Swamp Rabbit is a big fan of Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor during the Bill Clinton years, long-time economics professor and a high-profile advocate for workers’ rights. I’ve noted elsewhere that Reich often writes variations on the same column and seems to be preaching to the choir, but there’s no denying his knack for spelling out the extent to which American workers are being robbed by the owner class:
…Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker got paid $35 an hour in today’s dollars. Today, America’s largest employer is Walmart, and the typical Walmart workers earns $8.80 an hour.
Does this mean the typical GM employee a half-century ago was worth four times what today’s typical Walmart employee is worth? Not at all. That GM worker wasn’t much better educated or productive. He often hadn’t graduated from high school. And today’s Walmart worker is surrounded by digital gadgets – mobile inventory controls, instant checkout devices, retail search engines – making him or her highly productive.
The real difference is the GM worker a half-century ago had a strong union behind him that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well…
But Reich and other prominent labor union advocates aren’t getting through to the people they want to help, even when the stakes are high, as they were a few weeks ago when the United Auto Workers, fighting intense anti-union propaganda, failed to persuade enough workers to vote to unionize the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, TN. Was the UAW outspent and outsmarted by the owner class, or have American workers simply become too scared to ignore the likes of Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the ruthless liar who warned that VW would scuttle plans to build another plant in Chattanooga if the drive to unionize the first one was successful?
And where were the elected Dems — the big guns — who should have been publicly denouncing Republicans for trying to intimidate workers?
Reich hasn’t tried to answer those questions, as far as I know. However, he has suggested he might run for president (!) unless Democrats make income inequality a priority issue in the 2016 presidential race. He said, “I think, though, if we don’t get a candidate or a set of candidates in 2016 who are taking this issue with the seriousness it needs to be taken, I think that there will be a lot of people — Elizabeth Warren, others, maybe even me — who will toss our hats in the ring, because it has to be addressed.”
Swamp Rabbit took a swig of Wild Turkey and said, “I’d vote for Reich, he’s really smart. Him and me’s the same height and we got the same sorta face hair.”
“Reich won’t run,” I replied. “He’s just hoping to get someone elected who will fix things by keeping the government from turning into an oligarchy.”
The rabbit chuckled. “A little late for that, don’t ya think? A handful of plutocrats own most of the capital and almost all the politicians. They done broke the unions and the tax system. Ain’t no jobs, anyway. Who’s gonna fix that?”
“I don’t know, rabbit. What about Hillary Clinton?”
He choked on his bourbon and fixed me with a dirty rodent look.
“Sorry,” I said. “Bad joke. Let’s start over.”
Clarification: Yes, I’m exaggerating. Pro-union Democrats aren’t quite extinct. I’d vote for Warren or Sherrod Brown or Bernie Sanders. (The latter, tellingly, isn’t even a Democrat.) Which high-profile politicians am I leaving out?