Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Stacked Against The American Worker
The current trend of targeting large reductions in employee benefits for health care and retirement should be yet another sharp signal to the American workforce, along with the targeted elimination of employee unions and retirement systems in general (see previous post here).
And the signal continues to be: workers should not have rights. An insistence on living wages and benefits are hurtful to companies, cuts into shareholder profits, and even the phrase "workers rights" invokes that stench of Socialism and Communism.
And despite a near-steady unemployment rate nationwide of 9% or higher, overall productivity has been rising in the last few years at a steady clip. Workers who want to keep their jobs must produce more and keep longer hours. And company owners surely are reluctant to increase their payrolls and hire workers when - hey! Productivity, earnings and output are on the rise!
"American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms. Corporate profits have been going gangbusters for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history..." (via Digby)
The company mind-set continues to hem in workers at every turn: if you expect companies to pay a greater share of the tax base, then all products will cost consumers more and will compel companies to send more jobs overseas to locations that don't require living wages, benefits, or a work week of 40 hours.
In Congress, leaders say they have a "mandate" from the public to gut federal spending ... but ...
"The Bloomberg poll finds most Americans more concerned with job creation than deficit reduction -- imagine that -- but when it comes to ideas to actually reduce the budget shortfall, the only popular ideas are cutting foreign aid, withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and raising taxes on households earning more than $250,000 a year.
What's unpopular? The entire GOP agenda: 66% of Americans don't want cuts to community renewal programs, 72% don't want cuts to medical and scientific research, 77% don't want cuts to education programs ..."
This recent narrative that teachers, unions, the elderly, the sick, the educated, and the poor are the ones destroying the economic status holds no water. Also in doubt - that the Federal government is broke:
"The U.S. government is not broke,” said Marc Chandler, global head of currency strategy for Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. in New York. “There’s no evidence that the market is treating the U.S. government like it’s broke.”
The U.S. today is able to borrow at historically low interest rates, paying 0.68 percent on a two-year note that it had to offer at 5.1 percent before the financial crisis began in 2007. Financial products that pay off if Uncle Sam defaults aren’t attracting unusual investor demand. And tax revenue as a percentage of the economy is at a 60-year low, meaning if the government needs to raise cash and can summon the political will, it could do so." (also via Digby)
Business is seeing record-level profits, record low taxation - about the only remaining place they can go is after worker pay and benefits. What is becoming very clear - there is less of a Right and Left political battle and more of battle between ultra-rich and a diminished middle class.
What's the American worker to do?
In Tennessee, state legislators like Sen. Bill Ketron are pushing bills (and really pushing panic) supporting the development of a state currency to replace the dollar.
And there's the fact that Wisconsin is claiming a "budget crisis" as a reason to remove collective bargaining for teacher pay and Tennessee is pushing the exact same removal of teacher bargaining but instead of "budget crisis" the cause is labeled "education reform".
The fact is, the goal here is to eliminate influence from organized workers while giving a greater voice to owners, and as noted last year, workers and voters might best be served if their elected officials simply wore the corporate logos of the businesses they represent.