Monday, February 14, 2011

Unions, taxes on wealth - that's what brought you the middle class

Can we no longer afford a middle class? And why has the middle class turned on the very means that brought them the ability to be middle class? Good wages and benefits, a strong social safety net, workers rights (like the 40-hr work week, paid vacation, grievance mediation, and more), all these things brought to you by organized labor and collective bargaining.

In another era, particularly that which emerged from World War II, unions organized to defend the rights and dignity of workers. My uncles worked in factories here, like Allis Chalmers, or in construction. Back in that day, they earned enough to buy houses, their taxes supported decent public schools, they had cars, went hunting on their vacations, and more.

Now we have the most anti-labor culture in decades. First, corporate America began sending jobs overseas. This was called 'free trade.' It was anything but. And this was a weapon they could later use as leverage to get workers here to accept the gutting of their wages and benefits in exchange for low-paying jobs, with the threat of moving factories if they did not submit. Now the public sector is at it, no better manifested right now than in our new Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature.

Workers no longer seem to realize that hostility towards unions and the right to collective bargaining is an assault on their own ability to have a decent job at decent pay. Without organized labor, each worker is an isolated individual up against the very organized, socialized, corporate sector, holding all the power, all the leverage.

Meanwhile, the rich pay the lowest tax rates in modern times. Once upon a time, wealth was taxed at 50, 60, even 80 percent, and those folks did just fine, thank you.

Workers and the middle class have been sold a bill of goods. But given the results from what they have bought, why are they still buying it? One of the results is that the US can now boast one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the world.

And then they accuse us of waging a class war.  Could it get anymore cynical than this?

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