Home > shorter work time > Open letter to 99ers: “Stop whining and start fighting intelligently”

Open letter to 99ers: “Stop whining and start fighting intelligently”

99ers, how do you think this happened: “Corp profits account for 92% of growth in real national income.” .

A recent study by a team of economists at Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies argues that the current economic recovery is the worst since World War II for worker pay and job growth — but the best for corporate profits. The headline:

Over this six-quarter period [from Q2 of 2009 to Q4 of 2010], corporate profits captured 88% of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1% of the growth in real national income.

That’s right. Of the $528 billion in real national income gained between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2010, pre-tax corporate profits accounted for $464 billion, while wages rose by just $7 billion. If you extend that out to the first quarter of 2011:

[C]orporate profits accounted for 92% of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries declined by $22 billion and contributed nothing to growth.

Ninety-two percent of the national income increase in the last two years has ended up in the pockets of Wall Street because millions of people are working too much, while millions of other people like you are unemployed. The statistics gather by Northeastern University demonstrate that by keeping you unemployed, the corporations gained a massive share of income in this “recovery”.

This why Obama doesn’t care about you; this is why he did not take one question on the subject during his Twitter Town Hall.

The unemployed are the deadweights being used in this crisis to hold down the wages of the employed. As long as hours of work are not changed, neither will this. There is nothing difficult to understand about this: Obama is using you to line the pockets of Wall Street.

Can I put this is simpler terms — terms even a grade school child will understand? Keeping you hungry, keeps wages down! Obama doesn’t want to reduce hours of work because he knows longer hours of work provide massive profits to corporations.

The two parties have their talking points: “It is too costly to stimulate the economy to reduce unemployment, we have to balance the budget.”

And, they can point to the 2009 stimulus bill to prove their point” In 2009, it cost nearly $300,000 to produce one measly $25,000 job. But this is a complete distraction: It doesn’t cost a dime to create jobs by reducing hours of work. Cutting hours of work, so everyone has a job, does not cost a dime and can completely eliminate unemployment forever. If the work week was 20 hours long, the unemployed would have a job, and the overworked population would have more freedom from work. While Washington would have fewer idle resources for its wars of aggression.

At some point 99ers will have to realize the two parties have deliberately locked you out by using the excuse that ending unemployment is expensive — even as they limit our options to only the most expensive kinds of stimulus measures. The entire deficit debate is designed to distract the nation from the plight of the unemployed. Obama is working with Boehner to do this.

Ending unemployment doesn’t cost a dime!

Ending inequality doesn’t cost a dime!

All it takes is a reduction in hours of work. Either 99ers learn this lesson, or you will continue to suffer.

There are now enough 99ers to prevent Obama’s reelection in 2012. So you should stop whining and start trying to defeat him. The moment a group starts called “99ers to defeat Obama in 2012” is the moment Washington starts taking your plight seriously. 99ers need to stop whining about being ignored and start fighting for a complete abolition of unemployment. You are bigger than the Tea Party and Moveon.org combined. You need to show your power.

The only way to get Washington’s attention is to make sure Obama goes down in flames in 2012. Almost all the battleground states in 2012 are experiencing massive unemployment and huge numbers of 99ers. No party will get elected if 99ers refuse to support them in these states.

It is time you stop whining about Obama, and make his life a complete misery — you need to change the terms of the debate. If 99ers would, for one minute, start thinking intelligently about unemployment, Obama and Boehner could be stopped.

No one is coming to your rescue. Only you will save yourself and the rest of the employed, who are working more hours for less income. As long as 99ers spend their days begging on their knees for a job, the two parties will ignore you.

Stand up for yourselves! If Obama gets reelected in 2012, he will be the GOP’s man in the White House — and 99ers will be screwed again.

  1. July 7, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Call me cynical but I can’t imagine a scenario in which the Fascist State takes any action to reduce labor hours by decree and I don’t particularly like the idea of using state violence to enforce such a limit on labor hours. I’m not even sure that’s what you are suggesting must be done. So my question to you is what can anarchists, libertarians and Marxists do, outside of the state and a reformist mindset, to bring about this reduction in labor hours? What kind of direct action might strike at the root of this problem?

    • July 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      Call me cynical, but it seems you are saying wage slaves should remain wages slaves because ending their slavery involves forcing their exploiters to observe a 20 hour work week consistent with an end to the horror of unemployment?

      What I need to know from you is whether the use of force is always impermissible?

  2. July 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Call me cynical, but it seems you are saying wage slaves should remain wages slaves because ending their slavery involves forcing their exploiters to observe a 20 hour work week consistent with an end to the horror of unemployment?

    I didn’t say anything of the sort. There is quite a difference between an argument that force is justified and an argument that a) the state should be the source of that force and b) getting them to do that is even a remotely effective strategy.

    What do you expect an anarchist to say when you suggest that the solution to their problem is the state? The entire point of anarchism is the idea that the state isn’t needed to effect change and certainly isn’t to be trusted to do the right thing. Surely we can come up with something better than “pass a law and send in the popo” or whatever. If we can thank an anarchist for the 40-hour week, could we not end up thanking one for the 20-hour week?

    Opposing the Wage Slavery Reduction Act means opposing ending wage slavery? It just ain’t so.

    What I need to know from you is whether the use of force is always impermissible?

    Of course not. Pacifism is the very denial of rights. But why should I go to my Fascist slave masters to get them to defend me? If any idea comes from “an idealistic bubble”

  3. July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    Also, unlike someone else who commented at Gonzo (and to whom you gave the same stock reply without taking note of the differences in our positions), I didn’t ask, “Why would anyone other than unemployed people voluntarily agree to do any of these things?” That’s an important difference in premises and so I can both accept that force is sometimes permissible and also that force might be neither necessary nor permissible in the case of labor hour reduction efforts on the part of radicals. That’s not to say that I defend the employment relation in the first place. Frankly, I want labor hours to go to zero if, by “labor hours,” we mean the employment relationship. I suppose then that one major problem I have is that you seem to accept, for the time being, the relation as long as it’s shorter in duration, though I acknowledge that you ultimately want to see it end along with the Fascist state.

    Given your recent tweets (starting here), I’m open to listening to your argument. I appreciate your acknowledgment of the parameters of a successful one.

    • July 7, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Actually, I used my answer to you to respond to him. But, okay. I have set the bar for reasonable performance, Let’s see if I can breach it.

  4. July 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Thank, Jehu. I hope you know that I’m engaging you because I respect your point-of-view and really want to understand the whole picture.

    • Kirsten
      July 8, 2011 at 1:38 am

      I also want to understand the whole picture from your point of view, regardless of whether or not I ultimately wind up agreeing with it. I can’t say if I agree with it or not because I truly don’t understand the full extent of what you’re suggesting.

      What I can say is that I am more open to a new perspective in this case than I have been in most situations through most of my adult life. It’s a golden opportunity if you are interested in influencing me. 🙂

      That said, what brought about this relatively open state of mind was your Twitter profile statement that if you’re not anti-statist, you’re not a communist. In that short sentence, you both challenged my view of communists, and established some common ground with me even though I would not say that I’m a communist. So, okay, if we are taking the state off the table, I am very open to learning more.

      But when we start talking about cutting work hours, now I start to raise an eyebrow. I’m not necessarily opposed to that in some form, but now I want to know specifically what form we are talking about.

      Are we talking about a state-mandated maximum? If so, how is that enforced? Will you be pointing the gun at the employee or at the employer or both? If we are not talking about some sort of state-enforced scheme, will it be brought about by non-state force, and if so, how is that any different? Or will it be brought about by social pressure or persuasion of some sort?

      Also, what exactly is included in the mandate? A maximum number of paid hours but an unlimited number of unpaid hours? A maximum number of hours, including unpaid hours? A maximum compensation per hour worked? Some combination of these? Etc.

      As I mentioned on Twitter, it seems to me that the issue you find problematic is not that there isn’t enough compensation to go around, but that there isn’t enough work to go around. So if I only get paid for 5 hours but continue to do everything I do now, that does not seem helpful since it does not free up any work for someone else to do.

      Nor does it seem helpful if I cut down to 5 paid hours while doing the same amount of work by doing X more hours of unpaid work, with my wage being increased. For example, if I do 50 hours of work a week right now at $10/hour (these are not real-I’m making up numbers that are convenient for math purposes here), I make a total of $500/week. If you limit my paid work hours to 5/week without limiting my hourly compensation, I would probably come to an under the table agreement with my employers to work 5 hours/week at $100/hour and then just work the other 40 hours unpaid.

      Anyway, I look forward to what you write up. These are some of the questions I’m hoping you will address.

      • Threecrow
        July 8, 2011 at 11:28 am

        I hate math. I know why. My eighth grade teacher threw an eraser at my head. At least thats the story I tell and I’m sticking to it. Either that or Oswald’s Sunshine. Anyways, I had to go to the calculator for this as long division was involved.
        The Ministry of Truth informed us that a total of 18,000 jobs were “created” in the month of June, a short month. Using long division I divided 18,000 by fifty and came up with, anyone?, anyone?
        360. That’s 360 jobs for each state of the “union.” Hmmm.
        But I didn’t stop there, oh no. Once again, using long division, or was it multiplucation, anyway using $8.00 per hour at forty hours a week for a baseline I arrived at a figure of “$115,200” as the total monthly income “generated” for the “union” by these “jobs.” And that my friends reaps for each state a total of “$2,304.” That’s before taxes of course. Hell, there was more money than that buried under the big W. “Good ol’e Smiley, everybodies friend.” You know what the problem is? Not enough commas? As the editor of this site has proven again and again, the old paradiem of “Jobs, jobs, jobs” will not do. A new organizing principle is called for here folks, unless you feel satisfied living life like so many chickens in a crowded coop.
        Good luck.

  5. Threecrow
    July 9, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I do feel I need to let the editor know that I am making a personal plea that he not allow the contents and history of this present site to disappear as if the words here were written in the sand and will disappear for all time as did the First endevor: The Alienated Self.
    Lets not pull a Socrates on this one. Plainly put: this site earns the quality of a doctoral diss.


  6. Threecrow
    July 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention that an exploration of how the 99ers may be enabled to, as Chicago put so well in song: “We can,we can make it happen…”


  7. Threecrow
    July 9, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I forgot to finish the sentence. would be a most interesting topic to explore. As to the colors, could be worse, could be orange.

  8. Threecrow
    July 9, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Also, I dig the Indian Mt. Rushmore.

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:14 pm


      I do intend to figure out a way to back this damn thing up safely someday.

      PS. Did you know the Cherokee nation was one of the largest slave-owners in North Carolina — over 1000 slaves? I just leaned about that today.

  9. Kirsten
    July 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Another thing I hope you will talk about either in this write-up or another is how to handle work for which the demand FAR outstrips the supply.

    For example, medical care in a lot of rural areas is very limited if it exists at all. How do you ethically limit the one doctor in town to working 5 hours per week when he is needed substantially more than that and is the only one available? Even in a “big city” (for Montana, anyway) like Helena, specialties like cancer care are really pushed to the limit right now. How do we handle these types of problems?

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:18 pm


      I think this is not a big problem. With a vastly shorter work demand on people, the opportunities for healthier living and self-education will largely make professions like doctors far less important for routine healthcare. Without over-hyping, reducing hours of work should transform our society in way we cannot presently understand.

  10. Clonal Antibody
    July 10, 2011 at 1:00 am


    We really have to look at what has happened over the last thirty years and a bit. At the moment, the solution you propose, that of work sharing, will not work, if the hourly wages stay the same. Which is what I am reading your solution to be.

    Let us look at some numbers.

    The real average hourly wages have stayed flat at around $16.50 per hour (2005 $)
    This is when labor productivity per hour has grown from 1 to 1.85, and the real GDP has grown by about the same amount (AFTER accounting for the 1.2 % per annum population growth.

    Two charts should clarify this. The first is a chart of real average hourly wages from 1980 to 2011 – It can be seen here. (Can we embed images in the comments?)

    The second shows Real GDP per hour worked (assuming the civilian workforce works 2000 hours per year) one can compare the two graphs using 1980 as the base. The chart can be seen here.

    If the growth in GDP had been shared in the same proportion as in 1980, the real wage should have been about $30 per hour. That is definitely not the case today. The working class has been robbed blind over the last thirty years, it is struggling to survive, and is overburdened with debt. The result being that they are one or two paychecks away from homelessness. In this case there is no possibility for work sharing.

    Yes the 99ers have to band together as you say, not only to act as spoilers for the Obama reelection, but also to work towards consolidating the working class. Most employed people in the bottom 80% do not look upon the unemployed as “worthless”, but rather look upon them as “But for the grace of God, there be I.” This is a sea change in the common perception of the “unemployed” including the “99ers.” Thus this cannot be a act purely by the 99ers, but has to be a joint effort by all those who are currently unemployed, and also those who feel themselves to be in solidarity with them.

    I have also posted your article at Daily Kos. Though, as I expected, both the polyannas, and the Obama apologists came out of the woodwork.

    • July 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      I think you are overlooking the impact a labor supply shock would have on the distribution of income. A fifty percent reduction in hours of work translates into a fifty percent reduction in the supply of labor — which reduce the labor supply to about what it was in mid-1960s or so. The supply shock impact on wages, possibly phased in over a year or two, would more than offset the reduction in total wages due to reduction in hours per worker.

      We have to remember that two factors go into the total labor supply: (1) the absolute number of workers available to be employed times (2) the number of hours of work per worker. Economist always ignore this second function.

  11. steve
    July 11, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    & If we Elect a Republican or Tea Party Candidate 99ers will be better off? They all suck….But I am still going to put my eggs in the Demz basket.

    • July 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm

      Steve, the question is not who you vote for, but what you are voting for. Frankly, it really doesn’t matter whether you vote GOP or Democrat, if you don’t know what you’re fighting for you are just another easily manipulated voter. No one asked Obama what he was actually going to do to eliminate all unemployment. No one asked when the last of the troops were actually going to leave Afghanistan and Iraq. No one thought it important to nail him down on anything.

      So he skated on you. Left you at the dance and went home with his new boyfriend John Boehner. You need to figure out how to avoid letting this happen again. (Unless, of course, you really don’t care about anything; and are only interested in the power rush)

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