auto manufacturers

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Bich Ha and Huei Hann Pan were Vietnamese refugees that settled down in Toronto, Canada. The couple both found employment at an auto manufacturer and worked all hours to provide for their children - Jennifer Pan and Felix Pan. From a very young age, Jennifer and Felix were enrolled in all sorts of classes and activities. Jennifer excelled in piano and ice-skating, much to the delight of her parents. Additionally, she was the perfect student, always getting straight A’s in her report card.

However, when Jennifer did not receive valedictorian in 8th grade, she decided she would stop dedicating her entire life to her studies and decided that she would live a lie to impress her parents instead. When she failed to graduate from high school, she lied to her family and said she passed with flying colours and we accepted into the University of Toronto to study pharmacology. To maintain this charade, Jennifer said she had won tuition scholarships; she even forged report cards and brought home textbooks and notes.

In reality, Jennifer would be spending time with her boyfriend, Daniel Wong, and working in a restaurant. As her lies began to crumble around her, Jennifer’s parents forbid her from seeing her boyfriend and confiscated her mobile phone, even though she was now 24-years-old. Jennifer soon began to ponder what her life would be like without her strict parents - she would have freedom to do whatever she pleaded, she thought. Jennifer decided she would hire somebody to kill Bich and Huei.

Daniel put Jennifer into contact with David Mylvaganam, Lenford Crawford and Eric Carty. On 8 November, 2010, Jennifer unlocked the front door of the family home before retreating to bed. In the middle of the night, the three men entered and shot Bich and Huei. Afterwards, Jennifer called 911 and wailed that three men had broken in and killed her family and tied her up. However, unbeknownst to her, Huei survived his wounds and was able to tell authorities that his daughter had been in on the whole thing - he had witnessed her chatting with the three men who killed his wife and attempted to kill him.

After being found guilty, they were all sentenced to life imprisonment.

black history is right around the corner and here is a fun fact. Henry ford was NOT the first person to Make automobiles. A black person was. YES, a black person born into slavery and his name was C.R Patterson. yall thought Henry ford made shit please. BYE!!! His parents were Nancy and Charles Patterson. Patterson escaped from slavery in 1861, heading west and settling in Greenfield, Ohio around 1862. At some point after his arrival in Ohio, Patterson went to work as a blacksmith for the carriage-building business, Dines and Simpson. In 1865 he married Josephine Utz, and had five children from 1866 to 1879. In 1873, Patterson went into partnership with J.P. Lowe, another Greenfield-based carriage manufacturer. Over the next twenty years, Patterson and Lowe developed a highly successful carriage-building business. In 1893 Patterson bought out J.P. Lowe’s share of the business and reorganized it as C.R. Patterson & Sons Company. The company built 28 types of horse-drawn vehicles and employed approximately 10-15 individuals. While the company managed to successfully market its equine-powered carriages and buggies, the dawn of the automobile was rapidly approaching. Charles Patterson died in 1910, leaving the successful carriage business to his son Frederick who in turn initiated the conversion of the company from a carriage business into an automobile manufacturer. The first Patterson-Greenfield car debuted in 1915 and was sold for $850. With a four-cylinder Continental engine, the car was comparable to the contemporary Ford Model T. The Patterson-Greenfield car may, in fact, have been more sophisticated than Ford’s car, but C.R. Patterson & Sons never matched Ford’s manufacturing capability. Estimates of Patterson-Greenfield car production vary, but it is almost certain that no more than 150 vehicles were built. The company soon switched to production of truck, bus, and other utility vehicle bodies which were installed atop chassis made by major auto manufacturers such as Ford and General Motors. Its school bus bodies in particular became popular as Midwestern school districts began to convert from horse-drawn to internal-combustion-fired transportation by 1920. Around 1920, the company reorganized as the Greenfield Bus Body Company but after ten years of steady, if unspectacular growth, the Great Depression sent the company into a downward spiral. Frederick Patterson died in 1932, and the company began to disintegrate in the late 1930s. Around 1938, the company moved to Gallipolis, Ohio, changing its name again to the Gallia Body Company in an attempt to restart its prior success.  The attempt failed and the company permanently closed its doors in 1939.  Like many other small auto manufacturers, the company was unable to compete with Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, and other large automobile manufacturers. No Patterson-Greenfield automobiles are known to have survived to the present, but some C.R. Patterson & Sons carriages and buggies are extant. stay woke loves. THIS AINT IN YALLS SCHOOL BOOK IS IT? ✨✊🏾🌹

Automakers to gearheads: Stop repairing cars

Automakers are supporting provisions in copyright law that could prohibit home mechanics and car enthusiasts from repairing and modifying their own vehicles.

In comments filed with a federal agency that will determine whether tinkering with a car constitutes a copyright violation, OEMs and their main lobbying organization say cars have become too complex and dangerous for consumers and third parties to handle.

Allowing them to continue to fix their cars has become “legally problematic,” according to a written statement from the Auto Alliance, the main lobbying arm of automakers.

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Hardtops

General Motors was the first U.S auto manufacturer to mass produce the pillar-less hardtop body style.  GM applied the moniker “Convertible Hardtop” to the 1949;  Buick Roadmaster Riviera, Cadillac Coupe de Ville, Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Holiday. The term “Convertible Hardtop” was derived from the concept that they would build a convertible and add a permanent hardtop that resembled a convertible with the top up.  The doors would dispense with the fixed metal framing around the door window glass.  This concept was first applied to two door cars and spread to four doors cars and some station wagons. The style became very popular and even struggling Independents had produced their own Hardtop models.  Almost all U.S. Auto Makers had a Hardtop  available by the mid-1950s.

The pillar-less hardtop was significant enough for most car brands to attach a corresponding name (in parenthesis in the image descriptions above) specifically for that body style or top tier model or trim level that was only available as a hardtop body.  Models that were aimed at the economy conscious often did not offer hardtop variants.  Conversely, upper market models would sometimes eliminate sedan versions from the line up.

Hardtop Brand Monikers:

Chevrolet –> Sport Coupe (2 door) Sport Sedan (4 door) confusing the issue since the term sedan was relegated mainly for traditional framed door glass cars. 

Pontiac —-> Catalina

Oldsmobile —-> Holiday

Buick   —-> Riviera

Cadillac  —-> de Ville & Seville

Ford  —-> Victoria

Mercury  —-> Phaeton

Lincoln —->  Landau 

Dodge  —-> Lancer

DeSoto  —-> Sportsman

Chrysler (& 1955 Imperial) —-> Newport

Imperial  —-> Southampton

Rambler  —-> Country Club

Hudson  —-> Hollywood

Studebaker  —-> Starliner

Willys  —-> Eagle

Notice that some of the names would be used again, becoming separate models of their own. (i.e. Catalina, Riviera, Lancer, Newport) or trim packages (i.e. Holiday, Landau)

Visual example of Sedan vs. Hardtop 

1956 Chevrolet 210 Two Door Sedan

1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Four Door Sedan

1956 Chevrolet Hardtops; Bel Air Sport Coupe & 210 Sport Sedan

Volkswagen Bus to be revived as an electric vehicle - cancelled in 2013, the classic Volkswagen Camper may find a new lease on life as an eco-friendly EV. The iconic “hippie wagon” may soon see a very apropos resurrection from the dead. Speaking at the New York Auto Show, Volkswagen board member Dr Heinz-Jakob Neusser announced that the German auto company was working on a brand new camper concept - one that would run on batteries, rather than petrol, powering an electric motor driving the front wheels. Dr Neusser said that the new car would maintain 3 iconic design principles of the original Type 2 microbus, first introduced in Germany in 1950. “First the wide, solid, D-Pillar, second the boxy design of the center section; and, third, the front end must have a very short overhang.” In 2011, the company took a stab at an electric concept it called the Bulli, clearly inspired by the Type 2, but closer to a small van, with 4 hinged doors and 1 bench seat in the front and another in the rear that could be folded flat to make a sort of bed. The Camper, in comparison, contains a small mobile home with optional kitchen equipment and detachable canvas tents and awnings; seats that could be folded out into beds; a folding table, and a small refrigeration unit. Production on all VW Type 2 units, incl. the Camper, ceased in 2013. Production had been outsourced to Brazil after safety regulations introduced in the 70s in Germany meant that it could no longer be made there. In 2012, Brazil introduced legislation that went into effect on Jan 1, 2014, dictating that all cars made in the country must have ABS and airbags on both driver and passenger sides. VW decided that, rather than make a completely new vehicle, it was more cost effective to simply say goodbye to the Type 2 after 63 years of production. However, Dr Neusser now said that if the cost of production on the new electric Camper was feasible, the car could make it to market. The VW team continues to work on the concept.

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The cars that made Briggs Cunningham really famous. 1950 Cadillac based LeMonstre and 1950 Cadillac which he campaigned successfully in LeMans and launched him into auto manufacturing.

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Federal regulations that allowed for Quad Headlight systems went into effect in 1957. It did present a problem for U.S. Auto Manufacturers, because the four headlight systems were not legal in all states. Each company (sometimes each marque) handled the situation differently.

                Chevrolet  1957 Bel Air & 1958 Impala

GM is the easiest, from Chevrolet to Cadillac all GM cars kept the Dual Headlights system for 1957. When all states legalized the Quad System, in 1958, all GM cars switched from two to four headlights.

                       1957 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

AMC (1957 the last year cars were marketed under Nash & Hudson names) The Nash Ambassador was sold with the vertically stacked Quad system.  The Ambassador does not appear to be an option for states that had not legalized four, other than buying other AMC models that had Dual systems.

                         1957 Hudson Hornet Custom

Ford Motor Company handled it differently for different marques. Continental, Ford regular line and Thunderbird kept using Dual headlights.  Most Mercury cars used two headlights, but the new flashy Turnpike Cruiser used an obviously adapted Quad system.  Lincoln went another way. It looked like a vertically stacked Quad system, but in reality was the dual standard nine inch headlights. The lower lights were “Road Lights”.


                                1957 Ford Thunderbird

Chrysler Corporation also used a mix of tricks to handle the situation. The upper echelon marques: Imperial, Chrysler and DeSoto offered their cars with Dual or Quad systems. (Chrysler & DeSoto examples above) Dodge and Plymouth, on the other hand, used Dual headlights, but positioned and disguised parking lights to give the illusion of Quad headlights.

Studebaker/Packard was struggling and did not have the resources to handle dealing with the mixed regulations and would hold off adapting their designs for  Quad headlights until 1958.

Depending on the response this post gets, a follow up on what happened in 1958 when four headlights became legal in all states may be assembled.

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Remington Model 11 riot shotgun

Designed and Patented by John Browning c.1898-1900 and manufactured by Remington Arms c.1905-1947 - serial number 465991. This one is a WW2 production.
12 gauge four-shell tubular magazine, long-recoil semi-automatic, hunting scenes engraving.

This gun is kind of an odd one since it presents the US & “shell and flame” grenade engravings as well as Crossed Cannons ordnance proof but does not fit the usual military finish.
An American variant of the Browning Auto 5 manufactured in Belgium since 1902, the Remington Model 11 only entered production in 1905 as the then owner of the company Marcellus Hartley got too excited knowing Browning was in his waiting room with a gun design, and died of a heart attack. Or at least that’s how I see it. This variant differs from the Belgian Auto 5 by lacking a magazine cut-off.

That’s an Auto 5 Police with an 8-round magazine. You’re welcome.

Industrial production jumps despite tumbling auto output

(Workers work on the assembly line of the new Golf 7 at the Volkswagen plant in Puebla January 14, 2014.REUTERS/Imelda Medina)
Industrial production, the Federal Reserve’s measure of US goods output, was right in line with expectations for the month of March.

Production increased by 0.5%, the exact increase expected by economists. This was an improvement from last month’s flat reading.

Surprisingly, output for manufacturing firms fell 0.4%, much worse than the 0.1% gain expected, due to a steep decrease in auto manufacturing.

“Manufacturing output fell 0.4 percent in March, led by a large step-down in the production of motor vehicles and parts; factory output aside from motor vehicles and parts moved down 0.2 percent,” said the Fed’s release.

Additionally, capacity utilization — or the percentage of production capacity being used in the US — rose to 76.1% from last month’s 75.4%, also in line with expectations.

NOW WATCH: I switched from Mac to Windows and I’m never going back — here’s why



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Cars of 1958 Part II:

After WWII auto manufacturers were scrambling to fill the demand for new cars, since auto production had stopped early in 1942.  Early in the 1950’s a price war between Chevrolet and Ford started to squeeze out the independent car companies.  Nash & Hudson merged to form American Motors Corporation and Studebaker & Packard merged into one company.

The sellers market had dried up by the mid-fifties and an economic downturn in 1958, that became known as the Eisenhower Recession, hit the automotive market hard.  The recently expanding middle price car territory took the biggest hit, effecting Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge, Chrysler, Mercury.  It was a fatal blow for DeSoto and  Ford’s new entry into the field the Edsel.

The period did produce some of the most extravagant and glitzy cars ever produced.  If you want to see more cars from 1958, click the link below:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/greggjerdingen/sets/72157647608547903/

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In 1958, the French auto manufacturer Simca gave the world the Gallic vision of the car of the year 2000 in the Fulgur concept vehicle. The French Retrofuture, like its American cousin, seemed to have a fixation on cars with bubble canopies that would do little to eliminate the heat and glare of the sun, as well as panels that extend virtually to the ground, all but guaranteeing scraping the car’s body.

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Cars of 1958 Part I:

After WWII auto manufacturers were scrambling to fill the demand for new cars, since auto production had stopped early in 1942.  Early in the 1950’s a price war between Chevrolet and Ford started to squeeze out the independent car companies.  Nash & Hudson merged to form American Motors Corporation and Studebaker & Packard merged into one company.

The sellers market had dried up by the mid-fifties and an economic downturn in 1958, that became known as the Eisenhower Recession, hit the automotive market hard.  The recently expanding middle price car territory took the biggest hit, effecting Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Dodge, Chrysler, Mercury.  It was a fatal blow for DeSoto and  Ford’s new entry into the field the Edsel.

The period did produce some of the most extravagant and glitzy cars ever produced.  If you want to see more cars from 1958, click the link below:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/greggjerdingen/sets/72157647608547903/

Smart Homes Meet Connected Cars: X Marks the Spot

Several factors have contributed to the sudden expansion of connected car services available or coming to the market, most notably the expansion of mobile broadband networks, high penetration of smartphones in the consumer market, and auto manufacturers’ re-evaluation of connected services as a competitive advantage and means to generate new revenues.

While the connected car and smart home ecosystems haven’t yet entered the mainstream, neither is in its infancy. Crossover between the two markets is evident and offers a unique opportunity for the ecosystem players.

Keep reading

15 Mind-Blowing Facts That You Should Read (Part 140)

1. The skeleton called the “Ring Lady” unearthed in Herculaneum near Pompeii. 79 AD

2. when watermelons are grilled or baked they lose their granular texture and can even be used as meat substitute, a “watermelon steak”.

3. There is a fine dining restaurant located inside a gas station in Texas. Sometime around 2003, Nigerian born Franson Nwaeze was denied a bank loan to open a restaurant. Undeterred, Franson applied for a loan to open a gas station instead, which the bank approved. The result: Chef Point.

4.  Japanese convenience store clerks throw giant paintballs at criminals who try to rob them. The ‘crime prevention color balls’ burst on impact to make…

Keep reading

The Political Roots of Widening Inequality

For the past quarter-century I’ve offered in articles, books, and lectures an explanation for why average working people in advanced nations like the United States have failed to gain ground and are under increasing economic stress: Put simply, globalization and technological change have made most of us less competitive. The tasks we used to do can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines.

My solution—and I’m hardly alone in suggesting this—has been an activist government that raises taxes on the wealthy, invests the proceeds in excellent schools and other means people need to become more productive, and redistributes to the needy. These recommendations have been vigorously opposed by those who believe the economy will function better for everyone if government is smaller and if taxes and redistributions are curtailed.

While the explanation I offered a quarter-century ago for what has happened is still relevant—indeed, it has become the standard, widely accepted explanation—I’ve come to believe it overlooks a critically important phenomenon: the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs. And the governmental solutions I have propounded, while I believe them still useful, are in some ways beside the point because they take insufficient account of the government’s more basic role in setting the rules of the economic game.

Worse yet, the ensuing debate over the merits of the “free market” versus an activist government has diverted attention from how the market has come to be organized differently from the way it was a half-century ago, why its current organization is failing to deliver the widely shared prosperity it delivered then, and what the basic rules of the market should be. It has allowed America to cling to the meritocratic tautology that individuals are paid what they’re “worth” in the market, without examining the legal and political institutions that define the market. The tautology is easily confused for a moral claim that people deserve what they are paid. Yet this claim has meaning only if the legal and political institutions defining the market are morally justifiable.

                                                         II

Most fundamentally, the standard explanation for what has happened ignores power. As such, it lures the unsuspecting into thinking nothing can or should be done to alter what people are paid because the market has decreed it.

The standard explanation has allowed some to argue, for example, that the median wage of the bottom 90 percent—which for the first 30 years after World War II rose in tandem with productivity—has stagnated for the last 30 years, even as productivity has continued to rise, because middle-income workers are worth less than they were before new software technologies and globalization made many of their old jobs redundant. They therefore have to settle for lower wages and less security. If they want better jobs, they need more education and better skills. So hath the market decreed.

Yet this market view cannot be the whole story because it fails to account for much of what we have experienced. For one thing, it doesn’t clarify why the transformation occurred so suddenly. The divergence between productivity gains and the median wage began in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and then took off. Yet globalization and technological change did not suddenly arrive at America’s doorstep in those years. What else began happening then?

Nor can the standard explanation account for why other advanced economies facing similar forces of globalization and technological change did not succumb to them as readily as the United States. By 2011, the median income in Germany, for example, was rising faster than it was in the United States, and Germany’s richest 1 percent took home about 11 percent of total income, before taxes, while America’s richest 1 percent took home more than 17 percent. Why have globalization and technological change widened inequality in the United States to a much greater degree?

Nor can the standard explanation account for why the compensation packages of the top executives of big companies soared from an average of 20 times that of the typical worker 40 years ago to almost 300 times. Or why the denizens of Wall Street, who in the 1950s and 1960s earned comparatively modest sums, are now paid tens or hundreds of millions annually. Are they really “worth” that much more now than they were worth then?

Finally and perhaps most significantly, the market explanation cannot account for the decline in wages of recent college graduates. If the market explanation were accurate, college graduates would command higher wages in line with their greater productivity. After all, a college education was supposed to boost personal incomes and maintain American prosperity.

To be sure, young people with college degrees have continued to do better than people without them. In 2013, Americans with four-year college degrees earned 98 percent more per hour on average than people without a college degree. That was a bigger advantage than the 89 percent premium that college graduates earned relative to non-graduates five years before, and the 64 percent advantage they held in the early 1980s.

But since 2000, the real average hourly wages of young college graduates have dropped. The entry-level wages of female college graduates have dropped by more than 8 percent, and male graduates by more than 6.5 percent. To state it another way, while a college education has become a prerequisite for joining the middle class, it is no longer a sure means for gaining ground once admitted to it. That’s largely because the middle class’s share of the total economic pie continues to shrink, while the share going to the top continues to grow. 

                                                         III

A deeper understanding of what has happened to American incomes over the last 25 years requires an examination of changes in the organization of the market. These changes stem from a dramatic increase in the political power of large corporations and Wall Street to change the rules of the market in ways that have enhanced their profitability, while reducing the share of economic gains going to the majority of Americans. 

This transformation has amounted to a redistribution upward, but not as “redistribution” is normally defined. The government did not tax the middle class and poor and transfer a portion of their incomes to the rich. The government undertook the upward redistribution by altering the rules of the game.

Intellectual property rights—patents, trademarks, and copyrights—have been enlarged and extended, for example. This has created windfalls for pharmaceuticals, high tech, biotechnology, and many entertainment companies, which now preserve their monopolies longer than ever. It has also meant high prices for average consumers, including the highest pharmaceutical costs of any advanced nation.

At the same time, antitrust laws have been relaxed for corporations with significant market power. This has meant large profits for Monsanto, which sets the prices for most of the nation’s seed corn; for a handful of companies with significant market power over network portals and platforms (Amazon, Facebook, and Google); for cable companies facing little or no broadband competition (Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon); and for the largest Wall Street banks, among others. And as with intellectual property rights, this market power has simultaneously raised prices and reduced services available to average Americans. (Americans have the most expensive and slowest broadband of any industrialized nation, for example.) 

Financial laws and regulations instituted in the wake of the Great Crash of 1929 and the consequential Great Depression have been abandoned—restrictions on interstate banking, on the intermingling of investment and commercial banking, and on banks becoming publicly held corporations, for example—thereby allowing the largest Wall Street banks to acquire unprecedented influence over the economy. The growth of the financial sector, in turn, spawned junk-bond financing, unfriendly takeovers, private equity and “activist” investing, and the notion that corporations exist solely to maximize shareholder value.

Bankruptcy laws have been loosened for large corporations—notably airlines and automobile manufacturers—allowing them to abrogate labor contracts, threaten closures unless they receive wage concessions, and leave workers and communities stranded. Notably, bankruptcy has not been extended to homeowners who are burdened by mortgage debt and owe more on their homes than the homes are worth, or to graduates laden with student debt. Meanwhile, the largest banks and auto manufacturers were bailed out in the downturn of 2008–2009. The result has been to shift the risks of economic failure onto the backs of average working people and taxpayers.

Contract laws have been altered to require mandatory arbitration before private judges selected by big corporations. Securities laws have been relaxed to allow insider trading of confidential information. CEOs have used stock buybacks to boost share prices when they cash in their own stock options. Tax laws have created loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private-equity funds, special favors for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income-tax rates on the highest incomes, and reduced estate taxes on great wealth.

All these instances represent distributions upward—toward big corporations and financial firms, and their executives and shareholders—and away from average working people.

                                                          IV

Meanwhile, corporate executives and Wall Street managers and traders have done everything possible to prevent the wages of most workers from rising in tandem with productivity gains, in order that more of the gains go instead toward corporate profits. Higher corporate profits have meant higher returns for shareholders and, directly and indirectly, for the executives and bankers themselves.

Workers worried about keeping their jobs have been compelled to accept this transformation without fully understanding its political roots. For example, some of their economic insecurity has been the direct consequence of trade agreements that have encouraged American companies to outsource jobs abroad. Since all nations’ markets reflect political decisions about how they are organized, so-called “free trade” agreements entail complex negotiations about how different market systems are to be integrated. The most important aspects of such negotiations concern intellectual property, financial assets, and labor. The first two of these interests have gained stronger protection in such agreements, at the insistence of big U.S. corporations and Wall Street. The latter—the interests of average working Americans in protecting the value of their labor—have gained less protection, because the voices of working people have been muted. 

Rising job insecurity can also be traced to high levels of unemployment. Here, too, government policies have played a significant role. The Great Recession, whose proximate causes were the bursting of housing and debt bubbles brought on by the deregulation of Wall Street, hurled millions of Americans out of work. Then, starting in 2010, Congress opted for austerity because it was more interested in reducing budget deficits than in stimulating the economy and reducing unemployment. The resulting joblessness undermined the bargaining power of average workers and translated into stagnant or declining wages.

Some insecurity has been the result of shredded safety nets and disappearing labor protections. Public policies that emerged during the New Deal and World War II had placed most economic risks squarely on large corporations through strong employment contracts, along with Social Security, workers’ compensation, 40-hour workweeks with time-and-a-half for overtime, and employer-provided health benefits (wartime price controls encouraged such tax-free benefits as substitutes for wage increases). But in the wake of the junk-bond and takeover mania of the 1980s, economic risks were shifted to workers. Corporate executives did whatever they could to reduce payrolls—outsource abroad, install labor-replacing technologies, and utilize part-time and contract workers. A new set of laws and regulations facilitated this transformation.

As a result, economic insecurity became baked into employment. Full-time workers who had put in decades with a company often found themselves without a job overnight—with no severance pay, no help finding another job, and no health insurance. Even before the crash of 2008, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics at the University of Michigan found that over any given two-year stretch in the two preceding decades, about half of all families experienced some decline in income.

Today, nearly one out of every five working Americans is in a part-time job. Many are consultants, freelancers, and independent contractors. Two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck. And employment benefits have shriveled. The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from just over half in 1979 to under 35 percent today. In MetLife’s 2014 survey of employees, 40 percent anticipated that their employers would reduce benefits even further.

The prevailing insecurity is also a consequence of the demise of labor unions. Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars. By 2014, America’s largest employer was Walmart, and the typical entry-level Walmart worker earned about $9 an hour. 

This does not mean the typical GM employee a half-century ago was “worth” four times what the typical Walmart employee in 2014 was worth. The GM worker was not better educated or motivated than the Walmart worker. The real difference was that GM workers a half-century ago had a strong union behind them that summoned the collective bargaining power of all autoworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members. And because more than a third of workers across America belonged to a labor union, the bargains those unions struck with employers raised the wages and benefits of non-unionized workers as well. Non-union firms knew they would be unionized if they did not come close to matching the union contracts.

Today’s Walmart workers do not have a union to negotiate a better deal. They are on their own. And because less than 7 percent of today’s private-sector workers are unionized, most employers across America do not have to match union contracts. This puts unionized firms at a competitive disadvantage. Public policies have enabled and encouraged this fundamental change. More states have adopted so-called “right-to-work” laws. The National Labor Relations Board, understaffed and overburdened, has barely enforced collective bargaining. When workers have been harassed or fired for seeking to start a union, the board rewards them back pay—a mere slap on the wrist of corporations that have violated the law. The result has been a race to the bottom. 

Given these changes in the organization of the market, it is not surprising that corporate profits have increased as a portion of the total economy, while wages have declined. Those whose income derives directly or indirectly from profits—corporate executives, Wall Street traders, and shareholders—have done exceedingly well. Those dependent primarily on wages have not.


                                                         V

The underlying problem, then, is not that most Americans are “worth” less in the market than they had been, or that they have been living beyond their means. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive. The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power—both economic and political—to receive as large a portion of the economy’s gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II. As a result, their means have not kept up with what the economy could otherwise provide them. 

To attribute this to the impersonal workings of the “free market” is to disregard the power of large corporations and the financial sector, which have received a steadily larger share of economic gains as a result of that power. As their gains have continued to accumulate, so has their power to accumulate even more.

 Under these circumstances, education is no panacea. Reversing the scourge of widening inequality requires reversing the upward distributions within the rules of the market, and giving workers the bargaining leverage they need to get a larger share of the gains from growth. Yet neither will be possible as long as large corporations and Wall Street have the power to prevent such a restructuring. And as they, and the executives and managers who run them, continue to collect the lion’s share of the income and wealth generated by the economy, their influence over the politicians, administrators, and judges who determine the rules of the game may be expected to grow.

The answer to this conundrum is not found in economics. It is found in politics. The changes in the organization of the economy have been reinforcing and cumulative: As more of the nation’s income flows to large corporations and Wall Street and to those whose earnings and wealth derive directly from them, the greater is their political influence over the rules of the market, which in turn enlarges their share of total income. 

The more dependent politicians become on their financial favors, the greater is the willingness of such politicians and their appointees to reorganize the market to the benefit of these moneyed interests. The weaker unions and other traditional sources of countervailing power become economically, the less able they are to exert political influence over the rules of the market, which causes the playing field to tilt even further against average workers and the poor.

Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority, whose incomes have stagnated and whose wealth has failed to increase, join together to demand fundamental change. The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left, or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refuses to recognize or respond to its growing distress.

[This article is from the spring issue of “The American Prospect.”]

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Audi’s adorable new rover is gonna be your new favorite robot

Watch out BB-8, German auto manufacturer Audi just debuted Quattro, a mostly aluminum, four-wheeled, unmanned  rover emblazoned with the Audi logo, armed with multiple cameras and a big solar panel to keep it moving. It may have a big space voyage ahead of it.

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