Robert Kuttner: 'This Is A 30-year Process Of Income Distribution Becoming More Unequal'

Robert Kuttner reiterated many of the same points he made in his article at the Huffington Post last week on this weekend's edition of Your Money on CNN. Businesses are not going to start hiring American workers until our politicians start
up

Robert Kuttner reiterated many of the same points he made in his article at the Huffington Post last week on this weekend's edition of Your Money on CNN. Businesses are not going to start hiring American workers until our politicians start to care more about protecting American jobs than their corporate campaign donors.

Business Doesn't Need American Workers:

Once again, the job numbers are dismal. In January, the U.S. economy created just 36,000 domestic jobs, far below the roughly 145,000 that economists had forecast. The unemployment rate fell, to 9 percent, but only because more and more discouraged workers are giving up and leaving the workforce.

The U.S. still has a jobs gap of about 14 million jobs, and that number is increasing as the labor force grows. Counting people who've given up, or who are working part time when they want full time jobs, the real unemployment number is around 17 percent. America now has about 25 million people either out of work or underemployed.

Meanwhile, corporate profits continue to set records. Profits in the third quarter of 2010 were 1.659 trillion, about 28 percent higher than a year before, and the highest year-to-year increase on record.

What's going on? Very simply, America's corporations no longer need America's workers.

Much more there so go read the rest. Transcript via CNN below the fold.

ROMANS: You know Robert Kuttner, is the coeditor of the "American Prospect." Robert there's this feeling, this sneaking suspicion that American workers have been delinked with success of corporate America and American business. Is that true and is it permanent?

ROBERT KUTTNER, CO-EDITOR, "THE AMERICAN PROSPECT:" Well, it's certainly true. And it's certainly the result of the business model that American business currently pursues and unfortunately that is abetted by the trade policy practice by both political parties, which is to say make whatever deals you can make with whatever countries are offering you subsidies, low-wage workers, a little bit of arm twisting as the Chinese do, and if you can prosper from that, god bless you.

I mean in the '50s engine Charlie Wilson, then the head of GM, was ridiculed for saying what's good for GM is good for America. There was some truth to that in those years. I'm not sure you can say what's good for GE is good for America because GE has been moving most of its high level as well as low level jobs overseas and making a separate peace with the Chinese.

ROMANS: But the CEO of GE is a man who the president is relying on quite heavily for advice about how to work with business to make sure that the American middle class isn't left out. Right?

KUTTNER: Yes, and isn't that unfortunate. I mean if anything, Jeff Immelt is the poster child for the wrong kind of business model.

[...]

ROMANS: But super elites don't vote for the president in 2012, and they don't vote for congress. Congress is where there is the real concern about what to do. Robert, what does Obama need to do to help the middle class whether this recovery and enjoy this recovery?

KUTTNER: Well super elites may not vote, but super elites fund campaigns and that is why they have so much disproportion influence. I have to take exception to the idea it's always the middle class that gets whacked. The middle class was getting whacked long before this recession. This is a 30-year process of income distribution becoming more unequal. We need to turn that around and we need to persuade congress to invest in America, to invest in the skills of workers and have a different trade policy. That is not protectionism.

Germany has the highest wage cost in the world. And it also has the highest export surplus in the world because German elites care whether they still make things in Germany. American elites don't seem to care whether we do. Now Obama needs to reach out to public opinion as well as to the Chamber of Commerce to change those perceptions and those policies and those national goals.

ROMANS: Last word to Richard Quest who is going to throw his pen into the camera at any moment.

QUEST: Well, he makes a very good point. Just look at the way Germany handled the great recession. It didn't lay off employees. It put them on short time. It did paid holidays or unpaid holidays. It did all sorts of things. It drove down the cost base so that when the recovery came German industry more than any other in Europe was ready to take advantage of the growth that was coming.

So Robert is quite right. But this question of infrastructure is fascinating. Look at the Victorians, look at the last century, they built bridges. They built tunnels. They built roads. They actually built something that we're still using today. In New York they can't even get the tunnels under the Hudson. You can't even -- you can't even get agreement on a fast rail network, and in Britain we're having exactly the same problem.

ROMANS: Two seconds to Chrystia, the one that is dying to get points.

FREELAND: Super quickly. I agree with Richard and Robert about infrastructure and investment. But someone has to pay taxes for that to happen. Americans across the political spectrum seem to not want to do that.

ROMANS: All right. Chrystia Freeland --

KUTTNER: How about the top 1 percent?

ROMANS: Global editor at large at Reuters. Robert Kuttner, co- editor of "The American Prospect." And Richard Quest is going to stick around where he can throw things and say Victorian as many times as possible because I love it when he does that. Thank you everyone.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.