Mikulan, Steven


Steven Mikulan is editor of the Frying Pan, a blog on the current economy and our collective efforts to create a new and better one.

Walmart's New Research: A Flattering Self-Portrait

By Steve Mikulan

Last year Walmart commissioned a study on itself, and now its findings can be revealed: Walmart is the greatest thing since penicillin. More specifically, the study sees the chain-store titan’s widening footprint on America’s retail landscape as a gift for the communities lucky enough to have a Supercenter land on them.

Can Chuck Reed's Pension-Cutting Campaign Get Off the Ground?

By Steve Mikulan

Late Monday afternoon California Attorney General Kamala Harris released the state’s official title and summary for the ballot initiative promoted by San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and others to reduce the retirement benefits of state and municipal workers. Harris’ wording had been anxiously awaited by Reed and his colleagues. In 2012 a different group of pension-cutters abandoned their measure, according to the Sacramento Bee, after they tested Harris’ summary and found it would make their measure radioactive at the polls.

McCutcheon v. FEC: "Citizens United" on Steroids

By Steve Mikulan

Frying Pan News

The U.S. Supreme Court's new term, which began yesterday, could spell a world of hurt for working Americans. People who believe this aren't simply looking at worst-case scenarios -- in which, say, the conservative majority sides on every point with plaintiffs represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. No, their view rests on the conservatives' well-established penchant for producing rulings that go far beyond the original cases before the justices - rulings that make laws that didn't previously exist, grant awards that weren't sought and answer briefs that were never filed.

State Gives Struggling Homeowners a “Fighting Shot”

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

You don’t have to be a recent homeowner to know how precarious the housing market has been since the bubble popped in 2007. Consider this, for example: Today half of all San Bernardino County homeowners have to put on scuba gear to view their mortgages. Last week, however, just as that county toyed with the idea of seizing such homes through eminent domain, there was a bright spot. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law (to take effect January 1, 2013) the Homeowner Bill of Rights, a consolidation of several bills that had been strongly pushed by state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

The HBR offers several solid benefits to homeowners, but two stick out:

“Drowning” Government: Be Careful What You Wish For

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

It was Grover Norquist who famously said he wanted to shrink government to a size where he could drown it in a bathtub. Norquist’s Paulist allies in Congress (Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan) show no interest in stopping there, however, and probably would go after the bathtub next – or at least indoor plumbing. Of course, things like indoor plumbing and electricity are some of the creature comforts that were brought to millions of Americans by their federal government decades ago, because private enterprise saw no immediate profit in spreading such “luxury” to everyone.

Without New Deal programs such as the Rural Electrification Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority and Farm Security Administration, many of us might still be sitting in the dark, as well as sitting – well, elsewhere, if you get my drift.

Unions: Our Last, Best and Final Hope

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

File this under the We Couldn’t Have Said It Better Ourselves Department: Op-ed columnist Joe Nocera articulated on the very respectable pages of the New York Times what many of us have known for years: Unions are good for the economy. Well, no – make that, unions are essential for the economy to work for everyone.  Nocera, the famously contrarian business writer, talks about his picket-line-walking parents and his union-solid Rhode Island birthplace – but how, as a member of America’s post-war educated class, he came to view organized labor “with mild disdain.”

Teachers’ Fund Lawyers-Up Against Walmart Brass

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) filed a lawsuit last week against current and former members of Walmart’s board of directors, and other company officers, charging them with gross violation of fiduciary duty in connection with the company’s Mexican bribery scandal. That scandal, extensively examined by a recent New York Times feature, revealed a corporation so eager to expand its Mexican operations that it ignored findings by its own investigators sent to look into the allegations.

“Heist” Chronicles Theft of American Dream

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

Heist, a new film by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher, joins the growing list of angry documentaries chronicling the destruction of America’s economy and its middle class by powerful corporate forces. Like Inside Job and just about any title in the Brave New Films catalog, Heist gets our blood boiling with its money-pile graphics and occasional glib comments exhaled by Wall Street fat cats. Call this genre the Cinema of Outrage.

Subtitled Who Stole the American Dream?, the film breaks away from the pack, however, by drilling deep to explain how we came to find ourselves on the verge of where Argentina was a dozen years ago. The film also eschews conspiracist viewpoints and refuses to offer up, say, Alan Greenspan or the Koch brothers as villainous piñatas for us to vicariously bash.

El Segundo Inc.: Furor Over Chevron’s Sweetheart Deal

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

The skirmish of words in El Segundo over its city manager’s proposal to raise local taxes on that city’s largest business, Chevron Oil, has suddenly become a full-fledged legal war, with the official making explosive accusations against both El Segundo’s government and Chevron. The story, which Donald Cohen has been following for Frying Pan News, began with Doug Willmore’s efforts to bring the giant refinery’s taxes in line with the taxes paid by other California oil companies. Willmore was subsequently fired on February 9 by El Segundo’s city council.

Tea’d Off! Why the Baggers’ Grassroots Aren’t Green

By Steven Mikulan
The Frying Pan

It’s not known if the Tea Party will ever be identified by one color, the way our two dominant political parties are. With red and blue already taken, it’s tempting to guess that the Tea Party would embrace – well, white. In any case, it won’t be green. Consider a February 4 New York Times piece, which spells out the tireless campaign waged by the movement against any legislation tilting toward a sustainable environment. Some of the laws vehemently contested include:

  • A Virginia “county’s paying $1,200 in dues to a nonprofit that consults on sustainability issues.”
  • A Maine public works project designed to ease highway congestion.
  • A high-speed train network for Florida.