Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hard times coming

Did you see NBC Nightly News last night (the 15th)? I want to put this story (see below) in the context of our current Wisconsin political situation.  In recent years, we have seen more and more companies and politicians gut the welfare and rights of workers. In a time of high unemployment and weakened unions, it has made business sense to do this - to increase profit margins by lowering the costs of labor. With the economy weakened by recession and unemployed folks desperate for any job they can get - especially as unemployment benefits run out - leverage for salaried workers has plummeted.

A sad reality of the global economy is that wages have been stagnant or even on the decrease in the past couple of decades while corporate profits are up, bonuses for executives of financial institutions have reached record levels, the stock market is roaring back from the lows of 2008, and the gap between rich and poor in this country has widened, now one of the highest in the world.

Great time for the powers-that-be to wage a divide-and-conquer campaign against organized labor, even now pitting struggling private sector workers against public sector workers - as if workers don't have much more in common with each other than they do with their bosses. But people are scared and labor solidarity is probably not high on the list of priorities for frightened people who don't really understand what is happening to them and why.

It's an old tactic, and an effective one, until workers begin to realize once again that only as a collective do they have any bargaining rights against corporate bosses or libertarian, anti-government, anti-tax politicians.

Now get ready for the next big whammy - which is what this story is about. Just at a time when politicians are bent on balancing budgets on the backs of the most vulnerable of our community, we are about to be clobbered with sharply rising prices for what we eat, what we wear, and how we get around.

The cultural discourse on this looming crisis is barely to be heard. No one wants to prepare us for this. No one really wants to talk about it much. Because there is only one way to deal with a crisis like this - for the wealthy to pay more, much more, in taxes to support the needs of those who are being dumped into the margins of the economy, or left out altogether.

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