Monday, June 04, 2012

A fascinating new book — by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson — is arguing that nations start falling apart when their elites amass enough wealth and power to essentially “rig the game” on their own behalf. These rich attempt to bulldoze away anything and anybody that stands in their way. If they succeed, their societies eventually collapse.
All this past month, in Joliet, Illinois, about 800 workers have been resisting that bulldozer, quite literally. The workers went out on strike May 1 after their employers at Caterpillar, the world’s largest earth-moving equipment maker, demanded a wage freeze, pension cuts, and a doubling of health care premiums.
“A company that made $4.9 billion in profits last year,” local union leader Steve Jones noted last week, has “no good reason” for pushing this sort of shakedown. Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, on the other hand, does have a reason. He took home $17 million last year. Why should he risk accepting any less this one?
Tomorrow, another bulldozer will be rolling — in Wisconsin. Billionaires have inundated the state with campaign cash for Scott Walker, the union-busting governor now facing a recall. They've fueled Walker’s bulldozer with ten times the cash his opponent has to spend. More on that bulldozing in this week’s Too Much.

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