Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Are Immigrants to Blame Here?

That was the first and only significant question that Steve Inskeep had for David Wessel, deputy Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal after he talked about wages in the US: how they are stagnant for middle income workers, declining for lower income workers, and heading toward the stratosphere for CEOs.

Immigrants? That's not the first reason that came to mind for me, but it's fair enough to ask--if it were followed by a few more questions about other possible causes of low wages in the US. Here are a few questions that Inskeep should have asked:
  1. Did the US-led assault against unions, socialists, Indigenous people, the Catholic church, and the poor throughout South and Central America (e.g. Guatemala, Haiti, El Salvador, Chile, etc.) in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s unnaturally depress labor costs for mulitnationals doing business there, eventually undercutting US wages as those companies moved jobs out of the US?
  2. Did the US support of rightwing dictators and military juntas throughout Central and South America throughout the Cold War create the social upheavals and poverty that caused and still cause so many Latin Americans to come to the US as undocumented workers?
  3. Has our own massive "defense" spending weakened the US middle class by undercuting funding for infrastructure, education, health care, worker training?
  4. Did the deregulation of the Reagan-Bush I years lead to CEO salary gouging?
  5. Did the vaunted welfare "reform" of the Clinton years lower wage and living standards?
  6. Does steadily falling value of the legal minimum wage in the US create a permanent underclass?
It's hardly surprising that such questions were not raised given that the report is limited to the opinions of a Wall Street Journal employee and Steve Inskeep who literally cackles at the "humor" of 1993 CEOs making 131 times the average worker's salary compared to the 370 times the average CEOs now make.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When heard this interview, I was first annoyed (really annoyed) by the lighthearted "sillyness approach" of Inskeep, which later turned more serious; however, he really dumbed down the interview and coarsened what could have been - should have been - an important discussion. I thought I sensed annoyance or bafflement in Wessel's voice, though that could just have been projection.

It made me wonder, not for the first time this month, if NPR is deliberately dumbing down Morning Edition towards a more chatty tv-morning show approach.