Archive for the ‘Labor’ Category

I’m having a tough time with something and I invite anyone to help me understand what’s going on with our economy.

We’ve got high unemployment and rampant under-employment; falling wages; an increasing concentration of wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands; a lack of career opportunities for recent graduates who are crushed under the weight of college loans that could follow them forever; an increase in poverty rates coupled with a decrease in socioeconomic and class mobility; tragically high incarceration rates; and, perhaps most startling, the unwillingness of our politicians to acknowledge what’s going on.

To look at it another way, the purpose of our economy is not to hire workers but to produce goods and services. In fact, if goods and services could be produced without any workers at all it would be just fine. No, it would be better than fine: it would be the best that capitalism has to offer.

But what would happen to all the workers who are no longer needed by the economy? What about their American dreams? Should they just go away or, better yet, die? And with this as a backdrop we hear an endless stream of bullshit flowing from Washington calling for reduced entitlements and a diminished social safety net. Really?

No, the American people need entitlements and they should start with our being entitled to political leaders who have the balls to tell it like it is. The system is broken.

So please, anyone, explain why better days are ahead and that I have it all wrong.

Advertisements

I confess to the temptation, when writing about this subject, to write too much. But I won’t because the argument for a third party is simple. Whether a Republican or a Democrat sits in the White House, working class people get screwed. That doesn’t mean I’m unhappy with the election results; quite the contrary. Romney and his fascist/theocratic supporters scared the crap out of me. However, don’t forget for a minute that it was Bill Clinton who pushed hard for NAFTA and Obama who pushed for a free trade agreement with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. In the case of NAFTA the result has been the loss of nearly one million jobs, a wage race to the bottom, and a trade deficit with Mexico. School is still out with respect to Colombia, Panama and South Korea but it’s unlikely to be any different with respect to lost jobs and continued downward pressure on wages.

So this is a class struggle pure and simple, and the Democratic party and the White House need to know that its two fastest growing constituencies, African Americans and Latinos, will not go quietly into the night after elections are over.  As Paul Krugman said, “This newly effective coalition could be shattered if taken for granted.”

Without this coalition no Democrat will ever again sit in the White House.  That makes a third party not only viable but necessary.

 

While subbing at a local high school recently I found myself engaged with students in a discussion of free-trade agreements. Given my position as a teacher proxy I had an academic responsibility to be a facilitator rather than an advocate.

The students, all of them quite bright and surprisingly well informed, were pretty evenly split between  free-trade opposition and advocacy with the advocates arguing that globalism is a realty and to get used to it, and the opponents taking up the cause of American workers whose jobs got off-shored. The debate went back and forth until I suggested that instead of focusing on the offshoring of jobs (the effect of free trade agreements) they should consider the cause.  What role, I asked, does capitalism play in the loss of jobs and the decline in wages? I then had the pleasure of watching and listening to these young people wrestle with fundamental questions about the structure of our economy, the class stratification of our society and even the survival of our country.

My belief, which I did not share with the students, is that we are teetering on the edge of a political and economic abyss. We need to take a dispassionate look the basic nature of capitalism, which posits that labor is a cost to be minimized, while profit is to be maximized…often at the expense of labor. Through that lens there is absolutely nothing wrong with offshoring jobs despite what it means to workers, families, and the middle class. Through that lens corporations and big money rule; the rich get insanely rich, and everyone else eats their trickled-down cake. If anyone says this isn’t happening right now they just aren’t paying attention. And these economic problems didn’t just happen in the wake of the financial meltdown; they would have happened anyway, just not as fast nor as dramatically as they did.

In fact, this is an economic horror story that has been playing out since the 1970s when the trend lines of productivity and personal employment income crossed; workers produced more while earning less. The trend was exacerbated by women entering the labor force in greater numbers, increased migration from the south and, most recently, by the offshoring of good jobs in huge numbers. The result has been the gutting of the middle class, the dashing of dreams, high unemployment and destructive underemployment.

So, as the classroom debate unfolded and the bell about to ring, I asked one final question: If the problem that we were examining is structural rather than cyclical do you believe that the American people will be best served by an active and engaged government or should the government disengage and allow capitalism, as it is currently expressing itself in the United States dictate the fate of the people?

I haven’t seen the students in the class since that day. I can only hope that they challenge those who are far too content to accept the status quo, a condition that, all too often, serves the pocketbooks of those who advocate it.

…we should realize that our FREEDOM IS NOT SECURE when inequality reigns and corporations rule. Workers have been reduced to economic servitude fighting for subsistence wages with no benefits and even less security. Labor Day celebrates an illusion, a memory of the 50s when labor unions gave birth to a nascent middle class. But now, we are told by people who would turn the clock back to the ’20s, that labor unions are part of the problem.

So, for the sake of workers everywhere, we must fight for a rebirth of trade unionism as a means of resurrecting the American dream and assuring that tomorrow will be a better day.

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...Today, I spoke to a labor leader here in NJ. After chatting briefly about Chris Christie’s speech at the RNC, he launched into an attack on the president saying, among other things, that business can’t take another four years of Obama, and that we need Romney to fix the deficit. This was from a labor leader!

Why the hell has Democratic leadership failed so miserably in selling what the president has accomplished in the face of endless obstruction? Why was the tea party allowed to control the stimulus narrative?  Why do so few people understand what’s in the Affordable Care Act? Why don’t Democrats go to the mat to defend Dodd Frank every time some Wall Street huckster bemoans the evils of regulation? And the Keystone Pipeline? You’re kidding, right? Whoever the hell is running the communications show in Washington is doing a piss-poor job.

Frankly, the President deserves much of the blame. He should have taken his case directly to the American people as soon as he saw that the Republicans wanted only to throw him under a bus, the people’s interests be damned. Now he has to go hat in hand to the voters and plead for another chance. Do I think he deserves it? Yes, I do. But if he gets it he needs to kick ass and take names. Enough of this crap.

A labor leader voting Republican? Amazing.

Congressman Poe and Governor Mitt Romney

Image via Wikipedia

There comes a time in one’s life when age matters a whole lot. Not because the end is near…of even that you can see the end from where you are…but, rather, because there’s so much to be done and said. So many loose ends to tie up. So many battles to win and, sadly, so many to win again. And the presidential election of 2012 gives them all a sense of urgency and priority, as well as a daily stream of reminders that the Right will do anything it can to win.

Today, for example, I watched some tape of Mitt Romney saying that he had nothing against unions, just union leadership. What a crock! The Right goes positively orgasmic over thoughts of a world-wide wage race to the bottom that guts whatever is left of the middle class. Unions, even in their weakened, post-Reagan condition, provide the only check against the Right’s full-frontal assault on the American worker. I wonder if the manufacturing machine of modern Germany, where labor sits on boards of directors, feels that way about trade unions? Could it be that the Right’s anti-union mission is simply a means to further consolidate the plutocratic gains of the past 30 years?

Mitt Romney his no fool. His backers, their money, their goals and their greed threaten everything that is good in the human spirit. The time to fight is now. The time to win is November.