Thursday, April 2, 2009

Is the NY Times Asking, "Where is Hitler When We Need Him?"

Dave Leonhardt had an interesting piece on the impact of stimulus packages in the Great Depression in yesterday's NY Times.

More than any other country, Germany — Nazi Germany — then set out on a serious stimulus program. The government built up the military, expanded the autobahn, put up stadiums for the 1936 Berlin Olympics and built monuments to the Nazi Party across Munich and Berlin.

The economic benefits of this vast works program never flowed to most workers, because fascism doesn’t look kindly on collective bargaining. But Germany did escape the Great Depression faster than other countries. Corporate profits boomed, and unemployment sank (and not because of slave labor, which didn’t become widespread until later). Harold James, an economic historian, says that the young liberal economists studying under John Maynard Keynes in the 1930s began to debate whether Hitler had solved unemployment.

No sane person enjoys mixing nuance and Nazis, but this bit of economic history has a particular importance this week.

I was particularly taken with, "The economic benefits of this vast works program never flowed to most workers, because fascism doesn’t look kindly on collective bargaining."

Well neither does most of the American political system look kindly on collective bargaining. How about the attack on teacher unionism as the major obstacle to education progress, by the likes of Bill Maher and Nicholas Kristof and by many Democrats?

Remember the anti-strike Taylor Law?

How about Reagan's firing of the air traffic controllers, which opened the floodgates to antilabor sentiment in this country? The Obama administration's waffling on card check, which would restore a semblance of balance between labor and management?

One could claim that a key element in the financial crisis is this imbalance between labor and a powerful corporate oligarchy that basically controls the American government that has lead to the massive disparity in wealth. It was well-known that during the boom years, American workers did not participate in the benefits.

Remember the shouts of "more productivity" in exchange for raises from the likes of Giuliani and Bloomberg?

Take teachers in NYC, who got supposedly big raises, but for longer working hours and more working days, while paying more for health care. We paid beyond the pale for the 2005 contract which stripped teachers of so many seniority rights and created the ATR mess.

Young teachers, especially in charter schools like KIPP are being paid 20% more for 60% more work and with nowhere the same benefits as public school teachers. This is the new model of non-career educators with no families or other serious obligations outside the school door that is being so praised by liberals and conservatives alike.

Arguments that labor has massive power and influence over the American political scene by anti-worker propagandists are a joke.

This Leonhardt point is revealing:
Europe is doing less than the United States, but the gap isn’t huge. It just seems so because European stimulus tends to arrive quietly, from existing safety net programs. In this country, where the safety net is weaker, stimulus comes largely from new laws.

Yes, Virginia, we have a weak safety net.
Weak labor = weak safety net.
Low wage, non-union companies like Walmart and McDonald's, among our largest employers = a population mass that under financial crisis will not be able to afford a Big Mac = global financial meltdown.

Orleans School Board suspends teacher raises, allows larger classes
Cutting teacher salaries in New Orleans can easily occur because they destroyed the union. How will that work out for stimulating the economy? How will the hordes of Teach for America recruits brought in handle that? TFA will encourage them to keep their heads down and think about the kids instead of their livelihoods.

European Workers Rebel as G-20 Looms

At companies, including Caterpillar in France and Visteon in Northern Ireland, workers have occupied offices and detained bosses.
The Christian Science Monitor

America's press generally presents these people as left-wing lunatics, not as angry regular workers. I bet you can't wait to occupy your school and detain your principal and assistant principals.


  1. Hey Norm, you should attend more union meetings. NEA/AFT are crowing about their clout, taking credit for the stimulus spending. If it's not true, you should ask for all that PAC money back.


    Your friendly neighborhood anti-worker propagandist.

  2. Mike
    If you believe the union hype i have some GM stock for you. One thing I have learned is to never believe the union propaganda about how powerful and influential they are when it comes to rank and file teacher interests. But they use their power to do pretty well for themselves.


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