Taughannock Falls

Taughannock Falls
from: althouse.blogspot.com

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Divide and Conquer

Robert Reich, with his usual clarity, points out why the plutocrats and their Republican enablers stir up resentment against public sector unions.

The final Republican canard is that bargaining rights for public employees have caused state deficits to explode. In fact there’s no relationship between states whose employees have bargaining rights and states with big deficits. Some states that deny their employees bargaining rights - Nevada, North Carolina, and Arizona, for example, are running giant deficits of over 30 percent of spending. Many that give employees bargaining rights — Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Montana — have small deficits of less than 10 percent.

Public employees should have the right to bargain for better wages and working conditions, just like all employees do. They shouldn’t have the right to strike if striking would imperil the public, but they should at least have a voice. They often know more about whether public programs are working, or how to make them work better, than political appointees who hold their offices for only a few years.

Don’t get me wrong. When times are tough, public employees should have to make the same sacrifices as everyone else. And they are right now. Pay has been frozen for federal workers, and for many state workers across the country as well.

But isn’t it curious that when it comes to sacrifice, Republicans don’t include the richest people in America? To the contrary, they insist the rich should sacrifice even less, enjoying even larger tax cuts that expand public-sector deficits. That means fewer public services, and even more pressure on the wages and benefits of public employees.

It’s only average workers – both in the public and the private sectors – who are being called upon to sacrifice.

This is what the current Republican attack on public-sector workers is really all about. Their version of class warfare is to pit private-sector workers against public servants. They’d rather set average working people against one another – comparing one group’s modest incomes and benefits with another group’s modest incomes and benefits – than have Americans see that the top 1 percent is now raking in a bigger share of national income than at any time since 1928, and paying at a lower tax rate. And Republicans would rather you didn’t know they want to cut taxes on the rich even more.

Taxpayers who write angry letters to the local paper usually reveal themselves to be jealous of public-sector workers in more than one respect. They resent public-sector pensions. They used to resent the relative job security of public sector workers, but now this has been replaced with a grim satisfaction from public-sector layoffs. They bitterly resent any vestigial advantages public sector workers enjoy through collective bargaining. Here too, the reality is changing as states, towns, and school districts unilaterally violate contracts, whenever honoring those contracts conflicts with revenue and budget cuts mandated by new laws. These laws often seek to depict these illegal actions as a response to unforeseen "fiscal emergencies." Thus the fiscal consequences of irresponsible stewardship, and tax-cuts for the wealthy, are portrayed as something akin to a hurricane, or other act of God.

In more than one instance public services have been privatized, not because they were inefficient, but simply because the people providing the services were in a union. The idea that not every human activity should be organized as a profit-making venture offends doctrinaire anti-unionists. Some of these folks would be more than happy to let big corporations take over K-12 education. Who needs to learn about that boring old Bill of Rights? Why not spend our time hearing why global warming is a myth?!?

1 comment:

tbelwin68 said...

You're not far off on that corporate curriculum, Ulysses. Just look at Texas. Of course these corporations won't hire kids who've been taught Bible stories instead of science!