(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
E.J. Dionne, in the Washington Post, on “The Last Labor Day“:
Let’s get it over with and rename the holiday “Capital Day.” We may still celebrate Labor Day, but our culture has given up on honoring workers as the real creators of wealth and their honest toil — the phrase itself seems antique — as worthy of genuine respect.
Imagine a Republican saying this: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
These heretical thoughts would inspire horror among our friends at Fox News or in the Tea Party. They’d likely label them as Marxist, socialist or Big Labor propaganda. Too bad for Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican president, who offered those words in his annual message to Congress in 1861…
That the language of Lincoln and John Paul is so distant from our experience today is a sign of an enormous cultural shift. In scores of different ways, we paint investors as the heroes and workers as the sideshow. We tax the fruits of labor more vigorously than we tax the gains from capital — resistance to continuing the payroll tax cut is a case in point — and we hide workers away while lavishing attention on those who make their livings by moving money around.
Consider that what the media call economics reporting is largely finance reporting. Once upon a time, a lively band of labor reporters covered the world of work and unions. If you stipulate that the decline of unions makes the old labor beat a bit less compelling, there are still tens of millions of workers who do their jobs every day. But when the labor beat withered, it was rarely replaced by a work beat. Workers have vanished.
But we are now inundated with news (and “news”) about the world of capital. CNBC and the other financial media are for investors what ESPN is for sports junkies. We cheer the markets, learn the obscure language of hedge fund managers and get to know some of the big investors in off-field interviews. Workers are regarded as factors of production. At best, they’re consumers; at worst, they’re “labor costs” cutting into profits and the sacred stock price…
His colleague Harold Meyerson is more succinct about “The fallacy of post-industrial prosperity“:
Of all the lies that the American people have been told the past four decades, the biggest one may be this: We’ll all come out ahead in the shift from an industrial to a post-industrial society. Yes, we were counseled, there will be major dislocations, as there were during the transition from an agrarian to an industrial economy, but the America that will emerge from this transformation, like the America that emerged 100 years ago, will be one whose citizens are ultimately more prosperous and secure than their industrial-era forebears.
What a crock.
But cheer up, fellow citizens! The non-opinionated part of the WaPo assures us that “Americans… now find comfort in knowing that more than a million security guards — double the number in the nation’s workforce a decade ago — patrol shopping malls and power plants and work through the night to protect public spaces.” The guy guarding the Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun, Virginia, is an ex-Marine armed with a Glock 9mm, Mace, and handcuffs!
Why do I seem to hear the ghost of Jay Gould whispering “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half”?
Commemorate Labor Day: Remember the Haymarket Massacre!
Because Labor Day was scheduled in September to make us forget:
The Haymarket Massacre is the US’s Tiananmen Square: Most of the world commemorates labor and Haymarket on May Day every year, and even children can tell you why — but, like Tiananmen Square to the Chinese, most Americans have never heard of it.
We really need to reboot the labor movement.
That 10% of the American people had the understanding of labor history that you do.
Nice post, lovely cartoon.
I especially appreciate the line, “Laboring not to lose hope.” If I give in to despair, I really will go straight to hell in a handbasket.
Not that I’m on the edge of despair all the time. Far from it. There’s a good deal of love and happiness in my life. But discouragement is a frequent visitor.
The most effective weapons against just giving up, I’ve found, are good music and interesting food. Yes, these are sensual stimulants. Meeting new people is good, too, but new friends aren’t always readily available.
Happy Labor Day, everyone.
For your Labor Day discussion:
And the feelings didn’t go away for a long time. Re: the history of a statue (from Wikipedia)
In 1889, a commemorative nine-foot (2.7 meter) bronze statue of a Chicago policeman by sculptor Johannes Gelert was erected in the middle of Haymarket Square with private funds raised by the Union League Club of Chicago. The statue was unveiled on May 30, 1889, by Frank Degan, the son of Officer Mathias Degan. On May 4, 1927, the 41st anniversary of the Haymarket affair, a streetcar jumped its tracks and crashed into the monument. The motorman said he was “sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised”. The city restored the statue in 1928 and moved it to Union Park. During the 1950s, construction of the Kennedy Expressway erased about half of the old, run-down market square, and in 1956, the statue was moved to a special platform built for it overlooking the freeway, near its original location.
The Haymarket statue was vandalized with black paint on May 4, 1968, the 82nd anniversary of the Haymarket affair, following a confrontation between police and demonstrators at a protest against the Vietnam War. On October 6, 1969, shortly before the “Days of Rage” protests, the statue was destroyed when a bomb was placed between its legs. Weatherman took credit for the blast, which broke nearly 100 windows in the neighborhood and scattered pieces of the statue onto the Kennedy Expressway below. The statue was rebuilt and unveiled on May 4, 1970, then blown up again by Weathermen on October 6, 1970. The statue was again rebuilt, and Mayor Richard J. Daley posted a 24-hour police guard at the statue. In 1972 it was moved to the lobby of the Central Police Headquarters, and in 1976 to the enclosed courtyard of the Chicago police academy. For another three decades the statue’s empty, graffiti-marked pedestal stood on its platform in the run-down remains of Haymarket Square where it was known as an anarchist landmark. On June 1, 2007 the statue was rededicated at Chicago Police Headquarters with a new pedestal, unveiled by Geraldine Doceka, Officer Mathias Degan’s great-granddaughter.
Ah yes, Labor Day. Hope you all have a good one. Me? I and all my fellow warehouse workers will be busy, but I’m sure the desk jockies in the office who all have off will be having a great time. Someone has to keep our privately owned, no shareholders or board, multibillion dollar company generating revenue all hours of the day, doncha know. Those month long vacations the owner’s family takes to Europe and gratuitous uses of the ‘corporate’ jet won’t pay for themselves afterall.
The point about how capital is celebrated in the media is particularly spot-on. It’s actually rather sickening.
Nafta, supported by mainstream Republicans and Democrats alike, killed organized labor as a political force in the US. Doesn’t really matter – capitalism is dead. All the Keynesian death tremors can do is continue to pave the way for socialism in fact.
Hasten the day.
That Lincoln quote is interesting since it predates even market capitalism in the US – sounds like he read a bit of Engels.
Davis X. Machina
A long-term, secular, retreat from the successful social democracies for the last thirty-plus years is a feature of the political landscape right across the developed world.
If the state of labor seems better in Europe, it’s because in a famine, the fat guys last longer — not because there is no famine.
@Mino: Sacre Coeur in Paris was built to expiate the “sins” of secular France and the Commune in particular. For years, secular and left-leaning Parisians refused to enter it. Or so I have been told.
“Be happy in your work”
You’ve got a cushy, secure job in a nice warehouse. You don’t have a nickel invested or at risk and when you clock out at the end of the day you don’t spend a minute worrying about the competition, regulations, return on investment or any of the thousand problems that keep the executives and owners of the business awake at night.
You sell your time and labor on the free market for the going rate in exchange for the bliss of knowing everything is taken care of for you and the only thing you need to do is move Box “A” to point “B”.
There are billions of people on this planet who dream of having your life.
@jwest: Parody troll. Too over the top to be real.
Had the day off, called in to work a “network” problem that turned out to be another case of what I call the “Homer waiting on a burrito” syndrome. Hey, six years ago I couldn’t find a job. Happy Labor Day.
Odie Hugh Manatee
I hope that there is a bolt of lightning with your name on it. Or something like that.
Fucking ball-washer teahadist.
Translation: Relax, you don’t have enough money to retire.
Translation: Relax, you don’t have rich people problems.
@Davis X. Machina:
I find it worth remarking that the article’s basic point is that the main reason for the problems of social democratic parties in developed countries is that they turned rightward, particularly on economics. It’s hard to argue with that.
@jwest: Lordamercy. I’d like to live in that Universe.
I am one of the lucky ones. Academia does give time off.And in my place of employment, things are still fairly decent. Because we have a medical school, I have access to good health care. My retirement money doesn’t go into a general pool that trustees can “use for the betterment of the institutions and its retirees”.
Of course, I look around academia in general and I see retirees not being replaced and the job being farmed out to the remaining workers. I see full-time courses being run with ill-paid adjuncts. Insurance benefits being tightened. And I figure if I were to become unemployed tomorrow, I couldn’t get a job anyway. Pre-existing health condition, wrong age bracket, etcetera ad nauseam. Many of those among my friends and colleagues.
It’s the mental pressures that kill you.
@Odie Hugh Manatee: For that matter, why are the owners of the business up at night worrying about their money? Why can’t they do that during the day? Poor planning, I say. They should worry about money while they’re on the clock. You know, that time when the warehouse workers are not at all worried about being crushed by forklifts and falling boxes or how much longer they’ll be able to do a job that steadily makes their bodies deteriorate.
… which you can be fired from if you look at your supervisor funny, unless you a) have a for-cause/due-process clause in your contract, and b) the grievance manager or the court will sustain your claim when you press it.
… that serve only to undermine my own confidence that I’ll have a job in a year. The boss may be making money hand over fist using my labor, and he may still ship the warehouse’s operations to Alabama or some similar third-world country because his ROI will be a few hundredths of a cent more on the dollar.
… of not making ends meet. Yeah, telling me that zillions of people have it worse is small comfort for thirty years of walking back things that my father and grandfather fought battles for. Fuck you, you corporate ballwasher.
Oh, my! You’ve been poking at an angry but quietly sulking dog, haven’t you?
Davis X. Machina
@Linnaeus: Did the politicians follow the workers to the right? Or vice versa? It’s a much-discussed question.
Dustin has three options:
1. He can be a miserable, ungrateful, envious twit, resenting the very people who sacrificed and placed their financial assets at risk in order to build a business.
2. He could embrace his good fortune and organize other warehouse workers to meet the returning corporate jets to cheer and applaud those who labor to keep his job secure.
3. He could use his warehouse knowledge, knowing where the inefficiencies and waste are, to start Dustin Warehouse Services, Inc. By taking a risk and showing his employer how his company can manage the warehouse better and at less cost, Dustin could eventually end up with his own corporate jet.
Luckily for Dustin, his future is entirely up to him.
@Davis X. Machina: Clearly the problem was that the entire developed-world left should have used the bully pulpit more, or whatever they have in place of pulpits, on account of their godlessness.
The Sheriff's A Ni-
@jwest: Either you’re trolling, or you’re really really itching for the Marie Antoinette memorial tumbrel ride.
Yeah, I had an obscenely wealthy friend try to curry sympathy from another, blue collar one once by mentioning how HARD her family had it, because her dad had lost six million dollars in the economic crash…
The reaction: Really? Your dad had six million dollars to lose? Your dad lost six million dollars, and yet he still has enough money to put the rest of his three kids through college, live in one of the most expensive cities in New Jersey, be considering the purchase of two retirement homes on opposite ends of the country, and take holiday trips to Europe several times a year? Poor man. How does he survive?
(Fairly specific anecdote, but there’s a story like that behind every person sobbing about “rich people problems.”)
Poor guys. Risking financial assets.
What do Dustin and co know of risk, of sacrifice? They’ve got nothing invested in the market but their entire lives. (By a conservative’s view of things, I can understand how that would be considered far less valuable than a rich man’s money).
The Sheriff's A Ni-
The Big Picture
@Davis X. Machina:
Good question; it’s true of course that parties in democratic nations have to respond to an electorate to some degree. I’d still put more of the weight of responsibility on the parties and party leadership because of their relationship with political and economic elites who hold proportionally more power and hence whose decisions are more influential than those of the average voter or even groups of voters.
@Davis X. Machina:
I vote for the former.
The workers and the general public moved to the right in 1966/68, a time when the Keynesian welfare state was still well-established and considered the norm in both parties. That opened the breach that allowed Reagan to win in 1980 and officialize the new consensus.
@<a href="[email protected]Omnes Omnibus, The Sheriff’s A Ni-:
JWest has a history of fascist propagandizing here at Balloon Juice. I suspect he’s a true believer, though I could be wrong.
Wait a minute. Halt everything.
Who forced the business owner to put it all “at risk in order to build a business”? If he chose to do that, freely chose to take risks, then he [and you] should quit whining.
sadly, jay gould was terribly wrong about many things.
you can only hire the white half of the working class to kill the dark-skinned half.
he was also horribly wrong about punctuated equilibrium….and he simply never understood the mathematics of reciprocal altruism.
What was the cause? I know the findings about how people are more likely to support redistribution if they believe the recipients are more like them — i.e., that the more diverse a society becomes, the more suspicious people become of taking care of the least well-off — so that’s where my mind goes, but how much evidence is there for that?
Davis X. Machina
@Chris: The boffins at Crooked Timber are kicking the issue around.
When it comes to the economy and capitalist abuses, I am an angry dog. And, judging by the abundance of my comments here at Balloon Juice, not so quiet about it neither.
That’s a good point, although I’d say it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I tend to put more responsibility in the hands of the politicians and parties, but the electorate certainly plays a role.
Oops. I think I replied to the wrong person. My apologies. No offense meant.
Actually, I often agree with you.
[Does it help that I was, and am, trying to type around a cat on my desk?]
@jwest: Actually, dear boy, he has a fourth option. That would involve organising his fellows to strangle you slowly in your own entrails. Then they remove the balls of the corporate overlord from your mouth, and do the same to him.
@The Sheriff’s A Ni-: That’s a good article with some thought provoking comments. I also like the snark he addresses to his participants.
@Chris: The population moved to the right on “law and order” issues growing out of the middle’s upset at the war protests, civil rights movement, and even feminism, for some. The Republicans worked the social issues to get elected, and then went to the economic changes which really excited them.
Davis X. Machina
@Linda Featheringill: Sometimes the smart move is to go for more coffee, and let the cat post.
In many cases, it would represent an improvement.
No one forced the business owner to take the risk, but he (or she) did it. If the business had failed (as most do) the owner would have faced the consequences of that failure. When it succeeds, the owner should rightfully reap the rewards.
If Dustin is unhappy in his position, he does have the option of placing everything he has and can borrow at risk to start his own business. Then, he can decide whether to buy his own jet or take month-long European vacations, along with deciding how much vacation time the people working in his warehouse get.
I seriously doubt that. More likely, everybody under him would have faced the consequences, while he got away to fight another day. That’s what happens when workers, who had nothing to do with the bad business decisions, are fired in droves while CEOs, who made them, jump out with a golden parachute.
So how do you explain Carly Fiorina, idiot?
YOu know what, fuck it. I was going to finish getting ready for work and then head out but on the off-chance that someone else had something witty to add to this thread I decided to read the latest comments. Turns out I apparently pissed in jwest’s cheereos.
Sorry buddy, you couldn’t be more off the mark about my “cushy, secure job in a nice warehouse”. Let’s see what cushy looks like to jwest:
– Mandatory 60 hour work weeks in a warehouse with no atmospheric temperature control, handling 100-300 lb items by hand the entire time.
– Crappy insurance that costs 300% of what it did per check compared to when I started, for far less benefit. All for a job most of these guys will hurt themselves doing and if they go to a doctor they’ll say, and I quote, “get another job, this one is killing you.”
– Depreciated wages that haven’t increased in 7 years, along with productivity requirements that are up 375% in the same timespan.
And I’m lucky, I’ve managed to mustang my way up the corporate ladder to the point of middle management in that time. Will I tell you where I work? Fuck no, I value my income, but you can trust me when I tell you that your idea of the sacrificing, job-creating, hardworking entrepreneur couldn’t be more off base.
It was true of the man who created the company, but he’s retired and gone. His son has taken over and I swear that man was born with a platinum spoon shoved up his ass. He didn’t earn his position, he inherited it and used his MBA to turn it from a company that cared for it’s workers to one that used kaizen events and lean planning to cut out the fat. (i.e. slash wages, force unrealistic productivity increases, and cut benefits to increase profits)
He doesn’t even have the excuse of stock holder demand, it’s a privately held company. He gets all the profits, and he’s one of the greediest fuckers you could ever meet. I should know, I have. The guy wouldn’t know a hard day of work if it slapped him in the face. His workers do, and they’re who this holiday is for.
You know, the guys busting their backs while he parties… on Labor Day.
There is a difference between an owner and a CEO who is hired out of some business school. Owners (in almost every case) are people who place everything they own at risk in order to start and build a business.
If you want to envy and hate CEOs who have never placed their financial futures at risk, go ahead. But don’t lump the owners who risked everything in the same category.
“….He didn’t earn his position, he inherited it and used his MBA to turn it from a company that cared for it’s workers to one that used kaizen events and lean planning to cut out the fat. (i.e. slash wages, force unrealistic productivity increases, and cut benefits to increase profits)”
Did you ever stop to think that those changes (kaizen, lean planning, etc.) are the reason the business is still operating – giving you 20 hours of overtime a week – while other similar companies have closed their doors with their workers on the unemployment line?
Next time you talk with that man, thank him for making it a strong company.
Does it really do any good to discuss issues with a delusional 12 yr old? S/he does not appear to want to learn any reality.
So the conclusion is that s/he is a plant, either green or paid, or too far gone to rehabilitate.
American workers produce an average of nearly $64,000 in wealth a year.
Jwest is like poe’s law incarnate.
There needs to be an addendum to Poe’s law to point out that even if someone IS exaggerating, there’s someone else, somewhere, who believes every word that’s being said.
IOW, not only is it impossible to tell sincere extremism from parody, but it’s kind of a moot point.
Hmmm. I wish, I really wish, that the comment about slowly strangling the goon jwest by its entrails and removing the corporate balls from its slime spewing mouth … had not started sounding so satisfying as an appropriate corrective.
That is my true complaint against the pro-Wealth stance by so many: they are bringing some very, uh, red thoughts, if you will, to a once very peaceable and live-let-live outlook in my country. I enjoyed caring and wanting the best for others. I have narrowed that outlook.
Now, I’m coming to believe that the jwest cohort needs to start learning some real fear for burbling their inhuman words; for the good of their soul if not mere justice. This what is increasingly coming to mind, even as I try to resist. My thinking sometimes goes that at least stark terror would be an honest emotion for the followers of Mammon. And everyone should try new things in life.
Lately, when I forget myself, I ruminate that no one feels fear like a rich man; they are inexperienced in that end of the stick, they know they have it coming … and Mammon’s followers have no promise of a gentle afterlife to offer hope or strength; only fantasy and illusion tended by other’s labors to keep the horrors of their future at bay.
Bah. Too much gloom on a pretty day. I will try once more.
I wish the workers of this world well, and I thank them for their service on behalf of all the overstuffed wealthy pigs who took the day off like the parasitical lice they are–oops, see, there go those new thoughts again.
Wow. Jwest and the Galtian porno parody fluffing have reached truly absurd levels today.
Sucking that much corporate cock has got to be bad for your posture and your knees, not to mention your breath. Take a break and brush your teeth, please.
Just trying to bring you a bit of Labor Day reality.
Nah. You can get the men to kill, or at least rape and enslave, the women. The able to kill the disabled. The straight to kill the LGBT.
Of course, some of us can shoot back.
@jwest: You of course are missing the converse. What does the factory owner do when no one mans his factories? When does a job become so intolerable based upon the owner’s greed and refusal to offer even basic protections that he can’t entice a single laborer to work for him? What does your mighty business owner do then? He certainly doesn’t possess the skills to do that work on his own. Why are you not acknowledging the overlords need the workers?
@jwest: obviously never had a job or done any work.
@Yutsano: Stop confusing him/her/it.
@honus: jwest is working right now. This is his/her/its job.
He gets a clue or he gets a walkout. That may not inconvenience a warehouse owner who can get scabs easily enough, but it is something else entirely for skilled occupations like aircraft mechanics. TIMCO in North Carolina paid real close attention when the mechanics started talking about rolling their toolboxes out of the hanger and going contracting. You can’t have people off the street working on a 757, and United and Northwest are not going to want their planes being fixed by cut rate labor anyway, since they are already taking a risk by having a 3rd party outfit like TIMCO doing the work.
On the other hand, mechanics can work anywhere in the country as contractors. It sucks and you get sick of living out of a hotel, but it pays.
TIMCO wised up and started treating the workers better.
No, let the jwest continue its Labor Day monologue.
We the People need to be reminded of how souless and inhuman the end products of wealth and greed truly are. Jwest is showing, as it says, the *reality*
Wealth fools us because it purchases pretty objects to cloak its skin … but in its arrogance jwest is revealing the truth of Mammon. That ugliness is needed to shock us out of our fantasies about Wealth.
Yes, jwest, do continue your instruction…
If I break it though, you’ll get me another one, amirite? (The Interwebs never has a shortage of troll types.)
Although you don’t realize it, you’re very close to understanding basic economics.
Factory owners purchase labor, just as they purchase raw material, power, etc. Individuals sell their labor and talents to factory owners. The factory owner needs to purchase the labor at a cost that is less than what the particular person produces in a given period of time, in order to leave margin for all the other expenses required to run the business and a reasonable return on the investment.
If the supply of workers is so small that a factory owner cannot find enough of the right people to produce his products, the factory will either move to where a larger, less expensive labor force is or they will fail.
Using your TIMCO example, aircraft maintenance used to be performed by airline employees. When they became unreasonable and thought they were irreplaceable, the airlines subcontracted their work to third parties like TIMCO. When TIMCO has a walkout or other labor trouble, the airlines will have their maintenance performed outside the country by contractors who want the business.
@jwest: Let me guess, you never took a university level econ course in your life, did you? My dear little troll, even Intro courses will tell you that the world is more complicated than you suggest.
Jwest, circa 1860:
“All y’all niggers should be grateful to the massa!!”
Except, oops, that’s not what happened. TIMCO decided the cost/benefit analysis worked for paying their workers better rather than moving the maintenance out of country. Which for a domestic airline is a pointless exercise anyway. Oftentimes maintenance of an aircraft is very time-sensitive (or have you never had a maintenance delay? Even on private jets they exist!) so just flying your plane to India for a tune-up is ridiculous. You are trying SO HARD for your ideology to work and it just. keeps. failing. Your answer? TRY HARDER!! It will work if we just try again!
That philosophy of life did wonders for the Soviets.
We have been very fortunate – Jwest wants to be the first elite against the wall… By instituting fair labor laws, wages, etc and building a middle class, we lay down the first buffer of our democracy. Without it, well. you get permanent revolution, instability, and well – ask Marie Antoinette, or the Czars…
//back to lurking
Dustin, there is another option (sorta of snark) –
realize that your boss is an idiot and his money/company is ripe for the picking. Plenty of barely legal ways to get your hands on the company’s revenue streams. (/sorta of snark).
That’s how most of the big boys made their dough, screwing over someone else. A fool and his money are soon parted.
@Samara Morgan: I can’t believe you’re confusing Jay Gould and StephenJay Gould. Must be some sorta social experiment.