It’s Labor Day

Here’s the problem with the whole corporate tax equation. Our tax structure was set up with the idea business would be the driver of employment. Business has decided that’s not part of the deal anymore. Companies offshore and automate and do so to save every penny.

George Jetson at WorkIt’s Labor Day.

I grew up in an apartment complex financed and built by Local 3 of the Electrical Workers Union. I joke now about its Soviet style architecture and warmth, but places like Electchester were needed. The workforce in post-WW2 America was growing like crazy.

Our softball league used to march down 5th Avenue in the Labor Day Parade. It was a big deal in New York City.

It’s not even held on Labor Day anymore.

Labor is vilified today. Unions, more evil still.

All this has come to mind after seeing a Facebook post (then online shouting match) about American corporate taxes. My blood began to boil. Instead of joining the flamewar, let me vent.

Here’s the problem with the whole corporate tax equation. Our tax structure was set up with the idea business would be the driver of employment.

Charles Wilson, a nominee for Secretary of Defense in the early 50s and former GM executive famously said, “I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”

He was right… sixty years ago.

Business has decided that’s no longer part of the deal. Companies offshore, centralize and automate and do so to save every penny.

At your place of employment are there now fewer people doing the same work as a few years ago? My guess is yes. You’re not alone.

When I was a kid, George Jetson drove to work and immediately put his feet on his desk. Wasn’t that our expectation? The future would be less work and more comfort.

That’s not how automation has worked. We have not been augmented. We have been replaced.

The list of non-human jobs grows by the day. Versatile robots and driverless vehicles? Certainly within our lifetimes.

What truly wasn’t expected was the optimization of tasks. Computers have made this possible. Companies learned how to make workers much more productive. None of this is done to the laborer’s benefit.

There was once a class of middle managers who ran departments within stores. WalMart, Home Depot, Target and all the rest have learned how to massively manage from a central location. When stores like Caldors and Zayers closed, that level of job disappeared too.

I grew up in the age of strong labor. The middle class was a good place to be. Hourly employees owned homes.

Our current economic and tax structure can only support a nation of haves and have nots. There are already not enough jobs to go around. And it’s like that in nearly all the industrialized world.

We need to make a decision. What kind of society do we want and how will we make that happen? What level of need and poverty will we accept and for how many?

Whatever the answer is, it’s certainly not what we’re doing now.

8 thoughts on “It’s Labor Day”

  1. How right you are Geoff. The days of the middle class are over. Unfortunately now it’s just rich and poor. When I lived in a town in Connecticut I referred to the people as as the have and the haves and the have mores. Now in la it’s just the have everything and have nothing.

    Both statements are sad of course for different reasons.

  2. Geoff

    What is your opinion of the Illegals competing for those (noted) limited job opportunities. The illegals also strain the infrastructure, increasing taxes to support them.

    1. It’s a very complex question I’m unable to fully answer. I will say, my grandfather came to America as a deserter from the Polish Army. He came under an assumed name with papers he acquired at the docks. At one point his family (including my mom) lived in a housing project in Brooklyn, so to a certain extent they were receiving public assistance.

      I’m not sure how I can deprive others the opportunity my grandfather received.

  3. Geoff

    When your Grandfather illegally entered the US, manual labor jobs were the Norm. Farming and factory work was mostly manual labor. Today, a lot of factory work has been sent overseas or replaced by a robot. The remaining, entry level US jobs are lessening every year !! Why should those scarce jobs go to people whom have no intent of following our laws?

    In CA (many states), there is a tremendous load on the legal citizen taxes, to pay for those illegals. How much of the school, prison and free health care budgets, etc are attributed to illegals – most of whom pay no taxes?

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. I recently saw a graph that showed that some decades ago (I can’t remember – 60 years ago maybe?), corporations were paying about a third of the taxes collected. That number is now down to 10%. And no one is talking about that. About how in the past 30 years all of the laws have been skewed to favor corporations so they don’t have to pay their share, including by offshoring labor, and against the labor force and the ever-shrinking middle class. When the talk turns to righting that wrong, companies just shout that they will move their headquarters to another country. This is an untenable situation, and I don’t know what the answer is, but you’re right – what we’re doing now isn’t it. Not even close.

  5. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed, and it seems as though the immortal, invitational, and inspiring words inscribed at the pedestal base of the Statue of Liberty authored by the poet Emma Lazarus have long been forgotten by the American people:

    “Give me your tired and poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

    These words have left an indelible impression upon me my entire life symbolizing the beckoning call America represents to the oppressed and underprivileged people of the world. The world has indeed changed, but I swell with pride, fortunate for being an American every time I think of this timeless passage.

  6. In 1969 I took my first ‘summer relief’ job with ABC in New York which was a big deal for a blue collar kid from Cambridge who had lost his Dad a couple of years before. I was NINETEEN and was the breadwinner for my mother. As badly as I wanted to go to college, I could not.

    In 1969 that job paid $148.50 a week ($956.26 today) – I somehow balanced living at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, had a new a car, spent days off at home in Cambridge and took care of Mom, and STILL had $$$$ left over. I had to join NABET and see a tiny part of my check go to them but it worked.

    Today???? I work as a daily hire and get paid less than I did 25 years ago and that is before factoring inflation. I now live in a 1099 world, and hate it.

    Geoff – think about this and perhaps do a thread on this. In 1969, I was able to communicate with you, Paul, Howard and anybody else. We would meet for lunch, dinner, late night meals…….how on earth did we do that????

    The rules changed in the early 80’s when President Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. Unions no longer mattered after that.

    Today I still carry cards from IBEW and NABET and I wonder why? But I know the answer my old friend:

    This is the business we’ve chosen

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