Monday, September 03, 2012

Labor Day 2012



It occurs to me that hardly anyone will read this Labor Day message until tomorrow. Many people -- far too many -- are working today. On the other hand, far too many don't have a job today. Life is full of things that sound like contradictions but aren't. (Imagine being a politician and trying to say too many are working today but not enough have a job.)

Life doesn't fit on a bumper sticker. The best we can hope for is to find a satisfactory balance in our society. That is what the current buzzphrase -- income inequality -- is all about. Our country is out of balance. Our system of checks and balances has failed us. This failure gave us the Economic Crisis of 2008 and it has kept us mired in this Lesser Depression for 4 long years.

If you believe Paul Krugman (and I do) we are likely to spend the next 6 years in this Lesser Depression. That's the predicted "Lost Decade". In one of life's contradictions, Krugman also offers us a way out in his new book "End This Depression Now!". (Yes, I'm still reading it. Yes, I'm a slow reader.) We have the means to provide for our own salvation, yet our human nature most likely dooms us to a painful resolution of the situation.

I'm reminded of some words from Franklin D. Roosevelt:

"And, yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty, and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply."

When this all began, I pointed to the Great Depression as a blueprint on how to get out of this economic mess. Someone warned me against whole-heartedly embracing a solution with only a single example of success. I thought that wise advice at the time. Now, with all this wasted time behind us and no other plausible model put forth, I am ready to offer a known quantity -- an example that worked. FDR got us out of the Great Depression with a "stimulus program" to end all stimulus programs.

Paul Krugman on How to Fix the Economy - and Why It's Easier Than You Think

"Whatever you call it, it worked in the late nineteen-thirties and forties, when the U.S. government started shelling out on the military in the build-up to World War II, bringing an abrupt end to years of economic misery and laying the foundation for decades of prosperity. Krugman is not calling for an increase in military spending, much less a global war! But the WWII example shows that large-scale government spending can kick-start the economy. It worked then, he says, and it will work now."

Bear in mind, no one else has an answer. No one else has found anything that has worked. The United Kingdom has fallen back into a recession. Europe (and it's euro) is on the brink. Japan's "Lost Decade" has become plural -- "Decades". China (can the West even think of using China as an example?) is slowing. Even India's economy is slowing.

Do you think I'm depressing? Do you think I'm being pessimistic? You haven't read "Dr. Doom".

Dr. Doom 2013 prediction: Economy will stall

"Roubini, best-known for calling the 2008 economic crisis, outlined five reasons the bulls have been wrong and argued that an American economic cold will lead the rest of the world to catch pneumonia in a post on the Project Syndicate website."

We are facing the Darkness. And I hope my main concern is obvious -- history tends to repeat itself. Again, words of wisdom from FDR:

”True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.“



The question remains; What to do? It's all well and good to talk about policy and history and matters beyond my or your capacity to change. No matter what you think, we are not helpless. And I have some advice to give you (besides to get out and vote, which I hope is obvious.)

My advice to you on how to end this Depression? Join a union. It's just that simple. You want a better job? Join a union. You want better pay? Better benefits? A better retirement? Join a union. All of these things are connected -- they make the U.S. of A. a better country. Being in a union hall and seeing democracy in action is the best primer on how important it is to attend your local government's meetings. You can't go to the city council meeting if you're working 12 hour days. But your boss can -- and does. And he's aware of this fact too. It's in his interest -- his and his other business buddies -- to make sure you and your buddies don't show up. If he can keep you and your spouse too tired to show up -- so much the better.

Joining a union sends a simple message to your boss -- you're willing to stand up and fight for yourself. But, believe it or not, I believe there is another message that a business owner hears that is just as important. He sees an individual that is willing to put his money where his mouth is. Think about an individual that owns a business. He's willing to put thousands of dollars -- if not millions -- on the line, betting he can make a profit. Think about how he sees a union member versus a non-union member. You know he wants the non-union one -- he thinks they'll be less expensive. But I bet you he respects the union member -- the one that is willing to put his money where his mouth is -- more.

And while we are here, I think it worth mentioning a point that should be obvious but needs to be said more often. Unions don't call for the destruction of businesses. Unions don't even agitate for the destruction of corporations. Unions only seek to limit their power. Corporations don't seek to limit the power of unions. They -- and their Republican stooges -- seek the destruction of unions. They would have no limits on their power. No regulations. No unions. No government. No limits.

You may not want a fight. You may not want a confrontation. I am here to tell you that you don't have a choice. The Darkness awaits you. It awaits us all. This Depression will not end any better than the last one if you don't stand up and fight -- if you don't stand up and confront the forces that are shaping your country into a Corporatocracy. You can stand up and fight now or you will surely stand up and fight later.

You may not need a union, but, no matter. Your country does.

Don Brown
Labor Day 2012

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