Friday, January 11, 2013

Wholly Macro

By Keith R. Schmitz

Today must be bash unions day in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel letters section.

I totally don't get this. Unless you own a company that has been going at it with unions, why should you give a rat's tuckus if anyone belongs to one?

Except, it you are part of the right wing crowd where it is all politics. Can't buy into the idea of climate change because that's a Democratic Party issue. Can't attempt solutions for health care because that would make the liberals look good. And have to be against unions, because they support the Democratic party.

Silly people. Don't you know it's liberating to vote against your self interest? Maybe there's a better reason for that brand of politics, but it ruptures the brain to imagine what that might be.

Mind you, I do not now belong to a union. The last time I did most of you weren't even a gleam in your parent's eyes.

So for Stanley Beranek and Tony Slusar in today's editorial section, unions are some kind of scourge to distain, but yet it is great to see their imaginations on overdrive. According to Mr. Slusar, why would someone need a union when they can just hire a labor lawyer? Apparently Mr. Slusar thinks legal services are cheap, especially for someone probably making near minimum wage.

According to Mr. Beranek's view, just be God damned happy you have a job.

Both of these and all the other anti-union letters that flood the Journal regard unions as useless. We hear it all the time. "Unions have outlived their usefulness."

Yup, unions are so useless, that since the GOP with the help of blue dog Democrats have gutted them, middle class growth has stagnated.

In the many of the letters, including the erudite comments on the demise of the Twinkie, high union wages are blamed for sinking companies. Never once is the obscene compensation drawn out of these companies by the members of the C Suite ever mentioned. How come those wages didn't wreck these companies?

For those who know what goes on inside of businesses, it could in fact be argued that it is grubby greed that quite often blows companies onto the rocks. That of course never happens in the world of Mr. Beranek or Mr. Slusar. It's those evil union workers and their desire to own a house they don't deserve or a desire to send their brats through college.

It is no accident that as executives have gotten more, workers have gotten less. We are urged to honor the initiative, smarts and hard work of these capitalist heroes, but at this level it all comes down to one thing. Leverage.

It also comes down to their ability with the help of the government they distain to suppress union growth.

Two things have happened as a result. Economic growth of the country has slowed because the real job creators -- the middle class -- has less money to spend. Meanwhile, a strong democracy needs a strong middle class. Notice how our system of government has gone south -- literally -- in the past decade or so.

It comes down to this. Yes, we can nitpick about unions. About the salaries the leaders make -- no wheres near what corporate executives draw. We can complain about unions defending deadwood -- though I have been in UAW plants and the workers are so eager to suggest production improvements that middle management sometimes regard these people as a pain in the ass.

But this is all micro stuff.

I am always interested in the marco big picture. And the fact remains that at no time has this country been able to move massive numbers of people from being among the working poor into the middle class. And when that happens, everyone in the country goes along for the ride.

Got a better idea how to do that? I'm all ears.

The right is fond of talking about how this country is going down hill, but that has only happened over the past generation when unions have been under siege. If you want to eliminate the deficit, no better way than to have a charging middle class pouring money into the treasury.

And in the meantime, think about the right wing's opposition to unions. Think about how they are offering us no future. All of us.


  1. True that. And the decline of unions impacts more than the economy; it effects everything in the political ecosystem as JK Galbraith explained many moons ago.

  2. Unions are also used as scapegoats and distractions these days in Wisconsin.

    Someone is blaming the lack of jobs on the recall, for example.

  3. The 'Unions are no longer necessary' argument is an old conservative standard that I first encountered in the Chicago Tribune in 1963. I'm sure the argument dates back further than that, it's just that my previous reading had been confined to comic books. It's nice to see that the MJS publishes such forward-looking, original thinking. The next stories up will be: 'The Civil Rights act is unnecessary', 'Birth control will destroy society' and 'The link between cigarettes and lung cancer is unproven'. Who says time travel doesn't exist? Did you ever feel like you have woken up inside an episode of 'Mad Men'?