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Wednesday, April 25, 2007 10:01 pm

Short-circuiting the dream

Electronics retailer betrays its workers

Untitled Document It’s only 3,400 workers whom Circuit City booted out the door, so what’s the big deal? Had the workforce at this electronics retailer grown too large? No, Circuit City is hiring 3,400 new workers to replace those fired. Had the fired workers been poor performers? No, they were the corporation’s most knowledgeable and experienced sales clerks.
Their only sin was that they had worked themselves up to earning $10 to $20 an hour. That’s hardly a fortune — amounting to a gross annual pay topping out at $40,000 a year — but it did allow the employees to have a small slice of middle-class life. For generations, the achievement of moving more people into the middle class has been a major goal of our economy and society and a proud hallmark of “the American way.” Not only is a solid middle class a moral measure of our civilization, but it also provides social order, a broad consumer base for the economy, and a framework for the upward mobility of the next generation. That’s why this firing is a big deal. Circuit City, Wal-Mart, and other corporate giants have decided to chunk the middle class into the trash. This firing says: Sure, you’ve been with us a long time, helping us and the economy do well, but, hey, we can get a fresh face for $8 an hour — and when those people rise up we’ll boot them, too. It’s America’s new economic model; it’s all about corporate efficiency. Is that our nation’s highest value? What does “efficiency” matter if it has no moral grounding? This economic model is nothing more than an excuse to extract profits from the economic well-being of the many. What they are building is not an economy — it’s a robbery.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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