Thursday, December 11, 2008

Corker's Corker

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker (R) has done wonders in remaking the once grimy, polluted river town of Chattanooga. He gets kudos from me for his vision and leadership in that matter.

But today's announcement that Corker is spearheading an alternative to the pending auto "bailout" bill slapped sense into my head. The guy is a just another fucking Republican.

Here's the context, from Rick Wolff, professor of economics at U. Mass, for the remarks that follow:

"Real wages in the US rose during every decade from 1830 to 1970. Then this central feature of US capitalism stopped as the figures below show:

Source: Labor Research Associates of New York, based on data from the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; wages expressed in constant 1982 dollars.

1964 $302.52
1974 314.94
1984 279.22
1994 259.97
2004 277.57
No comparable steady rise in real wages has occurred since. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate real weekly wages declined again over the last year (2005-2006). American workers' reactions to this downtrend in real wages have profoundly shaped the nation's economy and society for the last thirty years.

Really. You don't say! Could this have something to do with falling domestic consumption, rising consumer credit indebtedness, catastrophic home foreclosures, and families shattered by impossible, extortionist-level health care costs? Ya think?

Now, before reading further, ask yourself what force in US history had most to do with dragging US workers up from the Great Depression--with creating the "Greatest Generation," the WWII generation, the most prosperous middle class in world history. Well, that would be FDR's New Deal, not least because of its intentional policies to empower labor unions.

Fast forward to December 11, 2008. Corker's alternative plan for aiding The Big Three would condition that aid on requiring (currently unionized) US auto workers to accept wages equivalent to the wages paid by non-unionized workers in foreign-owned factories in semi-rural communities in Southern states like Tennessee.

Here's a United States senator--a Republican, of course--who is intentionally using the auto crisis to leverage a Washington-driven wage-lowering, union-busting juggernaut and unleash it on US auto workers. I so have a problem with that.
I particularly have a problem with that because I know that Corker helped to mastermind the forthcoming move to Chattanooga of a brand new Volkswagen plant.

Corker, here, among other things, is acting indirectly to protect Volkswagen from the threat of future unionization by effectively rendering the (northern) unions' negotiating power moot through mandating a extra-market lid on the wages of home-grown workers.

Extra-market? What does that mean? Republicans like Corker are champions of a "free market," a market unfettered by regulation or by any other "outside" force. Here, however, we see the truth: Republicans all along have strongly supported any outside intervention in the market, so long as it improves the lot of the management and owner class, and worsens the lot of the workers.

Here's a United States senator spearheading legislation that would treat the US as a level playing field in terms of cost of living. We all know that it isn't.

Here's a United States senator ignoring the extravagant compensation of US auto executives, but pulling the plug on wages of workers--wages that have been in persistent decline since the mid-1960s.

Are we really so stupid that we put into office men and women who want American workers to earn LESS, not more? Are you kidding me?

No economy grows from the top down. First of all, there's rarely any "down," in the sense of "trickle down," as the figures above demonstrate. Second, when wages stagnate, who buys product? The current automaker crisis should be etching that lesson on every forehead in Congress. The big hush-hush not being discussed these days is that it's not merely about lousy strategic planning on the part of the Big Three. It's about steadily falling US wages and the steadily rising cost of living.

Well DUH. (Does this make me a Nobel candidate in Economics? Evidently it should.) I learned that lesson when I was 12 and my Dad cut my allowance from $.25 a week (!) to $.20 a week. I doubt that the corner market felt the crush, but for me it was cruelly, bitterly painful to discover that $.20 meant fewer candy cigarettes than $.25.

All of this, to me, points inexorably in the direction taken by the workers at the Republic Doors and Windows factory in Chicago. Fight back. Don't expect an easy victory. The Patriot Acts have ensured that government has a whole 'nuther arsenal to deploy at will on uppity Americans. But be that as it may, we've got a fight coming. Best ready up.