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Businessweek Archives

The Winter Of Our Economic Discontent

Readers Report


Your Cover Story "Economic Anxiety" (Mar. 11) purported to provide readers with a "framework for thinking about the issues--and some suggestions." Sadly, we're still waiting. The chief culprit behind working America's "economic anxiety" isn't globalization, corporate restructuring, or technological change. It's class warfare--the successful campaign of the class that owns U.S. society and holds the bulk of its financial assets against the class that doesn't.

The single most honest statement in the story's 13-odd pages was the one attributed to William Bessemen, a former employee of an office-supply firm: "People at the top are stealing from people at the bottom." And the business press has led the cheers every step of the way.

David Peterson

Evergreen Park, Ill.

Your article discussed almost every "cause" of the current economic discontent--except the role of competence, personal initiative, and individual responsibility. For two-thirds of employees, real wages are flat to down, but the other one-third are doing significantly better. They have not been economic victims of these macro forces. What are they doing differently?

Those suffering from economic anxiety tend to be passive and expect to be taken care of by larger institutions. Politicians and the media are reinforcing these characteristics, thus adding to their frustrations. Passive and dependent workers are now floundering in a new, more competitive job market focused on individual accountability, capability, and productivity. Understandably, they feel powerless and anxious. Instead of being victims, people should acquire new attitudes and skills that will enable them to prosper and reduce their economic anxiety as they adjust to new realities. Looking for scapegoats and economic villains in the current macro arena will only add to their economic anxiety.

Robert B. Hermanson

Economics Professor

Western Washington University

Bellingham, Wash.Return to top


In her commentary ("Confessions of a financial bungee-jumper" Mar. 11), Karen Pennar tells how she put 80% of her retirement savings into a stock fund. Her reasoning may be sound--but my concern is not how long the boom lasts, but what it means when millions of households turn to increases in stock prices as the mainstay of their savings strategies. That creates a constituency of investors with an interest in stock repurchases and higher dividends, thus strengthening the demand for corporations to "create value for shareholders," thus legitimizing the downsizing mentality of corporate management. The consequent loss of stable jobs helps ensure that fewer households will have adequate retirement savings and reinforces the trend toward income inequality.

William Lazonick

Director, Center for Industrial Competitiveness

University of Massachusetts

Lowell, Mass.Return to top


Your article on exporting chickens to Russia said: "U.S. processors have long been criticized for lacing chickens with chemicals and hormones" ("Yankee chicken, go home," News: Analysis & Commentary, Mar. 11). There are no--repeat no--hormones authorized by the U.S. government for use with chickens, and no producer uses any. There are no preservatives or additives in fresh chicken. No chemicals are added.

George B. Watts


National Broiler Council

WashingtonReturn to top

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