Robert Reich

Anti-Labor Day

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

This will be the first Labor Day of the presidency of Donald J. Trump, who came to office riding a wave of anti-establishment anger from average working people. No one can say they didn’t see it coming.

By the time Trump was elected, the typical American household had a net worth 14 percent lower than the typical household in 1984. The richest 1 percent owned more than the bottom 90 percent.
Last year’s annual Wall Street bonus pool alone was larger than the annual year-round earnings of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

While 90 percent of U.S. adults born in the early 1940s were earning more than their parents by the time they reached their prime earning years, only half of adults born in the mid-1980s are earning more than their parents in their prime earning years.

Most also have less economic security than their parents. Nearly one out of every five American workers is in a part-time job. Two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck.
Most are working more hours than they worked decades ago and taking fewer sick days or vacations.

The gap in life expectancy between the nation’s most affluent and everyone else is also widening.

Increasing numbers of Americans on the downward economic escalator are succumbing to opiods, chronic liver cirrhosis, and poisonings that include drug overdoses.
The standard explanation for why all this has occurred is that most American workers are no longer “worth” as much as they were before digital technologies and globalization. So they must now settle for lower wages and less security.

Rubbish. 

This doesn’t explain why workers in other advanced economies facing similar forces haven’t succumbed to them nearly as dramatically as have workers in the United States.

Or why the pay of top executives at big companies has soared from an average of 20 times that of the typical worker 40 years ago to almost 300 times now.

Or why the denizens of Wall Street, who in the 1950s and 1960s earned comparatively modest sums, are now paid tens or hundreds of millions annually.

And it can’t account for the decline in the starting wages of recent college graduates. A college education is now a prerequisite for joining the middle class but no longer a sure means for gaining ground once admitted to it.

To attribute all this to the impersonal workings of the market, and assume it’s because most workers aren’t “worth” as much as before, is to ignore the increasing ability of moneyed interests to alter the system for their own benefit—demolishing trade unions, turning full-time employees into contract workers, and monopolizing industry.

America’s economic and political elites could have used their growing political and economic clout to help workers get ahead—through better schools and more affordable college, comprehensive job retraining, wage insurance, better public transportation, and expanded unemployment insurance.

They could have pushed for universal health insurance.

They could have paid for all this by accepting, even lobbying for, higher taxes on themselves.

They could have sought to reduce their own political clout by demanding limits on campaign spending.

But they did the reverse: They spent more and more of their ever-growing wealth and power to rig the game to their own advantage.

As a result, trust in all the major institutions of our society has plummeted.

In 1964 more than 60 percent of Americans thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people” while just 29 percent said government was “pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves.”

Nowadays the numbers are almost reversed, with 76 percent believing government is run “by a few big interests” and just 19 percent saying government is run “for the benefit of all.”

In the early 1960s most Americans said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks and financial institutions.

Now just one in ten has a great deal of confidence in them.

In his first seven months as president, Trump has done nothing for American workers. In fact, his attempt to undermine the Affordable Care Act, his retreat from Labor Department regulations boosting overtime pay, and his proposed tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations will make most workers worse off.

But he is in office because of their anger and distrust, and he’s still feeding off it. “The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country,” Trump said in his inaugural address. “Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs.”

Tragically, Trump was right.

Now all of us are paying the price.

Past Columns
Preparing for War

March 28, 2018

A Prescription of Greed

March 14, 2018

The true path to prosperity

December 6, 2017

Dynasty Dystopia

September 20, 2017

Trump’s Big Loss

August 2, 2017

The End of Trump

May 17, 2017

First 100 Days

April 26, 2017

Events
Today
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Northwest Raspberry Festival

10:00am|Lynden

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Summer of Blood

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

LOL-apalooza

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Raspberry Pancake Breakfast

7:00am|Lynden Community Center

Tour de Whatcom

7:30am|Boundary Bay Brewery

Ferndale Breakfast

8:00am|Ferndale Senior Center

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverwalk Park

Christmas in July Bazaar

9:00am|Bellingham Masonic Center

Twin Sisters Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner, North Fork Library

Four Democrats seek election in the Skagit

9:00am

Primary Election Forum

9:30am|Bellingham High School

NW Art Beat Studio Tour

10:00am|Skagit County

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|H Street Plaza

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Summer Seersucker Bicycle Ride

10:00am|Gilkey Square

Lynden Farmers Market

10:00am|Centennial Park

Lummi Island Saturday Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery Store

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am| Depot Market Square

Correspondence Club

10:30am|Mindport Exhibits

Downtown Market Walk

11:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Street Food Saturdays

11:00am|Zuanich Point Park

Show & Shine

11:00am|BelleWood Acres

Hot Ticket

11:00am|North Fork Library

Public Sail

12:00pm|Cap Sante Marina

The Nandia Trilogy

1:00pm|Barnes & Noble

Craftapalooza

1:00pm|Point Roberts Library

Concrete Saturday Market

1:00pm|Concrete Community Center

Field Games

1:00pm|VanderYacht Park

Wren and Della

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Lynden Cemetery Tour

1:00pm|Lynden Cemetery

State Street History Tour

1:30pm|Depot Market Square

The Secret Garden

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Ferndale Uncorked and Uncapped

3:00pm|Centennial Riverwalk Park

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Whatcom Democrats Country Picnic

4:00pm|Hovander Homestead Park

Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Feast and Frolic

5:30pm|Viva Farms

Saturday Seafood Boil

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Music at Maritime

6:00pm|Maritime Heritage Park

Austin Jenckes

7:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Bellingham Youth Jazz Band

7:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Nelson Mandela Tribute Concert

7:30pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm| Lincoln Theatre

Gerrymandering Update

7:30pm|Island Library

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Summer of Blood

7:00pm|Rexville Grange Amphitheater

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

NW Art Beat Studio Tour

10:00am|Skagit County

Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Vietnam Veterans Car Show

10:00am|Barkley Village

Edison Farmers Market

10:00am|Edison Granary

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Langar in Lynden

11:00am|Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

La Conner Live!

1:00pm|Gilkey Square

Skulls and Skins

1:00pm|Tennant Lake

Mosaic Stepping Stone Workshop

1:00pm|Chuckanut Center

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Fiddlin' Fox Summer Concerts

2:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Trivia Time

3:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

Trivia Time

3:30pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

2018 Cascadia Kids Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Monday
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Rainbow Reads

12:00pm|Ferndale Library

Plant Diagnostic Clinics

5:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Paddling Whatcom County

6:00pm|REI

Cuban Salsa

6:00pm|Bell Tower Studios

Books on Tap Two

6:30pm|Tino's Pizza & Pasta Co.

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

2018 Cascadia Kids Trove Web Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1