Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Most Dangerous Union in the World

Several commentators have remarked about the sudden outbreak of class struggle in the United States. I see the brutal behavior of the state and federal governments as an indication of the failure of class struggle.

Let me explain. Back in the 1960s, when United States was enjoying the so-called Golden of economic prosperity, profits were weakening. By the late 1960s, the organized right wing began to harness the energy of the tea party of the day, which took hold with the defeat of Barry Goldwater. Using its almost unlimited source of funding, wealthy businesspeople and corporations began to create a solid network of organizations to remake the country by undoing the gains made during the and New Deal, and even emulating the political landscape of the late 19th century. The Cato Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, right wing legal offices, and a host of other activist operations led a systematic assault on anything and anybody who seem to know represent a barrier to profit maximization.

This movement was extraordinarily successful, so much so that they even co-opted the Democratic Party, which had previously offered a meek resistance to business demands. By the 1990s, the results were clear to anybody who bothered to take notice of the economy. On the eve of the Great Recession, the results were so obvious that only the most stubborn ideologues could fail to see that virtually all of the economic growth since 1970 had been captured by a very small elite. I told this story in a book entitled The Confiscation of American Prosperity: From Right-Wing Extremism and Academic Economics to the Next Great Depression, published in 2007, just as the stock market peaked.

The ideological justification of this confiscation was that business prosperity would create a tsunami of productivity by following the right-wing regimen. The entire population would benefit.

Productivity did increase — not spectacularly — but which is still stagnated. Job security eroded. Protections previously guaranteed by regulatory agencies or the law quickly disappeared.

Despite the idea that the economy somehow suffered from an over burden of taxes and regulations, the more these hindrances to prosperity fell by the wayside, the worse the economy performed. Profits became concentrated in the financial sector, but much of the rest of the economy faltered.

Scapegoats had to be found. Already, during the Nixon administration, the right wing became adept at recruiting working-class support, using racism and cultural discomfort as fuel. Ironically, one of the first groups successfully recruited were craft unions, a minority of whose members attacked antiwar demonstrators. A parade of scapegoats march across the political landscape. Braless hippies, Blacks, unwed teenage mothers, welfare recipients, immigrants, and now public workers, especially teachers.

The results were always the same. The right would win more victories. The overall economy would still perform sluggishly. And the next scapegoat would step forward. Even when the culprit is obvious, scapegoats still must be found. For example, with the collapse of the financial scams in 2007, blame was shifted to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and even more ridiculously to an obscure rule that had been passed two decades earlier.

For example, private-sector unions became virtually powerless on the national scene. In this environment, jobs disappeared. Disappointed union members would be vulnerable to the relative prosperity of public sector workers, who had pensions and medical coverage. Similarly, people who had lost their pensions to fraudulent banking schemes often became more upset with the relatively comfortable conditions of public sector workers.

One union stood out by its successes. It is not generally called a union, but so long as we can abuse reality by calling corporations people, we can call the Chamber of Commerce a union. This union is so powerful that the present United States must come before as a humble supplicant. This union was at the forefront of the deconstruction of the New Deal.

The time has come to stop blaming the victim. Somehow, we have to learn to fight back in this one-sided class warfare. We have to learn to explain that more of the same medicine that made us sick is not going to cure us. We have to learn to identify the architects of this disaster — the political manipulators, the right wing foundations and their benefactors, and if we want to begin a legitimate fight against unions, let’s start with the Chamber of Commerce.


Anonymous said...

Interesting history of the past 40 years. It sounds like some major change to the financial system was made in the early 1970s that gave the advantage to financial manipulation over physical production. I wonder what it was....

Falstaff said...

The architects of disaster? Chamber of Commerce as the most dangerous union? What's next, a Marxist interpretation of the trilateral commission? Seek help Perelman.

Sandwichman said...

Drink beer, Falstaff.

Jack said...

For someone to use such a nom de plume and then suggest that someone else should seek help is intriguing. Just one description of the character,
"The most intriguing character in William Shakespeare's Henry IV plays is Sir John Falstaff. Falstaff is a likable character of ill repute. He is a drunkard, a thief, a liar, and a coward, but we love him, because he is also humorous, jovial, childish, and free living. Eventually, his behavior becomes so apprehensible that he is rejected."
I assume you've chosen your identity carefully and with proper insight.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

"..we have to learn to fight back in this one-sided class warfare. We have to learn to explain that more of the same medicine that made us sick is not going to cure us..."

The poison chalice could be seen as the mass acceptance of a life of passive, unthoughtful consumption of the products and services of the large corporations. (Rather than to engage in productive us of time and resources at home). Also, the willingness to pay more for less and less.

My home is host to many young overseas visitors. It can be quite astonishing at times when I discover that many women and men don't know how to cook, use basic farm tools (like balancing a wheelbarrow, using a mattock or a blockbuster etc). The act of sewing two pieces of fabric together poses challenges as does darning socks, stacking firewood, planting seedlings, pruning, making jam. In fact, just about anything that entails producing things for your own sustenance.

Over 80% of the population of Australia is urbanised. It appears to be much the same in many other nations.

I can't see how city life can be compatible with human survival in the near future, with scenarios of rapidly deepening world poverty, general energy, water and mineral shortages, climate change etc.

But I don't see the economic and social evolution of the last 40 years as 'class warfare'. Not when the masses (in the rich industrial countries, at least) roll over and play dead.

The fight in those nations hasn't really begun. When it does, it might be a quiet revolution in the kitchens and backyards of many homes.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

PS: This is not to say that more home production will solve the problems of greed and over-acquisition of the (political) power elite.

But I can't see how a political movement can solidify without the skills and ability to directly provide sustenance for large numbers of people.

Economic power, if non-existent in the home, then where will we find it?

Myrtle Blackwood said...

Uh! " an email the Financial Times reported was "pinging around" trading desks. It reads in part:
We are Wall Street: It’s our job to make money. Whether it’s a commodity, stock, bond, or some hypothetical piece of fake paper, it doesn’t matter. We would trade baseball cards if it were profitable… Go ahead and continue to take us down, but you’re only going to hurt yourselves. What’s going to happen when we can’t find jobs on the Street anymore? Guess what: We’re going to take yours... We aren’t dinosaurs. We are smarter and more vicious than that, and we are going to survive."

Julian Wells said...

My memory of Henry IV is that Falstaff is rejected not because of any change in his behaviour, but because association with him is no longer convenient for Hal.

Jack said...

The behavior of the character did not change, as you say, but the behavior itself was seen anew by the changing circumstances at court. At one moment Falstaff was useful enough to over look his gross short comings. Then the immediate world around him changed a bit and he was now expendable and becoming a liability. Neither character changed. The context of a relationship is every thing.