Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bob Herbert Says It All

People, it's time to change our way of thinking. It's time to stop blaming the American Worker for the ills caused by conservative policies and greedy executives.

For me, it started during the Reagan administration. That is when I started paying attention, so it could have started before then, but that is when I first noticed it--The demonization of the American Worker. Lazy, greedy, making inferior products, unconcerned with quality, more concerned with getting their paid time off. It was when the conservative movement got real about breaking unions in this country and the first salvo in the campaign came when Reagan screwed the Air Traffic Controllers out of their jobs. Screw those air traffic controllers; we can get more, is what he said, in essence.

The message sent was: workers in any industry, at any position, at any level EXCEPT the executive level, are expendable. Workers are a dime dozen; one is just as good as the next. They are all greedy, lazy, untrustworthy slobs.

If you have worked in this country for any amount of time, you may have noticed this philosophy gaining ground in your workplace. Everyone is expendable now. There is no job security, no loyalty (on either side) and hard work is no longer rewarded or valued. A don't-rock-the-boat mentality rules the workplace and people who work too hard are frowned upon by management as too "ambitious." I remember a time when ambition was a positive worker trait.

It seems to me that there was a period of time in which the American worker was valued for the effort he put in, for the VALUE he contributed to the bottom line. People MADE things and they worked hard doing it and companies naturally expected to reward them for their efforts; share the wealth, so to speak. They were considered part of the team, part of the family. This idea seems to have degenerated over time into this current commonly held belief that nobody is important anymore. And people, even the common workers themselves, seem to have fallen into this faulty philosophy.

Which is why it is so easy for conservatives, whose basic economic philosophy has been disproved by recent events, whose policies have utterly and completely FAILED this country, to pass the buck for our woes on the American Worker. Who is questioning the assertion that it was unfair and unreasonable demands by union workers that caused the collapse of the American auto industry? Certainly not conservative politicians. Forcing the autoworkers to take a pay cut, cutting off pensions and benefits for workers who worked their whole LIVES to make profits for the shareholders; one can just see the drool dripping from the mouths of the greedy conservatives who believe they have won something.

Screwing the auto workers is the coup de grace in their war on the American Worker. Thus is the union beast dealt the death blow; and the American worker again takes the blame for all that is wrong instead of the true culprits; the greedy, ignorant, delusional conservatives and powerbrokers that have brought the American worker to his knees in pursuit of increasing profits. The truth is that they have screwed themselves. But it will take YEARS for their myopia to clear so that they can finally see that. Meanwhile the common man will have to endure untold suffering and sacrifice before the American Worker's value will again be acknowledged.

The economy turned away from manufacturing under the Reagan administration and today many jobs are in the service sector. One problem with that is apparent now; when people don't have money, they don't require services. More people lose their jobs. When those people lose their jobs, they can't afford goods any longer, so people in manufacturing lose their jobs. You see where this is going.

We have got to stop blaming this on the worker. It wasn't the worker that got greedy. Wages for middle class workers have been stagnant, while bankers, stock brokers and financiers of all types have reaped historical profits and reached dizzying heights of salary and fringe benefits. Experts have been documenting the growing gap between the rich and the poor for DECADES now. This is not an accident. This is the conservative "free market" philosophy in action.

The worker is ready to make the sacrifices that it may take to get our economy rolling again, as evidenced by the forced sanctions that the UAW has agreed to make in order for the auto giants to get their bridge loans. But what sacrifices are the executives willing to make? Not just in the auto industry; what about the bankers, financiers, insurance executives, stock brokers, etc? When will their day of reckoning come?

Now is the time to stand up for the American Worker. That is YOU and ME. Maybe you aren't an autoworker. Maybe you aren't a member of a union. Maybe you hold a white-collar job and don't consider yourself a part of the "working" classes. THE BELL IS RINGING; it's time to wake up now. If union jobs are at risk, your job could be next. If companies are laying off workers, your job could be next. If whole industries are struggling, your job could be next. The government aid that has been handed out so far has EXCLUDED the worker. It has lined the pockets of corporations at the expense of the American Worker. It's time to stand up and DEMAND accountability from Congress and corporate executives. And stop blaming the American Worker. We have sacrificed enough.

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