FDR was the ultimate “Fordist” president who viewed the auto, steel and rubber plants as mutually reinforcing bedrock components of the capitalist system. In order to get the economy moving again, it was necessary to enact social legislation that put money into the pockets of workers so that they could become customers of automobiles and other manufactured goods. It was also necessary to give grudging support for industrial unions that could provide the muscle to extract a living wage from the boss, including Henry Ford himself whose social doctrines were so much in line with FDR’s New Deal.
About 12.7 million U.S. workers, or 8 percent of the labor force, still held manufacturing jobs at the beginning of 2009. Fifty years ago, 14.6 million people, or 28 percent of all U.S. workers, were employed in factories. Given the trajectory of the auto industry, those figures can only continue to decline.
When workers are not concentrated in huge factories, but are dispersed in the primarily non-union service sector, they cannot exercise the leverage necessary to put the ruling class on the defensive. When Citibank, for example, sheds thousands of jobs—courtesy of Barack Obama’s chief financial adviser Robert Ruben who led to the bank’s collapse—there is barely a whimper as workers seek personal solutions to their plight.
Unlike Greider, Kevin Baker holds out no illusions as should be obvious from the title of the article “Barack Hoover Obama: The best and the brightest blow it again” that appeared in the July 2009 Harpers Magazine.
William Greider titled “In the Shadow of Hoover”, which includes the following: