titled Love for Labor Lost and as he reminds us in the very beginning of the piece
It wasn’t always about the hot dogs. Originally, believe it or not, Labor Day actually had something to do with showing respect for labor.He tells us of the origination of the celebration, after DEMOCRAT Grover Cleveland used 12,000 federal troops to break the 1894 Pullman strike, which succeeded
but using armed force to protect the interests of property was so blatant that even the Gilded Age was shocked. So Congress, in a lame attempt at appeasement, unanimously passed legislation symbolically honoring the nation’s workers.He contrasts that with today, telling us to look at who did and did not get bailed out after
after our latter-day version of the Panic of 1893. No, what’s unimaginable now is that Congress would unanimously offer even an empty gesture of support for workers’ dignity. For the fact is that many of today’s politicians can’t even bring themselves to fake respect for ordinary working Americans.He spends time talking about the ire directed at those who used to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (about 5% of the population) and who now receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (less than 2%). He reminds us of Mitt Romney's diatribe against takers, of how conservatives cloud the discussion by talking only about those who do not pay INCOME taxes without mentioning the word I have capitalized while ignoring all the other taxes.
There is much more of that ilk, familiar Krugman, reminding us of the economic reality.
Then there is one paragraph that I view as the heart of the column:
You might ask why we should provide any aid to working Americans — after all, they aren’t completely destitute. But the fact is that economic inequality has soared over the past few decades, and while a handful of people have stratospheric incomes, a far larger number of Americans find that no matter how hard they work, they can’t afford the basics of a middle-class existence — health insurance in particular, but even putting food on the table can be a problem. Saying that they can use some help shouldn’t make us think any less of them, and it certainly shouldn’t reduce the respect we grant to anyone who works hard and plays by the rules.That we do not have this as a universal national consensus is part of what is wrong.
Oh, to be certain, we have never had a truly national consensus on much of anything. But we have had times when the vast majority of Americans would acknowledge things.
Perhaps it is my age.
I remember an America shocked by Edward R. Murrow's "Harvest of Shame."
I remember most Americans having their stomachs turn at seeing fire hoses and police dogs turned on peaceful protestors, including children, in Birmingham, Alabama.
I remember a Johnson administration that not only was able to pass a Civil Rights act after the death of JFK, but also passed Medicare, Medicaid, Fair Housing, Equal Opportunity Employment, Elementary and Secondary Education, and so many more programs of the Great Society, with America recognizing the suffering that existed in the midst of plenty.
Remember, Labor Day was approved by a unanimous Congress.
Now, as Krugman reminds us, one of the leaders of the House Republicans Eric Cantor uses this day to praise not those who do the labor that enables this country to prosper as a whole but rather the business owners. I was not aware that this day was either Entrepreneurs' Day or Corporate Managers' Day or Economic Oligarchs' Day. And that is part of what is wrong.
Unfortunately, it is not merely a question of one party, the Republicans, having abandoned caring for the needs of the ordinary people, who may be hard-working but unable to meet. Too many in the Democratic party are in thrall to the money of Wall Street or of their favored corporate interests. It is why the attempt to crush unions of teachers is now a bi-partisan consensus of many in the political class, including unfortunately apparently the President of the United States, and people like rising star Cory Booker, who have signed on to the privatizing agenda of hedge funders and similar folks who have expressed their disdain for public institutions and teachers and their unions through Democrats for Education Reform.
Were we honest, we would stop rewarding capital at the expense of ordinary people.
Were we honest, we would punish those who created the near economic collapse not only in this country, but world-wide, rather than economically reward them.
Were we honest, the head of a corporation (General Electric) which has been shipping jobs overseas and sheltering its profits from US taxes would not be named as head of the President's jobs program.
Were we honest, we would stop lionizing Bill Gates, just because he has made a lot of money and perhaps recognize that (a) his corporation has been predatory towards competitors and (b) the products he produces often are buggy and inferior towards the competitors he either buys up or crushes.
Were we as a nation and a society honest, we would recognize that we cannot thrive as a nation when an increasing percentage of our people do not merely struggle, but fall into ever more desperate straits.
We might persuade the political class and the voices in the media which purport to explain things to us to pay less attention to the bloviations of those who are self-interested - the Mitt Romneys and others in the 1%, the Koch Brothers and others who create organizations to oppose anything that might in the least either hold them accountable for the laws they violate, subject them to the will of the people through their votes, or diminish by a single penny their obscenely gross profit margins, and pay more attention to the voices of those like the fast food workers who are increasingly striking for decent wages, like those of teachers who try to meet the needs of students they see as persons and not merely as test scores, the voices of those who after decades of voting are now being denied the right to vote to protect the interests of those like the Romneys and the Kochs.
Oh, and there is this - they should be listening to the voices of those whose analyses have time and again been proven right.
Particularly on economic issues.
And that means they should be listening to the voice of Paul Krugman.