Tom Friedman needs a bailout

Even during the pie-ing episode of a few months ago, little attention was paid to Thomas Friedman’s most important connection to Providence.  Not a huge surprise, as he rarely, if ever, discusses his own economic status (and some might say, conflict of interest): He is a billionaire, through his wife, as her family owns General Growth Properties — which happens to own Providence Place Mall.  And also happens to be on the verge of filing for bankruptcy.

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13 thoughts on “Tom Friedman needs a bailout”

  1. Downtown Resident

    You mistake my tone… there is no anger. Again, I read your blog regularly and enjoy it. I also do not disagree that you can feel free to point out whatever you like without (such as a public figure’s financial background) needing to right a discourse on one topic or another…

    That said, I just wanted to highlight what I viewed as the weakness of your suggestion. General Growth was a VERY successful company not long ago, and it is only the recent catastrophic financial crisis that has really crippled them. I think TF’s views came long before the financial crisis of his wife’s family business. Not to mention TF is a very successful author and columnist and has been so for some time, so I don’t think his income is really dependent on his wife’s family money… though we can certainly imagine that has helped him at some point along the way.

    Cheers!

  2. joe bernstein

    One more thing Dave-if you speak to anyone who’s spent a serious amount of time on the street in law enforcement(as opposed to paper pushers)they will tell you that it is essential to have a work persona and your real one.It’s a matter of survival.If you bring the work persona home too often ,you wind up losing your family.Putting on a “prick suit” to deal with things becomes as routine as puitting on shoes.Not to mean that everyone you dealt with got treated the same.No “one size fits all” in that occupation.After a total of 26 years of going head on with hostile people,it’s hard to say it has no lasting effects.People who work in ER’s hospices,etc also need a work personality so they can live a normal life outside work.

  3. joe bernstein

    Dave-in the “aether” or real world,I saved a severe attitude for the really dangerous people I had to deal with on numerous occasions.
    I pretty much react to how people act with me-if they’re courteous,I have no right to be otherwise,and running into you and Matt,Pat,etc.in person was okay -we just have different ideas.
    The only thing I don’t tolerate is a flat-out lie,which I would never accuse you of anyway.
    It’s nice to know Miller pays well.My son-in-law is a commercial pilot and due to the great economy he is a restaurant worker,hence some personal interest.
    My son is a union worker and he gets his health benefits,such as they are from the union.He’s not exactly rolling in money and has a little daughter to support so I don’t come on from the perspective of an economic elitist.I actually have a modest income,but I have no complaints personally.I do,however think that helping people in my family takes a priority over strangers,so I get resentful at those who would take more from what I get in income to use for whatever “they”think is best.
    Believe it or not,my wife and I contribute to such reactionary things as a children’s hospital,food banks,and her church,which is a middle of the road Protestant denomination.
    My sometimes belligerent attitude on blogs is the result of seeing things in print that are just not correct based on my personal observations.I’ve been attacked personally by people I had never written to and never heard of and accused of being a lot of things I’m not,so it cuts both ways .
    I’d be glad to tell you “off air” about the company I mentioned,because it’s some years ago and I don’t know if the conditions any longer exist.
    Your comment about Miller paying well kind of illustrates the current disaster inthe auto industry.Foreign automakers in the US aren’t laying off and are actually making money.They are all non-union I believe.What they are doing is paying well and providing benefits.I have no idea how their retirement systems stack up against the “Big Three”.Part of it also is that Detroit has been making less reliable cars than,Toyota,Subaru,etc.
    NAFTA was the worst economic move the US ever made.You can buy a Ford made in Canada or Mexico or a Toyota made in Kentucky.Which would you buy?
    Dave-stay on the back of National Grid-their attempt to pass on the cost of ADVERTISING for gas heat to customers was like mugging someone and then complaining that your hand got bruised ebating them up.

  4. Joe-This is what I’ve always longed for — a dialogue, sans the ad hominems: Your blog persona is far more severe than your being out in the aether, with its admirably gentle affectations. Why the divergence in your personality?

    Yes, there are unions that organize restaurant employees — Unite-HERE Local 217, if you’re worried about workers in Providence. If you care to, you’re welcome to help their efforts, as they are perpetually under-staffed. (And I’d be happy to learn more about the particular jewelery manufacturers of whom you’re concerned.)

    Were Josh’s employees to care to organize, I’m sure he’d not contest their efforts — he’s made a point of using union labor for the various build-outs of his venues. And, yes, he pays okay besides…

    And jewelry workers, in part, aren’t super-organized because the very same globalization that Tom Friedman promotes screws over people employed in manufacturing.

    And, you know that Joe…

  5. joe bernstein

    David-I ask one question repeatedly and no one answers it-I don’t think I ever posed it to you.I hear a lot about organizing janitors.Okay-I don’t see a problem there.But why are restaurant and jewelry workers never organized?The fast food industry pays shit(and also serves shit)-the better restaurants use a lot of Johnson&Wales “slave labor” students-I am sure they pay well below the prevailing wage in cities that don’t have monstrous culinary schools.
    The jewelry industry uses extremely dangerous chemicals,often with minimal precautions-exposing pregnant women along the way.This is not open to argument as I have witnessed it first hand.I left a job in that industry because of the things I saw that I wanted no responsibility for and which management wouldn’t correct.
    When I put this question to Matt Jerzyk-total silence.Amazing,because Matt is never at a loss for words.I see Josh Miller touted as a “progressive”.Are his two restaurants unionized?Maybe he pays exceptionally wages :)).

  6. As a State Rep, I need to disclose my sources of income, and would have to disclose those of my family too, if I had one. And with good reason. In practice, Tom Friedman has far more influence than do I, or most elected officials, yet you get angry at my noting the source of income of this very powerful political pundit — which it’s reasonable to assume might influence his writing — and illuminating his strange connection to Providence.

    As I read his columns about the bailout or globalization or whatever, which I occasionally do, I think it’s worth knowing that he has a particular personal stake in maintaining a prevalence of cheap labor; that the primary source of his wealth is in desperate need of an influx of cash; that he benefits from millions of dollars in local tax breaks; that his family has discretion over the well-being of scores of workers even here in RI, etc.

    I think that it is quite alright to mention these things, in one out of thousands of posts on this blog…

    And that’s what this post does. It’s a blog. Not every post is a tome, or an economics dissertation. (There’s plenty of discussion of that too, on here and on RIFuture, which you’re welcome to read.) Tom Friedman will survive. A few more people will carry an interesting piece of information in their heads. And they’ll have a deeper sense of context next time, say, that the mall’s janitors are fighting for a better contract there.

  7. Downtown Resident

    I have to agree with Joe Bernstein… DS you essentially say nothing in your initial piece except throw out a few tangled facts and make weak assumptions that due to his wife’s family’s company, TF’s ideas are mere marketing based instead of based in earnest thought or research. You are also targeting the lowest common denominator of liberal thought… i.e. those that would rather watch a well known pundit get pied in the face by a few college students, instead of rolling up their own sleaves and putting forth reasoned counterarguments to combat Mr. Friedman’s core assertions.

    And really… who pies? Was it key lime or what?

  8. joe bernstein

    Dave -I am NOT carrying water for billionaires and sometimes you are right on issues and I’m not hesitant to say so.But you are really quick on the trigger about who’s a racist,facist,homophobe,etc,etc and I think you sometimes jump into issues without looking for where the rocks are .
    Please don’t tell me you are just a writer on a “petty blog”.For better or worse you are a legislator with a degree of responsibility for the (among other things)financial impact of taxes and deficits on the state’s citizens.
    Where did you get the impression I favor billionaires over unions?I never discuss the issue,but I am hardly anti-union.
    I actually don’t read Mr.Friedman’s writings because his appearances on the tube have been unimpressive.
    Did you ever read Robert Kaplan?You don’t have to buy into his conclusions,but his observations on the ground in various parts of the world(including here) are hard to dispute.Some large degree of his prognostications in earlier books have come to pass,unfortunately.
    I don’t go to Providence Place Mall to shop anyway if I can possibly avoid it.

  9. 1) I know I’m judgmental. (How dare I — via a post on a petty blog, to be read by a few hundred — judge a billionaire who writes opinion pieces for the Earth’s newspaper of note?)

    2) Before you judge those who judge, you should talk to the janitors’ union about Providence Place Mall…

  10. joe bernstein

    Oh,I guess there are no “progressive youth” at Brown and RISD living the good life off the backs of thousands exploited by their parents?
    And BTW I don’t even care for Friedman and his globalization shtick.I saw the future in the 1950’s when my dad lost his job in a shoe factory due to foreign undercutting.Exept for WW2 it was what he’d done his whole life.We had some hard times behind that for a while.So I was just making a point about casting the first stone,etc.by young Mr.Segal ,because he’s so judgmental and doesn’t even know it.I’m frequently a miserable prick,but I’m well aware of that.

  11. iron lungfish

    What is your point?He isn’t running sweat shops in Honduras,is he?

    I’m guessing the point is that Thomas Friedman’s constant pro-globalization cheerleading happens to personally benefit him to the extent that pro-corporate trade agreements benefit his wife’s company, but he doesn’t exactly disclose this in his books and columns. Friedman’s line is that the almighty market is beautiful because it will enrich the lives of Americans and impoverished foreigners alike, not because it happens to have made Thomas Friedman a very wealthy man.

    As for sweatshops, Friedman’s entire schtick is sweatshop-promotion – the notion that the growth of unregulated labor in the developing world, without labor or environmental standards, will better the lives of impoverished people. Never mind that it’s not the sweatshop workers themselves, but the companies they work for, who’re making all the money.

  12. joe bernstein

    He’s a private citizen.And he’s wealthy.Is he gulty of something?What is your point?He isn’t running sweat shops in Honduras,is he?

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