My Summer of Discontent with Philly Sports

As the two run homer left Citizens Bank Park in the 10th inning of a sweltering Memorial Day baseball game, I uttered the obvious- “the Phillies are going to lose this game 5-4.” Now the Giants actual lead at that moment was only 5-3, but I knew that the Phillies would score their “ghost runner” from second in the bottom of the tenth, and nothing more. If there is a rule with the 2022 Phillies, it is that they will lose in the most excruciating way they can find. Inside I asked myself why I put myself through this. I knew exactly how it would end.

Today, 97.5 the Phanatic’s prime time afternoon host Mike Missanelli announced he was leaving the station. This is sad because he’s the only host in the city that can consistently talk about a team besides the Eagles. Look, I love the Birds, but hearing how every season “is going to be the year,” only to watch them again limp into the playoffs and get beat on gets old. Call me when they have their franchise QB (which I see zero signs that they do now). I suppose this is better than watching future Hall-of-Famers and real MVP’s Joel Embiid and Bryce Harper waste history making seasons in cultures of mediocrity repeatedly. And you know, all three are better situations than the decade plus of absolutely pathetic slop of trash hockey the Flyers have given us. Honestly, ratings and attendance at the games suggest their fan base is down to the true die-hards of what was once the most consistent fan base in hockey. And the Union, you ask? They are a very nice team, but it will take a championship to make Philadelphia buy fully into MLS Soccer, at least, and all we’ve seen so far is they can get heartbreakingly close and come up short too. See though, this is what I loved about Missanelli’s show- he satisfied my craving for a full beating as a Philadelphia fan for all of my teams constantly disappointing me. Everybody else just wants to shovel me garbage faith about the Eagles.

It’s really hard to be a Philadelphia sports fan right now. After a cowardly performance against the most-hated New York Mets over the weekend, the Phillies basically look to be eliminated by Memorial Day week. I have no faith in the Eagles and my confidence in the Sixers is shot. The other two teams are who again? Now they’re taking the entertainment away from us too. And you see, to be a Philadelphia fan, you can’t really not care. You might watch less or gripe and complain, but the passion required for it requires that you are still checking the score on your phone, still cheering against the teams you hate, and still mad that things suck like they do. Worse yet, you know when you end your short protest of how bad things are, things will generally be the same. Poor coaching, busted draft picks, and some guy named Big Tony calling into the radio predicting the Eagles are going 15-2. And you’ll tolerate every bit of it, again and again, because you must. That’s what being a Philly fan is.

Hey though, at least Monday’s game got me a bit of a tan.

Unions are Good

Early in Joe Biden’s Administration there was talk of raising the federal minimum wage to $15. This would more than double the minimum wage that we have both federally and here in Pennsylvania. Many states and cities, and in fact federal contractors, enjoy a higher minimum wage than the current $7.25 an hour. Even so, Bernie Sanders $15/hr. minimum wage amendment to the Covid relief bill failed with just 42 Senate votes. There was discussion of a $12/hr. minimum wage bill being put through under regular order, on a bipartisan basis, but that talk has subsided. Congress again showed that they can’t pass focused, consensus bills that are popular, because they are a broken institution, even when run by the good guys.

A funny thing has happened in the time since though. Unemployment has fallen, and wages have risen. A labor market that desperately needs new workers (thanks to 15 years of failing to address immigration, in part) suddenly finds itself having to pay workers more to find enough people to keep the supply chain moving. These rising wages in an economy re-opening after Covid has supercharged demand at a time when we lack supply, and when you combine that with “corporate greed” (in this case to make up lost profits in the pandemic), you get inflation at rates we haven’t really seen during my 39 years of life. The inflation has eaten the wage gains, and what’s worse is that in the short-term the jobs and wages booms in the Biden economy are making the problem worse (the long term is likely better). This is a cold reality for middle class workers in the post-pandemic economy seeing their wage increases crushed by a dollar that just isn’t going as far for their core needs.

There are fixes the government could do, but most of them take time. One thing that suddenly doesn’t look like a reasonable fix to an overheated economy is just raising the federal minimum wage. Had we done $15 an hour early in 2021, inflation might be worse, and we’d already be debating if we needed to do another increase now. What we are finding out is that the government has limited to no ability to quickly address bust to boom economic cycles on it’s own. This should *not* be read as opposition to raising the minimum wage (Congress should have taken $12/hr. after failing to get $15/hr.), efforts to decrease the cost of energy (both through releasing oil reserves AND subsidizing clean, alternative energy), capping insulin prices and increasing ACA subsidies, or any of the actions the Administration has proposed to help slow down inflation- Congress should do their job and pass them all. What I am saying is that government action takes time, sometimes a year or more, to start making people feel better in everyday life. Washington is slow, policies take time to connect to the public, and that’s a bad combination to deal with a hurting working class in America. Government can’t be your whole answer.

During the 2020 Presidential primaries national trade unions came out against “Medicare for All,” not because they opposed universal care, but because the expanded health insurance’s quality would be lesser than the health insurance most of them had won at the collective bargaining table. As I’ve thought about the issue of wages and costs, I can’t help but think that the most direct and fast place to deal with declining wage value is at the negotiating table between employers and workers, if it was even possible. With closer to a century now of declining labor power in this country, the overwhelming majority of employees in this country have no collective bargaining power at all, and therefore no faster way to address a labor market that does not meet their needs. Increasingly less and less workers are even classified as employees, much less full-time employees, let alone employees represented in a bargaining unit. This leaves more and more workers dependent on government actions to address labor market failures, from lacking insurance and overtime rights, to real-time declining wages. Even if Congress was a functioning institution, this is simply an insufficient way to meet the demands and needs of our population in a satisfactory manner. With whatever functionality they have, the Washington leadership class should try to strengthen non-government institutions like labor unions, to be able to more promptly meet the needs of our laboring class. They’re more responsive in prompt fashion, and they can more acutely meet the needs of the public. If capital owners can organize (think the Chamber of Commerce), certainly workers should be able to freely do so too. If our work force was organized and able to directly voice their needs in negotiation, they could address the market failures causing them issues in their lives.

Make unions great again, Congress.