In this New York Times column this morning the Nobel Laureate in Economics takes apart the one percent and the Republican party in how they view - and talk about - work. Starting with remarks by Paul Ryan on "the dignity of work" Krugman lays out the framework in this paragraph:
It’s all very well to talk in the abstract about the dignity of work, but to suggest that workers can have equal dignity despite huge inequality in pay is just silly. In 2012, the top 40 hedge fund managers and traders were paid a combined $16.7 billion, equivalent to the wages of 400,000 ordinary workers. Given that kind of disparity, can anyone really believe in the equal dignity of work?The heart of his column is found in three paragraphs:
Think about it: Has anything done as much to enhance the dignity of American seniors, to rescue them from the penury and dependence that were once so common among the elderly, as Social Security and Medicare? Inside the Beltway, fiscal scolds have turned “entitlements” into a bad word, but it’s precisely the fact that Americans are entitled to collect Social Security and be covered by Medicare, no questions asked, that makes these programs so empowering and liberating.That's all I will quote from this magnificent, must read column.
Conversely, the drive by conservatives to dismantle much of the social safety net, to replace it with minimal programs and private charity, is, in effect, an effort to strip away the dignity of lower-income workers.
And it’s something else: an assault on their freedom.
Below the fold just a very few words of my own.
The attitude of too many with wealth and in the other party is that people should be grateful for whatever they are paid. Thus they argue
- for continuing the ridiculous tipped-minimum wage
- for a lower minimum wage for teenagers
- for so-called right-to-work laws to prevent workers from organizing for fair compensation
- against application of work rules that protect workers environmentally
- against application of labor laws that require overtime and weekend/holiday differential
- against being required to provide health insurance for their workforce
- against paid family/medical leave
- for the right to consider all workers "at will"
- against the right of public workers to "tenure" of any kind
- for lower tax rates for passively earned income - capital gains, profits from hedge funds
(the so-called carried interest provision)
- against raising the cap on income subject to Social Security taxes
- for cutting the benefits available under Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid
- against the earned income tax credit
Please tell me where a single one of these provisions upholds the idea of the dignity of work?
For those of us who are teachers, whose work should be considered as important as any in this country, they want to take away our freedom, our professional judgment, our right to bargain collectively, cut our pay, charge us more for our medical insurance - in no way do any of these represent an affirmation of the dignity of our work
Krugman tells us that we should, if we believe in the dignity of work, celebrate Obamacare.
That's in his final paragraph.
But let me stretch fair use and end with his penultimate paragraph, since I have actually quoted so little:
The truth is that if you really care about the dignity and freedom of American workers, you should favor more, not fewer, entitlements, a stronger, not weaker, social safety net.Yep.