[p2p-research] Post-Depression first: Americans get more money from government than they give back | csmonitor.com

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Wed Nov 25 16:44:29 CET 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> I must say I strongly disagree about the blaming of the unions ...
> the unions were defending not just their reasonable incomes (how can a wage
> be greedy combined with the neoliberal fleecing by the top 1%), but the
> availability of public services,
> on the other side the tax revolt fueled by the reagan right made it
> impossible to level realistic taxes required for such public services ...
> interesting stat that recently came out is that if the labor-capital
> distribution had remained the same as before the reagan era, the minimum
> wage would be at $40 !!!

Yes, that is a big part of things. The increase in industrial productivity 
in the USA over the last three decades has not gone to the workers. Neither 
has much of it gone to public infrastructure or more free time (like in Europe).

> this gives you an indication of the scale of the looting that took place ...
> blaming the victims, the workers and their unions, for this, I find that
> quite perverse,
> (this is of course not to say that corporatist unions, looking only for
> their own, cannot be agents of unhealthy conservatism, but in the larger
> scheme of things, this is not a key cause, but rather, it would have been
> much worse without their defense of public services)

What became clear to me in a previous discussion on this list with you and 
the differing histories of the welfare states in the USA (distress based) 
vs. Europe (a right of citizenship), is that unions often create "private 
welfare states" that last as long as the corporation they are embedded in 
lasts (the US big three car companies are the best example). Unions missed 
their chance decades ago to continue to push for essentially a public 
welfare state for all in the USA, and now unions have been picked off 
member-by-member and union-by-union as companies downsize or collapse or 
sell off divisions. And, without a level playing field, like social benefits 
for all, companies with unions have faced a competitive disadvantage 
sometimes (not always, since sometimes people who are treated better produce 
more). Because the state and the school system have grown, those specific 
unions have become more dominant, reflecting that part of Andrew's point. 
But those unions have not been calling for broad changes in society, just 
the continuation of their private welfare states (so, they strike about 
their own pay, not in "sympathy" with pay for everyone, like, as you 
mention, as US$40 minimum wage, or I'd say, a basic income like Social 
Security and Medicaid for all regardless of age). What would happen if, say, 
the US teacher's unions and unions for US state workers said they would go 
on strike unless everyone in the USA got a basic income and single-payer 
health care, like members of those unions essentially already have 
privately? So, unions may still have some power, but maybe only if they use 
it to help others outside the unions. A related item going into more detail:
"Can unions and strikes still make a difference?"

--Paul Fernhout

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