Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for April 4th, 2011

Ford, Toyota, and BMW

Posted by Phoenix Woman on April 4, 2011

Reading Salon writer Gabriel Winant’s piece about the rebirth of the labor movement, I was stopped short by this passage therein:

… The assumption that characterized the 1930s-1970s regime was that mass production and mass consumption depended on each other. For the economy to grow, workers had to be able to buy the things they made — cars, houses, washing machines. Good wages and trade unions were understood as crucial components of a healthy economy, rather than hindrances to it.

What happened next should be familiar. Global industry recovered from the destruction of the war, and competition ramped up in the 1960s and 1970s. Facing the Toyotas and BMWs of the world, American companies started looking to save however they could. So they reneged on the deal.

This is a dodge, though it’s not really Winant’s fault; he’s just been marinated so long in the right-wing consensus reality propagated by well-heeled conservative think tanks and their media organs that he can’t imagine why this makes no sense.

First off, let’s look at Toyota’s and BMW’s CEOs. Top German and Japanese CEOs don’t make hundreds of times the salaries of their lowest-paid workers, as top American CEOs do. In fact, Japanese CEOs earn on average one-sixth what American CEOs do. In 2005, German CEOs made on average 12 times as much as their lowest-paid workers; Japanese CEOs, 11 times as much; American CEOs, 475 times as much.

Second off, both of those nations possessed and still possess far better social safety nets, including better and cheaper medical care, than does the US. They also actually tax their rich people, and allow them far fewer loopholes to avoid paying taxes the way companies like GE do in the US.

If Ford et al were so concerned about productivity, they would have stopped giving themselves perks and raises whilst putting the screws to the line workers. But nooooo, they’re the perfect examples of the oncological model of capitalism that turns human beings into single-minded sharks, ruthlessly screwing over everyone else until there is nothing and no one left to devour, at which point they die wondering what the hell happened to create a society like this:

In the long run, this meant the hollowing out of the economy: instead of a broad middle class, buying the things that it made, we got a super-rich elite, lending money to consumers to buy on credit what they could no longer afford on stagnant wages. Manufacturing disappeared, and service work grew to replace it. Industrial unions withered, inequality soared, and cities went into crisis.

But of course most of the legacy media outlets won’t ever admit this, not as often as they hammer anti-worker, anti-social-spending, anti-tax propaganda into us. Why? Because they’re on the side of their fellow American CEOs.

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