Guest Post: Amity Shlaes Forgotten History – When Unions Go Bust, We All Do

By Lynn Parramore, Media Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Cross posted from New Deal 2.0.

Busting unions gave Calvin Coolidge the White House, but it gave America the Great Depression.

For years, American workers’ wages have stagnated even as they produced more. Since 2008, they have been socked with staggering new bills for bank bailouts and hammered by a Great Recession brought on by the very same banks. Now public sector workers are confronted by a new crop of Republican governors who want to put an end to unions. Union workers in Wisconsin have already conceded all of Governor Walker’s draconian demands. But they want to hold on to their right to bargain so that they won’t be at the mercy of the whims of political appointees or rogue school boards. Tens of thousands have swarmed Madison to show their support for the working people of Wisconsin.

Conservatives are tasked with coming up with a narrative that makes villains out of these working folks and heroes out of the powerful people who aim to squeeze them for what’s left of their economic security.

This is not easy. And you have to admire their ingenuity. Amity Shlaes, ever the eager revisionist, has whipped up a widely parroted narrative that contains just enough truth to give it the ring of plausibility. It goes like this: Governor Scott Walker is a paragon of virtue who will soon be embraced by the American public, just like his union-crushing predecessors Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. According to Shlaes’s account, Coolidge, then governor of Massachusetts, stood boldly against badly abused Boston policemen who walked off the job in 1919 and left the city unprotected against looters. After firing the policemen, Coolidge became a national hero and was promptly swept into the Vice President’s office on a wave of popular admiration. When President Warren Harding died, Coolidge took office and it was suddenly Morning in America. As Shlaes tells it:

“Boston Police’ remained American code for the principle that union causes do not trump others. The concern that the U.S. might succumb to European-style revolutions lifted. Strikes abated. Wages rose without unions in Motor City. Private-sector union membership declined. Joblessness dropped. Companies poured cash, which they otherwise would have spent on union relations, into innovation.

Let us fill in some finer detail, shall we?

As Shlaes admits, the Boston police force had been grossly abused with long hours and horrific conditions. And it was true that there was some disorder when they walked off the job, though she somewhat overstates the case. It is also true that Coolidge’s response made his reputation as a Republican politician.

But it was not exactly popular enthusiasm that wafted Coolidge into the White House. Actually, there was a huge orchestrated effort to push Coolidge by powerful financial interests. He ended up on the ticket with Warren Harding not so much because of his overwhelming appeal to the American public – he was known for being taciturn, unsociable, and downright weird (Alice Roosevelt Longworth wondered if he had been “weaned on a pickle”). Rather, it was his overwhelming appeal to American bankers.

They knew a good thing when they saw it.

Young Coolidge, you see, had gone to Amherst College, where he had hardly any friends except Dwight Morrow, who became his bosom buddy. Coolidge went on to become a small town Massachusetts attorney representing banks, while Morrow became a senior partner in House of Morgan. When Morrow saw his pal Coolidge attracting attention in the Boston Police Strike, he wrote to everyone he knew and launched a national campaign to make a legend out of the uncharismatic Coolidge. Morrow and fellow Morgan partner Thomas Cochran lobbied tirelessly for Coolidge at the Chicago Republican Convention in 1920, and their lobbying paid off. Coolidge, first as vice president and then as president in 1923 when Harding died, became a valuable partner for the House of Morgan. Famously declaring that “the business of America is business,” Coolidge stocked his administration with enough Morgan men to fill a banking convention. Historian Murray N. Rothbard notes that

the year 1924 indeed saw the House of Morgan at the pinnacle of political power in the United States. President Calvin Coolidge, friend and protégé of Morgan partner Dwight Morrow, was deeply admired by J.P. “Jack” Morgan, Jr. Jack Morgan saw the president, perhaps uniquely, as a rare blend of deep thinker and moralist. Morgan wrote a friend: ‘I have never seen any president who gives me just the feeling of confidence in the country and its institutions, and the working out of our problems, that Mr. Coolidge does.’

Coolidge got to the White House for crushing unions, where he slept ten hours a day and hopped on and off a mechanical horse in his underpants and a cowboy hat.

Here’s what America got: the Great Depression.

Coolidge’s real legacy was a huge upward shift of income during the “roaring twenties” away from ordinary people to the rich and powerful, who got even richer and more powerful thanks to his regulatory and policy inactivity. The best Average Joe could hope for under Coolidge was for his income to hold steady. The profits from that wondrous innovation and growth that send Shlaes into rhapsodies went to fatcats who turned the country into a casino and smashed the economy.

Reagan’s history is better known – or so you would think. His firing of 13,000 striking workers was, as Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson put it, “an unambiguous signal that employers need feel little or no obligation to their workers.” After Reagan, employers were emboldened to illegally ditch workers who sought to unionize, replace permanent employees who could collect benefits with temps, and ship factories and jobs abroad. Ever-smiling with his friendly cowboy image, Reagan tried to lower the minimum wage for younger workers, weaken child labor, job safety and anti-sweatshop laws, and do away with training programs for the jobless. He also did his best to replace thousands of federal employees with temps without civil service or union protections. Under his watch, the share of the nation’s wealth held by the richest 1 percent of Americans went up 5 percent richer. Guess whose declined?

At the time, Americans were supportive, by slim margins, of Reagan’s stance against the air traffic controllers, who went on strike to win benefit concessions from the federal government. However, the comparison with Wisconsin workers is not exactly apples to apples. These workers have agreed to concessions, and only fight to maintain their right to collective bargaining. Intuiting correctly that the public may not be on their side in this battle, conservatives have relentlessly pushed the deceptive idea that public employees enjoy higher salaries and better benefits than their private-sector counterparts. But this has been widely debunked. Careful research has shown that when you adjust for skill levels, public sector workers are not overpaid relative to private sector pay scales.
After the Great Crash, Coolidge’s bank-friendly, union-bashing policies didn’t seem like such a great gift to America. And just like in the twenties, Reagan’s signal that it was open season on unions energized a much bolder effort to hold down wages by corporate America: Over the next few years, workers by the thousands were let go, found their pay slashed, and turned into poorly paid part time employees. US income inequality reached Himalayan levels as people’s share of the benefits from increased productivity took a sharp nosedive. Today, after the Great Recession, Reagan’s anti-union attitude and enthusiasm for deregulation has also proven to be a dubious legacy.

Governor Walker says he’s fighting for ordinary Americans. So why does he want to require unions to re-certify every year, but we don’t hear a peep about corporations being required to renew their charters every year? Why does he want to control the salaries of public employees, but doesn’t have any interest in controlling the salaries of grossly overcompensated corporate CEOs? Why does he call for sacrifices from hard-working people who have been screwed by the economy through no fault of their own, and none from the financiers who caused the crisis?

Maybe it’s because he has quite a bit in common with Coolidge and Reagan after all. In Reagan’s case, as in Coolidge’s, union-busting led to some of the biggest peacetime income re-distributions in modern history. Democracy got weaker, oligopolies got stronger, the rich got richer, and the rest of us got left behind.

The real lesson from Coolidge and Reagan is this: If Governor Walker and his Republican friends are allowed to crush the public unions, you ain’t seen nothing yet

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  1. chad

    This is off on a tangent but i’ve been wondering something.

    “For years, American workers’ wages have stagnated even as they produced more.” How does technological innovation come into play here?

    It seems like the divergence from worker wages and productivity occurs about the same time integrated circuits and automation came online.

    I think you have to account for the fact that productivity increased dramatically with no increase in labor costs when automation became widespread. There’s little doubt workers’ wages are unfair but I don’t think wages should correlate 1:1 with productivity.

    1. ScottS

      It comes into play because we’re entering into a period of post-scarcity of labor. That’s why the paradigms of capitalism and communism are breaking down.

      We have more people than jobs. The problem is lack of demand for stuff. Or too many people. Take your pick.

      If the elites have their way, they will annihilate a few billion (lesser) people and their stuff to start the game over again and enjoy prodigious growth for another century, then wash, rinse, repeat.

      All so they don’t have to work an honest job.

      1. Fred Featherbed

        post-scarcity of labor. That’s why the paradigms of capitalism and communism are breaking down.

        Have we long-since left behind the paradigm of everyone in town being a farmer combination fish-monger combination soldier? Did Cossack mean farmer? Was the Cossack also soldier, fish-monger, roofer, and fence mender? In those days labor unions did make lot of sense. Do we now see that the power of collective bargaining pales in comparison to the power of labor division? Division of labor offers literally thousands of sub-specialties all competing against one another for the Yankee Dollar. Each occupational specialization undergoes a metamorphosis towards efficiency propelled ever more rapid by technical tools which sometimes seem to outdistance the evolution of the specialist worker herself/himself. Are middle-manager and mitarbeiten equally workers? Value investors, politicians, gamblers, and beauticians everyone workers of a sort? All competing for the market share?

        The more we specialize into rare and esoteric niche, the more we gain the upper hand on competitive progress. Everyone gets to play the game. Should some government workers in beer-cheese land be given higher salary than brave soldiers and sailors who perform life and limb risky labor as they float on deep water in strange parts of the globe or jump with flimsy parachutes into thick undergrowth? Because the union member pays dues and votes for the union boss who knows how to schmooze with mob insiders, should he then have more compensation than the recruit who volunteers for a short tour in combat zone? Does union member also have the right to volunteer for dangerous position within our armed forces whenever she/he decides to make something of herself/himself, be more important to our country? Should we all reconsider our position on socialism and unionism?

        Now you think again

        1. Rex

          Is it just me or are there a lot of posters lately popping up with clever names and a lot of words that seem to, in final analysis, just contradict the thrust of the current topic with a bunch of straw men?

          Mr. Fred Featherbed (there go the clever names again) said, “Have we long-since left behind the paradigm of everyone in town being a farmer combination fish-monger combination soldier?”

          Answer: Yes. And I have no idea what the rest of that paragraph might have been about. Something about specialization and competition, apparently.

          Then Fred fluffs up his bed with, “The more we specialize into rare and esoteric niche, the more we gain the upper hand on competitive progress.”

          The main specialization into niches our economy is doing, is in the area of how to run bigger, more exotic, more specialized and complex scams by big banks, heath care, oil and so forth. Most of the clever niches that were expanding real productivity in real businesses and knowledge prior to the 90’s have been dismantled or allowed to decay. Grab the quick buck where it’s easy and fight any attempts to go back.

          Then Fred beats the patriot drum with, “Should some government workers in beer-cheese land be given higher salary than brave soldiers and sailors who perform life and limb risky labor as they float on deep water in strange parts of the globe or jump with flimsy parachutes into thick undergrowth? ”

          Actually, yes. There is a long tradition for it. Back in my war (Vietnam) I got paid crap for wading through rice paddies, jumping out of helicopters into hostile areas, etc. I didn’t even get a chance to decide if I wanted to participate. Ever heard of the draft? We should bring it back to keep all of America on its toes. Or better yet, stop starting stupid wars that seem to only benefit big corporations.

          Fred closes, “Now you think again!” I just did. Crawl back in bed, Fred.

          1. Fred Featherbed

            wading through rice paddies, jumping out of helicopters into hostile areas, etc. I didn’t even get a chance to decide if I wanted to participate. Ever heard of the draft? We should bring it back to keep all of America on its toes. Or better yet, stop starting stupid wars


            We stand on the shoulders of giants, of giants like Rex. Did famous basketball player recently say, “Compared to our grandfathers who got us through these wars we are mere midgets.” No! Imprecisely, but he did give us a hint.

            Was Rex caught up in “stupid wars”? Or was his courage the final domino between the communist in china and the vital oil wells in Brunei? Have Comunistas now run out of “other people’s money to spend” and “other people’s oil to burn into the global atmosphere”? Are they now robbing each other? Looting the public though slick crown-jewel-technology-projects? Super fast trains for super fast kickbacks to government officials with tumours growing inside the morality parts of their brains?

            U B Judge!

            U B Tyrannosaurus

        2. Ivan Karamazov

          Methinks you should reconsider your use of the English language. Your post is an abortion.

          1. Fred Featherbed

            Per favore!

            Questo è un paese povero.
            Noi non possiamo permetterci buona Lingua inglese.


      2. Parvaneh Ferhadi

        People are not just labour for Capitalists, they are also a market (or the market). For the market to grow, Capitalism needs the population that can afford their products to grow, unfortunately, as you’ve pointed out, automation leads to less and less people having a job. In other words, thanks to Capitalism you have too many people for the jobs available but not enough to guarantee steady profits for Capitalists.

        Capitalism is an insane system only a sociopath could like.

        1. Gizzard

          I would amend your comment to read;

          “Capitalism, as it is envisioned by the right wing of American politics, is an insane system that only a sociopath could like.”

          Capitalism is not done only one way. Capitalism doesnt HAVE to result in gross inequalities, it just does when ignorant, greedy fools get their hands on the control levers. Capitalism, like any system, is designed. It is not “natural”. We can create it any way we wish. There are choices to be made and we can make different ones. It is no less “capitalism”, to tell the guys who are holding all the chips to either put some chips back in so the game can continue or the great chip maker in the sky is going to give out some chips to the rest of the players. There is no reason we HAVE to play this like a zero sum game where all money is borrowed from those who already have it. We’re playing it this way now but things change.

          1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

            I would have to disagree with that amendment.
            Capitalism is inherently geared towards wealth and power accumulation towards ever fewer people. You just can’t avoid it especially not if you fall for the ‘free-market’ scam.
            Also Capitalism is base on exploitation of the many by the few.
            Such a system is parasitic in any shape of form and must be replaced by something more humane.

          2. Lidia

            Parvaneh Ferhadi is right. Capitalism is a blind mechanical system of progressive, exponentially-increasing impelled extraction. It is a non sequitur in a closed system of declining per capita resources.

  2. John Emerson

    Dwight Morrow (of J P Morgan) was the aviator Charles Lindbergh’s father-in-law. It’s a sad story, because Lindbergh’s father, Charles Lindbergh Sr., was a radical Congressman and sworn enemy of the big banks who forced improvements in the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, though he couldn’t stop it.

    Young Lindbergh had little sympathy for his father’s egalitarian political ideas. He opposed WWII and was accused of being a Nazi-sympathizer, though that can be doubted. But he definitely had an intensely elitist world view, which probably wasn’t much different than Morrow’s.

  3. Deus-DJ

    A unionized employee, a Tea Party member & a corporate CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches out & takes 11 of the cookies, then says to the Tea Party member “look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”

    1. knighttwice

      Hey, that’s pretty good and basically accurate. Sad thing is that if Obama had any balls he would tell the banks that they are not going to pay 50% of revenues as compensation. The banks are going to pay 10% of revenues into a fund to be distributed to the victims of their fraud…including the lost tax revenue at the state and local level. After the 10% assessment, they can then pay their employees. The Tea Party believes in the rule of law….but the media AND the administration continue to hide the banks’ perfidy.

      1. Paul Repstock

        It is worse that you describe. Because it is only 10% of ‘one year’s revenue’, to compensate for at least 15 years of abuses…Amortizes to about 1/2% per year, of which the profits must have compounded nicely.

      2. Francois T

        “if Obama had any balls he would tell the banks that they are not going to pay 50% of revenues as compensation.”

        Obama still and always will consider the CEOs of the big banks “savvy businessmen”, worthy of respect and admiration above anybody else.

        Just look at the treatment he and his administration gave to Charles Ferguson:

        Kors: Have you heard any response to the film from the White House or Wall Street?

        Ferguson: Wall Street, yes. The White House, no. Which is really quite striking because I know many people in the Obama administration, people at high levels. They have approached the movie, before and after it was released, with this real attitude.

        Kors: “You’re either with us or against us.”

        Ferguson: Yes, just like the Bush administration. But I’d say even more closed and even more controlling. We’re talking about people I’ve known for 20, 25 years, people who have been dinner guests in my home.

        Kors: Couldn’t you say, “Hey, did you catch my new flick?”

        Ferguson: Unfortunately they won’t speak to me anymore.

        I mean, Obama had on his hands one of the worst econ crisis to hit this country ever, and he expect people to be honky-dory with the systematic denial of justice his Administration engaged in since Day 1.

        Is this guy for real? Or just beyond arrogant?

        1. Rex

          Jimmy Kimmel, in honor of the Oscars, just gave out an award for best actor in the real world. Snooki got it. Clearly a mistake. Obama should have it, hands down.

          Francois, your posts are always great. One minor comment… I believe the phrase is Hunky Dory. I think honky dory is a white guy’s boat.

          1. emca

            Technically the term is hyphenated, as in “hunky-dory”.

            Other appearances:

            hunkey dorey
            hunkee doree

            or even

            honcho-dori (Japanese for main street, as in hocho-dori vs Wall Street?)

            I quote:

            “There certainly were ‘honcho-dori’ streets of easy virtue in Tokyo and Yokohama that catered for the age-old requirements of sailors in port after a long voyage”

            (Spell check does like any of my variations.)

    2. tar, etc.

      It plays just as well the other way around:

      A unionized employee, a Tea Party member & a corporate CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches out & takes 11 of the cookies, then says to the union guy “look out for that Tea Party guy, he wants a piece of your cookie.”

      Your point – the destination of 11 cookies – is where the focus should stay. Compelling arguments can be made for unions as well as for the idea that unions are a public cost difficult to afford. As a divisive issue, it will be as effective as arguing about abortion for over a decade, and in the end will decide just as much. The problem is the 11 cookies and the subversion of law and government protecting the CEO’s taking of them. Union and T Party should unite in taking back our government from the financial terrorists.

      1. Rex

        Yeah, except the real goal in Wisconsin is to get the union guy away from the table and out of the room. These cookies are ours, let him eat cake.

  4. attempter

    All true, except for the implicit Big Lie that the solution is to keep trusting in the traitor Democrats.

    No Republican hates unions any more than Obama and Rahm do, to give a few typical examples of national establishment Dems.

    And Walker’s not doing anything different in kind from what Cuomo and other Dem governors are doing. So why aren’t the capitalist unions launching the same protests there?

    All of them are criminals. All of them are illegitimate.

    Anyone who attacks only one of the two Kleptocracy Parties is really lying on behalf of the one being omitted. It sure is telling: I never see anyone declaiming about what’s allegedly good about either criminal party, but only what’s bad about the other.

    1. Tao Jonesing

      “It sure is telling: I never see anyone declaiming about what’s allegedly good about either criminal party, but only what’s bad about the other.”

      Yep. Each party damns itself with no praise.

  5. RJ

    What a strange article! You’d expect a “fellow” of an institute to write something better than gossip. But no.

    And of course it confuses the issue of private and public unions; that’s okay, much better writers have been confused about that point, too.

    1. Rex

      For a person criticizing gossip, your reply had all the unuttered substance and innuendo of classic gossip.

  6. Tao Jonesing

    The act of busting the unions, standing on its own, did not cause the Great Depression.

    I’ll agree with you that if labor had a stronger voice through unions, it would have acted as a check on the financial power that held sway and whose policies caused the Great Depression. But if the financial elite did not have such tremendous power in the first place, there would have been no need to balance it out with something else.

    That’s one of the interesting aspects of FDR’s New Deal. The guy was stuck with a bunch of huge industrial monopolies whose power could only be checked by embracing and enabling large labor unions. It wasn’t an ideal solution, but it was practical and necessary at the time.

    Otherwise, I thought the post did a good job of teasing out some interesting historical facts and related them to what is happening in Wisconsin. So thanks.

    1. Paul Repstock

      I think it fair to say that no group should be trusted with overwhelming power. Even union supporters will generally admit to witnessing abuses of power, both towards members and employers. The situation in Wisconsin is just demonstrating that people understand the dangers of allowing the unions to be crushed. Then there would be no unified block to counter corpratist power.

      1. RPB

        Its not a corporatist power. . . its a state government where there is no adversary to oppose worker interests.

  7. moslof

    What goes around comes around…My grandfather was a boston cop and after the deflationary bust in the summer of ’32, was able to buy my 16 year old dad a new convertable for his commute to college across town. He later recalled it as the best summer of his life. Deflation is coming back for a visit sooner than later.

  8. F. Beard

    Wages, benefits and debt were run up during the boom. Shall only wages and benefits be cut during the bust?

    1. Paul Repstock

      OMG! F.Beard, you have just invented the next big craze.
      I can see it now “Debt is forever” sounds so much nicer that “till debt do us part” (as experienced by so many families)

      “”For only $645,000 you can buy your true love this incredibly impressive debt ring…we will give you this gorgeous two bedroom love nest for free!””

  9. Chester Genghis

    Deflation is just around the corner!! Happy Times are here again!!

    Sure, deflation is great if you’re sitting on a pile of cash and are looking to buy some assets (car, house, whatever) on the cheap.

    Of course, if you depend on income (i.e. a job) for a living, deflation could mean a few bumps in the road.

    Keep that in mind as you watch what happens in Wisconsin with the “budget repair bill”, not just with the union-busting but also the provision to sell public assets w/o public bidding.

  10. mp

    I’m sure all of you boomers sometimes wondered what it was like for mom and dad during the ’30s.

    Well, now you’re going to find out for yourselves.

  11. Chicago conservative

    I am honestly getting quite tired of seeing posts always touting the good old unions and how it helps even non-unionized workers. So the unions have collective bargaining rights. Otherwise, will they be abused? If they are, then they can change jobs. That is what I do in my job working for a company. If they start stressing me out with not enough compensation, I pack up and leave. If they have a hostile and unsafe work environment, I sue. I have options. Under what grounds does having a union add additional benefits? I can handle my own business. My property and income taxes keep going up to pay pensions. Why in the world would one need a defined pension plan? Can one not invest alone in a better way? Let everyone be responsible for their own actions and suffer the consequences. That is free market capitalism.

    1. Dan The Man

      Facing an army rarely works well on your own. When the unions are gone all wages will drop, except your boss’s. Then you will say “well times are tough they had to cut my pay”. I guess when they cut their pay in china go getters like you just put on their walkin shoes. that’ll teach em.

      1. Chicago conservative

        If they cut my pay, I will look for options. You can look for a job in 50 states. The assertion that having unions increases my wages is groundless. On the contrary, my wages have been cut down 2% thanks to IL income tax increase. Pension obligations are just one of the many reasons.
        The notion that employers is an army is an exaggeration. In my line of work, there are so many employers that even managers are asking to let them know if I decide to jump ship so they can start a negotiation on salary.

        1. compass rose

          So you are admitting you have no family, community, or historic roots or loyalties, and that you are willing to be a slave in perpetual diaspora for whoever has the bling.

          You come across as less a Chicago conservative than the new world order’s equivalent of migrant sex workers.

        2. Gizzard

          Yeah! Just sell your house (ooops cant do that without a loss), find another job (at lower pay) and start all over!! The American dream of gypsy existence.

          Geeeeez if thats all you have to offer Chic Con…. please go away.

      1. Chicago conservative

        I love Yves. She opened a new door into finance through her blog. My point is that anyone who argues for unions should present a coherent framework and show that in a free market there SHOULD be unions or employees will be at a disadvantage at all times. I do not discount abuses of laborers in the past, but all in all a good employee has a significant leverage on the employers. Do we believe that government has been exploiting labor? Or are we trying to infer, even government has been generous compared to private employer unions, public unions are ground zero for the battle, and hence there can be no compromises? I do not have bargaining rights in a contract, but I bargain on salary all the time. Do we believe that every profession should be unionized or are there only special circumstances where unions should exist? If you believe all the labor force should be unionized under one umbrella, then you have made your case. But, then do not complain if employers form a cartel and bargain together in each industry.

        1. Birch

          If markets are free, workers have a right to combine as much as corporations do. Where there are big corporations to represent landed interests, there must be big unions to represent labour interests.

          If you want to outlaw unions, you have to simultaneously outlaw corporations.

          1. Tao Jonesing


            In any event, I have to ask Chicago Conservative:

            What free market are you looking at, and do I have to stick my head up your ass to see it?

            What’s telling is that CC freely admits later in comments that we don’t have free markets. He blames the Fed (owned by and serving the banks) and Treasury (also owned by and serving the banks) for that, though, so I guess it’s all good. The banks are NOT to blame.

        2. Dennis

          “…anyone who argues for unions should present a coherent framework and show that in a free market there SHOULD be unions …”

          We don’t have anything like a free market and never have, and never will, so this is just blowing smoke.

        3. Deus-DJ

          Yes, we know, you don’t like democracy.

          Listen pal. Anyone who asks whether someone something should exist in a free market is inherently a fascist.

        4. Lidia

          Holy Toledo!
          What’s a corporation other than a union of capital??

          There, now do you hate unions?

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      I suggest you look at what working conditions were like before unions. Or see what they are like in China, where as you presumably know, workers had to kil themselves to get conditions changed (and that worked only because the plant was making components for iPhones, among other things, it was products being sold to affluent buyers who might actually feel a wee bit guilty).

      Workplace safety standards, the eight hour day, employee pensions all are the result of union efforts. If you think you aren’t a beneficiary of the past efforts of unions, you really do have a bad case of ideology-induced blindness.

      And aren’t you enough of an adult not to read posts that don’t interest you? The headline made abundantly clear what the post was about. I don’t read the sports pages but I don’t go around complaining that the sports pages exist.

      1. Just a thought...

        Does being a beneficiary of past union efforts, which no one with even a modicum of intelligence should ever deny, necessary justify their existence going forward? Along that same line of questioning, do deplorable working conditions in many international countries necessary imply that dramatically safer domestic working conditions are somehow correlated to the present day existence of organized labor?

        My personal perspective is that unions are an artifact of a different era when the distribution of labor market information was asymmetric. That isn’t to say there aren’t industries that might benefit from organization but saying that our collective well-being is somehow tied to the union movement is a bit hollow.

        Did you know, the FDIC is a union shop. Anyone want to argue for why that makes sense? Maybe, job protection for older employees whose training and experience are no longer reflective of the skills required to regulate banks? Could it be that cube size and drawer space is somehow relevant to the safety and soundness of depository institutions?

        Here is a last thought, maybe we could export the union movement to countries that need better labor conditions, like franchising.

    3. ScottS

      Free market capitalism would have let the TBTF banks.

      If we’re doing socialism for the rich, why not socialism for the poor? I guess two compensation systems to go along with the two legal systems is what you’re arguing for.

      Frankly, I’ve heard enough bright ideas coming from Chicago-school economists. Beg off.

      1. Chicago conservative

        Thanks to Treasury and FED, there is no free market left any more. Paulson and Geithner scrambling to make shot-gun marriages in the financial sector was quite comical.
        Two wrongs do not make one right.
        May be I am trying to make a point in an ideological construct. If bankers are too big to fail or else world collapses, then I agree we should have a unionized labor all to big to ignore or else economy shuts down.

        1. ScottS

          For self-professed experts on the Great Depression and the Japanese debt-deflation, respectively, The Bernank and Timmay don’t seem to have done anything differently than the analogs in their object lessons.

          Perhaps less object lessons than object fixations?

    4. PQS

      You of course are free to pack up and leave anytime you want. But what about now, when it is nearly impossible to sell a house you might have purchased just a few years ago? Then what? Take your losses and go? What if that is a huge chunk of your money and you have a family to take care of? (Let me guess – your reply will be something along the lines of “Well, you should have done XXX, and I’m so smart I thought of that already – too bad for you”)

      What about that 10% + unemployment rate? In my industry, the UR was hovering around 25% and hasn’t returned to pre-crash levels, nor do I expect it to. I was laid off for the first time in my entire career for six months last year – and even if I wanted to move, there were no jobs in my field. I count myself extremely lucky to have a found a job at a big pay cut, because I was this close to changing careers.

      Go ahead and sue your employer. Try finding a job while engaged in a lawsuit against your former employer. And paying your bills during that time. Think employers aren’t picky? You bet they are now when they have the pick of many, many litters. You’ll get passed over for someone without that baggage.

      See, “conservatives” such as yourself think your lot is cast with the oligarchs and that you can play on their field. Until you find out that you are just as disposable as the rest of us.

      1. Chicago conservative

        If you put in the housing situation and a huge hole in the personal balance sheet, then yes, you are in a tough spot. Union support will not make things better for housing. Taxes go up, municipal bond interest rates go up, housing demand goes down, and then what? Or may be higher wages will compensate for the loss in demand. Who knows?

        I am not with the oligarchs in any sense of the word. Just would like to know the what we propose for the economy regarding unions.

        Here are some questions whose answers would be valuable:

        1. Should unions exist in a free market economy? Yes/No
        2. Should they be in every profession? Yes/No
        3. If (2) is yes, can employers also come to bargaining table together under a single entity?

        May be unions exist because market is not free, and will never be free due to collusion between government and oligarchs. It is a balancing force and should be preserved at all costs on principal.

        Either way, even if I can live with the last argument, I only see indirect benefits and not direct and beneficial effects on my life from unions. That makes me an unwitting skeptic.

        Or, I shall try to believe that trickle-down economics works from unions to non-union workers like me.

        1. ScottS

          Seriously dude, why do rich people get unions but the rest of us don’t?

          What do you call:
          The Business (Knights of the) Roundtable
          Chamber of Commerce
          Americans For Prosperity
          American Enterprise Institute
          World Trade Organization
          Virtually every trade PAC and lobby

          Are these not unions for the rich? Do they not collect dues and influence politics for their own benefit?

          Are you arguing against all these richie rich unions, or do they get a free pass since they’re spreading the gospel of free trade?

          1. Chicago conservative

            People are free to engage in any organized movement they like.
            This is the nature of reality.
            It is very clear that a labor union acts as one single entity in the contractual negotiations. AEI, Business RoundTable, etc., do not engage in enforcement of their thoughts by showing up at the table with their name tags.
            Either way, it is a game of political power, has always been, and will always be.
            My only hope is that both sides come to their senses and realize tug-of-war will only lead to a worse outcome.
            At the end, it is the people’s will that will determine the outcome. If people vote someone in who wants to let the unions go bust, then they will join the ranks of history. If the opposite happens, then unions will grow bigger and we will have labor unions all over the country.

          2. Dan The Man

            You forgot doctors and lawyers, if you don’t believe me try practicing medicine or law without one.

          3. ScottS

            The problem is, we currently have one dollar = one vote (see Citizen’s United). It doesn’t matter how many people want something, if they don’t have cash, it won’t happen.

            As I said, implement government funded campaigns, repeal Citizen’s United and roll back and forbid bailouts then we can talk about free market magic.

          4. Chicago conservative

            I agree with government funded campaigns.
            But that would not sit well and would be struck down by courts.
            I do not believe that money determines the elections. It has a HUGE effect, but not sufficient. If people like thinking, educated enough to make intelligent choices, you can throw all the money into it, but cannot beat the whole Republic.
            So the way forward is battle with ideas.

          5. ScottS

            Ah, but I didn’t say money determines elections. The Freakanomics guys say it’s purely correlational, not causal. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

            But politicians are stupid, and I’m sure they believe that money wins elections. Policy decisions get donations.

            So money doesn’t buy elections, but it buys policies, which is infinitely worse.

            See: BO (not body odor).

          6. compass rose

            Methinks “Chicago conservative” is a PR lackey for Creative Response Concepts.

          7. chicago conservative

            Compass Rose says ‘I am a lackey’.
            I think it is better to steer away from name-calling and battle on the ideas front. I am here on my own volition to discuss on topics shared by all participants. Ad hominem assaults only downgrades one’s intellectual position.

        2. DownSouth

          Chicago conservative asks: “Should unions exist in a free market economy?”

          Should people have freedom of speech? Should they have the right to assemble?

          If you believe unions should not exist, then how are you going to eradicate them? The only way to achieve this is with government intervention, by taking away the workers’ civil and constitutional rights.

          So essentially what you are asking is: Should we have fascism?

          In his book Behemoth: The Structure and Function of National Socialism 1933-1944, Franz Neumann describes what happened to labor under National Socialism.
          This from C. Wright Mills’ review of the book:

          In contrast with the profits and the self-manned organizations of business, labor’s wages are near-stabilized, and it has no organizations of its own. From 1932-1938 wages and salaries rose 66 per cent, whereas “other income” rose 146 per cent; at the same time production nearly doubled. Neumann’s experience with labor organizations in Germany make his detailed statement of the conditions of labor and of labor policy definitive. The labor market is authoritatively controlled to the limit of human recalcitrance. The working class is regimented and fragmented in order to prevent any common basis for movements, and the individual workman is isolated and terrorized. The “interference” of the party and the “State” in “economics” has again helped old dreams to come true. Not only has the prevailing class structure been accepted; in the process of the ruling elites’ consolidation, it has been riveted and clinched from the upper side.

        3. Lidia

          Corporations are unions of capital. Let’s bust those unions. Family- and worker-owned firms only.

      2. DownSouth


        I thought Hannah Arendt summed up those like Chicago conservative most eloquently in On Revolution:

        [O]ne can hardly deny that Crèvecœur was right when he predicted that ‘the man will get the better of the citizen, [that] his political maxims will vanish’, that those who in all earnestness say, ‘The happiness of my family is the only object of my wishes’, will be applauded by nearly everyone when…in the name of the ‘common man’ and some confused notion of liberalism, they denounce public virtue… On a more sophisticated level, we may consider this disappearance of the ‘taste for political freedom’ as the withdrawal of the individual into an ‘inward domain of human liberty’; from this region, as though from a crumbling fortress, the individual, having got the better of the citizen, will then defend himself against a society which in its turn gets ‘the better of individuality’.

        1. dictateursanguinaire

          DS, just wanted to say you consistently have fair, legitimately insightful comments – plus, props for the Arendt reference.

    5. Septeus7

      Except for corporations which get limited liability, right?

      If I want to get meet together with other workers my own time and we get together and agree to collectively bargain what right do you have to use the threat of government violence against my organizing?

      You’re a nanny state confederate.

      Quote: “I am glad to know that there is a system of labor where the laborer can strike if he wants to! I would to God that such a system prevailed all over the world.” -Abe Lincoln a real conservative… From a speech on March 5, 1860 in Hartford, Connecticut, regarding a shoemaker’s strike

    6. scraping_by

      The idea that labor arbitrage can work both ways is fine as a talking point. However, outside of the classroom, it doesn’t fly. The occupations of the future in the coming industries that were going to define the future always seem to drift away into offshoring, automation, mergers, and other delusions of the hiring class.

      The 70’s and 90’s business books trumpeted talent to be the most important business asset. Both eras advised hiring anyone you thought would be useful to keep them when they were needed. Turns out that, instead of the wave of the future, it was just fad surfing. The people who talk about irreplacable talent are executive level, especially CXOs, who are just rolling a patter about their eight figure salaries.

      Even inside the world of theory, it doesn’t make it. Economics is supposed to be the science of rationing scarcity. The claim that there is and can be no scarcity of open positions doesn’t even agree with theory, much less the real world.

      1. James Cole

        I don’t understand how anyone can refer to a free market that doesn’t include labor that is as mobile as capital. In other words, labor is largely immobile (constrained by national borders) whereas capital can move around the globe choosing the lowest cost of labor, or lowest all-in of labor, taxes, political risk, etc. This alone is fundamentally distortive.

    7. Deus-DJ

      The only thing a union does(other than ensure safety issues and such) is take more money away from capital. It’s that simple. Why are you opposed to this?

      Don’t tell me, I already know. Because capital is making less they achieve economies of scale at a slower pace, and thus this means inefficiency. Do you realize how fucking stupid this line of thought is?

      Furthermore, stagnant wages and the fall of unions over the past 30 years(you know, EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE) shows your line of thought re “they can just quit and go to another job” is simply idiotic. It also ignores a plethora of other factors that I shouldn’t even need mention.

      1. John F. Opie

        @Deus-DJ: The only thing a union does(other than ensure safety issues and such) is take more money away from capital. It’s that simple. Why are you opposed to this?

        Hmmm: in the case of public service unions, replace “capital” with “taxpayers”.

        That’s where the public service unions fall flat in their rage against the man: someone has to pay their bills, and in the case of public service union pensions and the ability of at least some public service union members to enjoy benefits vastly greater than those who pay their bills, that is what is driving the reaction against public service unions.

        Or is there denial that at least some of the public service unions have created a self-serving system where elected officials, financed by the public service unions, have acquiesced to benefits for the members of those public service unions that have, effectively, placed a number of states in dire fiscal constraints?

        I can understand the rage against the goring of the holy cow of labor representation, but I see this as a self-inflicted wound: too many are now asking, legitimately, why they should be paying for public service workers who are better off than they are. Or are you denying that this is not the case?

        We’ve seen and continue to see so many egregious violation of the rules of the game on both sides. The rage directed here should be against the thieves and crooks on all sides: union leadership is scarcely a paragon of virtue here.

    8. CS

      Wow, man. You sound like the mythical hero I always wanted to be. Everything roses all the time. I must have my head in the sand ’cause I don’t read much about Americans running freely from job to job these days. Congratulations on all your wise and perfect decisions, Mr. Galt.

      1. Paul Repstock

        We are disadvantaged. Our luminary from the “Windy” city, is an “exceptional worker”, in an “exceptional occupation”. The Best of all Possible Worlds. No doubt his employers give thanks every day that he condecends to help them.

        I too, have nearly always been a non union worker. Not being as capable, I’ve had to argue many times to even get the negotiated fee, sadly, I’ve also had to compete with peers who would work for lower rates, just to get the work. Of course, I’m not as capable as some people.

        1. ScottS

          Architect, probably. Dragged down by mediocre people jealous of his talent and success.

  12. gs_runsthiscountry

    Thesis and tone of the article are fine. I only have one minor problem…..for sure Reagan did a lot of the damage, however….

    “Reagan’s anti-union attitude and ***enthusiasm for deregulation*** has also proven to be a dubious legacy.”

    Lets be honest here….

    In reference to deregulation, it was under Clinton’s watch that we were bestowed the CFTA and Gramm Leach Bliley Act.

    So, just wanted to throw that out there. This crap isn’t partisan all the time. Although, we would all love it to be.

    Just like the housing bubble – if you want to draw a line to causation, well, start with the false attempt at allowing Americans home-ownership that goes back as least as far as Nixon, and The Housing and Urban Development act of 1968.

    Everyone else after that followed that lead. There are many presidents, administrations, and congresses (and bills) that helped stir the pot of the housing bubble. This is not something that happened over night, more like 35+ years. GLB and CFTA just pulled out all the stops.

    I am not a Reagan disciple, that said, you can’t throw every “worker related”, or “deregulation” decision in his lap either.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Straw man. The post is about unions, not financial services industry deregulation, and the deregulation comment is an aside.

      Deregulation of financial services did start under Carter, but a ton was done under Reagan (Rule 415, as I indicate in my book ECONNED, was far more important than is widely recognized, along with deregulation of interstate banking and having regulators not question the procedures related to non-government-guaranteed securitizations as much as they should have).

      And I’ve criticized the Rubinites far more often than what happened in the Reagan era. but the Reagan “revolution” was indeed a necessary precursor for what happened under Clinton.

      1. gs_runsthiscountry

        Yves, straw man – fair enough. I thought I prefaced my comment accordingly. I liked the article, just seemed deregulation was “slipped” in there.

        Thanks for the info on your book: I already have it, your book is sitting on top of Chris Whalens book, which is sitting on top of…you get the picture.

        Unfortunately, my reading revolves around text books these days, with some daily diversions news/blogs.


    2. ScottS

      Yves has covered CFTA and Gramm Leach Bliley Act, and some of Carter’s early steps toward deregulation.

      Your attempts at driving a partisan wedge are pointless. Deregulation is a non-partisan issue.

      Focus on policies, not politics.

      1. gs_runsthiscountry

        “Your attempts at driving a partisan wedge are pointless. Deregulation is a non-partisan issue.”

        While, I may have made the same mistake, so have you. You did not read what I wrote.

        First, I said in not so many words, deregulation is a non-partisan issue.

        Secondly, if you re-read what I wrote, I was not driving a partisan wedge, rather trying to remove it (in terms of deregulation).

        Thirdly, if you had caught any of my posts here the past week or two you would know my feelings on the subject.

        My comments here and elsewhere parrot this article.


        1. ScottS

          I think you’re a good guy, but there’s been a tone of false equivalency going around since the Gabbie Giffords shooting. No one is obligated to be comprehensive so long as there is no misdirection.

          There is a special circle in hell for traitors like Carter, Clinton, and Obama. But that doesn’t mean we have to drag them into every conversation to give it a “balanced feel.”

          “Fair and Balanced” has gotten us into this mess.

  13. Mike

    Although I have no love for banks especially the big ones, it saddens me that most of you folks seem to always leave the congress out of the mix when talking about the “greed” of the elites. When banks were forced to lend money to people who could not and demonstrably would not pay it back, the banks response was RMBSs CMBSs CDOs etc.. I am not making excuses, by the way, however, it seems ridiculous to talk about the evil that has been perpetrated on all of us by the big banks without mentioning the culpability of the “big” and I mean gigantic US Federal gov’t and Federal reserve.

    1. gs_runsthiscountry

      errrr… while yves has already reeled me in, and tried to moderate this thread, ill bite.

      Fed Reserve vs Big 6-10 banks, which is the tail and which is the dog? Is there any real distinction between them?

      Why is it, like effin’ magic, former Goldmanite and NJ Gov., Jon Corzine becomes CEO of MF Global and low and behold, who is added to the primary dealers list?

      How does this process work? And, how much gravy money is now flowing though MF Global?

      Knowledgeable persons chime in, more enlightenment in this area appreciated.

    2. william

      Strange, the facts show that the highest rate of default is among people in the highest tax bracket!

      That doesn’t quite fit the story of the Fed forcing banks to lend to poor people who can’t pay.

      There’s some blame for the poor who should never have had a home*, but there’s a lot for people who just got greedy and where speculating on the price of houses. Question is, which do we think drove the bubble, housing Chicago’s blacks or speculation? (*Actually I wonder, why should anyone be unable to afford a house, seeing as there are more homes in America than people to go in them – I would have thought the market without speculation should have been able to house everyone?)

      As far as bankruptcy goes, it’s more often than not a case of wont pay, rather than can’t pay. Often poor people fear bankruptcy because they don’t understand it, whereas certain gilded haircuts (Hint Donald Trump) actually see the profit of regularly declaring bankruptcy. Donald Trump I believe has declared himself bankrupt five times now.

    3. Rex

      “When banks were forced to lend money to people who could not and demonstrably would not pay it back, the banks response was RMBSs CMBSs CDOs etc.”

      Gag. That one again?

    4. Doug Terpstra

      It was predatory subprime minority borrowers that extorted loans from the big banks through ACORN’s total control of Congress :^)

      Seriously, the old partisan debate about govt versus business is now moot. The coup is over; the people’s democracy lost and the US government now serves the military-financial-industrial complex. I think it’s called fascism.

      1. Rex

        He was. The reference is included and was up a few posts. He just didn’t attach it to the sub-thread.

        And while we are at it, it should be you’re not your.

  14. emca

    I’m still trying to figure this out, why would anyone think think Calvin Coolidge was a person to emulate?

    The comparison to Reagan’s stand on PATCO is defective in that justification used by the administration in 1981 for their firing of air traffic controllers was – violation of their oath not to strike.

    Obviously an illegal strike is not the situation in Wisconsin, et al. No Wisconsin public employee organizations have illegally (or legally) struck prior to governor Walker’s unilateral declaration of cessation of union rights.

    If you choose to frame Walker’s action per Reagan’s in 1981, then the argument is own contradiction, that PATCO, not engaged in a strike would not have seen Reagan’s reaction as championed today or Walker’s “I am the second coming of Reagan because I withstood the union menace” mentality.

    Leaving that aside PATCO itself is an interesting story. May pick it later if time permits.

  15. skippy

    Aw heck, open and closed systems in social science…sigh…incoming cut and paste.

    Ludwig Bertalanffy describes two types of systems: open systems and closed systems. The open systems are systems that allow interactions between its internal elements and the environment. An open system is defined as a “system in exchange of matter with its environment, presenting import and export, building-up and breaking-down of its material components.”[1] For example, living organism. Closed systems, on the other hand, are considered to be isolated from their environment. For instance, thermodynamics applies to closed systems. The idea of open systems was further developed in systems theory. For instance, open systems in systems theory encourage a non-representational and non-referential posthumanist approach that actualize complexity of reality in a non-deterministic framework.

    In social sciences, schematically, if there is an interaction or feedback loop between ideal and material or subjective and objective then the system is an open system otherwise it is a closed system. A closed system offers a deterministic relationship. René Descartes’ view of a Cartesian subject as a determining agent, detached from nature, is a closed system. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s view of the world that the Idea determines the being is another example of a closed system. Raymond Williams’ open-ended approach and Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice suggest non-deterministic relationships and are thus open systems. Schematically, closed systems are the sphere of being, identity, theory, molar, information, normal, and past. Open systems offer becoming, difference, practice, molecular, noise, pathological, and present. In short, systems theory in social sciences is basically closing the gap between phenomenology and structuralism and instead searching for embedded hermeneutics in which the subject is not cut off from a society but weaved in a social context. Once the Cartesian subject, who imposed mental concepts on reality, is flattened out then the task is how to actualize materiality.

    One possible way of describing the non-subject centered view of the world is through the organization. According to Gregory Bateson, “Relationship could be used as basis for definition.”[2] That is instead of signifying things under the blanket terms, the things should be described the way it is organized in a complex relationship. In other words, materiality should not be represented by us but through us. In social science, the network approach has been increasingly becoming popular to undertake such kind of non-representational framework. What it does is that it flattens out the representational systems that have become deterministic. The interconnection automatically reveals spaces that are left unconnected or silenced under the abstract machine of signifiers. The study produced with this connection is a mere description of a complexity that is characteristic of a society. There is no politics involved in this. Interestingly, politics implies categories and naming, which according to Bateson, is always classifying and thus reducing complexity of organization. “The organization of living things depends upon circular and more complex chains of determination.”[3] The interconnection of things thus becomes a new way of understanding the reality. Walter Benjamin’s montage, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s assemblage, Humberto Maturana’s autopoiesis suggest that things should not be seen in terms of their functionality or physical properties but rather the relationship, circularity, or networks serve as a general criteria for the knowledge. The essay surveys various disciplines to demonstrate the ways in which the idea of difference or becoming have posed challenges against given conceptual categories within their respective fields.


    Lets see now, conspiracy is a term used in closed systems…right[?], and this state can exist with out all participants acting knowingly ie plotting around a big table in a dark room, more like *whispers on the wind* between mountains ie corporations, government agency’s, financial entity’s et al. So whilst there are many bad actors, the real problem is the potential created by the system (closed)…eh.

    Skippy…Open systems are not beholden to the law of thermodynamics…try it some time.

      1. skippy

        I gave mine away, as I usually do with books, surrendered my last copy of Econned to a *special candidate* for x-mas.

        Skippy…with the instructions to repeat the exercise.

        1. psychohistorian

          I retain at a level necessary to look things back up a bunch….and I have had it since pre-internet.

  16. LizinOregon

    So let’s see – President with bankers’ friends appointed to key positions and a faith-based belief in the sanctity of the free mark….good thing that’s not what we have now.

  17. Francois T

    By definition, a propagandist asserts claims as facts in service of a concealed agenda without the slightest concern for whether said claims are true or not.

    That is what Amity Schlaes is; a propagandist, pure and simple.

  18. Hugh

    At the end of January, the BLS came out with a report that showed that only 6.9% of private sector workers were unionized whereas 36.2% were in the public sector. Membership in unions is down from 20.1% in 1983 to 11.9% today in the workforce minus the self-employed.

    Democrats and Republicans are going after public sector unions because that’s one of the few places where there are still significant concentrations of union members. They are using standard class warfare against them, blaming them for still having a few rights won through the union and not being like the rest of the non-unionized workforce that has lost them. That is the argument is that union members are being selfish by not being as miserable and as disempowered as all the other serfs. Nor are deficits an issue. When Democrats and Republicans want to fight useless wars or cut taxes on the rich, the money is always there. It is only when it is something for the rest of us that suddenly the money can’t be found. This is classic kleptocracy. Something should only be funded if it can be looted, by our elites. So it is we see in Wisconsin and New York with a Republican and a Democratic governor that they give tax breaks to the wealthy with one hand and demand concessions from workers on the other.

    States are in the parlous financial condition they are in because of the massive frauds of the housing bubble and its bursting exacerbated by the loss of tax receipts following the meltdown as unemployment grew with added demands on state services. This has been compounded by the failure to turn the economy around and by Obama and the Washington elites refusing to revenue share with the states during these hard times. As I said, the money is there. It is just being looted rather than used for any productive purpose.

    1. Parvaneh Ferhadi

      They are elimating everyone and everything that could pose a threat to their power. Private sector unions are all but irrelevant, public sector unions still have some clout and the oligarchs don’t like that.

  19. melior

    As Edith Bunker loved to sing,

    “Mister we could use a man like Hoibert Hoover again,
    Dose were da days!”

  20. mannfm11

    bull about government employees being more skilled. Retirement benefits at 55 are pure nonsense. I will grant that the pay scale for teachers and cops vary by local. A female retirement at 55 is worth twice a male retirement at 65 on a rough basis. Not to get into sexism as a side issue, but there are more women in teaching and a lot of the clerical in the public venue. It is the idea of retirement in style at an early age on the pubic dime while the rest of america is left to toil and pray their social security holds out. It isn’t exactly fair game when a voting block can elect their boss.

  21. acat

    “It isn’t exactly fair game when a voting block can elect their boss.”

    So, you are now calling for banning of elections or maybe the unions peeps should not get to vote.

    Hard to find an election where the voting block CAN’T elect their boss.

    1. mannfm11

      So you are telling me that the people in a private company elect their own boss and use the vote to get sweet deals on employment. That is an absurd statement. My point is politicians can force those not employed by government to pay for those that are. How much do you think an annuity at 55 for $50,000 a year costs, PV, not future value. Where are they at now? $50,000 for a career person in government is a low salary, unless they are pure labor. How many millionaires are there? I think they are in that top 5% you guys keep bitching about that are soaking the rest of the population. Had I known that at 55 I would be GUARANTEED have a retirement worth $1 million and in more instances than the general public knows, $3 million PV, I would have been a teacher or a fireman. I could be fishing, letting those that have their money extorted from them by government pay my tab. I have a cousin, a lawyer who became judge. I think he is 58. He was city judge here for 2 years, maybe 3 and is getting a pension. He will get another pension for being a higher judge worth several million. A 20 year career. These benefits would have created a scandal years ago if they had been widely known.

      The idea that blowing out a public union 12 years before the depression caused the depression is total nonsense. Public unions were pretty much outlawed until Kennedy. Didn’t the US start to circle the drain about 1965? Was it the war, the Great Society or unionization of public employees that caused the problem? When 3 skunks show up at once, hard to tell which one is causing the stink isn’t it.

      What caused this mess was the debt bubble that arose out of it. All 3 of those government policies increased the need to take on debt to maintain the status quo. As our paradoxical economy proves out, it becomes a death by fire or ice. Government spending and borrowing plant the seeds for debt bubbles and inflation and the situation is like farting in a room and leaving others to figure out who did it.

      Lastly, we have an education system that doesn’t work. The worse it works, the more money demanded. I have read American education holds up to 4th grade then falls apart. Is it because 4th grade is the limit many parents have of teaching their kids. Teachers are the bottom of the university education pool, from studies I have read. I have been to college and I can tell you the students in other subjects, even the high grade earners aren’t that bright. Television is geared to a 6th grade mentality, from the sitcoms to the news, which may be why American education sucks.

      1. acat

        all that and you still don’t get it.

        Heat but no light.

        Once you tell others what they can form or do with their free will then you are worse than those who you rail against.

        You have many choices but to demand others not form into whatever coalitions they want isn’t one of them.

        1. acat

          Oh and you are going to convince me that boards that are elected do not propagate SWEETHEART deals in the holy private sector to the abuse of the many?

          What are you drinking today? I want to stay sane.

  22. john

    Amity does not forget history, she and her husband Seth Lipsky have for the fourteen years I’ve known them have been rewarded handsomely for papering it over with distortions and obfuscations convenient for high earners. They know exactly what they are doing and have been at the leading edge of financial industry propaganda for decades.

  23. acat

    Also what happened to the money is speech position that all the pug/cons seemed to hold so dear in the recent past.

    Are they now saying that the unions , being groups formed to raise money and buy speech to influence elections is a bad thing and that money is not speech now?

    Doesn’t seem to jive.

    Since money is speech and free speech is democracy and the more speech the better, then trying to limit fund raising at all for any reason seems counter to free speech.

    Huh, never would have guessed those who are for free speech as signified by unlimited money were really not serious.

  24. Chris

    Amity is one of the most “intellectually challenged” pundits around. I marvel that any sensible person would pay the least attention to her “insights”. Where did she learn her “economics”? From Glenn Beck?

  25. Kill your TV set

    Amity Shlaes = shill

    She serves wealthy interest groups, which of course makes her a very popular and frequent guest of the corporate media (Fox, NPR, CNN, etc)

    Solution: take a crowbar and smash your TV set, then throw your radio out the window. Stop supporting them. Stop listening, tune them out. Cancel your subscription to the NY Times, the WSJ, or any crap publications such as Time, Newsweek, etc. Get all the news you need free from the public library. Or the Internet as long as it’s free.

    “The origin of the term shill is uncertain; it may be an abbreviation of the Yiddish shillaber. The word originally denoted a carnival worker who pretended to be a member of the audience in an attempt to elicit interest in an attraction.” – wikipedia

    Personally I’ll take the early 20th century carnival workers any day over these abhorrent 21st century shills who are doing their best to poison our lives.

  26. Fearsome Tycoon

    Wow! I had no idea that the fortunes of the 93% of the private labor force that isn’t unionized is so dependent on the 7% that is, and mainly in dying corporations in industries that are being dominated by non-unionized companies at that.

    Also, real wages haven’t gone down. That statistic is made by comparing unlike goods. Compare like with like, and a median, average, or minimum (take your pick) all buy far more of just about anything now than they did in the 1970s (except oil, which costs about the same in labor-hours).

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