Having My Cake (and Eating Yours too)

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It almost seems humorous; our nation is steadily losing the battle against obesity yet our news has been plagued with endless stories about the demise of one of the foremost junk-food producers. I am of course referring to the former company of Hostess, keyword being "former" as the final nail is nearly hammered in to the metaphorical coffin. Of course we've known there are problems that have plagued the bakery giant of the past. We were hardly surprised when stories first surfaced about slipping profits, or when they combined with reports of deadlocked disagreements between management and union bosses. After all, this is 2012. We're used to seeing such patterns in our corporate cornerstones. GM had such trouble, yet they received bailouts and continue to lose money produce cars today. Our FannieMae/FreddieMac family of educational lenders is still going through an incredible period of losses, yet they also receive money for no other reason than to keep them from bankruptcy. In fact, it appears this trend is no longer restricted to the private sector, as the USPS posted a whopping $15,900,000,000 loss for the 2012 fiscal year alone. This economic drain that we cannot afford especially now shows just how deeply our economy is wounded. Yet, despite the pain one must admit the validity of the old adage, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Simply put, the USPS lost $5,100,000,000 in the 2011 fiscal year; and $8,500,000,000 in 2010. How surprised can we really be?

But I digress... Back to the death of Hostess, it is in itself really a matter of no long-term concern to the majority. Certainly it may be difficult for some of us to adjust to a life void of any spongy cream-filled cakes. However difficult this loss may be to cope with, somehow I'm sure we'll survive. Yet, if we look at the issue itself that is the cause for this suddenly one likely feels less apt to make a "fat kid no cake" comment. Hostess' bankruptcy is merely a symptom of a much larger, nastier core problem we seem to have. During it's existence, the Hostess bakery was known for producing nothing but empty junk foods. Yet, the irony of this is that it's final act before disintegration was to provide us with something of immense value: a metaphor of our culture.

The union claimed that greedy executives mismanaged funds, deprived the workers in order to line their own pockets, eventually causing all of Hostess' financial woes. Of course, this is hilarious because the union itself takes mandatory dues, and their salaries aren't too shabby either... But back on point, the union then flexed its' muscle by ordering strikes. Likely in hopes of forcing the management to give way to their demands. The strikes may have been effective if the unions had kept them mildly detrimental they showed no such restraint. Their choice to retain a merciless stranglehold on an already struggling corporation left the management no choice but to close down.

The union leadership, regardless of justice or greed being the primary motivation, was not employed by Hostess brands and therefore unaffected regardless of the finale. If they were successful, they kept collecting union dues directly from employees pay to add to their accounts. If they failed, although they may lose some of the dues from the ~18,000 workers laid off chances are most would return. Since they were experienced in an industrial bakery they would likely find employment in another such venue. Their new industrial kitchen would have a good chance of paying dues to the same union that represented them to Hostess management. Thus, it was really a win-win from the perspective of the union. However, this is not the case for those they claimed to defend. The thousands of workers laid off cannot simply deduct funds from other workers to pad their own pockets. They do not have the luxury of simply waiting to take money once others find jobs. They depended on what they had at Hostess, whether it was an honest reflection of their work or scraps tossed from dishonest management.

In 1979, the world was shocked when the "Twinkies Defense" used a seemingly absurd notion to successfully defend the accused. In 2012, I believe we now see the "Twinkies Offense". This  event that seems more humorous than sad is actually neither; it is a sample of what lies ahead. The fate of Hostess brands is a literal depiction of the danger that a helpless populous is in when their leadership becomes self-serving. When an authority acquires absolute control of its' membership, the incentives to actually consider what is best for those represented is destroyed. The authority can ruthlessly pursue its' own goals without concern for the effect on those in its care. Those who have come to complete dependency and submission to the ruling body have no choice but to do as they're told until all is lost. Even if we assume the BCTGM leadership was acting only to pursue justice one cannot deny that their crusade for equality brought only the equal destruction of everyone involved. If the management was doing such unethical things, the union has successfully stopped them now. However, the termination of thousands of workers could never be seen as "worth it" to remove a corrupt few. The disconnection of the unions stability from the stability of those they represented allowed the workers to go from valued clients to expendable pawns being annihilated to make a point.

All this in mind, we can now look for an authoritarian representation becoming increasingly distanced from the interests of those it means to represent. Perhaps showing signs of putting it's own interests above what is best for those supposedly represented? Oh, yes, I do believe I have one already. Though perhaps this one is good too... Of course, the collapse of Hostess only occurred once both sides were willing to sacrifice others for self-interests. Hostess collapsed and was totally disintegrated because those charged with protecting the general worker chose instead to deplete their resources and then discard them. The financial issues may have served as a catalyst, but the sad truth is that both sides chose to protect personal priviledge over their workforce's wellbeing. Of course, our government has one "magic escape" that Hostess and those like it could only dream of. Had Hostess been able to simply print and distribute more money we almost definitely would not have seen the spectacular demise that occurred. Yet, even this would have only delayed the inevitable. Hostess was not slain because a few coffers became empty, Hostess was slain once her coffers were emptied by a few. The question we face now is, what path are we on?

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