Seizing Saddam, Deregulating Americans
by Seth Sandronsky

December 18, 2003

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In America’s big media, the seizure of Saddam Hussein has been spun in step with the Bush White House as a kind of domestic proof for the war on terror, and Iraq invasion and occupation. This official spin has had a large effect on the people of America, a recent NY Times/CBS News Poll found.

“Mr. Bush's approval rating jumped to 58 percent after Mr. Hussein was captured, from 52 percent, and the number of Americans who disapproved of his performance fell to 33 percent, from 40 percent,” the NY Times of Dec. 17 reported. Clearly, the absence of anti-war news and views in the corporate communication system has roused some Americans to accept as legitimate the official version of U.S. foreign policy.

Thus with Hussein imprisoned, the American public is being urged to unite behind President Bush and focus on the future trial of the former Iraqi dictator and U.S. ally. Can America’s working people also unite with the president on workplace issues?

For part of the answer we turn to the labor policies of the Bush administration. Nine months ago the Labor Department moved to take away overtime pay from eight million white-collar workers.

A congressional majority opposed this move. Nevertheless, the Bush administration is still trying to increase the exploitation of eight million Americans.

The official reason for the White House’s attempt to de-regulate labor standards is to keep up with workplace changes. Presumably, the overtime wages of these white-collar workers are damaging their competitiveness in today’s economy.

In Jan., the Senate is set to deliberate the fate of overtime earnings for this sector of the work force. Against that backdrop, deregulation is supposed to enhance efficiency in the marketplace.

Moreover, deregulation has been a force in U.S. politics since Ronald Reagan was president. California’s deregulation of its electricity market is a recent case in point.

In the lexicon flourishing now under Bush, the less regulation of markets the better. Markets by definition are freedom, according to the current mantra.

Who else helps to hammer home that point via big media? Meet the orthodox economists.

They are market-friendly to the bone. Consequently, they are most of the quoted sources in major media reports on work and the economy.

In contrast, heterodox economists are marginalized. For example, the work of Keynes on the role of government to regulate the market is downplayed and drowned out in corporate journalism.

Economists today who question the prevailing wisdom are hard to find in print and electronic media owned by corporations. One must consult independent media and scholarly outlets for exposure to such folks.

Too many Democrats have offered slight variations on the fashionable theme of markets as solutions to whatever ails society. Democratic presidential candidates Dennis J. Kucinich and the Rev. Al Sharpton are two exceptions who prove this rule of political correctness.

To mass media, Kucinich and Sharpton are “liberals”—a kiss of electoral death. Generally, both men put people before profits in their campaign platforms with respect to domestic and foreign policy issues.

Turning from presidential politics back to the workplace, hourly earnings are basically flat in the U.S. The numbers of folks out of a job help to weaken workers’ push for higher wages.

In addition, the price of health insurance is rising. Employers are also making employees bear a bigger share of these costs in America, the highest of any industrialized country in the world.

Working longer hours for less pay partly means more borrowing to maintain current living standards. On that note, American households are becoming more indebted as their personal saving drops, according to Jane D’Arista, an economist with the Financial Markets Center.

Welcome to the new national security.

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at: ssandron@hotmail.com

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