ACCORDING TO LIZ - In the United States, capitalism was built on the backs of cheap labor, whether using outright slavery or the exploitation of immigrants and the working poor.
Ours is a country based on immigration and hard work and, as workers organized in the 19th century to fight for better wages, health benefits, pensions for retirees, reasonable hours and safer working conditions, to protect their jobs once gains were made and to stop child labor and provide aid to those injured on the job, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
Oregon was the first state to establish "Labor Day" as an official holiday in 1887. It was recognized federally in 1894, to be celebrated on the first Monday in September in honor and recognition of both the labor movement and the contribution of working people to the growth and development of the United States.
Today American workers are not doing nearly as well as their brothers and sisters in other Western industrialized nations, and that is by design. By design, and driven by a resurgence of robber barons, the most powerful and wealthiest people in our country.
From FDR to LBJ, presidents had worked hard to rein the power of disproportionate wealth. But in 1981, President Reagan fired thousands of air traffic controllers who were on strike. Big business and multi-millionaires jumped on this as an opportunity to further skew the economic landscape in their favor.
As they gained traction with lawmakers in D.C., they promoted policies that:
- cut taxes on the rich
- restricted or banned labor unions
- made it easier to fire workers
- provided incentives to move jobs overseas
- bailed out banks but not working people
- removed regulations that protected the people but cost profiteers money
- allowed private equity to buy companies, break them apart, create new debt, fire the workers, sell off assets, and dump that debt on the American taxpayer
Years of Reaganomics have hollowed out America’s working and middle classes.
The patrons of the uber-rich pushed the fake narrative that people remained mired in poverty because of individual choices, and then turned the poor against each other by playing the race card and targeting social programs as proof of incompetence. This distracted media attention from abusive tactics used against the laboring class, a greedy and often non-accountable banking system, and the proliferation of policies promoting inequality.
Today the U.S. is at a tipping point. Excessive wealth begetting unrestrained power is cycling ever-upwards, while more and more Americans are tumbling out of the American dream and into the American nightmare.
With the top ten percent of Americans now holding more than two-thirds of all wealth as compared to the bottom half sharing just two percent, and increasing numbers of families being dispossessed entirely, Representatives Barbara Lee of California and Summer Lee of Pennsylvania have introduced the OLIGARCH – Oppose Limitless Inequality Growth and Reverse Community Harms – Act. This would impose a progressive wealth tax tied directly to Americans’ level of inequality, and enforce strong sanctions against tax manipulation and evasion.
As inequality increases, the tax burden would tighten, as a deterrent to extreme wealth concentration and as an antidote to the resulting economic consequences, leveling the playing field and enabling more workers to thrive. This is a win-win-win in that people who are no longer economically oppressed will have money to spend, boosting bottom lines for local businesses, and augmenting taxes paid to the U.S. Treasury, thus facilitating our country’s fiscal recovery from the current quagmire.
FDR, MLJ and Bernie Sanders have all been champions for the working man, and each has warned of how the system can be engineered to assuage liberal interests while harming ordinary Americans.
Liberalizing immigration laws may appeal to those horrified by what has been happening at our southern border, but it also reduces labor costs and boosts profits for the plutocrat class. As Sanders has said: "There is a reason why Wall Street and all of corporate America likes immigration reform... seeing a process by which we can bring low-wage labor of all levels into this country to depress wages for Americans."
No individual or company deserves the obscene profits we have seen over the past few years.
On this Labor Day, Americans must commit to taking action to establish a common-sense balance between business success and the right of all workers to a living wage, safety and fair treatment.
That means having tough discussions with friends and family members encouraging them to embrace a holistic view of the economy. It means leaning on elected officials to reject the failed doctrine of Reaganomics.
And it means voting in every single election. The vote you cast may save a job, and that job may be your own.
(Liz Amsden is a contributor to CityWatch and an activist from Northeast Los Angeles with opinions on much of what goes on in our lives. She has written extensively on the City's budget and services as well as her many other interests and passions. In her real life she works on budgets for film and television where fiction can rarely be as strange as the truth of living in today's world.)