Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michigan and Blaming The Victim

My heart goes out to Michigan workers tonight. But really my heart goes out to each and every person I know. I say this because I think without some serious organization, we're not leaving the world a better place for our kids.

Too many times, we blame the wrong people for our problems. We blame unions when jobs get shipped overseas. If only those workers hadn't asked for more money! We blame the unemployed when they can't get jobs. Usually we cite new TVs or household appliances as proof. If only those jerks would sell all their possessions before asking for help! I lost my job earlier this year, applied for unemployment, but sadly never considered selling the Playstation3 I purchased 5 years prior to losing my job. Was I supposed to do that? Apparently, yes. If you are on government assistance, you need to live like a hermit until a job lands in your lap. My guess is we'd criticize an unemployed person for owning an interview suit if we knew he had one.

This infighting is insane. How many times, holding a recall petition for the governor, was I screamed at by a guy who obviously works for a living and is probably getting screwed on his health insurance (if he even has insurance to begin with)? How many times have I seen a facebook post decrying bank bailouts and poor black people in the same breath?

News flash: we're all getting screwed. Wages for the lower and middle class continue to decline. Wages for upper income brackets continue to rise. The stock market is going gangbusters since the crash. Has your life gotten better as a result? Over here, we're considering ourselves lucky to have jobs at all.

And yet here again in Michigan, I see repeated demonization of the very people who have sustained its principle industry.  It's the most terrible thing in the world to have the members of the United Autoworkers union - the guys who actually build your car - have something resembling minor control over the money their company makes. The workers actually get to bargain for a percentage of GM and Ford profits. Why is this such a problem again?

In reality we know why it's a problem. It's a problem because somewhere, a CEO or a group of stockholders fear that the people they employ will actually ask for a reasonable percentage of the money they are making for the company. They might ask for the opportunity to live a life without fear of a healthcare related bankruptcy. They might ask to share in the profits when the company does well. They certainly get to experience the pain when the company fails. Why not experience the bliss when your group succeeds?  Or at least a temporary respite from the economic stranglehold?

I spent the better part of two years working with my friends to take Wisconsin back from a party representing an out-of-control business sector, and collectively, we failed. We failed to convince enough voters that their economic livelihood may be at stake. We failed, and honestly it's still a tough pill to swallow.

Scott Walker promised us jobs if we acquiesced to the captains of industry and agreed to their terms. Unfortunately, this strategy has failed us. The only thing he's done so far is waste and/or bilk money out of taxpayer coffers, giving more of it to the haves, and less of it to the have-nots. The solution to all of our economic woes as a working class is apparently just to roll over and agree to work longer hours for less money, at the risk of losing everything the first time we get sick.

When will this stop? I don't know. But quite frankly, tonight, I'm tired of being optimistic. That ship has sailed.