Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Labor Pains

The latest entry in the not-quite-getting-it sweepstakes is an article by Robert Borosage on the Campaign for America's Future web site:


The title, as indicated in the www address, is “Obama's Next Gauntlet: Reviving the Middle Class”. Great idea, you say? Well, it would be if it were true. But by “middle class”, Borosage – just like Robert Reich! -- means the blue collar, i.e. working class, more specifically the portion of the working class that is unionized. And what's going to “revive” it? Why, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), of course! This act, AKA “card check”, is usually represented by conservatives as intended to turn unions into protection rackets, i.e. “join or else”. In this, for anyone with a sense of history, it's just another pendulum swing in the sordid saga of labor-management “relations” over the past century or so. And, as usual, the libertarians have the answer, and, as usual, it's universally ignored by all. In a nutshell, people should have the unrestricted right to organize workers into unions. And, workers should have the unrestricted right to either join a union or not. And, businesses should have the unrestricted right to either hire union employees, non-union employees, or some combination thereof. Now there, wasn't that easy? But the thousands of pages of labor law imply that it's not actually that easy. And it isn't, because no one _wants_ it to be, least of all the government bureaucrats who have made a career out of coming up with, and enforcing, ever-more-Byzantine and, in some cases, totally absurd labor laws and regulations. Like every other government program, “labor” is basically a jobs program (for bureaucrats and workers alike) and a means of disrupting and distorting the laws of supply and demand – i.e. making American businesses less efficient and less productive. And what's wrong, pray tell, with efficiency and productivity? Well, if it takes fewer workers to produce the same goods and provide the same services, that means that there are fewer manufacturing and service jobs, which means less union power and less bureaucratic power. Hence, the many notorious crimes against productivity and efficiency that have become legendary in our society, particularly since the New Deal ushered in a golden age of labor and created what someone once called “the aristocracy of labor”, i.e. the unionized elite.

And it precisely this unionized elite that Borosage – and Reich – are referring to when they talk about the “middle class”... and I agree that, in terms of household income, the labor elite are the equivalent of the middle class – at least the “lower middle” to “middle middle” range. Culturally, of course, they are nothing of the kind – and the same goes for their psychology, sociology, and attitudes. The prosperous working class in this country are like the kulaks in Russia of old – nice houses, money in the bank, but still peasants. (The kulaks also had servants, so in that sense they were better off. But they were also slaughtered by Stalin, so in that sense they were worse off.) No matter how well off a "working man" becomes, he still has a working man's attitude -- which, in this country, partakes heavily of populism and collectivism, and an irrational (and economically moronic) fear and hatred of business, management, technology, innovation, and efficiency. (They should also fear "free trade", but their leadership has sold them down the river on that issue.)

And, as bonafide members of the working class, the labor elite also get to perform that sacred and hallowed act that all middle class people get to perform, namely the paying of taxes. And I suppose they consider this a small price to pay for all that they have gained; they are certainly not the types to stage a “tax revolt”, because, in their book, the government is still their friend. They – or at least their fathers – still have fresh memories of trust-busting, the right of collective bargaining, closed shops, and so on. They have also been thoroughly brainwashed in the gospel of: “conservatism” = “right to work”, union-busting, and so on. The fact that they have been, of late, exploited just as much, if not more, by liberals (can you say “NAFTA”?) as conservatives has apparently not yet risen to their attention, nor has the fact that their union leadership is almost invariably at odds with the rank and file when it comes to social issues. And of course, they are now all seeing their retirement fund bubbles bursting before their very eyes, with the government moving in to take the matter out of the hands of the corrupt and fiscally inept union leadership.

So if this is the “middle class” that is slated for “revival” by Obama & Co., that doesn't really represent a significant chance in Democratic or liberal policy – just a change in terminology. What has not, and will not, change, is the fact that the liberals/Democrats still despise the “old”, i.e. traditional, middle class, i.e. the “white collar”, from lowly clerks up through middle management, layer of society. This is the class, the “bourgeoisie”, that has been on the receiving end of what amounts to persecution by the liberals, “progressives”, social change agents, media, and just about everyone else who counts, for nigh unto 80 years now. They have been on the defensive, not only with regard to their incomes (taxed at a confiscatory level -- even though Borosage says "America has never done much redistribution through taxes" -- is he insane??), their savings (also taxed, and eroded by inflation), “values” (family, religious, moral, etc.), and life style, but also with regard to their alleged attitudes about things like race, ethnicity, “diversity”, women's rights, sexuality, art, music... basically, you name it, the middle class has been pilloried (by the media, the lower class and their rabble-rousing leaders, liberal politicians, academics, and the cultural elite) for liking or disliking something about it. The latest example – already commented on on this blog – is the accusation, by the Attorney General, that Americans are “cowards” about the race issue. He meant – let there be no doubt – the white middle class, and no one else. And really, if you take all the government policies, rules, regulations, and social engineering projects over the last 80 years into account, there is only one possible conclusion, and that is that the middle class is on death row. The miracle is that it has taken so long to deliver the final blow – but the present economic catastrophe may in fact be that blow, and it is clearly taking the Regime no time at all to move in and take advantage of it, and consolidate its gains by turning us into a two-class society. This is an example – and perhaps the best yet – of what is called “revolution within the form”, i.e. a revolution, or equivalent thereof, that does not involve any drastic change in the structure of government, or the legal system, or even certain economic parameters, but which is, nonetheless, every bit as “revolutionary” -- if not more so! -- than the kind that involves bombs, fire, civil war, executions, and all the rest of the more colorful variety so aptly carried out by the Soviets, the Maoists, Pol Pot, Castro, et al. (At least those revolutions had the merit of getting rid of a few pesky and annoying people! The way we do it, they're all still around. Maybe we should consider trying the other kind.) But in the meantime, we have the government operating at a truly breathtaking pace (especially for government!) to nationalize as much of the economy as possible, spend (or commit to spend) as much as possible, and create a mountain of entitlements that make the Swedish welfare state look like anarchy. But, since there is no money to pay for any of this, it will have to be either borrowed or printed. If borrowed, it will have to be paid back, plus interest, so that is, at best, a temporary expedient. Ultimately, it will all have to be printed, which means that the currency will have to be intentionally inflated, and who gets hurt the most when this happens? Chumps – er, I mean “good citizens” -- you know, the kind who save money and invest it – you know, the “middle class”, and I mean the _real_ middle class, not a unionized plumber with a house in the 'burbs. And this consequence, far from being “unanticipated”, is very much anticipated, and intended. It is, in fact, the core element of the final battle – the economic Armageddon – against the American middle class. And all the word-mouthing about “revival” isn't going to change it. Yes, we will still have a unionized labor elite, of sorts, and their numbers may grow in proportion (but not too much, because then they won't be an elite any more, and we can't have that). They will, in effect, be the top layer of the lower of the two classes in the two-class society – the “upper lowers”, if you will -- think: people in the Soviet Union with a two-room apartment as opposed to a one-room one. And yes, they will be paying taxes – they'd better, by gosh! -- 'cause no one else will be, or be expected to. With any luck, they'll wake up one morning and realize that they have become the cash cows of the new American system, now that the old middle class has been reduced to penury. Then maybe that old working class/ethnic fire will flare up and we'll get a revolution at last – we're sure not going to ever get it from the white-collar “sheeple”, as the local paper terms them.

No comments: