No Armistice In War on Poor
Armistice Day reminds us that when wars end, the winners and losers are supposed to make peace. For the first time, in 2009, leaders of World War II enemies, Germany and France, commemorated the date together as a sign of new mutual respect. But this week also marked the ten-year anniversary of a different kind of war -- a war on Americans' assets and the poor. Ten years later, while the winners and losers are obvious, there's no armistice in sight.
On November 12, 1999, after decades of banking deregulation, congress repealed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, which up until that point had kept Main Street banks and commercial financial speculation apart. Glass-Steagall's repeal unleashed a wave of derivative marketing that rewarded shameless loan sharks for selling the most vulnerable Americans into a bubble of debt.
The bubble having burst, now the stock market is up. Companies are reporting strong earnings and Wall Street's clearly at peace. The top three banks announced this week that they'll be giving out their biggest bonuses yet. But this week's news also brought US double-digit unemployment and regardless of those good earnings, the layoffs just don't stop; Sprint says it's cutting another 2,500 jobs; Pfizer, 2,000 jobs; even supposedly new and growing parts of the economy aren't growing -- software developer Adobe's cutting 6 percent of its workforce, game-maker Electronic Arts is cutting 1,500 jobs. And that's just this week.
Winners and losers? You betcha. And the winners have won some serious loot.
Having suppressed wages for decades, now employers are suppressing jobs. Workers are not only making do with less -- they're working harder than ever, and there are no new hires, because fewer people seem to get the job done just fine. In fact their productivity's up. And the personal costs are off the books.
Call me crazy, but the spoils are pretty nifty: fewer workers, lower wages, a more terrified workforce. From a winners' point of view, what's not to like?
The proof of no peace is in the fact that the president and congress keep talking about recovery and jobs bouncing back...but there's no real structural change on the table, no new economic tools, no regulation -- certainly no reparations -- in sight. The losers are weak and the winners are stronger than ever.
The US economy has lost some 10 million jobs since the recession began. Do you really think those 10 million jobs are coming back? It seems to me, the war is far from over and the spoils are just beginning to mount.
© 2009 The Nation