Labor has lost all power in the face of the onslaught of “free market” lies put forth by Republicans and Neoliberals alike. No, the “invisible hand of the market” will not save us. It will strangle us, that much is certain. That’s why slavery was invented: rich people didn’t want to have to pay for necessary labor and didn’t want to do shitty jobs themselves.
Similarly, apart from the nonexistence of a truly “free” market out there (buy the little competitors up and kill their business or co-opt for their de facto monopolies) PROFIT MOTIVE will always seek to take from labor. Capitalists do not respect any labor right to the value of labor’s own production; only the “money men” deserve reward for the fact that they had money in the first place (inherited wealth in particular) or earned through exploitation of other people and the environment.
The full title of the book actually is: Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor Movement by Thomas Geoghegan (2014).
The author starts the book with an anecdote about his 401(k) which shows you right off that as a labor lawyer he has had and always will have more economic security than all of us who live paycheck to paycheck and maybe never had jobs that offered 401(k) retirement plans (much less any benefits such as paid sick days). He plugs his investment advisor when he asks “What do you think? Should I be in bonds? Maybe I should preserve capital?” The response of the advisor was amusing.
He seemed astonished. “You–preserve capital? You still need growth.”
He then explains that he is sixty-five and still needs “growth” for his investments to be enough to live on. Therein lies one of the many problems of capitalism. The only way for anyone to “grow” (oh how I hate the word used this way) their funds is to gamble at the great casino of Wall Street.
Keeping funds in a savings account where the banks can and do loan it out at extortionate interests rates while paying you virtually nothing for the privilege of leveraging your $1 into $30 in high interest rate loans to average Americans — and loan out at low interest rates to their corporate buddies and wealthy people who don’t need the break.
I was going to say why can’t savings accounts pay higher interest for ordinary people but of course the answer is that it is a rigged game. They don’t have to loan any money at all, and when they do they can loan it at any damn interest rate they please. And each time we consumers go to a bank to ask for a loan, another hit on your credit report is recorded, and everyone knows that multiple hits on your credit report causes your actual credit score to decrease, making it exponentially harder to get a loan.
Because of course, if you need a loan, you are a risk. That is why banks et al. charge the people who are stretched the most higher interest rates even though this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because the higher interest rate causes them more difficulty to make the payments.
Meanwhile the wealthy financial planner gets to buy a Jag with zero down and 5 years interest free.
So labor has a fundamental problem: we get paid shit, unions require dues payments and have historically been proven to be as prone to corruption as the next guy, and then you have to trust them to make the best deals for all of the members of the union. But some unions have people more equal than others.
I will never forget how the women typesetters union went on strike for the pressMEN in a labor dispute, and the pressMEN won. But the pressMEN did not return the favor when the women went on strike, and their strike failed, of course.
The unions have also always been as sexist as the next place of business in terms of all kinds of aspects of workplace, from hours to promotions, and more. The MEN in charge are just as prone to sexual harassment and allowing sexism to flourish among union members as any white collar workplace.
While I support unions absolutely and believe that all workers should be in one massive union and we should all get $25 an hour minimum wage tied to the CPI plus full benefits and profit sharing, I just know that corruption and power go hand in hand on either side of the negotiating table.
And the author’s retirement fund needing “growth” i.e. riskier investments that earn a higher interest that can exponentially increase the base amount can only be achieve by casino capitalism. The collective pool of money held by financial agencies becomes enough to loan to corporations for multimillion dollar new headquarters while refusing to “risk” $10,000 at 2% for someone to buy a car. Given the corporate track record of bankruptcy, and with the Savings and Loan scandal and Enron and so much more that never hit the news, I don’t think that corporations are better risks!
The higher risk/reward rational is justified by the higher interest gain (and taxed at a fraction of EARNED income via capital gains tax that is that candy store of tax law for investors).
With rising income inequality, fewer and fewer Americans have enough wealth to be able to risk any of it on gambling based on what the “smartest guys in the room” think is a good investment deal.
The rest of us, we have never had and never will have enough money to risk at all. So where do we go for “growth” much less being able to save enough for a downpayment on a house?
No such financial instruments exist. The money boys all play with selling their tranches of crap mortgages and financialization of tax credits for affordable housing gifted to investors.
What we have is the DEFERRED paycheck money that has been put in a safe trust fund — Social Security — so it absolutely (*) will be there for us when we retire.
*Unfortunately, the Rethuglicans keep changing the rules of the game. They call our EARNED DEFERRED INCOME an “entitlement” and change the law so they can take BILLIONS AND BILLIONS, evenTRILLIONS out to pay for their unfunded wars with no intention of paying it back. That’s what happens when the people who write the laws choose to do evil and ignore the common good.
This means that even if unions negotiated for pension funding for ALL the workers (including part-time), the funds still end up invested in the casino Wall Street and socially irresponsible corporations like fossil fuels and military-industrial complex corporations, and high risk investments without union members having a voice in how or where to invest the pension funds.
And corporations have set up pension funds as assets that can be sold off and erased essentially to corporate raiders who take the money, invest in risky or even doomed companies and don’t even have to say they are sorry. So if I had to pick between a union pension fund controlled as a corporate asset and Social Security, I would pick Social Security. Something is better than nothing.
This is a missing piece of the pro-labor unions advocacy. We need to incorporate the ability for monetary growth at a better rate of return irrespective of risk. The capitalism gonzo attitude of “go big or go home” is destructive at many levels, and make us all poorer when recklessness gets rewarded and suffers no negative consequences to the gamblers.
ANOTHER KIND OF GROWTH – INCREASED WAGES
Increased wages are the only kind of growth that matter to anyone living paycheck to paycheck. How anyone can listen to the conservatives and Republicans and their ilk and believe that paying people more would be bad for the economy but tax cuts for the rich will be good is beyond me.
We know “trickle down” failed with Reagan as it was always going to fail. The fact that economists from the University of Chicago came up with this “theory” that has no basis in reality or any modeling of reality blows my mind. And the unfortunate fact that the minions of Milton Friedman went on to be in positions of power to implement this hallucination on the rest of us would be better if it were a plot for a dystopian novel instead our actual history.
Just like Alan Greenspan sucking the toes of Ayn Rand and the worship of her acolyte, Paul Ryan, who never met a social safety net program he could support (some from which he had already benefitted), no government is the best government because then the wealthy can exploit everything. As of course is their God-given right because only the rich are morally deserving of wealth. Wealth is the only measure of merit in economists’ world view.
Seriously! The House of Representatives is being run by a guy who read a novel and decided that that cruel fantasy world was just the thing to remake American democracy into a world that is miserable for all but the people the rich deem most deserving: the filthy rich and the devil’s handmaiden, Paul Ryan.
Not only do the Republicans and conservatives and their religious zealot companions of destruction of all that is good in America believe that being poor is a moral failing, being poor and sick is a sign from God that you are not worthy of life at all. The only people this lot believes are worthy of life are potential people (white males preferred, except for the need to force poor women to give birth for the wage slave labor force and cannon fodder).
Having Money Does Not =Being Moral
Given their commitment to increasing their own personal wealth, it certainly has to be a peculiar mindset to simultaneously DENY the majority of the population a LIVING WAGE. Capitalist True Believers have MORE MONEY THAN THEY NEED TO LIVE. And yet they are unwilling to provide the producers of their wealth even the minimal amount need to rent an apartment to live in much less to house the children they are forcing women to birth. Or benefits, like unpaid maternity leave and don’t even think about PAID maternity leave. They don’t even want to have to have medical coverage for MATERNITY at all; certainly the MEN in charge will do anything to deny women to right and ability to control their own reproductive choices, bodily autonomy, or economic security.
AGEISM, RACISM, SEXISM
Irrespective of the reality of getting older, the bastards in Congress with their Cadillac healthcare and sinecure of high paying jobs that only requires them to work 10% of the time, if that. Mostly staffers are doing the actual work of course. Many of them do not even bother to read the bills they sign on command of their tribal leader, the wretched Mitch McConnell.
The first one made me gasp: he worked alongside future Justice Scalia in the AG office. Another one made me weep: He won his first senate seat by only 5,200 votes. The entire world would be different today if more Democrats had come out to vote. FOR THE BETTER! No SCOTUS packing by denying Obama’s pick; no obstruction as the only goal of the Republican Senators during all of Obama’s years as president.
Yikes, he is 75 years old. Retire, dammit! You have at least $22 million and your second wife is from a family worth billions (and you got her the gig as the United States Secretary of Transportation where she can do the most good for her Chinese family’s shipping company enterprise).
He has been on the taxpayers’ payroll since first elected Senator from Kentucky (by that razor thin margin) in 1984 — chills for me because of my association with that year of the George Orwell book 1984. This means he has been inflicting his grotesque beliefs on Americans for about 34 years! OVER THREE DECADES AND NO SIGN OF EVER QUITTING! 🙁
We now know that Senators and Representatives spend at least 4 hours of their working days on the phones to suck up to donors to finance their endless careers rather than having to work for a living. They don’t give a shit about the reality of being “downsized” at 50 or worse at 60 and knowing you will never get another “good” job. And that is if you are a white man. Women and minorities have even less likelihood of finding another “good” job.
Hence the author mentions “the little old white-haired lady” working at Starbucks. He says he winces, “but at least she has a job.” Some of his friends his age (sixties) “who have no pension, nothing, and know they will never work again They hope so, but . . . ” (p. 4)
The author doesn’t mention it here, and the book is 2014 and I am not sure when the law was changed, but there currently is a cap on unemployment benefits of 2 years LIFETIME maximum. This flies completely in the face of the decades of downsizing of every company that had a chance to do so, resulting in many people with “good” jobs being dumped over and over again.
People who moved to other cities to take jobs because none were to be had where they live fared no better than anyone else when the downsizing came along. First-in-first-out to be downsized really harms people; some who may have just sold their homes at a loss and paid $5,000 to relocate to a new town for a “good” job away from family and friends — plus then are only able to find a rental unit at extortionate rates. If they have already used up their two years while trying to find work at their original home location, there is no safety net for them.
Since this happens at the white collar level, they have not been allowed to unionize, but they are equally exploited. Just like the recent failure to adjust the salary level for people that mistakenly had not been tied to the consumer price index or any value that reflected the contemporary economic situation. No it was 1974 when Congress decided that anyone earning over $25,000 a year was NOT eligible for overtime pay. And it was never changed. In today’s money, that amount should be over $40,000. The Republicans killed the passage of the bill to correct this mistake.
This results in the obvious consequence: employers force salaried workers to work unlimited hours without having to pay overtime. If your boss decides your adequate performance requires writing a 10,000 page book a week, and to do so (a) can be done [not], (b) takes 60 hours, (c) and then tells you it isn’t “good enough” — then you might just be screwed and no union is there for you.
Labor laws are theoretically in place to protect labor. The problem is that like all things in Congress and at State government, even local government, they PRETEND there are protections in place. The reality is that there are so many exceptions and exemptions that a majority of workers end up with no labor protection at all.
This topic was not brought up in the book but needs attention, especially since the exploiters are now in charge of everything governmental in Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, a majority of state governorships and state legislatures.
And they are going to gut the regulations (! oh my that’s a dirty word) that exist.
For example, you might think that if you work over 8 hours one day (say 10 hours to finish a report), that you would get 2 hours of overtime pay. But no, the rule is, OVER 8 hours a day AND OVER 40 hours a week. So all your boss has to do is tell you to leave work for 2 hours at a time not of your choosing and voila, no overtime and wow, you get an extra two hours “off” work, whether you want it or not.
Part-timers (majority are women) don’t get any benefits by this rule even if they work a 12 hour day or some stupid open the store and close the store but go home in the middle shift [that is actually a thing]. Because they never make over 39 hours, no overtime or other rules apply.
Similarly, the size of the business matters in terms of obligations to follow fair labor standards. The Minnesota minimum wage says it is $9.50 but the reality is that only businesses with over 500 employee have to pay that. The rest only have to pay $7.50 an hour (2017).
And we all know that white women earn less than white men and people of color earn less that both. The unions could level this out. Heck the government could level this out if they would let go of the entire “at will” employment mythos and supply and demand and all the other economist arguments that keep labor down while constantly claiming we need to be grateful we have jobs at all.
Back to the book. Sorry. I get carried away.
But now they are not even “employees.” More and more I have clients who have signed away their rights to be considered “employees” at all — which means there’s no minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, no Social Security, nothing. Years ago they should have said something when the HR people said: “You’re no longer employees here — but cheer up, you’ll go on working for us as independent contractors.” In one case we have, the boss even made the guys set up their own personal “corporations” as in “John Smith, Incorporated.” My friends ask: “How can people live on the minimum wage?” But as an independent contractor, John Smith, Incorporated, every cleaning lady, every janitor, every one of us — it will be a nation of CEOs in changes: “How did I let this happen?” (p. 5)
Another aspect of employment law that he does not delve into (so much to denounce, so little time) relates to our judiciary system. Politicization of the courts (court packing) by conservatives — represented in all it’s glory by the Mitch McConnell refusal to consider any SCOTUS nominee put forward by President Obama — has resulted in a Republican heavy conservative religious gang of thugs ruling on what justice is when the entire party opposes the very concept of social justice or even plain justice. The only value they hold is wealth; they want it, they have it, and they’re not going to share it.
All through American history the prevailing white male judges or conservative Stockholm syndrome women judges have made very bad decisions. Fortunately subsequent statutory fixes were implemented or new cases were heard that allowed a better group of judges living in contemporary times fixed the bad decision, which are legion. See the book, Injustices by Ian Millhiser for prime examples.
Unfortunately, the conservatives have achieved their goal to overtake democracy as outlined by the Powell memorandum and now there are few judges and only 4 justices to stand between actual justice and the conservative religious zealot authoritarian view of what makes America great.
The Supreme Court in particular consistently has valued the validity of employment “contracts” as superseding even Constitutional law because, I suppose, they are always a bunch of lawyers. I researched the origin of the whole concept of “at will” employment (which is of course, a lie) and think I finally figured it out.
In the mid-1800s (must find the reference again) a labor rights case before the SCOTUS showed a small notation in the written record of the oral arguments about one justice’s remark. He mused that since the employer could fire a worker at any time for any reason, and a worker could quit a job at any time for any reason, THE TWO PARTIES TO THE EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENT WERE EQUAL. This is patently false on the face of it. Corporations do not have to eat. Contrary to the abysmal blight of the mercifully dead Scalia decision and Mitt Romney’s chuckling remark at a campaign event, corporations are NOT people.
Therefore no employment relationship can ever be “equal” under any circumstances, including under unionization. Unions are needed simply to provide sufficient strength in numbers to threaten the capitalists’ ability to make money off the backs of labor. But the suffering of the people who stand up against the endless wealth of the ownership class (who never go hungry or suffer any actual personal hardship) cannot make the inherent nature of wage slavery very much more equal.
And people had to DIE by the hands of the government complicit in union busting even to exist at all.
Yes, we need a new labor movement. We need a labor movement that puts the power in the hands of the workers and not the financiers. If not, we will still have to suffer the deadly costs of strikes and scabs that are so desperate for work that they will do anything because the principle of freedom to work in America is based on “wage work or die” and take it or leave it and die.
The author discusses something akin to my complaint above about how salaried workers end up working less than minimum wage because they have no hours limits on how long they must work.
Similarly, he points to cab drivers who are independent contractors who have to pay all their expense, including leasing cabs, but even after working 60 hours a week, they don’t always make minimum wage. In my town, the City sets the rate for cabs and the cabbies are paid by the hour. One cab company asked to be able to raise the rate so they could pay the drivers more. Unfortunately, no one had the wit to get that in writing, so the cab company got to charge more and gave the drivers nothing more.
This goes back to the scheduling issues too. When the boss has the power to say when and how long you will work, they can keep you poor deliberately. Worse, with unknown and deliberately altering schedules, people cannot budget for a known income each week because the boss has total authority to schedule you whenever and however much they want. Your child care needs are irrelevant to a boss and don’t you dare bring that up as an issue or they can make matters even worse for you. Plus the inevitable slam about women wanted to work and men don’t (often) bring up child care conflicts with scheduling.
Sure you can exercise your “at will” rights, but if you quit, no unemployment for you! You don’t even get unemployment if you are fired by a bad boss unjustifiably (though you can try through their laughable appeal process). Plus you don’t have a reference, you still have to pay rent and put food on the table and maybe pay for child care while you look for another job.
This means that union can help some by requiring fixed schedules, providing a labor representative to hear your side and work towards reinstatement and other things, but fundamentally, people are so beat down now and desperate, that a more radical change may be necessary.
Like the cities of the Midwest, and most of the South, there’s not much mobility here [Chicago]. The private sector is more predatory than ever. The payday loan stores keep spreading. Many of them secretly owned by the banks. The Fortune 500 companies have hierarchies more rigid than ever. . . .In the Public sector, there’s still a middle class, but it’s shrinking because we’re selling off the public sector. Chicago’s 36,000 parking meters were sold off to Morgan Stanley, and its partners, who keep extending the [must pay] hours hours and jacking up the rates. And now that the city has stopped funding the mental health clinics, we have more people hallucinating and wandering the streets. That may be the Chicago of the future, the city into which all of us clutching our 1099s will be descending. (p. 7)
Remember this book was published in 2014. He does mention the great vote for HOPE and CHANGE represented by (theoretically) Democrat President Obama. But since Bill Clinton and his aggressive neoliberal aka Old School Republican policies were implemented, the Democratic Party has not been the LABOR party. They have been the “get a college education” and get a “good” job party. Never mind the banksters taking their cut and charging usurious interest rates for “government” student loans. Never mind that the price of tuition is more than most people can pay off over 20 years at this point. Never mind that the Democrats allowed changes to the bankruptcy laws that made student loan debt non-dischargeable in a bankruptcy. Never mind that a college education is no guarantee of a “good” job in your field or any “good” job at all any more and hasn’t been for decades since the great downsizing began.
To be sure, Obama said nothing about unions or labor. (p. 7)
Sure the commercials on television seemed to indicate a concern for labor, the author remarks, but that was just propaganda because the corporatist neoliberals that dominate the Democratic party don’t dare piss off their corporate donors. They pretend they are different that Republicans (old school) but you will starve without wage work under them as surely as you will under Republicans.
It was Bill Clinton that destroyed welfare as it existed. Not that it was all that great, but better than now (no urine testing back in the day). The intervening years just gave more and more away to the conservatives until now women who just have had a baby must go back to work or not be eligible for any governmental assistance. Unemployment has a LIFETIME cap of two years. And family assistance has a LIFETIME cap of 5 years. Wage work or die at its finest.
Here from the vantage point of 2017 we know that Obama did nothing much for labor, much less organized labor. The author says that he put an executive order into effect to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for workers under government contractors. But we have witnessed the white supremacist in chief dismantling every executive order Obama put in place as fast as possible, so I suspect it no longer is in place either.
The author points out that to raise the minimum wage, however narrowly, was really a token to try to retain their “pro-labor” cred “without actually having to be FOR organized labor.” [emphasis mine, p. 8]
But raising the minimum wage absent a labor movement just keeps everything else in place. And so long as everything else is in place, the middle class keeps going down. Maybe Joe Biden would do something more for labor. [NOT] Maybe — it’s half possible to fantasize Hillary Clinton would, in a rash mood. [ha ha ha ha ha ha NOT] But it’s hard to think Obama — whom I love — will ever do much more. . . .Labor is not Obama’s thing — raising test scores is his thing.
The neoliberal position that education will solve everything is a lie and one that Obama bought into probably in part, because he became he who did by education. Of course, he was smart as heck in the first place. Not everyone becomes a graduate of Harvard law school. But the preponderance of lawyers in congress and of course, the judiciary, almost all handmaidens to corporations, means that they seem to think hard work will be enough. Higher education will be a guarantee of economic security. But it is not and really never has been.
Sure business school grads have made out like bandits because the politicians have ceded government to be one big financial game where only the wealthiest of the wealthy win. Engineers get downsized for pity’s sake. No one is safe and no one is even going to be employed in the “gig” economy. And we aren’t going to have a choice because the people in charge believe in godliness determined by wealth, and if you don’t have wealth, god has decided you are undeserving of life (aka medical care).
But I should note, it was a Democratic legislator who killed California’s proposed single-payer healthcare bill.
RAISING WAGES IS NOT IMMORAL
Oh, this is sad. On page 10 he references the “long-overdue tweak of the rules for overtime pay, to cover salaried “managers” and “executives” who may be making just barely over $23,000 a year.”
I referenced this above: it did not pass. Poor man, he actually thought it would! He goes on after this sad doomed thought to say:
But it all adds up to very little. Here’s an easy way for the Democrats to raise the spirit of the country — just by saying, “Your boss should raise your wage.” I mean everyone’s wage, not just the busboy who’s making $7.25. But they don’t. Even Biden, who is by far the best [!], doesn’t go that far. We need not just a sound bite but a whole principled politics over, yes, a right to a higher wage, but also a right to some control over what we do at work. We need a principled politics, with the ardor of the abolitionists, pressed the way they pressed that kind of politics on Lincoln.
We had such a possible leader in Bernie Sanders, but the Democrats made sure that his ardor and the passion of the millions of people who turned out to see him and hear him speak, filling stadiums, never had a chance running inside the wholly owned corporate subsidy that is the national Democratic Party bosses.
MARRIED? WITH CHILDREN?
Continuing on page 10 he presents three practical reasons to raise wages. One is because the middle class has had to use credit cards just to be able to stretch their monthly income for practical reasons (root canals $1,000) and the loan shark usury of the credit card companies (another big thanks you to Reagan for eliminating the usury laws). Whoops, birth control failure and subsequent forced birth (or happy birth) and now you have to buy a crib, diapers, and 18 years of clothes, and all the other things another human being needs (including root canals too).
Even this search result betrays the increasing economic inequality and the consequences. Note how very carefully it specifics that the nearly quarter of a million dollars cost for a child born in 2015 requires the conditional “middle-income, married couple” because of course LOW income parents don’t have the luxury of having an income sufficient to spend $233,610 for one child. That they even add a second child in the mix muddies the whole situation even further. Does that mean that having 2 kids costs A HALF A MILLION DOLLARS? And note too that the neoliberal DEMOCRATIC “get a college education” chant doesn’t enter into the cost. When “middle-income: parents have to spend a half a million dollars just to feed, house, and otherwise cover the expenses of a child, how can they be expected to SAVE FOR COLLEGE for one kid let alone two much less their own retirement or catastrophic medical expenses.
This also assume that both parent live long enough to have a child reach the age of 17, which doesn’t always happen. Divorce as well as death, or disabling disease, or some healthcare problems for one or more children are catastrophic living on this kind of edge. Plus the whole scenario assumes AFFORDABLE HOSING, generally a FIXED INTEREST mortgage so housing cost basis does not increase at the whim of a profiteering landlord every year at lease renewal time.
Housing, Transportation, and Child Care (Taxes, Food, Clothing, Utilities +) = Subsistence Living at Best for Many
The price of gas alone can double as anyone who lived though George W. Bush’s administration knows. Under W’s rule, California gas cost $5 a gallon or more. Ohio was $4 or more. Poorer people have to drive longer because the housing costs near major employers are occupied by the wealthy; one case where supply and demand and no rent control allows the exclusion and segregation by class under the god given economic principles of capitalism.
No one can deny what a difference income level makes that keeps the poor poor and the rich get richer. Generational poverty that then is blamed on the victims as if hard work and will power is enough to counter the difference between $174,690 and $372,210, never mind the plight of the middle class. This quote is from the Money web site:
The report classifies middle-class families as having a before-tax income of $59,200 to $107,000. Families with lower incomes are expected to spend $174,690, while families with higher incomes will likely spend $372,210.
These figures are still somewhat misleading because the formula used to make the calculations includes some housing but of course with or without kids, people need housing. Sure they could make do with a studio apartment perhaps or a one bedroom, but many people have friends and family who might visit and would want to be able to provide a room for guests. Even without the normal expectation of your housing to be able to have guests, many married couples will choose to have children, and that requires at least two bedrooms realistically. So I suppose from that point of view, they do have a firm figure to base the additional housing cost burden per child as the difference between the cost of a one bedroom rental to a two bedroom rental, or perhaps a small house.
One thing that has been consistently overlooked since people have gotten used to the “average” family being two parents, 2 kids, and a dog is that those standards are only available to people practicing BIRTH CONTROL to limit the size of their families.
People, especially politicians, have forgotten what it was like before the Sixties when women did not have access to safe reliable contraception. My grandmother was one of THIRTEEN (13) children — all from the same mother! My aunt had SEVEN (7) children. Several of my peer cousins have had 2 to 5 children. And notably, apart from the perversity of the Catholic church still denying contraception as the right thing to do in an overpopulated and over-taxed world, not to mention the African AIDS epidemic [and yet still the Pope denies them the use of condoms], other religions also require married women to breed until death.
And in December 2017, Paul Ryan told women they needed to start having more babies! Pretty sure he meant white women. Not that they want to provide any assistance to mothers of any sort. The Rethuglicans just let the CHIPS legislation for child health care expire. Pretty sure that was sheer spite since Hillary Clinton counted it among her accomplishments. The administration of #45 is determined to take us back to the Stone Age one way or another.
It is no surprise to me that women GIVEN THE CHOICE, are choosing in ever increasing numbers NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN. One article in the Huffington Post states that 47.6 percent of women who are in their childbearing years are choosing not to have children. Here is a quote from that article enumerating the RATIONAL reasons why choosing to be childfree is a rational CHOICE:
As Mic Senior Editor Elizabeth Plank argued, for many women, not having kids may simply be the most rational choice. Given the economic fallout of the 2008 recession, the gender wage gap that just won’t quit, the sheer cost of raising a child, and the double duty demands put on women both professionally and domestically, are we really surprised that greater numbers of women are simply opting out of childrearing?
WHY MARRY AT ALL?
OMG a few hits I read while looking up the percentage of men not getting married were so sexist as to make me puke. The variations on why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free was a common thread. Men don’t get married because they can have sex without commitment with women who sill “put out” yes an actual news article quoted someone who said that! Worse, they said that if girls didn’t “put out” they reduced their ability to find a man willing to marry them! Wow, slut shaming has reached a new low. Now women are expected to have sex with men IN ORDER TO GET A MAN to marry them as well as being shamed for having a sex life at all.
Noticeably absent were any correlations to divorces due to adultery which has and remains a constant throughout history, MEN of course have always been privileged with lack of punishment or consequences for sex outside of marriage. The common assumption that a man will have a mistress in history and in other countries shows that given the money (or even not) men will have multiple sexual partners irrespective of marriage. Now, both genders, as long as women are not punished for having sex with pregnancy, are more easily able to both cheat or simply have multiple partners as they please.
The other common thread in the various articles I scanned pointed the finger definitively at the FINANCIAL BURDEN marriage imposed.
Men probably mostly married to get a free housekeeper, cook, and baby maker in the first place. Since women actually were forbidden to work for wages at all for many years, marriage was the only way to survive at all. But the cost of that survival meant birthing babies until death. Then the men simply married another young woman to continue to breed more children since marriage required mandatory sexual relations and therefore more children. So the second marriages continued to provide men with servants and cooks and child caretakers, not to mention someone to nurse and wait on them as they became old and infirm.
Divorce laws and children made sure that women were economically bound to men. The men, naturally enough one might say, became the very tyrants Abigail Adams expected when cautioning her husband John to “remember the ladies” when righting the Declaration of Independence. He did not, of course, unless one were to maintain the fantasy that by “All men are created equal” the word “men” was intended to include women.Women were not, nor are we yet, considered equal to men any more than slaves were considered equal to white men. In fact, even non-landowning white men were considered equal to landowning white men in terms of citizenship.
Pew Research Center reports that a record share of Americans have never married (men and women) and this can surely not be a surprise to anyone. Marriage can be a wonderful thing; marriage with children can be rewarding. But the divorce rates, reported cases of domestic abuse, the murder of women by men (former boyfriends, husbands, as well as complete strangers of course) show another side of the reality of marriage today. On top of women having to meet sexual expectations and the double duty referenced above of housework, child rearing, cooking and all the attendant chores only to end up cheated on and / or beaten for the privilege, of course women would choose to opt out of the marriage market. Here is a quote from the Pew research:
“After decades of declining marriage rates and changes in family structure, the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high. In 2012, one-in-five adults ages 25 and older (about 42 million people) had never been married, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. In 1960, only about one-in-ten adults (9%) in that age range had never been married.1 Men are more likely than women to have never been married (23% vs. 17% in 2012). And this gender gap has widened since 1960, when 10% of men ages 25 and older and 8% of women of the same age had never married.
Women still get married more often than men because society SHAMES women for never marrying. Men, especially now that homosexuality has come out of the closet, no longer have to worry that being a bachelor at 40 is somehow suspect.
Men also often prefer cohabiting with women rather than deal with legal marriage because legal marriage literally can cost them for the rest of their lives with child support and alimony. However, that is where Deadbeat Dads come into the picture. The hassle of getting them to pay for children they abandoned by one means or another burdens all single moms. Plus the dads may simply NOT HAVE THE MONEY to pay. This is most egregious when they start a SECOND family and so put their limited resources into it, but still the simple fact is that families cannot support children on today’s wages.
Women might choose cohabiting because of a many things, such as potential for domestic violence of men . Not being married makes it easier to escape. Republicans propose (pun intended) that women marry to escape poverty! They can’t conceive (pun not intended) of the possibility that the men some women love refuse to marry. Those men might be willing to accept cohabiting but keep their money their own.
My parents responded to my assertion that I didn’t want to get married with the telling (1970s) comment of “Do yo want to work the rest of your life?” I could scarcely believe their entrenched 50s viewpoint. Well, YES, of course I want to work! And why should I expect a man to support me my whole life?
The Pew research showed that what potential willing to be married people are looking for in spouses varies, unsurprisingly by gender. Women (78%) want a man with a STEADY JOB. Considering the persistent wage discrepancy between men and women, that is no surprise. In fact it is consistent with the historical necessity for women to have to have a man to be able to live at all. The “marriage is the solution to poverty” versus government assistance I suppose or gosh, a living wage without discrimination in wages or promotions?
This is offensive on so many levels it is hard to keep it simple. But basically, instead of granting that women have a right to an economically secure life without being a handmaiden to a man as well as, essentially a prostitute, with marriage being the economic “trade” instead of a one and done cash transaction.
This is one step up from the original chattel legal position of women back in the good old days when America was great (you remember, when women had no legal right to their own earnings or inheritance or even children).
PUBLIC DEBT AND TAXATION
The national debt cannot be paid down without actual money paying it down. Taxes pay for government to run and excess, theoretically pays down the national debt. Of course, then you have the unfunded wars that we cannot seem to disengage from despite the fundamental reality that the Middle East has been an intractable problem for thousands of years and until the Christian god and any of the other gods show up and say “stop fighting over us” I do not see how military billions will solve such a basic core belief that so many people are willing to fight and die for and have done so since people have existed.
With the majority of the government in the hands of Christian zealots and conservative values who don’t think women should do anything but breed more Christians, or wage slaves, or cannon fodder as I have said before, it is unlikely that they will give up their wars or their war on women which aims to force women into birthing and marriage for survival.
If they don’t have to have a government to pay for the common good, social justice, or a social safety net, that eliminates whole swaths of government services and rewards the corporations with a completely FREE market to exploit people and the environment to drive the world to doom. They apparently all suffer the delusion that the richest of the rich will share their secret enclaves to wait out the sixth extinction in engineered silos like those featured in science fiction dystopias, which are always still good for the richest, most ruthless, most power mad people.
The answer is so simple. The middle class is “broke and bitter” as he notes so there is simply no money to be had there. Meanwhile they seek to take more anyway! The latest “tax reform” proposal lowers [historical, not the actual passed #GOPTaxScam] the tax rate for the richest but actually raises the lowest tax rate of 10% to 12% — the people who have next to nothing already. They simultaneously have gutted and seek to gut further all social spending that has kept people from storming the gates of the wealthy with pitchforks and torches. The jobs that they want to require everyone (including new mothers) to work at to be eligible for any minimal assistance DON’T EXIST or cost more in childcare than earned and either way do not provide a living wage.
The author’s third practical reason for raising wages is that it would help get us out of our trade deficit. He believes that a “new type of corporate model, one based on a labor-managment partnership” will make us “competitive enough to reduce the deficit, and maybe even run a modest surplus.”
This can never happen. The culture of America is too entrenched in the “makers and takers” belief system, even though they have it backwards which group of people are the real makers and who the takers of all the wealth are (hint, the richest of the rich).
Managers are not even always the problem any more. We have seen how lower and maybe middle management gets screwed, the problem is the CEOs making $158 MILLION a year plus stock options and all kinds of goodies as well. Their dedication to grinding their workers out of ever nickel for the benefit of “shareholders” who simply have more money than they need to live anyway will remain the order of the day. The ownership class does not want to share; they hoard their wealth, prepare elaborate methods of escaping paying their corporate taxes, park money offshore to avoid more taxes, and pay millions to Congress to keep their TAXPAYER paid subsidies of billions of dollars flowing even while earning billions in PROFIT.
ONE MORE REASON
The author concludes his list of three practical reasons why people should be paid higher wages with a sardonic additional reason:
Maybe I should add one more thing: it is the only way to hold us together as a country and to stop the growing inequality that in thirty years could bring the whole Republic crashing down. (p. 11)
As I said, the book was published in 2014 so it would be interesting to know if post the 2016 election he would revise that 30 year timeline to, say 2 years of GOP control of all government, courts, etc. with neoliberal Democrats refusing to accept that incremental change is not enough, is not even possible any more, and wouldn’t stop the dam of debt at all levels from breaking and crushing all in the country.
HOW BAD IS THE INEQUALITY OF WEALTH?
If you are reading this, you probably don’t need convincing that there is massive inequality in America today. The figures in this book are already dated and even more disparate today (12/30/2017) and going to be worse post implementation of the #GOPTaxScam and subsequent demolition of Social Security Disability, Social Security, and Medicare. Medicaid cuts will leave elderly people with dementia no place to live with the necessary level of care. The slogan of “We are the 99%!” needs to be revised to “We are the 99.9%!” because as the author notes, “All the redistribution [of wealth] has been from the bottom four-fifths to the top 1 percent, ore really one-tenth of the top 1 percent. It’s not 1 percent: it’s 0.1 percent.”
[Richard Freeman] pointed out that in 2011, just four hundred people took 16 percent of all capital income gains in the economy.
Another terrifying thought he presents concerns the adverse impact on economic growth when we don’t have any money to spend. The richest of the rich will have no one to take money from to keep up their “percentage of the take” so he predicts their response will be to be “even tougher about cutting the wages of the middle class.” (p. 13)
The author points out that at the time he is writing this book (pre 2014 ish) corporate profits have risen 50 percent! But no wage increases for the workers that make that kind of profit possible. The Standard & Poors stock rating index shows an increase of 80 percent but that’s all on paper money and a lot of manipulation, like when corporations buy back their stock rather than spend money on increasing wages; it makes their stock look stronger but they themselves are the buyers so it is all fake.
Why can’t we Americans change this exploitation of labor? Because the people with money are paying millions to Congress and other politicians to make sure wealth distribution remains upward, from poor to the rich. There is some psychological brain damage that has taken place where these richest of the rich no only begrudge any one else one nickel of their hoarded income from millionaires and especially billionaires, they begrudge any tax dollars (which they mainly evade anyway) from providing any social safety net. We are living in a land ruled by sociopaths and psychotics (Koch Brothers, Mercer family, Betsy DeVos — 88th richest family at $5.n billion, et al). Plus their cheap whores of politicians (no disrespect to actual people who have to or choose (!) to engage in the sex trade or marriage).
This thing, the Gini Coefficient “measures inequality of income.” Zero (0) represents perfect equality, and one (1) perfect inequality. On page 12 the author explains:
Our index number long ago passed 0.2 and 0.3, which are the numbers of France and Germany. Now it s approaching 0.4, which is the number for Russia and Iran, and could shoot up to 0.53, which is the number for Zimbabwe.
NOTE: The Gini coefficient measures the INEQUALITY OF INCOME. This is not the same as INEQUALITY OF WEALTH! The author cites a 2012 New York Times article by Daniel Altman who wrote that “as late as 1992 the top tenth controlled twenty  time the wealth of the bottom HALF of the population. By 2010, it was sixty-five  times [the wealth.]”
Here is a screen shot of a chart showing how the United States compares to other nations from OECD Data based on Gini coeffcient scores
OECD stands for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Here is another chart, notable for showing the percentage of wealth owned by the 20% richest families; this one is from Pew Research.
Pew Research has some great material. Here is another good chart from the same link.
One of the math stats the author quotes to illustrate the idea about how much even one dollar more per hour matters a lot over a lifetime of 40 years of work: $160,000 (cites Kennedy School for the math). (p. 15)
“There’s No Middle Class” (Chapter 2)
That was in 2014 and it is getting worse by the minute going into the start of 2018.
The corporations demand concessions from their workers but not from their CEO. The author gives comparisons of German workers making $66 an hour with benefits (2011). This compared with the U.S. at $33 BEFORE the “restructuring” that dropped wages lower for the U.S. Sigh. Take it or leave it; plenty more desperate people willing to work for even less.
He remarks that the right wingers think the German workers only get the wages that high because they extort management somehow. They ignore basic facts like German workers have seats on the Board. They have control of their shop floor. They get training. They deliver back on the company investment in them as workers.
U.S corporations, he says, “prefer low-skilled workers.” (p. 22) They can prevent workers from demanding higher wages since they aren’t allowed to gain any skills that would merit higher wages. And if they get it “simple” enough, more the better then they can automate and no workers will be needed at all.
There is no advancement possible deliberately, cruelly. The author describes the situation with welders by way of example.
There is a puzzle about welder pay, which lately has received comment in the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. The puzzle is that there is a shortage of welders, and employers moan about it. But the pa is stuck at $17 an hour, where it’s been for years. That means the real inflation-adjusted wage is dropping. Even with a shortage of labor, the wage drops.
But worse, after the welder starts and gains experience, the pay does not go up. (p. 23)
A fascinating but troubling discussion follows about how things have gone oh so wrong, partly due to disrespect of the workers across the board and a distortion by management to keep things this way.
“If you talk to American managers, they think everyone on the shop floor is replaceable. There is no cost in dismissing anyone. If there are really skilled people co-operating together, you would never tolerate this kind of operation.” (p. 25, quoting Professor Gerhard Bosch)
One thing he dos not digress to, after remarking that there are inevitably screw ups, is that the consumers of the products that are made by deliberately low-paid and untrained workers can kill us.
“And we pay more for all our ‘managers’ [college grads] who are both over- and underqualified [no shop floor experience] for the work they are doing.“
“It’s true: Ford and other complain about the lack of job training. It’s true: our workers aren’t very highly skilled. But they can’t be, or at least they aren’t allowed to ply those high skills, because then they would be irreplaceable. For and others want us to be replaceable.” (p. 25)
Then management calls it “flattened hierarchies” as if that is “more egalitarian.” However, “we’re just flattening more people into entry-level workers.” (p. 26)
American companies and governments (local, county, state, federal) don’t believe in training. Back in the day, there were tons of companies and people teaching computer software programs. Today, these managements don’t care if something takes 5 hours to look for and finally give up and retype the whole thing with zero competence of basic word processing features to enable effective and efficient revisions and updating as one example I am most familiar with; the majority of word processing documents and other contemporary items I come across are very badly constructed.
Spreadsheets with legacy formula that no one can understand much less verify that the results are correct nag the former computer program trainer in me. People are making significant decisions based on this data. Don’t get me started on database design, vocabulary control, and document management.
In my opinion, a good trainer should earn $100,000 a year. But that will and has never happened. You can’t validate money’s worth of that level of salary without some “objective measurement.” However, you can’t prove a negative. That is, if trained people don’t waste hours retyping a document they can’t find based on a failure to implement a version control system, you can’t capture this value because (a) no one will ever tell a supervisor they had to redo from scratch because they couldn’t find the original file, (b) hard to say how good the original data entry and formatting was in the first place.
The Democrats, well the neoliberal ones anyway, have spent decades promoting “education and job training — or ‘higher skills’ — is the answer.”
“There is no greater disconnect in our national life: we’re doubling down on the idea of skilling up people, while many of our corporations are less and less interested in rewarding skills.” (p. 26)
American business doesn’t even grasp what job training is, he contends — and I agree. This is for the same reason that conservatives don’t understand or respect the value of a liberal arts education. He notes that innovation does not come from the squeaky new graduate, but from workers familiar and deeply involved in the field. In Germany and elsewhere, they commit to their workers and the workers commit to their employers in return, often having jobs held for them while they go to school or college. [State sponsored tuition free education too please note!]
“In the United States it’s practically the opposite. At many companies, we’re still wondering whether to do Basic Job Training, because we want to be able to fire people at any time, and in Germany they’re at Job Training 2.0, because they have made these long-term commitments.” (p. 28)
He notes that this kind of training was never even mentioned by neoliberal President Obama.
“As long as we’re the one country where you can fire anyone at any time, for the color of your tie or the color of your tattoo, or no reason at all, it is hard to see how the really serious job training we cry out for will ever occur.” (p. 29)
“Too many presidents and pundits keep telling us that we need higher skills to serve a corporation model that keeps pushing us lower and denying dignity to our work.” (p. 33)
In Chapter 3 he calls Democrats to task once again for failure to dedicate itself to labor law reforms. If it does not, there will be a crisis. That was 2014; now in 2017-2018, we have a crisis in the Democratic party. The trashing of all my values by the Democratic party in 2016 will be long remembered.
Yes of course the wretched refuse known as the Rethuglican party in polite company intends to kill all my hopes, dreams, and ideals along with my values and deepest held beliefs. Alas the author believes, reasonably so, that labor is too weak to make traditional labor movement actions like strikes to “bring labor back” because the corporate’ side will crush us. They have money, lawyers, and immortality on their side.
It is interesting to read his prescient comment that the Democratic Party might benefit from a shake up. He doesn’t cover the fact that besides being neoliberal instead of FDR Democrats, the current Democratic party resembles the traditional Republican party in more ways than is desirable, corporatist primarily. Nor does he acknowledge the aged entrenched gang of octogenarians and septuagenarians who have been politicians their whole lives and in Congress for the majority of their lives and mine.
Nancy Pelosi must retire, along with Diane Feinstein, and please, if there is a god, do not let Orin Hatch run again. Please compel Chuck Grassley, that miserable old coot with way too much power by SENIORITY and not brains, compassion, or any grasp of what life is like in 2017 for too many people, to return home to play with his great-great-great-great grandchildren (I jest, but close to the truth).
I am pleased to announce that my procrastination finishing this post means I can now note that Orin Hatch decided not to run again. Yay. Bad news, Mitt Romney will be running for his seat.
Jumping back into the book, I find myself sympathetic to his belief that we have to disrupt the Democratic Party to challenge the whole “corporate model” that represents both the Democrats and Republican parties. Both parties have long been puppets of their paymasters (lobbyists, not taxpayers and not representatives of the people.
Alas, I am living in 2018 land instead of the still possible dream of “hope and change” of 2014. Pretty sure the debacle that the 2016 election was and the subsequent successful effort by the neoliberals in charge of the party to keep progressives (I liken them to the FDR Democrats) out of power.
On page 41 he makes a prediction that has come true, the nurses are the “vanguard” of a renewed labor movement. He notes that “the nurses have the nerve to start a fight.”
1 of 2 posts since I have too much book to go.