Over at Salon, Andrew Leonard interviews Joseph McCartin, a Georgetown University professor who writes on the history of the labor movement. The whole interview is worth reading, but this portion really struck me for its clarity on the economic situation we find ourselves in these days.
…an even more important factor is basically a 20- or 30-year period of failure in the private sector. What we are really looking at here is a private sector that for quite a long time now has not generated a lot of rising income for the great majority. It has not generated stable benefits for its workers, it has not generated increasing retirement security — in fact we’ve had income stagnation or decline, we’ve had rising indebtedness, we’ve had growing insecurity for retirement. The private sector has failed on a massive level. And the tenuous position that so many American workers find themselves in as a result of that now makes it suddenly appear that public sector workers are just living off the fatted calf. I think some of it has to do quite simply with the way in which so many nongovernment workers have been suffering, and legitimately so. You can go to those folks and say: Why are you paying for the pension of the guy down the street? You don’t have one!
I am consistently astonished that the workers in this country are so willing to turn on each other, and so unwilling to look at how we have all been screwed by the very wealthy ownership class in this country. And, I might add, by their well-to-do cronies in politics and the media. Instead of fighting for their own fair share of this country’s wealth, it seems that many of us would rather claw at those who have in fact fought for their rights, and who therefore still maintain a bit more of the substance of a middle-class lifestyle. Not much more, and not as much as they deserve, but still more than many have now.
Is it cowardice that keeps us from banding together against those who are actually raking in such vast amounts of money from our work? Are we really this spiteful and jealous of each other? I hate to think it, but it surely looks that way.
Hat tip to Southern Beale for the article pointer. Useful and thoughtful commentary at that link as well.