Martin Plant To Close

12 08 2008

We got the call from an upset employee who said that she was losing her job. A plant that has been around for most of my life is closing. My grandmother worked there for awhile when I was a child.

Another call came in. My cell phone started ringing off the hook. The employees at what is called Martin Manufacturing but really goes by the name Fecheimer, thought they were going to be negotiating some issues in their contract.

Instead, it was more of “we are closing in 60 days.”

Another 150 jobs lost in an area that has already lost several plants. The factory makes uniforms and is what we call a “needle and thread” plant.

It was the last of them here. We are supposed to get the “official” word today but the employees told us yesterday afternoon. There were tears and fear of what will happen next. Somebody may be able to pull something out of their hat here but I’m not optimistic.

The company is owned by Berkshire Hathaway whose CEO is Warren Buffett. Fecheimer was founded in 1842.

This is just another huge loss for this community.

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Dear Sen. Phil Gramm

10 07 2008

Sir,

I know you are out there advising John McCain and stuff, but I don’t think you and he are saying the same thing. Just a few days ago, McCain said the economy was in shambles.

No, really. That’s what he said.

And then, doggone it, you go and say this.

You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”

“We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

Sen. Gramm, let me ask you sir, could you come over here to northwest Tennessee? I can show you about seven empty plants, downtowns with more closed businesses than open ones and … awww, forget about it. You don’t get it. I understand that.

Oh, and now that you are with usB, well, how’s that going?

Sir, I am not a fan. I admit it. But if you are going to be McCain’s economic advisor, maybe you should know about the entire country’s economic condition and not just your rich buddies complaining that poor folks are messing with your good life.

The 12-year-old in me says this: “Bite Me.”

Your truly,

Newscoma

P.S. You might want to talk to Warren Buffett.





Chez Bez Breaks It Down

22 06 2008

Chez Bez gets it about the economy. In his world, he’s been hit hard. As he is Chez Bez, he breaks it down in the way only he knows how to do which is, as usual, eloquent.

There are always those who simply do not tip. “I’ll take care of you later,” they always say. They never do. But then there are the types who are always good for a five, sometimes more. They are the regular travelers who get it. I’m nice to them and help them out; they’re nice to me and they extend the same courtesy in the form of a gratuity. Lately, however, these are the ones who are tipping two bucks where they used to tip five. Fives become twos and sixes become threes. They’re just as nice in demeanor but they’re tighter in tipping.

Midway through my shift yesterday, I decided that what I’m seeing at work is much like how the Titans tend to play ball. They move down the field, striving for that six-point TD, but they all too often settle for that 3-point field goal. I push the cart, carry the luggage, fetch the ice, but when it comes down to it, it’s just more Rob Bironas. I’m gracious, I thank the guest for staying here, and I walk away pushing those two bucks down deep into my pocket, thinking, “Well, ain’t that another kicker.” I guess this is where the other team takes possession of the ball: gas prices, milk and egg prices, etc., their prices just keep rising. My three to their seven. Over and over again.

That’s why we are going to work in a casino. You would know this if you were on Twitter. If economists paid attention to working stiffs like us, we could save the world.





The Energy Crisis

24 05 2008

Vibinc says:

I’ve been trying to write something about the current energy crisis for a week now, and I just can’t seem to wrap my head around all the facets of the issue. Truly, it’s a super deep, wide, and long topic that is so deeply woven in the inner workings of our society that it’s hard to fathom.

It’s the same thing I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to wrap my cranium around solutions but it’s difficult. I guess it’s why I focus on the personal stories that come from the big picture in the area I live and what I see people, including myself, experience. I know how it impacts my local community. I know what people are saying. Hell, it’s all they are talking about here. The cost of gas, the impact on local farming, the impact on family budgets and the sad reality that this isn’t going to change.

It’s big trouble here in rural America already. And I’m at a loss.





Glimpses Into Rural America

13 05 2008

I heard a long discussion last night about politics. Not about the election per se but more about leaders on a statewide/local level paying attention. Most folks I know are so over the election that they were talking about how they are personally making sacrifices due to rising gas prices shooting up over the past two weeks, and how people’s personal budgets have been impacted.

I have said before that probably my most favorite southern delicacy is pickled okra. Not the slimy kind but pickled. You could pickle a Ho Ho and it would delight me to no end. I’m a pickle person and I buy them like a maniac. In the past two weeks, I noticed that a jar of pickled okra went from $2.29 to $3.59. A jar of pickles (Klaussen kosher baby dills) went from $2.79 to $3.89.

Of course, I didn’t get them. I wanted them, but they didn’t jive with the budget. They weren’t necessary. I can do without a frakking jar of pickles. And yes, I’m making a point. It’s not about pickles but you guys are smart. You know where I’m going here.

For folks who don’t pay attention to the individual prices in their grocery budgets, costs are increasing. In cities, public transportation is an option. It’s not in rural America. There is carpooling but that’s not always conducive to getting from point A to point B. To get food to landlocked portions of rural America means that gas has to go in those trucks that bring it. It doesn’t walk here on it’s own.

I work eight miles from my office. I have been walking in the adjoining town I work at (and am feeling all saucy about it) because I’m in walking distance of city hall, the post office and my bank. No reason to crank up the car when I can walk a couple of blocks. But I am, for all practical purposes, on call so if there is a fire or an accident, I gots to motor. Part of the job.

Sometimes, I think Jeffraham has the edge on everyone with his scooter.

One of the women who works for me said due to gas going up and a property tax appraisal that had the price of her home jump about 15 percent, she is looking to eliminate things she doesn’t need. At the top of her list was her cell phone. This year she planted her own garden and thought that might help.

We are sharing food at the office. Some folks don’t eat if we don’t so we do. I wish I were kidding but I’m not.

People are making adjustments.

I heard a man say yesterday that he had gone to the doctor for tests. His portion was $2000 after insurance. The doctor said he needed to go see a neurologist (he never said what was wrong with him.)

He declined to go.

I asked why and he said “I don’t have the money. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.”

“How much money are you looking at?” I asked. “I mean, neurologist sounds pretty big.”

“‘Coma,” he sighed with a faraway look on his face. “It doesn’t matter. There is no money to do this.”

All of this made us ponder about how our local elected officials as well as our state/national guys honestly do not understand the plight of people making lower middle class wages in rural America. This is what I know so that’s what I’m writing about. I’m sure it’s happening everywhere. People are making cuts to deal with extra taxes, higher gas costs and day to day living expenses. They are doing their part in small, and larger ways.

Whether it’s a jar of pickles, a cell phone, carpooling or, sadly, not seeking necessary health care treatment, people are cutting back.

With Mike Padgett and Bob Tuke running for Senate, I think a fine experiment for both of them, as most folks here don’t know what they look like or who they are for that matter, should go out among the natives here and not introduce themselves or ask for a vote. I think they should go and have a beer in a little juke joint or sit in the local restaurant where all the menfolk (yep, that’s what I said) meet everyday at 2 p.m. for coffee and listen to what people are saying.

Not talk at people but listen, really listen, to what average folks are saying. It wouldn’t work for folks already elected unless they went outside their districts (like Roy Herron or Lowe Finney going to Hawkins County or Steve Cohen or Nikki Tinker coming here) but for these guys, it wouldn’t be a photo op but a “real” exploratory effort to find out what rural Tennesseans are discussing.

Outside the comfort zone, and that campers, is what I’m suggesting and just for a couple of days.

We vote too.





Carpooling In Hooterville

3 05 2008

In an effort to save money, I’ve been carpooling. It’s not convenient nor is it fun but I’ve been doing it because right now it’s just a smart thing to do. In a small town and a county that has less people than let’s say Donelson in Nashville or Mid Town in Memphis but much more acreage, there is no public transportation.

You cut where you can.

I’ve heard from three different people asking me why my car has either been sitting in the driveway at Chez Coma or why sometimes I leave it at the office and ride with SQ. When I tell them I’m saving money on gas by riding with someone else or they ride with me, I get some weird looks.

You see, cars and trucks around here are tools and necessary. And for some folks it’s their identity. For me, I could care less as long as I get where I need to be. And I find it so peculiar that me not driving as much has people talking. It’s not that interesting actually.

The one thing about where I live that bugs me is the lack of sidewalks in my neighborhood. When I was a kid, our next door neighbor was plowed over by a car and died just up the road from where I live now. I do not walk on the highways here. It freaks me out. But I digress. (Reliving childhood moment, pardon me for a second.)

When I lived in Montreal and Amsterdam, I walked everywhere and I loved it. I took the trams, the underground, trains and buses. It was no problem and to be honest, I liked it. I was in the best shape of my life. Of course, when taking mass transit, you have to be scheduled or you will be sitting in the middle of nowhere at 3 a.m. I learned that lesson quick. It takes just one time to get it.

Needless to say, reading Brittney Gilbert’s adventures in mass transit makes me a bit nostalgic.

Back to carpooling, it’s something that I believe is saving me some dough-re-mi. And why this is on my mind this morning I have no idea but I do know that it does make a difference as the price of a gallon of gas is something that in my household at least, has to be put into the budget and that even driving 60 miles round trip just up the road goes off in my brain with a cash register ring that says 8 bucks.

I’d get a scooter but Homer and Squirrel Queen have nixed it.

“You will die,” Homer has said more than once. “And I’m not cleaning it up.”

“But it will save gas,” I argue.

“You have no coordination, Newscoma,” Squirrel Queen always says giving Homer a look where I know they’ve been talking about it. “Seriously, you can’t even walk without there being an incident.”

There is truth in this statement so instead of fussing I just do what everyone needs to do at least three times a year.

I pout. It only makes sense.

So, as my car sits at certain times, I’ve decided to make up elaborate reasons of why it’s parked instead of telling the truth that I’m carpooling because for some reason that is beyond my grasp, people just don’t like that answer.

I’ve decided to say Homeland Security is making me park it in a master plan to catch Guatemalan drug dealers.

That’ll get folks talking.





Real Conversations By Real People About Politics

19 04 2008

I’ve talked quite a bit about how I wish we were having a more “adult” presidential campaign right now. It makes me cranky listening to all the political rhetoric when there are more important issues to discuss.

I realize that it’s just not “sexy” to have conversations these days about politics when you aren’t looking somebody in the eye. That’s part of what is missing, I think.

When I’m sitting talking to friends and acquaintances I have who have and will vote differently than I will in November, I find that we never raise our voices, yell obscenities at each other and start threatening to throw fainting goats at the other’s family promoting a riot of some kind here in Hoots.

We have adult conversations. Not always perfect, mind you, but pretty decent.

I find we agree on what needs to be addressed, we just have different ideas on how to fix it and our ideologies on who the best candidate is to take over a government that appears to be nuts right now. Why anyone would want to be president right now is mind-boggling. There is no quick fix.

Where we agree is that the economy is in the toilet, the war in Iraq is a mess and when are we going to have to repay our debt to countries we’ve borrowed money from. Credit card companies will call you when they don’t get paid. We keep wondering when the United States is going to get that call, from let’s say, China.

I wonder what the interest rate will be? I wonder who’s going to pay it. Oh, wait …

We agree that the middle-class in many ways is not the middle-class anymore. We talk about rising gas and food costs. We talk about having health insurance (most of the people I know do) but that we really can’t use it because our health insurance companies won’t let us and the deductibles are killing us when we have to go to the doctor.

So, I mentioned earlier this week about how terrible I thought the Gibsonopolous debate was for both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. They waited nearly an hour to ask about the economy?

Politics is like a chess game. But real people with real problems don’t want to be pawns.

They just want to know when they are going to see light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m usually an optimist about most things, but right now, I’m worried. And if you sit down and look your neighbor in the eye and talk like an adult about the issues this country is facing, regardless of who you think they are, you will find out they are most likely a bit worried too. Or this has been my experience. Sometimes it’s talking to one person at a time where we see our similarities and can put aside our differences.