February 18th, 2011

Egypt in America: The Fiscal Unraveling

Revolutions are not monolithic events; individuals participating in mass protest have various motives for their actions. While outside observers may, with the guidance of the intellectually juvenile mainstream media, perceive such an event as being based upon one or a few reasons, the real reasons behind such an uprising are often far more diverse. As Murray Rothbard said:

Because a revolution is a sudden upheaval by masses of men, one cannot treat the motives of every participant as identical, nor can one treat a revolution as somehow planned and ordered in advance. On the contrary, one of the major characteristics of a revolution is its dynamism, its rapid and accelerating movement in one of several competing directions.

It is through this perspective that the recent revolution in Egypt should be viewed. Certain themes rightly emerged from the protests in Egypt, among them the mass revolt against the tyrannical reign of the now-deposed President Mubarak. Mubarak’s decades-long emergency powers, brute force smothering of political opposition, denial of free elections, and restriction on free speech, among other reasons, constitute some of the notable demands made by those involved.

But an underlying (and now increasing) set of reasons must be highlighted, for in many ways, they were a catalyzing force for the other reasons mentioned above. These focus primarily on economic factors: unemployment, inflation, food prices, and working conditions. As the BBC notes, these were specific reasons for continuing protests earlier this week:

  • Hundreds of bank employees protested outside a branch of the Bank of Alexandria in central Cairo, calling for managers to resign
  • Public transport workers took part in a demonstration outside the state TV and radio building, calling for better pay
  • Ambulance drivers parked 70 of their emergency vehicles along a riverside road in a pay protest
  • Police also protested, massing outside the interior ministry complaining about their pay and working conditions
  • Near the Great Pyramids, some 150 tourism industry workers also demanded higher wages

As the protests began several weeks ago, one participant suggested this underlying theme as a permeating motive for the widespread opposition to the Mubarak regime: “We are gathered here to demand our rights. We can’t live. Everything is expensive and there is unemployment. We want prices to go down. This government is the reason for our suffering.”

Poverty, price increases, and other negative impacts on one’s wallet are forceful motivators for demanding change. Before Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria exploded with food riots. Add to that list Jordan, Libya, and a host of other countries where impoverished people dedicate a majority of their income to food. In such an environment, even a modest spike in food prices or unemployment can be a catastrophic event.

What the world witnessed in Egypt will not remain in Egypt. Anger against the government’s management (or mismanagement) of economic affairs is a common rallying cry regardless of one’s country, and increasingly so in America. For the latest example, turn your attention to Wisconsin. Seeking to derail legislation that would eliminate most collective bargaining rights from nearly all of the state’s employees, the Democrats in Wisconsin’s Senate fled the state en masse, thus causing the Senate to lose its quorum, preventing any business from taking place. They were joined in their defiance by tens of thousands of students, teaches, and prison guards.

The irony here is seething. In 1959, Wisconsin became the first state in the nation to grant collective bargaining to government workers. Put more plainly, this action allowed these “public servants” to unionize and thus collectively threaten strikes and other opposition actions if their demands are not met. Now around 30 states have similar laws for public employees.

Almost half of the state’s unionized teachers “called in sick”, forcing schools to shut down. One teacher said “I’m fighting for my home and my career,” angry that part of the legislation would require these public workers to pay half the costs of their pensions, and at least 12.6% of their health care coverage. And yet, the president of one of the unions said that the protests are “not about protecting our pay and our benefits.” Rather, she explained, they are about protecting the employees’ “right” to collectively bargain. In other words, the anger is not because of their income, but because of the potential inability to use threats and bureaucratic gymnastics to obtain yet more income.

With the massive protests, one might think that this legislation was especially drastic. And yet, the Republican Governor, Scott Walker has promised no furloughs or layoffs for employees under this proposal—one which still allows unions to represent workers, but limits requests for pay increases to the Consumer Price Index (government-calculated inflation rates) unless a public referendum approves otherwise. While many (if not most) might perceive such minor legislative tweaking as common sense (needed in far greater amounts for substantive change to occur), those affected clearly and unsurprisingly disagree. This action is only one of many needed on Wisconsin’s part to close a $3.6 billion budget deficit.

And that’s where the rub lies.

States have, for decades, become burdened under one unfunded federal mandate after another. Along the way, they’ve been making countless promises of their own, offering pensions, education, health care, food assistance, and a host of other social welfare programs. States have sought bailouts, have seen their bond ratings decline, and are quickly being forced to face an alarming fact: they have overextended themselves.

But America’s fiscal unraveling will, like withdrawals from a drug addiction, not be an enjoyable event. Cravings to satiate an unrelenting appetite for more of the addictive substance persist, and thus we witness those affected by such budget-fixing measures collectively clamoring in protest.

The addicts are restless, and do not react kindly (or logically) to those who are denying them their continued supply of drugs. As the pension, Medicaid, Social Security, Medicare, U.S. Dollar, food, and other bubbles burst, these actions will increase in both size and scope. Whether states (or the federal government) attempt to take proactive measures to stem the fiscal tidal wave, or are forced to react to them after the fact, one thing is certain: those who have long benefited from such budget-busters will not be happy.

America’s dark days have been delayed due to subsidization, inflation, and a military-enforced encouragement of the global dollar standard. The decades-long façade is fraying at the edges, and few know what to do about it. What does seem certain is the inevitable consequence of over-promising, under-delivering, and then a sudden cessation of the comfortable lifestyle to which the populace has become accustomed.


34 Responses to “Egypt in America: The Fiscal Unraveling”

  1. Charles D
    February 19, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    When a guy gets elected Governor with huge “donations” from far-right groups inheriting a $120 Million budget surplus, then quickly spends $140 million on special interest giveaways, he has no right to punish state workers. That is the real story in Wisconsin. Scott Walker was given millions directly and indirectly by the Koch brothers and their far-right machine. Then he ginned up a crisis to give him cover for his campaign to destroy labor unions, a prime goal of his “contributors”.

    At both the federal and state level, government is running huge deficits – not because of profligate spending but because of imprudent tax spending (aka cuts) on the wealthiest Americans. After telling us that letting the rich pay less and less in taxes would make us all richer, they haven’t the common decency to admit they were wrong in the face of the worst recession in almost a century. Instead they want to throw the economy into a worse tailspin by cutting government spending, adding more people to the unemployment rolls, and destroying the necessary services that would be needed to fuel an economic recovery.

    Yes, the political class want to suddenly end the “comfortable lifestyle” to which we have become accustomed so they can turn America into a slave labor camp like China while they live in gated communities with private security. Well, I say enough! This is (or could be) the richest country on earth but when we intentionally funnel almost all that wealth into the wealthiest 5% of our population, the rest of us end up hungry. It’s time to make America’s economy work for all Americans!

  2. Kelly W.
    February 20, 2011 at 8:12 am #

    The Handbook to Revolution:

    From Dictatorship to Democracy

    See: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23296

  3. jasonthe
    February 20, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Well, budget analysis isn’t your strong suit.

    Ezra Klein at WaPo and Mother Jones have two of the best overviews of what’s actually happened/happening in WI, if you’d like to dig a bit deeper than the superficial meme’s. It actually runs a lot deeper than what Connor seems to understand. (As usual?)

    Also, the unions are opposed to changes to collective bargaining rights in the Gov’s legislation. They’ve actually agreed to pension and wage concessions if those bargaining right changes are stripped. Because of WI unique budgeting cycles (as Klein points out) most of the financial aspects of this bill wouldn’t effect the state or a single teacher until 2013/2015, and the union workers in the state have agreed to take the cuts, banking that the economy will be better by then and they won’t actually have to take them. The protests are a rejection of the state telling labor workers, cops, firefighters, teachers, and public servants at large how they can organize.

    It’s impossible to miss the irony of the teabaggers and the “TYRRANY! SOCIALISM! NULLIFY NULLIFY!” crowd lining up behind the state on this one, like nothing but faithful ideological hacks.

  4. Believe All Things
    February 20, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    The quote above by Murray Rothbard was written in reference to Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. While there are certain similarities between the two events (e.g. the rebellion and the recent turmoil in Egypt), Dr. Rothbard’s qoute may have more to do with the events of the 1700s than modern-day revolutions.

    For example, the ongoing conflict between East vs. West is a long historical narrative reaching back millennia (for context, see Nibley’s The Unsolved Loyalty Problem: Our Western Heritage).

    At least we know that one group – without pointing out the ties between the Egyptian military and U.S. interests – does have some background in agitating social groups within a society (History of the Muslim Brotherhood).

  5. Clifton Brown
    February 21, 2011 at 2:37 am #

    Did anyone else scratch their heads as to why police and firefighters are being exempted from the union-busting effort in WI?

    Well, I suppose consistency has never really been a strength of Republicans.

  6. loquaciousmomma
    February 21, 2011 at 6:53 am #

    One commenter on an article about this issue had an interesting take:

    He said; in essence, the unions in the private sector stand between labor and greedy corporations. So in the private sector they stand between labor and the greedy…public?

    Whatever happened to the paradigm of “public servant”?

    In our state social workers employed by the state earn over $10,000 dollars a year more (plus amazing benefits) than their counterparts in the private sector.

    Why should taxpayers foot the bill for such out of balance earnings?

    Collective bargaining takes away the ability of states to be flexible when budgets are crunched.

    I have often been amazed at the selfishness unions encourage.

    In our city, the teacher’s unions were unwilling to take pay cuts in order to save jobs. The district was hurting from an across the board 10% cut to funding of all state services, including schools. They had to cut and rather than, in true solidarity, conceding a drop in pay, or at least a freeze, the union chose to sacrifice positions, and demand a raise.


    You will be hard pressed to get me to support collective bargaining rights for the public sector.

    My husband has worked in union jobs in both the private and public sector. All he saw was corruption and ineptitude.

    At the very least, those who represent unions at the bargaining table should be required to understand basic economics principles, so that they can temper the demands of those they represent with reason.

  7. Eric C
    February 21, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    It is amusing to watch liberals grasp at straws in an effort to defend unions.

    I’m not even going to bother trying to be diplomatic on this one. Frankly, I think that union-supporters are idiots. It shouldn’t take a master’s degree in business to have seen that unions (and, more importantly, the laws that favor unions rather than a business’s inherent rights) are primarily responsible for the financial troubles of the US auto industry, just to highlight one example.

    Of course, I’m sure I’m gonna get some pro-union people on here who are going to try to tell me that a factory worker SHOULD be paid $40/hour plus full benefits. I’ve seen estimates as high as $120/hour for the full cost of union labor on the manufacturing floors in Detroit (figuring the immediate labor cost, FICA matching, lack of productivity, medical benefits, 401(k), etc.).

    Thanks to unions, American cars suck, and it costs a year’s wages to buy one.

    I’m so damn tired of everyone in America whining about their entitlements. The rest of the country is exposed to the chilling effects of the prevailing economic winds, yet the union people expect us to maintain laws that make them immune to these effects. They are apparently “entitled” to be spared from the reality that the rest of us have to face.

  8. Clifton Brown
    February 21, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    You’re right Eric. I should be glad, nay, grateful, to rely on the benevolence of my employer.

    Who needs representation or collective bargaining? If my employer says that he can’t afford to give out a pay raise, then I should just take his word for it, right? Because he certainly doesn’t have any incentive to lie, right?

    If my employer wants to get rid of me because my boss doesn’t like me for personal reasons, I should just roll over and take it, right?

  9. Charles D
    February 22, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    Eric, it doesn’t take a Master’s degree in business to understand that workers in American car companies are not responsible for design, marketing and operational decisions that doomed their industry. When unions demand better wages and benefits for their members, they are simply asking for a bigger share of the profits for those who actually do the work.

    Unions have had a lot of failures in this country. For one thing, they didn’t press hard enough for government single-payer health care and left those increasing costs to employers. They failed to retain control of the Democratic Party and lost their clout in national politics. They voted for politicians in both parties that collaborated to export American jobs overseas and flood the US market with cheap goods produced by near-slave labor.

    It is the height of idiocy for those who railed against unions and failed to organize in their own workplace to complain about the “entitlements” that other workers were smart enough to organize for and demand. Instead of complaining that your neighbor is better off, how about getting off your duff and organizing your workplace to demand better wages and benefits and voting for officeholders who put people before profits?

  10. Eric C
    February 22, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    So, what you are saying is that you are “entitled” to a job? I know that there are some in this country who actually think they have a “constitutional right” to a job. Is this what you are talking about? Actually, I am of the opinion that an employer should be able to fire you for pretty much any reason they want – EXCEPT FOR WHATEVER WAS AGREED UPON IN THE EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT, if there was a contract. I don’t support legislation dictating how an employer must treat his/her employees. It should all boil down to contract law.

    And, Charles D, if you are the same that I notice commenting on here frequently, I would expect a mindless liberal argument from you.

    Actually, I agree that the auto makers should have done more to prevent the current industry struggles. They should have moved their factories to the western U.S. the very moment that the ignorant masses began screaming “union”.

  11. Eric C
    February 22, 2011 at 7:55 am #

    I believe that people should be free to form a union (freedom of association, right?). However, I do not support laws that give unions “teeth”, that serve to put unions on unequal ground against businesses as well as non-unionized workers.

    P.S. Charles D – I apologize for my personal attack. That was wrong. I was in the process of editing my comment and got “timed out”.

  12. Charles D
    February 22, 2011 at 8:37 am #

    Well Eric, you seem to have a mindless argument there yourself. I didn’t say anything about people being entitled to a job. If you support an employment contract, then workers need to be able to have as much power in the negotiation of that contract as employers. An employment “contract” imposed on workers by management without their consent is tyranny. We are so used to a tyranny in the workplace that we have come to think it normal and just and right. It is not.

    We have structured and financial system in this country that requires corporations to continually increase their stock prices and rewards executives for those increases, not for the quality of their products or services, or their responsibility to the communities where they operate or the employees who labor for them. We have systematically destroyed labor’s ability to confront management and demand a fair share of the pie for those who produce the goods. Why should some stock market “investor” who buys shares today and sells them tomorrow deserve a bigger share of the profits than the man or woman who has worked faithfully for that company for the last 20 years?

    Companies have moved to avoid paying wages, paying for benefits and retirement, and maintaining a safe and clean workplace. They’ve moved to China where workers have no rights and work for slave wages and they aren’t coming back. Now they’ve collapsed the economy and are determined that they aren’t going to have to pay a dime to fix it. They’d rather close your kid’s school and destroy your retirement income than lose any of the billions they’ve made by taking away our jobs.

  13. loquaciousmomma
    February 22, 2011 at 10:18 am #

    Charles D,

    First, stock market investors loan money to companies in exchange for a share of the profits. Labor puts in blood, sweat and tears – I get that – but it is cash that keeps a company afloat.

    Without cash, labor doesn’t get paid.

    Second, you have highlighted the single most troublesome aspect of unions – that of misconceptions. This is exactly why I said that union reps should be required to know basic economics.

    The government puts so many requirements on businesses when they hire employees that they end up paying far more per employee than you see in your check. If you want more money to spend, tell the government to loosen some strings.

    When you want to ask for a raise as a whole class of employees, instead of individuals, you have to look at the profits of the company to determine if there is even enough room to fund an increase. If you still demand a raise, even when profit margins are down, you force the employer to raise prices somewhere along the way in order to fund your demand. Guess what that means? The increase in pay you and your union brothers in other companies across the economic spectrum secure is swallowed up in higher prices. So you are no better off than you were before.

    I feel sad for the current state of affairs in our great nation. We had a workable system available to us.

    The ability to open a small business to provide for your family so as to free yourself from having to work for someone else was the single greatest foil for the power of large companies that tended to exploit their workers. We have chosen to burden those entrepreneurs so heavily with regulation and taxes that the playing field has instead been tipped in favor of the large companies, leaving us at their mercy.

    Our schools don’t teach us to see the big picture, to notice relationships between the various wheels of our society. In fact, there is little teaching of such things as economics in our high schools at all.

    This situation is a multi-faceted problem. The trouble we have in America is we over-simplify everything, choose sides, then scream at each other without ever listening.

  14. Charles D
    February 22, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Let’s take a closer look at the role of stock market investors. Currently the average length of time a share of stock is in the hands of a single owner is 11 minutes. That’s not investment, it’s speculation. While a rising stock price can encourage banks to lend money to a company at lower rates, the stockholders themselves, aside from those who purchase an IPO, are not directly providing capital to the corporation.

    You are correct that government regulations on business fall most heavily on entrepreneurs and small businesses. That’s the way the large corporations like it. It cuts down competition. However, we do need to insure that large corporations aren’t poisoning our air, land and water, that they aren’t exposing their workers to unnecessary hazards, and that they aren’t using their company’s resources to influence elections and lobby for legislation.

    We did at one time have a workable system that benefited almost all of us. That system existed roughly from the end of World War II until the accession of Reagan to the presidency. During that period the middle class grew and prospered, but since the economic and regulatory foundation that fostered that growth was systematically destroyed in the name of “free-market” principles.

  15. loquaciousmomma
    February 22, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    The idea of workers banding together to overcome an injustice was important in the days of terrible conditions earlier in our nations history. In my opinion, the idea was commandeered and misused by those with a different agenda, and is now corrupted.

    This is particularly evident in the outrageous salaries of union executives. How can a union president making a salary comparable to the CEO of a major corporation represent the needs of laborers? I almost threw up when I did a search on the Dept. of Labor site of union executives who make over $200,000 dollars, but less than $5 million. The result was 1029 people. How can they justify paying themselves that much money when it comes out of the paychecks of the people they are supposed to represent? What amazed me is that some of the highest paid are local positions, not national.
    One example is John T Nicollai, the president of the local 464 of the Food and Commercial Workers union in Little Falls, NJ. He makes $494,519 a year, but it gets even better. The secretary/treasurer makes $436,044, and the recorder makes $332,242.

    The only reason to pay someone a salary to work full time for an organization is to further an agenda. The only legitimate function for an employee’s union is to protect the rights of the workers they represent. When they decided that included lobbying the government and taking political action, they ceased to truly represent all of the workers in their unions, and that is why union participation is at an all time low. Not all workers are democrats.

    As for stock ownership, you are correct in the average time of ownership. In fact, much trading is in the “flash” range these days. There are, however, many long term investors who hold on to their stocks and ride out the highs and lows until they are ready to cash in at retirement.

    We do need some sort of regulations to protect our environment, etc. Unfortunately they have been overdone.

  16. Charles D
    February 22, 2011 at 1:30 pm #

    You won’t get an argument from me that the union movement has had its problems. Union executives, like corporate executives, pay themselves too much money. But unions like corporations are still a good idea when run by honest people with integrity. Both institutions suffer from a lack of democracy. Corporate stockholders could force executives to cut their pay and bonuses, but stockholder meetings are generally run by a few large pension funds and insiders who benefit from the corruption. Union members could and should throw out overpaid bums like those you mentioned, but I’ll bet a reformist group within that union wouldn’t get much work from the hiring hall.

    Any good organization or institution can be corrupted, and government’s role should be to insure that corruption is prosecuted and rooted out.

  17. mark
    February 22, 2011 at 4:48 pm #

    You are spot on Connor. The chickens have come home to roost.

  18. Kelly W.
    February 22, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    The people of Egypt still have a long, long way to go. Now they have to overthrow the military.

    One comment on Charles D’s post where he said the average stock is held for 11 minutes. I also heard that eleven figure, but if I’m not mistaken, the average stock is held for ONLY 11 SECONDS!

  19. Brian
    February 22, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Everyone I know personally that is in a unionized profession almost always speak poorly of unions. I agree that in the Industrial revolution, we needed the unions. However, I’ve come to believe they now do more harm than good. One thing is sure… something about unions has to change–they end up getting the companies to pay people to waste time, and that’s demoralizing.

  20. Charles D
    February 23, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    Brian is certainly correct that unions have lost their way in the U.S. I don’t think it’s come to the point where they’re doing more harm than good. What’s happened is that because they lost their political clout and their solidarity around political goals, they were unable to halt policies that decimated their ranks, shipped jobs overseas, etc.

  21. JJL9
    February 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    Charles, while all of your arguments are ridiculous, I’ll just take the time to point out one absurd point you tried to make.

    You say, “An employment ‘contract’ imposed on workers by management without their consent is tyranny.”

    That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of. You can’t impose a contract on a worker. They don’t have to work there! They don’t have to show up! They can work anywhere they want or nowhere at all. They can work for anyone they want or for themselves.

    Did you think “managment” could just ride into town on their horses and round up workers like cattle, whipping them if they resist and forcing them to sign a contract?

    You see, every person is an agent unto themselves, and is responsible for providing for themselves. Nobody has to work for any particular company or in any particular industry for that matter. This isn’t the USSR.

  22. Charles D
    February 23, 2011 at 4:30 pm #

    Oh sure, a person can just remain unemployed and penniless, they don’t have to take a job. Major employers these days almost always have some kind of “employment at will” policy that they require employees to sign off on before being hired. That policy declares that the employer can fire you anytime for any reason without notice. The employee has no power in this arrangement. A single employee, as you say, can’t “negotiate” terms with an employer, they can only take it or leave it. That’s not a freely accepted and negotiated contract.

    Corporations are tyrannies. There is no democracy inside the workplace in American UNLESS you have a union that represents you. Moving to another workplace won’t solve that problem, it only exchanges one tyranny for another.

    Why is it that Americans have come to believe that they should spend most of their adult lives in jobs where they have little or no say in what goes on or how they are treated, where they have no job security, no recourse against the whims of management, and no guarantee of a pension? What kind of masochism is this?

  23. JJL9
    February 23, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Yes, they could remail unemplyed and penniless, although I wouldn’t recommend it.

    More to the point, they can look at this big world and provide any goods and/or services that people want or need and are willing to pay for. That don’t have to go to a “major employer”.

    And of course an employer (major or otherwise) can fire you anytime for any reason without notice. You state “The employee has no power in this arrangement.” Actually they have the exact same power. They can end the relationship (quit) at anytime for any reason without notice. They have the EXACT same power as the employer.

    Two parties enter into an agreement. Either party can cancel the agreement at any time. From where I’m standing their powers are exactly equal.

    They can’t “negotiate” terms? Sure they can. Here’s how it works. They can tell the employer what they want, and the employer can, as you say about the employee, “take it or leave it.”

    See? It’s EXACTLY the same power.

    As to your closing paragraph: “Why is it that Americans have come to believe that they should spend most of their adult lives in jobs where they have little or no say in what goes on or how they are treated, where they have no job security, no recourse against the whims of management, and no guarantee of a pension?”

    I don’t know what Americans believe any of that nonsense. Americans have freedom to leave a job any time they want. They have complete say in “what goes on” and as to the “how they are treated” part, it’s a 2-way street. They can treat the employer any way they like and if the employer doesn’t like it he can end the relationship. By the same token, if the employee doesn’t like the way they are treated, they can leave.

    No job security? Did you think someone should guarantee you a job for life? Who could do that? The economy changes. Industries change. Companies must change. How could anyone guarantee anything? If I guarantee you a job, what do I do when I have no money to pay you?

    Don’t take a job from someone else if you are so afraid of losing it.

    Pension? What is this 1956? Why should anyone guarantee you a pension? Again, if I guarantee you a pension, what happens when I run out of money? How could anyone possibly guarantee you a pension?

    How about you save your own money, invest it wisely and take your future into your own hands and quite looking for someone to “guarantee” you everything?

  24. Brian
    February 23, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

    @JJL9 regarding ‘guarantees’: Amen!

  25. Charles D
    February 24, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    No, JJL9, this isn’t 1956. In 1956 my father earned what today would be about $38,000 a year (self-employed) and my mother hadn’t worked outside the home in over 15 years and both came from working class families – no inheritances. My dad owned our home outright, the four of us had everything we wanted and needed, there was money in the bank and a new Buick in the driveway. What changed?

    Unions were about 5 times stronger then than now. The government enforced the anti-trust laws and the tax system didn’t encourage mergers and off-shoring of jobs. Offshoring your profits would land you in jail. The marginal tax rate on the wealthiest Americans was over 90% (under a Republican president), so there was plenty of money to provide the services and infrastructure the country needed to grow.

    Workers in larger companies had defined-benefit pension plans where the company was responsible for the investment risks. The stock market was heavily regulated and most investors bought shares for the long term.

    Thanks to pressure from corporations and Americans taken in by right-wing propaganda, the engine of our nation’s prosperity was destroyed along with the American dream. If we want it back, we need to work together to restore fairness and economic justice and that starts with labor unions.

  26. JJL9
    February 24, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    What change?

    Let’s see. It’s 2011. My parents raised seven children without my mother having to work outside the home. My dad owns his home outright, the nine of us (and now our spouses and children too) had everything we need, there is money in the bank and new cars in the driveway. My father is the son of a farmer and my mother the daughter of a cattle rancher, no inheritances to speak of.

    I wish the government would enforce anti-trust laws against unions as they stand in stark defiance to such laws.

    As to your claim that “Workers in larger companies had defined-benefit pension plans where the company was responsible for the investment risks.” So when those companies go out of business because they made all these pension promises, who assumes the risk in the end? The worker. Or in the case of GW Bush or B Obama, the American tax payers pick up the tab.

  27. Clifton Brown
    February 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    I think you are missing Charles’ point here.

    It’s great and all that your folks lived comfortably on a single income, but we are talking about the aggregate here.

    Charles’ experience is pretty typical of a lot of middle class families in the 50s and 60s. There was a time when a man who held a working-class job could support a family on what he made. That is just not the case today.

    Middle-class wages have been stagnant since the mid 1970s. Almost all gains that the economy has made for a generation has gone to the top 20% – and most of that to the top 1%.

    These are the facts…there’s no disputing them. The data is readily available at the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis website and the U.S. Census website.

    In the post-WW2 period, economic gains were shared broadly across all income levels making for better living standards for all.

    What makes us different from Mexico or a number of other “poor” countries? Carlos Slim, the last time I checked, was the richest man in the world. It’s not that wealth doesn’t exist in the third world – on the contrary, there are pockets of extraordinary wealth. Nevertheless, that doesn’t change the fact that most people are poor and the infrastructure that we take for granted in the United States does not exist down there.

    The present day Republican party is hell-bent on accelerating those trends that I mentioned. Unions are one the few organizations that advocate for the working class. Let’s be very honest here – the rich have the ability to spend huge sums in order to sway public opinion and to lobby politicians – and they use that power every day. That is something that is just not available to working class folks. Unions are one of the only organizations that counter that influence.

    It has become increasingly clear over the week that Walker’s efforts have nothing to do with the supposed fiscal crisis in Wisconsin. The unions have made clear their willingness to make concessions. This is an ideologically and politically motivated hack job.

    I’m probably just wasting keystrokes here though. I know a lot of people here regard the pre-1930s days of unregulated monopolies, child labor, and slavery as the golden age of american history.

  28. loquaciousmomma
    February 26, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Clifton: I am not sure what you consider to be a waste of keystrokes. Is your goal to convince the rest of us that unions are the solution to the problem you have highlighted? If so, then, yes you have wasted keystrokes.

    I cannot speak for others, but I do not look to the pre-30’s as a golden age.

    I see the problems you have highlighted but I do not see unions as the solution.

    In fact, I see the unions as part of the problem.

    There are so many factors that have contributed to our current state of affairs that it is impossible to point to one thing as the solution.

    For their part, unions have made unrealistic demands of business and government and the attempt to fulfill those demands has caused businesses to fail and governments to run deficits.

    Not to mention, it spread the idea that a person could be intellectually lazy and still live the good life. You didn’t have to get a degree or enter an apprenticeship to make a similar salary to those who put more time into their career preparation, during the unions’ heyday.

    If I could bring back one characteristic from the pre-30’s, it would be the pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality. Everyone knew that they were responsible for their own well being and it drove them to do amazing things. Nowadays we have become too soft, and we demand too much.

  29. Charles D
    February 26, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    Loquacious, I think Clifton was pointing to the 1970’s, not the 1920’s but that’s a bit beside the point.

    You are right that there are many factors that have contributed to our current state of affairs, and when you look at the data it is pretty clear that the primary responsibility lies with so-called conservatives who pushed have been trying to kill the union movement (PATCO strike?), who have cut government revenues by huge giveaways to the wealthy and corporations (sometimes known as tax cuts), who have curtailed government services to the vulnerable in our society, all the while running up huge deficits to fight unnecessary and unconstitutional wars.

    Rather than demand too much, Americans have become far too complacent and willing to let the economic house of cards fall down around them without getting angry at those who both built the house of cards and destroyed it. Americans are either the most uninformed or the most masochistic people on earth. If they weren’t, they’d be out in the streets of every city like the workers of Wisconsin demanding that the perpetrators of our economic crisis be jailed, that those who benefited from the Wall Street fraud be forced to pay, and that our political leaders stop crying about their budget woes and get busy raising the money to deal with America’s problems.

  30. loquaciousmomma
    February 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Charles D: First, my pre-30’s comment was in reference to this:

    I’m probably just wasting keystrokes here though. I know a lot of people here regard the pre-1930s days of unregulated monopolies, child labor, and slavery as the golden age of american history.

    Second, I am with you on punishing those who perpetrated the fraud on the world. Be careful in blaming it on the republicans, however. The white house and congress have both passed between the two parties during this mess, with no legal action being taken on any level, except for token cases like Bernie Madoff.

    Face it, both parties are to blame for our situation. Both parties have done things to harm our nation over the years.

    While republicans were waging endless wars with borrowed money, democrats were creating more and more ways to spend it on domestic programs. In my state, for example, we had a rainy day fund and a balanced budget. The democrats took control of the state legislature and promptly began to run up the bill with programs, such as free preschool for everyone at the state’s expense.

    I realize that we have very different perspectives on the proper role of government, so this is just an FYI, I suppose. I don’t consider tax breaks to be giveaways. I consider them to be reducing the level of confiscation. If a company decides to lower their prices is it a giveaway? No, it is a discount.

    When the government lowers taxes, it is simply choosing to collect less. Refundable credits like EIC and the child/tax credit are true giveaways.

    Corporations have been the beneficiaries of government largess , however, in the form of bailouts, but from both parties.

    As for unions, I will reiterate my point that unions are weakened because they have chosen to become political entities. They excluded half of our nation when they decided to push for democratic leaning reforms and support democratic candidates.

    They should have stuck with defending their pledges against mistreatment by their employers, period.

    In addition, they have become corrupt and their leaders have absolutely no moral high ground to stand on when they make as much in salary as many CEOs of major corporations.

    They have realized that they like the high life too.

  31. Charles D
    February 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    Well, you won’t get an argument from me on the comment that both parties are to blame. As for unions being political, IMHO their biggest problem there is that they have supported Democrats even when Democrats did nothing to help them and a lot to hurt them. Workers have a right to form unions and engage in the political process. Corporations do not have a right to engage in the political process since they aren’t citizens, only legal constructs. But that’s another argument.

    Sure union leaders can be corrupt, but no more so than business leaders – it’s part of human nature unfortunately.

    We all want government to perform certain important functions, although we may disagree about the nature of those functions. Without money, the government can do nothing and when it lowers taxes to the point where it can no longer do what the people want it to do, it needs to raise revenue.

  32. loquaciousmomma
    February 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    You are right. If the voice of the people demands more services from the government then there needs to be enough revenue raised from taxes to cover the cost.

    That being the case, I guess I need to convince the people that more freedom with less safety net is preferable to relying on the government to solve social problems- which greatly reduces income through higher taxation.


  33. mormonconsecrationist
    March 4, 2011 at 12:52 pm #


    not in a union; have seen lots of waste and foolishness within a non-unionized company–

    bad guys on both ‘sides’, IF there are ‘sides’.

    Welcome to the telestial world. Strolling down the telestial streets and seeing a lot of heartache–

    what can I say?

  34. Michael Towns
    March 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Now this is bold sauce.

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