Give Labor Its Day

Labor holds the key to the nation’s future global competitiveness, its standard of living and the health of its democracy. This Labor Day we honor the recession-battered U.S. workforce, which deserves to have its day.

The U.S. worker, typically the world’s most productive, has increased productivity for 18 months of this recession, even though he or she had fewer co-workers to share the workload. But such productivity cannot last forever, nor has it. At the end of the second quarter, the Labor Department reported a 0.9 percent dip in productivity for 2010. That dip could spark rehiring; the question is when.


Productivity is a two-edged sword. When fewer workers accomplish more, the greatest beneficiaries are not the workers but their employers, whose operations gain efficiency, and the shareholders, whose stock values rise. A recession gives employers the latitude to freeze or squeeze wages; high productivity allows them to postpone rehiring. More than layoffs, the delay in rehiring has kept 14.6 million former workers on government assistance and off the private payroll—nearly half of them for six months or longer—and has prevented new workers from landing a job.

Joblessness has worsened this year. The national unemployment rate held at 9.5 percent in July only because 181,000 workers stopped looking for work. The inclusion of part-time workers and those who have given up their job search but want full-time work would raise the rate to 17 percent or more.

Millions of U.S. workers had begun to lose ground decades before the recession—their wages flat, pensions phased out, benefits and promotions cut, and the jobs they performed regarded as expendable, the first cost to be slashed in any downturn. Unions have remained weak. Their top priority—the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize—was introduced in both houses of Congress in 2009 but has been lobbied almost to death by business interests.

During the George W. Bush administration, workers at the top of the income ladder saw their pay and perks grow exponentially as their tax rates shrank, offering them plenty of cushion in hard times. Yet the enormous difference in pay at the top is not always merited by education, expertise or experience. Recent reports of excessive pay for unexceptional corporate leadership and wanton risk-taking with other people’s money have enraged the public. Too often the rich get richer not because their work is outstanding, but because the capitalist system favors them.

In the 1981 encyclical “On Human Work,” Pope John Paul II affirmed the primacy of labor: “Workers’ rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. The thing that must shape the whole economy is respect for the workers’ rights within each country and all through the world’s economy” (No. 17).

President Obama has had some success reining in the recession during his 18 months in office. His administration has saved the jobs of millions of public workers through state assistance, rescued much of the auto industry, extended unemployment benefits to millions, kept inflation low and through loans and grants enabled more low-income students to attend college, improving the long-term workforce. But the administration did not make the workforce a priority when the recession hit, as Germany, for example, did. The German government subsidized both businesses and workers to prevent layoffs and retain workers for shortened work weeks. As the economy picked up, businesses began rehiring, and Germany’s unemployment rate has already dropped to pre-recession levels. By contrast, the U.S. government has neither created enough new jobs nor convinced the private sector to do so, which was the strategic plan.

To be competitive in the global workplace of the future, the United States will need to close the gap in income and education between the highest-paid workers and all other workers, a gap exacerbated by high unemployment. If left unchecked, this gap could also threaten the health of the large middle class that characterizes the world’s best democracies.

The Catholic Church, which values the worker as central to society, could help to elevate the workforce in the public mind. Societal leaders must understand that corporate profits and shareholder returns cannot in justice be made at the expense of the nation’s own labor force. Nations with a rich clique lording it over everyone else are too prevalent in the world, but none of them are thriving democracies. Nor are they just. If the United States is headed in this direction (as neglect of the growing income gap indicates), then workers, employers and civic leaders ought to begin this Labor Day figuring out how to reverse course.

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Ann Cussen
8 years 5 months ago

What is wrong with the editorial board? This editorial looks like it was written by the propaganda wing of Democratic Party. Barack Obama is the worst jobs president since the Great Depression and possibly is the worst jobs president ever. However, you place blame on Bush for creating large wage discrepancies. Obama’s stimulus bill spent and often wasted close to $200,000 per public sector job saved or created. Money was not spent in the areas of greatest poverty and unemployment but rather spent almost 2 to 1 in Democratic districts. It was an exercise in maintaining power and not justice. The program was pure folly, yet receives praise from you.  Apparently The Employee Free Choice Act which eliminates private voting and an individual’s rights is another area of perceived great merit. Read it first! As for excessive pay, look at executives at Fannie May, Freddie Mac, and those Wall Street firms who heavily contributed to our current administrations campaign. Could you at least please research and think before you throw out future nonsense propaganda, well intentioned or not.

Mike Evans
8 years 5 months ago
Unless people are gainfully employed with reasonable job security at a living wage, our country will sink into the same morass that is so typical of 3rd world development. Employment needs to be our first priority and focus of discussion. It needs to include discussion about fair labor rates and practices, retirement and health benefits, workplace safety and rules, and the opportunity for collective bargaining. We must stop the worker-bashing and political one upsmanship that has characterized the past two years, or last 10 years even. Let us elevate the discussion to informed debate without the histrionics and the finger-pointing.
James Collins
8 years 5 months ago
I agree that worker wages should not be sacrificed for profits. However there is another side to that coin. Workers through their labor union should not weild their power so as to sacrifice the life of the company to maintain wage rates out of sync with the rest of the economy. The auto unions under government pressure and the threat of bankruptcy made significant concessions which should enable GM to become profitable and grow. How many years did they strike or threaten to strike to protect wages and benefits totalling over $70 per hour while the companies lost tremendous market share and hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs. I don't bel;ieve workers have been made the scapegoats in this recession. Almost daily President Obama is demonizing one segment or another of the economy. He has become one of the most divisive presidents ever.
John Walton
8 years 5 months ago
Serious economists believe that the dead hand of Keynes is fully manifest in the current approach. Ms. Romer is going back to being a serious economist.

I would remind the editors of America, whose lessons in calculus were seemingly dissipated upon their graduation from Regis,  that the UAW received a $20 billion dollar gift in the form of an annuity from us poor pew-sitting tax payers for paymet of health-care benefits to the VEBA trust, jesuisitical casuistry being used to hide the true value of the annuity payments from the taxpayers.   This is an outright fraud.

Now such encomia are being devised for the Teamsters who have bankrupted the companies funding "multi-employer pension plans".  Senator Casey, the formerly most honest (really) former Govenor of Pennsylvania is working on such legislation as I type.

We are mocked, as citizens, by this Administration. 

William Jaenike
8 years 5 months ago
This editorial serves the worthy, if unintended, purpose of calling the readers attention to the emerging dictatorship of the left-wing American elite: the media, academia, endowments, union leadership cartels, political and economic pundits, and perhaps most of all, well-meaning but rootless progressive religious hierarchy, all quick to criticize corporate management in a united voice.
   Corporations truly serve society when they stick to what they do well, i.e., produce better products and services desired by the customer both domestic and foreign. In the process they create a need for more employees and provide incentives to retain them, concurrently improving the lives of ordinary people - their customers. 
   That's real corporate "social responsibility"!
   When management redirects corporate resources to doing "good" as defined by establishment intellectuals and their politically powerful allies, the corporate mission suffers proportionately. The drumbeat of social responsibilty from authoritarians who never met a budget, managed a staff, created valuable goods and services desired by an unforgiving markerplace, and contributed little to society other than opinions about what others should do, does real harm to the very people they purport to speak on behalf of. 
   When George McGovern left politics and bought a motel in Connecticut, he wrote an OpEd piece for The New York Times describing how much he had learned from the experience of managing a simple business.      
   Sadly, America's Editorial Staff has not had such an opportunity.     
James Caruso
8 years 5 months ago
??Productivity is a two-edged sword, but it favors both employers and those who are the most productive workers.  Also, many in the labor force are shareholders- in their retirement plans, in their pension funds, and in their private investments.  A recession doesn't "give" employers "the latitude" to freeze or squeeze wages, they are forced to in order to survive.  High productivity should have been present before the recession, not as a product of the recession, unless one wants to admit that businesses are too free with salaries and wages during good times.  No business should rehire at the risk of bankruptcy.  Maintaining competitiveness is a necessity for business to thrive.  No need to demonize business or capitalizm.  

Joblessness has worsened this year because the administration has decided to forego strengthening business through tax cuts, a proven governmental anti-recessionary tool, in lieu of a theoretical government spending stimulus approach that has never worked in the past, here or elsewhere.  Businesses are afraid to rehire because the prospect of high taxes looms in the near future.

If millions of U.S. workers had begun to lose ground decades before the recession, you could have fooled me.  As always, millions gain ground and millions lose ground based on a number of issues, such as emrging new fields, eroding fields, re-education, failure to re-educate, etc.  Unions have had as much to do with failing business via exorbitantly high wages and benefits as they have with supporting workers salaries and benefits.  It has not been a one-way street.  Loss of jobs to foreign countries has been more detrimental than weakening unions, and that has been a policy of both sides of the aisle.  Globalization weakens the American middle class, and puts us on a track toward becoming like third world countries where there are a few wealthy and a multitude of poor.  Government has not protected us against this growing menace, has not protected American jobs, has dismissed job losses as being easily replaced by new and emerging technologies (which they are not), and have continued the corporate/government love affair that is our undoing.

The enormous difference in pay at the top is not always merited by education, expertise or experience.  The fact is, it never has been in all cases and at all times.  Reports of excessive pay for unexceptional corporate leadership and wanton risk-taking is not limited to periods of recession.  There will always be such inequities.  On the other hand, we have featherbedding by unions (my uncle was a fireman on a diesle locomotive) and top union wages and benefits not requisite with the skills and talents of the workforce.  Once is too often for the rich getting richer not based on merit, but these things will always happen in any system.  If the government controlled industry, you would see many government officials getting unduly rich without merit.  There is no entity, corporate, governmental, or otherwise, where no inequities exist.

It is true that workers’ rights cannot be doomed to be the mere result of economic systems aimed at maximum profits. But how far do worker's rights go?  Does a worker have the "right" to a job?  Must a business keep it's workers even at the cost of their survival?

Obama has saved the jobs of millions of public workers through state assistance.  Many of these jobs are temporary, like census workers, and not a solution to the problem.  Many are akin to featherbedding with the taxpayer footing the bill, in which case, direct government doles would be less costly.  The government did rescue the auto industry, a political favoar to the unions that helped elect Obama, and which keeps in place a system that had already run out of control with exorbitant wages and benefits to auto workers.  This was one, if not the main, reason for the ailing auto industry over the last decade.  The extension of unemployment benefits to millions was a work of mercy, but it remains to be seen how the extension of governmental debt required to do this will play out in future years.  Keeping inflation low by super-increased indebtedness is a prescription for calamity in future years.  At last, I agree with the writer that the government did not make the workforce a priority when the recession hit, nor does it now.

Just maybe it is the global workplace itself that is the cause of this growing gap between the highest paid workers and all other workers.  More and more, workers at the lower levels are considered expendable.  Jobs are farmed out to foreign countries, and illegal immigrants allowed to freely enter this country are willing to work for far less than American workers.  The further we move toward total globalization, the greater will be the assault on the American middle class, a fact that neither political party is willing to address by America-first policies that safeguard the rights and security of American workers.

C Walter Mattingly
8 years 5 months ago

A major theme of this editorial can be summarized, I think, as a call to give unions their due. I would propose that this has already been accomplished by the American public.
As they look around at the most troubled areas of the country and economy, they have noticed something. Those areas in the midwest such as Michigan and other states such as California, New Jersey, and others that have historically had very powerful unions which controlled the agendas are those states which are are in the worst financial shape with immense legacy burdens and deficits.  Those industries which have traditionally been under the thumb of union control, such as the steel and auto industry, etc have dwindled or gone bankrupt. While taxpayers have yet again subsidized GM and Chrysler, Caterpillar, which like GM had been threatened by Japanese competitors but did not cave in to crushing union strikes against it as GM and Chrysler did, continues to thrive and pay taxes rather than soak up taxpayer bailout largess. So when unions attempt to do away with Roosevelt era reforms of anonymity in union voting to protect each worker from undue thuggery and more subtle forms of intimidation of their votes (so they can be intimidated by union organizers, perhaps?), the general population is not inclined to further what has in recent years caused so much harm to the economy.
Yet this industrial and state government damage pales in comparison to the harm unions have caused our public school systems by avoiding accountability at all levels, raising costs per student to the highest or second highest in the world, delivering the fewest school days per year (180 vs over 200 for top performers Japan and South Korea), and  bottom of the third quartile performance among major industrial nations. The education of our children clearly has been a secondary priority to the protection of the membership.  Google The Rubber Room to see just how much damage unions and their lawyers have caused in New York. This is a main cause for the lower salaries for the middle lower and lower wage earners mentioned in the editorial: these former students were robbed of their education by self serving unions and complacent leaders. Fortunately, under President Bush a genuine effort to end this was started, and even President Obama, who pays off his great debts to union money in other ways, has drawn the line and further developed the No Child Left Behind initiative, demanding accountability, testing, merit pay, and to an extent competition in the form of non-union charter schools (but not unfortunately vouchers, which providentially seem to be gaining ground despite the President's and union opposition). This is where the main problem of declining pay among lower wage earners resides; it has matched the declining quality of education these workers received from our union-dominated public education system over the past two generations.
The American people have come to realize this and are giving unions their due: a withdrawal of their support. For Labor Day, one of the things we should all ask is for responsibility and accountability from our unions. Then they might recover the respect they have forfeited.

David Smith
8 years 5 months ago
It would seem that unions, not management, are letting the worker down.  Management's job is to make money for the stockholders.  The unions' job is to see that workers receive a fair wage for their work.  If management fails, stockholders suffer.  If unions fail, workers suffer.
Thomas Farrelly
8 years 5 months ago
I cannot really add anything to the informed and intelligent criticisms of this silly editorial that appear above my entry.  The editors, like their idol, Obama, appear to have never held a real job or had any experience in the world of business.  Classics and Theology, while worthwhile in themselves, hardly qualify one to pontificate on finance and economics. 
Frank Peters
8 years 5 months ago
Dear Editors:  

I do pray for you so that your knowledge of economics is deepened.  Recessions affect every individual in the labor force but they are not to be blamed on business in general nor the principles of the free market.   They are counter to both.  No true businessman wants them anymore than Labor.

Recessions are caused by the few holding power and control of the monetary system in a country.  In the US, it is the Federal Reserve, a central banking system established by an act of Congress, whose board is appointed by the President of the United States.  The Fed enjoys a monopoly and can manipulate money as it likes.  They are directly responsible for the recession and the hardships that we all face because of it (business and labor alike).       

If you want to uphold Labor, then you must denounce central banking in the United States. It has corrupted an entire sector of our economy, namely the financial services industry and it has given rise to big government.  Direct your attention there and by helping free the Country from this scourge you will be true benefactors of Labor.  

Ted McGoron
8 years 5 months ago
   You give Obama much more credit than he deserves for softening the recession. If it had not been for him we would probably be on our way out of it. Not only has he and his fellow Democrats kept it going while causing unemployment to go much farther than he promised it would go, but he has also put a terrible burden on all taxpayers by his penchant for spending our money even when he knew we disagreed with the projects for whiich he spends it. 
   It sounds as though the entire editorial was written by an Obama strategist.   
Robert Oberle
8 years 5 months ago
While no one doubts that workers are deserving of respect and a fair wage, there are a number of other assertions in the editorial that should be challenged.

One that is almost universally espoused by liberal economists,  is that an earnings gap is inherently evil. The editorial board asserts:

"To be competitive in the global workplace of the future, the United States will need to close the gap in income and education between the highest-paid workers and all other workers, a gap exacerbated by high unemployment. If left unchecked, this gap could also threaten the health of the large middle class that characterizes the world’s best democracies."

There is no empirical data to support the underlying premise. The real issue is the lowest level of education and earning power. It really shouldn't matter to anyone what the top wage earners make, so long as there is opportunity, not  a guarantee, for all to achieve. It is true that a rising tide lifts all boats, not matter how tall the mast. There is no need to envy the rich, there is a responsibility of all (including the rich) to work for justice.

As for organized labor, the editorial board seems to implicitly believe that if organized labor lobbies for an issue it must be good. 

"Their top priority—the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to organize—was introduced in both houses of Congress in 2009 but has been lobbied almost to death by business interests."

The Employee Free Choice Act is better described as a power grab, one that is so permissive of potential intimidation by labor organizers, that it makes it laughable to think that this is not the intent. How else would one describe an act that explicitly removes the secret ballot process and requires any worker who does not wish to organize to publicly take a stand against those who do?

The relationship between employee and employer is an economic agreement not a sacred trust. Implicit in the tone of the editorial is the feeling that workers are owed jobs. Jobs and paychecks are earned everyday and in real time, too often this seems to be lost on those who profess to stand up for laborers. An abusive or dangerous work environment is not to be tolerated, but if the employer keeps his end of an agreed bargain there is no cause for action. 

As Catholics we should be working and praying for justice, not advocating for handouts.
Vince Killoran
8 years 5 months ago
Unions need to be more aggressive, and to stop tying their fortunes to moderate Democrats who are really just neo-liberal corporate types.

Study after study demonstrates that Americans would join a union if given a chance-and that unions bring about higher wages, benefits, a safer workplace, and a modicum of workplace democracy.

In the 1990s the Dunlop Commission (headed by GOP John Dunlop) listed the ten most productive/efficient workplaces in the USA.  Eight of the ten had a unionized workforce. 
William Jaenike
8 years 5 months ago
Good Lord Almighty. Fix the bug you've got that distorts the comments' text.
Tom Maher
8 years 5 months ago
Productivity is a two-edged sword?   What are you talking about?  This makes no sense at all in 2010.  

Not using the most productive tools, equipment and methods was the theme for numerous socialist countires in the mid- 1900s.  India and China with a large populations tried to create more low skilled jobs by using pick and shovels instead of powerful earth moving quipment. It would take them  years to create roads and bridges.  And the cost of low productivity on society is made everything many times more expensive resulting in fewer projects being afforded. .  

Productivity is making more with less.  The economic goods such as food and clothing are physically more available and at a lower price and at higher quality by productivity..  Hands down everyone benefits enormously from productivity.

Using lower skilled labor to produce things makes as much sense as using horses and oxen to cultivate land as was done everywhere a century ago. Nowadays a few tractors can cultivate far more land than thousand of farmers with hoes working all day and produces much more food.    

Where is the down side of productivity?  Employer's profiting from productivity?  Yes they do and that is why using productive capital goods such as tractors on farms make farmer richer but also provides an abundance of food at the cheapest possible price.  

In 2010 using technology to increase yields and profitability is the only game to play.  This is no logner Karl Marx's 1830s.  We have been in a continued technological revolution for more than e centruy.  Seeking out and using the most modern technology and thereby being more productive is what all countires with few exceptions try to do today.  Using technology is just too powerful an advantage to deny society of its full benefit.  Everyone's standard of living benefits from always improving proproductivity due to continued technological progress.  New technolgies  provides new employment.  90% of the population worked on farms in the 1920 but today less than 2% of the popultion does.   Workers moved out of farming and into new non-farm industires created by new technology.   Technology displaces workere in old industires but creates new jobs in new industry.  Society need to use new technolgy which creates new industries and new jobs.  Economic porgress from use of productive technologies is a demonstrated fact in the 20th century.  
Helena Loflin
8 years 5 months ago

As to the comments above: this is what happens when your information sources consist of TeaParty-TV, hate radio, right-wing blogs, right-wing "foundations" and "institutes," highway billboards, supermarket tabloids and, last but never least, spam.

Mark Sheriff
8 years 4 months ago
"President Obama has had some success reining in the recession during his 18 months in office."

Others say that while Messia Obama was controlling the level of the oceans and curbing global warming, he caused the recession to continue as long as it has while making sure that real recovery might never be possible.  Anyway, this is probably the silliest and least-informed editorial to appear in this magazine. It can only be up from here-along with Obama's hope and change.
Rick Malloy
8 years 4 months ago

To all those lambasting the editors of America:

Please pay attention to the worda of John Adams "Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence."

Our Catholic faith does not champion a dog-eat-dog capitalism where those at the top feast while the 95% on the bottom starve.  On the contrary, our Gospels side with the poor.  That is not my opinon.  Read Mary's Magnificat  (Luke 1:53-54).

The Bush tax cuts have filled the pockets of the rich, while the middle class pays for wars, wars fought disproportionately by the members of families of the poor.  The fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost the U.S. taxpayers $3 trillion, but no Republican nor anyone on Fox News advocates raising taxes to meet the debts eight years of Bush's policies incurred. 

On July 31, 2010, Bob Herbert’s op-ed piece in the New York Times took corporate America out to the woodshed. .  Quoting Andrew Sum, an economics professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, Herbert charges that American workers are being ripped off in the current recession.  Prof. Sum has “never seen anything like this.”  Sum says workers have been kicked out or seen their hours cut back.  GDP fell 2.5 percent but payrolls have been cut by 6 percent.  Sum says, “Here’s what happened: At the end of the fourth quarter in 2008, you see corporate profits begin to really take off, and they grow by the time you get to the first quarter of 2010 by $572 billion. And over that same time period, wage and salary payments go down by $122 billion.”

Responding to the current situation, Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre offers “A New ‘Social Contract’ for Today’s New Things,” this year’s Labor Day statement from the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

“Despite many efforts, our country and our economy have not recovered from the financial and economic failures that overwhelmed us three years ago. Unemployment remains at 9.5 percent. There seems to be no quick fix or lasting remedy. Reports indicate an eight million job “deficit”—jobs that existed when the recession began but have since disappeared. And with employers adding only about 100,000 jobs per month, it could take nearly seven years just to get back to where we were. In other words, to bring down the unemployment rate, the economy would have to create another 100,000 jobs per month. Yet another 131,000 jobs were lost in July.”  Drawing on Catholic Social Teaching, Bishop Murphy states,The Church faces the challenging task of bringing the light of the Gospel to these changing realities.”

Among other things, Bishop Murphy calls for a New Social Contract that provides for wage fairness.  “In too many places across America, workers are not being fully paid for their labor.  National reports tell of factory workers whose time begins with the start of the conveyor belt not their arrival; of retail workers who are “clocked out” and then required to restock or take inventory; and wait staff whose employers do not give them their tips. Some unscrupulous employers ignore weak and inadequate laws that forbid such unfair practices in order to increase the bottom line.”  Murphy decries such practices, noting that “The dignity of the person is diminished when poor or middle-class people are denied their full wage or just compensation for their hard work. A good job at good wages for everyone who is willing and able to work should be our national goal and a moral priority.”

Bishops Murphy concludes:  “We find ourselves at a crucial moment in economic life. Millions lack work and there is so much work to do. As Catholics we look to Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing,” (Jn 15:5) but then reassures us with: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). Pope Benedict reminds us: “As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done, we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice.” (#78)

This Labor Day we must seek to protect the life and dignity of each worker in a renewed and robust economy. Workers need to have a real voice and effective protections in economic life.  …  A new social contract, which begins by honoring work and workers, must be forged that ultimately focuses on the common good of the entire human family.”

Great crowds travel with Jesus in today’s gospel.  People in the crowds may have had a hard time hearing his message: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  ..  In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” 

It is in the learning to share the goods of the earth that we find true happiness.  We have learned how to produce vast amounts of material goods; we need to learn how to distribute those goods equitably, justly, lovingly.
Henry Millstein
8 years 4 months ago
Excellent article! John Paul's encyclical on labor shows that he was not the 100% reactionary some (on both sides of the aisle) have made him out to be. One thing was missing from the article, however: a strong call to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would remove the outrageous obstacles to workers organizing themselves in this country. It's shameful that in our country, which prides itself on being a beacon of democracy and freedom, many workers are effectively denied the right to organize—a fundamental right in Catholic eyes ever since Rerum Novarum in 1890.
Henry Millstein
8 years 4 months ago
My apologies to the America editorial board! I missed the strong statement on the Empl0oyee Free Choice Act in the article—comes of doing things in haste. Thank you for your strong stand—and don't let the criticism deter you!
C Walter Mattingly
8 years 4 months ago

Just a few points regarding those stubborn things, facts, as they pertain to some of the above commentary.
In the US at least, although it is a capitalist economy (at least for the moment), 95% of the people do not starve. Actually, the average income of a US citizen is about 30% higher than that of the average European.  Whatever the US is doing, it is producing greater economic prosperity for the average US citizen than the average European citizen enjoys.
The Bush tax cuts were for all Americans, not just the rich. As the rich pay a disproportionately large percentage of all income taxes, it is not surprising that any across the board decrease will benefit them disproportionately. Yet the greatest percentage tax cuts were for the lowest earners, with the amount for which no income tax is due rising by a full 50% and the lowest tax rate cut 50%. It was so generous, in fact, that 47% of all Americans now pay no income tax whatsoever. A possible downside: since almost half of all Americans pay no income tax, some may be under the illusion they are not harmed by huge, inefficient government programs and pork-larded spending initiatives, complete with overpaid federal employees with their Cadillac, solvency-draining pension obligations.  Overall, howerver, the American public sees and is beginning to understand that this group of of highly compensated government workers pose a substantial burden on the future of our country.
As far as the Employee Free Choice Act is concerned, someone please tell me how doing away with the secret ballot, which Roosevelt promoted and which we provide to voters in our elections, makes a voter less subject to intimidation or interference than one in which the privacy and integrity of his vote is protected? How doing away with the uncompromised privacy of the voter as he votes his conscience in any way can be characterized as a removal of "the outrageous obstacles to workers organizing themselves?" To any reasonable person it is quite the contrary.
Calling the Iraq and Afghanistan wars "fiascos" is reminiscent of an earlier time when the Korean War, with many times the deaths and casualties of Americans, was called Truman's folly (fiasco). I don't think too many comparing North to South Korea at this juncture would now agree with that premature judgement. Fact is, it is too early to tell about the effect of either war, as both President Obama and the recent NY Times editorial have reminded us.
Regarding the desireability and impact of a socialist turn in the US, we do have a clear image of the direction the US will take if it discourages individual responsibility and initiative and moves closer and closer to socialist ideals.
It is called Greece.
Anyone interested in going there?

C Walter Mattingly
8 years 4 months ago

An error in the above: the lowest income tax rate was cut by a third, not by 50%.

Rick Malloy
8 years 4 months ago
47% of Americans don't pay income tax because they don't make enough to do so.  Think about it.  Wages are so low, even our tax system recognizes that taxing such incomes is unjust.

George Steinbrenner knew when to die.  Since he dies this year, his family will suffer no estate tax (not a "death" tax).  The lucky Steinbrenners, who had to do nothing for the $500 extra million, did not have to show any responsibility or initiative.  If Steinbrenners heirs are like Greece, many wouldove "to go" there.

Don't listen to me.  Listen to today's Phila. Inquirer.

© 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Posted on Mon, Sep. 6, 2010

Editorial: Rich man, poor man

As the nation marks Labor Day, the plight of middle-class families demands greater attention.

The recession that began in December 2007 has not eased its grip on the average worker. Unemployment in Pennsylvania in July was 9.3 percent; it was 9.7 percent in New Jersey.

And too many of the fortunate workers who still have jobs are falling behind because of stagnant wages, lost home values, and dwindling savings.

The Keystone Research Council, a nonprofit group in Harrisburg, found that median household income in Pennsylvania fell $2,400 in the first seven years of this decade, even before the worst of the recession took hold.

Meanwhile, fat cats grow fatter. The CEOs of the 50 companies that laid off the most workers during the recession enjoyed salaries 42 percent higher than the pay of other corporate chiefs, one study found.

Former Schering Plough chief Fred Hassan led the list of shame, receiving $49.65 million in compensation in 2009. After his company's merger with Merck, 16,000 employees were laid off.

Johnson & Johnson's William Weldon was paid $25.57 million while the firm laid off 8,900 workers. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg took home nearly $17.5 million while laying off 21,300 employees.

Nice work if you can get it.

Compare those shocking salaries with the median wage for workers of $44,770 - for men, that is. Female workers still earn less, a median wage of about $36,600. Over her lifetime, a female college graduate will earn an average of $1.2 million less than her male peers.

Aside from the perennial gender gap, it's clear overall income inequality is growing. Corporate leaders know it, too, which is one reason so many are resisting a new law that requires companies to disclose the ratio between CEO compensation and the average worker's pay.

The KRC study found that, if a typical worker's pay had risen equally with the rate of top wage earners since 1979, middle-class families would be earning between $5,600 and $7,500 more per year in today's market.

While middle-class wages have stayed flat, families are paying more out of pocket for their health care, too. The Kaiser Family Foundation said family health premiums have risen 3 percent this year, but workers are paying 14 percent more on average as employers shift more of the cost to employees. That means the average family is paying $482 more this year for health care.

These factors and others, including higher taxes, are causing more families to raid their retirement savings early. Fidelity Investments, for example, has reported a sharp increase this year in the number of people tapping their 401(k) accounts for "hardship" withdrawals. They're doing it to prevent their homes from being foreclosed, or to pay for their children's' college education.

The Great Recession is almost three years old, but it could take many years before many workers get back on their feet.


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