Thursday, June 19, 2008

To Live Like a Republican You Have to Vote Like a Democrat

June 19, 2008, 7:25 a.m.

Unions and Iowa's Economic Growth

A Republican friend of mine and I have a good number of disagreements on public policy -- along with a surprising number of agreements. My friend is very hostile towards unions. I am not. But the other day they were arguing that not only were unions bad for the country, they are also bad for workers, for whom they've never done anything but take union dues and keep corrupt officers in power.

Today's topic involves both a confirmation and a confession of error.

I have often written here of the hypocrisy and inconsistency of those Iowa leaders who simultaneously (a) bemoan the departure of Iowa's best and brightest for greener pastures and search for ways to retain them, while (b) continuing Iowa's hostile, anti-union practices. You want to know how to keep our kids here? Pay them. And unions are one way to do that. (I know. The jobs we're trying to create, and fill, are often well above union scale. But "a rising tide lifts all boats"; pay the working poor more, and the wages of the working class will also go up, and when they do the salaries of the professional classes will also rise.) And if you happen to be among Iowa's top 1%, or 1/10th of 1%, in pay don't worry; you'll still be able to get by.

But I have also written that while there are many differences between elected Democrats and Republicans -- in short, there IS "a dime's worth of difference" -- that there is very little difference between the parties when it comes to favoring the wealthy and corporate interests.

Today's story tends to confirm the former (unions do help raise the living standards of the working class), but challenges the second (it turns out the working class does much better under Democratic administrations).

In fairness to my prior position, however, as the story reveals, "[T]he only group for whom partisan politics had little impact was the affluent. Their fortunes grew healthily regardless of party in power." So it's not so much that Democrats are hostile toward the wealthy (who, after all, provide the bulk of their campaign contributions, as well as the financial support for the Republicans) as it is that the Republicans are hostile toward the working class.

The St. Petersburg Times -- one of America's better, if lesser-known, newspapers -- has a columnist named Robyn Blumner who regularly writes in an insightful way about what's going on around us. The Gazette reprints a recent one this morning as Robyn Blumner, "Return of the Robber Barons, Under Republican Control," The Gazette, June 19, 2008, p. A6. (It originally appeared as Robyn Blumner, "Democratic Presidents Mean Better Wages," St. Petersburg Times, June 15, 2008, p. Perspective 3.)

She reports on a study by Princeton Professor Larry Bartels regarding the relative progress of the middle class under Republican and Democratic administrations. Here are some brief, "fair use" excerpts.

Bartels found that the real incomes of middle-class families grew more than twice as fast when Democrats were in the White House than when a Republican was president. And for the working poor, their real incomes grew six times as fast under a Democratic president. . . .

[T]he only group for whom partisan politics had little impact was the affluent. Their fortunes grew healthily regardless of party in power. . . .

[O]ur nation is increasingly one of haves and have-nots, mired in income inequality more severe than at any time since the days of robber barons. . . .

One dependable way for employees at the lower end of the income scale to demand a piece of increased productivity and profits is through joining unions or threatening to do so. Democrats traditionally are supportive of this while Republicans are generally hostile.

While it is true that regardless of who has resided in the White House, rates of unionization have markedly declined over the last 40 years, it is also true that helping unions and workers succeed is a central tenet of the Democratic Party. . . .

Bush's 2009 budget request seeks 100 times more money to regulate unions than to ensure that employers follow wage and hour laws and other labor protections. . . .

John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, finds that unionization would bring a double-digit pay premium to at least 60 percent of America's workforce. Looking at national data for the years 2003 to 2007, the study concludes that unionization raises the income of the typical low-wage worker by 20.6 percent, and that of the median-wage worker by 13.7 percent.

The next election is momentous for . . . countering what we have become: a nation with a small cadre of investor-class winners and a vast population of struggling wage earners, with little ground left to lose."
Think about it Iowans. You want to encourage economic development? We can't gamble our way to riches. And we can't get there on the backs of a minimum wage workforce.

# # #

No comments: