The War on Workers

Popular Economics Weekly

We are seeing what can only be called a war on workers by Tea Party Republicans in particular. Who are workers? The 80 percent of consumers who are wage and salary earners. And they have not done well since the 1970s while corporations have made record profits, as I have been saying.


Graph: EPI

It is the current crop of conservative Republicans, such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has even been caught on video declaring Republicans’ strategy of “divide and conquer” on public service workers and teachers, that have declared outright war. Their campaign would essentially wipe out the middle class by blocking all attempts to raise workers’ incomes in both the private and public sectors, and so their standard of living. Yet in doing so, Republicans will destroy the very foundation of our economic strength. Governor Walker’s efforts in particular have put Wisconsin at the bottom of Midwestern states’ job creation list.

Employers have always tried to maximize profits by limiting workers’ pay, but wage suppression today because of Republican efforts to limit collective bargaining is as bad as it was during the Great Depression. And the result has been disastrous for both jobs and economic growth.

For instance, the 40 years from 1961 to 2000, when the White House was shared equally by Republican and Democratic presidents (20 years each), pro-labor rights Democrats had the far superior record both for economic growth, and jobs. This can be found in numerous government data, but summarized by the Currency Thoughts blog. Bush 43’s record (GW Bush) was even worse.

% Per Annum      Democrat      Republican      Bush43

GDP Growth      4.1 percent      2.9 percent      2.2 percent

Employment      2.9 percent      1.7 percent      0.5 percent

Even more convincing proof that Republicans’ ideological war on workers will prolong this recession is their record on job creation. The Wall Street Journal has run articles on this fact. Since Harry Truman, 57.5 million jobs were created during Democratic Administrations, vs. 36.2 million jobs created during Republican Administrations.

President Clinton is the winner with 23.1 million jobs created during his 8 years, whereas President Reagan leads Repubs with 16 million created during his term. There are pundits who say these job totals are not totally accurate because policies created in one administration will affect job formation in the next. But that would have to work both ways, cancelling out any effects of one administration’s policies over another.

We aren’t even counting President Obama’s almost 4 million jobs created to date after our Greatest Recession that followed on the heels of GW Bush’s worst track record of just 3 million jobs created 2000-2008.

Why? This is one of the most basic economic truths, yet conservative Republicans in particular don’t seem to care. They want to believe that lower taxes will stimulate more jobs by transferring more revenue to the private sector. But that hasn’t happened—historically their policies have depressed the jobs and incomes of wage and salary earners that would stimulate more demand for their products.

And this is in spite of record corporate profits, which belies the ideology that greater tax cuts (even abolishing corporate taxes) will bring greater prosperity. In fact, as corporate profits have risen over the past 30 years, workers’ incomes have fallen. A recent New York Times’ article highlighted recent revisions of 2010 and 2011 Department of Commerce data. The new figures indicate that corporate profits accounted for 14 percent of the total national income in 2010, the highest proportion ever recorded. The previous peak, of 13.6 percent, was set in 1942 when the need for war materials filled the order books of companies at the same time as the government imposed wage and price controls, holding down the costs companies had to pay.

‘Employees have always received more than half the total national income, until now,” said the New York Times. (But) “In 2010, the percentage of national income devoted to wages and salaries fell to 49.9 percent, and it slipped a little more to 49.6 percent in the first quarter of this year. That continued decline may help explain the economic worries of many Americans who have jobs but still fear they are falling behind.”


Graph of wages/benefits vs. profits: New York Times

The private sector war is being waged by conservative states with their Right-to-Work laws that say though it can’t be illegal to organize into unions (because it’s federal law), it can make it illegal for workers in individual states to have to join and pay dues to support the unions. Twenty four states in the Midwest and South now have such laws.

This should be a no-brainer, in other words, which is why in not heeding the most basic economic truths—one cannot create demand without more income to support it—Republicans have declared a defacto war on workers. It is the worst kind of blindness. Republicans are also destroying their own economic homeland, the U.S. economy, and our competitiveness in the ever more worldwide economy.

Harlan Green © 2012

About populareconomicsblog

Harlan Green is editor/publisher of, and content provider of 3 weekly columns to various blogs--Popular Economics Weekly and The Huffington Post
This entry was posted in Consumers, Economy, Keynesian economics, Macro Economics, Weekly Financial News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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