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writing for godot

US, the book for all of US, installment, The Steps that Create a Solution

Written by Tom Cantlon   
Friday, 04 June 2021 00:11

This is a section of the book:


Everything is Done By US

We Can Make it For US

by Tom Cantlon


The list of links to chapters can be found at:


This time: Preceding sections defined the problems. What to do about it?


The Fix, the What

Just exactly what change is being suggested in this book? And how would that come about? The "how" follows in the next section, though it's worth noting that how has nothing to do with violence or anything illegal (well, maybe some civil disobedience demonstrations, but nothing more serious.) This section is a description of the "what".

The change needed has been referred to in previous chapters as a need for power, for the people to have the power, the leverage, to get a good deal. Talking in terms of the people and power may sound dangerous or radical, but it's not. We have had examples of the people having more power in our not-so-distant past, and that came about by methods that were in keeping with American ways.

In previous chapters there have also been many references to wages, to people having the leverage to be able to negotiate and get a good deal on wages, but the issue of wages, as noted, is just a sort of shorthand for much broader general power that we need for a whole set of issues beyond just wages. Power to be treated well as customers, to make the government effective for us on issues like unsafe products and pollution, to maintain rights like not having our privacy casually compromised by either government or business, to ensure fully equal treatment for all groups.

That variety of issues is listed to point out that it all goes hand in hand. If we don't have the power to, for instance, force proper treatment by big corporations, or to have laws generally not stacked against US, then we won't have the power to get correct wages or proper results on any of the issues. On the other hand, if we do have the power, then we will want to apply it to every issue that is important to US. It's something of an "all or nothing" situation. We will either have the proper power or we won't. If we do, then we would naturally apply it to everything.

So what form would those changes take? What are some of the steps and outcomes that would happen? Below is a sample list, but the process would involve finding many of the laws and regulations at every level, in federal government and in state and even local governments, finding the ones that are tilted against the best interests of ordinary people and tilting them back the other way. It has taken powerful interests many decades of having undue influence to gradually warp the entire system and create laws and ways of doing things that work against US and for them. It will take an equally thorough process to undo all of that, and for some things it may take a long time. It takes gaining power and hanging onto it so that that long process can gradually influence everything about how our nation and our economy operate.

Sample list

• Any policy that makes workers more valuable and leads to their better pay and benefits and treatment. For instance, letting the unemployment rate get lower before the Federal Reserve dampens the economy (by raising interest rates). Without going into detail, the policies of the Fed, during good economic times, can cause the benefits to workers to stop short, or not be as good as they could. Fed policies could be adjusted in favor of workers.

• A serious war on wage theft, which is a problem that is shockingly common.

• Ending the forcing of new hires to sign a form saying they won't sue their employer if the employer does something that they ought to be sued for. That little detail in the course of signing onto a new job is pervasively common.

• Some items that have nothing to do with employment but with how we are treated as customers. For instance, many nursing homes have a contract clause that says if the nursing home either gives you a bad deal or mistreats your granny, you can't sue. End having any such clause.

• Companies that repeatedly rip off their customers, despite repeatedly being caught at it, at some point cross a line where it's clear they never will be a fair company. They should be forced to sell the company to new owners and any proceeds go to restitution first.

"Cancel culture"

Would a push for change just turn into a lot of what have been referred to as "cancel culture" events? That is, when a celebrity or business does something offensive, like the owner is accused of sexual assault or a celebrity says something prejudiced, then public reaction leads to them being "canceled". They lose their media position or the business is boycotted. No doubt some of that will happen because sometimes it's deserved when public people do stupid things, but also because as we begin change it's bound to be somewhat messy. But as things shift to being more on behalf of people then there will be less need for such canceling events. If women were listened to about harassment in the first place and could get such incidents dealt with at the time, or if prejudice was much less tolerated, then there would be less chance for a habit of it to build up in a business over time, and then there would be no need for it to erupt later in some big reaction to a long pattern of past wrongs. And as things are run more for US, over time we will develop good systems for dealing with such problems in ways that are proper and fitting for both the accuser and the accused. These eruptions of cancel culture events are a symptom of our having little power and only being able to get justice in fits and starts. When things are running on our behalf in the first place, there will be less need for such events.

A labor share policy

Here's one policy that could help and gives a solid measurement with which to gage our progress. Enforce improvement in the labor share. The labor share is the way the pie is sliced, how much of company income goes to workers. It's the measure that has been slipping for decades, as described in a previous chapter.

The labor share should be tracked and adjusted much like we do with inflation. With inflation we go to great lengths to try to accurately measure what the current rate is. There are a lot of solid economic numbers, like the cost of goods at the grocery store and the way certain business trends are going, that give us very solid grounds to know how inflation is doing. Having measured it, then we go to great lengths to adjust it. We don't force it, like, say, forcing businesses to raise or lower their prices, but we do all sorts of things to create pressure in the market to make it tend to go more up or down as needed. The Federal Reserve raises or lowers interest rates, buys or sells bonds, and takes other measures, all to try to keep the economy in healthy shape on the understanding that a right rate of inflation is a key element of that. The inflation rate is so important that many of our laws and regulations reference it.

The problem with measurements like inflation and GDP (Gross Domestic Product) are that they don't tell us how the average worker is doing. You can have a booming economy with rapidly growing GDP, but the average worker might still not be doing so well. We need a measurement that gets closer to the ground, closer to indicating how working people are doing. The labor share is a good candidate for that.

In order to measure the labor share there are solid economic numbers we can work with. Having measured it, then, as with inflation, we should go to great lengths to push it toward its optimal value. We shouldn't force it by, for instance, forcing wages to go up or down (other than the minimum wage, which is needed to keep people from being paid intolerably low wages), but we can create pressure in the market to make it tend to move in the desired direction. If the labor share has room to get bigger, closer to what it was in, say, the 1960s, then increasing workers' ability to have collective bargaining could help. During recessions, having a jobs program to keep people working could help. That helps the labor share because the more people who are working, the harder it is for employers to hire, and they have to offer more. To keep an eye on when the labor share should stop being pushed up, a good measure is when inflation is threatening to get carried away, not just a little on the high side, but actually looking like an inflation spiral.

Labor share ought to be seen as just as essential of a measurement as inflation, and efforts to optimize it ought to be just as key as are our efforts toward proper inflation. It ought to be central to our economic laws and policies.

Wages are not all that's important. As previously noted, we also need power to change how we are treated as consumers and as citizens. But labor share has the advantage of being a measurable quantity that we can use to direct policies to move in the right direction.

Gray changes and black and white changes

Some changes that could be made are in a gray area of whether they're the right changes. Should we change corporate laws to require more employee representation on corporate boards? Should we change policies to encourage more worker-owned co-op businesses, or would that hurt business efficiency? We should seriously consider any such ideas that seem good and, in some cases, just go ahead and experiment and see what helps.

But many changes, like those in the sample list section above, are clear items where there is something working against individuals and favoring bigger interests and it should be changed. There's a great deal of improvement that could be made quickly on those kinds of items. Change that could happen just as quickly as they can be taken hold of and the decision made to change them. The speed of that is entirely a matter of our degree of leverage.

More details

A long list of the details of the "what" that needs to be changed is no doubt already in the minds of many people who work in agencies and organizations. Those who can see the many ways things work against people, and who would love to change them if they had the chance. Just as it is many of US who actually make the biggest corporations succeed, likewise, it is many of US who run the agencies and organizations and know where the changes are needed. And they are capable of making them happen.

Go to any agency of government that affects working people, like agencies affecting policy on work, or on international trade and jobs going overseas, or on justice and law and whether law is applied to all groups equally, and whether justice is applied to bankers the same as others. Go to any such agency, find someone who is high enough up that they have a good handle on how the agency works, who would seriously like to see the agency do right by regular people, and we could pick their brain all day long about what needs to change. They would have an endless list of laws and rules and standard ways the agency operates that tend to favor the powerful, laws and rules and ways that need to be flipped to favor people. The same could be done to get a list for any level of government, as well as for corporate policies.

US and the what

If what is suggested here as steps to fix what's wrong is still vague, it's because the fix involves so many changes in so many areas of life. It is precisely because the fix requires so many little fixes that it seems vague. It is precisely because the way that happens is by such a fundamental shift in power that it's hard to boil it down to just a handful of key policies that need to change. But, as with every aspect of this, it's all about US. We're the ones who know where the problems are. We're the ones who know what the fixes are. We're the ones who are very capable of getting things running right. We just have to make it happen, and that gets to the question of the next chapter, the "how".



How we get those changes.


Tom Cantlon is a business owner and writer in a small western town. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it your social media marketing partner
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