Start with Wisconsin. Its GOP Gov. Scott Walker, under the guise of a budget crisis he manufactured, is making an all-out effort to crush unions and spoil the lives of public employees.
He wants to wipe out their collective bargaining rights. He has already slashed their pensions and cut their benefits. He wants to destroy their dignity and embitter their retirement.
He seeks to eradicate history: labor’s long and bitter struggle against state and federal military might, against state and federal laws and against state and federal courts.
Walker’s GOP majority in the Legislature created the deficit by passing tax breaks for corporations and the well-off.
The outrage extends to other states. In Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law $538 million in corporate tax cuts. In Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation giving away $4 billion in corporate and property tax cuts.
The Wisconsin unions, agreeing to givebacks, gave themselves what amounts to a 7 percent pay cut. But that’s not enough. Walker and his ilk in other states are out to destroy unions.
Bankrolled into office by the billionaire Koch brothers, Walker is determined to carry out their union animosity. No wonder Marty Biel, head of the Wisconsin public employees union, likens Walker to a “plantation owner talking to his slaves.”
There is more in Walker’s 144-page “budget repair”: fewer funds for education and reduced social spending.
Such assaults should make American labor and the middle class take the advice of a wildly popular French book today. Its title: “Be Outraged!”
Nationally, the politicians and media are dumping on teachers, cops and firefighters as greedy guts. It simply is not so.
As Robert Reich reports: “The demonizing of public employees is not only based on the lie that they have caused these crises but it’s also premised on a second lie: that public employees earn more than private-sector workers.”
The income disparity between the Haves and the Have Nots is vast and ever-growing. The rich and powerful rig the system by dodging taxes. The Bank of America paid no federal income tax in 2009. Boeing avoids U.S. corporate taxes.
Yet so many Americans are hostile to unions. They shouldn’t be. Indeed, if the whole national work force were unionized the pay would be much higher, job conditions would be much better and work safety would be far greater.
So here’s dream legislation: Congress raises taxes on the Haves from 35 to at least 50 percent. And here’s another dream law: Congress levies a tax on stock market transactions. Voilà! The national budget crisis is solved.
Terribly important programs to help the American people are scheduled for the congressional budget knife. They are:
• Title X of the Public Health Service Act providing family planning for low income people.
• Proposed funding reduction of $6 billion would remove 218,000 children from Head Start and hit 1 million kids in elementary schools.
• Heating programs for low-income people are targeted.
• Summer Pell grants for college students are to be eliminated.
• WIC, the food program for 10 million low income people, is planned to be zeroed out.
Another quick way to eradicate the huge deficit is to stop the country’s wars and the wasteful stationing of troops all over the globe.
As Rep. Barbara Lee of California notes: “The estimated cost of the war in Afghanistan this year is $100 billion. That amount could provide for 1.6 million new police officers or elementary school teachers. It would allow 19.3 million college students to receive Pell grants of $5,550 each.”
But trillions for war, not a penny for the blessings of public broadcast. Trillions for world empire, not a penny for the blessings of Planned Parenthood. (Planned Parenthood is about more than abortions. It provides contraceptives, disease testing, breast and cervical screening and reproductive health services to lower-income women.)
President Obama also has his priorities wrong.
He refused to let the Bush tax cuts for the rich expire. He allowed visceration of estate taxes. He bargained with Big Pharma on health care. He gave away the store to Wall Street. He cozies up to small business. He listens to the generals on Afghanistan rather than to the people.
Former labor secretary George Shultz — a Republican — noted that “free societies and unions go together.” Republicans made sense in those distant days. They were not spouting the nonsense they do today.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.