Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Welcome to Bush's Ownership Society

From the Financial Times:

Real wages in the US are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years, according to data surveyed by the Financial Times.

Inflation rose 3.1 per cent in the year to March but salaries climbed just 2.4 per cent, according to the Employment Cost Index. In the final three months of 2004, real wages fell by 0.9 per cent.

The last time salaries fell this steeply was at the start of 1991, when real wages declined by 1.1 per cent.

Stingy pay rises mean many Americans will have to work longer hours to keep up with the cost of living, and they could ultimately undermine consumer spending and economic growth.

Many economists believe that in spite of the unexpectedly large rise in job creation of 274,000 in April, the uneven revival in the labour market since the 2001 recession has made it hard for workers to negotiate real improvements in living standards.

I believe this is what Bush means when he blathers on about creating an ownership society in America: the companies and the capitalists own the workers and pay them whatever the hell they want and call it "free-market principles". The companies shift the responsibilities for the retirements and the health care costs of their employees over to the workers, the government gets out of the social safety net business by privatizing social security and bankrupting medicaid and medicare (as Ron Brownstein noted in Monday's LA Times), and low-income and middle-income Americans everywhere carry their own burdens. In the meantime, corporations pay little or no American taxes by shifting their headquarters to the Cayman Islands, wealthy individuals lower their already historically low taxes taxes by shopping for"taxpayer friendly" states and declaring a post office box as their home address (as President Bush did in 2004), and the debt and the deficit grow and grow and grow.

But so do the corporate profits. And by god, don't you declare low-income and middle-income American are being screwed by the rich and powerful in this country or the toadies at FAUX News and MSNBC will call you a Marxist and dismiss you for trying to start class warfare.

Right. The Republican Party has been waging class warfare at least since Reagan. They are quite effective at it. Remember the old urban myth of the "welfare queen" driving her cadillac in the 70's. That was replaced this year by the myth of the American freespender who runs up thousands in credit card debts in Vegas and declares bankruptcy every seven years. Yes, the corporate interests know how to sell their economic programs and how to wage class warfare.

And that's why real wages are down, unions are being busted left and right, employees have little bargaining power, the federal social safety net is disappearing through privatization or bankruptcy, the credit card companies can charge whatever interest rates they want, and millions of Americans have no health care coverage while the health insurance companies are worth trillions (just look at their stocks - they're way up in a year when nearly every other stock is down 5%!).

Welcome to Bush's ownership society, otherwise known as feudalism. All hail the great lord of the manor! Work! Work! Work!

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