Saturday, February 09, 2008

Bob Herbert asks:
The essential question the candidates should be trying to answer — but that is not even being asked very often — is how to create good jobs in the 21st century. Thirty-seven million Americans are poor, and roughly 60 million others are near-poor. (These are people struggling to make it on incomes of $20,000 to $40,000 a year for a family of four.)

The middle class is hardly flourishing. In testimony before a House subcommittee last year, Harley Shaiken, a Berkeley professor who is an expert on labor and employment, remarked: “During a period of robust economic growth, record profits and the fastest sustained productivity increases since the 1950s, only a thin slice at the top of the economic heap is enjoying higher living standards.”
The growth is there. The profits are there. The productivity gains are there. But the ability of workers to get a piece of that has been limited for 25 years.

One approach would be to give labor a stronger position so that it can get more of the productivity gains. To do that, make it easier to unions to form and bargain for those increased profits, and shut out wage-depressing globalization via tariffs.

If labor was so empowered, we would see cost-push inflation, but that may be a necessary byproduct of a new dynamic.


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