Downton Abbey, part III
By Raymond Freeman 07/18/2013
“Downton Abbey” is a British soap opera about the lives of an aristocratic family. They live in luxury and don’t work. The servants live in virtual poverty and work like slaves. Now, it’s happening right here. It’s the right-wing’s vision for America. They’ll be the aristocracy. You’ll be like a serf in the feudal system.
America used to operate under Henry Ford’s vision. He paid high wages so that his workers could buy his cars. The more he sold, the more profit he made. He saw that an economy is not a zero-sum closed system. He said, “There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.” And further, “The employer does not create the jobs. He only handles the money. The product makes the money.” Ford’s vision created huge wealth for all Americans.
This should be drilled into every Republican’s head: “The. Wealthy. Are. Not. Job. Creators — Well-Paid. Workers. Are. The. Job. Creators.”
Until 1975, America had a strong middle class, strong industry, strong unions, good education and sound infrastructure. Even though taxes were higher, everyone prospered. But after the end of the Vietnam War, corporate America’s new mantra was “shareholder value.” Ronald Reagan ran with it.
Income inequality grew. Many American homes became two-income households for the first time. Families suffered. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has calculated that the median wage today should be $92,000, not $49,000, to have kept up with productivity growth. American families have been systematically cheated.
Yet profits have soared nicely. In 2006, corporate profits had the largest slice of the pie since wartime 1942. Wages and salaries sank to the lowest level since Depression-era 1929. Companies are now sitting on record profits. But here’s the rub. America’s economy isn’t driven by corporate profits.
It’s driven by consumer spending. If families don’t have money, they don’t spend. If consumers don’t spend, companies don’t hire. It’s that simple. All that money sitting at the top just can’t be spent fast enough. Mitt Romney doesn’t have 12,000 Cadillacs. He has 12.
Do “job creators” really create jobs? Hardly; they’re profit-creators. And how do they create profits? Easy; they ship jobs abroad to low-wage countries. They’re job destroyers. The U.S. Department of Commerce found that from 2000 to 2009, U.S. multinational corporations cut their American employment by 2.9 million. But they increased their employment abroad by 2.4 million. They say they don’t have an “obligation to solve America’s problems.” Nice one!
If you think the American economy is run for the benefit of actual Americans, you’re sadly deluded, my friends.
Productivity has risen steadily in the U.S., but the average worker has not benefited from the growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Economic Policy Institute’s ”State of Working America” reports an income DECLINE for 90 percent of America between 1979 and 2008. Among advanced countries, the U.S. had the highest percentage of employees in low-wage occupations in 2009.
Canadians didn’t fall for Reaganism. According to Bloomberg and Credit Suisse, the typical Canadian is now richer than the typical American. Upward mobility is twice that in America. If you want the American Dream, move to Canada.
In Germany, pay has risen five times faster, since 1985, than in the United States. German companies have unions in the boardrooms. Car workers in Germany earn more than they do here. Germans regard America as a low-wage country. It’s a complete lie that jobs are outsourced because union pay rates are too high. Germany followed our blueprint for success. But we trashed it because a B-movie actor looked good on television and told jokes about the government.
The problem isn’t “big government.” It’s not unions. It’s not the deficit. Americans have been persuaded by GOP propaganda that the main economic problem is the national debt. This should be at the bottom of the problem list. At the top should be the destruction of American workers’ spending power. A close second is the trade deficit, mostly with China. It sucks wealth out of the country.
Republican policies are exactly backward. Heaping wealth on the super-rich and hoping they’ll become “job creators” is (a) loony to start with, (b) hasn’t worked, (c) attacks families, (d) runs up the trade deficit. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We’ve been doing the same thing for 35 years. Surprise, surprise, we get the same result! We’re insane.
So why’s it happened? Simply put, Republicans are experts at propaganda. They’ve spent millions on lie factories (er, sorry, “think tanks”). They drive the political discourse. To avoid becoming like Downton Abbey and to reclaim the American Dream, patriotic citizens need to drive a wooden stake through the heart of Reagan’s vision.