Sometimes it’s interesting to watch the old World War II propaganda films. Labor Day makes me think of how Nazi Germany was portrayed in a 1943 Disney Donald Duck cartoon.
It’s starts with their offensive song about racial superiority and uber-patriotism. The interesting part is how Disney portrays living in Hitler’s Germany.
Of course, there’s unquestioning obedience to the leader, which is common in any authoritarian government. Then Donald Duck gets up at dawn, works like a dog all day with tiny breaks, no vacation days, and he gets home just in time to fall asleep exhausted. The announcer informs Nazi workers that it’s their privilege to work 48 hours a day for the Fuhrer until they die. He’s made to work overtime while production is sped up even more. It’s a living hell of non-stop work that only goes faster and faster until Donald finally goes mad.
I guess in 1943 that was something that clearly separated America from Nazi Germany. I’m not so sure they could make that cartoon today.
Rapidly since the 1980’s, the productivity of the American worker has gone up while real wages go down. Business economists celebrate that, but it means people are working a lot harder for less pay. Benefits keep getting cut too. Germans today get a standard six weeks paid vacation every year. Americans are lucky to get any paid vacation days at all.
Unions that won many battles to shorten the work day, get paid vacation, sick time, healthcare, reasonable breaks and reasonable workloads have been beaten back to a small slice of the private sector workforce. Those benefits are being taken away.
Benefits used to be better in the public sector but those are under attack too. Koch-brothers front groups like the Illinois Policy Institute are going after public employee pensions and other benefits.
The same political forces are attacking unions, public employees, Medicare, Social Security, and any government regulation that might benefit workers in any way. It took 60 years, but Disney’s version of Nazi Germany is making a comeback in America.
Happy Labor Day!
© 2012 Willinois. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.