I can say this because I'm a liberal and a Michigander: My heart breaks for the laboring class in this country. I feel sorrow even for the workers who can't see that the unions are their only lifeline and inexplicably fight against them with a passion reserved only for one's worst enemies.
The working class, the significant majority in numbers, has somehow, ever since Ronald Reagan declared war on them, become the least of us--the minority. Privatization and outsourcing have rendered them nothing more than powerless drudges.
The working class is the laughingstock, the disposable, the darling of the politicians when they need their votes, and the most wretched of pariahs when the monied class sees their mountain top begin to erode.
The children of the working class hold no status and deserve no consideration. There are millions of people who would rather spend their money fighting against abortion laws than feed and care for poor children.
- More than 9 million children are estimated to be served by Feeding America, over 2 million of which are ages 5 and under, representing nearly 13 percent of all children under age 18 in the United States and over 72 percent of all children in poverty.
- According to the USDA, an estimated 12.4 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2007.
- 8 states plus DC have more than 20 percent of children living in food insecure households, the states of Texas (23.58%) and Mississippi (22.84%) have the highest rates of children in households without consistent access to food.
- The top four states with the highest rate of food insecure children are Texas, Mississippi, Arizona, and New Mexico.
The working class is subject to scams that in any other culture would be considered criminal. PayDay loans and cash advance loans are legal in all but a few states. Credit card interest rates can run as high as 35% legally. Usury laws went by the wayside, along with even the most basic consumer protections. All that those concerned, including governmental agencies, can do now is put out bulletins warning against scammers.
The goal is the impoverishment of the working class, and I believe we're reaching that level faster than any Imperial Fat Cat could have imagined in his wildest wet dream.
What stuns me and keeps me awake at night is that there are millions of laborers here in America who see no disparity, no unfairness, no real need to change the status quo. Wages and protections go down at a dizzying pace while costs to live rise by the minute.
Robert Reich wrote in his blog today that manufacturing jobs are gone forever, so we might as well
. . .stop pining after the days when millions of Americans stood along assembly lines and continuously bolted, fit, soldered or clamped what went by. Those days are over. And stop blaming poor nations whose workers get very low wages. Of course their wages are low; these nations are poor. They can become more prosperous only by exporting to rich nations. When America blocks their exports by erecting tariffs and subsidizing our domestic industries, we prevent them from doing better. Helping poorer nations become more prosperous is not only in the interest of humanity but also wise because it lessens global instability.
Want to blame something? Blame new knowledge. Knowledge created the electronic gadgets and software that can now do almost any routine task. This goes well beyond the factory floor. America also used to have lots of elevator operators, telephone operators, bank tellers and service-station attendants. Remember? Most have been replaced by technology. Supermarket check-out clerks are being replaced by automatic scanners. The Internet has taken over the routine tasks of travel agents, real estate brokers, stock brokers and even accountants. With digitization and high-speed data networks a lot of back office work can now be done more cheaply abroad.
I don't know. Maybe that's what so depressing--that notion from even the most learned, the most logical, that we might as well just give up. Privatizing and outsourcing works. Our days of actually producing goods are over. Where it used to be patriotic to produce goods, we now find that the best way to keep our country strong is to send the workers packing.
So now what do we do? Here's Reich again:
The biggest challenge we face over the long term -- beyond the current depression -- isn't how to bring manufacturing back. It's how to improve the earnings of America's expanding army of low-wage workers who are doing personal service jobs in hotels, hospitals, big-box retail stores, restaurant chains, and all the other businesses that need bodies but not high skills.Unbelievable. Even Reich. They got to Reich. Who's next? God??
(Cross-posted at Talking Points Memo here.)