I've said it before, but you can't cut workers' wages and benefits -- and generally destabilize their lives six ways from Sunday -- at the same time that you slash the social safety net. That's simply uncouth.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to oppose anything that might help American workers get ahead -- unions, a robust safety net, minimum wage hikes -- and then blame those workers for not earning enough money to pay federal income taxes (never mind all the other taxes they do pay). You can't have it both ways! You can't upend people's lives through corporate takeovers and then call the downsized "irresponsible." You can't sow market chaos through deregulation and scoff at the small business owner who can't survive the downturn. The disconnect is astounding. But such is the power of ideology.
As if we needed any further proof that trickle-down economics is a joke, along comes massively-profitable Caterpillar's decision to freeze the wages of its Joliet, IL factory workers from now until the cows come home, and then some. Meanwhile, the compensation for Cat CEO Douglas Oberhelman shot up 60% in 2011, to $16.9 million. It's not like the workers were being lavishly paid, either; the top tier had average salaries of $55,000 before overtime.
Unfortunately, I can't boycott Cat, as I won't exactly be in the market for a knuckleboom loader anytime soon.
You would think at some point, conservatives would wake up to the fact that workers can't buy stuff without money. I mean, you can't keep stomping the crap out of the middle class and expect awesome economic growth. That's magical thinking -- a phenomenon not uncommon among Republicans, granted.
I realize creative destruction happens when technology changes, and to some extent it's inevitable. (The kind of "creative" destruction Romney practiced at Bain: not so good.) But some people become cheerleaders for economic disruption without the appropriate amount of empathy for affected workers, and that annoys me.
If you think the pundit in the cartoon bears a passing resemblance to Thomas Friedman, I won't argue with you. Friedman isn't as empathy-challenged as they come, but he's pretty bad. He endlessly fantasizes about retraining Americans to be high-tech imagineers, even though our current unemployment woes are broad-based, not structural.
"In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle... Average is over," he wrote in a recent tone-deaf column that glowingly referred to the above-average workers in China who were roused in the middle of the night to work a 12-hour shift installing iPhone screens. Aside from his apparent lack of concern that such labor conditions totally suck, it's kind of haughty to imply that the unemployed are suffering from a case of averageness. There are plenty of highly-educated Americans who can't find jobs -- never mind the fact that many jobs out there barely utilize your education. If we are to dismiss the average or subpar, then perhaps Friedman's column should be the first to go.
If I only had a dollar for the number of times someone has accused me of hating the rich or wanting to punish success, I'd be a card-carrying member of the 1%. OK, I exaggerate slightly. But it's simply not true that that's where I'm coming from, nor is that the motivation behind OWS.
A couple weeks ago, the NYT published an article interviewing several wealthy people who had grumbly things to say about the Occupy movement. The quote that stuck in my mind was one from Adam Katz, the founder and CEO of private jet service Talon Air.
To many, 99 vs. 1 was an artificial distinction that overlooked hard work and moral character. "It shouldn’t be relevant," said Mr. Katz , who said he both creates jobs and contributes to charitable causes. "I’m not hurting anyone. I’m helping a lot of people."
It may well be the case that Mr. Katz is a decent person who's done a lot of good. But I find myself wondering: how does he vote? Does he support politicians who make it harder for ordinary people to be successful like him? Who appoint Supreme Court justices who seem hell-bent on creating plutocracy? Does he have any concern at all about our Gilded Age levels of inequality? Does he support the carried interest tax break that allows Mitt Romney to pay only a 13.9% income tax rate? These policies, and the arrogance, rationalizations, and excessive self-congratulation that lead to them are the things I hate. Not the rich. (Props, by the way, to the Patriotic Millionaires.)
Out of curiosity, I did a little digging about Katz's political contributions. According to this site, things ain't lookin' good.
I assume most people have heard about Mitt Romney's dog-on-car incident, especially now that even Newt Gingrich is attacking him over it, but to recap briefly: back in the '80s, Mitt stowed the family pooch in a carrier on the roof of the family station wagon for the duration of a 12-hour drive to Ontario. After several hours, the dog, an Irish Setter named Seamus, developed gastric distress that made itself evident on the windows of the station wagon. Mitt stopped at a gas station to hose down the dog and the car, and continued on his merry way, Seamus still riding aloft.
As I drew Mitt's bus, I got to thinking about the Romney campaign logo. I find the symbolism of these things fascinating. The Romney logo divides the "R" into red, white and blue stripes. It sort of looks like three people standing in a row, or an abstractly-shaped waving flag. But what I see most is an R within an R within an R: the rich protecting the rich protecting the rich.
I swore I wasn't going to do another Occupy Wall Street cartoon since I've done so many of them lately, but I couldn't help myself. I find that there's much to say about the Occupy movement and surrounding issues, while I don't have many exciting insights yet about the Republican candidate-buffoons beyond pointing out that they are, in fact, buffoons. I'm sure they will inspire cartoons as the race heats up.
I feel this one violates my policy of trying to show rather than tell, but it makes a point about something that's been driving me nuts. (See related cartoon from 2007, "The Mental Welfare State," about people too lazy to pull their brains up by their bootstraps.)