When you’re on the phone this weekend, talking to tech support in India about your product made in China, try to remember that it’s Labor Day in America. The holiday was originally intended to honor the men and women (and, sadly, the children) who labored so hard to build this nation. Now The Day of the Laborers is just another 3-day weekend, the semi-official End of Summer. Like the Ramadan cocktail parties in Brave New World, we tend to drain our commemorations of any real significance.
In addition to your last beach visit and your last BBQ, Labor Day will allow you to shop some AMAZING THREE-DAY SALES, with BLOW-OUT PRICES on crap made by Chinese laborers. Your grille and your beach umbrella come from there, too.
But Labor Day is fun. The only people who hate Labor Day are conservatives. For them, Labor = Communism. They can view society only in Ayn Rand’s false dichotomy of Karl Marx vs. John Galt, of collectivized industry vs. robber-baron capitalism. Yet there is a middle way, where a truly free market coexists alongside a strong social network, and with regulations to protect everyday people from exploitation.
The archetypical image of The Laborer is a posterized factory worker in overalls, short-billed cap, burly biceps below rolled-up sleeves, sledge hammer clutched in raised fist. This icon hearkens back to the era when organized labor fought for and won the fair wages, safe working conditions, and livable retirements they deserved. True, many unions later exploited their power. The Teamsters, for example, is nothing less than a mafia. But no one can deny that labor needed to organize to end its terrible exploitation, or that exploiting workers is a bad thing. No one except libertarians, that is. The fact that school teachers in America are so dependent on their unions and on strikes to get fair pay is a sad, sad indictment of our priorities.
Too much is made of the strife between blue-collar and white-collar workers, when in reality, the two ought enjoy a symbiotic relationship. Both classes work, usually very hard, and both make indispensable contributions to our society. Both should be paid fairly, neither too little nor too much. As someone who has personally done nearly every kind of job imaginable, I appreciate all honest labor.
We all saw the ugly face of “Creative Class” elitism bared during the obama campaign, but I have often encountered the inverse, what I call “blue collar bushido.” Once, in a business office, I overheard two secretaries: “what is it exactly that managers manage? I mean they just sit at their desk all day. We’re the ones who do all the real work — the typing, the filing, the answering of the phones.” Years later, when our start-up was struggling, I suggested to my partner that we ask my dad, a retired senior executive, to oversee some projects. “You and your dad don’t know how to get things done,” she sneered, “you just know how to get people like me and my dad to do the actual work!” (My dad & I can do both, actually.) Blue collar and white collar have coexisted since at least the first city-states. They need each other. The rancor of their rivalry should not exceed that of the annual Army-Navy game.
There’s also a third class, with growing influence in America — a small, elite cadre of financiers, stock market players, business magnates and investors. We could call them “gold collar,” but the term “workers” would be too generous. Or we could refer to them by their technical name: “Tapeworms.” Though but a tiny fraction of the population, these tapeworms possess most of the total wealth. Their lust for wealth consumes their entire existence, so they must constantly acquire more — which they do primarily by exploiting the real workers, blue and white. Even worse, these gold collars don’t actually produce or provide anything to earn their riches. Like the parasites they are, they simply have positioned themselves in the flow and suck it off their host. Meet a few of these tapeworms lurking in our collective gut:
Bill Gates: Rewarded each year with $2,100,000,000 for having once bought DOS for 50 grand off the guy that actually wrote it, then preventing anyone from writing anything else useful;
Warren Buffett: Won $62,000,000,000 gambling on whether other people made or lost money;
Koch Brothers: Reap $100,000,000,000 p/a from coal mining that lays waste to entire counties, kills miners both fast and slow. A slice of their profits is parlayed back into the GW denial industry they single-handedly set up;
Tony Hayward: Collected a $1,600,000 severance package — equal to one year’s salary — plus a $1,000,000 p/a pension for life, for overseeing unethical business practices … oh, and for being the cool-headed, quick-thinking, forceful presence should a crisis ever occur;
Richard Grasso: Director of the NYSE, earned $145,000,000 each year for sending the other parasites home each day by banging a gong. His salary nearly bankrupted the 168-year old Exchange;
Goldman-Sachs: Like a thick ball of heartworms, GS threatens to choke the life out of its host – America. GS hit paydirt — $4,000,000,000 — on the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage bond market which it created. GS amasses mountains of money by shuffling around other people’s money, and by betting that those people will lose their money in one of GS’s schemes. When GS bet wrong, we bailed them out with TARP. GS used our cash to give its executives $1,000,000 bonuses for a job well done.
In ever increasing numbers, these tapeworms are ensconced in senior executive positions. In my father’s day, most business execs worked their tails off doing real managerial work, and were paid fairly and in proper ratio to other positions. Of course, many of them were probably like my dad, a son of blue collar workers and grandson of day laborer immigrants, none of whom ever shirked or loafed a day in their life. Today, the tapeworms at the top of the org charts have no concept of what real work is. Instead, they are masters of office politics, of posturing, of indulging in privilege and cashing in on power. Their business decisions concern only the short-term profit of stockholders — and themselves. The fact that most of them spend all their waking hours at the office says more about their lack of an healthy personal life than their diligence.
One such executive tapeworm is Meg Whitman. Born with a silver spoon in her mouth, famous as the former CEO of eBay, Whitman is running for governor of California on her putative managerial skills. Meg has a plan to create jobs. And Meg actually has a long track record of creating jobs — in India and China, that is. As the California Labor Federation warns in a video, Whitman’s M.O. has been to join a company in a senior position, offshore the jobs of entire departments, make a couple mill’ on the side with insider trades, then move on to the next hatchet job.
In 2002, Whitman also inadvertently axed her own position at eBay. Notorious for hounding and berating her employees, one day Meggers got so upset with the maid … er, senior marketing director, that she shoved the woman to the ground. Whitman left eBay pronto to join that squirming mass of bloodworms, Goldman-Sachs, where she’d already been earning (sic) $475,000 to sit on their board. Proving that, for a tapeworm there’s no conflict of interest when it’s all about your self-interest, Whitman had steered millions of dollars of eBay’s investments to GS. This year, Whitman accepted a $105,000 “thank you” campaign donation from GS. And now she wants to apply her work ethic to California. If Whitman wins, she’ll join a thriving colony of gold collar parasites infesting government. Worms in the gut are debilitating. Worms in the brain are fatal.
So this Labor Day, workers of the world, toast yourselves. And while you’re at it, unite! After all, you’ve got nothing to lose, except your intestinal parasites.
(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’ All rights reserved.
Your first line reminded me of a thought today: I used to deal with Amazon when they started; the staff seemed based out of the Northwest, and the customer support had names I could pronounce. Now, it’s all Indians with names I cannot, who as with HP support first seem to toss back whatever boilerplate I’d already consulted online and had found wanting when it came to solutions. The online runaround, with no real people to contact to get things done.
The offshoring and outsourcing make it hard to find any products we make, and even those that depend on physical contact appear to be doled out to an exploited labor force that gives votes to Dems and profits to GOP. As you wrote recently, we all demand bargains at the 99c store, meanwhile. We’re told that the tradeoff is cheaper produce and complaint menial chores, meanwhile, from the illegal labor force. The underground economy’s often ignored here.
And, we all have heard how we are working harder and longer as the tapeworms invest in software rather than create more jobs for those who are out of work. This vicious cycle of capitalism and power crushes us. I think of how Labor Day was instituted to keep workers calm after the anarchists’ outraged rages.