“An Old Industrial Era”: GOP Platform Mocks Blue-Collar America, Declares It Dead

Richard Eskow

How’s this for a radical, anti-American statement? The Republican Party’s draft platform mocks American workers’ pensions as useless artifacts which were “born in an old industrial era beyond the memory of most Americans.”

Republicans talk about restoring American jobs. But any doubts about their sincerity should have been eliminated by this comment, which makes it clear they don’t mean it. As far as the GOP’s concerned our blue-collar jobs, and the benefits that went along with them, are the relics of a bygone time.

Wake up and smell the dumpsters, working-class Americans! The GOP wants to throw you away.

Grave New World

That’s bad news for the inhabitants of my hometown, Utica NY, where much of the factory and office space is crumbling. It’s bad news to the residents of Michigan, where Mitt Romney so pointedly reminded voters he had been born. It’s bad news to citizens in Youngstown, OH and other struggling cities in that Rust Belt swing state. As far as the GOP is concerned, you’ve been consigned to that receptacle which Leon Trotsky first described as “the dustbin of history.”

And let’s be clear: Republicans aren’t just abandoning the idea of American manufacturing. They’re laughing at it. Could this radical statement have been included in the platform accidentally?

Not likely. The Trotsky mention wasn’t accidental. Like the Bolsheviks of 1917, the Republican platform seeks nothing less than a radical transformation of society and the economy. The Bolsheviks wanted to bring agrarian Russia into the industrial age, alter its government, and transform its economic model. The Republican Right wants to transform the United States into a post-industrial service economy ruled by an extremely wealthy elite, dominated by low-paying service jobs, and plagued by rampant unemployment.

The Workerless Ideology

Why? Because the progression of so-called “free trade” agreements, together with the increasing dominance of non-productive banking income over corporate profits, will make American workers redundant if they proceed unchecked. Behind this strategy lies an ideology masked as economic analysis. That theory is called “structural unemployment” and, while it’s true that structural changes affect jobs numbers, conservatives have turned it into an article of faith: American industry is dead because the “structure” of the jobs market has changed.

Conservative icon Alan Greenspan, whose view of the market was conclusively discredited by events of the decade, articulated this ideology in a 1996 speech in which he reflected on his graduation as a young Randian in 1948:

“The quintessential model of industrial might in those days was the array of vast, smoke-encased integrated steel mills in the Pittsburgh district and on the shores of Lake Michigan. Output was things, big physical things. Virtually unimaginable a half century ago was the extent to which concepts and ideas would substitute for physical resources.”

In this ideology, nobody builds things anymore. Information is exchanged as digital bits and bytes, with noneed for blue-collar workers. And what’s most easily exchanged in digital form? Money. Since Greenspan spoke those words the financial sector has grown to capture 40 percent of this country’s corporate profits.

Meanwhile somebody keeps building things. They’re just not building them here anymore. The digital transfer of money and information knows no borders. It creates the ideal environment for globalization, and for the offshoring of jobs to the lowest-cost – and most exploited – workers on the planet.

There’s no room for the American worker in their Grave New World – and no need for the American middle-class consumer. What the wealthy don’t consume will be purchased by the globalized, if shrinking, middle class. And as they move further away from manufactured goods, the need for a middle class will grow smaller and smaller.

Old and in the Way

In a little-noticed provision of the draft GOP platform, the party takes direct aim at working Americans’ pension. (That’s where the “old industrial age” comment shows up.) The Republicans are calling for a Presidential Commission to review our entire pension system, calling it underfunded and obsolete.

They’re not just targeting Social Security anymore. They’re after government pensions for teachers, police, and firefighters – and they’ve got their sights on pensions from private companies as well. Why private companies? Because pension obligations must be disclosed as liabilities on the balance sheets of publicly traded companies. That’s been the source of ongoing battles for decades.

A Republican Presidential Commission could score a big win for corporate America – either by changing the accounting rules or by encouraging the downscaling of pensions. (O by doing both.)

And this latest attack on middle class Americans’ stagnating income comes from a party that has enthusiastically supported policies which created this gap between CEO and employee pay:

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We Don’t Need That

This anti-middle class ideology fits perfectly with the “you didn’t build that” lie. As anyone who’s bothered to do 90 seconds’ worth of research knows by now, Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comment was taken out of context. He explicitly praised entepreneurs while making the common-sense point that they didn’t create the Internet, educate their own workforce or build the roads on which their goods are transported. “We succeed because of our individual initiative,” said Obama, “but also because we work together.”

It’s true that the Republicans are lying about a selectively-edited phrase for political advantage. But you can do that with almost anything a President says. Why this phrase? Here’s why: The President was defending government’s role in building America’s infrastructure, educating its children, and improving its technology. Republicans have always joined Democrats in supporting these initiatives, and now they’re proposing to cut virtually all funding for those efforts. Why?

Because the GOP isn’t the “party of business.” It has become the party of mega-business, of globalized multinational combines that are crowding small businesses out of existence. And thanks to outsourcing, globalization, and the “financialization” of our economy, multinational corporations don’t need America any more. They don’t need its roads, they don’t need its technology, and they certainly don’t need its educated middle-class workforce.

That’s why they’re not proposing any job creation ideas, while at the same time are laying off millions of state-level workers. (Dave Johnson has more details.)

Americans out of work? We don’t need their purchases to make a profit. Bridges and roads crumbling? We don’t need roads to transfer money. Schools underfunded? There are plenty of educated workers in India.

When it comes to our bridges, our Internet, our workforces, it’s not just that they “didn’t build it.” They’re making it increasingly clear that they don’t want it. They don’t need it. And, as they’re reminding the American middle class with this platform, they certainly don’t need you.

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