Monday is Labor Day, the traditional end of summer, but for the American worker it should be a reminder that we still have a long way to go for our workers to be fully compensated for the vital work that they do.
And to begin to make progress on building an equitable society, we need to face this serious question:
Why is there no-lose socialism for the rich, and cutthroat hyper-capitalism for everyone else?
Labor laws, pension laws, corporate laws, and tax laws dramatically favor those at the top, who have an army of lawyers and lobbyists who work for them in Washington and in state capitals.
In addition, most American companies still follow the old cutthroat hyper-capitalist model that views workers as costs to be cut, rather than as partners to share in success, with such success-sharing called “socialism” by dim-witted Republicans.
You may have heard Republicans in legislatures all over the country rail about how the Democrats’ agenda is chocked-full of scary “socialist” policies.
And yet it is Kentuckians like Comer, McConnell, and Rand Paul who push socialism for the rich, especially for their fat-cat donors.
Here's how the rich benefit off the rest of us (socialism for the rich)
American corporations rake in billions each year in government subsidies, bailouts, and tax loopholes – all funded by you and me. All this money being given to these corporations make their stock prices go up.
And who does that benefit? The richest ONE percent who own HALF of the stock market. And, CEOs and other executives who are paid largely in shares of stock – while their workers haven't had a meaningful raise in decades.
These corporations and their trade groups spend hundreds of millions each year on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their influence-peddling pays off. The return on these political investments is huge. For all practical purposes, it’s institutionalized bribery – a quid pro quo.
An even more insidious example is corporations that don’t pay their workers a living wage. As a result, their workers must rely on programs like Medicaid, public housing, food stamps, and other safety nets. That means you and I and other taxpayers subsidize these corporations, allowing them to enjoy even higher profits and share prices for their wealthy investors and executives.
Not only does corporate welfare take money away from us taxpayers. It also harms small businesses that have a harder time competing with those big businesses that gets subsidies. Everyone loses – except those at the top.
So the real socialism is the Republican socialism for Big Tech, Big Oil, Big Pharma, defense contractors, and big banks – all of whom are the benefiting from these no-lose socialist schemes for the rich.
Some companies are rejecting this Republican socialism
Even as the institutionalized bribery and the upward flow of money continues, something is afoot: CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, founder and CEO of Chobani yogurt, announced he's giving all his full-time workers shares of stock worth up to 10 percent of the privately held company's worth.
“If the company ends up being valued at $3 billion, for example, the average employee payout could be $150,000. Some long-tenured employees could get more than $1 million,” explains Ulukaya.
Ulukaya’s decision is just good business. Employees who are partners become more dedicated to increasing a company's value.
Ulukaya just increased the odds that Chobani will be valued much higher when it's sold, or its shares of stock are available to the public. That will make him, as well as his employees, far wealthier.
As Ulukaya wrote to his workers, the award is "a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility."
Forbes magazine called it one of "the most selfless corporate moves in memory."
Additionally, Apple has decided to award shares not just to executives or engineers but to hourly workers as well. And, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is giving a third of his Twitter stock (about 1 percent of the company) "to our employee equity pool to reinvest directly in our people."
Employee stock ownership plans, which have been around for years, are making a comeback. And, research shows that employee-owned companies tend to outperform the competition. Two Kentucky companies that are employee-owned are Murray’s Paschall Truck Lines and Bowling Green’s Houchens Grocery Stores.
Unfortunately, these companies are the exception. Everywhere else, it's the rich getting all the perks.
Even as we celebrate the few companies and their CEOs that actually value their workers, the truth is that on a holiday created to honor working people, very few workers receive the true value of their work. Productivity goes up, profits go up, stock prices go up – but all of that flows to the uber-wealthy at the top.
Example: Republicans and their wealthy donors have kept minimum wage at the same level since 2009, even as both inflation and productivity have risen.
- If the minimum wage had merely been adjusted for inflation, it would now be $9.23 or more.
- But if the minimum wage had kept up with productivity (which it did for the first 30 years of its existence), the current minimum wage would be $24.
That is just one example of socialism for the rich, and dog-eat-dog hyper-capitalism for everyone else, as workers scramble for jobs that actually pay a living wage.
A day to "honor" working folks is nice. A movement to actually push some of the wealth back down to the people producing it would be nicer.
It's time to end this "socialism for the wealthy," and help ALL workers to benefit from their work.
Forward Kentucky Newsletter
Join the newsletter to receive the latest updates in your inbox.