Thursday, September 08, 2011

On The Money

Tonight President Obama unveils his jobs plan before Congress. He expects the Hill to join him on a "pivot" from the economy in general to creating jobs in particular. Both are woefully late to the program. Creating jobs and getting Americans back to work should have been at the top of the list of priorities, not the bottom, but our elected officials felt that the banks and Wall Street were much more important than the rest of us. Apparently they've discovered that there ain't any such animal as a jobless recovery in the planet's book of species. Finally.

The shift, coming as it does the week of Labor Day is somewhat fortuitous, but mostly just coincidental, I fear. Labor just isn't as interesting to our owners as it should be. And that certainly is not a new phenomenon, as an excellent column written by Tom Eblen for the Lexington Herald-Leader and featured at McClatchy DC points out. That attitude has resulted in the downward slippage of those of us who work (as opposed to those who own). Mr. Eblen points out that paralleling the decline of the Middle Class has been the decline of unions and the increase in union bashing.

Economic and political forces have hammered working people. Real income for the bottom 80 percent of Americans has been stagnant or falling since the late 1970s. Few paid much attention until the 2008 financial crisis, because the trends were masked by rising personal and government debt.

During these years of middle-class decline, it has been fashionable to bash labor unions. Perhaps that is because people take for granted the things unions fought to make part of the American workplace — the eight-hour work day, overtime pay, the minimum wage, unemployment insurance and safe working conditions. Unions led the fight to end child labor and discrimination against minorities and women. They played a big role in creating Social Security and other government safety-net programs. ...

Unions have plenty of flaws; all institutions do. But they serve an important role in balancing the power of business. Power without balance becomes abusive. We have seen that with business, labor, government and even churches. It is no coincidence that the decline of middle-class income and security over the past three decades has followed the declining influence of organized labor.
[Emphasis added]

And the union bashing has picked up steam even as the unemployment figures continue to be dismal. Newly elected governors in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan have explicitly targeted public sector unions, aiming to remove even the most minimal of protections fought for in contracts. And no one in government at any level has cried out against the abuses that have ensued. Eblen addresses that factor as well:

The deep economic hole that politicians are debating how to fill was caused mostly by financial speculation, unfunded wars of choice and irresponsible tax cuts. But you hear little talk in Washington about a crackdown on Wall Street, real tax reform or scaling back military adventurism.

That is because wealthy interests have largely taken over both political parties. Democrats still give lip service to the middle class and poor, but the GOP has become a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America.


Until working people figure out the scam, we're doomed to nothing more than the crumbs from our owners' table, and then only if we show we're suitably grateful. What has worked in the past, banding together so that our power is magnified, will work again, but only if we actually band together. We need to reach that point again, and soon.

Very soon.

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