Wisconsin Unions – Are We Asking The Right Questions?

If union collective bargaining is the answer to equalizing wealth in America as Michael Moore asserts, then why are we in economic collapse with deteriorating middle class standards of living?Michael Moore speaks in Wisonsin but did not drive this car over there.

If collective bargaining was the golden ticket to the good life, why are we teetering – one leg dangling – on the edge?

I read an interesting commentary in the Daily Democrat, of Woodland, California that proposed the idea that it was the unequal distribution of wealth in America that caused the Great Depression.  The author asserts that we are reaching comparable levels of inequality today and the fact that such a large amount of the income is earned by people who don’t spend it, we are seeing this economic collapse.

The author sites no sources for these figures but he states that 1% of the population in 1920 was earning 25% of the income and the author asserts that the US is approaching similar levels today.  The most recent data I could find is 2004 in which the top 5% earn 21.8% of the income in the US.  The same report shows that the top 1% hold +34% of the wealth in the country and that the top10% hold >71% of the wealth while the bottom 40% hold <1% of the country’s wealth.

This data is startling to me. The inequality of the distribution of wealth in the country raises a bunch of questions for me. It makes me wonder if Michael Moore and the Unions aren’t asking all the wrong questions, are they making a mistake in using this political movement to merely try to salvage the status quo?  Is there really more at stake for the common man of the middle class?

  1. Freedom – How free are we?  We all know that the government is run by people who are bought and sold by special interests.  We all know that money is what gets things done in our government.  This means that the primary drivers of government policy are the top 10% wealthiest people in the country and nearly half of that influence is wielded by only 1%.  Who are they? What are their positions on issues?  How much are they spending on lobbyists, on non-profits that lobby, on political contributions?
  2. Middle Class– Is the hourglass sand running out on the middle class in this country?  If the middle class was created soley for the purpose of creating a consumer class, has the production of cheap products overseas eliminated the need for a middle class?  Is it possible now to simply have an upper-lower class and achieve the same income levels? Is Walmart forever and always the new model for shoppng for the majority of Americans?
  3. Democracy – Are we really living in a democracy?  Are we?  When Presidential debates are limited to the parties of the established interests, and these established interests are bought and sold by the richest people in the country? Are we reverting back to the European serfdoms that people fled to America to escape?

I’ve thought a lot about the gathering in Madison, Wisconsin where Michael Moore gave his speech.  It had a smack of revolution in it with talk about the “Mubaraks” of America (i.e. the top 1%). Have the monied people of this country overplayed their hand in Wisconsin the way that Moore asserts in his speech? Are we going to see this unrest spread across the country?

I don’t know how a definition of “treating workers fairly” is determined if the changes have to come from the grassroots of America, that being the 40% who own less than 1% of the wealth in the county.  I think so far it’s going to be determined by the wealthy, not by the bottom 40%.

I suspect that these decisions will be made by the wealthiest people then enacted by the government leadership they’ve bought.  Perhaps that’s what is really going on in Wisconsin. How does the government ensure that the middle class survives if the purpose of government is to serve the wealthiest Americans well, and further if the best interests of the wealthiest Americans is no longer a middle class consumer?

Photo Credit – Michal Zacharzewski