The Old Equalizers

Posted on December 31, 2010 by

The wealth, income and wage gap in America will continue to widen under President Obama.

In 2008, union activists were fantasizing about an Obama administration committed to a remix of the American economy and a shift in power to the working class.  We weren’t thinking about socialism – god forbid! – just some good old-fashioned collective bargaining.  You know, labor and management fighting it out over the slice of the pie.

But in 2009, we saw a modest measure to reform labor law go up in smoke (EFCA would have made private sector union organizing a bit easier) and a white house barely lifting a finger to save it.

Meanwhile, the unionization rate in the business economy continues to plunge with fewer than one in 14 workers represented; and most Americans identifying the union workforce as privileged government employees who create bureaucratic inefficiencies and pension-driven budget deficits.

Then, of course, there’s health reform which covers  the uninsured, protects those with pre-existing conditions and keeps kids up to 26 in their parents plans.  But it may not control medical costs or stop premium increases.  With court challenges to the individual mandate and house republican show-trials ahead, it’s hard see how this program really levels the economic playing field.

So I can understand how the Bush tax cuts became a last stand among many liberals and progressives.  And despite the fact that the president’s deal with republicans may have been politically smart – enabling success in the lame duck session, boosting his stature and possibly adding a little fuel to the economy – by retaining tax cuts for the rich, Obama basically threw in the towel in the fight for economic equality.

The “old equalizers” – business-sector unions and progressive taxation – are now moving off the grid.

With the Obama administration watching from the sidelines.

Comments (6)


  1. John Connolly says:

    You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning. — even New Year’s morning — to beat LaborLou to the punch! … It’s not even 8 am where I live and Lou’s already posted his first missive of 2011!

    Only one quibble with this well-done post … It’s not very sporting to provide a whole year of depression on Day One!

  2. Gilda says:

    But happy new year anyway

  3. Greg says:

    President Obama has already conceded he will need to be a conservative cheerleader on that sideline if he wants a chance at a second presidential term.
    I don’t look forward to the next frustrating year or two.
    Only if he is re-elected can we “HOPE” for even a half assed lame duck attempt on a remix of the American economy and a shift in power to the working class.

  4. Ernesto says:

    The guy (Obama) is smart and shrewd. What did we expect when he surrounded himself with all of those hedge fund Democrats. And we thought that Emanuell was going to help drive our agenda? Please!

    And even on the legislation that was passed, the Labor movement wasnt really at the table. Labor was going for health care on the premise that it would ease the costs so when we bargain at the table we would be able to put more dollars into our members pockets. When in contract negotiations, health care costs set the tone for all of the economic items, yet we are still back where we were.

    The Labor movement needs to stop being polite and voicing itself in the townhalls and on Main street. We should be defining the issues and spreading the message but instead we have a bunch of angry nativists, anti government angry older mainly Anglo Americans setting the political tone and endangering our future as a whole.

    Lets do what we do best and LEAD our members to the Main street.

  5. Dan says:

    What Ernesto said! We should have put our wish list on Obama’s desk as soon as he was elected. I said prior to the election that Dems weren’t concerned with his blackness, it was his greenness. Surrounding himself with Wall St. insiders didn’t bode well for our agenda. His one true gift: Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor.

  6. Morris says:

    Wow!, this was a top qual­ity post. In the­ory I’d like to write like this too — tak­ing time and real effort to make a good arti­cle… but what can I say… I keep putting it off and never seem to get some­thing done

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