Connect the dots between five columns in the Sunday, March 30 AC-T and you get the picture of why our economy is in trouble. Voters have put the wrong people into government because apologists for America’s top one percent have conned them into believing three absurd fallacies.
Connect the dots between five columns in the Sunday, March 30 AC-T, and you get the picture of why our economy is in trouble. Voters have put the wrong people into government because apologists for America’s top 1 percent have conned them into believing three absurd fallacies:
• Unregulated free market capitalism is the best assurance of economic efficiency and justice. Not true. Left alone, its only concern is profit, and justice is irrelevant.
• Government should have no role in controlling markets or wealth distribution. Reality: Government always controls them because it sets the rules for how markets are run and who benefits from them.
• Wealth is not a zero-sum game. Not true. Capitalism is an economy of auction markets and the more money other people have, in effect, the less you have.
The column “Are we even asking the right questions about job growth?” noted that 47 percent of all American workers have a high probability they will see their jobs lost to automation over the next two decades. The last time we successfully addressed high unemployment, 19.9 percent, was 1937 and the free market had nothing to do with it.
The federal government passed the Fair Labor Standards Act which, overnight, changed our six-day 60-hour week to a 5-day 40-hour week. It made employers pay time-and-a-half for overtime.
In addition, it forced businesses to share more of their profits with workers by establishing a minimum wage, and to quit working children under 16 in full-time jobs.
“$1 trillion student loan debt widens wealth gap” indicated that students loaded down with debt after graduation fall behind those whose parents could pay their way, or those who got full scholarships.
Government’s GI Bill for millions of veterans paid off handsomely for our nation because it allowed many to get advanced educations who would not have been able to. And when government cuts funding for public colleges and universities, and puts the private sector in control, it redistributes wealth from the disadvantaged, the poor and the middle class to the advantaged and the wealthy.
The next three columns describe the results of our government’s adoption of unregulated free-market international trade, which redistributed wealth from workers to investors and the wealthy. “Cost-cutting spurs worries for workers” cited what everyone knows: Large corporations are cutting labor costs in any way they can — layoffs, decreasing benefits, reducing pay increases, lowering retirement benefits, etc.
They get away with it because globalization destroyed the power of workers to negotiate for higher wages. If workers threaten to unionize, or if unions press for higher wages or better working conditions, corporations go elsewhere.
As unemployed workers enter the labor market, they depress the level of wages for everyone in their class. That’s why the stock market continues to soar to higher levels, and workers are increasingly desperate.
“Immigrant investors wooed for projects in Appalachia” reported that economic developers are hoping to coax overseas investment to projects in Western North Carolina and east Tennessee.
In return, foreign investors and their families would earn the right to live and work in the U.S. The reason wealthy investors already living in the U.S. won’t invest in Asheville is that they can get better returns by going to countries with much lower wages and no protections of workers’ rights.
The developers should be successful, because a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article reported that a substantial number of wealthy Chinese are leaving their country and taking their money with them. China suffers from a horrendous environmental pollution and civil unrest, and Asheville should be a desirable destination.
This leads us to “Left Out — Good pay, decent housing elusive in Asheville” which explained that, in an area where land is limited and wages are low, half of renters and almost 40 percent of homeowners fall under the category of “cost-burdened.”
Asheville workers, like workers nationwide, are suffering from stagnant or declining wages relative to inflation. Asheville is an incredibly desirable area to live in, so those who make huge incomes elsewhere come here, buy real estate to live in or rent out, and drive lower-wage residents out of the market. That’s as zero-sum as you can get.
The five AC-T columns above were in just one issue, and are being repeated elsewhere daily. Conditions they describe are the result of an economy controlled by politicians who believe that the beneficiaries of fortunate circumstances or inherited wealth should live in incredible luxury — no matter how other citizens are surviving.
Chuck Kelly is a retired management consultant living in Burnsville and is author of The Destructive Achiever; power and ethics in the American corporation and Farewell Fantasyland; time for political and economic reality. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.