Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss


           So the Republicans blinked on the “fiscal cliff!” It didn’t take a brain surgeon to see that coming once big business let it be known that playing around with the country’s credit rating was biting the hand that feeds them.

Dickensian budget-slashers turned into fawning lambs overnight when subtly warned that they might need their coffers refilled for the 2014 mid-term elections.

            A little reminder from the Democratic National Committee that it already had a score or more of House Republicans in their electoral cross hairs and guess what? Unrepentant deficit warriors like South Carolina’s Rep. Mick Mulvaney (didn’t he used to play hurling for Kilkenny?) was tripping over himself to sound like a cuddlesome pragmatist.

            Money talks, as they say, and you know what the rest does. The Tea Party experiment is over. Though initially useful and somewhat rustically charming, it proved way too unaccommodating for our brave new interconnected commercial universe.

            Besides, big business belatedly realized that Barack Obama wasn’t Joe Stalin. Sure, he upped income tax rates a hair but he only raised the far more important capital and investment gains taxes to 20%. Now that’s change Wall Street can really believe in!

            Differentiating the forest from the trees has never been hard in this country – just watch where the money is. Right now it’s firmly in the hands of corporate America. Profits have never been higher despite the fact that we’re emerging from the severest financial downturn since the great Depression.

The good times are coming! Everything is pointing towards a solid economic recovery. Inflation is steady, interest rates infinitesimal, new energy fields sprouting nationwide, and holy of holies, productivity is stratospheric while labor costs are at their relative lowest since before World War II. Time for some real money making!

            As for you, Mr. & Ms. Wage and Salary earner, when was the last time you dared ask for a raise? The fear of God has been well and truly put into the whole labor force –are you really going to risk losing your job by being singled out as a profit spoiler, especially with the world and his mother breathing down your neck, resume in hand.

            Not to mention, that with so many lay-offs, you’ve been picking up slack all over the joint: staying late, going the extra mile; hey, your weekends are barely your own – and don’t you dare turn that cell phone off!

            This is the new America. Forget about collective bargaining, you’re on your own, amigo! What’s a union anyway, a bunch of Commies that messes up profits? Trickle-down rules! As long as the guys upstairs are doing well, their crumbs will slide off the table and be gobbled up by the steadily growing percentile of those barely getting by.

            The odd thing is we should already be in better times. Corporations are sitting on vast amounts of cash that could have been invested in expanding the work force and granting wage and salary increases to those who held on through eight bad Bush years and the four disastrous ones he left Obama to clean up.

            The real craziness is that, in the midst of all the corporate accumulation, stockholders have been iced too. Take Apple, the richest company in history with phenomenal profits and massive cash reserves, they’ve paid out a total of two dividends in seventeen years – and still offer employee entry pay of $11.81 per hour, all the while off-shoring jobs – and profits - as if Americans had the plague.

            These omnipotent corporate heads have even managed to subvert good old capitalism. Ever been to a company annual general meeting? No? Well, you’ll be relieved to know that stockholders can vote on practically anything - except the pay-packages of executives.

            But perhaps I’m being insensitive: after all, these plutocrats will need all their bonuses to re-finance their favorite Super-Pacs, what with the mid-term elections only 21 months away.

            So, dance to your daddy, you Republican politicians. Obstructionist Tea Party days are over. The age of ignorance and Sarah Palin are yesterday’s news. The boss is back! But then he never really went away, did he?

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