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Letters: Middle class erosion hurts all

Workers are photographed on a flywheel assembly line

Workers are photographed on a flywheel assembly line at the Ford Motor Company's Highland Park, Mi., plant in 1913. The use of a moving line reduced a car's assembly time from 12 hours to 93 minutes. Credit: AP

Columnist Lane Filler claims that the legend that Henry Ford paid his workers higher wages so they could afford his cars is false ["Ford didn't pay well just to be nice," Opinion, Dec. 18].

The legend, he says, gave rise to "the idea that paying higher wages than the market demands increases the size of the middle class, the buying power of laborers and the prosperity of the companies that pay those inflated wages."

Nowhere in his column, however, does Filler provide evidence to refute that greater purchasing power increases the size of the middle class. This is, therefore, still a compelling reason to increase the minimum wage today!

If the goal of this column was to convince us that the minimum wage does not need to be increased, the opinion piece fails. It doesn't really matter what Ford's motivation was when he increased the pay; the effect remains valid.

Patricia Costell, Port Jefferson Station

Whether Henry Ford raised the salaries of his workers for the social good or for the bottom line is pointless. The important fact is that he did, and both worker and company profited from this symbiotic relationship. The lesson from Ford, however, appears to be lost in the economic climate of the past two generations.

As wealth and political clout begin to accumulate in the uppermost tiers of society without trickling down, the net result is the erosion of the middle class, which must now bear the load of taxes.

Make no mistake: The only thing that prevents a return to slave labor is the worker. If anyone doubts this, I suggest they read Upton Sinclair to see how things used to be.

The unfortunates who survive will not only lack the basic necessities, they will be without hope. Without a thriving middle class, the upper echelons will make themselves vulnerable to a turbulent revolution. Just open your history books.

Harry Hauca, Northport