Wages Under Attack | Letters | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Wages Under Attack 

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The vast majority of us are engaged in a war we never hear nor read about. It never makes the evening news, daily papers or talk radio. We witness it every day in the form of rising prices, stagnant pay, layoffs, work-hour reductions and loss of pensions. We see it in the form of greater numbers of chronically sick and untreated people, in food banks with empty shelves. It goes unnamed, but it’s the “War on Wages” (WOW), and we are losing—nay, we have lost. It is clearly class warfare waged by the ever-richer 1 percent. Lest thou believeth I rant unjustly, read further.

I know a man, a high school graduate, Class of 1947. Right out of high school, he got a job at a local lime quarry, separating the valuable (back then) snow-white lime from the common black and gray dolomite. Not a glamorous job, not a mentally stressful job, but certainly classified as “industrial production.” His starting pay was $7.50 an hour with time and a half for overtime (41 hours or more) in 1947 dollars. He was a wealthy guy.

Sixty-five years later, another person I know recently got a job at a vinyl-fence production plant. This, too, is an “industrial production” job. His pay: $8 an hour in 2012 dollars and only part time! Taking into account all of the factors contributing to the loss of purchasing power in 65 years, he is working for nearly nothing. One need not hold a master’s in business douchery to realize that had the 1947 wage kept pace with just inflation alone, that current $8 an hour would be substantially more. Clearly, the WOW is a success for someone, just not this guy or many of us.

And what are the solutions to a dwindling middle class and increasing poverty from Washington? Just this Orwellian plan outlined in this document “Spend Less, Owe Less, Grow the Economy,” released by the GOP members of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. It recommends reducing the number of public workers and their compensation, justifying this with this contemptuous gem: “The effects of this will ripple into the private sector in the form of lower wages. A smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering wages.” This paper should be renamed “Earn Less, Own Less and Hopefully Die.”

Surely, the economy will rebound with even more poor people not spending money they don’t have. Such is the wisdom in Washington. It is obvious that their goals are not job creation and greater prosperity but the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich—prosperity for them, and austerity, even impoverished squalor, for us. And unbelievably, these super villains find support from the very people they have impoverished and will continue to impoverish.

Clee Paul Ames

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