Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, July 24, 2012 8:52 pm

Rigged game, part MMXII; or, Too much is never enough


If you want proof that America’s economics and finances are in the hands of people who couldn’t give less of a shit about the common good, look no further than Caterpillar, the maker of bulldozers and other heavy equipment.

The company made $4.9 billion in profits last year — about $39,000 per employee — and projects an even better 2012.  So how is it rewarding its workers? By insisting that they agree to a six-year wage freeze and a freeze on pensions as well, and demanding that they contribute up to $1,900 per year more for health care than they already are. This move comes, the Times reports, as the company netted almost $1.6 billion in the first quarter of this year and “has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits.”

The workers said, in effect, “[Bleep] this noise,” and went on strike. Good for them.

The company argues that its wages make it less competitive in the marketplace, but the boost in compensation for its executives gives that game away. Its top six executives alone got cash and stock worth almost $40 million last year. Sure, you can make a case that Caterpillar is a well-managed company and they should be properly compensated. But the U.S. wage market has been artificially distorted in the past few decades to overcompensate a few at the top for outcomes that, when favorable, are as much the work of their much-lower-paid minions as of themselves. There’s a strong argument that reversing that trend would benefit the economy as a whole, which, other than plain selfishness, might well be part of the reason why these sociopaths oppose it.

Rose Bain, a striker, grows impatient with such arguments [that Caterpillar's demands are fair]. Earning $15 an hour after two years, she said she could not afford a six-year freeze and did not trust Caterpillar to follow through with [a] hinted raise for lower-paid workers.

“We’re the people who busted our butts to help them make record profits,” she said. “We shouldn’t be treated like this.”

Exactly. And the fact that we’re even having to have this conversation shows how incredibly out of touch with reality our Galtian overlords have gotten. Worse, some of the same kinds of people who run Caterpillar want us to run the country the same way. I think Charlie Pierce speaks for anyone who has a lick of sense:

Jesus God, is there anyone — A-N-Y-O-N-E — out there beyond the Beltway who still believes that the CEO’s of American corporations have any inclination to act in the general national interest? Is there anyone — A-N-Y-O-N-E — out there beyond the Beltway who’d still trust [J.P. Morgan Chase CEO] Jamie Dimon to park his car? … I never thought I’d see the living definition of bleeding a country with leeches, but this comes awfully close.

UPDATE: Missing words restored 7/25.

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