Other Voices: Middle class a victim of new economy
Now, I see where Ford is closing plants and laying off 30,000 workers, even though those workers have increased productivity.
My father worked for and retired from General Motors. Having been banged around in the ’20s and ’30s by the Depression, he was an idealistic and hard working believer in the new social contract between the workers and the GM Corporation.
From Roosevelt’s New Deal until the mid-1980s, this contract gave the ordinary people decent pay, enabling them to buy a modest home, have health care for their families and even have a vacation. Their part of the contract was to work hard and help the corporation prosper. They could attain the American Dream for themselves, and this gave them hope for the next generation. Today’s corporate leaders, with the encouragement of the political leaders, have unilaterally decided to walk away from their social contracts and in so doing are destroying the middle class.
The low-wage and no-benefit Walmart mode is apparently what investors are demanding from their CEOs, who are receiving exorbitant pay, fantastic health benefits and retirement compensation, for which they have not worked. These CEOs attack autoworkers as “aristocrats” for their pay packages. My father thought that the American and the GM way was for a worker to receive good pay, health benefits and a good pension.
The complaint that it costs auto companies $1,500 a car in benefits, which makes them less competitive with Japan, can easily be remedied with a National Health Care Program. Japan has a health care program that does not leave its citizens dependent on an employer for adequate health benefits and the United States spends more per person on health care than Japan does.
Middle class workers in America are watching their dreams and those of their children drift away in a miasma of smug corporate greed. This situation is not good for America. The shredding of the social contract may have dire consequences.
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