There Has Never Been Wage Stagnation. It’s A Lie.

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini1 Comment

Because what has happened is robbery. Pure and simple. “Stagnation” is too passive. It makes it sound like a natural phenomena, like a sunset.

It makes it sound like there were never active players in the daily robbery of workers–either by outright breaking of the law or by using the so-called “free market” system to take from people the fruits of their labor.

I raise this because of two elite views expressed in the past couple of days that are pretty common repetitions of the myth of “gee, isn’t it terrible this thing just happened”.

The first, not surprising, comes courtesy of The Washington Post in its editorial entitled “Middle-class income stagnation is a threat to the nation’s health”. After complaining about the recent election, The Post editorial tells us:

Our second point, though, is that honest political dialogue, as opposed to populistic rhetoric, begins by acknowledging how difficult it will be to reverse middle-class income stagnation. It is, after all, a trend which afflicts all industrialized democracies.

And it ends with:

Nothing in the last four decades refutes the basic case for flexible, innovative, American-style capitalism or points to a better alternative; to the contrary. Even so, government and the private sector must find new ways to manage that model — to stimulate growth, equitable distribution and work effort — because if the system doesn’t work for the middle class, it really isn’t working at all.

I do admit to bursting out laughing when reading this. No, it is not difficult to “reverse” middle-class “stagnation”–if you abandon virtually every economic policy supporting the so-called “free market that the Post has endorsed for decades and call it robbery.

Example: the Post has been a long cheerleader for so-called “free trade” going back to NAFTA. You want to reverse middle-income robbery? Dump so-called “free trade” which pits worker against worker and cuts wages. The Post can start by stopping its cheerleading for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Some more robbery has taken place courtesy of the gang of thieves who run together in the “cut the deficit” scam, led by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson–two of the worst corporate hacks in politics who the Post had held up, month after month, as the saviors of the Republican–if only the rest of us would embrace the Catfood Commission. As diehard adherents to the “free market”, these two ginned up–to be sure, with foolish Democrats as well–the campaign to privatize Social Security, cut Medicare and overall cut the budget, which has happened.

That is robbery of the people. Robbery that has led to the loss of thousands of good-paying public-sector jobs.

So, “stagnation” doesn’t just lap up on the beach one day. People get robbed by the very leaders who are holding the purse strings.

I mean, the real laugher is the sentence “Nothing in the last four decades refutes the basic case for flexible, innovative, American-style capitalism or points to a better alternative; to the contrary.”

Really? REALLY????

NOTHING REFUTES THAT? You mean, the American-style capitalism that lauds the “job creators” over workers, the system that encouraged millions of people to go without basic health care (because, another health care system, say, in Canada or Denmark, wasn’t as good as “American-style capitalism”), the system that was virtually silent when CEOs, over decades, robbed stock holders value and the wealth of a company by pocketing tens of millions of dollars in pay and benefits (and, today, there is just a whimper of “reform” of that robbery with a pathetic demand that shareholders–who never control a majority of the votes–get a “say on pay” vote on the CEO pay package…what a fucking joke), the system that depends on poverty wages because families like the Waltons rob workers of the productivity gains workers produce, and the system that lets companies kill workers, literally, at work (the indictment of that murderous big Donald L. Blankenship, the CEO  who ran the Massey Energy Company, and ran an operation that killed 29 men in 2010, is just the tip of the iceberg because workers die every year, all the time, because that’s the way the system is built–not on safety but for profitable robbery).

I could go on.

But, over to The New York Times and a columnby, who else, the Times’ favorite cuddly apologist for “American-style capitalism”, Steven Rattner, who at least in his bio acknowledges that he is “a Wall Street executive”.

Rattner goes through the usual data we all can expect from the “liberal” side of the world–you know, how our taxes are actually low by global standards (true), the size of our government (small by global standards), etc. etc…

But, here is where he won’t, because he doesn’t see it, admit that it has been robbery by the very system that has enriched HIM that is the problem:

Helping those in the middle, whose incomes have been battered by globalization, will be harder and take longer. Expanded training programs and better education should be the centerpiece of any strategy to improve the lives of the middle class. A more robust economic recovery will also help the middle class, as will pro-growth policy initiatives like investment in infrastructure.

Ah, yes, there’s another one “globalization”…because that just happens…like “stagnation”…

Back in 2006, I wrote about the phony myth of education because it was being used a cover to ram down the throats of the people a robbery taking place, principally via so-called “Free trade”. I wrote, then, that wages, not skills or education, were the most important issue facing workers throughout the globe. The disparity was, and mostly still is, so huge that American workers, no matter how smart they get, will never be able to compete against workers in other countries–unless, of course, Americans are willing to accept a drastic decline in their standard of living.

Giving us the clap-trap about education means that Rattner and others don’t have to wrestle with the real challenge: corporate power, and the robbery that takes place every day in our system. Offering cheaper education (personally, I advocate a free, four-year education for every person willing to work their first post-graduation year for a non-profit community group) is a whole lot easier than putting an end to so-called “free trade”, imposing some community investment demands on the flows of capital and demanding worldwide minimum standards that end the most ferocious competition based solely on wages.

Education is a cruel lie if it becomes the answer to the challenge of global competition. It’s insulting to workers to feed them the line that they are just too dumb to get a fairly compensated job. It isn’t their fault. And until we are willing to confront corporate power, and call out “robbery” people may hang diplomas on their walls of their homes even if they can’t feed their families.

Call it like it is: ROBBERY.


  1. Pingback: Global Robbery In One Simple Graph | Working Life

Leave a Comment