Doug Smith: Labor Day? Let’s Tell The Truth And Call It “Assets Day”

By Douglas K. Smith, author of On Value and Values: Thinking Differently About We In An Age Of Me.

Come on, face it. “Labor Day” is a national fiction — right up there with “anti-trust enforcement” and “regulating Wall Street.” The only parades that matter this September 7th will trudge through Wal-Mart, Gap, Radio Shack and other retailers in mad pursuit of holiday price reductions that come from eviscerating labor, not investing in it. The grandest pageant of all is going to be virtual: a mass frenzy of online deal seekers surfing eRetailers fixated on cutting labor costs while pushing, prodding, and electronically monitoring warehouse and office employees to get the last possible ounce of productivity.”

Don’t be surprised if some executive at Wal-Mart imagines observing “Labor Day” with a one-time offer of unpaid internships to debt ridden college kids — giving them the chance to build their “personal brands”‘ as a step toward, say, becoming an Uber driver.

Celebrate labor? Are you kidding me? Labor is an obscenity in executive suites, boardrooms and among the 1% generally — including the innumerable elected officials bought and paid for with the 1%’s assets.

Labor is not to be commemorated. Ownership is. Ownership is one of Jeff Bezos’ 11 Commandments at Amazon. Ownership makes America exceptional. The liberty and freedom to own is why our brave and underpaid service men, women and drones battle terrorists who hate our exalted financial wizards — people like Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs who “do Gods work” by making, selling, securitizing, swapping, re-securitizing, and under-collateralizing assets.

Assets are the “be all, end all” of our economy. Labor? Cue the canned laughter.

Look no further than corporate values statements and you will see this: “Our people are our most important assets.” Assets. Got that? And, it gets even creepier. What are employees? Human capital.

Trust me. Before the Emancipation Proclamation, Americans knew about human capital — and they did not dress it up once a year with a euphemism called “Labor Day.”

So, why do we?

“We’re creating,” President George W. Bush said in October 2004, “an ownership society in this country, where more Americans than ever will be able to open up their door where they live and say, welcome to my house, welcome to my piece of property.”

The same George W. Bush who — just like Clinton before him and Obama after him and asset lovers in both major parties — all have watched Labor Days come and Labor Days go over a now two-decade long series of what we call “jobless recoveries.”

It’s not for nothing that Ambrose Bierce wrote in The Devil’s Dictionary: “Labor: One of the processes by which A acquires property for B.”

Hey, you don’t want to be A. So don’t party about it.

Labor Day never sat well with America’s leaders anyway. Grover Cleveland and a unanimous House only enacted Labor Day in 1894 to quell rising unionism and violent strikes. They also made sure to time it in September instead of May to avoid any association with the asset-loathing ideologies of socialism and communism. Better to cordon off and confine Eugene Debs and other unionists to a single day of the year — and make the other 364 safe for the American Dream of Ownership.

Today it is “all assets all the time”‘ for the elites who, like Bush, Clinton, Obama and Blankfein, have drunk the anti-labor Kool-Aid for more than forty years. Free markets make America great. And free markets are freest when labor is free.

Why? Because free markets maximize efficiency. If you’re among the tens of millions of Americans whose jobs have disappeared, been downsized, and outsourced — if you’ve lost benefits, seen wages stagnate and even rely on public welfare to get by a member of the working poor, then you know what market efficiency means.

It means, to paraphrase Bierce, you’re A. Not B.

Take heart. Through your self-denial, executives, owners, and shareholders have grabbed all the productivity gains of the past quarter century for themselves.

No one is calling them “asset-less recoveries.”

Yet, this is just a part of our asset-driven society! Even as labor is gutted and life for tens of millions becomes ever more precarious, you get to do your part as a consumer and a taxpayer.

How, though, you might ask, do you help create assets as a consumer? I mean, you don’t really have any money since you get paid practically nothing for work.

Simple. You borrow it! “Consumer” is yet another fiction to today’s financiers. Just like “Labor Day.”

“Consumer” actually means “Borrower.” Let me explain. To our God-not-Mammon inspired financiers, you are no more and no less than a potential piece of cash flow. Need a car? Or a house, a refrigerator, a cell phone, a college education — or anything whatsoever that, of course, you cannot afford because of paltry and undependable wages? Call 1-800-GETLOAN!

When you — and zillions like you — cannot afford a car, home, college education, or whatever, just open your mail or answer your phone for a loan offer. One that will surely come with usurious interest rates, too! (Banksters get zero interest rates. That’s called “quantitative easing.” Everyone else? 10% to 30% or higher.)

Your interest rate payments are cash flows — and they get bundled up with lots of other cash-flows-formerly-known-as-people. Presto! We have mortgage-backed securities, student debt backed-securities, car loan-backed securities, credit card debt securities and pretty much anything that can get financed-backed securities.

Assets, my friends, assets!!

These assets are what get swapped, re-securitized several times over and always always always are under-collateralized. Then, whenever the utterly fictionalized values of these under-collateralized assets even come close to a dose of reality? Well, that’s when you come to the rescue in your role taxpayer!

Bailouts! Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

You, my friends, are truly champion asset creators! Your long-suffering self-denial of working for crap wages contributes to massive corporate profits that executives tap to buy-back company stock in order to keep those asset values high. Your low-to-no wages give you as consumers the God-given freedom to borrow and, thereby, fund securitized assets. And, when those asset values get threatened, your taxes come to the rescue through bailouts and mumbo jumbo (“quantitative easing”).

This is sweeeeeeet!

This is worth celebrating!

Labor?

Get a life. Get some assets.

So, why don’t we call this September 7th what it actually is: Assets Day!

A time to celebrate your assets off.

What? Got no assets?

You’re screwed.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

69 comments

  1. ambrit

    I should be sleeping, but I was woken up by some gunfire nearby. As we live in an older, inner ring suburb, it must be a “Human Capital Asset” celebrating Labour Day early.

  2. jgordon

    It’s funny, but I was just having the same sorts of thoughts today. I’d never thought about it before today, but… we’re seriously celebrating labor here? What outrageous hypocrisy, when ever other day of the year our betters are doing their level best to destroy labor.

    Second thought: on the other hand we have volunteered to be a part of this system, to participate in the fiat money regime, pay taxes, etc. If we’re are in a position to suffer because some rich asshole wants to screw us, in a sense we bear some of the responsibility for that–even if it was only on the level of believing in America and having complacent faith in the system, that’s still a level of ignorance and gullibility that’s bound to incur ugly consequences these days.

    1. Ulysses

      “If we’re are in a position to suffer because some rich asshole wants to screw us, in a sense we bear some of the responsibility for that–even if it was only on the level of believing in America and having complacent faith in the system, that’s still a level of ignorance and gullibility that’s bound to incur ugly consequences these days.”

      Wowsers!! Would you give the same blame-the-victim sermon to an abused 13 year old child– for having “complacent faith” that the monster who beats her and rapes her, yet also occasionally feeds her, might some day turn into a decent human being??!!? Maybe she should just not participate in this system, there are so many other easy alternatives that she is just too “ignorant and gullible” to explore. SMH

      Many U.S. working poor, in earlier generations, sacrificed their lives so that we could enjoy the minimal labor protections that still remain today. Now people in the Fight for 15 movement, labor unions standing up to greedy corporations like Verizon, etc., are back out in the street since conditions for labor have deteriorated so badly over the last four decades. They didn’t “volunteer” for this system!! They are imprisoned within it, and some are valiantly struggling to dismantle it.

    2. jrs

      At least labor managed to get us another paid holiday (labor day), pathetic in the scheme of things perhaps, but something not nothing.

        1. Eureka Springs

          I can’t think of one person in my extended family of friends who gets this day off with pay.

          1. jrs

            Well if they are working somewhere (retail?) they get time and half, double time, or double time and half it’s still a plus. But we really do need more leisure time not just more money. I’m sometimes on call holidays (and it’s not even overtime) so all holidays are not true holidays for me either.

            1. ambrit

              Sorry, but most retail outlets don’t pay that time and a half rate for holidays anymore, if they ever did. They do for over forty hours per week, if you can find a place that doesn’t penalize you for going over the forty hour mark. I speak from experience on both counts. (I was warned that if I went over forty, for any reason whatsoever, without managerial approval, more than a small number of times, I would be pounding the pavement looking for a new job. In other words, it was my responsibility to cut my own throat.)

              1. Jim

                Employers used to. Back in the early 70s I worked for Sears, and all part-timers got time and a half for Sundays and holidays.

          2. tegnost

            Everyone I know who is paid for today but not required to work are all in the 6 figures. Good article thanks

            1. jrs

              They are white collar, trust me almost none of them make 6 figures, even though cost of living here is almost so you need it. But noone really lives the “American dream” if you get by it’s alright, and a paid holiday!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        From the article above:

        Grover Cleveland and a unanimous House only enacted Labor Day in 1894 to quell rising unionism and violent strikes

        Like you, I was thinking, they quelled rising unionism and violent strikes with just one holiday?

    3. diptherio

      on the other hand we have volunteered to be a part of this system

      Really?!? Somebody asked you whether you wanted to be a part of this f-ed up society? I never got that. I was just born into this, like most people I know. In fact, I don’t think I could name a single person who has “volunteered” to be part of this system.

      1. TheCatSaid

        There are many people with a different perspective on the whole born / die thing, including the extent to which we “volunteered to be part of this system”.

        Some relevant autobiographical books from various perspectives: Dr. Mary Helen Hensley (Promised); Machaelle Small Wright (Dancing in the Shadows of the Moon); Helen Greaves (Testimony of Light) and many others.

  3. James Levy

    One terrible consequence of the Consumer Society has not been to erode the respect for work among the upper class (that was likely always weak or non-existent) but to rob the laboring classes of respect for themselves. My father was born in 1922 when respect for work (the dignity and sense of accomplishment a person had in going out there to earn his or her daily bread) still existed among those who did work. Now, we have only faint echoes and empty rhetoric relating back to that ethos. Everything today is about money and status symbols (a term that has disappeared from the lexicon because it is now an unexamined given that we must buy, not work, our way to status and happiness). The psychological damage wrought by this change is manifest in every social pathology you see in contemporary society.

    1. jrs

      My father was born around the same time (think he’d be 92 RIP). I’m much younger than the vast majority who can claim a WWII era parent though, he had kids very late in life with a younger wife. He had a love/hate relationship with work. I think he always thought working so much is a bit of a scam, and took off for years from it while he could to travel. He may not be typical though, I think the man never liked or fully fit in with American society and avoided it whenever possible, he preferred by far keeping company with immigrants from anywhere but the U.S.. But that generation did know enough to distrust capitalism and know the labor movement was one of the few protections that existed for working people.

      1. jrs

        Oh he was one of the heads of a local union for many years, that above and beyond unpaid work to protect working people he did not mind at all. Knew enough like I said.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And we have a chance to be better than our forefathers.

      1. We can say, money can’t buy happiness. Individuals can’t buy it. Sovereign governments can’t either.

      2. Work is good. And work doesn’t have to be about designing derivatives, creating new GMOs or training non-critical thinking human-students to be parts in a machine. Work can be as accessible as just staying home to care for young or old family members or sitting quietly communicating with Nature. If our forefathers didn’t speak enough about this idea, we can make them proud by spreading it to more people today.

      1. tegnost

        Work can quiet all the anxiety. Winters coming. A lot of us work or starve. Days get short, it gets cold, did I save enough? Not possible…

        1. jrs

          yea it’s not possible to save enough anyway, not for most people, not in this system, one medical emergency and it’s all gone, may as well lie back against a tree or a stump or in the grass and communicate with Nature! Be the grasshopper, forget the ants unless they are Thoreau’s ants! I do work to live for today of course.

    3. Jim

      There are all sorts of great and derogatory terms like “status symbol” and “Madison Avenue” that have been deliberately disappeared from modern usage.

      No use = no concept.

  4. Carla

    For Labor Day: a few random minimum wage stats:

    California: $9.00, will be $10.00 on 1/1/16
    Ohio: $8.10; $7.25 for employers grossing $283,000 or less.

    Federal minimum wage is $7.25. A bunch of southern states have no minimum wage; one would presume they should be subject to the federal rule, but apparently not, because look at this:

    “Oklahoma: Employers of ten or more full time employees at any one location and employers with annual gross sales over $100,000 irrespective of number of full time employees are subject to federal minimum wage; all others are subject to state minimum wage of $2.00”

    So since Alabama, Louisiana, S. Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi have no minimum, maybe the Union didn’t win the Civil War after all…

    And get this: New Hampshire repealed their state minimum wage in 2011!

    Here’s the source:

    http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx

    “One Nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for All.”

    1. jrs

      Minimum wage state or federal may not even protect you in California especially against ILLEGAL unpaid overtime (as opposed to the unfortunately legal type) due to rampant unenforced wage theft. Though it is a better state to be in legally than some of those southern states I don’t doubt, as the state of the law there is atrocious! Federal laws trump state laws if they want to crack down on something states are doing, don’t like marijuana say, but apparently not when they choose to look the other way, how convenient.

      http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-wage-theft-20150407-story.html

      So this fighting for a minimum wage increase, for a $15 minimum wage, while it will help some people where it is enforced, will NOT mean everyone earns $15. But if those workers unionized ….

  5. Ulysses

    The reality is indeed grim. There are some local bright spots however, where people are pushing back:

    “Following in the footsteps of numerous community groups throughout Tompkins County, the Town of Ithaca town board formally decided to back a push to create legislation setting a countywide minimum wage, indexing it to the regional median living wage for the state.

    “This is a movement not only starting locally but around the country,” Town Board Supervisor Herb Engman said.

    The town’s position is based on a study conducted by Alternatives Federal Credit Union, which has reassessed the county’s living wage each year since 1994. This year’s study, released in June, set the living wage for those with employer-provided health insurance at $13.77 an hour, or $14.34 for those who must purchase their own health insurance.”

    http://www.ithacajournal.com/story/news/local/2015/08/10/town-backs-countywide-living-wage/31435833/

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe together we can come to a better understanding; my question is this:

      Is raising minimum wages some version of ‘income guarantee’ for those willing and unwilling participants in the system, in the sense that, since current min. wages are below some presumed amount of Income Guarantee, they have to be raised?

      And yet, this income guarantee does not apply to those on welfare. They have welfare payments less than some presumed Income Guarantee. But because they are not participating in the system, willingly or unwillingly, they won’t see they welfare payments raised.

      1. tegnost

        My understanding is that b. clinton ended welfare in favor of temporary aid to needy families, so if you’re not a family you’re sol, also, note the temporary part, I’m not sure, are any states actually drug testing for eligibility or was that just talk?

        1. jrs

          I don’t think much aid ever existed in the U.S. for those without kids (unemployment of course, maybe food stamps). I never heard welfare applying to those without kids, of course the new TANF doesn’t even cover the kids barely so more and more kids are in poverty.

  6. Ed

    Federal holidays as a whole is one of many systems that really should be overhauled completely. Labor Day happens to be particularly glaring because of the national consensus, now in its fourth decade, in favor of devaluing labor, and its on the wrong day anyway. And every Labor Day there is some sort of opinion piece like this.

    The fact is that the U.S. has a holiday to mark the beginning of the summer, which is called Memorial Day, and a holiday to mark the end of the summer, which is called Labor Day. They got these names pretty much through historical accidents and too much shouldn’t be made of them. They are the beginning of summer holiday and the end of summer holiday. The rest of the world has a real Memorial Day on November 11th, which at least is a sort of holiday under a different name in the U.S., and marks Labor Day on May 1st. The wrong dates should be a clue to how seriously this stuff is taken in the U.S.

    1. jrs

      If we let them overhaul them they’d just take away all holidays completely, why should anyone have any paid time when they aren’t working? Afterall, *THAT* is the consensus isn’t it? No work, no pay, not even for a single day! Make no mistake we ARE slaves to them.

      So people opposing holidays based on some principle (we don’t really believe in labor, or why should this be a “Christian” nation? etc. ) are beyond misguided, all they need to do is ask anyone who works, because I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t take all the paid holidays they get (unless they choose to work double time or something on them because they need the money). Let the opinion piece writers drown in their own cluelessness if that’s what they want.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        No work, no pay, not even for a single day!

        No work, no pay – that’s a counter argument to Income Guarantee.

    2. tegnost

      Then lets change the names to beginning of summer day and end of summer day…but seriously I think you’re applying the current complacency to the historical record and I don’t think you’re right. Labor has been devalued in your mind I’m afraid. Is today a paid day off for you? I know the banks are closed…

  7. Ulysses

    What “national consensus” is that?!?? Well over 70% of the U.S. public have said, year after year, in poll after poll that wages are too low and that the banksters have too much power. Just because the criminal banksters have seized control over this regime it doesn’t mean there is any sort of “consensus” in favor of their kleptocracy!!

  8. craazyboy

    New a hottie co-worker once who got in trouble with Human Resources for saying “Look at the cute asset on the human capital over there!”

    But she did get promoted to lower management about 6 months later.

    Also, on another issue related to MBA Speak is the term “associate” which is commonly used to replace the term “employee”. The reason for this is to make sure no one misinterprets “ownership” to mean a guarrantee of lifetime ownership. One may be “spun off” at the convenience of the owner. After training your H1-B replacements, of course.

    There still is room for improvement in MBA Speak, I believe. For instance, one of our champions of Labor, Alan Greenspan, used to mutter about the “flexible American workforce”. [he used this term in a complementary way] However, the term “workforce” conveys a sense of “force” to the worker. That is really messed up semantics. If we went with “flexible American workputty”, then Capital could use MBA Speak to more accurately describe what’s expected of your asset.

  9. OIFVet

    So I am reading this article when my doorbell rang. Not even five minutes ago. Delivery from Amazon, an order I placed on Saturday. I had not even the slightest clue that this means I get delivery on “Labor Day”. I asked the delivery guy what’s up with this. “We have to deliver 7 days a week,” says he. All I could mutter was “Effing Amazon…” No, this is the last time I order anything from this hellhole. It’s asset on asset violence to order from them, to use the verbiage of the article.

  10. allan

    A day to celebrate People Analytics, which is Newspeak for the surveillance state that the modern workplace is fast becoming:

    The most important assets in a business are its people. In a 40-hour week, each person makes decisions that collectively determine every company outcome. Yet, historically there has been no data-driven way to connect employee behavior to business outcomes. VoloMetrix provides these tools.

    The data collected is supposedly anonymized. We’ve seen that movie before.

    1. jrs

      And the old (or well into middle age anyway) hope they can save up enough to retire even if it is to poverty, before this SHTF and the workplace becomes even worse than it is, because who doesn’t fear still being caught in this vice if this stuff were to become widely implemented? But what about the young?

      1. OIFVet

        Don’t breed. That’s my chosen strategy. I realize it’s not for everyone, but works for me and my wife. For her Irish Catholic family, not so much.

        1. ambrit

          I guess I can assume that her family, like my wifes’ Italo Dutch Catholic family, have taken up the slack?

          1. OIFVet

            Good assumption. They are all highly successful lawyers and think that somehow makes them and their offspring immune from any present and future calamities that the underclass has to deal with. It sucks going to family functions, they think I corrupted their daughter when in fact in high school she couldn’t stand me because I was so much like the rest of her family in terms of my views. It was at our 10 year reunion, with me fresh back from Iraq and questioning everything, that she actually began to like me, and to corrupt me :)

              1. OIFVet

                I thank her for me everyday. It’s hard to talk about deeply personal things, but she picked me up at my lowest point and willed me on to the other side. ‘Love’ is rather inadequate description of what I feel for her.

  11. Noni Mausa

    The disadvantage of labour is twofold.

    — first, pure labour as the sole, salable resource of the individual is limited (in terms of hours, energy and inherent or trained talent) and is also, like hydroelectric power, human utility is produced fresh every day and cannot be efficiently stored for sale later on.

    — secondly, individuals have immediate and complex needs which cannot be delayed or aggregated (i.e. one cannot eat nine meals on Sunday night and then be fine until early Thursday)

    There are more constraints, but this is a comment, not a man-ifesto.

    By cooperating, large groups of people can compensate for these constraints — store and smooth their effort over time (in the form of pensions, unemployment insurance, child care and senior care arrangements), store past effort in the form of savings and possessions, and bargain for better recompense with unions, labour laws, boycotts and sometimes revolutions. Indeed, civilization could scarcely exist without some form of all these smoothing mechanisms.

    Now look — without exception, what we call the right-wing fights tooth and nail to either destroy or control all of these smoothing mechanisms. One can hardly imagine any motive other than to deprive individuals of control over their sole salable resource.

    Why? Because that resource is not just part of the economy, it is the economy, it is wealth incarnate.

    If 99% of the worlds population, the poorest 99%, simply vanished, perhaps on a one-year all expense paid vacation to Bes Palgaric, what would happen to the world economy? Monetarily, the remaining wealthy people would still be wealthy. But it would be entertaining to watch the 1% scramble. They would possess all the stuff, but their lives without other people’s labour — well, cue Mad Max.

    1. Ulysses

      Excellent comment!! The technocrats dream of a new utopia where a small handful of wealthy people have robots, not people, serve all their needs. Yet are their spoiled and pampered children going to learn the technical skills needed to build and maintain the robots? If we allow some sort of AI-powered robotic workforce to build and maintain themselves, how long before they decide that humanity as a whole is a worthless relic?

      The cautionary fable of the Eloi and the Morlocks, as imagined by Wells, was more a warning to the wealthy than to the workers!!

    2. griffen

      I wish to posit a question – is it only the right wing who are A**holes, and all on the left are goodness and light? I dare question this point, and here is the reason why.

      There are plenty, darn plenty, on the left who also hold or own immense and vast sources of wealth obtained over decades. And they are no less desirous to maintain, and keep, that capitalist power, than those on the right. This is a point that consistently provides irritation.

      And, your point on cooperating, is largely covered what civilized persons call a “co op”. I mean, the credit union didn’t just develop last year.

      In summation, greed knows no boundary on either right, or left. It is just seems – simpler – to paint persons, or entities, on the right as all bad and evil capitalists.

      1. Noni Mausa

        Griffen,

        When I discuss cooperation, I am not confining that to economic co-ops, like farmers markets or coffee shops. Rather, the cooperation people use to increase commonly created wealth, to defend themselves, (or if perverted, to exploit others,) are far reaching things like policing, the rule of law, education, a shared language, science — the whole of civilization, frankly.

        Some of these are explicitly in place to lend protections to the average individual who, alone, can seldom … no, never defend himself against the exploitation of organized forces arrayed against him. As Pratchett’s enslaved goblins remind us, we must hang together or we shall surely hang separately.

        What protections, you may ask? They range from complex to simple, and so many are not seen for what they are, so much are they taken for granted. Yet when you begin to look for them, you can see what supports they offer and how those supports have been explicitly undermined or else reoriented over the past few decades. For example:

        — labour unions. Explicitly bargained for better pay and working conditions for individual workers who, alone, really have no leverage
        — the rule of law. Supposed to apply to all citizens equally, but increasingly reoriented to control the minor misdeeds of the majority while doing nothing about the malefactors of great wealth
        — education and professional development. Priced out of the reach of the majority.
        — science, information, and all the scaffolding of judgment, knowledge and evidence. A myriad of well-paid public voices spout nonsense, and are not laughed off the microphone. The result of the bullhorn of big lies and a bee swarm of constant little lies is to exhaust and frustrate the listeners and convince them that evidence itself is untrue.
        — society as a whole. In a mindboggling statement, Margaret Thatcher famously said there is no society, only individuals and families.
        — families. If that weren’t bad enough, families themselves can no longer afford to support members fallen on hard times, as they have all fallen on hard times. Worse, neoliberal voices routinely state that raising children is a private choice, a hobby like raising tropical fish, in which the greater society bears no interest or responsibility.

        Of course, to make the resultant weakened society function at all, some rights, some science, some property, some protections must be allowed — but there’s the operative, deadly word: allowed. Who determines the extent, universality, firmness of laws, rights and protections? Is it you? Your community? Anyone you know? And who benefits?

        George W. Bush inadvertently spoke a major truth when he called himself “the decider.” His decisions, and those of his wealthy “have mores” were not the decisions that informed, decent Americans would have made for themselves and their fellows. The two big questions on Labour Day, and all other days, are who decides? and who benefits?

        1. griffen

          You make very well your points and thoughts.

          My response would be – did this just begin with the 43rd president of the United States?

          I think not. I believe it goes much further back in historical terms.

    3. TheCatSaid

      There can be a lot more to life than such a utilitarian analysis (“work”)–it seems dysfunctional to even consider this line of thinking, even if textbooks encourage it.

  12. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    You, my friends, are truly champion asset creators! Your long-suffering self-denial of working for crap wages contributes to massive corporate profits that executives tap to buy-back company stock in order to keep those asset values high.

    Is that victim-blaming?

    Or have our educational system, teachers and professors produced non-critical thinking champion asset creators? I hope not…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Your low-to-no wages give you as consumers the God-given freedom to borrow and, thereby, fund securitized assets. And, when those asset values get threatened, your taxes come to the rescue through bailouts and mumbo jumbo (“quantitative easing”).

      Perhaps this is not correct – your taxes don’t fund those bailouts.

  13. Gerard Pierce

    “Our people are our most important assets.”

    Consider that in a perverse way this was originally intended as a positive statement – a reminder to “middle management” that you had to take care of your workers in order to effectively exploit them.

    1. tegnost

      Yes, and the whole “associate” thing has always bugged me…you’re not an employee, you’re a friend of the company, right?

      1. Noni Mausa

        I’m always reminded of the term in relation to biker gangs, as in “the members of the local Scimitar street gang are Hells Angels associates.”

  14. mk

    could also all it almost-slave-labor day since productivity has gone up while wages have gone down or stagnated.

  15. griffen

    A local furniture store, which recently opened, is actually CLOSED today. Nebraska Furniture Mart – their store in the colony, TX, opened earlier in 2015. Anyone knowing the company will know who the corporate parent is.

    When I think of Labor Day, I consider that child labor laws are on the books, and 10 year olds can receive their brainwashing, er training, in an educational setting. No longer needed in the proverbial salt mines.

    I don’t think today’s environment is exactly healthy, but the practices of Carnegie and his managers in the largest steel companies was plenty egregious (hiring scab replacements, hiring Pinkerton’s to protect the factories, et al)

  16. TheCatSaid

    Natural Capitalism” by Hawken, Lovins & Lovins talks about people as assets but in the sense of something that has positive value, not like something that is kept or owned.

    “Human capital” in current bizness-speak has degenerated to the point where it really is little different from slavery, to the point where most of our society thinks this is normal and TINA. We have been so thoroughly brainwashed we don’t see it.

    Makes me think of that great essay “Why Work?” by Bob Black.

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