He was using the Delphi, and the automotive industries' debacles, as his example. The answer to all the problems is to knock back the workers' wages below "middle class" standards, and reduce their benefits, particularly health care.
To all comers who brought up the facts that Delphi managers had deliberately underfunded pensions, had stolen funds from the company, had managed it poorly, and, finally, had awarded themselves bonuses even as they demanded that workers take wage cuts, Pearstine responded: But that doesn't matter. The basic truth is that the workers, all workers, must work for less pay so that their companies will still be competitive with overseas labor. (About the bonuses, all he could bring himself to say was that it was bad PR).
He said (I'm paraphrasing here) that citizens who don't complete college or earn a trade skill must not expect to live a middle class life, and that the middle class itself will shrink further, but not disappear.
Several responders raised the question of the US's lack of national health insurance and the handicap it imposes on the economy, to which he responded by simply saying the US wasn't ready to accept that.
To me this chat was a rather open statement that the business class expects the US to reorganize itself as an oligarchy with a more classic "proletariat" than has existed previously. I'm not sure how they expect consumers to keep propping up the business economy in this scenario - that wasn't addressed.
If the era of middle class workers is to be ended, then it gives us a chance as well. We can demand a more European style (actually, global, not just European) health care and pension system, and we can make the case that this kind of capitalism does not work for all Americans.
This, to me, is class war. I do think this kind of capitalism is finished.
I'd like to see some creative "buying strikes" that would send a message to the economy. Actually, what I'd like to see is that people deliberately (along with the many who are unable) underspend their Christmas budgets and send a message that the US citizens are what keeps the economy afloat.
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