I’m short on time at the moment, so I won’t add a lot to the attached op-ed piece by Reuters columnist Chrystia Freeland, except to add that America’s leaders would be wise to pay attention. The growing unrest in Madison, Wisconsin and other state capitals is also “all about jobs.” Unemployment in the U.S. and the accompanying downward pressure on wages and benefits of those still employed is at an intolerable level. It wouldn’t take much for these demonstrations to spread, expand and potentially turn ugly.
What I find fascinating in these rebellions is how powerless these authoritarian regimes are when the population unites against them, and how quickly other authoritarian leaders take steps to improve the standard of living of their own people out of fear of the same thing happening to them. That’s the missing ingredient for American workers. We’re not united. Our political and business leaders have successfully played us against each other. Those who have lost their jobs and have had their wages and benefits slashed turn to those who haven’t and ask, “why should they be any different?” “Cut theirs too!” Instead, we should unite to demand that all of us enjoy decent wages, benefits and pensions. But we have no common enemy – no dictator to blame. Just wait a couple of years. The regime changes automatically and whatever party is currently out of power can simply promise a better day. By the time we realize that day isn’t coming, the next regime change is only two years away. Just be patient – again.
While Middle Eastern nations are beset by dictatorships and authoritarian rule, Americans are saddled with the benign neglect of care-taker, seat-warmer “leaders” parading through a revolving door, putting in their time and collecting their fat pensions, while the nation slowly crumbles.
Imagine what would happen if American workers stopped squabbling with each other and joined forces to demand jobs and real change. Again, American leaders had better take notice of what’s happening in the rest of the world and acknowledge that it’s not impossible for it to happen here. China’s leaders “get it.” Ours had better not be too complacent.