21 June 2010

Hmmm well that worked. First embedded video. I’m not so pleased with the method, but the result is OK.

The Middle

Nice song by Jimmy Eat World, but today’s rant has nothing to do with that middle. Today’s rant has to do with another middle, as in middle class, as in “where the fuck did it go?” One of my acquaintances is a guy from Pittsburgh PA, a good Irish-Catholic lad near age 50 whose parents, in good Catholic fashion, had 10 kids. His father worked, his mother stayed home. His father was a school teacher, belonged to the Teacher’s Union in Pittsburgh, and they lived a relatively comfortable life in what was once the industrial Northeast. Ten kids. One working parent. No welfare. Health insurance. Retirement. Vacation every year. How can this be?

My father was also a union worker, a carpenter. Both of us kids went to Catholic school. It wasn’t special, but it was something. We had dental care. We had health care. We got to go to far away places like Spokane for the World’s Fair and to the Pueblo at Taos because the union dictated that my dad had a fair wage, and was able to have 2 weeks vacation. We owned a car and my parents were able to buy a house. It wasn’t a nice house, and it wasn’t in a great neighborhood, but it was a house. This was the American dream. A house, a station wagon, 2.3 kids and a shaggy dog in the back yard. How that was ever a bad thing, I just don’t understand.

This was the 60s and 70s. America was the top manufacturer on the planet. Unions were strong. Wages were high. America was at her best. People had spending money, but the only debt was a mortgage (30 years at a fixed rate) and maybe a 3 year car loan. If you bought something, it would last. Yeah you could buy trivial crap, and I mean crap, from Taiwan. “Made in Japan” wasn’t a badge of greatness. It was more of a “This is Cheap!”

But then, somehow, America lost her way. The rich amongst us felt like it wasn’t enough to be more than well off. Too much of what could be theirs was getting passed down to the workers. And to those evil unions. If only there was some way to change things so the elite among us could once again be the elite. They didn’t like sharing power. They held the purse. They didn’t want to be told what to do by a bunch of low life workers. As long as unions were strong, the workers could not be shat upon. As long as the workers had a voice, the workers could have the American dream. That dream wasn’t to be a billionaire. It was a simple dream, to raise your kids in a good way. To work for a fair wage and fair benefits. That dream….it wasn’t much to ask.

Many people point to the Reagan years as the beginning of the assault on the middle class. We can look back to the firings of the Air Traffic Controllers (Union) as possibly the Fort Sumter of the War against the Working American. Why this assault on unions? I assert that the whole thing was staged…isn’t every entry into war just a staged event? This put union workers on notice that the president and his men were not going to put up with workers demands. It showed that no matter what people believed from the lessons of the past 70 years of workers’ struggle, the game was changing.

The right wing propaganda machine went into full force in the 80s with their demonization of unions. And back to the question of why? Well, unions had money. They were a balance against the corporate machine. They were a balance against management. They were a balance against the stockholders. The unions could counter corporate money in the political arena. They could sponsor politicians who would be favorable to the workers vs. the politicians favorable to the wealthy. Thusly, unions were able to force the corporations to play ball in a fair manner. Companies then paid fair wages. They provided crazy things like pensions, health care, paid vacations, training. Crazy I know. Once the unions had been weakened, it was easy for the corporate party to take over.

Once a favorable set of politicians was in play, the rules of the game changed dramatically. Manufacturers blamed the unions and sent their jobs away. Take GM. By moving the jobs to Mexico, “they” were going to reap huge rewards by the lowering of labor cost. Did we, however, see a corresponding price drop? This was just a step in killing the American worker. The beneficiaries of these type of moves are stockholders…MAJOR stockholders. Those workers lucky enough to own a couple dozen shares of stock don’t benefit. As much as the hype machine wants to play it, the average American – even with a better than average 401k type investment – isn’t the kind of stockholder who benefits from these moves. Kill manufacturing. Kill the worker. Kill the country. Except the rich…they get richer.

FF to the present. Unions have been rendered useless by the media machine. Now the corporate sponsorship of politicians cannot be countered by the workers. As workers, our little dream of a house, a station wagon, 2.3 kids and a shaggy dog in the back yard has been extinguished. We are presented a dream in TV, radio and internet advertisements, of how things could be if we were on a Carnival Cruise or driving a $599 a month Cadillac. And every dream purchase ad is quickly followed by a bank advertisement asking “What’s in your wallet?” The American dream has been hijacked. People who are already well off feel like they should be multimillionaires. That is the new American dream. But that is not the dream of the workers. We just want to do a fair days work for a fair return. That isn’t much to ask.

I close my eyes…and I drift away…

Filed under:La Voz del Norte — la voz @ 23:55 pm

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