Hard times have arrived.

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Sep 14, 2022Liked by Steve Berman, Chris J. Karr

Fascinating discussion when i consider i spent a huge portion of my work life arguing about income inequality. Representing workers in industries that weren't high end was a never ending fight for a more just wage (and benefits) for them. Unions were a dirty word and vilified by most on the right. By the way, i often reached out to them, they weren't interested.

Since they've (unions) all been but crushed, it's gotten worse. The solution was a cry for a $15 living wage campaign that did what? The 80's, 90's and virtually all of the 2000's have resulted in a downward spiral for working men and women across the country.

The bigger is better equation is answered with one simple question; "better for whom?" Your charts and graphs say it all. I know you all hate the mantra, but the "rich getting richer" was never intended to be a campaign slogan but a reality that would crush us one day. Enough is never enough for those that have it all. Never has been, never will be.

I can and have written more than my share of scathing pieces of organized labor's failures and shortcomings. They are nothing compared to the sins of those who have bought and paid for politicians on both the right and the left, and who have rewarded them with everything they wanted and more. Sadly, there's no satisfaction in, "I told you so."

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Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022Liked by Steve Berman, Jay Berman

I've been retired for more than 20 years. I worked for a Fortune 500 company as a mid-level manager. My salary was about 8 times that of clerical and entry level labor employees. The CEO's salary was about 20 times my salary. There were thousands of entry level and clerical employees, hundreds of supervisors and managers, scores of executives and operating company CEOs and one supreme CEO. The executive salaries were only a fraction of company revenues. Their retirement benefits were generous, but they had no company cars and could not even have booze on the company aircraft. The rest of us had some degree of job security and better than average benefits.

I never thought executive salaries in my company were excessive. Execs had to deal with politics and public perceptions and make the tough decisions. The rest of us just had to implement the plan. Union employees only participated to the extent they had to according to the contract. 99% of them took every sick day allowed by the contract. They never answered the phone for emergency call-ins unless they needed money or if it wasn't deer season, but they grieved missed overtime if they were away from the phone. Union employees have it within their power to determine their value to the company - if only they would.

The corporations that have excessive salary differentials are not like my company. It's a guess but my impression is that those companies are mostly run by liberal CEOs such Tim Cook, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. They treat their management and technical talent pretty well, but others, not so much. They utilize foreign suppliers as much as possible - somewhat like slave labor as opposed to American workers.

Clerical employees are needed less each year as technology takes over. A lot of what they used to do can now be handled by clicking on "save".

The best ideas are those that increase the participation of American workers. That's populism and MAGA for the Trump haters out there. The absolute worst idea is increased corporate taxes. The idea that corporations do not pay taxes, they collect taxes, is very true. Steve is absolutely correct. We need more hands-on skills and less of the useless college degrees.

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Sep 15, 2022·edited Sep 15, 2022

So a 160:1 ratio more or less, 20 years ago. Don't know what company you were in, but it'd be interesting to see if they're up around the average at this point.

Here's the list of highest pay ratios from AFL-CIO (Forbes has referred to them as well):


Increasing participation sounds great: the question's are "How?" considering where job growth is occurring (knowledge positions, though vocational work is always useful), and "How much will it pay?" because there are some really crappy pay rates out there.

It's gonna take some honest effort (and money) to get people trained/retrained depending on what industries are currently dying and others growing (coal vs solar/wind for example).

Even then: don't expect full participation because it's not realistically possible.

And something unaddressed: how does increased participation really reduce the wealth concentration issues?

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Good questions. I was referring to manufacturing / industrial positions and I did say entry level and clerical for lowest paid employees. The vast majority (technicians, complex machinery operators and journeymen) were paid considerably more. The ratio would have more like 30:1. I do not know what the ratio would be today. I do know there have been drastic reductions in the number of lower paid employees and accelerated hiring and training for the skilled positions that require specialized knowledge.

For the unskilled, I do not see a solution. Fast-food chains are doing their best to discourage in-store dining which will just mean they will fail faster. How many soggy, cold, takeout cheeseburgers and French fry orders can a customer stand? Enjoyable dining out is no longer possible because no help is available. Retail outlets are scantily stocked and curtailing operations and customers are forced to shop on-line because they can't afford to spend days and many gallons of gas checking retail stores for what they want and need.

The price to value ratio is broken. I and most other people can cook better hamburgers, steaks and fries than any restaurant. The fine dining market is now exclusively for the wealthy. People are making do with the furniture and clothing and vehicles they have because new stuff is not worth the price. Inflation is what you get with government paychecks, Medicaid, student loan forgiveness, new rules for Social Security disability payments. stimulus payments, SNAP benefits and more. People do not have to work, so they don't. Communal living using pooled benefits is a distinct possibility.

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If the unskilled are unable to get jobs because there are a lack of positions for unskilled workers, then you have to either provide training or provide for them. This is especially true as technology continues to advance and reduce the need for humans in certain positions.

So: the question is what do we do about it? You seem to be saying get rid of government benefits - so let them starve in the streets. That's a public health and crime issue at minimum.

Most people want to work: it's just that pay and benefits haven't kept up, and instead has overbalanced towards the top. So: perhaps the fix lies in addressing that imbalance, yes?

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Sep 14, 2022Liked by Chris J. Karr

So: how do we combat this exactly? Is it a matter of adding more tax brackets for higher earners, ensuring that corporate taxes are paid, and removing loopholes? Is it enforcing a CEO-to-worker pay ratio (for reference: the average ratio was 21:1 in 1965, 61:1 in 1989, and is currently at 670:1 [with some companies being 1000:1])?

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