A few days ago Republican Senator Jon Kyle went on the Senate floor and complained that President Obama was pitting the middle class against the wealthiest class. The statement is categorically false. The reality is I wish the President would do that. I wish the President would finally verbalize today’s realization that we have been having class warfare for the last 30 years and the middle class has been systematically pummeled. Our President is too diplomatic to say it. I will.
An article appeared in the New York Times titled “At Caterpillar, Pressing Labor While Business Booms”. I kind of stumbled onto the article. It did not get a lot of press coverage. One can only wonder why real news affecting real middle class America isn’t covered. Could it be a fear for a middle class revolt after they realize they’ve been had?
The short of the story is that workers at a Caterpillar plant in Joliet, Illinois are on strike because the company wants them to take a 6 year freeze on their wages and a pension freeze. Here lies the problem. Caterpillar in 2011 had earnings of $4.9 billion. They had earnings north of $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2012. They made a profit per employee of $39,000. What is obscene is as they are asking the workers for a wage freeze their record profits notwithstanding, supposedly “for the good of the company”; executives are all getting raises and bonuses.
The company claims that the freeze is needed because the workers are getting paid above market rates. Did these workers not bring in record profits with their good skilled labor? Should they not partake in the company’s success? Are they not more than a commodity in the production process?
The workers were directly responsible for producing the product that created these profits. The executives performed the necessary jobs of opening markets, keeping the company’s books in order, and other non-labor intensive functions. The shareholders that will get a lion share of the profits in dividends and capital gains “risked” their investment.
What is wrong with the above picture? The only ones not benefitting marginally from the success of the company are the workers. Is this not class warfare? Is this not a path to indentured servitude?
We cannot allow those that are accusing many of class envy to cause the silencing of truth. There is a problem in our economic structure. There is a problem with the brand of capitalism we have been practicing over the last thirty years. The middle class have been paying the price for it.
While the wealthy continues to get wealthier, the middle class continue to fall on hard times. The actions by Caterpillar as shown above and the actions of other corporations along with governmental policies detrimental to the middle class are directly responsible for the middle class losing wages, income, and wealth. In effect the middle class is subsidizing the increased income and wealth of the wealthy.
It is imperative that we understand that this is not an insurmountable problem. It was created by bad policy instituted by purchased politicians. Going forward we must have a litmus test for every politician. We must only elect those that support middle class centric policies. The rebuilding of the American middle class is in the hands of the middle class vote.