ROSE NOLEN: Younger generations need to remember importance of unions

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 9:47 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Many people who were formerly members of labor unions are pretty upset about the latest assault on unions by the governor of Wisconsin and some members of that state's legislature. Unfortunately, those who do not know the history of the labor union movement cannot fully understand what work was like in this country before labor unions.

These people believe there have always been an eight-hour workday and a 40-hour workweek, and it all came about by the generosity of employers. It is understandable that many people age 50 or younger genuinely do not understand what the ruckus is about. They never learned in school about child labor in America and how, at one time in our history, school-aged children had to go to work to help support their families. They have no knowledge about the long, hard fight that workers had to wage in this country to get decent conditions and benefits in the workplace. They have never had to walk picket lines to get a raise in pay.

Unfortunately, it is traditional in America that after battles have been fought and won and issues settled, they are relegated to the past and the country moves on. Our education fails to teach us so many important lessons learned in our past, which is why we so often find ourselves fighting the same battles over and over again. For example, some young women don't have any idea today how difficult the fight was to gain the right to vote.

I can tell you that, after being a longtime union member, I was absolutely shocked when I applied for employment in a nonunion workplace and was told I could be fired for discussing my wages with another employee. It took me a while to realize that this meant that people doing the same work were not paid the same wages. You see, that's one of the things that does not happen when people are members of a union.

But because union membership has declined steadily since the 1970s, many people have already forgotten the advantages that were secured through collective bargaining. I suppose people think things like pensions and rights to health care were bestowed upon workers by the generosity of their employers. I would dare say that individual workers would not enjoy most of the benefits they have today had it not been for social reformers and labor organizers. It was labor lobbyists like Nelson Cruikshank who helped usher in things like Social Security and Medicare insurance benefits for workers, as well as Social Security disability benefits for those unable to work.

Anyone who has studied the labor union movement realizes the tremendous impact it had on the lives and fortunes of the working class. Some companies could hardly wait for unions to go away so that they could do away with pension plans and substitute 401(k) plans, which originally were meant as supplemental to one's pension. Labor unions were formed to protect employees from employers who were more concerned with their bottom lines than the safety and well-being of the people that did their work.

But from the earliest days of their existence, unions have faced opposition. So when the carmakers were having financial problems recently it was not surprising to hear some people quickly blame the unions, accusing them of breaking the backs of the automobile companies by demanding overly generous benefits. And the government has been used countless times to support employers in their various efforts to break strikes and drive out union organizers.

Certainly there were some unions that were corrupt. People like Jimmy Hoffa were responsible for giving the labor union movement a bad name. But the good deeds that were performed by the movement far outweighed its imperfections. And one thing is for sure: It wasn't unions that put people out of work by sending the jobs to other countries.

Stripping people of their rights to collective bargaining is just one more attack on the middle class. Since it has happened in Wisconsin, residents of other states need to be on the lookout.

Don't turn your back.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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Mark Flakne March 15, 2011 | 6:59 a.m.

Younger generations need to remember importance of the horse and buggy. Yes, they've been replaced by automobiles with internal combustion engines, but that doesn't mean they are not still viable. Forget about horse manure in the streets and city zoning that doesn't allow for horses. We need our horse's and buggies or we are doomed to revert back to the days before the wheel was invented. Prepare yourselves to live in a cave if the horse and buggy is not preserved as a mode of transportation. The Amish are the real heroes.

It's the same argument.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 15, 2011 | 8:24 a.m.

This is not a one-shoe-fits all situation. Unions such as the United Mine Workers of America and the United Steel Workers of America and the auto workers bargain with private businesses, who must in order to stay in business make consistent profits and must also answer to stockholders.

Most unions who have dealt with private sector firms understand that they cannot ask for things the employer really can't afford. That often ends up with loss of jobs.

Who is the ultimate "owner" where public service employee unions are concerned? Is it the school district, a state agency or a governor? NO, it's the taxpayers - meaning virtually ALL of us! School districts, municipalities, states and the federal government are non-profit organizations (the federal government is the epitome of a non-profit organization!) but they cannot run up ever larger increases in taxes, and except for the federal government they cannot run up ever larger debt.
I do not favor "union busting," but we need to bring some sanity to this situation.

[As I've posited before, I believe that John L. Lewis (UMWofA) was a great American. My belief probably makes me a traitor to my profession.]

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frank christian March 15, 2011 | 9:17 a.m.

Ellis - John L was always shown as a bad guy in my youthful take of current events, so I read up a little after your first post,"John L. Lewis (UMWofA) was a great American."

He willingly accepted the Communists in his efforts to "organize" and struck repeatedly during WW2, knowing the action was detrimental to that effort. This smacks of a villain to me,a "great American" to you?

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Ellis Smith March 15, 2011 | 10:48 a.m.

John L. Lewis did something that few if any labor leaders - and probably NO politicions, of any stripe - would dare do. When it became apparent that new, more productive machinery for underground mining would be available, rather than fight a retrograde action to delay the inevitable John negotiated contracts with mine owners to bring in the equipment and train miners to use it.

This resulted in fewer jobs for miners*, but it did result in higher wages for the remaining miners as well as better working conditions. Underground mining is no picnic under the best of conditions.

John F. Kennedy was a womanizer, but some folks think JFK was a great American. They certainly may be correct. :)

*-How many union leaders voluntarily downsize their membership?

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o michael KAMALO March 15, 2011 | 11:24 a.m.

I retired from Qwest communications last year however I am
still a member of CWA 7019.AFL/CIO
If we didn't have the union, our highest paid technicians
would still be earning $12 per hour.
As of 2009 we were earning $29.85 per hour with united healthcare/dental/eyecare and $10. prescriptions.
OUR UNION BARGAINED for evertthing we wanted and got it.

It wasn't easy as we were in a right-to-work state (Arizona)

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield March 15, 2011 | 12:03 p.m.

"It took me awhile to realize that this meant that people doing the same work were not paid the same wages. You see, that's one of the things that does not happen when people are members of a union."

The person doing a better job should get a higher wage. Would the union allow that? If not, why put in the extra effort when you can make the same money doing the bare minimum?

@ o michael KAMALO: Maybe that's why Qwest has spent the past decade-plus floundering and why it's spent so much on software dev in India rather than the U.S. I wonder what CenturyLink will do to the CWA and IBEW once the acquisition is complete.

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Mark Foecking March 15, 2011 | 12:04 p.m.

o michael KAMALO wrote:

"If we didn't have the union, our highest paid technicians
would still be earning $12 per hour."

Why do you think so? Don't you think that if Qwest had trouble retaining good people they'd raise wages and benefits?


(Report Comment)
Tony Robertson March 15, 2011 | 12:14 p.m.

Ellis Smith is spot-on. He should be writing guest commentary for the Missourian. This is what I have been saying all along, that there is a distinction between public-sector and private-sector unions.

The most mouth-foaming supporters of the Wisconsin 14, and the Madison protesters, conveniently ignore or dodge this reasoning. It just doesn't fit with the mantra of modern "progressivism".

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Jack Hamm March 15, 2011 | 12:30 p.m.
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Ellis Smith March 15, 2011 | 12:35 p.m.

Thank you, Tony, but I think the idea of my writing a column for this newspaper is not a good idea (and I wouldn't be the least offended if the Missourian staff holds the same opinion). For one thing, as more than a few readers of both the Missourian and the Tribune will attest, I am highly prejudiced as regards certain aspects of our University of Missouri System. (System? What system? Where is there a system?).

My saving grace is that I will ADMIT that I am biased. I am probably the only biased person on this forum. :)

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Mark Foecking March 15, 2011 | 12:51 p.m.

Jack Hamm linked:


Without a reason given to think that one caused the other, this comparison doesn't mean a whole lot.

A large part of the reason why manufacturing has gone to Asia is the high wages in unionized industries. Many industries have closed, and many others employ fewer people. This would both serve to decrease middle class incomes and decrease union membership. But one did not cause the other - they're consequences of the global free market. China's building the right stuff at the right prices, and we aren't.

The alternative is a protectionist trade policy (tariffs and quotas) that would create some jobs, but raise prices for manufactured goods. There's no good solution.


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Jack Hamm March 15, 2011 | 1:25 p.m.

@ DK

If your reasoning was correct the country with one of the highest union participation rates and highest average wage rates (Germany) would not be the world's most efficient economy and the second largest exporter of goods in the world. We wish we had their manufacturing base (and they are not making the cheap crap they make in China) yet we take the exact opposite approach to achieving the same economic goals and then wonder why we are still struggling and the middle class is shrinking while they are well out of the recession and booming.

You know why an ultra expensive workforce like Germany's stays employed? They are the best workers on the planet. They are constantly being trained and educated and they are compensated well because of their productivity and efficiency. They achieve this because businesses and unions work together instead of against each other. On the other hand you have the US where corporations are doing everything they can to destroy the power of workers while the government (both Regressives and most Democrats) are actively helping them. In the end it will end up hurting all of us.

I left the graph with nothing else for a reason; so people would think about it for themselves instead of letting me think for them (I know the Fox news crowd is not big on thinking for themselves but it was worth a shot).

DK, your mistake is comparing us to China. We are not even close to the same type of economy and we are not competing for the same industries/jobs etc. We passed on the jobs and industries that we grew past and then failed to pick up anything new. We should be comparing ourselves to other first world nations that share common goals and problems. Countries like Germany, Holland, England, Australia that will go through the same economic conditions we will and have the same goals and the same political structures will provide a much better comparison tool.

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Mark Foecking March 15, 2011 | 2:50 p.m.

Jack, I agree that we should be looking toward the kind of economy that Europe has (we don't have a lot of choice anymore), but understand that they have the tariffs and quotas that I was talking about in my post above. The result is a significantly higher cost of living.

It's also generally harder to get a good job in Europe (and almost impossible if you're an immigrant), although once you have one it's generally easier to keep it.

BTW, Europe's economic performance isn't anywhere near that of China's in terms of GDP growth. Neither is ours. Unfortunately, our whole economy is based on growth rather than quality of life, but this is what most of our leaders (and voters) seem to want.

Union organizers seem to think that high wages do not somehow translate into high prices. If we're willing to accept the higher prices for more domestic manufacturing, then we can adopt policy that will help do this (at the cost of a lot of good will from our largest creditors in Asia). However, I'm not sure how many people would be happy with the results (more erosion of the purchasing power of the middle class).


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Paul Allaire March 15, 2011 | 3:07 p.m.

They will curtail your supplies of big screens!!!

(and then you will have to watch nascar of the radio)

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Mark Foecking March 15, 2011 | 3:16 p.m.

I don't have a big screen, Paul, and I don't watch NASCAR. But a heck of a lot of people do. Those people are likely to also have big houses and cars, and a lot of other expenses, AKA the American Dream. In Europe, those things are considerably more expensive (and their big screen TV's are made in China also).

There's no good solution. My solution is to downsize the American Dream (we'll have to sooner or later), but as you can imagine, that isn't going to be a popular one.


(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm March 15, 2011 | 3:24 p.m.



"Unfortunately, our whole economy is based on growth rather than quality of life, but this is what most of our leaders (and voters) seem to want."

This is the truest comment I have read in awhile and could not agree more. I would only add that most voters are so ignorant of the basic workings of economics that they have no idea what they want or how to get there. I can’t tell you how many times I have read economic arguments, one of the most complicated disciplines in science, that came from people who cannot write in complete sentences (Frank Christian is a prime example). I will start to care what the average person thinks about our economy when they average person stops showing such disdain for education and intelligence.

The cost of living argument I cannot agree with. When people analyze this they always do so with an American mindset. They argue gas is so much more expensive etc. You don't need a car and thus don't need gas in Germany; here it is considered a necessity there it is considered a luxury. If you look at food prices In Germany compared to New York State or California they are almost identical (same goes for housing). The differences in prices stem from differences in preference sets. The average German spends the same on food and housing and spends less than the average American on transportation, health care and education (compared to US states similar to Germany). Cost of living indexes across different cultures are meaningless.

"BTW, Europe's economic performance isn't anywhere near that of China's in terms of GDP growth. Neither is ours."

That is because China is still an emerging economy whereas the US and EU nations are well past that stage. The US experienced very high growth rates for long periods of time while it was becoming a fully industrialized country. Eventually China's growth rates will slow down too; growth rates that high are unsustainable. Diminishing marginal returns are bound to set in some time.

(Report Comment)
Jack Hamm March 15, 2011 | 3:34 p.m.

“Union organizers seem to think that high wages do not somehow translate into high prices. If we're willing to accept the higher prices for more domestic manufacturing, then we can adopt policy that will help do this (at the cost of a lot of good will from our largest creditors in Asia). “

Higher wages do not always translate to higher prices; that depends on the elasticity of demand for the product in question. It could just as easily lead to lower profits/return on capital. Also, lower prices are rather insignificant when you are unemployed or underemployed. I would rather have an income with high prices than no income or very little income with relatively lower prices.

Quotas and tariffs are not how Germany protects its manufacturing sector. They do it through two very innovative ways. First, labor unions and corporations made agreements to seat workers (union members) of the boards of the corporations giving them direct votes (makes it A LOT harder to move those jobs overseas) and it gives the workers are more invested feeling with the company and more information on its inner workings; making it easier for management to convey their position and thus increases the ease of labor bargaining. The other tool they use is lending policies (helped significantly by their domestic savings rate). Regional banks in Germany can ONLY lend to businesses within their region. On the other hand you have the US where a large chunk of our capital is sent overseas to help foreign economies grow. This is a two part problem for the US. First, US citizens need to lay off the credit cards and start saving money. Second, US banks and venture capitalist need to start investing here at home.

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frank christian March 15, 2011 | 4:18 p.m.

Jack Hamm - I was wondering if bo4whateveritwas was around here. I believe I've found him. He thought he was the great economist of the world and when had no answer criticized my sentence structure also. I have to get back to Gerri Willis on Fox Business Channel right now, but, I'll get back to you.

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Jack Hamm March 15, 2011 | 4:48 p.m.


I am not "bo4whateveritwas"; whoever/whatever that is. It is nice to see though that you are capable of writing in complete sentences as proved by your last post; you should try it more often. It allows people to actually understand what you are trying to say instead of your usual tactic of throwing Fox news talking points out rambled together with nonsense. Of course as a progressive I should not be shocked that a regressive like yourself is anti intellectual/education

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Jimmy Dick March 15, 2011 | 5:04 p.m.

The issue of labor and business concerns a balance. When the balance is in accord both sides benefit. I laugh when I see people gripe about high priced items made in the US when they buy stuff like overpriced tennis shoes made in Vietnam or China. Germany succeeds because the relationship between business and government works to the benefit of the state and people. China's relationship works to the benefit of state and business at the expense of the people.
I really don't think we tax profit enough in this country. Most countries have a higher business tax rate which encourages business spending. A lot of nations with low tax rates are Third World nations which only do it to get foreign money into their country. That money doesn't flow to the people. It flows to the leaders, the elite of that state. Africa is a good example of how that works.
Japan had an extremely high tax rate and their industries soared for decades. The US had a 91% tax rate on the wealthy during the 1950's and things went great.
When President Reagan lowered the tax rate down in the early 80's you saw the debt skyrocket. It doesn't take a lot of math to figure out that you can't fight the debt with a low tax base. It didn't work. It hasn't worked. Business will succeed. We just need to work on getting a bood balance.

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frank christian March 15, 2011 | 6:02 p.m.

Jack Hamm - I accept that you are not bo4.... I'll believe it when I note you no longer use sentences such as "I will start to care what the average person thinks about our economy when they average person stops showing such disdain for education and intelligence."

Why, with your eloquent promotion of unionism, did you not mention that it is on the decline in Germany and across EU? Actually Germany is fourth in UE with 27% union membership.

Their unemployment has been up to 12%, 2006 while ours was 4%+ into 2007. If they laid off as our employers are allowed to do,(they use short work, 4 day work week, 85% of 5th paid by gov't) no telling how high it would be since their figures include only totally unemployed people. I understand that this does not compute with you, since as do most libs, you are only concerned with positive numbers that a Government can post, not the contentment of its citizens. More on Germany and unions,

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John Schultz March 15, 2011 | 6:17 p.m.

Jimmy, if by "most countries have a higher business tax rate" you mean corporate tax rate, you are very incorrect. The US now has the highest corporate tax rate after Japan recently reduced theirs by five points:

Jack, I'm a bit confused on why investors and banks should only lend in the US and how you should enforce it. Does the government own the money somehow, or are you going to write a law that makes it illegal for me to invest in overseas countries?

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frank christian March 15, 2011 | 7:02 p.m.

Jimmy is also wrong about the effect of the 90% tax rate of the 50's. J Kennedy spoke of the lack of revenue produced by that rate and the money being sucked from our economy because of it. He knew that "lower rates" would produce more revenue for the gov't. His cuts, again, produced that effect, as they have every time tried.

When Reagan cut taxes, revenue to gov't nearly doubled. He could not, tho he fought, control the spending of Tip O'Neal and the D' Congress. (If you want more about Reagans fight for a balanced budget, just ask.)

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Tony Robertson March 15, 2011 | 7:43 p.m.

I don't buy the premise that our economy has changed because unions are weaker. I think it's the other way around - unions are weaker because our economy has changed. Unions have been strongest historically in manufacturing, construction, mining - vocations that have typically required a certain skilled workforce, often working in more dangerous conditions, where employers could exploit them.

I have said time and again - I see value and purpose in private-sector unions. I have problems with the way public-sector unions' bargaining process works, as Ellis Smith mentioned, above.

I think there is a significant slice of the American electorate who feel this way. They don't tow the line "Die Union Scum", like Jack Hamm's linked cartoon says, but they don't tow the Democratic line of a union is a union, either.

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Jack Hamm March 15, 2011 | 7:44 p.m.

@ John

In Germany they have what they call Sparkhassen (saving banks) which are mostly municipally owned banks that lend to medium and small businesses in their region. They operate a lot like our Credit Unions do; they are just owned by cities. I see know reason why they have to be owned by a government body here in the US. I think credit unions can serve the purpose just fine.

The point is not that we need to legislate this; it is that we need to do it on the individual level. We can not legislate people into better budgeting and saving skills and we can not tell them what bank to put their money in. In Germany people decide to put their money in the Sparkasse because they know that it will be invested in their community instead of gambled in a capital market.

I am not saying we should do exactly what the Germans are doing; we are a different nation with different issues but I feel like our current course our government and our society are going in is the opposite of the way we should be going. The middle class is what drives a capitalist democratic economy. The middle class provides the demand that gives incentive for investment. Yet we continue to do things that hurt the middle class and make are country less prepared for the future. It boggles the mind.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush March 15, 2011 | 7:57 p.m.

Well said, Rose. Labor contracts are not obsolete. Anyone who has been exploited by an employer knows the total vulnerability of being at the whim of an unstable supervisor. The hidden tyrants are revealed when democracy "threatens" a workplace.

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frank christian March 15, 2011 | 8:50 p.m.

Jack Hamm - Perhaps you should speak with John Boehner about local banks.

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Tony Robertson March 15, 2011 | 10:37 p.m.

Just curious: do any of the self-styled "progressive" commenters have any input on the distinction (if you recognize any) between private and public sector unions?

i.e., Between unions of employees of a major corporate entity, and of a governmental entity?

If so, I would like to read it. If not, why not?

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Tony Robertson March 15, 2011 | 10:43 p.m.

As a point of clarification, and to not unduly offend anyone, I should explain why I so often put quotes around the term "progressive".

It is because I believe, that not every "progressive" actually fosters progress, just as not every "conservative" fosters conservation, and not every "liberal" fosters liberty.

Quite the contrary, in all three cases.

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Ellis Smith March 16, 2011 | 7:30 a.m.

@ Tony:

Our economy has changed and is continuing to change for multiple reasons.

One reason why old line industrial unions have lost membership is that the industries they served have been downsized, OR technological changes have reduced the number of workers required. The other serious reason is exportation of entire industries and therefore jobs.

An excellent example of technological change (for an industry which is still viable in this country) is the steel industry. The basic oxygen process and continuous casting of steel have made it possible for a relatively small steel mill ("minimill") to produce significant quantities of steel with a much smaller work force.

Interestingly, the technology originated almost entirely in Europe, not here.

Try putting advanced technology "back in the box" (like Pandora's box) - you can't!

White collar jobs like telephone customer service have already been outsourced to India, etc. by private sector firms. How long will it be before our states do the same? Frankly, I find that "Almitra" in New Delhi speaks better English and is far more courteous than some Americans.

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Jimmy Dick March 16, 2011 | 12:35 p.m.

It would be difficult to be wrong. Since I do not subscribe to the Ludwig Von Mises school of economic thought like the Reaganomics lovers do it comes down to a matter of opinion and seeing how the numbers are massaged by the economic spinners. I am a strong proponent of Keynesian economics. The lowering the tax rate only shifted the balance of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class. Part of the so called great influx of tax income to the fed came from increased payroll taxes as well as the elimination of tax deductions for the middle class.
Note that under the Clinton administration tax revenue went up dramatically due to a tax increase on the wealthy. Note that Clinton had a balanced budget and lowered the deficit.
Don't blame Tip and the 80's Democrats for their spending. Remember, the Republicans had control of the Senate and Ronnie blew plenty of money on things. His basic principles of reining in government never happened. At the end of his run real wages had decreased for American workers. Reagan increased the government debt by a tremendous amount due to his taxation and spending policies. That the simple truth of the Reagan era.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 16, 2011 | 12:45 p.m.

Jimmy, Clinton's budget raised taxes not just on "the rich" but on incomes all the way down to $30,000. (Even in today's dollars, that amount still would be solidly middle class.) Do you know why nearly 50% of taxpayers today pay no federal income taxes and in many cases get a check instead? Because Bush Jr. signed tax cuts that 1) were across ALL brackets and 2) increased giveaways such as the EITC and child-care credit.

It's unsustainable -- financially and morally -- to have a system where so many people aren't paying their fair share.

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Paul Allaire March 16, 2011 | 12:57 p.m.

That sounds like something you would expect to hear from a union organizer.

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Jimmy Dick March 16, 2011 | 1:26 p.m.

That 50% doesn't have the money to pay more taxes. That's the group that doesn't have the money to save because they're busy using all of their earnings to live while they usually can't get ahead. They're paying a large tax burden through all the myriad forms of taxes that exist in this world. Taxing them would just hurt them and result in less money being put into this economy while rewarding the group of people that generally spend less of their money as a percentage of income.
Taxing the rich is the system that works. It worked in the past. It's worked throughout all of history. When the rich are not taxed sufficiently the nation states suffer from internal issues resulting from a large deficit like we have now. Cutting taxes will not help eliminate the deficit. You can only cut the government spending so much. I do agree that it can be cut, but to eliminate a lot of the waste means consolidation at a national level for many programs which the individual states refuse to allow. No solution for that.

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frank christian March 16, 2011 | 6:06 p.m.

Jimmy Dick - You need some remedial reading to show you some reality. Is it that difficult to understand that Keynesian spending is the cause of where we stand today? Please don't post we should be spending more.

"That 50% doesn't have the money to pay more taxes." You need to get out and meet a few of them. They have color TV, two or three autos and nearly free health care.(can argue that next if you wish).

"When the rich are not taxed sufficiently the nation states suffer from internal issues resulting from a large deficit like we have now." The deficit we have now on this course is going to be the deficit as far as the eye can see, and beyond. Many sources have said that our rich, literally, don't have enough money to pay for these deficits. One has stated that "all the money from the Forbes 500 would not get us out of the hole, This Year!" This from Nat'l Review is the quickest source I have.

Hope you can get a grasp of where we are really at with our country.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 16, 2011 | 7:05 p.m.

Jimmy, Frank summed it up perfectly. People who aren't carrying their weight should humble themselves before those who do instead of whining to politicians, "Give me more of his/her money!"

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Paul Allaire March 16, 2011 | 7:36 p.m.

I bet that you would have to include fRANK in your list of people who need to humble themselves. Anyone who can demonstrate his level of senility is most certainly taking up your hard earned social security taxes!!!

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Jimmy Dick March 16, 2011 | 8:01 p.m.

I think Frank Christian and Jimmy Bearfield need to get out of their glass houses and go meet the people of Missouri who work for a living. You both obviously have no clue of how the world works. I have no idea why you think taxing the people who pull in 25% of this nation's income (that's 1% of the population) is a bad idea other than the old mantra that says raising taxes is bad. The rich have plenty of money to be taxed. The poor don't. The middle class doesn't. So obviously you tax the rich.
Keynes was right on his economic theories. They've worked well. The Ludwig Von Mises economic theories haven't. They've resulted in massive debts. Too bad the right tries to deflect that fact with their shady numbers. Look up the Great Depression to see what had to be done to get out of it. Taxing the rich was one, not the only one, but one of the major ways to alleviate the problem. Spending money was also one of the ways to fight the Depression. If you can't open the books and see the facts, then stop wasting time trying to spread a theory that tax cuts will cut the deficit. They won't do much good and as we've seen over the last 30 years the real wages of working Americans have declined as a result of those Reaganomics.

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frank christian March 16, 2011 | 8:16 p.m.

Jimmy Dick - You are on another planet. Sorry I bothered. Why do you suppose EU is curtailing spending? Because it has been so successful for them? Greece was only approved for IMF loans if they privatize their "corrupt" universal health care system.

"Keynes was right on his economic theories. They've worked well." They have never worked anywhere on earth, except of course, for those targeted few whom receive the money.

It occurs to me that you are trying to pull someones leg. Even Jack Hamm is not this ill informed.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 16, 2011 | 8:39 p.m.

@ Paul: A month or so ago, I asked you several times how much you make. I'm still waiting. In lieu of that, how about sharing what you pay in federal income taxes?

@ Jimmy: What makes you think I don't work for a living? I scrubbed toilets, built circuit breakers, flipped burgers and stuffed newspapers, among other things, throughout high school, college and grad school so I could have a career doing something that I enjoy while making six figures. Those unwilling to work as hard as I have should quit whining that they can't afford what they want. You also should know that if my taxes go up, I'll simply work less. That means you'll have to pay more to fund the world you want.

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Jimmy Dick March 16, 2011 | 9:44 p.m.

And there we see just where the problem lies. Due to social mobility people don't want to raise taxes because they think they will be raising them on themselves. I'm busting my butt to make good money as well, but I also know that only by taxing the rich can we solve this situation. If you want to work less, than that's your choice to live that lifestyle.
And yes, Keynes was right. It has worked. Reaganomics did not work. Keynes's theories were proven correct. The Reagon economic team tried to take credit for Keynes's work. The recovery from Reagan's recession was cyclical in nature thus disproving the theory that tax cuts and supply side economics was responsible for the recovery.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 16, 2011 | 9:52 p.m.

Jimmy, here's why it's bad to tax the rich more - they'll freaking move, they have the resources to do so unlike the rest of us schlubs. It sured worked well for Maryland, didn't it?

At some point, both you liberals and conservatives are both going to have to get rid of your pet programs and realize that government is going to have to get smaller.

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Ellis Smith March 17, 2011 | 6:12 a.m.

@ John Schultz:

Downsize the federal government? When pigs can fly!

Well, it's the same with higher education: a surprising number of people seem to equate growth in enrollment at public institutions to improved quality of education. Gee! If that also worked for private higher education then University of Phoenix should be this nation's academic giant, and Park University should be Missouri's academic giant.

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Mark Foecking March 17, 2011 | 8:36 a.m.

Jimmy Dick wrote:

"Look up the Great Depression to see what had to be done to get out of it"

It was called World War II, and it also involved our government going into considerable debt. However, when it was over, and the US had the world's largest and most active industrial base, we paid that debt down very rapidly. We no longer have such a favorable industrial base.


(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield March 17, 2011 | 8:55 a.m.

Jimmy, "taxing the rich" often backfires. For example, the AMT was created to target only a few hundred of the wealthiest. Now it hits tens of millions of middle-class Americans, too. One-quarter of them have AGIs under $200,000. The AMT shows why it's a mistake to assume that advocating that the government put its hand deeper in someone else's pocket will mean it won't go deeper into yours, too.

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Ellis Smith March 17, 2011 | 9:39 a.m.

Some of us were actually alive during the Great Depression. Mark is correct: it is universally agreed by historians and economists that it took World War II to finally eliminate the effects of the Great Depression.

This does NOT mean the New Deal was a failure. Some things done were laudatory. One was the Glass-Stiegel Act, which regulated how financial institutions could operate. The "gutting" of Glass-Stiegel's provisions is what allowed the savings & loan fiasco and the more recent financial meltdown, from which we are still feeling the effects.

The Wagner Labor Relations Act opened the door to successful union organizing, but unions had to fight in the mining, steel and automobile industries to achieve recognition. It was no cake walk, and people actually died. (Also, and it's interesting in the light of whose column we're addressing, some unions in that era were as racist as they come.)

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frank christian March 17, 2011 | 10:17 a.m.

Jimmy Dick - Your posts are close to funny, but not at all entertaining. What does this tell anybody?

"And yes, Keynes was right. It has worked. Reaganomics did not work. Keynes's theories were proven correct. The Reagon economic team tried to take credit for Keynes's work. The recovery from Reagan's recession was cyclical in nature thus disproving the theory that tax cuts and supply side economics was responsible for the recovery."

Write again and with words "proven" and "disproving" bring along a little "proof".

It's hard to leave "Reagan's recession" unchallenged. The country was in recession with "stagflation" the day Reagan was elected.

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frank christian March 17, 2011 | 10:45 a.m.

Ellis - The New Deal authorized the expense for several programs that are deemed beneficial as were the laws you mention, but New Deal had been in place 7 years before 12/7/41 and believe few would state we were not still in depression then.

In reading up on "depression", this jumped right out at me.

"After a few months, Roosevelt terminated the CWA," Could this be the last and only Democrat program that has ever been terminated?

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Jimmy Dick March 17, 2011 | 11:20 a.m.

An Economic Legend
Published: June 11, 2004

In the movie ''The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,'' a reporter defends prettifying history: ''This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.'' That principle has informed many of this week's Reagan retrospectives. But let's not be bullied into accepting the right-wing legend about Reaganomics.

Here's a sample version of the legend: according to a recent article in The Washington Times, Ronald Reagan ''crushed inflation along with left-wing Keynesian economics and launched the longest economic expansion in U.S. history.'' Actually, the 1982-90 economic expansion ranks third, after 1991-2001 and 1961-69 -- but even that comparison overstates the degree of real economic success.

The secret of the long climb after 1982 was the economic plunge that preceded it. By the end of 1982 the U.S. economy was deeply depressed, with the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. So there was plenty of room to grow before the economy returned to anything like full employment.

The depressed economy in 1982 also explains ''Morning in America,'' the economic boom of 1983 and 1984. You see, rapid growth is normal when an economy is bouncing back from a deep slump. (Last year, Argentina's economy grew more than 8 percent.)

And the economic expansion under President Reagan did not validate his economic doctrine. His supply-side advisers didn't promise a one-time growth spurt as the economy emerged from recession; they promised, but failed to deliver, a sustained acceleration in economic growth.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick March 17, 2011 | 11:21 a.m.

Inflation did come down sharply on Mr. Reagan's watch: it was running at 12 percent when he took office, but was only 4.5 percent when he left. But this victory came at a heavy price. For much of the Reagan era, the economy suffered from very high unemployment. Despite the rapid growth of 1983 and 1984, over the whole of the Reagan administration the unemployment rate averaged a very uncomfortable 7.5 percent.

In other words, it all played out just as ''left-wing Keynesian economics'' predicted.

In the late 1970's most economists believed that eliminating the high inflation then prevailing in the United States would require inflicting a lot of pain: the economy would have to go through an extended period of high unemployment and depressed output. Once the inflation had been wrung out of the system, the unemployment rate could go back down. And that's exactly what happened. In fact, it's instructive to put a graph showing the actual track of unemployment and inflation during the 1980's next to a figure from a 1978-vintage textbook showing a hypothetical disinflation scenario; the two look almost identical.

Ronald Reagan didn't decide to inflict that pain. The architect of America's great disinflation was Paul Volcker, the Fed chairman. In fact, Mr. Volcker began the process in 1979, when he adopted the tight monetary policy that caused that record unemployment rate. He was also mainly responsible for the recovery that followed: it was his decision to loosen up on the money supply in the summer of 1982 that set the stage for the rebound a few months later.

There was, in short, nothing magical about the Reagan economy. The United States did, eventually, experience an economic miracle -- but not until Bill Clinton's second term. Only then did the economy achieve a combination of rapid growth, low unemployment and quiescent inflation that confounded the conventional economic wisdom. (I'm aware, by the way, that this plain statement of fact will generate an avalanche of angry mail. Irrational Clinton hatred remains a powerful force in American life.)

It's a measure of how desperate the faithful are to believe in the Reagan legend that one often reads conservative commentators claiming that the Clinton-era miracle was the result of Mr. Reagan's policies, and indeed vindicated them. Think about it: Mr. Reagan passed his big tax cut right at the beginning of his presidency, and mainly raised taxes thereafter. So we're supposed to

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Dick March 17, 2011 | 11:21 a.m.

believe that a tax cut passed in 1981 was somehow responsible for an economic miracle that didn't materialize until around 1997. Apply the same timing to the good things that happened on Mr. Reagan's watch, and you'll discover that Lyndon Johnson deserves the credit for ''Morning in America.''

So here's my plea: let's honor Mr. Reagan for his real achievements, not dishonor him -- and mislead the nation -- with false claims about his economic record.

Citation for this is as follows:

Krugman, Paul. "An Economic Legend." In New York Times June 11, 2004 March 17, 2011).

There's your "proven and disproving" in the words of one of America's premier economists. Look up Paul Krugman if you have other questions.

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J Karl Miller March 17, 2011 | 11:43 a.m.

Ellis..Why would your opinions and biases render you unnacceptable as a columnist for the Missourian? I am hardly considered mainstream by by the paper nor by much of the online bystanders. Jump right in--the water, if not fine, is always amusing.

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frank christian March 17, 2011 | 12:54 p.m.

Jimmy Dick - I might have known. I ask for proof and you give me Krugman, he history revisionists, revisionist.

"The secret of the long climb after 1982 was the economic plunge that preceded it." He is writing about the Carter Admin., here.

"The depressed economy in 1982 also explains ''Morning in America,'' the economic boom of 1983 and 1984. You see, rapid growth is normal when an economy is bouncing back from a deep slump. Do you wonder why he can't even mention the Abnormal across the board (for all)tax cuts Reagan signed after a one vote passage in the D' controlled House?

"Ronald Reagan didn't decide to inflict that pain. The architect of America's great disinflation was Paul Volcker, the Fed chairman." Who else could manipulate interest rates up to slow the economy down, but someone from the Fed? Volker stopped Carters inflation, Reagan kept it in check by Borrowing rather than printing money to pay for the excess spending of O'Neal and the D's. You, liberals, and I'm sure Krugman, now accuse Reagan of creating the "deficits of the 80's.

I note Krugman did mention Reagan tax cuts, that created 19M good paying jobs and nearly doubled the governments take of the wealth created, offhandedly in his false reference to B. Clinton.

"The United States did, eventually, experience an economic miracle -- but not until Bill Clinton's second term." Clinton's "deficit reduction" plan had been in effect two years, when R's and Gingrich took control of Congress. The Tax payers Relief Act and Balanced Budget Acts of 1997 which Clinton finally and reluctantly signed, created the tax cuts and control of spending that led to 4 years of balanced budgets and a 490B$ reduction in our nat'l debt.

That a liar like Krugman is the mouth of liberalism in this country shows where you are at. I don't want to be there.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 17, 2011 | 1:31 p.m.

"I ask for proof and you give me Krugman, he history revisionists, revisionist."

Could you make a video of yourself reading, emphatically, that sentence?

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Jimmy Dick March 17, 2011 | 2:00 p.m.

Why am I not surprised that when an economic expert like Paul Krugman is quoted you would get upset? Sorry that objectivity and reality get in the way of your view of the world.
By the way, history is always in the process of revision because it needs to be revised when the truth is revealed. The opinion of some that the truth is inconvenient is usually noted by the constant mantra that history shouldn't be revised. If it's wrong it needs to be written correctly. We write using the facts. Sorry that your opinion isn't supported by facts.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 17, 2011 | 2:50 p.m.

Krugman advocates a 5% federal VAT -- an amount he describes as "modest" -- on top of existing sales and income taxes. But those of you who agree don't have to wait. Instead, you can send the extra money immediately at Why wait for Congress to force you to put your money where your mouth is?

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frank christian March 17, 2011 | 3:53 p.m.

Jimmy Dick - Sorry that objectivity and reality get in the way of your view of the world." "We write using the facts."

In writing with both you "experts", I am the only one that has furnished any thing close to objectivity and reality and the recorded facts I've presented,expose the omissions and error from your mentor, P. Krugman. Do you ever attempt to verify his information? The answer has to be NO.

(Report Comment)

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