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  Thursday  August 30  2007    12: 23 AM

book recommendation

The Disposable American:
Layoffs and Their Consequences

by Louis Uchitelle

From Amazon:

Devoting a book to the necessity of preserving jobs is perhaps a futile endeavor in this age of deregulation and outsourcing, but veteran New York Times business reporter Uchitelle manages to make the case that corporate responsibility should entail more than good accounting and that six (going on seven) successive administrations have failed miserably in protecting the American people from greedy executives, manipulative pension fund managers, leveraged buyouts and plain old bad business practices. In the process, he says, we've gone from a world where job security, benevolent interventionism and management/worker loyalty were taken for granted to a dysfunctional, narcissistic and callous incarnation of pre-Keynesian capitalism. The resulting "anxious class" now suffers from a host of frightening ills: downward mobility, loss of self-esteem, transgenerational trauma and income volatility, to name a few. Uchitelle animates his arguments through careful reporting on the plight of laid-off Stanley Works toolmakers and United Airlines mechanics. Descriptions of their difficulties are touching and even tragic; they are also, alas, laborious and repetitive. And Uchitelle's solutions are not entirely convincing: neither forcing companies to abide by a "just cause" clause when they fire someone, for instance, nor doubling the minimum wage are likely to increase employment. Yet Uchitelle's basic argument—that no American government has taken significant steps to curb "the unwinding of social value" caused by corporate greed— is all too accurate.

Uchitelle describes the problem well. Unfortunately, he tries to offer solutions. The only solution is to completely redo the relationship between business and labor. Not going to happen soon. At least until labor has more clout in Congress than business.

Disposable Workers: Layoffs and Their Consequences
An interview with Louis Uchitelle

Louis Uchitelle: Who Moved My Cheese? is a best-selling book that is often distributed to people who have been laid off. The idea is to encourage them to go out and look for work. The book is the story of two mice and two men who are always supplied with cheese. One day the cheese disappeared. The mice went out and looked for another supply of cheese and found it. The two humans held back, but eventually they went out, found the cheese and got back to meaningful lives. The message is to take responsibility for yourself. Layoffs are your problem, mister, not society’s. You can solve it on your own and save yourself.