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Excerpt: "Needless to say, the GOP's disdain for workers goes deeper than rhetoric. It's deeply embedded in the party's policy priorities. Mr. Romney's remarks spoke to a widespread belief on the right that taxes on working Americans are, if anything, too low."

Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)
Portrait, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, 06/15/09. (photo: Fred R. Conrad/NYT)

Disdain for Workers

By Paul Krugman, The New York Times

20 September 12


y now everyone knows how Mitt Romney, speaking to donors in Boca Raton, washed his hands of almost half the country - the 47 percent who don't pay income taxes - declaring, "My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." By now, also, many people are aware that the great bulk of the 47 percent are hardly moochers; most are working families who pay payroll taxes, and elderly or disabled Americans make up a majority of the rest.

But here's the question: Should we imagine that Mr. Romney and his party would think better of the 47 percent on learning that the great majority of them actually are or were hard workers, who very much have taken personal responsibility for their lives? And the answer is no.

For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn't have much respect for people who work for other people, no matter how faithfully and well they do their jobs. All the party's affection is reserved for "job creators," a k a employers and investors. Leading figures in the party find it hard even to pretend to have any regard for ordinary working families - who, it goes without saying, make up the vast majority of Americans.

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+81 # fredboy 2012-09-21 08:53
One of the key reasons I retired early from my teaching post at a then top-30 MBA school was the awful change I noticed, a change being rammed into the souls of students. During class one day a student declared "Employees are nothing but expendable human capital. We owe them nothing. We just learned that in our economics course." Amazing. And disgraceful. My reply: "Then who on Earth would ever want to work for you?"
+59 # AndreM5 2012-09-21 09:09
I have raged against my own employers attitudes about workers for decades. The "Personnel Office" is now "Human Resources" to be managed like furniture and computers. The MBA schools have been a powerful source of brainwashing that lead to robots nodding their heads at the notion that "corporations are people, my friend."
+10 # doneasley 2012-09-21 18:44
Quoting AndreM5:
... The MBA schools have been a powerful source of brainwashing...

I've said that for years, Andre, and I observed it first hand at the company I retired from, which at one time employed more than 20,000 people worldwide and was the world's largest machine tool supplier. We sold to makers of automotive, aircraft, and off-road equipment as well as their suppliers. The MBA's have destroyed many solid businesses in this country. To them all businesses are to be operated in the same way - every business is a nail and they've got the hammer. In our case, the CFO (the MBA) and the acting CEO (the guy who knew the business) were locked in a battle for the top spot. The CFO won out, we lost a lot of our in-house expertise, our business dwindled, and eventually the company went into bankruptcy. The big secret that the MBA's didn't know was that machine tool people develop a rapport over the years with the engineers who design and manufacture the product and its many parts - e.g., the water pump for a Ford Mustang. So, in competition with other machine tool companies, our engineers had to provide the most efficient and cost effective method for machining the product, going back and forth for months before being selected - or rejected. A long tedious process never understood by the MBA.

Enron was a good example of the MBA's running roughshod over the people who had product knowledge.
+3 # brux 2012-09-23 03:20
> "Then who on Earth would ever want to work for you?"

The answer of course is - NO ONE!

So since Americans have no affection of respect for what this country has become, the answer is to force people to work for other people if they want to survive. It is just another spin on slavery, pretty much a return full circle to the early 1900's, but on a global scale.
+71 # Barbara K 2012-09-21 08:58
Most people in this country work for someone, whether it be for the guy who owns the bank or the guy who owns the restaurant or the guy that owns the factory, etc. The Rs are disenfranchisin g most of Americans. Even the upper crust works for someone. For the Rs to treat workers like trash is a big mistake. We already knew they dislike us so much they don't want us to have Unions to represent us. Unions are the only ones who stand up for the workers to prevent abusiveness from the companies they work for. The "workers" are the real job creators and the ones who make the goods for the companies they work for. Without workers, there would be no businesses. If all workers stopped working, the companies would crumble, and very fast.

OBAMA/BIDEN 2012 for the 100% of us

The alternative is unbearable.
+46 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-21 09:30

"The Rs are disenfranchisin g most of Americans"

Next, they will want to reinstate the archaic constitutional requirement of owning land as a qualifier to vote. Subsequently, remove the vote from women, and people of color. Whoops, they are well under way on the latter!
+8 # AndreM5 2012-09-21 09:45
MidwestTom has already suggested that very thing.
+5 # pbbrodie 2012-09-21 11:34
That was NOT what Midwest Tom proposed. He said that only those filing a federal tax return should be allowed to vote and he wasn't exactly clear about whether or not the filer had to pay federal income tax but I got the impression that was what he intended.
I don't agree with what he said but at least he shouldn't be misquoted.
+6 # AndreM5 2012-09-21 19:38
Sorry if hyperbole gives you trouble, but the step from "only income tax payers can vote" to "only the landed gentry can vote" is logically consistent and of some historical significance. Check the blog again.
+13 # Barbara K 2012-09-21 11:16
Great, hope he keeps it up. Looking forward to election returns on Nov. 6.

Democratic all the way! Clean out some states too. Get our rights back. Kick out the Rs.
+18 # Barbara K 2012-09-21 11:14
Have you all seen this item from AlterNet about how ROMNEY built up MONSANTO? A real eye opener and important, no wonder they don't care if we get sick.
+28 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-21 09:25
How can they respect persons that they consider a necessary cost of business? Its a business cost to pay people, so in order to run a more efficient business cost cutting is a path to improving the bottom line. Today.

At one time, not too long ago, a business would actually train a new hire. This was done for new college grads, and new hires off the street. The training ranged from a day or two for something like a mailroom clerk, to a couple of weeks for business clerk. They taught them about the business they were about to work in. The information would be about how the industry was structured, to how your new employer was unique and better than the competition. There was a lot of propaganda involved, but each person knew a little more than just how to perform a mechanical task.
Now, the mechanical task is all that matters, you are considered replaceable, in the information age, the people that have job titles that begin with Chief, Senior, and Executive or include the word President (SCEP) are terrified that the people that actually do the work will realize that their bigshot bosses don't have a clue. They came out of college with an MBA and began classifying everything by a number. In the Republican/Corp orate world, people are only a replaceable mechanical component of the real people corporations. And that is exactly what Willie said, isn't it?

"You are number 6" The Prisoner
+21 # Smokey 2012-09-21 10:53
It should be noted also that, "Liberal arts majors were respected by employers."
Students went to college and they studied languages, history, philosophy, the arts, etc. In the process, they learned how to think. It was helpful to know something about accounting and, of course, there were social connections and skills that were important. Beyond that, most of the "management skills" needed for the marketplace were learned on the job....
Nowadays, there are plenty of MBA-types who are incapable of managing anything.
Even many of the "chiefs" and "seniors" are just cogs in the machine.
+9 # Regina 2012-09-21 12:57
The first course in the Business curriculum is Arrogance 101. And the grads are only widgets themselves -- they know nothing about either people or products, but they have the required "attitude."
+33 # Buddha 2012-09-21 09:26
The thing is, we enable this. Witness general strikes being unheard-of in this country. Witness Mitt's trip to coal country, where the mine owners forced their workers to all get up there behind Mitt (or get fired), they shut down the mines for the day, and didn't pay the workers for that day! And when there was a building general protest movement, Occupy, the system through Obama and the mayors crushed it lest it threaten our corporatocracy status quo. American workers have been turned into sheep. The only way we will take our country back from these Plutocrats is general awareness of the actual situation we are in. And I think the vast majority of Americans are still "plugged into the Matrix", they aren't willing to face the truth behind their own slavery. So we all pretend that there still is an American Dream, that we are "free", that our elections really allow "Change"...
-77 # phantomww 2012-09-21 09:52
It is Obama's anti coal policy that is shutting down coal mine's and putting miners out of jobs.
+29 # AndreM5 2012-09-21 10:07
In what universe it that? Obama has nothing to do with it, of course. But then you know that.

Fact: Coal production is at an all time high. Fact: there are more workers in coal mines now than ten years ago.

Even so, coal is losing out to massive quantities of cheap natural gas. Coal costs too much in every phase, regulations or not.
+23 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-21 10:58

Much of the "cheap" natural gas has an unknown cost, potentially larger than the real cost of coal. The risk is fracking.

I am not endorsing coal by any means, but is critical to our survival and likely the entire planet's future as a source of life.

Simply put, we need an energy policy that a short, simple Mission Statement.

We MUST stop burning stuff for power. NOW.

Neither coal or gas are the future.
0 # AndreM5 2012-09-21 19:41
You somehow think my comment is an endorsement of natural gas over coal? Au contraire and knock it off.
+1 # BradFromSalem 2012-09-22 07:50

I read it that way. Don't take it personal. I just wanted to point out that natural gas may be cheaper, but its actual costs in terms of environmental risks offset the cheaper retail price.
-13 # phantomww 2012-09-21 17:17

production by year
2008 1,171,809 (Bush)
2009 1,074,923 (Obama)
2010 1,084,368 (Obama)
2011 1,094,336 (Obama)
2012 266,405 (Jan-Mar) down from previous year.

So it would seem that according to the govt you are wrong about production.
Also, maybe you don't remember when Obama said that under his plan energy cost would necessarily sky rocket. He also said that companies could open coal fired plants but his regulations would bankrupt them.
+6 # AndreM5 2012-09-21 19:49
How about some units to your numbers? They otherwise are meaningless. Active coal licenses have not been reduced, in fact they have increased. If the industry doesn't increase production, perhpas your beloved free market has something to do with it?

Why do you blame Obama for Big Energy's desire to back off coal production? I thought Giant Energy buffs loved the free market? As it turns out, the market hates coal but in my dreams this is NOT due to regulation, it MOST DEFINITELY IS NOT.

The plain truth is that Obama and his bought-and-paid -for regulators/form er lobbyists have done nothing to reduce coal production. If only they DID! Licenses are at an all-time high, so sorry once again, we all lose.

The largely unregulated natural gas industry is flooding the market. Do you imagine that the coal energy companies are not one-in-the-same as the natural gas companies? Take a closer look.
-3 # phantomww 2012-09-21 23:55
Oh nice try. What, you can't go to the website I gave you and figure it out yourself? Ok, the units are million short tons. So, you switch to licenses? What has that got to do with anything? So if there were a billion licenses would that mean there was MORE coal? Get a clue. You were WRONG when you stated that production is at an all time high. I proved it and you switch topics. Typical tactic of libs, when losing argument switch topic.

Ah the BIG ENERGY conspiracy!!!! The fact is that Obama's desire to get rid of the coal industry (all fossil fuel use actually) is a major reason for the problems the coal industry is having.

As for your statement that the coal energy companies are the same as the nat gas ones is about as accurate as your coal production statement.

For the record, I am heavily invested in the nat gas industry. I am hoping to make a lot of money when this economy switches from coal and oil to nat gas. I would love to see all power plants become nat gas. Heavy trucks are replacing diesel engines with nat gas. Gas stations are adding nat gas capability and hopefully in the near future we will see passenger cars have nat gas. So please, don't tell me that coal companies and nat gas are the same. I have owned coal (Arch, Peabody, and Consol, which does have a little nat gas). Now if you said that big oil is into nat gas then you would be right.
+24 # robniel 2012-09-21 10:56
Everyone who wants to remain healthy should be against coal. I worked in research for several years in coal gasification and coal liquidation to try to utilize coal in ways other than burning it. Useful processes were developed, but none could compete economically with oil or natural gas, both of which could be used without the health risks of coal. Ultimately, we will have a safe, clean, hydrogen-based fuel economy based on solar energy and the earth's hydrocarbons will be reserved for chemical use. In the meantime, increased effort should be directed towards fuel conservation and hydrocarbon (and metal) recycling.
+15 # MidwestDick 2012-09-21 11:28
+24 # MHAS 2012-09-21 11:10
I am a coal miner's daughter, granddaughter, great granddaughter, great great granddaughter and so forth. I wish what you were saying were true. I wish Obama said no to Big Coal and retrained the miners to build a Green Economy. Climate change and environmental devastation are making this planet uninhabitable. None of my ancestors knew the long-term effects of their work. My father, a retired mine worker, agrees with me.
+15 # MidwestDick 2012-09-21 11:27
Those who closed their mines are unfairly scapegoating the EPA. It is commercial considerations that have decreased the demand for coal, not government mandates. If anything, the EPA rules for coal have loosened a bit from their most stringent.
Also, state regulations about work rules and mountaintop removal have enabled the coal operators to mine more with fewer people.
+5 # dkonstruction 2012-09-21 14:57
Quoting phantomww:
It is Obama's anti coal policy that is shutting down coal mine's and putting miners out of jobs.

If only it was so...i'd have a much higher regard for our President's policies and actions.
+22 # hpaa46 2012-09-21 09:44
Why do 47% pay no income tax? It's no co-incidence that half the Nation's workers earn less than about $45,000 a year. Way more than half pay income taxes. A household with income of $200,000 can easily find ways to pay no income tax on more than $50,000 of income. So, if you are lucky enough to be among the taxpayers who, because of tax exemptions, deductions, pre-tax payments, and credits, pay no tax on $30 - $40 K or more of your income, don't complain that a person whose total pay is $30 or $40K pays no tax on that either.
+28 # Dangoodbar 2012-09-21 10:01
What Romney did in his 47% comment was confuse "Democrats" with class. That is the 47% who never vote for Obama are not all from the 47% that don't pay federal taxes. In fact of the 47% who don't pay federal taxes, almost half were supporting Romney before he made the slip. This means half of the 47% of who will never vote for Romney do pay federal income taxes. That is the problem for Reps is that to a great extent it is the people in the lower classes who have given Reps power through the vote. This is why other Reps are running from the comment.

But I want to speak to the other 47%, the 47% who are Dems, many of whom like me pay their federal income taxes and are proud of it.

A common tactic for Reps is to dismiss anyone who does not agree with them by stereotyping them as a lazy socialist traitor. Never mind that my family paid more federal income taxes than Paul Ryan's last year, every time I have a discussion with a Rep I am called a lazy selfish person living off the government. That is Reps, who don't know anything about me other than I disagree with them, try to avoid being confused by the facts I raise via class warfare. So they stick me in a class of Americans they demonize. Even after they learn I am a successful corporate lawyer and CPA they continue with the delusion that I am something other than a patriotic American who understands economics. Sort of like how Reps are trying to run against an Obama that does not exist.
+27 # Dangoodbar 2012-09-21 10:30

Reps don't understand that as a patriotic American I am proud of the taxes I pay as a fair price for the benefits I receive. That is I pay more in taxes that Paul Ryan because I should. My family income was higher than his.

My view of the federal income taxes I pay is that I am paying the government back. And like all bets as the government’s putting money on my education was, some payoff and that payoff is I pay more in federal income taxes than if I less of an education.

On my way to work I use toll roads. The other people on those roads are earning a fraction of my salary and therefore receiving a fraction of the benefit from those roads. But under the toll system they pay no less. In fact, because many of them don’t have the means to have an I-PASS that requires good credit, they pay twice as much. Reps don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, that I think that is unfair and that I should pay more for driving on those roads than people who earn less because I receive more benefit.

My view is the lazy selfish people who think of themselves as victims are the people at my income or above who don’t want to pay for all America has done/given them.

Furthermore, I think any true capitalist and economist would agree with me.
+15 # Smokey 2012-09-21 11:06
Alexander Hamilton was the true capitalist who assembled the Federalist Party and much of the Constitution... . He wasn't a socialist.... He was a tough-minded realist who knew that national prosperity depends on an infrastructure that has to be managed by government and supported by tax dollars.
+12 # Smokey 2012-09-21 11:00
Big Irony: The capitalists understand the concept of "class conflict." Many of the working people - including coal miners in Appalachia and elsewhere - don't understand the concept and, inevitably, they suffer as a result.
+18 # ganymede 2012-09-21 11:07
Thank God for Mitt Romney and thank God for Paul Krugman. Thanks to Mitt for being such a loser and bringing us faster to the tipping point than any of the other Republican presidential candidates would have. And thanks to the Republicans favorite punching bag economist, Paul K., for being so incredibly incisive over the past few years in calling out these miscreants on all their BS. I can hardly believe it - we're going to be rid of these awful people very shortly and they may never, ever come back again!Now we're going to have to hold Obama to all his promises and more.
+1 # Regina 2012-09-22 22:37
We have to provide a Congress that will understand the issues before it, including those rooted in science, and will work to earn their salary and benefits, instead of the brat pack that says NO-O-O-O-O to every piece of legislation that might accomplish something needed for the economy or health care. Of course, when their NO-ing becomes too obvious, they go off on yet another toot against women.
+19 # gotabrain 2012-09-21 11:21
I'd like to see a national "strike week", by all of those 47% people, and anyone else who feels their wages have stagnated, or their jobs have little value, according to the "Mitt crowd".

I live in an town close to an ultra wealthy ski resort. I'd love to see all the employees at 7-11's, restaurants, gas stations, Wal-Marts, clothing stores, construction workers, etc., all take the week off in unison, and just see how valuable they are in the lives of the wealthy. They would all have a nervous breakdown if they could'nt find their mocha latte frappacino fix, or their cheap white shirts at Costco.

For them to be the creators of offshoring jobs, busting unions, and downsizing for more profit, Mitt and his wealthy clones have no conscience whatsoever, in being critical of anyone who pays little or no tax due to low wages or lost jobs, considering that the route to their wealth involved the crushing of the very people he criticizes!
+3 # Eliza D 2012-09-21 15:15
Love your idea. Maybe one day soon we'll see this. We can dream, can't we?
+8 # guionista 2012-09-21 11:58
One thing the R's forget is that everyone, but everyone, works for somebody, even those at the top.
+17 # James Smith 2012-09-21 12:35
Romney has nothing but contempt for anyone not wealthy, white, and a weasel. Electing this elitist egotist to anything would be an act of treason.
-8 # Pikewich 2012-09-21 13:14
Krugman should state the other half of this:
"For the fact is that the modern Republican Party just doesn't have much respect for people who work for other people..."

The modern Democratic party feels the same way but pretends to value workers to trick them into voting for democratic candidates. Once in office, they pursue the exact same fiscal and war policies.
+2 # genierae 2012-09-22 12:41
False equivalency strikes again! There are some Dems who may feel that way, but they are decidedly in a very small minority.
+2 # dbriz 2012-09-21 13:47
Professor Krugman does what is by now the equivalent of picking on the chubby, bespectacled, nerd of 7th grade days. Might as well phone it in.

At this rate an undeserving multimillionair e is on the verge of getting the sympathy vote from the amount of overkill.

Of course the Republicans are a joke!

Of course Romney is the Stepford Candidate.

Of course the Republicans have no viable solutions to anything.

So Paul,tell us something we don't already know.

Like why the guy you think we should be for and his party continue their umbilical cord like relationship with the big investment bankers who are responsible for so much of our current misery?

Why do they acquiesce so willingly to the doctrine of "to big to fail"?

Why do they fail to offer legislation designed to break up ANY corporation deemed to big to fail?

Why is bankruptcy ok for the little guys, both business and workers, but not acceptable for the big corporations and bankers?

I won't even ask you to step outside your field of expertise and address the civil liberties debacle.

C'mon now Professor, these questions are the making of a terrific column for you.
+8 # cordleycoit 2012-09-21 19:38
Republicans love the summer jobs they had away from prepschool working in daddy's factory or the mvie house daddy bought for them. They were not welcome at the B-77 cafe where the guys working for the survaors or at the Grubstake standing next to the nail drivers and timber beasts working for wages. They had the new sports cars we had the pick ups and the girls with big hair. We danced all night polka. They hung at the county club moaning about the high price of whiff. We laugh loud and have livetime pals. They got the law degree and dodge clients they cheated. Sorry Mr. Mittens none of us fired thousands of workers. The Rethugs ought rethink their pretty prep boys they push forward.
+10 # Rick Levy 2012-09-21 20:38
Romney and his rethuglican ilk are nothing short of contemptible. Period.
0 # Rain17 2012-09-23 02:27
What Romney showed is that he has no compassion or understanding for those who aren't rich. The real issue is that support staff--be it the nannies who took care of his children, the maid who cleans their home, the drivers who chauffeur them around, the janitors who clean their toilet, the workers who built up the offices where he world--are faceless, nameless, and disposable to him. He doesn't perceive--nor even respect--their humanity. To them they are disposable, easily replaced.

This is the mentality behind the Wall Street Journal referring to lower income taxpayers as "lucky duckies". What I would love to tell people like Romney is, if it is so great to be a "lucky ducky", then why don't you take an $7/hr job standing up all day at a department store? Why don't you go clean toilets? Why don't you work at McDonald's? Why don't you change diapers, do laundry, clean a home, and take out the trash? Why don't you work at a factory or warehouse all day?

Try living on that $8/hr income. Try having to spend 1 1/2 hrs getting to work each way (in the few cities with decent public transportation) , where it would only be a 20 minute drive by car. Try to pay for healthcare, food, and other necessities on that salary. Try raising children on that amount.

People in those jobs already face a lot of burdens. They really don't need the self-righteous contempt from people like Romney.

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