Archives for category: Economy

The report released today–titled “Schools in Context”– by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League tells a different story about international comparisons by looking at a broad range of indicators, not just test scores.


One part of the report is called “The Iceberg Effect,” and it shows what happens when you look only at the tip of the iceberg–test scores. A more complex and more interesting portrait of schools and society emerges when you look at the whole iceberg, not just the part that is easily measured by a standardized test. See the pdf here.


The full report of “Schools in Context” may be located in this pdf file.


The countries included in this contextual study are the United States, China, Canada, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan.



When we think of the phrase “the American dream,” we think about a belief that everyone has a fair chance to better themselves, to get a free education, to land a job that provides them the means to be self-supporting and live in a good home. Behind the phrase is an assumption of fairness and opportunity, of earning good wages for your work and knowing you can take care of yourself, your family, and your old age.

That “dream” is slipping away. To understand why, read this important essay-review by economist Robert Kuttner in the “Néw York Review of Books.” It is a review of two books that helps explain the profound transformation of work in our time.

One of the books is by David Weil: “The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad For So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It.” The other is by Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt: “Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street.”

Kuttner describes a new system in which employers outsource work to contractors, keeping a close watch on the quality of the product but taking little or no responsibility for salaries and working conditions. He gives two examples for starters: the treatment of workers building NYU’s satellite campus in Abu Dhabi, and the factory fire in Bangladesh that killed more than. 1,100 workers producing luxury items for wealthy consumers.


Kuttner writes:


“The same system of outsourced employment increasingly operates at home. In the past generation, there has been a drastic change in how work is organized. Regular payroll employment is becoming the exception. The employer of record is no longer the corporation, but a web of intermediaries. The outside contractor demands stringent worker performance, even as it drives down wages, job security, and benefits….


“This system, which began in peripheral occupations such as janitors or security guards, has become pervasive. FedEx workers wear the company’s uniforms, drive its trucks, and adhere to stringent rules; but they are independent contractors, not company employees. At many leading hotels, room cleaners and desk clerks actually work for management companies, not for Marriott or Hilton. The technician sent by Comcast to fix your cable may well be a freelancer, not an employee. When you go into a government building, the receptionist/guard is likely not a civil servant, but the low-wage hire of a security firm.”


At this point, the rest of the essay unfortunately goes behind a paywall. You might find it worthwhile to subscribe (a one-week online subscription is only $4.99). I have the print edition, and I will quote a bit more.


“The new system frees corporations from the obligations of a tacit social compact in which employees’ loyalty is reciprocated, companies have an incentive to invest in workers, and people can look forward to predictable careers. Moreover, the entire structure of workers protections and benefits legislated beginning in the New Deal is predicated on the assumption that the employee is on the payroll of the company that makes the product. A casual worker has fewer rights, and those that carry over are harder to enforce. A contract workers or temp pays his or her own Social Security taxes, can seldom collect unemployment compensation, rarely receives company-provided health insurance or pension benefits, and has scant opportunity to organize or join a union.”


In the current economy, inequality of income and wealth grows, and at the same time there is a disconnect between productivity and earnings “because it allows corporations to batter down labor costs–people’s paychecks.”


“In explaining inequality, many economists emphasize the importance of education and technology, contending that widening gaps reflect shifts in the demands for skills and the failure of America’s educational system. Yet the old postwar social compact calling for far greater equality was respected at a time when most Americans did not go to college and many factory workers had not completed high school. Since 1980, college graduation rates have soared yet inequality has increased. Generally, it has widened among college graduates, not just between those with college degrees and those with only high school diplomas or less.”


Kuttner says that the new economy represents a shift of political power. Employers have been trying for over a century to lower labor costs. In this new era, with unions having lost numbers and political power, employers find it easier to outsource and replace workers with temps. Financial deregulation, he says, set off the latest round of work degradation. The second book he reviews “explains how the business strategies of these [private equity] investment companies logically destroy and degrade jobs, not for economic efficiency or better management but to transfer wealth from workers to financial profiteers.”


Private equity is, he says, “a sly rebranding of what used to be called leverage buyouts (LBOs), or more coarsely, corporate raids….Contrary to the industry’s claims about being experts in turning companies from losers to winners, private equity typically targets healthy companies rather than underperforming ones, the better to extract cash reserves. Having loaded the balance sheet of the company with debt–debt incurred in the purchase of that very company–they hire managers to run as lean and ruthless an operation as possible. They borrow even more money to pay themselves ‘special dividends,’ to recoup their initial small equity outlay many times over even if the operating company goes broke. The big losers in this game are the company’s workers….


Since the general partners of private equity firms make such outsized returns, investors want a piece of that action. But Applebaum and Batt cite data showing that most of the returns to limited partners do not beat the performance of the S&P 500. Even more peculiar is the fact that some 35 percent of the investment capital put up by limited partners comes from pension funds–which represent the deferred wages of workers. So workers’ own funds become part of the financial system that drives down workers’ wages and often plunders other pension systems.”


Kuttner writes:


“For reasons unrelated to education or technology, a great many jobs can be configured either as casual labor or as normal payroll employment. In many states, for example, home health aides are individual contractors with low wages and insecure employment to match. But in states with strong unions, such as California, home health aides have won the right to form bargaining units and are compensated as payroll employees. Warehouse workers for Walmart are hired and employed by logistics contractors; they are low-paid and subject to arbitrary dismissal. Elsewhere, however, many warehouse workers are salaried employees and receive middle-class compensation….The general trend to lower-paid work has little to do with education, technology, or management ‘efficiency.’ It is a pure transfer from labor to capital.”


The best way to halt job degrading is, one, to enforce the laws on the books; and two, to strengthen workers’ rights to join unions, “since unions remain the best defense against gratuitous job job-degrading.”


When you think about education “reform” in the context of job-degrading and rising inequality, the pieces begin to fit together with the larger transformation of our economy to the highest levels of inequality since the age of the Robber Barons.

EduShyster, aka Jennifer Berkshire, interviews political economist Gordon Lafer in this post. He explains the role of corporate education reform in a broad economic and political context. This is one of the most enlightening interviews she has conducted. I urge you to read it.


She asks Lafer whether Walmart is helping poor kids get a better education by swelling the coffers of the Walton Family Foundation, which generously funds charters and vouchers across the nation.


He replies:


First of all, the thing that correlates most clearly with educational performance in every study is poverty. So when you look at the agenda of the biggest and richest corporate lobbies in the country, it’s impossible to conclude that they want to see the full flowering of the potential of each little kid in poor cities. To say *I want to cut the minimum wage, I want to prevent cities from passing laws raising wages or requiring sick time, I want to cut food stamps, I want to cut the earned income tax credit, I want to cut home heating assistance. Oh but, by the way, I’m really concerned about the quality of education that poor kids are getting*—it’s just not credible. You’re creating the problem that you now claim to want to solve….Walmart has no trouble filling positions and operating with very high turnover because what’s demanded of people who work there is so little. They’re certainly not asking *where are we going to find more people who can do algebra and craft well-written paragraphs? In fact, the big problem with the *send every kid to college* argument is that there aren’t jobs for these kids after they graduate. You cannot find an economist who predicts that more than one-third of jobs in the US are going to require a college degree in our lifetime. The real question is not how can everybody be a college graduate, but how can people make a decent living. And here is where you see that the same corporate lobbies that are pushing education reform are doing everything possible to make that harder.


EduShyster pushed Lafer to explain how the corporate reform agenda made sense–especially the combination of budget cuts for the public schools combined with tax cuts for corporations. Lafer answered:


I think the direction that the most powerful forces in the country is pushing is a bleak and frankly scary one—that at some level they want us to forget the idea of having a right to a decent public education, which is one of the last remaining entitlements, and make it more like health care, which is increasingly seen as a privilege. What’s being done to schooling is, I think, devastating on its merits. It has ideological implications for lowering expectations for what you have a right to as a citizen or a resident. And it raises big, profound questions: How does your experience in school affect, not just your skill set for employment, but your sense of yourself as a person and what you think you deserve from life? I think that for the real one percent, the big political challenge is *how do we pursue a policy agenda that makes the country ever more unequal and that makes life harder for the vast majority of people without provoking a populist backlash?* One of the ways of doing that is by lowering people’s expectations, and one of the key places to do that is in the school system.


The good news is that the interview ends on a hopeful note. We can’t abandon hope, because if we do, we are lost from the get-go. We must believe that a political awakening will happen if we work hard enough to make it happen, and that the Robber Barons will be tamed. American history runs in cycles, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., argued, and we must not give up believing that we can make change. Because we can.




I wrote earlier this week about the frightening posdibility that we as a nation might be facing a future in which jobs are scarce, due to globalization (which encourages outsourcing to low-wage countries) and technology (in which computers and robots will replace large numbers of workers).

As it happened, Anthony Cody wrote a complementary post in which he factored in the rigorous Common Core standards and tests as the great sorting mechanism that will determine winners and losers in the new economy. The good test-takers will get the good jobs, and those with low scores will get the scraps or nothing at all.

The middle class is shrinking, he writes. There won’t be enough jobs for all who seek work. Students are crushed by debt.

“A smaller number of Americans will be better off than their parents – even with the advantage of better education. We are looking at a lottery system with fewer and fewer winners, and many more losers. And our educational system is being prepared for this.

“Our schools are the center of a battle for our collective soul.

“Our schools can be laboratories of democracy, controlled by local citizens, connected to the life blood of the community, preparing children to engage with and transform the world they are entering. The documentary series, A Year at Mission Hill shows what such a school looks like, and how it cares for the students, and nurtures their dreams as they grow. Most of us entered teaching with this vision in mind.

“But our schools can also be the place where dreams are squashed. A place where students are sorted into winners and losers based on their test scores. Students who are given academic tasks that are beyond their ability or developmental level become frustrated and discouraged. When I taught 6th grade math in Oakland, one of my greatest challenges was the many students who arrived and would write on my introductory survey, “I am bad at math.” These self images form early, and the scientific precision of our tests creates a false portrait that becomes indelible when reiterated time and again come test time. What we are creating is a system that says “If you are bad at math, and these many other difficult things on our tests, you are not prepared for college or career, and you are worthless…

“Our educational system is being used as a means to rationalize the economic marginalization of a growing number of students. That process will hit those already marginalized by class and race the hardest….

“These are the children that our educational system is being prepared to look in the eye and say “you are not going to be able to attend a good college.” In fact, many of you may not even graduate from high school if plans proceed to use these tests as graduation exams.

“So the students who have been labeled as “not ready for college or career” will be released into society, to join the permanently unemployed or underemployed, the low wage service sector, their jobs vulnerable to computerization.

“And what will the story be that explains why will this is their fate? It will not be because jobs have been sent overseas. Not because technology is increasing productivity and reducing the need for labor. Not because the economy is delivering ever more wealth to an ever smaller number of oligarchs. No. The story will be that they are surplus because they did not achieve the education needed to make themselves indispensable to some company’s bottom line. They are surplus because they are not needed to make the machinery of our society run.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Cody writes:

“The trends are not positive, so long as we are stuck in our current economic model. Teachers have a role to play. We can cooperate with the system, and validate the tests as accurate indicators of our students’ value as “productive members of society.” That is what we are asked to do when Bill Gates and Arne Duncan implore us to help implement the Common Core. Or we can offer our own vision of the role of education as a catalyst for democratic change. And that change that will increasingly require us to question the imperatives of an economy that no longer serves the majority of Americans, and reject the ranking and sorting of our students into those with and without economic value.”

Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, eloquently describes what the nation needs now. She says that people are discouraged by the power of big corporations, big oil, and their lobbyists. There is a palpable sense that government works best to protect the interests of the privileged, not the average family or individuals, and certainly not those who have fallen out of the middle class.

She writes:

“It’s not about big government or small government. It’s not the size of government that worries people; rather it’s deep-down concern over who government works for. People are ready to work, ready to do their part, ready to fight for their futures and their kids’ futures, but they see a government that bows and scrapes for big corporations, big banks, big oil companies and big political donors — and they know this government does not work for them.

“The American people want a fighting chance to build better lives for their families. They want a government that will stand up to the big banks when they break the law. A government that helps out students who are getting crushed by debt. A government that will protect and expand Social Security for our seniors and raise the minimum wage.

“Americans understand that building a prosperous future isn’t free. They want us to invest carefully and prudently, sharply aware that Congress spends the people’s money. They want us to make investments that will pay off in their lives, investments in the roads and power grids that make it easier for businesses to create good jobs here in America, investments in medical and scientific research that spur new discoveries and economic growth, and investments in educating our children so they can build a future for themselves and their children.”

The important thing is not to pass new laws and programs, but to ask whom they benefit.

The two great forces shaping the future at this time are globalization and technology.

Globalization has its benefits: We are more aware than ever of our interconnectedness with other people, nations, and cultures. But it has its downside: corporations outsource jobs to places where people work for less and there are no unions There is a story that President Obama once asked Steve Jobs what it would take to bring Apple production back to the U.S., and Jobs replied, “Those jobs are never coming back.” Why should they? It is cheaper to produce the devices in China.

Technology also has its good and bad sides. It has put us in instant touch with everyone else, it has created new jobs, it has made possible new ways of living and working.

The downside is that technology kills jobs by replacing humans with machines. Not long ago, I had dinner with a retired executive of Kraft. One of his jobs was supervising candy factories. He told me About factories that once employed 1,000 people but are now run by only two people.

A recent series of articles in USA Today includes one about the robots that will increasingly replace workers in low-skill jobs.

“”These ‘safe havens’ for low-skill workers may not be there in the decades to come,” says Carl Benedikt Frey, one of the authors of The Future of Employment, a 2013 University of Oxford study estimating the scope of automation. “A lot of low-skill workers will need to acquire creative and social skills to stay competitive in the labor market in the future.”

“Low-skill workers, experts say, need to look past any short-term job growth.

“We’re moving the unskilled jobs into skilled jobs. And that is going to be a challenge for us going forward,” says Henrik Christensen, director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “If you are unskilled labor today, you’d better start thinking about getting an education.”

“USA TODAY’s analysis suggests some metro areas will gain more low-skill jobs in the next two years than others. Tourist destinations, for example, are expected to gain jobs such as food service workers, retail salespeople, housekeepers and taxi drivers by 2017. Las Vegas is expected to add nearly 900 gaming dealers, and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., needs nearly 500 landscapers.

“Health care jobs are growing nearly everywhere, and some construction jobs are showing high demand in certain metro areas.

“Half of all jobs — and 70% of low-skill jobs— may be replaced by robots or other technology in 10 to 20 years, according to Frey’s research.”

Think of it: if half of all jobs are automated, what will people do for work?

Then there is this article by David Brooks. Quoting from an article by Kevin Kelly in “Wired,” he describes a new world of artificial intelligence. It is a world where a very small number of corporations and people grow ever more powerful.

He writes:

“The Internet is already heralding a new era of centralization. As Astra Taylor points out in her book, “The People’s Platform,” in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all U.S. page views, but, by 2010, they accounted for 75 percent of them. Gigantic companies like Google swallow up smaller ones. The Internet has created a long tail, but almost all the revenue and power is among the small elite at the head.

“Advances in artificial intelligence will accelerate this centralizing trend. That’s because A.I. companies will be able to reap the rewards of network effects. The bigger their network and the more data they collect, the more effective and attractive they become.

“As Kelly puts it, “Once a company enters this virtuous cycle, it tends to grow so big, so fast, that it overwhelms any upstart competitors. As a result, our A.I. future is likely to be ruled by an oligarchy of two or three large, general-purpose cloud-based commercial intelligences.”

“To put it more menacingly, engineers at a few gigantic companies will have vast-though-hidden power to shape how data are collected and framed, to harvest huge amounts of information, to build the frameworks through which the rest of us make decisions and to steer our choices. If you think this power will be used for entirely benign ends, then you have not read enough history.”

I can’t see into the future but I don’t understand how our democracy can survive this aggregation of power in so few hands. Or how a society like ours can provide enough work if such a large part of the labor force is displaced by robots.

Maybe Bob Herbert is right in his book “Losing Our Way.” This might be the right time for a vast public works project to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Real jobs. High social value. A vision for the future. Unless, that is, the 1% forbid it.

Alan Singer, professor of teacher education at Hofstra University in Néw Tork, has written a stunning brief history of the school-to-prison pipeline. He looks at the role of schools in this process.

He writes:

“Since the early 1970s, the United States prison population has quadrupled to 2.2 million. It is the largest prison population in the world. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, China is number two at 1.7 million people, Iran is number 8 at 217,000 people, and the United Kingdom is number 17 at 85,000. Fourteen million people are arrested every year and over two million are sent to jail. Approximately 65 million people in the United States, or more than twenty-five percent of the adults population, has a criminal record.

“The U.S. incarceration rate is five to ten times the size of other democratic countries. It is over 700 prisoners for every 100,000 people compared to 149 for England and Wales, 143 for Spain, 102 for France, 90 for Italy, 81 for Germany, and 57 for Sweden.

“Meanwhile, more than half of state prisoners are in jail for nonviolent crimes. Mass incarceration has destructive impact on families, communities, and state and local budgets. It cost $80 billion a year to keep all these people in prison and more than $250 billion to pay for all the additional police and court expenses. According to the human rights group Human Rights Watch, while prison should be a last resort, in the United States “it has been treated as the medicine that cures all ills.”

“In 2000, over two million American children had a parent in prison. I saw the impact of this on young people at a conference at the City University of New York. Eight students who attend a school for teenagers already involved in the criminal justice system discussed how they grew up in families where parents were incarcerated and its impact on them as children.”

What role do schools play? He writes:

“There is a lot of talk about how schools can transform society. The Bush administration’s education policy declared “No Child Left Behind,” but of course many children are still left behind. Barack Obama demanded that schools lead his “Race to the Top,” but it is not clear what direction he wants the schools and students to run. The reality is that schools reflect and reinforce society; they do not transform it. In the United States dating back to the 1920s high schools were organized on factory models to prepare working class immigrant youth for the tedium of factory work and harsh discipline.

“Since the 1970s factory jobs in the United States have been shipped overseas. Companies do not need students prepared for factory work, so schools have evolved to perform a new social role. In inner city minority neighborhoods especially Black and Latino young people attend schools organized on the prison model where they are treated as if they were criminals.

“Students enter buildings through metal detectors. If the device goes off they are bodily searched. Armed police stand guard. Uniformed security crews that report to the police sweep the halls. Students are forced to sit in overcrowded uncomfortable classrooms doing rote assignments geared to high-stakes Common Core assessments. Stressed out teachers, fearful that they will be judged by poor student performance on these tests, use boredom and humiliation to maintain control of the classroom.”

This is a thoughtful and disturbing article. You should read it.

Bob Herbert’s new book Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America is one of the most important, most compelling books that I have read in many years. For those of us who have felt that something has gone seriously wrong in our country, Herbert connects the dots. He provides a carefully documented, well-written account of what went wrong and why. As he pulls together a sweeping narrative, he weaves it through the personal accounts of individuals whose stories are emblematic and heartbreaking.


Herbert reminds us of a time when America’s policymakers had great visions for the future and acted to make them real, whether it was the building of the Erie Canal or the transcontinental rail system, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s TVA, or Dwight D. Eisenhower’s national highway system. He reminds us that the American dream was to create a nation where there were good jobs for those who wanted to work, where there was increasing equality, and a growing middle class.


What we have today is a nation dominated by plutocrats and corporations, which are allowed by the U. S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision to dump unlimited amounts of money into elections and to write legislation that favors plutocrats and corporations; what we have is historic levels of wealth inequality and income inequality, where corporations outsource good jobs and many people are slipping from the middle class into minimum wage jobs or even poverty. Herbert explains that our failure to invest in rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure has left us with crumbling bridges, tunnels, water mains, sewers, and gas lines, which are dangerous and sometimes fatal to citizens who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, as bridges collapse, levees fall, and gas lines explode.


He goes into detail about the corporate assault on public education, fueled by the plutocrats’ desire to turn education into a free market. He points out that the plutocrats’ favorite reform—charter schools—enroll a tiny percentage of students and have on average an unimpressive record. Their relentless attacks on the teaching profession will damage that profession for many years into the future. Herbert spent time in Pittsburgh, meeting the activists and parent leaders there. He saw at ground-level the harm inflicted by massive cuts in the state budget and the determination of parents to fight back. He describes the emptiness of the reformers’ boast that they can close the achievement gap by privatization and by union-busting. Having talked to teachers, parents, and principals, he knows the harm that poverty inflicts on children, the pain caused by living without adequate food, shelter, and medical care.


Herbert writes movingly about the endless wars in the Middle East of the past decade. Did the policymakers know what they were doing when they launched the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they have a strategy for victory? No, they did not. They launched wars with a goal (victory) but not a plan. He quotes Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who assured the American public that our invasion of Iraq would not last longer than five months. Herbert writes about a remote sector in Afghanistan called “the valley of death,” where American troops struggled to establish a base. It was portrayed in an award-winning documentary called “Restrepo.” Many young Americans died there, but no one could explain why our troops were sent there; eventually, the disaster ended, and we abandoned that forlorn valley. Herbert cites economists who calculate that the wars of the past decade will cost trillions of dollars, as well as thousands of American lives and hundreds of thousands of lives of people in the countries we went to “save.” There is no end in sight. Does anyone still believe that Iraq or Afghanistan are on their way to become stable democracies or even a country that will no longer harbor terrorists?


Herbert pulls all these events and issues into a coherent whole. We have lost our way. Our elected officials dream no big dreams. They have little or no concept of major public works programs to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, which would put millions of people to work and invigorate our economy. They willingly waste blood and treasure on wars in distant lands, yet they cannot bring themselves to invest in our nation and create jobs by rebuilding the vital roads, tunnels, bridges, sewers, and other public assets that are now in disrepair, rusting, crumbling, threatening lives. We have money aplenty for war, but no money to put people to work fixing our infrastructure. Plutocrats buy politicians to protect their fortunes and reduce their taxes. Corporations buy politicians who will deregulate their activities and cut their taxes. The stock market rewards corporations that cut their payroll, firing experienced employees who had served those corporations loyally for decades. Men like Jack Welch of GE and “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap became famous as business leaders who coolly and heartlessly fired tens of thousands of workers to increase shareholder value in their corporations.


Herbert writes:


“How did things go so wrong? How is it that so many millions were finding it so difficult to get ahead, to emerge from the terrible, demoralizing rut of joblessness and underemployment? In a country as rich as the United States, why were so many being left behind?


“The biggest factor by far was the toxic alliance forged by government and America’s megacorporations and giant banks. That alliance of elites, fueled by endless greed and a near-pathological quest for power, reshaped the rules and regulations of the economy and the society at large to heavily favor the interest of those who were already well-to-do. In the process they trampled the best interests of ordinary Americans.”


Herbert’s book comes alive through his account of the experiences of two individuals: one, a woman in Minnesota who was driving across a bridge that spanned the Mississippi River when it collapsed in 2007; the other, a young man who was grievously wounded in Afghanistan and struggled to regain the ability to walk. In these and many other accounts of individuals and families, Herbert uses his superb journalistic skills to bring major issues to life. Along with the data and the documentation to make his arguments, Herbert vividly portrays what matters most: the human impact of political decisions.


If you read only one book this year, make it Bob Herbert’s “Losing Our Way.” It will change you. It will make you want to get involved, take action, make a difference. As he says at the end of the book, it doesn’t have to be this way. Changing it depends on us.

One of the nation’s top investigative journalists, David Sirota, reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker based his estimate of a “living wage” on the restaurant industry, which pays workers minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

He writes:

“Under pressure to raise the state’s minimum wage, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker confidently declared that there was no need. Low-wage workers had filed a complaint charging that the state’s minimum wage — $7.25 — did not constitute a “living wage” as mandated by state law. But the Republican governor’s administration, after examining the issue, announced on Oct. 6 that it found “no reasonable cause” for the workers’ complaint.

“That official government finding, according to documents reviewed by the International Business Times, was largely based on information provided by the state’s restaurant industry — which represents major low-wage employers including fast-food companies.

“The Raise Wisconsin campaign, which is pushing for a higher minimum wage, requested all documents on which the state based the “living wage” ruling. And the only economic analysis that the administration released in response was one from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association — a group that lobbies against minimum wage increases, and whose website says it is includes low-wage employers such as “fast food outlets” and “corporate chain restaurants.” The restaurant association’s study argued that a minimum wage increase would harm the state. It did not actually address whether workers can survive on the $7.25 minimum wage.

“It’s outrageous that Walker’s administration only thought to consult the restaurant industry, and not the workers themselves,” said Dan Cantor, the national director of Working Families, one of the groups that has been leading the effort to raise the minimum wage in Wisconsin. “In Scott Walker’s world, regular people don’t matter, only corporations,” Cantor said. Walker has received major campaign contributions from the restaurant industry.”

Sirota cites data showing that about half of all restaurant workers live at or below the poverty line.

This curious story caught my eye as I was reading the business section of the New York Times yesterday. A man named Jesse Busk is suing Amazon because, after his 12-hour shift at its warehouse in Las Vegas, he was required to wait in line for a security screening along with other workers to see if they had stolen any goods. Busk maintained that he should be paid for the additional 25 minutes because it was a required part of his workday. His employer and other employers obviously were opposed to paying him for the extra time.

Mr. Busk has since been laid off. He said it was unfair not to be paid for the extra time after such a long day.

Two things got my attention in this story. First, I thought this country had long ago accepted that a man or woman should. Not work more than eight hours a day, forty hours a week. I was wrong. As I continued reading about the rationales for and against Mr. Busk’s contention, I discovered that the Obama administration was supporting employers, not the worker. Naturally, I found myself wondering what would Harry Truman or FDR or JFK have done. Which side would they be on.


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