Please forward this, FB share it and Twitter it. This needs to get out from behind the WSJ’s pay-wall:
Close to 200,000 working Wisconsinites have been given the following option by Gov. Scott Walker: If you want to keep your job, give up your rights. If you want to keep your rights, you’re going to be laid off.
This is downright un-American. The governor’s choice is a false one, manufactured for political reasons.
The real question, the one at the heart of our economic debate, is this: Do we continue down a path that delivers virtually all income growth to the richest 1% of Americans, or do we commit to rebuilding a thriving middle class?
We believe to address this question, it’s crucial that we sit down at the table together and find a way to grow without taking more away from the middle class.
The business climate couldn’t be stronger. Corporate profits reached an annualized level of $1.7 trillion in the third quarter of 2010, the highest figure since the government began keeping statistics 60 years ago.
But, as we’ve seen, high corporate profits aren’t enough to drive robust and equitable economic growth. Three years after the onset of this epic recession, unemployment is still near double digits, millions of Americans are facing home foreclosure, and wages have been stagnant. In our consumer-driven economy, that pulls down businesses as well as tax revenues. Our entire economy is weaker when we have the kind of income inequality that we have today.
The freedom of workers to come together to bargain for decent living standards, safe workplaces, and dignity on the job has been a cornerstone of building our middle class. It’s also recognized in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This right ensures that there is sufficient spending power to drive the consumer demand, which makes up two-thirds of our GDP. And it benefits all Americans—not just those who are in unions.
It’s no secret that boosting corporate profits no longer translates into shared prosperity. Many private-sector companies have gone to extraordinary lengths in recent years to effectively eliminate the freedom of workers to come together to bargain to lift living standards. That’s one reason middle-class wages have stagnated since the 1970s, and why the U.S. is at risk of becoming an hourglass economy—one with all the income at the top and people at the bottom.
Sadly, a group of radical Republican governors is working overtime to export the most short-sighted private-sector labor practices into the public sector. Not only are they demanding steep cuts in wages and pensions for public workers, they also want to take away workplace rights, so that workers can no longer bargain for better compensation and benefits.
Their claim is that public workers have become parasites, busting state budgets with bloated wages and benefits at a terrible cost to taxpayers.
But average citizens have little interest in taking away workers’ rights. According to a CBS/New York Times survey, Americans support bargaining rights for public workers by a nearly two-to-one margin. Despite their best efforts, governors like Scott Walker haven’t convinced Americans that public workers are at fault for state budget woes.
Nor does economic research support their arguments. When adjusted for education, experience and training, the data show that public-sector workers are paid less than their private-sector counterparts. Right now, state and municipal budgets are in trouble primarily because of high unemployment, falling incomes, and losses in the stock market. Together, these lead to lower tax revenues and depleted pension funds.
It wasn’t teachers or firefighters or nurses who crashed the stock market and caused the recession that led to millions of layoffs and foreclosures. It was the so-called engine of our economy—Wall Street—which has suffered no consequence after nearly destroying the global financial system in 2008. Wall Street bonuses averaged over $128,000 per person in 2010, more than six times the average pension for a retired public-service worker in Wisconsin.
So here’s working America’s message to governors like Scott Walker and New Jersey’s Chris Christie: We believe in shared sacrifice. But we don’t believe in your version of shared sacrifice, where the wealthy and Wall Street reap all the benefits of economic growth, and working people do all the sacrificing.
We need to improve the climate for America’s middle class. We need tough rules to protect the health of workers and consumers, fair taxes on the super-rich to support decent public services, fair trade policies, and a 21st century approach to workplace rights, which recognizes that high-performance enterprises depend on making employees a part of the team.
That’s a recipe that can repair not only our budgets, but also our body politic.
AMEN TO THAT.