“Big Labor” or Wall Street: Who Hurt The American Economy?

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

    The answer to this question would appear to be obvious. But, it needs constant reinforcing–as you will see from the debate (if you can call it that) last night between yours truly and Larry Kudlow and a stooge from the right wing. It’s almost laughable and entertaining–if the consequences weren’t so dire.

The subject of the debate was the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to propose streamlined rules for union representation elections–meaning, trying to insert a tiny amount of balance in a system that is heavily weighted against unions today. Facts are facts: thousands of workers are fired every year when they try to organize a union and the system encourages delays that give the employer the upper hand in almost every instance. When I read the new rules, I chuckled–the rules would help a bit but there is no way that these rules are going to spark a massive new wave of unionization that would bring hundreds of thousands of new union members into unions.

    But, employers and their allies are just beside themselves. It isn’t enough that the corporate assault against labor–aided and abetted by political parties that support bad trade deals that undermine unions–has driven the share of labor representation down below 7 percent in the private sector. Nope, it’s not good enough until that number is ZERO.

    While I was sitting with the earpiece stuck in my ear waiting for my segment to begin, I heard a lead-in interview Kudlow did with Sen. Lindsey Graham. The two were sputtering about the decision by the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board to charge Boeing with illegally retaliating against unionized workers by moving a plant to South Carolina. (a subject, by the way, that I had debated on Kudlow’s show a few days ago with a very dumb Tea Party Republican)

    In that pre-taped interview, Kudlow calls this the "assault on free market capitalism", and fingers labor and the NLRB as the "obstacle to growth everywhere". I wasn’t on camera but I was laughing out loud about the absurdity of those comments.

     Just as a matter of economics (I’m putting aside morality and the destruction of the middle class) it is absurd to suggest that a force that represents 7 percent of anything can exert any serious effect.  

    So, before answering the charges that the world was coming to an end because of these tepid new NLRB rules, I wanted to correct two points. First, as I said, Kudlow, like many men, as a very difficult time with the concept of size…there is no such thing as "Big Labor" when it’s been crushed down to 7 percent in the private sector.

    Second, I pointed out that the "obstacles to growth everywhere" comes not from workers, or unions, but from the greed and incompetence on Wall Street that obliterated millions of jobs–and, one could add, the general greed and incompetence among CEOs in general (I’ll come back to that in a future post). Obviously, that’s not what Kudlow would like to talk about…OK, it’s his show and he makes the rules.

    We have to keep making this point–again and again. It’s not that I, or anyone else, is ever going to change the minds of Kudlow et al.

    I am interested in reaching the ears and minds of a great number of people who have been deeply hurt by the economic crisis, who long to achieve the American Dream and who are scared to death about the future (some of whom watch Kudlow, which is the main reason I subject myself to this exercise).

    Everywhere around us and every day we are confronted with the wreckage caused by the mentality that the economic mess we are in is the outcome of a world where wages are too high, pensions are too good, and unions ("Big Labor") are too strong–and so all that must come to an end.

   Example today. The poodle-for-the-rich Governor of New York sure did his job:

The state’s largest public-employee union, acknowledging the pressures on government workers around the nation, agreed on Wednesday to major wage and benefits concessions in a pact to avoid sweeping layoffs.

The five-year agreement between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, and the Civil Service Employees Association, includes a three-year wage freeze, the first furloughs ever for state workers and an increase in the amount employees must pay toward their health insurance.


    This is a crime:


Under the terms of the deal announced on Wednesday, lower-paid employees — those whose salaries start at about $33,000 or less — will have their share of health care premiums rise to 12 percent, from 10 percent, for individuals. More highly paid employees will have their share rise to 16 percent. The cost of family health coverage will also increase; for more highly paid employees, for example, the share will rise to 31 percent, from 25 percent. State officials expect that, as in the past, the health care changes will also apply to retirees, a potentially critical part of the overall savings.

    Rather than call this Democratic governor a coward for demanding that people who are making $33,000 take another hit and being unwilling to demand sacrifice from the richest in society, the deal is now seen as a model.

    Why? Because all of this mess is the fault of "Big Labor"  and workers who are being paid too much.

    Not that we lost trillions of dollars in wealth because of the mortgage scam, and we are letting the crooks get away with a slap on the wrist, whether that be Goldman Sachsor J.P. Morgan, who are also, thank you very much, making sure that theirpay reachs record levels again because, after all, they have not plundered the economy of every last cent.

    Or that we are obsessed with a phony debt and deficit crisis–not the trillions of dollars in corporate welfare we could save if someone had the guts to take on the real culprits.

    We need to reinforce who caused this mess–not for the people who have an ideological goal to destroy unions but for the many, many people who are absorbing the blather they read or hear via the media and politicians.

    Anyway, if you choose to, enjoy:


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