It seems like we see this same study every month.
The gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades, according to a June 25 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Yeah, but we’ve known that forever, right? Wages are stagnate, the majority of people have very little wealth (it’s much worse for women of color) while a smaller and smaller minority hoard all the cash.
I posted a question on Twitter: “How many studies need to come out showing the huge wealth disparity before the government acts to fix it?” and got the usual snarky, flippant response I’ve grown to expect and love from readers. The standard response goes like this: the government knows it’s a problem, but the rich, connected people are the ones in power, they benefit from this feudal system, and so they vote to preserve it.
I completely agree with that assessment, but there comes a time every few generations where that system becomes utterly unsustainable, and even the well-healed oligarchy must make some concessions to the serfs. Seriously – who in their right mind thinks this economic model can go on forever? Eventually, the whole thing will collapse and the rich won’t have a government left to protect their sweet little ponzi scheme. At this point, it behooves not only the poor to rework the system, but also the rich.
No one (or I should say very few people) are proposing a Communist utopia in which All Are Equal, and the government tears gold bricks from the desperate, clawing arms of the rich. Quite literally, the most radical mainstream proposals involve slightly raising taxes on the wealthy. It’d also be a good idea to increase the minmum wage and get people health insurance. That’s it. That maybe be all it takes from stopping the entire system from deteriorating.
Yet, our wealthy overlords seem incapable of reversing their myopic governance. They demonize the poor and unemployed, and dangle benefits before their noses before ultimately yanking them away. They propose severe austerity measures in the midst of an economic recession, and casually discuss privatizing Social Security – one of the last meaningful government programs. And they can generally get away with abusing the underclass because the corporate state – assisted by both political parties – toppled the sole tool of the solidarity labor movement, the union.
However, Bob Herbert writes that the new president of the UAW, Bob King, appears to have a grasp on the dangerous instability of the country, and an understanding of what needs to happen in order to rectify the problem.
“My view of the labor movement today,” he said in an interview, “is that we got too focused on our contracts and our own membership and forgot that the only way, ultimately, that we protect our members and workers in general is by fighting for justice for everybody.”
The fundamental issue is that “every human being deserves dignity and a decent standard of living,” he said, “and the whole point of the labor movement is to help make that happen.”
In Mr. King’s view, the fight to organize workers and improve their wages and benefits is important, but it’s part of a much broader effort to improve the lives of individuals and families throughout the country and beyond. He is a believer in cooperative efforts and shared sacrifice, and is unabashedly idealistic as he outlines what can only be described as a new activism on labor’s part.
He promised his members last month that the U.A.W. would be marching and campaigning and organizing — for jobs, for a moratorium on home foreclosures, for civil and human rights and against the mistreatment of immigrants, and for peace.
“The Tea Party has been more vocal than we’ve been,” he said. “There is something wrong with that picture.”
This is exactly what another man named King envisioned for his last proposed political movement, a Poor People’s Party, that would transcend racial boundaries and unite the underclass in a powerful movement that could push back against the tyrannical behemoths on Wall Street.
As Hebert writes (and I recommend reading the whole article,) no one talks like this anymore. No doubt the Serious People will scoff at Bob King’s words, but then again, they’re the same type of assholes who also laughed at Dr. King, and who have now brought us to this place of recession and huge wealth disparity, so perhaps we should ignore those condescending dismissals and forge ahead.
Solidarity seems like a strange concept in these divisive times, but if workers remember and embrace the idea, it’s literally the only tool they have at their disposal to challenge the uncaring elite.
Update: Of course, it’ll be hard for workers to negotiate with total idiots.