Showing posts with label Robert Reich. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Reich. Show all posts

Jun 16, 2011

Robert Reich: Why the Republican War on Workers’ Rights Undermines the American Economy

Workers’ share of national income
Update: See also Workers’ share of national income plummets to record low.

By Robert Reich

The battle has resumed in Wisconsin. The state supreme court has allowed Governor Scott Walker to strip bargaining rights from state workers. ...

This war on workers’ rights is an assault on the middle class, and it is undermining the American economy.

The American economy can’t get out of neutral until American workers have more money in their pockets to buy what they produce. And unions are the best way to give them the bargaining power to get better pay.

For three decades after World War II – I call it the "Great Prosperity" – wages rose in tandem with productivity. Americans shared the gains of growth, and had enough money to buy what they produced.

That’s largely due to the role of labor unions. In 1955, over a third of American workers in the private sector were unionized. Today, fewer than 7 percent are.

With the decline of unions has come the stagnation of American wages. More and more of the total income and wealth of America has gone to the very top. The middle class’s purchasing power has depended on mothers going into paid work, everyone working longer hours, and, finally, the middle class going deep into debt, using their homes as collateral.

But now all these coping mechanisms are exhausted — and we’re living with the consequence.

Some say the Great Prosperity was an anomaly. America’s major competitors lay in ruins. We had the world to ourselves. According to this view, there’s no going back.

But this view is wrong. If you want to see the same basic bargain we had then, take a look at Germany now.

Germany is growing much faster than the United States. Its unemployment rate is now only 6.1 percent (we’re now at 9.1 percent).

What’s Germany’s secret? In sharp contrast to the decades of stagnant wages in America, real average hourly pay has risen almost 30 percent there since 1985. Germany has been investing substantially in education and infrastructure.

How did German workers do it? A big part of the story is German labor unions are still powerful enough to insist that German workers get their fair share of the economy’s gains.

That’s why pay at the top in Germany hasn’t risen any faster than pay in the middle. As David Leonhardt reported in the New York Times recently, the top 1 percent of German households earns about 11 percent of all income – a percent that hasn’t changed in four decades. ...

The current Republican assault on workers’ rights continues a thirty-year war on American workers’ wages. That long-term war has finally taken its toll on the American economy.

It’s time to fight back.

Jul 10, 2009

The X Economy - It's Bad at Best

Update: Christian Menegatti in RGE Monitor: "The United States is in the 20th month of a recession that has been by far the longest and most severe of the post-war period." See also The Next Big Bad Thing? and Next Shock Coming: Commercial Real Estate.

"The American economy has gone away. It is not coming back until free trade myths are buried six feet under."

The quote above is from Paul Craig Roberts in CounterPunch (Feb. 24, 2009), an impolitic newsletter and political site that regularly tells the world hard truths about the economy and public policy.

Roberts has been warning about the dangers of hollowing out our economy through outsourcing (offshoring), big finance capturing the regulatory bodies, and the legislative branches becoming a sick joke, for years.

Roberts is now conventional wisdom.

From Robert Reich's candid piece in Talking Points Memo, dismissing the optimistic talk about a U-shaped recession, Reich writes that the global economic crisis is an X file:

The X marks a brand new track -- a new economy. What will it look like? Nobody knows. All we know is the current economy can't 'recover' because it can't go back to where it was before the crash. So instead of asking when the recovery will start, we should be asking when and how the new economy will begin.
How about ditching the empire, peace instead of war, dismantling prisons and replacing them with schools, sustainability initiatives in energy, environmentally-friendly everything, legalizing most drugs; you know what the left has been advocating for the last several decades.

As for President Obama: Don't tell the world to go shopping and watch your neighborhood for terrorists as Bush did. We need an acknowledgement of the scale of the crisis and a declaration that only real change change can save the economy.

Perhaps heeding the advice of Seymour Melman, Ralph Nader, Jeffrey St. Clair, deep ecologists, radical economists ... hell, anyone who was under FBI surveillance in the 1960s-70s would help. As Noam Chomsky says: Hegemony or Survival.

Mar 5, 2009

Idiot Wind

Via Joan Walsh at Salon: Very fun times as Jon Stewert and Robert Reich take down "CNBC's Rick Santelli's faux-populist anti-Obama rant (and) mad man Jim Cramer's slurring Obama as a 'Bolshevik.' They're both repellent. Robert Reich says it all here."