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December 13, 1988 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1988-12-13

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OPINION

Page 4 Tuesday, December 13, 1988 The Michigan Daily

q

Ea ed btdenta Uiversit y
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Soaking

the poor

Vol. IC, No.67

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Unsigned editorials represent a majority of the Daily's Editorial Board. All other
cartoons, signed articles, and letters do not necessarily represent the opinion
of the Daily.

UnCo-operative

LAST THURSDAY, the Ann Arbor
People's Food. Co-op went to court,
arguing that it was a non-profit organi-
zation and not a cooperative. It seems
that this is not merely a semantic
.change.
In recent years, the People's Food
Cooperative, Inc. has become less of
an organization run by its membership
and more of an organization dedicated
to operating as any other grocery store.
Organizational changes have moved the
store toward the same markets that
Kroger would target.
For this reason, the Co-op started
selling items such as Progresso Soup,
Breyer's and Haagen Daaz ice cream
and Bernel cottage cheese and potato
salad, while foods not normally found
in a supermarket are two to four times
as expensive as Bernel foods, for in-
stance.
While the pricing policy favors foods
such as Haagen Daaz, organizational
policies are aimed at making the Co-op
inore hierarchical. The last three annual
:neetings of the membership - the
only time that members can exercise
their decision-making powers -were
farcical because the information af-
forded to the membership about these
meetings was minimal or non-existent.
Minutes for the last three meetings are
two paragraphs long each and contain
'obvious factual inaccuracies regarding
the time and people presiding. In addi-
tion, the March, 1988 meeting did not
even have a quorum of 50 people. Nor
was there any notice of the issues to be
discussed at the meeting. According to
the Co-op's by-laws available in the
Member Handbook, the whole mem-
bership must be informed of issues to
come up before there can be a decision
reached. This is to ensure that those
,Oho care about certain issues will
hmow that these issues are coming up

and can attend the meeting.
In addition, to the food pricing poli-
cies and organizational weaknesses of
the Co-op, the membership itself is in-
creasingly restricted. In 1978, mem-
bers could work four hours a month or
pay a membership fee. In 1980, mem-
bers joined for as long as desired for a
12 dollar loan to the Co-op. In 1981,
the Board of Directors raised the
requirements of membership to a 12
dollar annual fee. In 1986, three Co-op
officials unilaterally changed the policy
to a 60 dollar loan and convinced the
membership to approve..
Since then, the Co-op has moved in
an ever more capital-intensive direction
at the expense of food prices and
membership fees. Ideas such as buying
cash registers that are computerized to
keep track of each member's purchases
put unnecessary pressure on food
prices and member pocketbooks.
The People's Food Co-op sports a
name and written "Statement of Pur-
pose, " also available in the Member-
ship Handbook, that attracts support
from the community. It now seems that
the veneer of membership input and
values is but another marketing ploy
because the Board of Directors in-
creasingly ignores the "Statement of
Purpose" in actual practice.
The Co-op is neither a Co-op nor a
responsible corporation, which would
at least have to keep its shareholders
informed of important business matters
and hold well-organized shareholder
meetings. The newsletter of the Co-op
treats issues that genuinely reflect the
values of the Co-op membership, but it
does not provide meaningful informa-
tion to the membership on the internal
workings of the Co-op. Meetings and
reports are not readily available and
surveys and meetings of the member-
ship either do not happen or happen in
fashions counter to democracy.

By Mark R. Greer
After years and years of cuts in aid to
indigent families, massive reductions in
housing subsidies for the homeless and
severe cutbacks in federal aid to education,
we might winder what more our govern-
ment could possibly do to make the plight
of the poor in our country cven worse.
Always searching for new avenues and
creative ways of impoverishing the indi-
gent and the working class, the cadre of
public policy "experts" advising the gov-
ernment has found a vehicle to oppress the
poor where we would least expect them to
turi one up - the federal tax system, tra-
ditionally an institution that has (mildly)
redistributed income from the rich to the
poor by levying a higher tax rate on the
former than on the latter.
All of the talk about restructuring the
federal tax system in Washington these
days centers on imposing consumption
taxes, both as a means of reducing the
federal budget deficit and of promoting ef-
ficiency and output in the economy. What
all consumption taxes share in common is
that they take from the poor and give to
the rich. Under a consumption tax scheme,
the lower one's income is, the greater is
the fraction of her income paid in taxes,
since poor people must spend a higher
proportion of their income on the necessi-
ties of life (food, clothing, shelter, etc.)
than rich people do. No wonder that con-
sumption taxes are in such favor among
conservative policy advisors these days.
But what makes this matter even more
Mark Greer is a doctoral candidate in
Economics and Vice-President of Rackham
Student Government.

disturbing is that there is virtually no dis-
sent from taxing the poor anywhere within
the mainstream of public policy debate.
Even liberal economists and policy advi-
sors have embraced this backward, regres-
sive proposal, and their doing so appears
to stem largely from the perceived unpop-

that the theory used to guide national eco-
nomic policy is well reasoned and some-
what realistic, we find instead that the
cutting edge of this theory is a
mathematical model of a one person
(Robinson Crusoe) economy where Mr.
Crusoe lives forever and knows the precise

'Now that advocating traditionally liberal positions prevents
one from obtaining highly-paid, prestigious policy jobs, the so-
called liberals have jumped on board the Reagan bandwagon.'

ularity of traditionally liberal policy pre-
scriptions today. The liberals' abandon-
ment of their traditional policy positions
clearly reveals how superficial and phony
their commitment to helping the poor has
been all along. Now that advocating tradi-
tionally liberal positions prevents one
from obtaining highly-paid, prestigious
policy jobs, the so-called liberals have
jumped on board the Reagan bandwagon.
The regressive character of contemporary
liberalism also demonstrates how far to
the right mainstream public policy theory
has shifted in recent years.
An examination of the theoretical -un-
derpinnings of contemporary economic
policy prescriptions should make us ques-
tion whether these policies are truly moti-
vated by a belief that taxing the poor will
raise economic efficiency and output.
Mainstream (neoclassical) economic the-
ory, a theory involving suspect theoretical
assumptions and having a fairly dismal
record predicting economic.ouicomes, is
commonly used to justify consumption
taxes. Although we might like to believe

numeric probability of each conceivable
occurrence in the future. (If the reader
finds this too ridiculous to believe, see
Thomas Sargent, Macroeconomic Theory,
Chapter 16.) This may explain why
mainstream economists have been unable,
since the late 1960s, to "predict" reces-
sions until three months after they started,
on average. (See Business Week, 1/12/87)
Certainly, those pushing for consump-
tion taxes must be aware of the. silly ideas
behind and disappointing predictive track
record of the theory used to legitimize
their position. So it appears doubtful that
politicians are really following the advice
of the "experts." Instead, the relationship
goes the other way; those holding political
power and influence use their hired
economists/lackies to justify their policies
in the eyes of the electorate. Of course, we
should also suspect that perhaps policy
makers, both Democrat and Republican,
are not motivated by a sincere belief that
taxing the poor will increase economic
output; rather their intention may be
solely to promote the interests of the rich.

4

Objective historyamyth

4

Avoid the Noid

TOM MONAGHAN, the president of
Domino's Pizza, donated $50,000 to
the Campaign to End Tax-Funded
Abortions. Although spokespersons
for the company quickly assured the
public that the donation was personal
and not corporate, considering that
Monaghan owns 97 percent of
Domino's, the money clearly came
from the corporation.
People must be made aware what the.
money they spend on Domino's pizza
goes for. This donation, to an organi-
zation whose purpose was to deny
poor women the financial means for an
abortion, is only another step in
Domino's pattern of personal-rights
violations.
Last year, an employee was fired be-
cause his hair was longer than
Domino's dress code allows. Women
are allowed to have long hair, but male
employees, even in jobs which do not
involve contact with the public, may
not. A sexual discrimination suit is
pending.
"Domino's drug testing program is
one of the most severe in the country.
It mandates testing for any employee in
line for a promotion, or "for cause."
The policy affects 30,000 employees in
six countries.
:Monaghan spends vast amounts of
rmoney on various projects, with a
conspicuous consumption rivaling
Donald Trump's. Last year he spent
hundreds of thousands on Christmas
lights at Domino's Farms which
geated serious traffic problems and
caused the Coalition of Concerned
Neighbors living in Ann Arbor
Township to protest. He spent $150
m~illion on the~ vast cornorate

great many of his "socially active" ef-
forts are seriously flawed. He dis-
tributed excerpts from anti-drug articles
on his pizza boxes. Although this one
action may seem positive, the capability
to distribute any propaganda he wishes
is insidious.
His franchise in Honduras, whose
profits go to the Catholic Church, pays
starvation wages and exploits Hon-
duran labor. When the' franchise
opened, a Domino's spokesperson said
that it's intent was to "spread American
entrepreneurship to Third World coun-
tries." This exportation of American
capitalism is part of a systematic op-
pression of underdeveloped nations.
Monaghan has huge influence over
Ann Arbor's media and power struc-
ture. The Ann Arbor Township board
has given Domino's Farms three zon-
ing exemptions and a 5-year property
tax abatement which costs the city
$97,000 a year.
His Board of Directors includes
Former Regent Eugene Power, whose
family controls a chain of newspapers
and has a great deal of influence at the
University, Bo Schembechler, John
Fetzer, former Tigers owner and owner
of a chain of radio and television sta-
tions, and two University business
professors. There are no women.
Monaghan, through Domino's and
his real-estate company, Tom S. Mon-
aghan Inc., owns the sports cable sta-
tion PASS, a satellite, the Marriot Inn,.
and various other pieces of real estate.
He is also on the board of directors of
the National Bank of Detroit. He funds
an architecture professorship at the
University and organizes most of the

Howard Zinn, professor of Political Sci-
ence at Boston University, has authored
numerous books on U.S. history, most
notably A People's History of the United
States. Zinn, who will be speaking at 4
p.m. today at Rackham Auditorium, spoke
earlier with Daily staffer Jonathan Scott.
D:What is the most valuable lesson
grassroots student activist groups can learn
from the student movements of the 1960s
and 70s?
Z:Well, I think the most important thing
they can learn is not to despair because the
movement seems small and impotent, be-
cause it seems small as if you're not get-
ting anywhere, it seems as if, well, the
same presidents are being elected over and
over again, or the same policies are being
followed, or the supreme court is looking
worse and worse. It's very important to
understand from the history of so'cial
movements that movements fail, fail, fail,
fail; but if they persist, the common sense
of people overcome those failures and
movements grow, and the facts, the reali-
ties come through. And that if you're pa-
tient enough, if you work hard enough, if
you stick at what you're doing, if you
don't despair, that you will make changes
in society.
The civil rights movement and the anti-
war movement are good examples of that,
as is the feminist movement. That is, they
looked as though they were helpless
movements - didn't look as though the
civil rights movement could possibly
succeed: a handful of poor Black people
against the entire police forces of the
South and the negligence of the federal
government. But they persisted and they
grew and they developed an appeal to huge
numbers of people which overwhelmed the
opposition.
The same thing with the anti-war
movement - that ultimately the truth
came out because people persisted, and the
movement that looked as if it could not
stop the war ended up as succeeding. And
this very unusual event - that is, an in-
ternal anti-war movement - caused the
most powerful government in the world to
turn back from its policy of continuing
the War.
And the women's movement, again,
succeeded in changing the consciousness
of a whole country on issues of sex and
sexual equality. Of course none of these

of faith in the continuation of the struggle
- no matter how long it takes - that is
the most important thing one can learn
from past struggles.
D: To what extent has racism. - the per-
petuation of racist myths and stereotypes.
-.acted in the U.S. to divide and separate
certain groups that have much in common
economically and would gain by joining
together in a unified effort?
Z: Well, that probably has been the key.
factor in the United States in keeping the
working classes in this country apart. In
the South it kept poor whites and poor
Blacks .at odds with one another,. and
racism became a modelist device for divid-
ing a group that, if it could have gotten
together, could have transformed the
South.
The populous movement at that mo-
ment in American history in the 19th-
century when, for briefly, poor whites and
poor Black farmers got together, there was
that potential for creating a great move-
ment, but racism destroyed it.
So racism has been a very undermining
factor in trying to bring about important
social change'in this country. It is alive,
as you can see by what happened in the
recent presidential campaign where racism
pushed aside the most exciting candidate in
the country and brought to the floor two
mediocre candidates among whom we then
had to choose.
D: There have been charges against the
Michigan Daily that the paper's news
policy deviates from an objective standard
of journalism. Do the same unspoken
rules that you say underlie the writing of
history also apply to news reporting ?
Z: It's interesting because the field of
journalism is very similar to the field of
history in that you have people who are
reporting on what has happened,,except
historians report on events of the distant
past whereas a reporter is reporting on _

events of the immediate past. But what is
quite clear is that the reporter chooses, of
the editor chooses out of an enormous
number of events that have just takeq
place -: chooses which events to even
write about. That in itself is a departure 4
from objectivity. The Times claims "all
the news that fit to print." Obviously it's
not true. No matter how many pages of
close, small print . that the Times gives
you, it is.not printing all the news that's
fit to print. It is printing all the news that
its editors have seen fit to print.
The same thing holds true of any,
newspaper and it's true with any historian;
We're faced with an infinite number of
facts - an infinite amount of information
- and the historian, like the journalist,
selects out of that what he/she considers
important. Everybody should understand
that so there's no pretense about it. Of
course you have an obligation not to hide:
things that are embarrassing to you, or
embarrassing to people who employ you,
or embarrassing. to the nation you belong
to, or embarrassing to some set of ideas
that you uphold.
You have an obligation to be honest but
that honesty does not do away with the
problem of selecting what subjects to deal
with, and, when you deal with those
subjects, deciding what in that story you'll
emphasize. Everybody should know this
when they approach a newspaper - ev
erybody should know this when they ap-
proach history: that there is no such thing
as objective history; no such thing as ob-
jective reporting; that everything is a se-
lection.
So as long as the reader understands this
then he is forewarned; then he looks for
other sources; -then he joins - to this
particular interpretation.by this reporter -
he joins other interpretations. Then out of
these various interpretations he comes to-
his or her own conclusion. That's the
closest you can get to objectivity: taking a
multiplicity of subjectivities and making
up your own mind.

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