Coupon Power! Is The Right To Sue More Important Than Jobs?

Why can the American public not save jobs, stop the sell-off of public property at bargain rates to private interests, protect our private records, halt the sale of Uzies for recreational purposes, or have traffic laws enforced?

We did win one fight. We managed to make General Mills, with its nearly $18 billion in annual sales, back down after it changed its coupon policies, so let’s find a way to use the power of public opinion for greater good. Please use the reply box at the bottom of this blog to provide suggestions – you won’t forego any rights if you do.

A bit of background, if necessary: General Mills established a new requirement that disputes from those using its “benefits,” including coupons, would have to be submitted to binding arbitration rather than the courts, but after four days of backlash, the company behind brands like Cheerios, Wheaties and Pillsbury, was so scared that it will allow us to sue it again, as Stephanie Strom of the N.Y. Times reported.

If the public is able to weigh in with such force to maintain its right to be litigious — a right most of us will never use — how can we use the weight of public opinion to persuade corporations, and even our problematic local, state and federal governments, to take measures more likely to be of greater worth to us, like promoting job growth and a reliable banking system?

Could we use our power to persuade Sallie Mae, the student loan firm, to bring ALL its jobs back to the U.S. and hire the students and parents who are its customers and wealth source? Could consumers target a corporation that announces job layoffs at the same time it increases executive salaries exponentially? Would our politicians and the interests that own them take note that the natives are finally restless?

Surely part of the reason why we do not recognize and claim our public clout for greater good is a lack of focus – unemployment is a more complex issue than the right to sue, and the corporate-government alliance that has decimated U.S. manufacturing is murkier and more diffuse than one corporation, even the mega-sized General Mills. As is the case with General Mills, it would have to be one corporation at a time and we would have to protest layoffs that don’t involve ourselves.

To be fair to processed food companies, they are struggling in the courts. Strom pointed out in her earlier story that General Mills has been plagued by suits – like the one it settled in late 2012 when it had to take the world “strawberry” off the label for its Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups because the product did not contain strawberries.

Even now the Supreme Court is considering arguments over whether Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid brand misled consumers when it put only traces of pomegranate and blueberry in its pomegranate-blueberry blend. Coke’s lawyer said the public was too sophisticated to be misled by its label. After Justice Anthony Kennedy told her that he himself had thought it was pomegranate juice, Justice Antonin Scalia opined that Justice Kennedy “sometimes doesn’t read closely enough.” It sounded like a rare day of fun for the justices.

Would Americans be galvanized to action if what sophisticated writers call “the hallowing out of the middle class” involved saving fifty cents off a box of cereal or provoking some laughs? As it is, thanks to General Mills’ capitulation we should be able to sue processed food companies for some time and the good will generated by Poppin’ Fresh, better known as the Pillsbury Doughboy, has been restored.

Bloomberg Packs Heat, Obscures Light

On January 1, 2014 Michael Bloomberg will no longer be mayor of New York City, but he will continue to pick at the threads of the nation’s social safety net in indirect and almost untraceable ways.

The question is whether Bloomberg does it deliberately or not. Clearly he is working against elected Democrats in red states and thereby he assists Republicans who are not friendly to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits or gun regulation.

In 2006 Bloomberg co-founded Mayors Against Illegal Guns with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and became its largest funder. Its admirable mission is to promote public safety by cracking down on illegal firearms. Spurred by horrific homicides in the intervening years, the group has grown from an initial 15 to one thousand mayors in 46 states, including four in Arkansas, a state that increasingly leans toward Republicans.

Trouble began when, with Bloomberg-like gusto, this group took shotgun aim at those who did not rally to their dictates. These included moderate politicians in red states who declined to support unpopular legislation to restrict gun ownership, including background checks. This story unfolded around the nation throughout 2013, but the N.Y. Times just reported that Bloomberg’s aides were warned that they are endangering Democrats’ political chances. If Democrats lose, Republicans win, and their platform is not friendly to gun restrictions.

Former President Bill Clinton phoned Howard Wolfson, Bloomberg’s Deputy Mayor for Government Affairs and Communications, to request that the Bloomberg group drop its ads against Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, a beleaguered Democrat facing re-election in Clinton’s native state. Request denied. The ads ran. Pryor may have scored points with his constituents with his retort that he did not take orders from Bloomberg or New York City. We will find out next November when Arkansans either let him keep his Senate seat or award it to a Republican. I am betting that Pryor’s opponent won’t back gun restrictions either. Does Bloomberg think that far? He would if he truly cared about this issue or if he cared enough to hire people who could think effectively. Is Bloomberg aiming for gun restrictions or for a Republican majority? No one should count on his being a straight shooter, even with a $31 billion fortune in ammo. The people of New York City and the nation are not rid of him by a long shot.