Sunday, January 14, 2007

That Other War

I'm getting to the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel of my working life. In four and a half years, I'll be able to draw Medicare. I'm not saying I'll choose to retire then. I may decide to keep working if I'm not senile and still comparatively healthy but Medicare is when I could decide to pack it in. The point is that I've been a part of the work force of this country now for over 40 years. During almost all of that time, there was a kind of bargain between labor and management and that was that generally, productivity and wages were yoked together like two horses pulling a plow (although they always did have their thumb on the scales when it came to figuring our our share). If we kept our side of the agreement and increased our productivity, they would hold to their end, and allow us to share in some of the profits from the fruits of our labors.

Management has now stamped that contract "null and void". The productivity horse has kept right on pulling his share of the load. According to a report by Andrew Sum, Director for the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston (and publicized in a column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times), between 2001 and 2006 non-farm labor productivity increased by 18 percent. But the horse on the other side of the plow unbuckled the harness and walked off. (I believe he's lounging in the sun on the French Riviera as we speak). Evidently the profit horse no longer acknowledges that he is part of a team. Because while productivity was booming, workers' wages, adjusted for inflation, went up only 1 percent. On average, that amounts to $3.20 per week. Or put another way, it amounts to an increase of $15.4 billion divided between 93 million American workers.

Meanwhile, you might have read about Robert L Nardelli, who was recently fired as CEO of Home Depot and got the tidy little sum of $210 million to send him happily on his way. Or you may have heard about the top five Wall Street firms that gave an estimated $36 to $44 billion, (that's billion with a B!), in bonuses to their combined 173,000 employees, most of it to their top 1,000 or so highest-paid managers.

Did you get that? The 173,000 Wall Street employees are, in one year, splitting way more than twice as much as all the rest of us put together in six years?

I know, I know - America has always prided itself on not doing class warfare. We love the rich and don't begrudge them their due. Hurray for Bill Gates. He invented it; he earned it. We would all love to do the same and by Gosh, if we invent a new thingamawhutty and make tons of money, we don't want the gov'mint taking a bunch of it away from us in the form of taxes.

But, hey, people, I hate to be the one to break it to you but we are at war. We weren't the ones who started it but we are the victims of it. This is class warfare from the top down. Corporate America is stacking the deck so that we lose every hand but we just keeping on pulling that old plow........