from dedicated funds to cover general expenses.
All of these woes and more are sending the state headlong into a swan dive in an empty concrete swimming pool. Will the liberals who have managed this debacle change course? Admit liberalism is driving the state inevitably, nor to mention faster by the day, into bankruptcy? Are you kidding? They would prefer… all together now…
Twinkicide! Death by liberalism is the new California Dreamin'.
As if all this and more isn't cause for concern, there are the now familiar Twinkicidal instincts that are surfacing in Washington.
Obamacare being the obvious example of the moment.
The other day, the Cato Institute's Michael Tanner focused on one unintended consequence from Obamacare just in the New York City area alone. Writing in the New York Post, Tanner told the story of one Zane Tankel, who runs forty Applebee's in New York and environs. Right after the presidential election, Tankel announced he was calling a halt to two things: hiring more employees and building more Applebee's restaurants.
Why? Obamacare, of course. Applebee's just can't afford the costs. Writes Tanner:
Under ObamaCare, employers with 50 or more full-time workers must provide health insurance for all their workers, paying at least 65% of the cost of a family policy or 85% of the cost of an individual plan. Moreover, the insurance must meet the federal government's requirements in terms of what benefits are included, meaning that many businesses that offer insurance to their workers today will have to change to new, more expensive plans.
He goes on:
Suppose that a firm with 49 employees does not provide health benefits. Hiring one more worker will trigger the mandate. The company would now have to provide insurance coverage to all 50 workers or pay a tax penalty…. Under the circumstances, how likely is the company to hire that 50th worker? Or, if a company already has 50 workers, isn't the company likely to lay off one employee? Or cut hours and make some employees part time, thus getting under the 50 employee cap? Indeed, a study by Mercer found that 18% of companies were likely to do exactly that. It's worth noting that in France, another country where numerous government regulations kick in at 50 workers, there are 1,500 companies with 48 employees and 1,600 with 49 employees, but just 660 with 50 and only 500 with 51.
In other words, a lot of people are going to lose their full-time jobs, and expansion -- building new Applebee's in this case -- will simply stop dead. Tanner cites the growing number of restaurant companies that are doing some version of what Applebee's is now doing, from Papa John's Pizza to the Olive Garden to the Red Lobster. In addition to going this route, Denny's is adding a 5% tax to cover its costs -- a tax that is quickly being tagged the "Obama Surcharge."
So why is this happening? Why deliberately send the already unacceptably high unemployment rate even higher? Because, as all remember, in the maniacal push to pass Obamacare the consequences were damned. Liberals were warned as to the results -- and they simply didn't care.
Which is to say, Applebee's, Denny's, Papa John's, the Olive Garden and Red Lobster are now victims of the Twinkicide mindset. They may be among the first -- but they most certainly are not going to be the last.
Which in turn raises the greatest concern of all -- the future of America itself.
What America is confronting here with the lemming-like phenomenon that is Twinkicide is a group of people who simply are obsessed with liberalism. Addicted to it in just the fashion a crack addict is addicted to crack cocaine.
Like a crack addict, they could care less about the consequences of their actions -- even if it ensures their own death. Mesmerized by liberalism, they march resolutely off the nearest cliff available, mass suicide be damned.
They could be bakers or magazine editors. They could be Mainline Protestant church leaders or public school teachers. They could be California politicians -- and yes, even California voters. In Washington they are the zealots behind Obamacare.
What all of these people have in common is that they will impose liberalism no matter the consequences. Even if it means they march straight off the cliff. And in the case of America, taking the rest of us with them.
Ironically, for all the hysterical shouts in foreign lands of "Death to America," there is in fact a seriously growing threat to America right here at home.
Death by liberalism.