We Have Much to Learn from the Inscrutable Chinese…

… or at least our home-grown Masters of the Universe think so. Bless the Washington Post‘s Harold Meyerson for being unpopularly honest about the “Lansing-Beijing Connection“:

China has a problem: rising inequality. The gap between profits and wages is soaring. Although elements of the government have sought to boost workers’ incomes, they have been thwarted by major companies and banks “that don’t want to give more profit to the country and let the government distribute it,” Qi Jingmei, a research fellow for a government think tank, told the Wall Street Journal.

Of course, if China permitted the establishment of unions, wages would rise. But for fundamentally political reasons — independent unions would undermine the Communist Party’s authority — unions are out of the question.

Meanwhile, the United States also has a problem of a rising gap between profits and wages. The stagnation of wages has become an accepted fact across the political spectrum; conservative columnists such as Michael Gerson and David Brooks have acknowledged that workers’ incomes seem to be stuck.

What conservatives haven’t acknowledged, and what even most liberal commentators fail to appreciate, is how central the collapse of collective bargaining is to American workers’ inability to win themselves a raise….

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47 replies
  1. 1
    liberal says:

    Although elements of the government have sought to boost workers’ incomes, they have been thwarted by major companies and banks “that don’t want to give more profit to the country and let the government distribute it,” Qi Jingmei, a research fellow for a government think tank, told the Wall Street Journal.

    Just like the conversation in the US, this is completely backwards.

    The conventional wisdom here is that, fair or not, some kind of magical market forces create this uneven playing field, and government comes along and redistributes wealth downwards (on net), to varying degrees. (Very little in countries with lots of inequality, more so in countries with less.)

    In fact, most inequality comes from rent collection, and rent collection comes from government-granted privileges. Government on net transfers wealth upwards, beginning first of all with the biggest privilege of all (land rent collection), then through various other special privileges (bankster-ism, etc).

  2. 2
    Culture of Truth says:

    What conservatives haven’t acknowledged, and what even most liberal commentators fail to appreciate, is how central the collapse of collective bargaining is to American workers’ inability to win themselves a raise….

    This was published in the Washington Post?

  3. 3
    Yutsano says:

    The story I hear is that unions are antiquated and corrupt. They exist only for their own gain and not for the benefit of the workers. As a unionised employee I strongly disagree with this. My union gets shit done.

  4. 4
    redshirt says:

    There’s no way China does not go through major upheaval/social turmoil in the next 5-20 years. The gap between truly and utterly poor and rich is extreme and getting more so every day, in a country with little recent experience of such issues. Throw in the culturally mandated imbalance between men and women and maybe a few international incidents and “America’s Sweatshop” is not going to look so appealing in 2022.

    Time to move to Africa (for sweatshop labor, that is)!

  5. 5
    khead says:

    @Yutsano:

    Preach it. Of course, we’re on the government dole….

  6. 6
    Strontium 90 says:

    OT – but Cole is basically live tweeting the Hurricane Sandy concert and it is comedy gold!

  7. 7
    Yutsano says:

    @khead: I r ebil gubmint worker, so naturally I am lazy and rely on my union to keep me in my sinecure. Of course that is all bullshit. My job is secure by design. Training me took months and cost a LOT of cash, so they try to hold onto us the best they can. In theory. It’s like any job, there are perks and drawbacks. But having a union on my side is a great feeling. Now about that no-strike thing…

    @redshirt: China has a huge looming problem they are barely getting a handle on: environment. China is pretty dirty. They had ro shut down factories two weeks before the Beijing Olympics in order to clear the air. The real Chinese achievement? Food distribution. If the peasants in the rural provinces were starving there would be much more unrest than there is bow.

  8. 8
    eemom says:

    @Culture of Truth:

    This was published in the Washington Post?

    Harold Meyerson has long been one of the last remaining vestiges of non-suckage at WaPo — a stalwart and tells it like it is unabashed liberal.

    Unfortunately, he gets almost no attention, here or elsewhere.

  9. 9
    eemom says:

    Holy flying FUCK — what’s Cole DONE to the place?

  10. 10
    eemom says:

    …..warning…..

  11. 11
    The Dangerman says:

    @eemom:

    …what’s Cole DONE to the place?

    A HFF – that’s the one that needs an unbalanced washing machine, yes?

  12. 12
    GregB says:

    @Yutsano:

    Just heard a piece on NPR this weekend about an area in China where they are planning to level 700 mountains because that will help with the pollution problem.

    Yes, leveling the mountains will allow the air to circulate much better. Oy.

  13. 13
    khead says:

    @GregB:

    So, I guess WV should be pollution free by now…

  14. 14
    JWR says:

    @eemom: He did the same, (non-suckage), for the LA Weekly. In fact, he’s done enough good to be considered one of the few remaining good guys.

  15. 15
    kay says:

    Well, he’s about a quarter of the way there.
    I wish they’d stop with this “Republicans want to get rid of foot soldiers” framing. It’s dishonest.

    There are TWO SIDES to this. There is labor on one side and monied interests on the other.

    I do not understand why media continue to insist that this is about “Democrats and their foot soldiers” and then “Republicans. That isn’t true.

    They KNOW it isn’t true. They KNOW who Republicans are serving here. I mean, Jesus Christ. Why do we have to play this stupid fucking game where we don’t talk about GOP lawmakers in Michigan and the monied interests who lobbied for this law?

    There’s “the Democrats and their foot soldiers” and then there’s the Republicans and Americans For Prosperity. Fact. Not in dispute.
    So why do they insist on ignoring what’s right under their noses?
    Snyder TOOK DIRECTION from lobbyists. That’s what happened.

  16. 16
    redshirt says:

    Missing Argument 2

    is my new hard jazz/metal band.

  17. 17
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @Yutsano:

    I r ebil gubmint worker, so naturally I am lazy and rely on my union to keep me in my sinecure.

    I was a government worker for some years. I did most of my job with a belt-fed, gas operated, fully automatic weapon. I’m still unable to understand why the pay and benefits of one class of government worker are so often criticized and those of another class are so rarely criticized.

  18. 18
    Petorado says:

    I’d like to see this country become far more pro-business … by looking at each working person as an independent businessperson running their own enterprise. If the big businesses can form coalitions to advance their causes through organizations such as the US Chamber of Commerce and NFIB, then individual business people (presently referred to as employees) should be able to convene their own organizations (presently known as “unions”) to advance their interests and principles without any backlash. If Michigan wants to ban unions, then ban Chambers of Commerce as well.

  19. 19
    jl says:

    I read in history of China that said among historians China is called the Mother or Revolutions, which have tended to be disruptive and bloody. So, they have a different perspective.

    But, corporate Masters of the Universe can push Chinese commies around?

  20. 20
    burnspbesq says:

    @liberal:

    In fact, most inequality comes from rent collection, and rent collection comes from government-granted privileges. Government on net transfers wealth upwards, beginning first of all with the biggest privilege of all (land rent collection), then through various other special privileges (bankster-ism, etc).

    So you’d like to abolish the institution of private property and collectivize everything?

  21. 21
    fleeting expletive says:

    OT I’ve been watching some of the 12.12.12 concert and most of the performers are still good if long in the tooth, but jeez louise, Pete Townshend is just embarrassing himself at this point. Visually, at least.

  22. 22
    NotMax says:

    When conservatives gather, one must always –

    Look for
    the union libel…

    (Fair number of folks here old enough to ‘get’ the sing-along reference.)

  23. 23
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    I’m still unable to understand why the pay and benefits of one class of government worker are so often criticized and those of another class are so rarely criticized.

    That’s because the military is already just how the Right wants government jobs to be: the vast majority are paid peanuts. Now they’re going after the rest.

    Who knows what will happen in China? Nobody does and nobody can. Complex dynamics between politics, industry and population, etc. And the rulers aren’t exactly showing their hand. All prognostications on our Red trading partner are just reading tea leaves, if you’ll excuse the unintentionally apt phrase.

  24. 24
    kay says:

    Would it be so difficult to say “this is about Democrats and labor and Republicans and lobbyists”?
    Why so coy? They’re perfectly willing to say “Democrats and labor”
    Because the truth is, when labor is gone as a political force, all we’ll have are lobbyists for business interests.
    Michigan lawmakers did not act alone in this. It wasn’ t “Democrats and labor” versus “Republicans”. He knows it. They all know it. So why don’t we ever talk about the business interests who lobby Republicans?

  25. 25
    khead says:

    Cole has been pretty funny on Twitter. Someone sell the poor dude some shrooms.

    I’m just glad that no one has keeled over on the stage thus far. Most of the performers are close to my Dad’s age when he died.

  26. 26
    RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist says:

    what the hell is going on here with FYWP? Some kind of 12/12/12 Commentmageddon?

  27. 27
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @jl:
    There was a tradition in China that if things went bad and continued to be bad then that meant that the current rulers had lost the Mandate of Heaven. If a ruler lost that then it was legitimate to rise in revolt. The wealth, power, and patronage of being the ruler made this an argument that was often advanced by those wanting to become the ruler. Successful popular revolutions were, IIRC, few and far between.

    I don’t believe that the concept of the Mandate has the imagination of the current populace. I would appreciate it if anyone who really knows would correct me.

  28. 28
    Yutsano says:

    @burnspbesq:A warning, counselor: never ask a question you might not want to know the answer to. Even if that answer is fairly obvious.

  29. 29
    eemom says:

    @redshirt:

    Missing Argument 2

    I mean, I admit I’m a techtard — but is that not rather an odd message for a software program to generate? Is FYWP gone over to Hal 9000?

  30. 30
    Feudalism Now! says:

    @kay: It is dishonest because it is not just a republican vs. democrats foot soldiers. There are enough D- politicians willing to carry water for the corporate class, Cuomo comes to mind. Everything must be framed as the horse race. It is always red vs. blue, never white vs. blue.

  31. 31
    Cacti says:

    Collective bargaining and high quality, free, public education were the two great pillars in building the American middle class.

    Naturally, the party of the patrician class hates both.

  32. 32
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @liberal:

    In fact, most inequality comes from rent collection, and rent collection comes from government-granted privileges.

    Keynes said that the rentiers needed to be euthanized.

    I disagree. Their deaths need to be as painful as possible, in order to set an example.

  33. 33
    Hill Dweller says:

    The Daily Show’s first bit was probably the least funny thing they’ve ever done.

    What has happened to that show?

  34. 34
    MattR says:

    Is Kanye West wearing a leather skirt?

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @liberal:

    Charging rent on real property (i.e. actual pieces of land or actual buildings) has worked fairly well for the past several hundred years and I really don’t see how you can, say, declare that a piece of land under a factory that has a 99-year lease on that land is public property without causing a huge amount of chaos.

    The problem with our current system is that we have people charging rent on imaginary property like stocks or patents. (Note that I do not include copyright, because IMO if a person created something like a novel, they should have the exclusive right to sell it to others.)

  36. 36
    kay says:

    @Feudalism Now!:

    Absolutely, but he sets it up as Blue v Red and then tells us about the Blue foot soldiers and ignores the Red Team backers! And he’s a Democrat!

    This was in no way subtle. It reeked. It stunk to high heaven. Snyder was pressured by business interests to push this law. He sounds like an idiot talking about it, and he’s not an idiot. He’s basically babbling “freedom!” over and over. He was pushed. Hard.

    Pretending that didn’t happen WHILE acknowledging that labor helps Democrats is just mystifying to me. Is there some reason we have to pretend that Republicans don’t have monied allies lobbying like mad in this? We’re happy to say Democrats have labor allies, right? Why not tell the other half of this story?

  37. 37
    J. Michael Neal says:

    @redshirt: I thought that was their followup album.

  38. 38
    Scamp Dog says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate: It’s because the One True Purpose of small government is to do things TO people, not FOR people. So war-making and incarceration are acceptable, but education and public health are anathema. Well, there’s shoveling money to your pals, but it’s ok because you need their campaign contributions to prevent government from helping the unworthy, amirite?

  39. 39
    kay says:

    @Feudalism Now!:

    The NYTimes did the same thing “labor, a source of political.power for Democrats, fought the bill” Democrats and labor versus Republicans? Really? Are we just going to pretend Republican lawmakers are out there alone? ALEC wrote the law, for heaven’s sake. Republican’s “source of political power” WROTE it.

    There’s TWO sources of political power here. One of them backs Republicans. Oddly that traditional source of power for Republicans are missing from this discussion. It’s crazy- making to me.

  40. 40
    e.a.f. says:

    Back in the 1950s one third of /American workers were unionized and made a decent living. Since then unionized work places have declined. In the last few yrs, as more & more state legislatures vote to abolish unions, with their “right to work” legislation, people will find their wages will continue to stagnate, if not be reduced. Michigan just passed their right to poverty law. From what I understand over 20 American states have passed these poverty laws. Makes you wonder who is financing all of this. I wonder how many of these politicians are being paid off. To watch some of the Michigan members of the state assembly stand there & spew the type of garbage they were, you really have to wonder.

    The Chinese government understands they made a deal with their citizens after T. Square. They could have financial prosperty but no real democratic freedom. it hs been working but now with the advances in technology the Chinese people are seeing the outrageous profits corporations are making & how little, they the workers are getting. China will have to deal with it & soon or we may all be seeing a revolution again in China. This time, there will be a billion people involved. The U.S.A. might want to remember that.

    We know unions are not permitted to have a real presence in Pakistan & we saw the factory fire there. We can look forward to having another “shirt factory” fire in the U.S.A. if Unions are continually attacked. Of course for some, getting rid of Unions is a good way to get rid of the Democrats.

    If Unions have no funding they can’t assist Pro Choice groups, they can’t assist anti poverty groups, lobby for safer working conditions, etc. That works for only one group, the 1%ers.

    The American workers can look forward to working conditions which exsist in China. No wonder they are anxious to come to Canada to work. We still have unions, but the Prime minister with the assistance of the Koch brothers is trying to ensure they go away also. Australia is starting to look good.

  41. 41
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Anne Laurie, should any of us be repeating that “inscrutable” canard, even as a joke? Not understanding someone’s culture is no excuse for attributing some sort of alien emotional attributes. Xenophobia at its most bare (and pathetic).

  42. 42
    Another Halocene Human says:

    @Hill Dweller:
    Some writers retired/moved on and … they hired John Oliver.

    That little toerag has sucked all the fucking funny out of TDS. Every once in a while the Canadian Harpy comes out of sprog-induced semi-retirement to show the little shit how it’s done, but that trifling wanker never learns.

    sigh.

  43. 43
    Lojasmo says:

    @Yutsano:

    Unions are the ONLY protection for the workers against corrupt and greedy corporate entities.

  44. 44
    Schlemizel says:

    @Higgs Boson’s Mate:

    Because that one class in particular is badly underpaid and abused for the trifling amount paid. Plus questioning it might raise questions about how we come to spend so damn much on the department when so damn little of it goes to the employees

  45. 45
    Schlemizel says:

    >
    >
    >
    China is one big reason why unions are dieing out. If every worker in the US was a union worker bargaining for better wages & working conditions our masters would simply move more jobs to India, China, Thailand, Costa Rica – anywhere that would allow them to screw workers, ignore their health and safety and shit on the local environment.

    There is no way unions or laws can dictate human decency.

  46. 46
    Cermet says:

    @kay: Why is it always reported as labor with the democrats while reporters just say republican but do not include lobbyist? Because labor operates in the open as a democratic organization but lobbyist are always hiding in the shadows like cockroaches and scurry away from the light. Like all parasitic life forms, lobbyists have to remain hidden in order to safely suck off its host – as in the American worker and taxpayer.

    Soldiers are never criticized because, they are the paid enforcers for our business interest in the world (oil, banks, wall street) and are paid little for putting their lives and welfare on the line so companies reap billions.

  47. 47
    kay says:

    @Cermet:

    Great point. I’m completely comfortable with labor as a political force because they’re right out there. They say exactly what they want. They’re self-interested (as they should be) and they SAY so.

    With these other groups we get this nonsense about “freedom” and “reform” and this ridiculous posturing denying that they’re self-serving. With all the fear- mongering from media and conservatives over union thugs, I’m asking for a recognition that there are obviously some thugs on the other side, and they’re much more dangerous because we don’t see them.

    I really think it goes back to the reflexive assumption that Republicans are morally better than Democrats, more “respectable”. Democrats have “foot soldiers” while Republicans have engaged citizen- backers carrying clipboards. It’s just bullshit. This was a raw display of the political power of wealthy business interests. Call it what it is.

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