or awoken by this?
I’m asking that question in regards to a column written by Ray Buursma of the Holland Sentinel entitled, “American workers got what they deserved.” Harsh title, the kind of title that would make many people not even continue on to read it. Furthermore, the author introduces his article with the following warning.
Are you an American employee? If so, today’s column will likely offend you. If you’d rather not be offended, read no further. If you continue and then complain, I’m sorry, but that simply proves you’re, well, stupid. But then again, stupidity plays a large role in today’s topic.
Wow, coming out of the gates swinging are we? Now I have to know what he says, let’s see if he can offend me. I have a feeling that after the warning many of you may have no interest in clicking on the link to the article, no problem, I’ll just drop it here to make it easier.
Still reading? OK. You’ve had fair warning.
So you’re an American employee. Maybe you make car parts. Maybe you’re an engineer or designer. Maybe you’re an accountant, store clerk or tradesman. Whatever you do, you’re probably stupid or lazy. Yes, I wrote it, and I mean it. You are either stupid or lazy. Maybe both.
Now, I’m not referring to your work ethic or job performance. No, most of you are competent and devoted to your profession or vocation. I’m addressing the way you view economics and employment. I’m challenging your gumption to advocate for yourself and your fellow Americans. Here’s what I mean.
Remember the Reagan standard? Are you better off today than you were a decade ago? Two decades? Three? Unless you make more than $380,000 a year, the answer is no. In fact, your standard of living over the last quarter century has actually decreased while millionaires have added 30 percent to their net wealth. Why? Two reasons.
First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs went overseas while the politicians you elected did nothing to stop them. Yet you continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts, as if that would stem the flow of disappearing jobs.
Did you demand your leaders address America’s trade imbalance or continuous outsourcing of jobs? Did you demand your leaders require foreign countries to buy a dollar’s worth of American goods for every dollar of goods they sell here?
No and no. You didn’t bother. You simply crossed your fingers and prayed, “I hope my job’s not next.” You made concessions to your employer and hoped that would stem the exodus of jobs, or at least yours. How’d that work for you?
Second, you bought into the myth that unions are the cause of America’s demise. You didn’t bother to learn America became a world power when union membership was at its peak. You didn’t bother to learn America became the envy of the world while 1 of every 3 Americans was a union member.
So, how are things going for you? How do your benefits compare to a quarter century ago? Are you paying a higher or lower percentage of your income for health insurance? Does your company offer a pension plan, or do you now fund your own 401(k)?
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not a union worker, so this doesn’t affect me.”
Stop being stupid. Union benefits provide a standard other companies have to match, or at least come close to. When those benefits are cut, yours are, too. Or do you think you operate in your own little employment vacuum?
To make matters worse, you’re again being played for a chump. The same puppets who did nothing while your standard of living decreased are now using the oldest gimmick in the book — jealousy — to continue their assault on American workers. Rather than protect Americans’ jobs, they deflect your attention through jealousy.
“Cut the pay of government workers,” they cry. “Increase their health premiums. Decrease their pensions. Break their unions. After all, you’ve suffered so they should suffer too.” And in your misery, you buy their argument while more jobs head oversees. Pretty stupid, eh?
If their antics weren’t so pathetic, if the consequences weren’t so dire, if they didn’t prey on your stupidity, and if you didn’t buy into their convoluted reasoning, this whole situation would be laughable. But of course it’s not.
I warned you I’d likely offend you, and I suspect I did. But once you overcome your anger, consider my analysis. Then, either wise up and do something about it, or resign yourself to a lower standard of living for the next decade.
Phew, still with me. Alright, let’s take a little break, maybe get up and walk around for a bit. Come back here when you’re done so we can analyze this.
Welcome back, hope you’re feeling better. Okay, so let’s see if we can’t dissect this, Ray was nice enough to break his harsh comments into bite size pieces for us, so we’ll work off that. For now we’ll hold judgement against Mr. Buursma, despite looking like a cranky sourpuss, until we’ve looked at the column in its entirety.
- “So you’re an American employee…” – Not a good way to start off, if someone starts off a heated discussion by talking to you like you’re their child you probably wouldn’t be very interested in listening. The author is generalizing here, not every American employee feels this way, I just can’t see that. Also, does he even realize that he himself is an American employee and by his generalizing is also calling himself “stupid or lazy or both.”
- “Now I’m not referring to your work ethic…” – More generalizing.
- “Remember the Reagan standard…” – The Reagan standard was nothing more than a standard for measuring the success of a President, are you better now than you were four years ago. He’s trying to tie that mentality to the current status of Americans, are we personally and as a whole better of than we were X number of years ago. He then throws some arbitrary dollar value, $380,000 a year, as the point on the gauge to actually tell someone whether or not they’re better off than they were a decade ago. He continues by mentioning how the standard of living has decreased over that last 25 years while millionaires have added 30% to their net wealth. These figure are all well and good, but where’s the references to back them up. If you’re going to call your readers stupid and/or lazy you really need to do all your homework and show us where you got it from. Could his data be factual, possibly, but who knows for certain. Next he explains why it got this way.
- “First, hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs…” – Manufacturing jobs went overseas, true, we all know that at this point. Not all of them, but a good portion of them. Next he says we continue to elect leaders who offer nothing but tax cuts (either he doesn’t vote, or he voted for someone who did this, cause they kind of all do this). There’s been this long-standing assumption that if you give corporations everything up to, and including, the shirt off your back that they’ll create jobs. This incredibly backwards logic doesn’t seem to account for how corporations work. If a manufacturer can create their widgets for a buck a piece including all costs using the current labor for they already have why would they want to create additional jobs. Even if you give them tax cuts there is no real motivation for creating those extra jobs because those jobs, surprisingly, cost them more than the tax cuts they are being given.
- “Did you demand your leaders…” – Our trade imbalance has been a long-standing issue, and I’m pretty everyone has been aware of it. Have people been standing at the gates of the White House protesting change, no, we really have more important issues to deal with at the moment. But a quick search on Google indicates that there are plenty of people out there aware of the issue and are demanding change. Not to mention, Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao stated that urgent steps were needed to narrow the nation’s trade imbalance with the U.S. When the country that benefits the most from your lopsided trade mentions that steps need to be made to balance trade it’s time to do something about it. (source)
- “No and no. You didn’t bother.” – I’ll admit that a lot of Americans seem to have this ignorant bliss about themselves, where they dream their job is never going to be in danger, I know better because I’ve been laid off a fair number of times throughout my career (and I’m only 27). Having said that, not all Americans think this way. This guy loves to generalize.
- “Second, you bought into the myth…” – I’ll agree with this statement, unions have become the in-fashion scapegoat for our failing/failed economy. He also brings up a very valid point that our country was it its highest when union membership was at its peak. So many of us attack unions as if they’re filled with greedy, lazy people just looking to get paid way more than what their job is worth. We seem to forget that while unions aren’t as common as they once were, many of our parents and/or grandparents enjoyed a higher standard of living thanks to them. We also seem to forget that employers that don’t have unions will very often offer pay and benefits that are similar to what a union member of the same field gets, to stay competitive. Without those unions setting the bar who’s to say those non-union employers wouldn’t just decide to stop providing benefits completely or force their employees to take drastic pay cuts. If that were to happen all over the US you’d start to hear more and more people who used to be against unions, clambering for them. (source)
- “So, how are things going for you?” – As for the percentage going towards employer health insurance, data suggests the author is correct in his questioning. Employer health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000. We pay more for insurance and get less coverage. (source) My research suggests the author is also correct in questioning employer-provided pensions.
- “Stop being stupid…” – Always a good starter to a paragraph. This just reaffirms what I mentioned earlier, union benefits and pay act as a baseline for non-union employers to compete against. The recent events in Wisconsin will only convince employers that it might be okay to start doing the same to their employees, and don’t pretend like they’re the only ones with benefits of that caliber because they were public employees, you know that’s not true.
- “To make matters worse…” – There’s some truth to this. As evidenced with the recent events in Wisconsin, what was the most common arguments you heard against public employees. Higher than average pay, better than average benefits, lazy (get three months off out of the year, don’t work full days). All of those arguments are complete bullshit and are being spread to do nothing more than make the non public employees jealous so that they are willing to point the fingers at unions and away from the policy makers.
- “If their antics weren’t so pathetic…” – This starts to read like someone who is seeing a problem and feels very strongly about it, yet feels as if he is alone in his opinion, people get defensive and rude when that happens, as evidenced here.
Perhaps we really should consider his analysis, as he suggests. Even though it would be easy to dismiss his comments as the ramblings of a very upset and bitter, looks like, middle-aged man, there are definitely some diamonds in the rough here. His choice of words, poor, his delivery, rude, but that doesn’t change the meaning of the point he’s trying to get across. The reasons for our dismal situation is nothing more than a result of poor policies, poor decisions, and a content populace that is too comfortable to raise their voices and admit there might be a problem. This isn’t a fault of unions, they’re nothing more than a diversion to keep our eyes off of what’s really going on, the politicians are handing corporations and the wealthy generous tax breaks at our expense. The claim is that it will stimulate the economy and trickle down to the rest of us, but we all know that’s not how it works, the politicians are just protecting the interests of the businesses that funded their campaigns.
- Poll shows support for organized labor (cbsnews.com)
- Before Wisconsin: Five of American Labor’s Biggest Battles (dailyfinance.com)