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Labor Rights & Unions

Happy (May) Labor Day, America

The growth of income and wealth inequality has been much in the news over the past few years, but it is becoming especially pertinent now. A recently published book by French economist Thomas Piketty, “Capital in the XXIst Century”, has sparked a widespread public interest and intensified the debate. Mr. Piketty’s work shows how the United States today has as great a degree of inequality as at any time in its history, while Europe is not far behind. The book challenges conventional wisdom that technological change and social progress will always eventually redistribute this wealth in a “socially equitable” or at least acceptable manner; Mr. Piketty says that there is nothing inherent in capitalism or democracy to justify such a belief[i].

A joint study by Princeton and Northwestern universities agreed and declared that the United States was no longer a democracy or a republic, but an oligarchy; where business interests and a tiny wealthy elite control substantially all government policies regardless of electoral outcomes[ii].

The Supreme Court added fuel to the fire by trumping its highly partisan decision in Citizens United v. FEC (2010) with another highly partisan opinion in McCutcheon v. FEC (2014). Whereas the former prohibited the federal government from restricting independent expenditures by individuals and corporations, associations or unions; the latter now removed federal caps on aggregate campaign contributions by a single individual (but not the caps on contributions to any given candidate). Given the tiny number of the wealthiest Americans who were actually affected by these caps, this can only be viewed as another triumph in the attempt by the wealthiest 0.1% to gain ever increasing control of the immense power of the American political system.

Today is May Day, what passes for Labor Day in most of the rest of the world. Americans don’t celebrate it do to its communist origins and the unfortunate legacy of the Cold War. Since we’ve won the Cold War, and communism is officially discredited everywhere, I feel emboldened to ignore the Romney-like rantings of those who view American labor as “the enemy” and wage incessant class warfare to keep the poor mired in poverty and ignorance. I have it on the best authority that Labor is indeed something to be celebrated in May and in September, and more often than that if you like:

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

– Abraham Lincoln

I don’t recall anyone who didn’t own slaves ever accusing Mr. Lincoln of being a rabid communist. With the words of America’s first and greatest Republican President ringing like truth, I wish everyone in America a Happy (May) Labor Day.

labor day

Sources and Notes

[i] I haven’t finished the book yet, but there are already some doubtful assumptions in Piketty that, without necessarily detracting from his analysis of the current situation in the West, does bring into question the overarching conclusion that we are inevitably bound for oligarchy.

[ii] Cheryl K. Chumley, “America is an oligarchy, not a democracy or republic, university study finds,” The Washington Times, 21 April 2014

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