Saturday, November 16, 2013

Meet the Poster Child for Corporatism and Inequality - Boeing

Perhaps because they're playing with other people's money, governments are suckers for corporatist extortion.  It's becoming an old game, especially in the States, for companies to threaten/offer to relocate in order to garner grants, tax deferrals and other lucrative benefits.   Politicians eager to get the shiny thing to wave in the next election campaign are willing to ignore the long-term consequences of their capitulations.

Boeing has become the past-master at grinding down governments.  When it threatened to relocate 777X production out of Washington it pocketed what is regarded as the "largest tax subsidy in U.S. history."   And, having wrung the last drop of blood out of the state government, it then dictated crushing terms to its machinists' union.   The union held out which led Texas governor Rick Perry to jump in, offering to "help out" Boeing.

American corporations have become the crack whores of government handouts and deregulation.  It's not surprising they're heading to the Deep South either where labour tends to be complacent and regulators don't mind looking the other way.

This is how the middle class dies, not with a bang, but a forced squeeze. After a global corporation posts record profits, it asks the state that has long nurtured its growth for the nation’s biggest single tax break, and then tells the people who make its products that their pension plan will be frozen, their benefits slashed, their pay raises meager. Take it or we leave.

What Boeing is doing has been replicated ad nauseum throughout the country (Boeing workers called the company's proposal the "Walmartization of aerospace"), as manufacturers migrate their operations to the cheapest common denominator.  And slowly but surely, the Middle Class that once thrived in this country begins to vanish:

So, off to Texas, where one in four people have no health care, or South Carolina, where a compliant work force would never think of putting up a fight? And who can blame Boeing? After all, pensions are a thing of the past, aren’t they? Wages and household income, across the country, have not risen in nearly 15 years.

This is supposed to be the age of the gig economy -- every worker an entrepreneur. But it hasn’t translated to a fix of the greatest economic crisis of our times: how to preserve a declining middle class.

A century ago, Teddy Roosevelt faced a very similar plague besetting America.  He didn't pull any punches, warning Progressives that, if they wanted a nation for the American people, they would have to fight the powerful, special interests intent on standing in their way:

"We cannot afford weakly to blind ourselves to the actual conflict which faces us today. The issue is joined, and we must fight or fail."

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