Once, America believed in its workers: oh, those were the days alright

Bill put these up today.

ROMNEY: “I’m concerned when I watch a president cow-tow to the union bosses by putting in place those union stooges at the NLRB. I’ve taken on union bosses before. I’m happy to take ‘em on again.”

THE PREZ: “The values at the core of the union movement – those don’t change. Those are the values that have made this country great. So when I hear some of these folks tryin’ to take collective bargaining rights away, trying to pass so called ‘right to work’ laws for private sector workers that really mean the right to work for less and less and less – when I hear some of this talk I know this is not about economics, this is about politics. I keep on hearin’ these same folks talk about values all the time. You want to talk about values? Hard work – that’s a value. Lookin’ out for one another, that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together and I’m my brother’s keeper and sister’s keeper, that’s a value!

I expect a Tea Party congress critter will soon demand that the Kenyan-Muslim-Commie “Labor Day” in September be cancelled or renamed. I suggest Oligarch Observance Day.

I’ve posted this before. Today is a good day to post it again. From 1981:

23 responses to “Once, America believed in its workers: oh, those were the days alright

  1. Very nice. They need to update, though. From their clothes I’m guessing this clip was made in the ’70’s.

    This comes at a good time because I keep seeing items on the evening news about manufacturing starting to return to the USA, a combination of rising transportation costs, i.e. oil, and good old U.S. productivity, something the labor force is key to.


    • The commercial is from 1981 . . . after the first stirrings of modern anti unionism (Reagan anyone?) and the threat of jobs going offshore.


    • Jim, Moe,

      My dad was a member of that union and worked his behind off, every day. Drove 20 miles to work and 20 miles home. I was told that after he retired (forced to at 62 because of heart problems) that they replaced him with two people.

      As Obama said, “Hard work – that’s a value.” And it is a value that Republicans do not associate with union people, but union people (with always a few exceptions) are damn hard workers. I get tired of the Romneys of the world slamming them.



      • But that’s the plan Duane, always has been. Turn us into the ‘rabble’, easily manipulated and distracted. And so many of our countrymen ignorantly cheer them on.


    • No. Sadly, the American “labor force” is immaterial, at best, to any return of industry to America. Simply put, American manufacturing power has increased with the reduction of the “work force.” It’s a combination of “making do with less” and advanced technologies.


      • I get that jonolan. Do you beleive that the resultant problems are our shared problem needing policy solutions, or just the probllems of those who have lost the opportunity to work their way into the (now disappearing) middle class?


        • Neither. While the effects of the problem will be shared by us all unless we invent a whole new basis for economics, there are no policy solutions that can rectify the problem because there’s nothing wrong to be fixed.

          A global labor pool, fairly cheap shipping, and advanced manufacturing techniques make the American worker both redundant and overpriced. No policy will “fix” that and people, as a whole, aren’t willing to accept the burden of the loss of both objective and effective wealth that would be the cost of a societal correction.


          • Okay, so if we can’t fix the labor/wage thing . . . how do we invest in the American people, the youth, so they can secure our future as a country? create new subsidies?


            • Subsidies won’t work. To borrow from the Eco-Leftists, they’re not sustainable since China will only carry our note for so long.

              Frankly, Moe, I don’t know what will fix this.

              My gut tells me that we’re going to have to “turn back the clock” and leave the myth of the middle class behind since it has devolved into just the debt-ridden consumer class.

              That would end up causing massive deflation though as the dollar adjusted and settled and that would crash the markets faster than anything else and dry up credit further – as well as killing our exports for while due to the sudden spike in dollar value.

              I can’t see a fix at this point for generations of stupidity that isn’t going to hurt a whole lot of people a very great deal and probably topple many governments.

              And I would be a lot more comfortable making these predictions if I weren’t trained in both this sort of modelling and dealing with- and capitalizing upon the consequences. I never thought I’d be applying those skills domestically.


  2. Don’t want to be “free” to compete in a global race to the bottom. Who can work the most and get paid the least? Some liberty that is!




  4. I tend to think we’ve seen this before.

    from the New Deal through at least the Great Society, a focus of public policy was the ‘the farm problem’. You rarely hear the term now.

    In essence the concern was that farmers couldn’t make a go of it. Thus we got farm subsidies that we still have today. Generally all this was going on against the backdrop of continued increase in the production of food.

    Today we have a perceived ‘manufacturing problem’: People either can’t get jobs in manufacturing, or if they do the wages no longer provide a ‘middle class living’. But despite the perception that manufacturing being in decline, I think Jonolan gets it right, US manufacturing still produces a huge amount of value added and has about the same share of global manufacturing value as 30-35 years ago. We don’t see it our homes so much as a lot of consumer goods come from overseas, but a huge amount of capital goods (planes for example) by value are made in the US. The problem is the jobs have disappeared or will soon.

    The farm problem of the mid 20th century and the manufacturing problem of the early 21st century are parallel: rising productivity and and output, falling opportunities for work. Capital and technology have displaced labor. Finally society at large has benefited though we can argue about how the benefits have been distributed.

    It seems to me the challenge is to develop more opportunity to use people’s productive skills in new ways (education and research), and frankly maybe some use of redistributive policy but as a last not a first resort. Unions may benefit specific workers but likely also reduce employment in affected industries.

    I think we do have a problem with opportunity for the former manufacturing work force. I think unions can be an effective voice in speaking for their collective interests, but they may actually reduce the number of jobs for the type of folks they represent.


    • Well, sure, Bruce. Unions would reduce the number of jobs. The ideal paradigm from the management’s viewpoint is the sweatshop wherein vast numbers of people work for subsistence wages. Seems to me the mere threat of unions is about the only thing that prevents that from becoming reality. What other force promotes workers’ welfare?

      Automation and increasing productivity are inevitable. That’s why I suspect that increasing the minimum wage might be problematic – it will increase the pressures for further automation. We are already at the point where you almost can’t get an actual human being on the phone.

      Speaking of farming, a.k.a., Big Ag, I have been reading for years about the consolidation of agriculture into these behemoth automated operations that still benefit from subsidies originally intended to help the small farmer. As a fortunate retiree who enjoys the occasional cruise I can testify that I meet a surprising number of “farmers” on cruise ships. Take it for what it’s worth – not scientific I know, but a piece of evidence.


      • Those AG subsidies weren’t and aren’t just meant to help the farmers of any size. They were also meant to lower the price at the register of food, which is why the biggest subsidies – aside from the newish ethanol “green” bullshit subsidies – have always been for grain crops, especially feed / fodder grains.

        How many hungry Black babies are you willing to tolerate in order to get rid of those subsidies, Jim?

        Yes, I used Blacks as a specific and advised example because that’s where the outrage and demands for more personal subsidies would come from.


        • Nah, I don’t buy that baloney for a New York minute, jonolan. That money isn’t diminishing the commodity price nearly as much as it’s putting cash in the pockets of the big farmers. Hell, if that were the motivation the government wouldn’t have hugged the ethanol business with such enthusiasm. No, it was the farm vote and the farmers’ political contributions that got that deal done.

          Read an article a few years ago about a car dealer in Nebraska who, when interviewed, said the farmers were generally sticking with Chevy’s and Fords not because of affordability but because they feared the image of driving Caddy’s. Just hear-say I know, but it rings true with all else I read.


          • True, it’s not diminishing the commodity price nearly as much as it’s putting cash in the pockets of the big farmers, but that a relative scale.

            Any industry is going to maintain its income and profitability by whatever means are necessary. If you suddenly increase their costs – effectively what removing subsidies would do – they will raise their prices a commensurate amount.

            What you about the ethanol bill is true as well. That’s why I specifically exempted it within my comment. It has, however, lowered the price of corn which, in turn, lowers the price of anything fed corn.

            As for the farmers’ choices in vehicles – My own anecdotal evidence supports your assertion as to their reasoning.


            • Ethanol doesn’t lower corn prices, it raises them. I hope you aren’t a commodities trader, jonolan.


              • I only dabble in commodities.

                Yet, you’re wrong. Overall the ethanol subsidies lowered corn prices to the point where corn syrup became much cheaper than cane sugar, even with higher processing cost.

                Hell! Some quarters are even blaming it for the “obesity” epidemic.

                It shouldn’t have, but it did in the US because of how the law was written and because the US ethanol industry fell apart due to it not working for shit and the oil companies making damn sure everyone knew that.


                • You have prompted me to look up information on ethanol versus corn prices and I found a detailed study by two Iowa economists. As one might expect, their conclusions are muddled because so many other global market and weather conditions were factors, but when I look at their figure 1 I see a definite correlation. It was strongest, dramatic really, from 2005 to 2007.

                  Bottom line though, it was not the strong effect I thought it was, and I think that’s because the global Ag market is so very enormous.


                • Yeah, it’s murky as all Hell. And, in point of fact, I might be falling victim to the same sloppy thinking that I deride other for – mistaking correlation for causation and thinking in terms of a cause instead of a group of synergistic causes.


  5. I think my main point is the unions do make SOME workers better off, but at the price of actually making other workers worse off. Those displaced from a union shop end up putting downward pressure on wages at other firms or industries. Some increase in the share of the over all pie going to labor likely results to, but all unions gains don’t come from the wealthy and their capital. Nonetheless I concede that lack of opportunity for displaced manufacturing workers is an ongoing problem. We need to focus on transitioning people to new productive jobs. I don’t think we can rebuild the economy of 40 years ago with beefed up unions, or otherwise for that matter.


    • First, Bruce, we have to find those new productive jobs. So far, we’ve failed to do that, preferring to put more people on the government payroll (union again!) instead.

      Right now some 23% of employed Americans are in the education, healthcare, and social assistance fields and another 12% in retail. Just over 10% are in professional, scientific, or management & admin fields. Only 17% are in manufacturing or construction.


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