An expert on how Wall Street and the banking industry are destroying the middle class, Senator Warren has put that knowledge to powerful use on Capitol Hill, rapidly becoming the most authoritative and articulate voice of the Democratic Party's progressive wing. Many are urging her to run for president.
This Labor Day, working families do not have much to celebrate when it comes to wages and job security. But we can celebrate the fact that the deteriorating conditions of work are finally breaking through into broad political consciousness. Last week, the board of directors of Market Basket, one of the last of the independent supermarket chains, agreed to restore the fired CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, who had treated workers decently rather than just milking the enterprise for dividends as another faction of this family-owned company has sought to do. An uprising by salaried managers and workers had brought the business to a halt. The Market Basket story is particularly instructive, because it represents how so-called shareholder capitalism puts pressure on managers to destroy job security and decent earnings for working people.
Is there a correlation between the drop in unions and the drop in defined benefits plans? It certainly seems like it. As defined benefit plans are going away, so is the safety net for older Americans. Most bankruptcy filers are under age 54, but there is a steady rise in bankruptcies of people over age 55.
Workers are struggling to stay afloat. Incomes haven't gone up in the 21st century. Inequality reaches new extremes. A record portion of our national income goes to corporate profits, while a record low goes into workers' wages. Three-fourths of Americans fear their children will fare less well than they have. This Labor Day, we should do more than celebrate workers -- we should understand how vital empowering workers and reviving worker unions is to rebuilding a broad middle class. The raging debate on inequality and its remedies often omits discussion of unions and workers' power. Our extreme inequality is attributed largely to globalization and technology that have transformed our economy. But this leaves power and politics out of the equation.
Labor Day is seen as a day of rest for many hardworking Americans. But for a growing set of U.S. workers, there is no break from trying to earn enough to support their families. Despite a dip in unemployment during the past few years, low pay continues to plague many employees while their corporate bosses rake in record profits.
Globalization has mostly benefited the rich and the rising Asian middle class at the expense of the middle class in the West. The choice would seem either plutocracy and globalization -- or populism and a halt to globalization. Another solution would imply more substantial redistribution policies in the rich world.
Egads. We've learned that it's closer to 40% of the wealth that lies in the hands of the top 1%. This growing disparity between the uber rich and the expanding poor isn't just an inconvenience for those slipping economically backward every month. The end of the middle class may mark the beginning of the revolution.
By capping carbon emissions, selling permits, and returning the resulting revenue to everyone equally, this "Cap and Dividend" approach achieves the greenhouse gas reductions climate scientists tell us we need to prevent the dangerous consequences of climate change while boosting the purchasing power of American consumers.