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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Middle Class

MARCH 21, 2011


The left continues to prattle on and on about the “war on the middle class”, which is the label they attach nowadays to any serious discussion of government spending.

For the moment, let’s put aside the rather obvious point that the middle class will be the first to be wiped out if the grown-ups don’t avert the debt-induced economic collapse and currency debasement that looms. Instead, let’s visit a country where the pro-labor policies our American unionists demand have already been in place for 80 years.

This nation’s Federal Labor Law was enacted in 1932. It sets not only basic minimum wage, but a different minimum wage for each general category of employment, flexed upwards to account for education and regional cost of living disparities. Salaries must be increased annually at a minimum set by law. Take that, Scott Walker!

For every six days of work, employees get one paid day of rest. Overtime at double pay must be paid for exceeding any 8 hour shift, not just a weekly total. No one can work more than 9 hours of overtime in a week. Screw you, Chris Christie!

Every worker is guaranteed a minimum of 6 days of vacation when hired, and 2 days are added for each year worked up to five. Employees get 25% premium added to their pay while on vacation. 7 mandatory holidays, with triple time pays if worked. How do you like me now, Jerry Brown, you hippie traitor!

There is mandatory severance pay for both termination and resignation – three months plus additional 20 days for each year employed. And the fired employee is entitled to sue for reinstatement at the employer’s expense; the law presumes wrongful termination unless the employer can prove otherwise. Talk to the clenched fist, Rand Paul!

Employers must fund employees’ personal retirement accounts, as well as provide housing allowance, annual bonus, government health care contributions, and other benefits totaling 29% of base salary. Plus profit sharing at 10% of earnings must be paid to workers, with management excluded. Eat it, lousy Koch Brothers!

Labor unions must be recognized if just 20% of the workforce registers. Collective bargaining agreements are negotiated between the employer’s representative and the representative of the national union every two years. Holy Card Check, Batman, only 20%? Wait until the other occasional dishwashers hear about this…

The entrenched national unions all back one political party, a democrat-socialist party which has held serve for 72 of the 80 years since these pro-labor laws were enacted. The politicians are pro-union, the judges are pro-union, the government is pro-union and the law itself is pro-union. Dude, where’s my passport?

Can you guess this land of union plenty and middle-class abundance? Mexico!  So when you see all those public union workers protesting in American state capitals, here is the translation of their war-chant: “hey, hey, ho, ho, let’s be just like Mex-i-co!”

After 80 years of the unionist stacked-deck, oil-rich Mexico’s nominal per-capita GDP is just $9,423 ranking it 64th, just behind rioting-as-we-speak Libya and economic juggernaut Uruguay. Eight decades of living the union dream has produced a living standard less than 1/5 of its union-busting, worker-be-damned Gringo neighbor to the north. Much worse, actually, because $25 billion of Mexico’s income is remittances sent home from the millions of Mexicans working union-free in the United States.

The richest man in the world is Mexican, while 40% of his countrymen live in poverty. Mexico’s income gap is greater than ours; so too its urban/rural disparity. Mexico’s middle class – and this is all about the middle class, remember - is ¼ the size of ours, proportional to population.

So why haven’t 80 years of union privilege, strict labor laws, single party rule, and mandated wealth redistribution brought prosperity to Mexico? For the same reason they won’t here and never have anywhere else ever - you can’t redistribute skill.

Celine Dion is wealthy because she has a beautiful voice and has worked insanely hard her whole life to perfect her act. While the state can force her to share her earnings with me, it can’t make that sound come out of my mouth.

For me to get paid more than my singing is worth, she must be paid less than hers is worth. That is the simple zero-sum arithmetic of socialism; and it works the same for masons, teachers, engineers, accountants, plumbers, store clerks, managers, and machinists, too.

And what does Ms. Dion do when she is paid less than she is worth? She quits singing, and we both get poorer. Figuratively speaking, Mexico’s 80 years of pro-labor, anti-business politics has created a land of bad singers; ditto for Greece, Detroit and the Milwaukee Public School district, where even the Principals are unionized.

If tough labor laws, pro-union government, and wealth redistribution were the pathway to prosperity, then it would be Mexico building that wall on our southern border, not us. Skills, not union propaganda, are the pathway to the middle class; too bad our children are only getting the latter in the classroom these days.

“Moment Of Clarity” is a weekly commentary by Libertarian writer and speaker Tim Nerenz, Ph.D.  Visit Tim’s website www.timnerenz.comto find your moment and order his new book, “Tooth Fairy Government.”

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