Magazine article Insight on the News

The Politics of Anger

Magazine article Insight on the News

The Politics of Anger

Article excerpt

Byline: James P. Lucier, INSIGHT

It was all so traditional. "Gentlemen, start your engines!" demanded President George W. Bush at the start of the 46th running of the Daytona 500. The command was issued not only to the NASCAR drivers but also to the 200,000 cheering NASCAR dads and sons gathered at the "World Center of Racing," not to mention the 75 million fans clustered in a very attractive election demographic.

But the president's opponents already had jumped the green flag. Their engines had accelerated from a full throaty roar to a high-pitched whine. Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry dismissed the event as a photo opportunity. "We need a president who says, 'America, let's start our economy and put people back to work,'" sniffed the senator from Massachusetts.

Kerry's own photo opportunity took place at midweek, in front of the national AFL-CIO headquarters, a block from the White House. "The issue is jobs," said the Democrats' No. 1 job seeker. The mesomorphic union oligarchs agreed that Kerry was their man. "John Kerry has a 92 percent rating on the AFL-CIO legislative index," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney proudly.

It has been a long time since early UAW-CIO organizer and later president Walter P. Reuther signed letters to his comrades with the hopeful valedictory, "Yours for a Soviet America," and since then the unionized workforce has sunk to only 12.9 percent of total U.S. workers. Yet hope springs eternal in the breasts of today's neo-collectivists that collective bargaining and the collection of union dues by mandatory checkoff somehow can create good jobs without disadvantaging the other 87 percent of working citizens.

It is ironic that union clout in major industries has created a burden of financial overhead that, along with high taxes, has encouraged the very outsourcing of jobs to India and China much decried by Kerry and his cohorts. Speaking before the National Governors Association a few days later, National Association of Manufacturers Chairman Richard Dauch said, "Foreign competition makes it impossible for us to raise prices to keep pace with escalating domestic production costs. External overhead costs of taxes, health and pension benefits, tort litigation, regulation and rising energy prices add 22.4 percent to the price of U.S. production relative to our foreign competitors." What Dauch didn't say, perhaps in deference to his politically mixed venue, was that U.S. corporate taxes alone are the highest in the world approaching 34 percent and are a major incentive pushing corporations in the thick of global competition to relocate their tax addresses to havens abroad.

Kerry's remedy for job loss is the meditative repetition of the mantra, "No tax cuts for the rich," and, paradoxically, a proposal of tax credits for presumably rich investors in alternative energy to create jobs.

Unfortunately, he was a day late and a paycheck short in expressing his concern for manufacturing job loss. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, the downturn in manufacturing jobs began its decline in August 1998 under President Bill Clinton. The BLS data show that between that fateful month in 1998 and the end of the Clinton administration, 471,000 manufacturing jobs were lost steadily, with nary an uptick. But despite the triple whammy of corporate scandals (most involving criminal activity that took place under, but was never caught by, Clinton regulators), the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the strength of the U.S. economy remained quite different in fact than it is presented by the fabulous rhetoric now being splashed across the Democratic hustings.

After Bush took office, manufacturing jobs continued their relentless decline throughout the months of uncertainty as business managers wondered what was coming next. Yet even the lowest point of industrial production including manufacturing, mining, gas and electricity during the Bush administration was higher than the levels during the first 76 months of the Clinton administration (see graph). …

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