Thursday, March 10, 2011

Shared Sacrifices?

This morning, while driving to work, I listened to the Glen Beck show. He had a guest host who was crowing about the Winsconsin scenario. The host had nothing but contempt for unions; there was no good aspect to them. He made the oft heard argument that, if one is going to bargain for one's wages and working conditions, you need to to do this solo. It is unfair to an employer to have any kind of group bargaining.

Of course, this would be of extreme benefit for an employer. The host used his own situation as an example. When he argues his worth, he points to the amount of money he brings into to the company. In his situation however, there is a one for one corolation. In job positions that hire en masse, it is a different story. I, for example, cannot point to how much money I bring in to the company.

The host felt that collective bargaining puts the employer "over a barrel". While I don't think anyone should be put in a postion of powerlessness, it is clear in history that prior to Unions workers were regularly "put over a barrel."

To me, it is always about balance. Employers have a natural position of power that would allow them to abuse individual workers when the work force is hired en masse. Without a union, individual workers are often helpless.

This is just the natural tendency of those in power (whomever is holding the reigns). There is a story in the Old Testament that often gets missed. King David commits adultrey and the prophet Nathan comes to tell him a story to convict him. Because of the sex involved, we tend to get distracted from the economic tale. Basically Nathan tells of a rich man who owns countless flocks of sheep and a poor man who has only one. The rich man has a guest and, rather than killing a lamb from his own flock for dinner, he uses his power to take from the man who has only one lamb.

As the cartoon from Pat Bagley shows, it is often the case that if there is going to be someone dealing with less, it will be the person with little, not the person with plenty. The vast amount of our nation's wealth sits in comparitively few hands. The hundreds of millions who are left to divide the remaining amount are the ones who are being asked to function with less. Our lamb will be taken so the rich man does not need to touch his myriad of flocks.

Unfortunately, through the use of religion and politics, the rich in America have managed to get the middle class chaffing at each other.  The middle class is fighting over singular sheep, and during our squabbles, the rich take from ours to expand their oceans of flocks.  Do you think that is an unfair analogy?  Do a google search under cooperate profits, CEO wages and bonuses over the past 25 years.... then compare that to increases in worker wages and benefits.  While their's goes up, workers go down.  But don't mention this or talk about it - Rush and Sean will accuse you of class warfare - and that sends all the middle class dittoheads scurrying for cover.

The truth is, there is class warfare.  Like I said, I want balance.  I don't want anyone over a barrel; but the middle class better start protecting themselves.  As billionare Warren Buffet said:

"'There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."


The Metzes said...

Nice post Andrew. We're in the thick of the same arguments here in Ohio, and I've been sitting back listening to all the rhetoric, disappointed more Christians don't offer a more balanced opinion. Instead, they follow party lines just like everyone else. Very disappointing.

Stephen Hollingshead said...

Interesting thought. But I can see one problem right away with negotiating as a group: It tends to treat every employee as the same. One of the biggest problems with union labor is that it tends to favor seniority over effectiveness. When human beings aren't rewarded for excellence, they tend to strive for it less.

Sammy said...

What really baffles me is that the Republican party, at least in the South, has created an image that they are the party of the blue-collar working man/woman, and that the Democrats are elitist liberals who believe blue collar workers are stupid and ignorant. Yet, their records, both at a state and federal level, is that of a party committed to big business over the middle class. They would much rather cut programs desperately needed by the poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens, but they refuse to consider closing corporate tax loop-holes or raising taxes on the rich.

No one WANTS to raise taxes. But, in the United States, the rich (both individuals and corporations) do not pay their fair share. 90% of the wealth in the United States belongs to only 10% of the population. As the cartoon shows, when there comes a time to make sacrifices, those sacrifices come almost exclusively from those who can afford it least. If we keep allowing the gap between the rich and the middle class to grow, pretty soon, we will have no middle class. Honestly, I fear for the future of this country.

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