Tuesday, July 25, 2017

American Workers Seem to Have Forgotten Their Own Worth - and That's a Real Problem

This is one thing - one of the really big things, actually - that I feel is wrong with the United States today, and perhaps even the main reason, or at least one of the most obvious symptoms, of why and how the standard of living has declined so severely over the course of recent decades. 

Indeed, many Americans do not believe in their own value at the workplace, and seem to take an overly appreciative approach towards the companies that hire them, that they undervalue themselves and their own role in the process. 

Yes, since the early 1980's, wages began a steady decrease, as did benefits. And it seems that no matter how low they go - and they are starting to be quite low by now - there always seems to be quite a few Americans who champion policies and politicians who advocate making still further cuts in salaries and benefits. 

Much like with other issues, it seems obvious to me that other countries offer a better way. Yes, in numerous other developed economies, workers generally enjoy a much higher minimum wage, and much better benefits. Yes, by and large, workers in other nations tend to work less hours, less days, and receive far more bang for their buck, so to speak, than their counterparts here in the United States.

The result? Well, standards of living have increased in many European nations, while those in the United States have seen their decline.

Workers in other developed nations generally have far more vacation than Americans, and amazingly, many Americans do not even take the vacation time that they are entitled to out of a sense of guilt for taking any paid time off from work at all. But in Brazil, Sweden and Finland, they each enjoy at least 40 days of paid vacation and/or holidays, while workers in Britain, France, and Lithuania enjoy nearly that much. Workers in Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, New Zealand, Tunisia and Italy all enjoy over 30 days. Workers in Australia and Ireland enjoy nearly 30 days.

Workers in numerous other developed nations enjoy other benefits, as well. Every other industrialized nation enjoys affordable, universal healthcare. For all intents and purposes, many describe it as "free healthcare." Of course, that is not true, it is not free. They pay much higher taxes. That said, consider this: not one single country that has such a healthcare system in place - and remember, every other industrialized nation with the exception of the United States has such a system in place - has made any serious moves to scrap their system in favor of the kind of "for profit" healthcare system that Americans seem to have to endure, and which always seems like such a contentious issue during each and every election cycle, and quite often even when it is not an election year, such as this one. In fact, Republicans in Congress will try to vote to repeal Obamacare later today, and they are arguing, essentially, that Americans should have the right to choose no healthcare coverage at all - as if anyone who could seriously afford it would want to be off healthcare. But Americans keep falling for it, and keep electing these clowns into office.

Nobody would describe healthcare in the United States as free, like they do in those other countries. In fact, Americans on average pay more - and far more, at that - than citizens of any other nation for their medical care. That means, also, that more of their generally lower wages goes towards taking care of their own healthcare.

Of course, there are other benefits that citizens in other nations enjoy, as well. They have cheaper childcare, paid maternity leave, generally have far better public transportation than what is available in the United States, and they have governments that take clean air and combating climate change far more seriously than we Americans do.

In other words, they get a whole lot more bang for the bucks that they make. And by and large, for that matter, the governments that the elect, for all their imperfections, actually work to try and improve the lives of their people far more than the Americans government works to try and improve the lives of their people, which brings me to another thing that I feel contributes to the declining standard of living for Americans: their excessive skepticism of their government. They focus so much on limiting government power, that they weaken it, while allowing major corporations, who are elected by no one and do not even pretend to have any interests other than fattening their own wallets, to get away with murder, and have their own power grow unchecked.

But that is another topic of conversation, for another day.

Suffice to say, I feel American workers are cheating themselves on many levels. They could have all of these things, these strong benefits, that countries in every other industrialized nation enjoy, and which could improve the quality of life here in the United States considerably.

Instead, the prevailing viewpoint seems to be that we should all be very thankful to our employers for even having a job, and that we should not impose on their generosity, because otherwise, they will let us go personally or, on a grander scheme, they will outsource those jobs out overseas, where labor is cheaper.

Perhaps, and I understand the logic of this reasoning. However, those who believe in this unquestioningly forget that many of these corporations who either outsource the jobs, or threaten to do so, got rich from American labor in the first place, and generally need access to American markets to make strong profits. I cannot say for sure what would be required to make something like this happen, but it seems to me that any company that moves a significant amount of jobs that could be done here overseas so that they can get cheaper labor to do it should automatically lose access to the American market. Again, most of these companies would not be where they are now if not for American workers, and they need to remember that the economy worked better when workers were treated fairly. That is why many countries where workers are doing far better than American workers seem to be enjoying relatively positive outlooks on the economy, while here, Americans are always stressed out, worried that their jobs are expendable and that they had better lay low and keep their noses close to the ground to do their jobs quietly and without complain, lest they be targeted the next time the company downsizes. On many levels, this just seems like a form of economic blackmail.

Obviously, this is one particular topic that I could probably go on and on about. In many respects, this is probably one of the areas where having a foreign background, and thus understanding other points of view, has been helpful in allowing me personally to understand that there are indeed other ways of seeing and doing things. It seems to me that, indeed, American workers just do not know their own strength and significance to this economy in myriad ways, much like American voters have gone way too far with their excessive skepticism of anything and everything to do with the government, necessarily equating every government program or proposal as automatically evil, all while giving "too big to fail" banks and corporations a free pass to continue to fleece the country like they have been doing for decades now. But in the interests of time, it is time for me to wrap this up and publish this already.

For now, if you are interested, please take a look at the couple of links to the articles below, which tell the story of how American s have fallen so far behind other countries in so many crucial areas:

Companies have forgotten how to pay workers fairly — and workers have forgotten what they deserve by Daniel Gross, Slate Jul. 15, 2017:

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