Sunday, September 5, 2010
There's over 5 million of us out here in the labor force who aren't working. That 9.6% figure is a load of bull because as anyone on this side the unemployment picture can tell you once your unemployment checks stop you're no longer counted as being unemployed. Excuse me? Does this mean I've become a non person? According to republicans we're no longer Americans. Sorry guys but I still have a place to live and I still vote. But then again if that's how they feel maybe I should just apply as citizen of another industrialized nation. Let us all see what other countries have to offer. I hear some European countries give you 6 weeks vacation, a 37 hour work week, real retirement, real health care and they're still kicking our butts economically.
So what exactly happened over the last 30 or 40 years that got us into this position? I'm slowly putting together all the facts. There was a time when a dad could go out and get a job that paid to support his family and sometimes those families were quit large. You remember the catholic family down the street that had six or seven kids and they didn't look like they were starving. Families used to take vacations every year and even if they didn't go to some place fancy at least there was time off to be together. If you got hurt dad's company insurance would cover all of the costs. There were no deductibles back then. And even if for some reason you had to go to the emergency room with no insurance it wouldn't break you. I recall once getting a cut at work and hitting the ER. The final cost was $50 for five stitches. That was before I knew about workers comp. Try doing that today you'd be lucky to get out of there with less than a $1000 bill.
But what else happened between then and now that made things so bad. There was a point in the late 70s where too much money was chasing too few goods as I recall. Inflation was rampant or so they said. At least wages were going up to keep pace with rising prices. Then Reagan stepped in to stomp on the economic brakes. We saw that he was no fan of the working class when he went after the air traffic controllers. The president who got elected with the help of labor turned around and spit on them. He cut all the safety nets and created loopholes in the tax structure for those at the top then raised taxes on everybody else. The he proceeded to spend secretly on one of the most wasteful defense programs this nation has ever seen. You remember it as "star wars". A program whose concept has not been realized some 30 years later after spending billions and questionable science. There was also the unfunded mandates. Federal requirements that were handed down to state, local governments and school districts with no money to incorporate them.
With the middle class being punched in the gut economically there was no choice but to have mom go to work, but with that came more expenses that weighed on the family budget. The cost of another car, insurance, gas etc along with rising home prices forced families to borrow just to stay afloat. It wasn't a matter of trying to live within one means. That is impossible now with downsizing cut hours and lay offs.
But the coup de grace was NAFTA and the tax cuts for the wealthy. Once well paying jobs went first to Mexico then to China. You can barely find a product with the made in USA label in any store now. Did the wealthy spend on American products creating that proposed 'trickle down' economics? Nope they tucked that windfall into yet another hedge fund or Swiss account. To add insult to injury when those hedge funds went bust it was the middle class who bailed them out. Were they appreciative of that? About as greatfull as a cheap uncle when they gave themselves huge bonuses and still couldn't back away from the gaming table.
A happy labor day indeed. As soon as those at the top get off our backs, cough up and pay their fair share and some type of jobs bill gets passed maybe there'll be a future.