Friday, March 25, 2011

The GOP war on the middle class and the poor

The GOP took over the House of Representatives and several statehouses and Governorships in 2010 by running on the platform of reducing the deficit and creating jobs. Thus far, I haven't seen a single thing -- not one solitary single bill -- to indicate that they weren't lying through their teeth.

The first place where this was really noticeable was in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker ran on a "get the state out of the red" platform. Not once in his campaign did he ever mention dismantling the public unions for all intents and purposes. So what has he done in a mere 11 weeks in office? Destroyed the public sector unions -- except, of course, those that supported him in the election. Not a single bill to create jobs for Wisconsinites -- instead he and the Repulican legislature have passed bills that according to the experts will result in the loss of thousands of jobs as well as killing job expansion.

In Maine, the anti-labor forces led by Governor Paul LePage have reached new heights of silliness. The Governor, who claims the state is another one facing severe budget deficits, is actually spending money to remove a mural depicting the history of labor in Maine. Where is this mural located? The Capitol building? The governor's mansion? No, it's at the Department of Labor! You know, the department assigned to ensure the rights of workers in the state. The reason it is being removed, at taxpayer expense, is that it is actually not pro-business enough. You read that correctly. It actually celebrates labor without giving enough credit to business -- you know, the people who actually fought against labor expansion, minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, etc. Spending taxpayer money on this is something Gov. LePage actually deems important -- all while trying to weaken unions and increase the work week, even on 16 and 17 year old kids!

Florida, led by newly-elected Governor Rick Scott -- he of the fraud problems (he was forced to resign as CEO of Columbia/HCA in 1997 after the company was found guilty of fraud and Medicare violations, including 14 felonies) -- has introduced its own bills aimed at weakening labor unions. First is a bill similar to one under consideration in Maine that will ban the government from automatically collecting union dues. The purpose of this is to make people leave the unions, under the assumption that while unions will still fight for the rights of workers, the people can reap the benefits without having to actually support the unions financially. The second bill will force the unions to tell the members every year what they must do to decertify their union -- in other words, the unions will be forced to tell the members how to destroy their unions. This one is a classic. Scott yesterday signed a bill implementing merit pay for teachers while eliminating tenure for new hires and he is pushing a bill that will privatize public hospitals.

Believe it or not, it gets worse than this. Perhaps the champion of them all is Governor John Kasich of Ohio, the former Fox News right-wing pundit. In Ohio, a bill has passed the Senate and looks to pass the House that will restrict the rights of over 350,000 public sector union members there. At least Kasich is more consistent than Walker -- he doesn't care which unions supported him, he is all in favor of ruining them all. Including the police and firefighter unions! Now some may say that Kasich is really just doing his best to cut the deficit, but those who make that argument then must deal with the fact that Kasich just gave his new chief of staff a healthy pay increase over the previous Governor's chief of staff of about 40% to $175,000. His reason for this is that you must pay and pay well to attract people from the private sector into the public sector. You see, Kasich says basically that union members are overpaid, lazy slobs and don't deserve what they're making, but in some cases (as long as it suits him) they actually need to make more!

I haven't even gone into Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina, Colorado and a few other states yet. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The only good things I'm really seeing about all this is that 1) it is definitely opening the eyes of the voters (the governor and legislature approval ratings are dropping precipitously in all these states); and 2) the Democratic base is beginning to be galvanized, after meekly sitting on the sidelines in 2010. Let's hope so. Someone has to do something to stop these con men before the middle class is completely destroyed.

1 comment:

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