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Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011 08:08 pm

Corporate elites still doing a job on American workers

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In this week of Labor Day, our country is engulfed in deep economic anxiety, and no doubt you share my heartfelt concern for those Americans who’re suffering the worst of these uncertain times. I refer, of course, to millionaire corporate chieftains and big bankers.

What? You thought maybe I was referring to our 25 million fellow citizens who can’t get the jobs they need, or the millions more who’re soon to be out of work due to both corporate and governmental cutbacks in the American workforce? No, no, bucko – according to the corporate establishment (top executives, media barons and political elites), the number one economic problem is not the ongoing elimination of middle class jobs and the subsequent destruction of consumer spending. Rather it’s some terrible “uncertainty” that has swept through the executive suites, immobilizing once-proud risk takers, who now wail that Washington’s priority must be to relieve their anxiety. “To create jobs,” implored a senior vice president of strategy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “we need pro-growth policies and the certainty necessary to invest and hire.”

Certainty? Aren’t these the same corporate honchos who’ve proclaimed (and imposed) a “new normal” of intentional economic uncertainty on America’s workaday majority? Yes, they are. Forget job security and middle-class expectations, they bark at us. Instead, the future for working families will be one of low wages, long periods of unemployment, no health coverage or pensions, a tattered safety net and practically no worker rights – get used to it.

What are the “pro-growth policies” these economic elites are demanding from Washington? Deregulation of corporate power, de-unionization, reduction of taxes on corporations, the rich, cutting “entitlement” benefits (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), and the privatization of everything from education to transportation – to name a few. Guess who grows under these policies and who shrinks?

Bizarrely, the biggest banks are moaning the most insistently about their financial situation. “They’ve been battered by a weak economy,” reported a sympathetic New York Times article on Aug. 29, failing to mention the crucial fact that it was the narcissism and reckless greed of bankers themselves that weakened the economy. Far from suffering for their disastrous overreach, they’ve kept their gilded positions and have been given trillions of dollars in federal funds to bail out their businesses – with no requirement that they start investing in job-creating enterprises.

Having battered us as taxpayers, here they come again to batter us as consumers and employees. Dissatisfied with a 38 percent increase in profits this year over last, such industry leaders as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are imposing new fees and service charges on their depositors. They’ve also been aggressively shipping jobs to low-wage countries – and now a new wave of layoffs was recently announced by Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, State Street, Wells Fargo and others, sucking thousands more jobs out of our economy.

By a glaring two-to-one margin, the American people have consistently been telling pollsters that the economic crisis is not deficit spending by the government, but jobs, jobs, jobs. Yet our political leaders and media have focused on Washington’s ideological imbroglio over slashing trillions of dollars in spending, rather than dealing with the brutal reality that there are now four jobless Americans for each job opening. Meanwhile, the national presidential debate has turned into a right-wing clown show, with the likes of Gov. Rick Perry and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann suggesting we should eliminate the minimum wage as a way to create the “certainty” that corporations claim they must have before they start hiring again.

The only certainty these so-called leaders are creating is more riches for the few at the expense of the many – further heightening the injustice that is an affront to our nation’s fundamental egalitarian values and a threat to our social unity. As John F. Kennedy put it years ago, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.

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