You can't find a better contrast between the vision for our country than those offered by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Goldman Sachs. One vision sees America as the land of equality and fairness. The other vision sees an America where greed is good.
Here is some of what Trumka will say today at the National Press Club as a way to frame the challenges before the country in the run-up to the president's State of the Union address:
"What kind of country are we? A country of isolated individuals fending for themselves or a country with shared values and a shared vision? A country with scant resources, fading glory and no choices? Or a blessed nation with the potential to do right by its people and be a leader in the world?...In this topsy-turvy world, the same leaders who fought so valiantly to cut taxes for the wealthy turn right around and lecture us about the imminent bankruptcy of Social Security and Medicare. ... When we are reduced to competing to cut spending instead of deciding how to compete in the world economy and secure our future, then we are having the wrong conversation."
Looking ahead to the 2012 election, he says:
"We have just been through one lost decade -- when America's standard of living fell, when our wealth shrank, when millions lost their homes, when young people could not find work. America cannot afford another lost decade. ... Last year's election was fundamentally about jobs, and I believe the 2012 election will be fundamentally about jobs. America wants to work. People who live in Wonderland may not have noticed, but there is a lot of work to be done here."
It is good to see a leader who understands that the phoniness of the bi-partisan obsession of the phony deficit and debt "crisis" are leading to the wrong conversation.
Now, let's look at the Goldman Sachs vision:
Goldman Sachs executives have long been among the most richly paid on Wall Street in the best of times. They are now poised to reap a windfall that was sown in the dark days of the financial crisis in 2008.
The documents illustrate just how much wealth the partnership owns and has cashed out over the years. Goldman has almost 860 current and former partners, the documents show. In the last 12 years, they have cashed out more than $20 billion in Goldman shares and currently hold more than $10 billion in Goldman stock.
In addition to the cumulative stock sales and stock ownership, the filings show an inner circle that is chiefly male -- 87 percent of the current partners are men -- and shed light on how much each partner has cashed out over the years.[emphasis added]
While a lot of the animus towards Goldman Sachs -- and its competitors in the financial industry -- has focused, understandably, on the financial meltdown, I have pointed out a bigger issue -- and the reason that I believe the financial "reforms" did not go far enough:
Even back in "the good 'ole" days of Wall Street -- before the 2008 collapse -- we, the people, suffered from the Goldman Sachs ethos. Wall Street has been the financial engine behind the unwinding of the American Dream. It financed leveraged buyouts and corporate takeovers based heavily on debt -- which resulted in the shedding of millions of good-paying jobs and will continue to create the same sick dynamic in the financial system whereby the "health of a company" is measured by its stock price, not by how well the workers are doing.
And, so, it is Trumka, and the labor movement's general vision, not Goldman Sachs, that offers the road map to a decent society. As I have mentioned before, a number of us are working on creating a Job Party to press for a call for an emergency action to create 15 million jobs. Join us -- and let's change the conversation.