Why is it that Germany seems to be just about the only country in the world who is not struggling with a disappearing middle class? They are doing well in that regard because they are the most unionized country in the world and their increased wages drives their demand. How do they manage to keep their wages high in light of the pennies-on-the-dollar labor found elsewhere? They do it by government regulations prohibiting companies from exporting jobs. Of course this is something that the “free traders” among us say is impossible but it seems Germany didn’t know it was impossible and went ahead and implemented it anyway.
Could the same thing be done in the U.S.? Could we actually drive up demand by driving wages back to where they were twenty years ago. In the last decade the auto industry’s starting wage has gone from $28/hour to less than $15/hour and there are similar numbers throughout other industries in the country. The middle class is quickly disappearing as a result. And with the middle class disappearing so is the discretionary income and resulting demand. We are in a catch-22 until we can figure out a way to bring the middle class back to existence.
The conservative elements in our country insist that the door to the middle class is pretty much now closed and we must depend on trickle-down from the rich to maintain any semblance of prosperity in this country. I just don’t buy into that logic. If our once mortal enemy of Germany can maintain their middle class through corporate regulations prohibiting the export of jobs then certainly the biggest economy in the world can do something similar.
Germany is now pretty much bailing out all those other E.U. countries with their affluence. And this is just a score of years since they incorporated the very destitute East Germany into their country! Maybe we should take a plan from their play-book and duplicate it here in our own American style. But like our healthcare debacle we can’t seem to learn that the rest of the world has pretty much learned to control their medical costs through a universal single-payer system so how are we ever going to learn how to bring back our middle class through lessons from elsewhere?
Now don’t get me wrong here; I am not saying that Germany is a better country than we are. They have some restrictions on their citizens that should never and would never be acceptable to us. We don’t have to become another Germany to learn some ways of doing things better. Pragmatism is finding what works and then using it regardless of where it came from.
But what do I know….