Class War in America: the Book
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Feel free to download this material for personal, not-for-profit, use. If you duplicate it for others, attribute it to Charles M. Kelly. Print copies are still available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and used copies are widely available on the internet.
WHY CLASS WAR IN AMERICA WAS WRITTEN
I'm a retired management consultant, and I've seen from the inside what big corporations, with the help of conservative politicians, are doing to their middle and lower level employees.
Any management consultant will tell you that:
Over the past few decades, millions of these
employees put their best efforts into "quality circles," productivity
improvement teams, and special task forces in order to help large
corporations become more efficient and more profitable. When they
expressed concern that their greater efficiency would lead to headcount
reduction, they were promised that, no, that wouldn't happen.
Management consultants like myself, and high level
executives explained that, as productivity and profits went up, and as the
economy grew, everyone would benefit. Work would become less stressful and
people would have a better quality life at home with their families.
Eventually, they may even get more vacation time, and possibly a 35-hour
At the time, I did not believe that I was lying.
After all, hadn't that been the trend during the 40s, 50s, 60s, and into
the 70s? I also had the privilege of working for some of the most socially
responsible corporations in America at the time.
Now that productivity
and profits have skyrocketed, however, the philosophy of conservative
politicians, business owners, investors and high level executives has
mysteriously changed. Once the balance of power shifted totally in their
own direction, they decided that fairness has no place in business
Today, the CEO's only responsibility is to the
stockholders. Workers have the same status as machinery and have no human
rights whatsoever—no matter how much time and effort they have invested in
So, improvements in equipment don't mean that work becomes easier and less stressful for employees. It means that half the workforce is fired and those who remain must now work harder than they did before—with incomes that don't keep pace with inflation—"because competition demands it." Of course, executives and stockholders exempt themselves from the competition and get fabulously rich in the process.
Competition and "Free" Markets
Which brings us to the competition issue. Sure,
competition and free markets are good for our economy, but only if they
are based on moral standards. In other words, moral investors and
business persons must be able to compete with each other on the bases of
However, the free market must NOT reward those who would compete on the basis of who is willing to treat their lower level employees the most brutally. If you think that "brutally" is too harsh a word, consider the manufacturing plants in Guatemala. Their armed guards have sawed-off shotguns and they won't allow international inspection teams into their facilities. With monotonous repetition, we read in the daily papers about human and environmental rights being violated in Mexico, Indonesia and other third world countries.
As long as there are investors and corporate
executives who are willing to violate basic moral standards relating to
the fair treatment of workers, those who would respect moral standards
cannot compete. In effect, the market becomes "free" only for the immoral.
And that is exactly what is happening to our manufacturing industries. Even the high level managers who honestly believe their promises of fairness to workers are being betrayed. After employees build a profitable corporation, it is likely to be taken over by unscrupulous new managers or a corporate raider, and all promises of fairness are forgotten.
The lack of education is another smokescreen for
lack of principle and the naked use of power. Studies by the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Association of
Engineering Societies concluded that, for engineers forced to seek new
jobs, "not only are permanent jobs scarce, but many of the vacant ones pay
10 to 50% less than such positions paid only a few years ago, and may also
These are well educated people. Their problem: they
invested too many years with the companies that fired them, their salaries
had become too high—as defined by today's standards of greed—and new
replacements could be hired and trained for 10-50% less.
Professional jobs that can now be exported to third
world countries include engineering, data processing, computer design and
programming, science, and virtually any task that doesn't require physical
presence in the United States. All that counts to our modern corporate
leaders is: in what country are wages and living standards the absolute
worst for qualified professionals.
As bad as conditions are getting for many
professionals, they are much worse for those who lack a formal education.
We will always need people to collect our garbage, drive our trucks, work
in our fields, empty the bedpans, clean up the hotel rooms, fix our cars,
install the plumbing, and so on.
Unfortunately for these poor souls, apologists for
the wealthy and powerful have convinced us that manual labor is no longer
a valued activity, and workers whose mamas and daddies didn't send them to
college don't deserve a decent income. Reason: there are starving people
in Indonesia who will do anything to have enough to eat.
Besides, if the poor working drudges in our country made enough to actually live here, it would cause inflation and we can't have that. (Forget the runaway inflation in the prices of land, homes and rent that the wealthy cause, and that severely penalizes middle and low income Americans.)
So, What Really Caused Income Disparity?
Values were quite different 35 years ago when I
began management consulting. Loyalty meant something, and most people
believed that it was earned and owed, by both employee and owner. There
was an implied contract with the moral force of, shall we say, "Christian
values"? It was the binding that created a sense of community in
Many businesses succeeded and prospered because
uneducated employees started with the business and accepted low wages and
hard working conditions. The implied promise from the corporate executive
or the business owner was: "Work hard with me, grow with me, and you will
share in my prosperity."
Then, the 1980s arrived with a vengeance. Although
you can't legislate morality, you can legally require behaviors that
voters consider moral. You also can destroy legislation that protect those
moral values, and that is exactly what pro-business politicians, both
Democrats and Republicans, have done.
As a result, after 1980, the stock market rose 400%,
and real wages went gone down 15%. That's not, as the apologists claim,
because investors worked harder, or were more successful in the moral
sense of fairness. It's because corporations have conveniently shifted
their values from fairness and reciprocal loyalty to "survival of the
Right now, investors and business owners are the
fittest, and fairly-paid workers are on the verge of extinction. Of
course, there is a benefit to their new found values: investors and high
level executives don't have to be hypocrites any more by making the
implied promise that they will be fair to their employees.
So, if you are a middle or low income American,
don't buy the popular delusion that today's income disparity is the result
of natural economic forces that should not be controlled. This delusion
leads to a sense of futility and the search for scapegoats, and makes it
impossible to attack the origins of the problem.
Fact is, apologists for
the wealthy and powerful have sold a set of values to the voting public
that has allowed pro-business politicians to get elected. They, in turn,
have changed our economy from one that used to benefit both investors and
workers, to one that now benefits investors at the expense of
Investors are now confiscating the wealth that
workers, professionals and all levels of managers have produced over the
decades and taking it out of the country—purely to benefit themselves, and
with no regard to justice for those who produced the wealth.
And don't blame technology, competition, or
education for the shrinking standard of living for the bottom half of
America. Don't count on Christian values for fairness in the workplace.
All that counts in today's economy is power and greed and the laws that control incomes. And before the year 2004 arrives, voters had better figure out which politicians have the interests of our total society at heart, rather than just the established rich and powerful.
Class War in America can be obtained at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble. Used copies are widely available on the internet. However, you can download the book free by going to Class War in America: the book.
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