By V. Susan Hutchinson.
On August 23, the HCDP Westside Dems held their meeting at the Conway Library. The group invited John Brisini to present the topic Common Sense Economics. Brisini is the legislative liaison for the South Carolina AFL-CIO as well as the founder of the AI-Group, which provides business and political consulting/advising. The AI-Group is based in Charleston, SC. In addition, Brisini has contributed content to the bi-partisan publication The Politico Caucus and frequently appears as a guest on WCBD-TV 2, WTAT-TV FOX 24 and WCIV-TV 4 in Charleston.
Common Sense Economics gives insight into how deliberate actions and policies affect the GPD (Gross Domestic Product), which measures economic growth and recession. Although recessions are cyclical, the Federal Reserve adjusts interest rates to control inflation and help brake a recession.
Politicians in South Carolina and Washington DC are currently only supporting policies for the benefit of Wall Street and the wealthy in the United States; however, this has not always been the case.
The New Deal, implemented by FDR, created new rules for banks and the stock exchange as well as creating government agencies to enforce the new policies with the intent of preventing another great depression. There was investment in public structures and institutions for space, higher education, public works, research and development and federal highways. Unions boomed and worker regulations were implemented that resulted in an economy that worked for all Americans. As a result of these new policies and institutions, productivity and wages rose together from 1948 to 1973 when wages flattened out and started to significantly separate from productivity. This was the start of Neoliberalism.
Neoliberalism is basically unrestrained corporate power where the rich and powerful use tactics such as attacking unions, promoting trade agreements that benefit corporations instead of workers, giving tax breaks and loopholes to corporations and the wealthy, and cutting government programs that benefit workers. As a result, while the rich get richer, workers lose their bargaining power.
Today’s economy is out of balance with worker’s wages being stagnant for decades while there is an unstoppable climb in CEO pay. The US GDP was $7.6 trillion in 1973 compared to $17.4 trillion in 2014. Currently 8 people control $216 billion of the US wealth, equal to 44% of all US households. Flat wages combined with corporate and CEO hoarded profits and no investment shows that an economy geared to the top 1% of the country is not what is best for the country.
The take away from this presentation was that we need to fight for an economy that works for everyone. We can start by supporting initiatives for American workers that include strengthening their right to organize and collectively bargain, raising the minimum and tipped wages, passing a living wage ordinance, supporting prevailing wage standards and project labor agreements, increasing the overtime threshold and passing paid sick leave and family leave legislation. We also need to invest in the common good such as new and innovative energy systems, early childhood education, mass transit, good jobs and research.
Brisini ended the presentation by relating his experience in the SC House of Representatives when the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (H. 3599) was introduced by Rep Gilda Cobb-Hunter. He witnessed Rep Chris Murphy and Rep Russel Fry deliberately create a delay so a vote to move the act to committee could not be taken before the subcommittee adjourned. Brisini encouraged everyone to contact Russel Fry and ask why he and Murphy are so afraid to pay women equal pay for equal work. Robin Gause is running against Fry in the November election and we need to turn out at the polls to unseat Fry so there are more representatives in the SC House who are willing to support wage related legislation.
An open discussion with Brisini ended the meeting and left us all with the question: How do we force change and bring the economy back to American workers? Turning out the vote and unseating as many GOP Congressmen and Senators as possible this November is a good start.