to the Future A Whole Lotta Lootin' Going On
Expanded from the 12-15-2002 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Among everything else they've done lately, Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Strom Thurmond, R-SC, gave America a quick and dirty lesson in modern labor relations.
For the benefit of those who may have been in a cave or a coma, Lott asserted that had Thurmond been elected president in 1948, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."
Thurmond ran as an avowed segregationist and apostle of American apartheid. Lott's comment, coupled with his lifelong record of racist advocacy, resulted in a predictable firestorm. He was forced to denounce racism and segregation as discredited policies of the past.
"I lived through the troubled times in the south, and along with the south, I have learned from the mistakes of the past," he stated at a news conference last Friday.
But the mistakes are not of the past, a point grotesquely missed by this morally obtuse sluggard, his supporters and his critics. Those mistakes are part of a long continuum of oppression.
The Civil War actually did the south a favor by ending slavery earlier than it would have been extinguished otherwise. It turned out that involuntary servitude was not the most cost-effective method of industrial age labor-management relations.
Plantation masters had to feed and house their human properties. The slaves were "freed" to fend for themselves. Thus were blacks transferred into the permanent underclass available for exploitation. The industrial age had a voracious appetite for the bodies of workers. Once broken, they were cheaper to replace than precision parts.
That legacy continues in the south today. The chicken processing plants of Dixie are legendary for their disease and danger. When Detroit wanted to bust its union workforce and foreign automakers were pressured into manufacturing in the U.S., both looked to the south as retro-islands of cheap, unprotected, non-union labor.
The southern migration continued as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) exported many of the northern and even some of the southern U.S. jobs to Mexico. Now, Mexican plants are closing with the work on its way to the likes of Indonesia, Bangladesh and Vietnam. (My next pick to click: Cuba.)
For less than a quarter-century, America turned in a positive direction. From 1946 to 1968, the government spread the wealth by taxing people and corporations according to their earnings. Those policies gave us the strongest economy the world has ever seen before or since.
In an unbroken succession starting with the ascension of Richard the Rotten in 1969, the weight of the government has been thrown behind enriching the rich and picking the pockets of middle- and lower-income people.
COVER STORY 12-16-2002 Wheel of Misfortune Why Indian casinos aren't all they're promised to be
For extensive info on Barlett & Steele's bestselling "America" book trilogy, use the NevadaLabor.com search engine and sweep for their last names.
For chapter and verse on how it happened, read Don Barlett and James Steele's trilogy: "America What Went Wrong? Who Really Pays the Taxes? Who Stole the Dream?" I also recommend that you invest in the current issue of Time Magazine. Therein, the multiple-Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative reporters reveal who's really making the money in the Indian casino business.
So how does all this international intrigue trickle down to the life of the average citizen of our High Desert Plantation? Last week, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada issued the second installment of its "Working Hard, Living Poor" series. It notes how the wages of working Nevadans have eroded over the past decade, an era of unprecedented boom.
Why the slippage during a long succession of fat seasons? Because Nevada growth stopped paying for itself in the mid-1990s. As a result, state and local governments are in financial crisis. Reno and Sparks are in the process of annexing just about all the developable land in Washoe County in order to increase their tax revenues. Residents of unincorporated areas are fighting it, as they know annexation brings tax hikes.
Conservatives rightly note that government revenue collections have risen at a faster rate than the increase in the population. They wrongly argue that this fact kills any argument for increased taxes at any level.
Government officials of every political stripe have recognized that something's drastically wrong with our system. Next year's legislative session will bring a clash of the titans as to who taps whose pocketbook.
As I wrote in the Sept. 19, 1999, Tribune, both conservatives and liberals are correct and I've got the research to prove it.
A 1999 Nevada Commission on Economic Development study, which has received no press attention other than here, identified the reason our governments cannot adequately serve their people the wholesale creation of low-wage jobs, of which our principal industry, gambling, is the biggest generator.
Employers privatize profit while socializing risk by spawning low-wage jobs with weak or non-existent health and other benefits. The costs of injured workers or sick family members are thus thrown onto the general society. If jobs don't pay enough for people to afford automobiles, a taxpayer subsidized bus system becomes necessary. The brutal ripples of low-wage work erode every other aspect of society.
And that's why I think Sen. Lott has done us all a real favor by demonstrating that the spirit which led to erosion of the middle class and fostered the permanent underclass is still alive and doing very well.
Be well. Raise hell.
Copyright © 2002 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.)Tribune since 1988.
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