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Lousy Work and Larger Wealth in America
by Seth Sandronsky
July 25, 2004

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The poster nation for the world system is setting a standard of sorts. In America, lousy jobs are increasing as top corporations are awash in cash.

“Fully 81 percent of total job growth over the past year was concentrated in low-end occupations in transportation and material moving, sales and repair and maintenance services,” wrote Stephen S. Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, in the NY Times of July 22. Such are the new jobs being created for American workers as the economy recovers from the recession.

This trend that is shaping the lives of workers and their families is in motion as the national economy is growing. The two points are connected.

Popular consciousness of this connection is hard to measure. However, the folks flocking to see films of social criticism such as “The Corporation,” “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Super Size Me” suggest an emerging mass of Americans who do not care for the status quo of business as usual.

This popular opposition faces the forces of reaction within the two parties. One force is the Democratic Leadership Council.

Against that backdrop, a main political question pivots on the fruits of growth flowing away from the laboring many on Main Street. Talk by the president and his presumed challenger about “American values” sidesteps the crucial question, for all the obvious reasons.

Crucially, the left flank of the priesthood in the mass media legitimates the incumbent and hopeful. Case in point is Barbara Ehrenreich, the NY Times guest columnist who dismissed independent and anti-war presidential candidate Ralph Nader on July 18.

Meanwhile, the reality of structural changes on the job in America continues. Thus as employment conditions worsen for new jobholders in America, the mass of capital being accumulated by big business is growing.

Measured by the bottom line, times have never been better for America’s top corporations. Microsoft Corp., for example, had a cash hoard of $56 billion as March ended.

Bill Gates’ corporation symbolizes business monopoly in the so-called free market. That market of freedom exists in the speeches of politicians only, noted Dwayne Andreas, chairman of Illinois-based Archer Daniels Midland, America’s largest food and agriculture company.

He should know as a corporate chief well versed in taking wealth created by laborers. On that note, the corporate class’ mass of cash has been rising sharply under the Bush II administration.

“At the end of the first quarter, the 374 industrial companies in the Standard & Poor's (MHP ) 500-stock index collectively were sitting on $555.6 billion of cash and short-term investments,” reported Business Week of July 19. “That's up some $56 billion, or 11%, since the end of 2003, and more than double what they had at the end of 1999.”

Working people’s energy made that wealth. Gates and his class take the credit for its creation, but that is just an indication of how market ideology is spread by the corporate news and public/private schools to turn social reality upside down.

One other thing is worth noting from what Roach considered. U.S. corporations are not pumping their money into hiring full-time employees who earn a livable wage, receive health care benefits and get defined retirement pensions.

Evidently, expanding corporate payrolls is not a profitable nor productive investment for these industrial corporations. Welcome to the golden rule of return on investment that governs the living and working conditions of American society.

In his NY Times column of July 19, Bob Herbert termed the depression-era rates of joblessness for America’s black males as “an emerging catastrophe.

Figuring out ways to get this population gainfully employed would turn a net societal deficit into a real benefit.”

So true, and there is the rub. In a competitive economy based on many producing wealth and a few snatching it legally, the only benefit that “counts” is the bottom line to the investor class.

Corporate America has billions of reasons to keep its gravy train of cheapening U.S. labor-power moving ahead. That corporate form of business has its roots in the Massachusetts Bay Company that helped to create some of the first colonies that over time became the U.S.

So what is to be done about the current social situation of wealth polarization in the world’s only superpower? I borrow the words of a political figure of the past who posed the same question during a critical point in his time.

Currently for the American people, one positive move is to back the Million Worker March on Oct. 17 in Washington, DC, which the national AFL-CIO is rejecting.  Nobody ever said that forming an independent political movement of and for working Americans was going to be easy.

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at:

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