Will the whole community benefit from VW’s investment?
On July 16, the celebration of Volkswagen’s decision to expand car production in Chattanooga became a love fest for plutocrats. Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Bill Haslam engaged in a public festival of self-promotion. Self-congratulatory rhetoric flowed like ketchup on a bun.
Corker stated that Haslam had been his friend for 40 years and that he (Corker) “…had never been prouder of him.” Sen. Corker went on to add that Alexander is “the father of the auto industry in Tennessee.” To reciprocate, Alexander and Haslam both said, “We would not be standing here today if not for Bob Corker.”
It’s a wonder that they did not injure themselves with all the backslapping and high-fiving. Based on this excess, one would think that these masters of the universe had invented automobiles.
Meanwhile, back in the real world in which we commoners live, Tennessee remains one of the poorest states in the union. The state ranks 45th on median income and 39th on per capita income.
The higher ranking of the later is attributable to the gross level of income inequality. The richest five percent of Tennesseans make an average of $252,600 a year—and the poorest 20 percent make an average of $18,800 a year.
Tennessee leads the nation in the percentage of minimum-wage jobs. Our rate is nearly twice the national rate and one out of four jobs are classified as “low wage”. The poverty rate is 17.9 percent and the asset poverty rate (based on durable assets that could be liquidated to sustain a family for three months) is 25.2 percent. There is nothing to cheer about in these numbers.
However, for Tennessee and America’s plutocracy, low-wage jobs are the path to their prosperity. We learned in the struggle for a union at VW that the superrich and their bought-and-paid-for politicians will spare no expense to deny workers a seat at the table or a living wage. There was an attempt to bribe VW with 300 million in taxpayer dollars and a campaign of serial lies to cover it up. Then the Tennessee legislature, led by the dumb and dumber, refused to investigate the crime.
These local yokels teamed with uber-plutocrats, David and Charles Koch, through their sycophant, Grover Norquist, and their nefarious and sweetly named front groups to mount a campaign of propaganda, lies, and deception that has not been seen in Tennessee since the Scopes trial.
This massive disinformation war resulted in a temporary defeat of the union at VW—but proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the architects of that campaign do not represent the needs of Tennesseans. Instead, they are the willing servants of America’s superrich and powerful corporate interests.
As for the union: The UAW has already risen from the dead and established a local chapter. The plutocrats have held sway in Tennessee and America for too long.
I wish the UAW “God’s speed” in their struggle against the forces of greed for better wages and more employee power over their own destinies—which are our destinies, too.