May 3, 2004
Business profits are booming. The headlines told the story: "Exceeded analysts' expectations." "Profits doubled over last year." "Operating profit up 65%."
The corporations have been coining much of their increased profit from productivity increases. Recent productivity gains have hit nearly 5%. What does that mean on the job? It means that the boss uses 95 workers to produce what 100 workers produced before. The faster pace of work has its inevitable effect on workers' health and life spans. The very lifeblood of workers is coined into profits that come out "better than expected."
And what fate for the laid off, the unemployed? There is no work. The average time spent between losing one job and finding another is now 5 months. Five months without a paycheck, helped out only by limited and diminishing unemployment benefits, means for most people the loss of everything they own. Workers' savings, homes, cars disappear – while more profits appear on companies' balance sheets.
For those laid off who do find a new job, rarely does it pay as much as the job they lost. Workers pay more for health care and get less. And ever more workers have no health coverage at all. For those still with some coverage, co-pays go up, while there are more and more restrictions on prescriptions and plans. There is less choice of doctors. Fewer kinds of care are covered – and then covered for a shorter time. All the while, profit soars for drug companies and the medical industries.
The wealthy are getting a lot of practice in taking away from workers to pad their bottom lines. In every facet of our lives, the wealthy class is taking away from whatever the working class has, and booking it as profit.
Many more workers cannot find any sort of work, and fall into the last options: the military, or the street. In the military, workers find their very lives put on the line to ensure the profits of companies like ExxonMobil, protecting its oil supply. In the street, what awaits but poverty, drugs, crime, prison – a hard and short life in this, the very richest and productive country on Earth. The social safety net has all but disappeared.
Every tax-supported service is in decline. Public schools eliminate art, gym, and band; crowd more kids into fewer classrooms with fewer teachers; make do with ancient textbooks and outdated equipment. Water and sewer bills rise while outdated systems break down more often, polluting the water supply, fouling beaches. City streets, residential lighting, garbage collection, bus service, are widespread jokes.
There's supposedly no money for upgrades, nor for social services, nor education. But any company that wants a tax break can get one. Any time. It goes right on their bottom line – as do the taxes they don't bother to pay. By the latest figures, two out of three corporations pay no taxes at all.
Everywhere in this society, the ground that is slipping from beneath workers' feet is reappearing as a mountain of profit in the hands of those who are already spectacularly rich. When workers seek to recover what we have lost, we will not have to look very far to find it.