In Peoria, Bush Celebrates the End of the American Middle Class

The story that is not being told about Bush's visit to Peoria:

"There is a balance that must be struck,” Caterpillar group president Douglas Oberhelman told The New York Times, “between being competitive and being middle class.”
That is from a February 26, 2006 story in the New York Times (I blogged it here and here).

Remember this when you hear that:

Bush is touting Peoria-based Caterpillar as an example of how his administration's trade agreements and tax breaks can boost global sales and create jobs for U.S. workers.
What he is really saying is that by selling out real middle-class supporting jobs, Caterpillar can:

... net about $9 billion in sales outside of North America in 2006, when revenues of about $41.5 billion netted profits that topped $3.5 billion -- both company records.
Where is the extra profit coming from?

Highly profitable Caterpillar Tractor, for instance, now offers its new hires just $22 an hour in wages and benefits, half what it pays its more senior employees.

After more than a decade of failed strikes and job actions — mainly in Illinois, where Caterpillar has its biggest factories — the U.A.W. reluctantly accepted a two-tier contract that provides for significantly lower wages and benefits for newly hired employees. The new second tier is as much as $20 an hour below the cost of employing Mr. Doty, 50, and a dwindling band of other veterans.
Bush is in Peoria today... Celebrating that community winning the race to the bottom, and the end of the American Middle Class.

And the $3.5 billion profit it netted his supporters.

Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, disagreed, calling Caterpillar the perfect stop ahead of Bush's economic address.

“Cat has had a very strong run the last few years. If there was a symbol of industrial might in America, I think they represent that as much as anyone,” Baise said.

Unfortuantely, he is correct.

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