We used to have the upper class, middle class, lower class, working class. Most of us in America pretended that class wasn’t an issue.
Retired folks living on Social Security and pensions were in a separate category. As elders and retired, they were deemed “entitled” (gasp) to the Social Security and pensions they received. They had, after all, worked long and hard to earn those Social Security and pension checks. Continue reading →
Mitt Romney is to be commended for finally bringing into focus the economic divide emerging in America.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the Winner’s Camp are people who own and control the wealth. It starts with the very richest, a tiny sliver at the top, less than one percent. This camp also includes the affluent classes, the bankers, accountants, lawyers, executives, innovators and politicians who preside over the modern economy. They provide the brainpower to monitor, preserve, and increase the wealth.
You also find in the Winner’s Camp a large number of people who are crucial for the operation of the economy.
This post, “Factory Girls and Boys,” documents child labor in the early years of the 20th century. The photos make me extremely angry. Not long ago, I wrote a post titled,“Austerity, The New Slavery.” More and more, I become convinced that modern capitalism depends for its existence on the exploitation of cheap labor. “Business ethics” really is an oxymoron. In America alone, we had widespread slavery and child labor, out in the open, in broad daylight! And not in the distant past. American industry has always supported immigration for a steady supply of cheap, expendable labor. The White House and the Capitol were built by slaves, the railroads were built by immigrants, and the industrial sweatshops were operated by women and children. After slavery and child labor were abolished, unions gained a toehold. Minimum wage laws and occupational safety laws were enacted over the objections of business. Not surprising that in the second half of the 20th century, industrialists began to move American factories to any faraway land where labor is cheap, plentiful, and unregulated. Thanks to historian and blogger Donna Seger and photographer Lewis Wickes Hine for opening my eyes.
I always feel a bit sorry for myself on Labor Day weekend, as it’s back-to-school time and usually I am engaged in a mad dash to get my course syllabi done. Of course this is ridiculous, as I have the cushiest job ever and most of the summer I’ve been free to do as I liked. It’s good to remind myself what labor really is, and nothing does that better than the photographs of Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940), who transitioned from educator to social activist, all the while armed with a camera. In 1908 Hine became the official photographer for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC) and began his life’s work: documenting child labor across the United States. This was a time when one in six children between the ages of five and ten worked outside the home in “gainful occupation”, and the percentage increases dramatically for children over the…
“My greatest fear is that much of the world could devolve into a dystopian nightmare in which increasing productivity brought on by automation and a global labor arbitrage crashes up against a reality of an overstretched global middle class no longer hungry to spend their every waking hour at the mall or the car dealership. This global goods glut arrives at the very moment that a combination of climate change, population growth and senseless farm policies have led to a potential global food crisis.”
The above quote is from Jon Taplin’s blog.If you’d like to know which way the wind is blowing at this bizarre point in history, you could read Jon Taplin.
Taplin calls the puzzling time in which we live “The Interregnum.”
Demonstration in Barcelona on January 22 against raising the retirement age (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
People are living longer, therefore the U.S. needs to raise the Social Security retirement age.
The above statement fills me with despair. It can be spoken with a straight face only by a young person or a rich person who doesn’t understand: a) What it feels like to be sixty-something in the 21st century, and b) The place of the American worker in the market for human labor, giventhe new-normal, flat-world economy.
Full disclosure: I come at this retirement age question from a Baby Boomer point of view. I celebrated (?) a 64th birthday in June. For which I’m grateful. It means I’m one of the survivors. I am now enjoying my 65th summer on the planet Earth, which is one of my favorite planets.
Today on NPR’s “Tell Me More,” a brief but informative discussion about “human trafficking” — more accurately, “modern slavery” — throughout the world today, and also in the U.S. Please click below to hear the 11-minute conversation.
Slavery is the oldest economic system in the world, and the most persistent. Just as surely as accounting and lawyering were not the first professions, capitalism and communism were not the first economic systems.
Slavery is also, I believe, one of the oldest forms of social structure. I imagine the tribe was the first social structure, closely followed by enslavement, but it might have been the other way around.
It is said that Satan goes by many names, and I believe that slavery also goes by many names.
The world has hardly ever been secretive about slavery. It’s been openly practiced from Biblical times to modern times. Continue reading →
Last night, I attended a meeting about social justice issues. Naturally, the controversy about public worker salaries and unions in Wisconsin came up.
One person commented, “The workers in Wisconsin are not poorly paid.” As if that were a known fact.
We all have preconceived notions about how much certain workers are paid. (When we say “public workers,” we’re often thinking of teachers, firefighters, and police officers. It is important to point out that by the very nature of state and local government, large numbers of the workers are in traditionally low-paying jobs requiring low levels of skill or education.) What do you think is fair pay? Please vote.
Which workers are we talking about? Teachers? Police officers? School maintenance workers? School cafeteria workers? Bus drivers? Road repair crews? Attorneys, engineers, accountants? Public health nurses? Truck drivers? Clerks who process paperwork or answer the phone?
Does a police officer deserve to be paid an adequate living wage? Does a trash collector? Should fair pay be enough for the worker to support himself or herself only? Or should the pay be high enough to also support a child? Two children?
Was answering these questions difficult, impossible, easy? Who should set pay rates? The governor, the private market, the unions, collective bargaining, lottery? Put them all on the ballot for the voters to decide in a referendum?
How much should bloggers be paid? What? Never mind!