Is America still a middle class society?
The question must be occurring to many people on hearing the news of a
settlement -- and a very fast settlement, at that -- to the United Auto
Workers' Strike against General Motors. Maybe it is good news. The
workers have apparently secured a financially viable health care
program. There won't be layoffs. This is what I got on the radio news on my
way home from Logan Airport. OK, so far so good.
But, as I understood the numbers, workers are going to take roughly 20% off
their salaries in wage cuts. This keeps G.M. alive, or should. And what
this means is that the unionized but barely middle class will no longer be really
It is a terrible omen, particularly given the almost obscenely flush
incomes at the top of our society.
This is not the first such mass salary reduction. And it won't be the last.
Another development is certain: there will be a heating up of the politics
of resentment, much of it deserved.