Labor Day?

Harold Meyerson has a great Op-Ed piece for the Washington Post today:

Labor Day is almost upon us, and like some of my fellow graybeards, I can, if I concentrate, actually remember what it was that this holiday once celebrated. Something about America being the land of broadly shared prosperity. Something about America being the first nation in human history that had a middle-class majority, where parents had every reason to think their children would fare even better than they had.

The young may be understandably incredulous, but the Great Compression, as economists call it, was the single most important social fact in our country in the decades after World War II. From 1947 through 1973, American productivity rose by a whopping 104 percent, and median family income rose by the very same 104 percent. More Americans bought homes and new cars and sent their kids to college than ever before. In ways more difficult to quantify, the mass prosperity fostered a generosity of spirit: The civil rights revolution and the Marshall Plan both emanated from an America in which most people were imbued with a sense of economic security.


Ours is the age of the Great Upward Redistribution. The median hourly wage for Americans has declined by 2 percent since 2003, though productivity has been rising handsomely. Last year, according to figures released just yesterday by the Census Bureau, wages for men declined by 1.8 percent and for women by 1.3 percent.

As a remarkable story by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt in Monday's New York Times makes abundantly clear, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of gross domestic product since 1947, when the government began measuring such things. Corporate profits, by contrast, have risen to their highest share of the GDP since the mid-'60s -- a gain that has come chiefly at the expense of American workers.
Go read the whole thing, it's very good.

I can from a union family. I am unabashedly pro-union. That's one of the reasons I haven't shopped at a Wal*Mart since 2003.

Mr. Meyerson points out an interesting fact about Wal-Mart in his piece: "Of Wal-Mart's 10 top suppliers in 1994, four have filed bankruptcies." Think about that. Due to their own policies, Wal*Mart forces 40% of its suppliers out of business. I grew up near Hershey Pennsylvania, home of Hershey Chocolate. I remember a story that got some play locally explaining that Hershey had to make some change to satisfy Wal-Mart's demands because Wal*Mart made up 40% of Hershey's distribution or some such thing. Hershey didn't want to do it, but they had no choice. No business can absorb having almost half of its distribution disappear overnight.

I don't want to let this post turn into an anti-Wal*Mart screed, so I'll move on.

When Bush came to power, there were analysts who said that movement Conservatives were going to work to undo the '60s and move America back into the 'good old days' of the oh-so idealized 1950s. Evidently, they weren't generous enough in scope. It seems that Conservative's real goal is the 1920s.

Unbridled capitalism, efforts to constitutionally ban things that certain religious groups find offensive (gay marriage is the new Demon Rum) and the exploitation of workers by a elite ruling class that holds a vast majority of the nation's wealth and resources.

We know Bush and his cronies aren't big on history, but I am. Will Bushtowns be the new Hoovervilles?

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