Kevin Drum explains what has to happen to restore the economy:
One way or another, there’s really no way for the economy to grow strongly and consistently unless middle-class consumers spend more, and they can’t spend more unless they make more. This was masked for a few years by the dotcom bubble, followed by the housing bubble, all propped on top of a continuing increase in consumer debt. None of those things are sustainable, though. The only sustainable source of consistent growth is rising median wages. The rich just don’t spend enough all by themselves.
The flip side of this, of course, is that rich people are going to have to accept the fact that they don’t get all the money anymore. Their incomes will still grow, but no faster than anyone else’s. …
But … but … but … that’s class warfare! (To be fair, so far I haven’t seen any right-wing reactions to this post.)
How do we make this happen, though? I’m not sure. Stronger unions are a part of it. Maybe a higher minimum wage. Stronger immigration controls. More progressive taxation. National healthcare. Education reforms. Maybe it’s just a gigantic cultural adjustment. Add your own favorite policy prescription here.
This isn’t just a matter of social justice. It’s a matter of facing reality. If we want a strong economy, we can only get it over the long term if we figure out a way for the benefits of economic growth to flow to everyone, not just the rich.
To get the economy moving again, we need to find ways to get more cash into more hands, so that more people go out and buy stuff, which increases demand for goods and services, thereby creating more jobs and growing the economy. This is so obvious one would think even Jonah Goldberg could figure it out. Yet, even as I keyboard, no doubt conservative think tanks are cranking out somber-sounding white papers presenting tortured and historically revisionist arguments that paying workers more money is bad for workers (see, for example, George Will, no doubt working off notes he got from the Heritage Foundation).
At the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson sings the praises of the UAW and discusses their role in elevating the middle class —
… by the early 1950s, the UAW had secured a number of contractual innovations — annual cost-of-living adjustments, for instance — that set a pattern for the rest of American industry and created the broadly shared prosperity enjoyed by the nation in the 30 years after World War II.
The architects did not stop there. During the Reuther years, the UAW also used its resources to incubate every up-and-coming liberal movement in America. It was the UAW that funded the great 1963 March on Washington and provided the first serious financial backing for CÃ©sar ChÃ¡vez’s fledgling farm workers union. The union took a lively interest in the birth of a student movement in the early ’60s, providing its conference center in Port Huron, Mich., to a group called Students for a Democratic Society when the group wanted to draft and debate its manifesto. Later that decade, the union provided resources to help the National Organization for Women get off the ground and helped fund the first Earth Day. And for decades after Reuther’s death in a 1970 plane crash, the UAW was among the foremost advocates of national health care — a policy that, had it been enacted, would have saved the Big Three tens of billions of dollars in health insurance expenses, but which the Big Three themselves were until recently too ideologically hidebound to support.
That last part is concrete proof that Ayn Rand was an idiot.
Over the past several weeks, it has become clear that the Republican right hates the UAW so much that it would prefer to plunge the nation into a depression rather than craft a bridge loan that doesn’t single out the auto industry’s unionized workers for punishment. …
…In a narrow sense, what the Republicans are proposing would gut the benefits of roughly a million retirees. In a broad sense, they want to destroy the institution that did more than any other to raise American living standards, and they want to do it by using the power of government to lower American living standards — in the middle of the most severe recession since the 1930s.
As they say, hammer, nail, head.
Exactly how much of this the average worker understands I do not know. I think a lot of people who are opposed to the auto industry “bailout” don’t understand how their own jobs and incomes might be affected if Chrysler or GM disappear.
But see “The case of the vanishing GOP voter” in today’s Boston Globe. At the very least, the Right is no longer connecting with people the way it used to.