Sunday, June 12, 2005

Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

I am blogging on the run. Hint to reader: if you ever need a reasonably priced motel while on the road, choose Hampton Inns. No, I'm not being paid for this plug. But their rooms are clean, roomy and comfortable, they give a complimentary breakfast buffet, and - best of all, if you're a computer nerd like me who has to check their email and gets withdrawal from not blogging - they've got high speed internet, and they provide the computer in their lobby.

Their breakfast bar is mostly simple cold foods like cereal and bagels - no omlets made to request or anything. And you only get 15 minutes on the computer. But it's all free.

Anyway, 15 minutes is about all I have since I'm here to visit my parents. My mother is doing very well for a month after a stroke and my father is handling it beautifully. I am so proud of them both.

Anyway, with only 15 minutes, let me get started:

Here's an article from Paul Krugman, in The New York Times. His basic point is that while the wealthy special interests groups have benefitted immeasurably from Republican policies, not just under the present Bush Administration, but under nearly all the recent Republican presidents (Bush I and Reagan), the ordinary working person has been in a free fall out of the middle class. The same policies that have favored the very wealthy one percent have also destroyed pensions, job security, and flattened wages. And, as Krugman also demonstrates, to point out this simple fact brings accusations of class warfare from the very entrenched special interests who have indeed manipulated this country's economic and political system in their favor.

Krugman also mentions that one of the factors that used to keep the middle class secure and that contributed to a more egalitarian society where the wealth and success of the business class was shared by the workers was a strong labor movement.

There is another article, which I ran across in USA Today the other day. It's about about California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenneger, who is making war against labor unions.

Currently, he is also getting ready to have a special election in California to make an end run around the legislature to get his legislation passed. It's basically bills that would favor the special interests that have given, and keep giving, to his campaign or the Republican Party. It's the usual litany of Republican favorites: tax breaks and more tax breaks for the wealthy.

At the same time, as I mentioned above, Schwarzenneger has declared virtual war on the state's unions. He wants to cut the pension programs of first responders such as fire fighters and police officers, and make it harder for teachers to get tenure. He blames all of California's economic woes on the unions because they dare to fight for decent wages, job security, and a decent retirement for their members. Somehow, in Republican world, millionaires must have tax breaks to buy bigger, fancier and lots more mansions while ordinary middle class workers are greedy for wanting to keep up with inflation and provide a decent life for their families.

But the key point is that Schwarzennegger is going after the unions because if he can bust the municipal unions, he will have broken the back of the entire union movement. In private industry, unions are incredibly weak. So, if he succeeds in destroying the municipal workers' unions, there will be nobody left to stand up for workers' rights anywhere.

The Republican Administration in Washington, DC has already gone after workers' rights, chipping away at the 8 hour day, overtime pay, the minimum wage, and other laws that protect working people.

What's going on in California is about whether there will be a middle class or a tiny class of the very wealthy and a very large group of serfs who do their bidding. This is not true capitalism. It is crony capitalism, which is the very wealthy stacking the deck in their own favor to the disadvantage of everybody else. And it's done because true competition and truly independent workers with the right to sit down at a bargaining table robs these greedy people of some of the profits of their companies. These profits, however, could not be earned without the valuable contribution of their employees.

Believe it or not, angry as I am at the crony capitalists, I don't want to take away their wealth. I don't want them to have one less mansion or one less great killing on the stock market. Far from it. I want them to prosper, to invest more in the market, make more money and build more large and small businesses. That's the way to prosperity for everybody in the country. Socialism, unfortunately, for all it's good intentions doesn't produce wealth. Only capitalism does.

But, but there's no reason why employees should not be recognized and rewarded for their role in the production of prosperity just as the CEO, the Board of Directors and the investors are. When a CEO gets a bonus and a corporate board of investors, and their stockholders get the dividends and reap the profits, the worker who toiled to produce the success should get a raise in pay and better benefits too. That's the way it used to work. Everybody shared in the same success and had the same goals. That was Krugman's point in his article.

Now, rampant greed has taken over. Some people - specifically, the business class - are doing very well. High end stores, such as Niemen Marcus, have posted great profits this year, while the low end discount stores, including even the mighty Wal-Mart, have experienced declines in profit and flat sales. That's because while the investor class has benefitted enormously from the recent economic growth in the U.S., ordinary working people have not shared in the general prosperity. In fact, they've seen their lifestyle, their wages, and their security decline.

And that's plain wrong. Just as it's wrong that Governor Schwarzenegger is leading the vanguard in the fight to destroy unions and the middle class way of life that they protect.

California, please curb your governor.