Swans Commentary » swans.com November 19, 2012  



Post Election: Obama, Work And Pay


by Fabio De Propris







(Swans - November 19, 2012)   As an Italian, I'm glad Obama has been reelected. Here in Italy only the loneliest Berlusconi sycophant, the journalist Giuliano Ferrara, dared to express admiration for Mitt Romney. If, however, the Italian right was not drawn to the Republican candidate as it was to Reagan and Bush, father and son, the left, for its part, is highly pleased. Romney's program would only have increased the global financial crisis that originated in the USA in 2007-08 and spread around the world. More tax relief for rich North Americans would hardly help. More aggression in foreign policy toward Iran -- Russia and China's turns to come later -- would be disastrous. Long live Obama, then, and his dream of a green economy and his position on Medicare, on help to car workers, on immigration, and on Americans -- not only white males -- who work hard for the good of their country.

All the same, Obama's victory is double-edged for Italians. One of the reasons he won is that he saved the American automotive industry. In so doing, however, by agreement with Sergio Marchionne, the Fiat-Chrysler CEO, he struck a blow at the Italian automotive industry. Marchionne insisted that Italian car workers' productivity rate was too low and that Italian consumers had fallen out of love with Fiats. Therefore Fiat will now make its cars in places like Ohio and Serbia.

Marchionne opened a Fiat factory in Serbia in April 2012 to produce a new city car (500L). He received strong financial aid from the Serbian government and approval by Serbian unions. The work week is ten hours a day -- often twelve -- from Monday to Thursday. The salary is 300 euros, or $360 per month. These are retrograde conditions that an Italian worker will not accept despite the growing pressure of the recession. (The Italian labor minister recently told young Italians not to be too "choosy" when they look for their first job.) Thus Marchionne, while exploiting Serbians for the last six months, became key, at the expense of Italian workers, to the revival of the US automotive industry and Obama's crucial victory in Ohio.

I'm full of joy over Obama's second term, but I can't get over the paradox of his being hand in glove with a CEO who has an exclusively financial approach to car making, neither caring about labor conditions nor about development of engines that might do without gasoline.

I hope in the coming four years president Obama will turn his back on CEOs whose hearts beat only for profit. The twenty-first century will face many challenges, perhaps most important among them those concerning work and pay. How can all men work and be properly remunerated when goods are made by robots or underpaid slaves? When, moreover, more can be earned at the stock exchange than from agriculture, industry, or services? Change, Obama's ringing watchword of 2008, will be a desperate need everywhere. Above all, I hope the president will honor his environmental commitment and find a way to boost new industry where energy and production harmonize with the environment and human well being. If Obama succeeds in this goal, avoiding WWIII in the bargain, he will be remembered as the FDR of the new century.


The author thanks Peter Byrne for his help with this article.


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About the Author

Fabio De Propris is a Roman writer who has also lived in Istanbul. He has published three novels (Brenda e Plotino, Se mi chiami Amore, Nero Istanbul) and translated books from English (Markheim of R. L. Stevenson, Paradoxes and Problems of John Donne, An Anthology of William Hazlitt's Essays) and from Turkish (Two Girls of Perihan Magden, translated with Mehmet S. Bermek, The Clown and His Daughter of Halide Edip Adivar.) Fabio teaches in Rome and writes occasionally in Il Manifesto. He is presently at work on his fourth novel. His poems appear in the paintings of the group Artisti di Fortebraccio.   (back)


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
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Published November 19, 2012