Consider the Plantation mentality that has re-taken hold in the United States over the last fifteen years and especially in the last eight. Not that it hasn’t been with us since the beginnings of American history, but considering the successful struggles for liberty and justice during the Civil War, the New Deal, and the Civil Rights era, the fact that this mentality has not been rejected completely is amazing.
The plantation had a master with a family, a trusted staff of servants, a coterie of trusted advisors, a LOT of money, and slaves that worked the plantation. It was a feudal system with each Master the absolute ruler of his domain. If the Master kept everything humming, he got even wealthier. If he was smart, he paid his help with favors, privileges and just enough money to keep them working. It was all in the name of “good business.” If the plantation system worked properly, the local government served the Masters in its jurisdiction. Government then represented the local Masters in larger commercial enterprises, always with an eye on what was “good for business.”
Government, in this model, served the Masters, the Plantation owners, the big business interests that in turn employed, fed, housed and cared for the workers, helpers, staffs, and trusted advisors on the Plantation. It was a classic top down system, building a huge gap in wealth between the Masters and the general population.
The workers on the plantation, if they were busy, well-fed, had a place to sleep, and could raise a respectable family were quite happy with this arrangement. The house staff and the supervisors were satisfied because they also had good living arrangements and lived a little better than the field workers. All of these folks actually would defend their Master if he showed them at least some minimal respect and took care of their basic needs.
It was largely the abuses of the Plantation system, the arrogance of the oligarchy that was the old Confederacy, that caused the Civil War, the first great rising of the working class. The union movement in the early 20th century, the New Deal in the 30’s, the Post War growth of the middle class, and the Civil Rights movement in the 60’s were all steps in the overthrow of the old Plantation system.
So today on “Morning Joe” there was an animated discussion about the plight of the working class, sparked by Bob Herbert’s op-ed in the New York Times, “Race to the Bottom.”
Working men and women are not getting the credit they deserve for the jobs they do without squawking every day, for the hardships they are enduring in this downturn and for the collective effort they are willing to make to get through the worst economic crisis in the U.S. in decades….
We need some perspective here. It is becoming an article of faith in the discussions over an auto industry rescue, that unionized autoworkers should be taken off of their high horses and shoved into a deal in which they would not make significantly more in wages and benefits than comparable workers at Japanese carmakers like Toyota.
That’s fine if it’s agreed to by the autoworkers themselves in the context of an industry bailout at a time when the country is in the midst of a financial emergency. But it stinks to high heaven as something we should be aspiring to.
The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop’s approach to pay and benefits.
The great quote about bailing out the folks that shower before work and not those who shower after work fueled the discussion as the guests railed about the blank check given Wall Street to the tune of 700 Billion and the blocking of the measily 15 Billion bailout for the Big 3 and their workers. Mr. Herbert even wondered aloud if the new Justice Department would follow the money trails greasing the tubes from Wall Street to Congress and instigate prosecutions on behalf of the taxpayers.
It’s not just the economic downturn that reminds me of the old Plantation system. Our military is very much an elitist top-down organization especially with the difficulty in recruiting new soldiers. Remind me again, whose sons and daughters are being put in harms way? When soldiers are no longer of use in in the war [profiteering] zone, just how are they being taken care of?
The K street lobby, the health care industry, the military industrial complex, the unregulated investment banks, all are enablers of this modern day Plantation system. Thank goodness a basic awareness is dawning and bloggers, journalists, and now the Mainstream Media are finally sensing a new awareness of the plight of the middle class.
A Primer on the Bailout: