Home > Oz Politics, World Events > Anti-americanism redux

Anti-americanism redux

November 25th, 2005

Following the recent discussion here of critics of US foreign policy being labelled as anti-American, I saw a snippet in the Fin (subscription required) in which the Wall Street Journal (also subscription required) applied the same epithet to anyone critical of US labour market institutions and their outcomes, even extending this to former PM Bob Hawke, about as prominent a supporter of the US alliance as you could find, though, like many others, a critic of the Iraq war. The relevant quote

Even Labor leaders who have previously been strong supporters of the alliance have not hesitated to stir anti-US prejudices this time. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke warned that making it easier for workers to negotiate wages directly either their employers would be “a move down the path to” horror of horrors “an Americanisation of labour relations

Unfortunately, my efforts to find the full piece have been unsuccessful – I assume it’s behind the paywall somewhere. I’d appreciate it it anyone could supply the full text.

I’d be interested to know, for example, whether the WSJ has extended its net to catch that notorious anti-American, John Howard, who has warned against taking the “American path” in relation to gun laws and tort litigation.

In the meantime, let me offer the hypothesis that lots of American workers share the “anti-American prejudice” that they would rather have a union on their side than enjoy the benefits of direct “negotiation” with employers. For example, this Gallup Poll reports that 38 per cent of Americans would like to see unions have more influence, as against 30 per cent who would prefer less. And I’ll guess that the WSJ itself would be happy enough to endorse Howard’s anti-Americanism, at least as far as tort law is concerned.

Update Thanks to several readers, the full column is over the fold

Australia’s Labor Reforms
November 22, 2005

From the death of that most cherished of Australian traditions — the weekend barbeque — to couples divorcing and a rise in the homicide rate, no scare story is too far-fetched for die-hard opponents of labor reform down under.

Trade unions brought hundreds of thousands onto the streets of major Australian cities last week in the biggest protests the country has seen in seven years. And their Labor Party backers were quick to warn of all manner of dire consequences if Prime Minister John Howard succeeds in reforming Australia’s outdated labor laws.

Never far below the surface, the anti-Americanism of Sydney’s left — still furious at Mr. Howard’s resolute support over Iraq — is back with a vengeance in this latest battle. Even Labor leaders who had previously been strong supporters of the alliance have not hesitated to stir anti-U.S. prejudices this time. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke warned that making it easier for workers to negotiate wages directly with their employers would be a “move down the path to” — horror of horror — “an Americanization of labor relations.”

Such rhetoric belies the modest nature of the Howard government’s proposals. Even if its Work Choices Bill is enacted, all Australian workers will continue to enjoy generous labor protection — including an A$12.75 (US$9.30) minimum hourly wage, four weeks annual holiday, and a year’s unpaid leave for new parents.

What will change is a belated recognition that labor union protections, aside from infringing on human liberties, are obsolete in today’s Australia. Two decades of economic reform (much of it initiated under Mr. Hawke’s leadership) has produced a entrepreneurial economy where one in ten are self-employed and union membership has fallen to less than a quarter of the workforce.

You wouldn’t know that from Australia’s labor laws, which still ban employers from negotiating directly with their employees, unless they match the wages and conditions set by state-run arbitration bodies for workers in that industry across Australia as a whole. Remove that restriction, as the Howard government is finally proposing to do, and you remove one of the main reasons stopping union membership from plummeting even faster. Other reforms would further reduce union power by insisting that strike votes or other industrial action require secret ballots, and simplifying the maze of more than 100 laws currently governing industrial relations.

Hence the scare stories, and the ferocity of the counter-offensive by the union movement and its Labor allies. They represent an Australia of old battling for its political survival. Having already been dealt a blow by Mr. Howard’s reelection with an increased majority last year, and a swing in his favor among the blue-collar workers who were once Labor’s staunchest supporters, they know how much is at stake.

For all last week’s street protests, the chances are they will fail again. The Howard government’s parliamentary majority all but ensures the bill will be enacted. And modern Australia has shown through its voting habits, and changing employment patterns, an understanding of how true job security comes not through restrictive labor laws, but from a flexible labor market that helps fuel continued economic growth.

Devastating though it may prove to union membership, the bill is only a first step in this direction. As Mr. Howard said recently, “In a year’s time, people will look back and say why on earth did people try and exaggerate and scare us.”

Categories: Oz Politics, World Events Tags:
  1. James Farrell
    November 26th, 2005 at 06:40 | #1

    Those Gallup poll results are interesting. The 38% John quotes is up by 8 percentage points in 2005, having been fairly stable between 27% and 30% from 1999-2004. Also, the people who changed their minds were ones who previously thought that the degree of union influence is about right. My interpretation is that few people in the stable ‘too-much influence’ camp are employees, so their attitudes won’t be influenced by threats to job security.

    Only 19 percent of the sample actually had family members in unions, so it would be hard to argue that the pro-union camp were victims of brainwashing by their own unions. Evidently many people who aren’t members can still perceive the benefits.

  2. November 26th, 2005 at 07:14 | #2

    The belief that unions are holding the country to ransom or are centres of featherbedding is an ideological fashion that seems to have hung over from the seventies. But some people cling to it, like flares or beer home brewing kits.

    It is completely obsolete, as evinced by the largely worker-led improvements in labour productivity and the huge decline in industrial action. This is observed right accross the OECD board.

    Over the past 20 years it has been the bosses, not the workers, that have been the industrial militants. They have gotten away with murder both on pay and privileges. There is also the little matter of financial shenanigans.

    The industrial relations legislation will be to the New Right what liberal sentencing laws were for the New Left: classic over-reach.

    It took a couple of decades (1970s-90s) of the New Left going berserk in common rooms before there was a Decline of the Cultural Wets in politics.

    Likewise the past couple of decades (1980s-2000s), which saw the New Right gone berserk in boardrooms, will lead to a Decline of the Economic Dries in politics.

  3. James Farrell
    November 26th, 2005 at 07:48 | #3

    Liberal sentencing laws? Come on, Jack, admit it: you wrote multiculturalism, didn’t you, but then, overcome by a sense of weariness, you deleted the word, scratched around, and came up with liberal sentencing.

  4. November 26th, 2005 at 08:44 | #4

    No, I was trying to think of an example of “cultural wet” overreach that pushed the public’s “hot button” in a way comparable to “economic dry” over reach on IR does.

    The first conservative reaction to become mainstream was the “backlash” against revolving prison door sentencing in the late seventies-early eighties. Cultural conservatives will never lose votes running on tough on crime/law and order platforms. It still has plenty of mileage, even in an age of declining crime.

    Public opposition to multiculturalism will never be as hot as opposition to liberal sentencing. This is because of the deceitful way the multi-cult was foisted on an unsuspecting public. The Wets have fraudulently identified multiculturalism (bad) with multiracialism (good).

    Most decent people are anti-racists and support multi-racialism. But these same people have trouble rising to the notion that importing Sharia law would be a form of diversity heralding cultural progress.

  5. stoptherubbish
    November 26th, 2005 at 13:22 | #5

    Neo liberalism is always depserate to employ a kultur kampf against its foes. Now its ‘anti-americanism’ as they try and depict opposition to their plans for the planet as mere vulgar ethnic/racial discrimination. They employ the same tropes aganist their critics at home, as they try to depict anybody who critcises the massive transfer of wealth upwards and foreign policy adventurism as being ‘anti american’ . However they are running out of cultural ‘gas’. Their amazing success with populist revolts against eglaitarian social and economic policies has at last run up against a reality check, as people start to stop and count the costs to them personally.

    There is nothing like a little bit of social unrest to concentrate the minds of the powerful and insouciant, and we will increasingly see these pathetic slanders against their own populace being deployed, as the great ‘scheme’ starts to meet resistance, even in the home of the great scam itself.

  6. avaroo
    November 27th, 2005 at 03:09 | #6

    What is the big deal with anyone admitting to anti-Americanism? Is it somehow illegal in Australia to be anti-American? Or anti-anything? How is being pro-union the same thing as being anti-American? Anyone who knows anything at all about the US knows that unions have been part of our economic make-up for decades.

  7. November 27th, 2005 at 05:05 | #7

    Well I guess the point is that if you think Australia’s labour laws are better than America’s then you are obviously not thinking rationally and anti-Americanism is likely the culprit.

  8. Ian Gould
    November 27th, 2005 at 08:14 | #8

    Avaroo,

    What is the big deal with accusing people of anti-americanism at every opportunity?

    Australia has been America’s ally in ever war since World War I, we may be the only country to have sent troops to every major conflict in which the US has been involved in that period.

    The majority of Australians, across the political spectrum, support the American alliance – which is why we get sick of these cosntant accusations.

  9. November 27th, 2005 at 08:57 | #9

    Of course, most of those wars didn’t connect the USA and Australia directly but through common interests. As Terry Pratchett has one of his characters say in a novel,”we’re not on the same side, we’re on two different sides which happen to be side by side”.

  10. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 01:39 | #10

    I don’t know Ian, what is the big deal with accusing people of anti-Americanism and why do you do it? What do you CARE if anyone is anti-American? Is it illegal to be anti-American in Australia?

  11. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 01:40 | #11

    Yobbo, what do America’s labor laws have to do with Australia?

  12. Andrew
    November 28th, 2005 at 06:24 | #12

    Avaroo

    Stories about US IR laws gives Australian workers chills and Australian business leaders thrills..

    The right-wing of Australian politics is determined to bring in every bad idea that the US has ever had (privatised medical system, school vouchers, ludicrously low minimum wages) while refusing to take any of the good ones (bill of rights, legislated freedom of speech). The politicians here will recycle the same rhetoric and the same wedge politics as used in the US (eg abortion rights and privatised medicine for which there is and never has been a mass public constituency in Australia)

    That’s why.

  13. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 06:58 | #13

    Andrew, although I appreciate your post, I still have no idea why anyone in Australia would care what the US does when discussing Australia’s labor situation. Shouldn’t Australian politicians and businesspeople be discussing Australia, rather than the US? It wouldn’t occur to Americans to consider what Australians do about labor laws.

    Since you brought them up, the US has both public and private healthcare, school vouchers are rare and only in places where they have been voted in by the public (which I assume you think is an acceptable way of deciding these things) and minimum wage jobs in the US unlike other places, are not designed for lifetime employment, nor are they usually held for life. The minimum wage issue perfectly illustrates my point that Australian pols and public shouldn’t look at the US when deciding what to do in Australia.

  14. November 28th, 2005 at 07:54 | #14

    The belief that unions are holding the country to ransom or are centres of featherbedding is an ideological fashion that seems to have hung over from the seventies. But some people cling to it, like flares or beer home brewing kits.

    It is completely obsolete, as evinced by the largely worker-led improvements in labour productivity and the huge decline in industrial action. This is observed right accross the OECD board.

    Bravo Jack, I’m glad someone pointed that out.

    As for criticism of American labour laws et cetera being “anti-American”, well, I suppose all the lefty American bloggers are anti-American, then? Actually, a lot of traditional conservatives come into that mould, too.

    Avaroo, US minimum wage jobs weren’t “designed” for anything. And a sizeable proportion of the US workforce will not be able to lift themselves out of them in their lifetime, because the lowest wages don’t cover basic accommodation, food and health care, let alone education and interview clothes to climb the ladder of opportunity.

  15. November 28th, 2005 at 07:56 | #15

    US minimum wage jobs weren’t “designedâ€? for anything. Well, correction, it’s designed to ensure the highest profits.

  16. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 08:06 | #16

    >I don’t know Ian, what is the big deal with accusing people of anti-Americanism and why do you do it?

    I don’t.

    > What do you CARE if anyone is anti-American? Is it illegal to be anti-American in Australia?

    Like most australians, I’m pro-American. I don’t like being misrepresented.

  17. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 08:15 | #17

    Helen, of course minimum wage jobs are designed for specific purposes. Most people who hold them are not in them forever, they are entry level jobs. Let’s see your evidence that a “sizeable portion of the US workforce will not be able to life themselves out of them in their lifetimes”.

  18. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 08:19 | #18

    Ian, who is it you think it would matter to if you were anti-American?

    Being anti-American isn’t illegal, anywhere that I know of, including in the US. Do you care if anyone is anti-Australian? Stop worrying about what other people think about you and do what’s best for you.

  19. Terje
    November 28th, 2005 at 08:41 | #19

    Helen,

    If you look at really profitable US businesses they don’t on the face of it appear to be employing a high proportion of people on minimum wage. I’m thinking of companies like Microsoft etc.

    Do you have some data that correlates high levels of profitability with low levels of wages?

    Regards,
    Terje.

  20. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 09:29 | #20

    >Stop worrying about what other people think about you and do what’s best for you.

    So, hypothetically, if I claimed that your support for the Iraq war was motivated by your virulent anti-arab racism that wouldn’t bother you?

  21. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 09:54 | #21

    Of course it wouldn’t bother me. Anymore than if you claimed I was a three eyed, stuttering, Mongolian princess.

    Why would you give anyone the power to bother you by making any and all claims they want to make? People can say anything they want to about anyone (at least in Australia and the US). But what does what they say have to do with you?

  22. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 10:38 | #22

    ” If you look at really profitable US businesses they don’t on the face of it appear to be employing a high proportion of people on minimum wage. I’m thinking of companies like Microsoft etc.

    Do you have some data that correlates high levels of profitability with low levels of wages?”

    Terje, you are introducing a red herring with your statement and your question, quoted above.

    I understood Helen’s point to mean that if the minimum wage would be raised then in the first instance (ie the immediate effect) would be that profitability, as measured by the accountants, would be lower than that reported, keeping everything else constant.

    One ‘thing’ which is being kept constant would be the income of the CEOs and other managers. Of course, profitability, as recorded by the accountants could remain unchanged (depending on the relationship of parameter values) if the CEOs and other managers ‘wages’ (claims?) would be reduced as the minimum wage is increased.

    As for general relationships, may I refer you to the extensive literature on multinational corporations – one of the factors (not the only one) which motivates MNCS to locate production facilities in countries other than the country in which they originally were incorporated, is that there are significant wage differentials. This is so well known that I believe the onus is on you to get the data, if you want to have it.

    Avaro, your statement that minimum wages in the US are designed as entry level wages and most people lift themselves out of this state (of ?). is interesting. Do you have evidence that this actually happens and if so, at what speed? Thanks in advance.

  23. Terje
    November 28th, 2005 at 10:46 | #23

    Ernestine,

    I am aware that minimum wage laws might displace jobs to other countries. That’s a hardly a significant point.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  24. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:07 | #24

    Terje,

    True. However, from the perspective of an individual, it probably doesn’t matter whether survival is not ensured because the minimum wage incomes

  25. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:09 | #25

    Ernestine, nowhere did I say anything about “most people lift themselves out of this state”. I did quote someone else who used this language.

    Most Americans have at one time or another had a minimum wage job, usually as a student. But few Americans hold any job for a lifetime, at any wage level. We tend to move around quite a bit.

  26. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:10 | #26

    Please replace comment addressed to Terje with:

    Terje,

    True. However, from the perspective of an individual, it probably doesn’t matter whether survival is not ensured because the minimum wage income

  27. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:25 | #27

    Avaroo,

    Thanks for the reply.

    The information I have is:
    Helen, of course minimum wage jobs are designed for specific purposes. Most people who hold them are not in them forever, they are entry level jobs. Let’s see your evidence that a “sizeable portion of the US workforce will not be able to life themselves out of them in their lifetimes�.

    I’ll pass it back to you and Helen and wait to see what happens.

    Regards
    Ernestine

  28. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:31 | #28

    Terje,

    I have no idea why the erroneous message got posted twice. This is my last attempt.

    True. But from the perspective of an individual it probably doesn’t matter whether survival is not ensured because the minimum wage is less than the survival amount or whether jobs arn’t available.

    I am using the survival costraint to simplify the argument. The notion of ‘a decent wage’ is preferred but it is difficult to argue the point in a few lines.

    Regards
    E.G.

  29. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:33 | #29

    Ernestine, your information is correct. As I said, I was quoting another poster. That’s why the prase was in quotation marks.

  30. Terje
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:41 | #30

    Ernestine,

    I agree. A choice between starving due to insufficient wages and starving due to no wages is pretty stark.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  31. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:43 | #31

    Ernestine, from the perspective of an individual, let’s say a muslim individual living in the French banlieu, would you say a minimum wage job was preferable or no job? I don’t recall anyone rioting in France recently because jobs didn’t pay enough.

  32. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 11:59 | #32

    Avaroo,

    1. My information now is that both, you and Helen, either do not have data to substantiate the hypotheses or both, you or Helen, do not wish to reveal the data.

    2. In the absence of definitions of terms such as ‘minimum wage job’ and ‘no job’, my answer is: There are plenty of minimum wage jobs in France.

    3. Do you recall any period in France’s history where riots took place because of income distribution issues?

    Regards

    Ernestine

  33. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 12:07 | #33

    Ernestine,

    1) I haven’t a clue where you’re getting your information/

    2) If there are plenty of minimum wage jobs in France why were people rioting and claiming there weren’t any? Were they lying?

    3) uh, does the French revolution ring any bells?

  34. Katz
    November 28th, 2005 at 12:20 | #34

    In Paris, the Reveillon riots of 1789 broke out when a rumour spread that Revillon, a manufacturer of wallpaper, was intending to cut his workers’ wages.

    In fact, Reveillon paid his workers over the going rate and intended to do nothingof the sort. But he was a well-known physiocrat (neo-liberal) smarty-pants who shot his mouth off about the desirability of deregulating the price of bread.

    “[S]ince bread was the foundation of our national economy” its distribution sould be deregulated, allowing lower prices, resulting in lower wage costs, lower manufacturing, and all the benefits that the Rodent is promising, as we speak, for Australia.

    “Death to the rich! Death to the aristocrats!” The mob sought to hang and burn Reveillon in the town square.

    Eventually, the regular army and the militia turned out and shot hundreds of the rioters.

  35. November 28th, 2005 at 12:50 | #35

    Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickled and Dimed describes the world of the US underclass- cleaners, waiters/waitresses, WalMart employees and the like – who are mostly in no way middle class students on their way to a better paying job. On the contrary, as I mentioned above, their wages can’t even buy what we would define as basic living conditions, and would definitely not pay for the fees, books, travel, etc. to go to school and improve their lot.

    There is a lot written about the conditions of WalMart workers which American bloggers point to. WalMart has even used government social security payments as a stop-gap to pay lower wages and boost profits.

    And this is even before you get onto the topic of outsourcing overseas.

  36. November 28th, 2005 at 12:52 | #36

    Ernestine, please don’t say that because someone hasn’t re-posted then they are unwilling or unable to back up what they are saying. Not everyone has 24/7 access to this blog or indeed the internet.

  37. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 12:56 | #37

    Avaroo,

    1. A form of Bayesian updating of the information I receive for storage in my head (I don’t know a better method of dealing with huge quantities of words)

    2. My answer to your original question is conditional on the information you had provided me in the original question. I have not received new information regarding the original question hence my answer to the original question remains unchanged.

    2′. You are giving me a new question. I can’t answer this one at all because it contains information which you seem to have but I don’t.

    3. Yes, it rings a bell with me too. So, we can take the muslim factor out of the original question. Can we?

    Regards

    Ernestine

  38. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 12:56 | #38

    Helen, if waiters and waitresses in the US cannot provide basic living conditions for themselves, why don’t we see more of them living on the streets? Or starving on the streets?

    To my knowledge, no one is forced to work at WalMart and again, where are the homeless WalMart employees? Plenty of Americans finish high school and go to college. Some of them without paying a thing for it.

  39. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 12:59 | #39

    Ernestine,

    1) Well, it’s not working very well for you.

    2) I’ll take that as surrender as you no doubt know very well why the French youths were rioting…..no jobs. They were pretty clear about it.

    3) If it rings a bell, why are you asking the question? The recent French unrest is not the first time income inequality brought France to violence.

  40. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:21 | #40

    >If you look at really profitable US businesses they don’t on the face of it appear to be employing a high proportion of people on minimum wage. I’m thinking of companies like Microsoft etc.

    Walmart is a famous example of a very successful company which pays the low wages and provides the minimum benefits it legally can.

    Whether it is representative of any larger trend is another matter.

  41. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:27 | #41

    Not too long ago, one of the unions was paying people to picket WalMart over the salaries it pays. The picketers were paid LESS than WalMart employees.

  42. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:32 | #42

    Here’s a link to the story. Too funny.

    http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/2005/09/08/awsi1.html

    With an average rate of pay of $10.17 per hour for Nevada WalMart employees, I wonder how many French “youths” would have accepted such a job rather than burning their neighbors car.

  43. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:41 | #43

    “I’ll take that as surrender as you no doubt know very well why the French youths were rioting…..no jobs. They were pretty clear about it.”

    They told you that did they?

  44. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:41 | #44

    Helen, Avaroo,

    My first response was: “I’ll pass it back to you and Helen and wait to see what happens.”

    My question now is: Do you have data on the time profiles of people on minumum wages in the US?

    Regards

    Ernestine

  45. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:44 | #45

    They told EVERYONE that, Ian.

    http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5138990&fsrc=RSS

    If even de Villepin can admit, why can’ you?

  46. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:45 | #46

    Ernestine, pass what back?

  47. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:47 | #47

    Why even the BBC admited it, Ian….

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4416454.stm

  48. Terje
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:47 | #48

    Ironic that Walmart is lobbying Congress for an increase in the minimum wage.

    http://money.cnn.com/2005/10/25/news/fortune500/walmart_wage/

    EXTRACTS:-

    Wal-Mart maintains that it pays above the current $5.15 an hour minimum wage to its employees.

    NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said he’s urging Congress to consider raising the minimum wage so that Wal-Mart customers don’t have to struggle paycheck to paycheck.

  49. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:52 | #49

    Why is that ironic?

  50. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 13:58 | #50

    Avaroo,

    1) Your opinion, which you are entitled to.

    2) Are you sure people in France were rioting recently because they could not get a job at zero price (wage) or was it because they could not get a job at a ‘decent wage’?

    3) Do you agree that the muslim factor can be taken out of your original question?

    Regards
    E.G.

  51. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 14:14 | #51

    Avaroo,

    Do you have data on the time profiles of people on minumum wages in the US?

  52. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 14:17 | #52

    Ernestine,

    1) what are you babbling about?

    2) they said they couldn’t gt jobs, period. Do you not believe them?

    3) what muslim factor?

  53. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 14:19 | #53

    Ernestine,

    my answer to your original question is conditional on the information you had provided me in the original question. I have not received new information regarding the original question hence my answer to the original question remains unchanged.

  54. November 28th, 2005 at 14:30 | #54

    (Quote) if waiters and waitresses in the US cannot provide basic living conditions for themselves, why don’t we see more of them living on the streets? Or starving on the streets? (End quote)

    Because they take substandard accommodation that is inconsistent with good health, a decent life expectancy and raising children. Such as “trailer parks”, “homeless shelters” and motel rooms. As you will note, motel rooms aren’t economical, but if you can’t raise the rent in advance you can’t rent a house or apartment.

    (Quote)To my knowledge, no one is forced to work at WalMart(end quote)
    This is meaningless – Walmart employees who lack the skills to work in better jobs and the money to acquire those skills would have the “choice” to work somewhere like KFC or a cleaning company – it’s buckley’s choice.

    (Quote)and again, where are the homeless WalMart employees? (Quote) And again, in substandard accommodation

    (Quote)As the nineties progressed, the lack of affordable housing emerged as a critical gap in service to the working poor. Families ready to leave the Shelter weren’t able to find low-income apartments; thus prolonging their stay and limiting access to other families needing shelter. In 1999, to address the lack of low-income housing, the Shelter expanded our mission to include the development of affordable housing for working poor families.
    (End quote) From: http://homelesssolutions.org/aboutus.html

    I can’t find any “hard” (non-anecdotal) data for how many actually freeze on the streets, which, given the US climate, is what they do before they starve, so we’ll just say no one does, ‘k.

  55. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 14:33 | #55

    Terje,

    “I am aware that minimum wage laws might displace jobs to other countries”

    Not likely. At least not minimum wage laws in the US. Most minimum wage workers in the US are in service industries, things like cleaning services, retail, things that you cannot export.

  56. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 14:39 | #56

    Helen,

    Can you show that most WalMart employees live in hotels, homeless shelters and trailer parks? I’m perfectly willing to acknowledge it if you can prove it. But I’ll need more than your word for it, ‘k?

    “This is meaningless – Wal-Mart employees who lack the skills to work in better jobs and the money to acquire those skills would have the “choice” to work somwhere like KFC”

    Do people who lack the skills to work in better jobs rountinely get such better jobs in other countries? Are European McDonald’s employees all pHD’s?

  57. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 14:44 | #57

    Helen, if you can show that most waitresses and waiters live in hotels, homeless shelters and trailer parks, that would work to make your case too.

  58. Andrew Reynolds
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:21 | #58

    avaroo,
    Perhaps this study should be thrown into the mix – http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,17365987-2,00.html?from=rss – this gem comes from it: “Less than a fifth of low-income earners are in the poorest 20per cent of households where weekly income is $226 or less”. This means that the minimum wage is a less than effective way of helping the working poor.
    It is always better to get over the rhetoric and actually look at what is happening.

  59. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:22 | #59

    While Helen searches for documentation to prove her claim that US waiters and waitresses live in homeless shelters, hotels and trailer parks, here a case of Wal-Mart taking someone out of homelessness.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/Commentary/com-11_16_05_JS.html

    My point isn’t that Wal-Mart is a perfect company, no company is perfect. But every nation has low wage retail jobs. Let’s not lose our heads like Helen did above unfortunately and make wild claims about hotels and trailer parks.

  60. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:22 | #60

    Avaroo: They told EVERYONE that, Ian.

    http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5138990&fsrc=RSS

    If even de Villepin can admit, why can’ you?

    As it happens I’d already read the article in question.

    I quote: “This rapid domino effect reflects two broader failings and two policy problems. First, the mass unemployment that persists in a welfare system supposedly glued together by “social solidarityâ€?. Second, the ethnic ghettos that have formed in a country that prides itself on colour-blind equality.”

    This after a paragraph in which they cite the two incidents which were the proximate cause of the ritos: two African teens killed while evading thep olice and a police tear-gas canister accidentally fired into a mosque.

    Later in the article two young man from a banliue (note necessarily a rioter) gives his view of the causes of the riot:

    “It’s Sarkozy’s fault,� says one. The police harass anybody “with the wrong skin colour,� adds another. Further down the road, at the mosque, a young man mopping the steps agrees: “The police don’t leave us alone,� he says. “They stop you for no reason.�

    Unemployment wascertainly part of the cause for the riots.

    If it were the only cause, we would be seeing similar riots in Madrid, Rome and Berlin. We aren’t.

    We did however see similar riots in Sydney on two separate occasiosn in the last year or so – in Redfern and in Macquarie Fields. The Australian unemployment rate is roughly half that of France.

  61. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:25 | #61

    Thank you for the link, Andrew. I agree, a high minimum wage is a less than effective way of helping the working poor as it keeps them from being hired.

  62. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:30 | #62

    Ian, yes unemployment was certainly a cause. It was the cause of the long simmering anger in the community, with the death of the teenagers being the spark. Unemployment is around 40% in the banlieu. The same conditions, basically ghettos run by non-national authorities, with 40% unemployment, do not exist in Madrid, Rome and Berlin.

  63. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:30 | #63

    Source: avaroo Says:

    November 28th, 2005 at 8:15 am
    Quote: Helen, of course minimum wage jobs are designed for specific purposes. Most people who hold them are not in them forever, they are entry level jobs

    Response: Avaroo, I had asked you for data to support your statement, which I have copied above. Just to be clear, this is your statement, not someone else’s.

    Relevant data would be statistical data on the time profile of people on the minimum wage in the US.

    Do you have such data?

    Do you know any alternative answers beside

    a) Yes
    b) No
    c) Yes but I won’t tell you

    Helen, Thanks for your post.

  64. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:32 | #64

    “Ian, yes unemployment was certainly a cause.”

    Please don’t make me go through the whole “a” versus “the” distinction again.

  65. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:34 | #65

    Ian, if this is an accurate account of the Redfern riot, I see no mention of 40% unemployment as in France’s case.

    http://www.greenleft.org.au/back/2004/572/572p11.htm

  66. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:37 | #66

    Ernestine,

    d) As you put it above to another poster, “I believe the onus is on you to get the data, if you want to have it.”

  67. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:41 | #67

    Ian, if this is an accurate accounting of the Macquarie riots, it appears that unemployment WAS an issue, according to those who live in the area.

    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2005/mar2005/macf-m07.shtml

  68. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:42 | #68

    Avaroo – thank you for confirming my point which is that UNEMPLOYMENT IS NOT A NECESSARY PRECONDITION FOR RIOTS OF THIS SORT.

    Remember YOU were the one saying unemployment was the root cause. I was the one saying it was one of several contributing factors.

    Would you like me to go through the “you” “not you” distinction? How about “3 is more than 1″?

    The Redfern riots were sparked by the death of a young Aboriginal man who thought he was being pursued by the police. The riots in Macquarie Fields occurred aftertwo young men in a stolen car were killed in a crash while evading police.

    You might also want to look at the various reprots into scoccer hooliganism in England which foudn the majority of those involved were actually employed – with a signifcant number in well-paying skilled or semi-skilled trades.

  69. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:43 | #69

    Ian,

    but we both agree, there was no one cause. Making “the” irrelevant.

  70. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:47 | #70

    Ian, in the case of the French riots, unemployment was clearly a precondition for the riots. Why discount what the rioters themselves said?

    I posted information on the Macquarie Fields riots in which locals did blame unemployment for some of the anger.

    Soccer hooliganism is largely underwritten by alcohol abuse. Not something that was likely in the French case as most muslims eschew alcohol.

  71. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:48 | #71

    >Why discount what the rioters themselves said?

    Because the only article you’ve linked to support your claims that they did say that has them saying the exact opposite?

  72. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:52 | #72

    It’s worth noting that even the French government recognizes unemployment in the banlieu as a critical issue that must be addressed to prevent more violence.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051121/ap_on_re_eu/france_rioting

  73. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:54 | #73

    ah, the article I linked has the rioters saying that unemployment is not a factor? Really? Where?

  74. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 15:57 | #74

    Here’s the first article I linked

    http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=5138990&fsrc=RSS

    I cannot find anywhere in here where anyone says that unemployment is not a cause. In fact, even de Villepin acknowledges that it is.

  75. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:00 | #75

    And here is the second article.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4416454.stm

    Again, no denial on the rioters part of the underlying unemployment as a source of the anger.

  76. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:16 | #76

    “I cannot find anywhere in here where anyone says that unemployment is not a cause. In fact, even de Villepin acknowledges that it is.”

    Work with me here – most three year-olds have grasped this.

    You said unemployment was THE cause and you claimed that RIOTERS had said so.

    Then you linked to an article in which people who were NOT rioters said it was ONE OF the causes.

    Further more, the people quoted in the article who come closest to the typical description of rioters mention other causes but DON’T mention unemployment.

    You then attempt to claim that because they didn’t say it WASN’T the cause, then this proves it was THE cause.

    I notice they also didn’t say anything about how the International Zionist Conspiracy and Venusain mind-control lasers weren’t the cause.

    Let’s recap:

    1. Riots similar to those in Paris occur in cities with much lower levels of unemployment.

    2. Cities with similar levels of unemployment to those in Paris don;t experience riots.

    Therefore high levels of unemployment are neither necessary nor sufficient as a cause for the riots.

    Which doesn’t preclude them from being A contributing cause.

  77. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:23 | #77

    Avaroo,

    In the absence of getting information from you on your up-ward mobility claim regarding minimum wage earners, the following web-site shows there is a problem with income distribution in the US:

    http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/us.html#Econ

    I assume you trust the US CIA

    I assume the French act in a manner, which happens to coincide with your advice given to Australians, namely:

    Source: “avaroo Says:

    November 28th, 2005 at 6:58 am

    Quote: Andrew, although I appreciate your post, I still have no idea why anyone in Australia would care what the US does when discussing Australia’s labor situation. Shouldn’t Australian politicians and businesspeople be discussing Australia, rather than the US? It wouldn’t occur to Americans to consider what Australians do about labor laws.

    Since you brought them up, the US has both public and private healthcare, school vouchers are rare and only in places where they have been voted in by the public (which I assume you think is an acceptable way of deciding these things) and minimum wage jobs in the US unlike other places, are not designed for lifetime employment, nor are they usually held for life. The minimum wage issue perfectly illustrates my point that Australian pols and public shouldn’t look at the US when deciding what to do in Australia” End of Quote

    Have a good day

  78. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:30 | #78

    “You said unemployment was THE cause”

    Where? I can find six places where I said it was a cause but not one instance where I used the word “THE”. Perhaps one of those three year olds can find it for you.

    Yes, let’s recap”.

    Riots happen in other cities. Sometimes they are underwritten by high unemployment and sometimes they are not. In France’s case, they were.

    Rioters in France cited unemployment as a cause of their distress.

    French authorities admit that unemployment was a cause of the French riots.

    Unemployment in the banlieu is 40%. What city with similar levels of unemployment did you have in mind?

  79. November 28th, 2005 at 16:35 | #79

    Strange remark from avaroo, in which Helen’s description of Barbara Ehrenlich’s detailed book about the working poor is turned into her claiming that “most” Walmart employees fit this category.

    She doesn’t say that at all. She points to a group of people who can’t survive on the wages. It is all a bit like the famous Harvester case in Australia, which has finally been dismantled after a century, which said that the basic wage should be such that a man should be able to support his wife and two children in (if I remember) “frugal comfort”.

    If a basic wage can’t allow a single human being to pay for themselves, then it is too low. Of course the apparent social effect is ameliorated by the fact that many people are sustained by their families, are topping up parental contributions to education costs, adding to their partner’s income or supported by food stamps or charities.

    When we talk about the working poor, perhaps we should remember that American marines with families are apparently issued with food stamps, or a substituting food allowance. (The program is described here).

  80. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:36 | #80

    Ernestine,

    As I assume that you consider anything less than 100% equitable income distribution a “problem”, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

    I agree with you that the French don’t consider US labor laws when looking at their own. But the US does consider the American people when looking at our own labor laws and the French should too, something I believe they’ll be doing more of in the very near future. At least if de Villepin is to be believed.

    Enjoy

  81. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:40 | #81

    Helen does say

    “Their wages can’t even buy what we would define as basic living conditions”

    Who do you think she was talking about?

  82. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 16:58 | #82

    “If there are plenty of minimum wage jobs in France why were people rioting and claiming there weren’t any? Were they lying?”

    “you no doubt know very well why the French youths were rioting…..no jobs. They were pretty clear about it.”

    In both of the above quotes Avaroo you attempt to reduce the causes of the riots to uneployment.

    “Rioters in France cited unemployment as a cause of their distress.”

    Actually as I’ve repeatedly pointed out to you, you have failed completely to rprodcue any news articles which actually quotes rioters as saying anything of the sort.

  83. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:06 | #83

    “American marines with familes are apparently issued with food stamps”

    How bout a little honesty, davidtilley?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/daily/july99/military20.htm

    “Since 1982, military salaries have fallen nearly 14 percent behind civilian pay, according to federal figures. After pleas from military supporters, Congress has tentatively approved a 4.8 percent pay raise, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, and many service members will receive a second raise six months later.”

    AFTER PLEAS FROM MILITARY SUPPORTERS. Can we assume you would be for increasing their pay as the US military would like to do?

    “Pentagon officials acknowledge that some service members face severe hardships, not only in the Washington area but also in other parts of the country. But they insist that such cases do not reflect conditions for the vast majority of troops, and they point to statistics showing that junior enlisted service members earn more than the general population of high school-educated 18- to 23-year-olds. ”

    “In addition, members of the armed forces receive some benefits, such as medical care, at a fraction of the cost for most civilians. Commissaries offer items that are 30 percent cheaper than at civilian stores, according to Pentagon figures. Service members also do not pay federal taxes on their food and housing allowances. ”

    “A recent Pentagon study found that, overall, only 450 of the 1.4 million members of the armed forces were living at or below the national poverty level, which is $13,332 for a family of three. “

  84. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:08 | #84

    Ian, is that your admission that I did not use the term “THE” but did several times use the term “A”?

  85. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:16 | #85

    Avaroo,

    You only started using “a” after I used the “a”/”the” analogy.

    Still waiting for those quotes from rioters.

  86. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:18 | #86
  87. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:19 | #87

    Then you admit I did not use “THE”. Excellent.

  88. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:31 | #88

    Avaroo says:

    1. “As I assume that you consider anything less than 100% equitable income distribution a “problemâ€?, we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

    Response: I appreciate that it is difficult for some people to handle anything between 0 and 1. There is nothing I can do about it. So, let me ask you:

    Question: Do you, Avaroo, consider it a problem that there are 12% of the population living under the proverty line in the US, as reported in the CIA statistics on the U.S. economy in the year 2005, which I posted?

    (It would be tempting to start a sweep stake on the likelihood of getting a straight answer from Avaroo but I won’t because it is too much work.)

    2. “I agree with you that the French don’t consider US labor laws when looking at their own. But the US does consider the American people when looking at our own labor laws and the French should too, something I believe they’ll be doing more of in the very near future. At least if de Villepin is to be believed.”

    Response: Quite right, most countries solve their own problems irrespective of your advice.

  89. Ian Gould
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:32 | #89

    Well done, Avaroo, you actually managed to find articles which support the view that unemployment is a cause of the riots.

    Had you bothered to do so in the first place rather than posting articles that said nothing of the sort and falsely claiming that they did, think of all the time you could have saved.

  90. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:40 | #90

    Yes, but doing it this way, I was able to back you into a couple of corners. And that was certainly worth the effort.

  91. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:46 | #91

    Ernestine, ernestine, you poor thing. How do you get around without assistance?

    1) What you claimed, dearest, was that there was an income distribution problem in the US. If there’s a country on earth in which all citizens enjoy the same income, why not just say so and make your case? Short of that, you’ll have to argue that there is, in your own view, an income distribution problem everywhere.

    2) Most countries consider their own populations when solving problems like unemployment. France will now be joining us. I’m sure that is very satisfying to you. Unless you have a problem with France listening to the advice of her own citizens?

  92. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 17:48 | #92

    I was just wondering if anyone else would like to admit that they hadn’t seen reports of rioters in France blaming unemployment for some part of their misery, prior to my posting of some of them here? Or is Ian alone here?

  93. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 18:23 | #93

    Avaroo,

    1. Source: avaroo Says:

    November 28th, 2005 at 8:15 am
    Quote: Helen, of course minimum wage jobs are designed for specific purposes. Most people who hold them are not in them forever, they are entry level jobs

    You haven’t provided any evidence in support of your upward-mobility dream hypothesis.

    2. “A recent Pentagon study found that, overall, only 450 of the 1.4 million members of the armed forces were living at or below the national poverty level, which is $13,332 for a family of three. ” Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local/daily/july99/military20.htm, posted by Avaroo today.

    3. According to the 2005 CIA report on the US economy, 12% of the population live under the poverty line as defined in the US.

    4. I conclude that the US government is aware of an income distribution problem in the US but you dont’ know about this.

  94. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 18:46 | #94

    Helen,

    I am not sure whether the content of your post addressed to me is cleared up by now or not. In any case, I didn’t wish to offend you.

    Regards
    Ernestine

  95. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 18:47 | #95

    Ernestine,

    1) “I believe the onus is on you to get the data, if you want to have it”

    2) yes, do you have a point?

    3) yes, do you have a point or have you found that place of no income inequality yet?

    4) Anyone even vaguely familiar with the US government or Americans for that matter, would know that “income distribution” is not a concept that keeps Americans up in arms. We’re an opportunity society, quite different from an income redistribution society. Americans would never see poverty issues in terms of what someone with more isn’t giving someone with less. Income redistribution doesn’t address poverty. France is the obvious recent example. Your unfamiliarity with the US is quite breathtaking. It would be quite difficult with all that’s written about the US to NOT know this about us.

  96. November 28th, 2005 at 19:15 | #96

    Fantastic pro-american article at http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB113296592953507051-lMyQjAxMDE1MzIyNzkyNjc1Wj.html,

    Let me quote:

    “We are winning, and winning decisively, in Iraq and the Middle East. We defeated Saddam Hussein’s army in just a few weeks. None of the disasters that many feared would follow our invasion occurred. Our troops did not have to fight door to door to take Baghdad. The Iraqi oil fields were not set on fire. There was no civil war between the Sunnis and the Shiites. There was no grave humanitarian crisis.

    Saddam Hussein was captured and is awaiting trial. His two murderous sons are dead. Most of the leading members of Saddam’s regime have been captured or killed. After our easy military victory, we found ourselves inadequately prepared to defeat the terrorist insurgents, but now we are prevailing.

    Iraq has held free elections in which millions of people voted. A new, democratic constitution has been adopted that contains an extensive bill of rights. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, or politics is banned. Soon the Iraqis will be electing their first parliament.

    An independent judiciary exists, almost all public schools are open, every hospital is functioning, and oil sales have increased sharply. In most parts of the country, people move about freely and safely.”

    God bless America!

  97. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 19:22 | #97

    Avaroo,

    1. I don’t need the data. I just discard your upwardly-mobile dream hypothesis.

    As for the rest, I rely on the intelligence of the readers of this thread.

  98. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 19:43 | #98

    Ernestine

    1) then why ask for it? You can discard whatever you’d like. It’s not like it changes anything.

    Me too, except for poor Ian, who congratulated me for finding what it’s hard not to find. I really, really should’ve told him that it would be harder to find articles that DON’T list unemployment as a cause of the French riots than ones that do. Guess I’m just not that magnanimous!

  99. avaroo
    November 28th, 2005 at 20:05 | #99

    It really is a shame that like Ernestine outside the US, millions of people who arrive in the US have had to discard the “dream” of upward mobility. Wave after wave of immigrants remain where they started in the US, the Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the chinese, the blacks, all at the very bottom rungs of American society while white Americans of English extraction continue to reap alone all the bennies of American life. (Don’t tell Oprah please, I adore her, she’d be crushed!)

    Yes, it was all a cruel hoax, intended to lure millions of people from around he globe here with the promise of a better life. You can see these sad victims lining up to depart the US, dejected and broke, still searching for that land of opportunity. They’ll go back where they came from, poorer yet wiser, until the world awakens to this scam Americans have been perpetrating on people for generations.

  100. Ernestine Gross
    November 28th, 2005 at 20:55 | #100

    Avaroo,

    You are not America – in case it may not be obvious to you. People are not as silly as you may assume. In particular, the demonstration of how a ‘spin’ is being done might have been of interest 10 years ago. It is an old hat by now.

    It seems to me, the only people who believe spins are those who pay for them.

    I strongly object to you putting my name into your spin. I demand that you remove my name from your spin, step by step.

    .

Comment pages
1 2 3 2732
Comments are closed.