15 November 2013

This is how the middle class dies, not with a bang, but a forced squeeze.

This is how the middle class dies, not with a bang, but a forced squeeze.

After a global corporation posts record profits, it asks the state that has long nurtured its growth for the nation’s biggest single tax break, and then tells the people who make its products that their pension plan will be frozen, their benefits slashed, their pay raises meager. Take it or we leave. And everyone caves.

Well, almost everyone. All went according to script as the Boeing Company showed what to expect in a grim future for a diminished class -- the vanishing American factory worker. The threats were issued, the tax giveaways approved, the political leaders warned of the need to buckle to Boeing.

This didn’t happen in a broken town with a broken industrial heart. It took place in one of the most prosperous metropolitan areas on the planet -- Seattle -- home to Starbucks, Costco, Microsoft, Nordstrom and Amazon.com, which is on its way to becoming the world’s largest retailer.

But then came the final item, a vote of the people who actually assemble the planes. By a 2-1 margin on Wednesday, the machinists of Puget Sound told Boeing to stuff it. With this act of economic suicide, the state could lose up to 56,000 jobs on the new 777X plane. Cue your metaphor -- the Alamo, Custer’s Last Stand, Braveheart.

The events of the last few days show the utter bankruptcy of economic policy prescriptions offered by both political parties. You want tax breaks and deregulation -- the Republican mantra? The $8.7 billion granted Boeing this week is the largest single state-tax giveaway in the nation’s history. It wasn’t enough. You want government training for schools and highly skilled workers -- the Democratic alternative? There was plenty of that, to Boeing’s liking, in the package.

Read the full article at The New York Times

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