A Guy’s View: Workers must fight for themselves

“Rep. Tim Ryan on Friday said the federal government needs to develop a sweeping industrial policy for the country aimed at sharing corporate profits with workers and steering venture capital to a broader range of states.

Ryan, D-Ohio, spoke after the news broke that GM would lay off 1 600 workers in his state. Ryan fumed on the floor because GM is one of the companies that was bailed out in the Great Recession and benefited from President Trump’s tax cut last year.

“And turn around and cut 14 000 jobs, and their stock price goes up 6 per cent,” Ryan said. “That is a broken economic system that we have in the United States of America.”

“We need an industrial policy in this country where the government, the agencies, the departments, the tax code, the investments in infrastructure and education are all moving in the same direction that will create manufacturing jobs here in the United States,” he said. “And we have to have policies that move venture capital out of the three main states, California, New York, and Massachusetts, which is 80 per cent of all venture capital.”

Ryan said he doesn’t think Wall Street or high-tech centres in the country understand what’s happening to workers.

“They’re being hollowed out, disinvested in, and we need this government to begin to modernise itself, to look at the world as it is to recognise that globalization may yield great benefits and great wealth, but that those benefits aren’t shared everywhere in the United States,” he said.

“How much can the worker take? How much can their families take?” Ryan asked.

Ryan said the bust-boom story has played out the same way each time over the last four decades under Republican economic policies that he called “trickle down.”

“We’ve been trying this for 40 years, since 1980, this supply side economic policy has been pushed in this country,” he said. “And if it’s so damned good, why isn’t it working for working class people?”
For completeness, Timothy John Ryan is an American politician representing the State of Ohio. GM as appears in his speech refers to the car manufacturer, General Motors.

I have taken the unusual step of reproducing this entire contribution to the Washington Examiner, penned by Pete Kasperowicz, on November 30, not because the challenges of Ohio are relevant to us at this time, but because many of the observations made by Ryan could be lifted out and applied to Barbados. His extensive words, therefore, provide a convenient platform for the examination of what is wrong with our economic model in Barbados.

The General Motors example explains for us why cutting corporation taxes in Barbados will do wonders for the rich and famous, but do absolutely nothing for working class people in this country. The altruism which would be necessary for money in the pockets of business people to benefit their workers just does not exist, neither in Ohio nor in Barbados. A workers’ based political party, therefore, must have some practical knowledge of the country’s reality and link corporate tax cuts to improved workers’ benefits. But one could only expect that if workers were really the principal interest of policy makers.

Although it has taken a long time to dawn on Barbadian workers, corporate interests and workers interests never coincide in a capitalist arena. Employers and employees do not sleep in the same bed, so it is an incongruity for them to march and agitate together for the same end. Workers in France know this, hence, they have taken to the streets in their numbers and have vented their anger on their country’s infrastructure in protest of a tax on fuel. Barbadians did not get the memo.

In an ignorant boast, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that the protests would not bring about a change in his policy. It took only a few days of rioting for him to change his mind. He has now decided to abandon his fuel tax, but his gesture may be too little too late. Commentators are saying that his reversal of policy will not prevent coming demonstrations because the workers’ concerns lie deeper than this one tax.

The deepening inequality in their society is the foundation of the now exploding discontent. Like America and Barbados, while the French corporations prosper under the leadership of a rich-friendly administration, the workers of France see only decline in their circumstances. They are not willing to allow this slide to continue without raising their voices.

Again, like America and Barbados, at the outset, there was no union to assist them, but some unionists have a way of turning up to lead workers from behind. Since the Ronald Reagan era, workers’ unions in America have been neutered. Almost immediately on coming into office, Macron tried to do the same to unions in France, but the French have a different culture. In Barbados, the unions spayed themselves at the altar of political collusion. The workers have been cut loose to fend for themselves, and fend for themselves is what they are doing in France this weekend. An estimated 1.5 million people were on the streets on Friday. The French Government has called up 89,000 police officers to deal with the demonstrations they expect this weekend.

At the time of writing, there were three dead, more than 260 wounded and over 400 arrests. But the protesters are not daunted. The authorities are now concerned that the workers may soon be joined by others with a more serious anti-establishment agenda. But the unfair treatment of the workers has opened the door to this development.

The General Motors layoffs were motivated by corporate greed. While the lives of workers have been thrown into disarray, the stock price rose sharply. The market seemed to think that the General Motors decision was good for business.

The reforms introduced by Macron in France have all been corporation friendly and anti-worker. The corporate elite in France are happy with him. But not the workers.

The decisions being taken by the Barbados Government will make the corporate community dance all the way to the bank, but the workers at the very bottom of the ladder are losing their jobs and their supervisors are being reverted to lower posts. Americans talk of two Americas, the French talk of “the other France” and Adonijah sang about two Barbadoses. The take away from this is that inequality is deepening all across the capitalist world, fuelled by heartless Governments. The French people have said enough is enough. Tim Ryan is trying to avert a similar response in America with his WORKER Act. In Barbados?


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