Monday, April 14, 2008

Steven Greenhouse, labor and workplace reporter at the New York Times and author of The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, talks about stagnating wages, the end of job security, and the decline of benefits.


Steven Greenhouse

Comments [31]

J.C. from Minneapolis

One thing to keep in mind, esp. to the guy who quibbled about the meaning of "full employment," is that if you work at McDonald's or Starbucks or Barnes & Noble and make less than $10 per hour, you are still "employed." So the fact that the unemployment rate is 5.1% doesn't tell the full story (not to mention the fact that the unemployment rate doesn't count people who've quit looking for that non-existent job).
And I agree that student loan debt is outrageous. We are going to have to swallow an income tax increase (dirty words, I know) to bring tuition down to humane levels, not to mention do a lot other things that America should be doing for her citizens.

Apr. 14 2008 01:22 PM
hjs from 11211

does anyone think americans will finally wake up after 4 more republican years of terror on working people?

Apr. 14 2008 12:10 PM
Phyllis Kelvin from Manhattan- zip 10025

Your comment on the NYTimes story re drug insurance should have included the accompanying story of four men who had a buddy-bonding trip costing millions. If the millionnaires surtax were to be imposed nation wide, there would be enough money generated to provide universal health coverage (like our global competitors)and US manufactures' labor costs would not have to include health coverage. This might lure some jobs back to the US. There might also be $$$ for improved education and child care. I don't hear major candidates talking about a surtax on the very wealthy.

Apr. 14 2008 11:43 AM
Liz from brooklyn

The difference between the two quotes is that Bill was talking about the candidate he was opposing and his strategy and Barack was talking about the voters beliefs and their reasons for them.

Apr. 14 2008 11:41 AM
Nick Patterson from NYC

I think that Obama was on the mark, but, uncharacteristically, he missed an opportunity here...if he had not used the stereotypical guns and religion labels, those people might actually have thought that SOMEONE, for once, was actually hearing their he pointed out, neither Bush nor Clinton helped them.


Apr. 14 2008 11:35 AM
Nancy from chappaqua

Anyone else feeling the bite of the AMT?

Under regular tax, would have had a refund this year. With AMT, owe $12,000.

Apr. 14 2008 11:32 AM
CH from Staten Island

Having been born and raised in rural America, I can speak from experience. Obama is right on the mark. The frustrated in rural areas have a need to feel connected, physically and emotionally. They want to belong to something bigger than their problems. In rural America there are VERY few choices for "belonging" Two of the most prominent are Churches and hunters. So turning to these groups is a way to try to keep to the familiar. Some already belong to these groups, but many come to them only after frustration becomes overpowering and, yes, often bitter.

Apr. 14 2008 11:31 AM
Norman from NYC

Before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King decided that the only way to rise people up from poverty was democratic socialism.

How about socialism?

Apr. 14 2008 11:26 AM
KC from Brooklyn

I doubt the official unemployment rates are anywhere close to accurate; "discouraged workers" (the unemployed who no longer look for work, presumably because they can't find any) aren't counted. The real number is probably way higher than the phony "official" one.

Apr. 14 2008 11:26 AM
a woman from manhattan

The problem with Obama's remark wasn't the remark itself! The problem with Obama's remark is Hillary Clinton twisting it around.

It was too easy to twist it around, that was the only thing wrong with it. I cannot believe she's trying to pretend she's a women "of the people" by drinking whiskey with them, and trying to pass Obama off as the new "elitist" Kerry. That makes me mad!

Apr. 14 2008 11:24 AM
Norman from NYC

There was an article in The American Prospect about the burden of college costs, compared to what they were two generations ago, asking why students aren't doing anything to complain about that.

"The government" isn't going to figure it out for you. You have to organize and demand it.

European universities are free. City College used to be free. The state university system used to be practically free.

Why aren't any candidates making that an issue? Why do college students and their parents support Clinton and Obama, unless they support those issues?

Apr. 14 2008 11:24 AM
Erin from Manhattan

Brian, I would disagree that Obama's observation about the manifestation of economic bitterness as anti-immigrant sentiment somehow implies that he is hypocritical when discussing flaws in trade agreements. Couldn't one argue that there is simply an imbalance between the current trend toward global trade and the lack of fair labor union representation? His statements are not condescending, but rather an unfortunate truth that must be identified to be addressed.

Apr. 14 2008 11:24 AM
Mark from Brooklyn

This latest pile-on Obama is giving me the apoplexy. What he said was true, it was not even "nuanced," and I'm glad that he stands by it. It was, however about 5 seconds longer than a soundbite, which is what's killing him. Not to mention political debate in this country.

Apr. 14 2008 11:23 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

[[This comment removed by moderators for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please, keep your comments civil, productive, and relevant to the discussion on the air. If you would like to contact listener services, they can be reached 212-669-3333. Thanks!]]

Apr. 14 2008 11:22 AM
Anon from NYC

PS: Obama called it correctly if one bothers to actually listens to, or reads (some people do still read) the full statement.

Apr. 14 2008 11:22 AM
John from NYC

Has the author spoken with Greg Spotts who produced a film on this issue?

Apr. 14 2008 11:21 AM
Robert from NYC

EVERYTHING has risen EVERYTHING. For godssake FOOD is rising FOOD FOOD. C'mon, what the hell is going on. Land of opportunity HAHAHA I'm going mad HAHAHA

Apr. 14 2008 11:21 AM
eastvillage from nyc

I have an MA and still find it difficult to make a good salary, say about $45,000 a year in NYC, which itself is low here. Hence, I think the negatvie impact is even wider than just to those who don't have a college degree.

Apr. 14 2008 11:20 AM
Richard Williams from Larchmont, NY

I am a 47 unemployed music teacher with two masters degrees. I have had interviews with twenty-one school districts since 2002. I am just as bitter if not more so. All I ask is to be on the conductor's podium in front of a concert band.

Apr. 14 2008 11:20 AM
Anon from NYC

The reason many in small, declining areas feel frustrated (or bitter in truth), and exhibit anti-trade and anti-immigrant feelings is due to the lack of government response to the needs of citizens in emergencies and down-turns. Many now find themselves in the wide crack of not having enough to make ends meet, yet not poor enough to get sufficient aid. Yet they see immigrant-poor getting aid and rich companies getting help after stiffing the public. Losing one's house while the "legally defined" poor neighbors get help, and losing one's job while companies hire both legal and illegal immigrants can indeed cause bitterness.

Apr. 14 2008 11:19 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

It was the "guns and religion" part of the remarks that outraged people. If anything it highlights why these voters whose economic interests might be represented by the democratic party are turned off by the rhetoric that belittles their lifestyle.

Apr. 14 2008 11:17 AM
Robert from NYC

I didn't think Obama's remarks were so bad when I heard them. I had first heard on a lead-out for the next story that he had said these terrible, really horrible (paraphrasing here) things and when I heard the clip I thought, "uh, but where is the horrible part!" I agreed with what he said and agree is was a bad choice of words. But I believe some who just continue to spiral down can become bitter. I've had bitter moments since I lost my job 4 years ago then realizing no one would hire me at my age and then became ill and went to SSDI which is not livable. And with that I know there are folks a lot worse off than I so I can just imagine how bitter they can be. Something has to be done for the "blue collar" worker and workers in general in this country that itself is spiraling downwards more and more each day.

Apr. 14 2008 11:17 AM

Thomas Frank's book, What's the Matter with Kansas is another book that talks about how the American working class has voted against their economic interests by siding with the Republican Party.'s_the_Matter_with_Kansas

Apr. 14 2008 11:14 AM
stephen from brooklyn

Although not an Obama supporter, I think his assertion is authentic. The history of postwar America is the history of free-trade and the opening up of markets. Bretton Woods, IMF, World Bak, etc.

Apr. 14 2008 11:14 AM
Chris O from New York

Please read the full quote. I watched Meet the Press and to Russert's credit, he showed Obama's full quote, which was very thoughtful, incisive AND sympathetic to those he supposedly insulted.
Then of course I watched all the guests get their panties in a twist over what he said. Because let us remember, a gaffe in Washington is when you say the truth that is not supposed to be told.

Apr. 14 2008 11:11 AM
a woman from manhattan

Obama's comment may not have been "wise" but it certainly was accurate. Anyone with their eyes and ears open knows that. My own father is a good example of a bitter, cynical, racist middle class, Fox News-watching white man. I bet I'm not the only one who can say that.

Apr. 14 2008 11:09 AM
Liz from brooklyn

[[This comment removed by moderator for violating the WNYC posting policy. Please make sure your comments are civil and productive to the discussion taking place on the air. Thanks!]]

Apr. 14 2008 11:08 AM
RCTB from Westchester

To the detriment of their economic interests, many blue-collar voters continue to support Republican conservatives who push those voters' ideological buttons while promoting policies that undermine benefits and job security. This is the problem that Barack Obama was addressing when he said that some blue-collar workers cling to religious beliefs and political ideologies when they are bitter and disappointed. (He did not say, as the Clintons are disingenouously claiming, that all people who were religious or had conservative political views were bitter and disappointed; he said that some angry working-class people channeled their frustrations into ideology.)

The decline in pension benefits, medical care, job security and real wages is directly connected to the demise of organized labor. Yes, new economic realities such as the global market require new and innovative solutions -- but if you ain't got any power, you can't negotiate. Try saying "higher wages" if you're a WalMart cashier, and see what happens.

Apr. 14 2008 11:06 AM
John from NYC

Two recent authors wrote about this issue: "The Disposable American" by Louis Uchitelle and "Take this Job and Ship It" by Senator Byron Dorgan. Corporations in the U.S. are more interested in having us as customers/consumers and not necessarily as employees of their respective companies.

Apr. 14 2008 10:37 AM
hjs from 11211

the war on the middle class continues

Apr. 14 2008 10:13 AM

could globalization of labor unions help?

for one thing a union could follow a US company's move overseas...

Apr. 14 2008 09:26 AM

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