FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Do the Poor Cheer for the Rich?

Evidence that things are far, far worse than we ever dreamed can be seen in John Q. Public’s resentment of labor unions.  Twenty-five years ago people who argued with me (and I had these arguments every day) about the contributions of organized labor used to maintain that unions were “bad” because they were either (1) too anti-democratic and dictatorial, or (2) too “corrupt” (i.e., mobbed up or otherwise “crooked”)

But that was the extent of it.  No one suggested that unions weren’t beneficial, or that they weren’t devoted to the interests of working people or, considering the stark alternatives, that they weren’t, in fact, “necessary.”  Rather, their gripes were confined to the procedural, to the way unions were governed.  Or to be more accurate, to the way they perceived unions to be governed (because, in truth, people often confused “corruption” with simple laziness and inefficiency).

But that’s all changed.  While you still hear the occasional grumbling directed toward “corrupt union bosses,” what people complain about today it that labor unions are “elitist.”  It’s true.  Shocking as that may seem, America’s working people actually use the E-word when referring to other working people—to people who, by virtue of a union contract, have managed to stay above water, who’ve managed to retain decent wages and benefits, and haven’t fallen victim to the biggest money grab since the Gilded Age.

At first I thought this attitude was simply a manifestation of petty jealousy or schadenfreude.  But the more I hear, the more I’m convinced the public honestly believes that working people who feel they’re entitled to decent wages and benefits see themselves as being somehow “above the rest of us,” and should, therefore, be knocked down a peg or two.  Instead of a union contract serving as a model for the rest of us—something to raise our standard of living—they see it as an insult, a humiliation.

When I try to explain that without unions maintaining decent wages and benefits, we’re all subject to the inevitable downward pull of market forces, which, given our surplus of labor, means that many of us will not only remain stagnated but will slide inexorably toward the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour (which, incidentally, the Republicans find too generous and wish to abolish), people bristle.

They bristle when they hear this.  For one thing, they seem to trust unconditionally the restorative powers of the so-called Free Market.  They honestly believe the rich won’t be motivated to exploit the rest of us, because, without explaining the specifics, such a thing would be “counterproductive.”  For another, when you use the innocuous phrase “surplus of labor,” some people will scream, “that’s what Karl Marx said!!”

Not to sound defeatist, but maybe the one-percent has already won this thing.  With the poor now cheering for the rich, the plutocrats’ wildest and most ambitious fantasies have been realized.  Not only have the rich succeeded in convincing workers to root against labor unions—the one and only institution dedicated to their welfare—they’ve convinced them to fight for the interests of the wealthy rather than the interests of their own tribe.

Holy Mother of Jesus, this makes no sense.  And it’s not simply politics.  It transcends political ideology and voter booth privacy.  Rooting for the rich is crazy.  It’s not only illogical and impractical, it’s unnatural.  Indeed, it’s tantamount to the chicken population of the United States naming Colonel Sanders its “Man of the Year.”

DAVID MACARAY, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor”), was a former union rep.   He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman - TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail