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Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 3.17.11




Fight for Fairness

Time for us all to join the struggle

By Joshua Welch

Right-wing billionaire energy tycoons like the infamous Koch brothers, along with countless other plutocrats have been waging war on working people for decades and tragically have received a great deal of assistance from average Americans. Corporate profits have soared while wages and benefits for workers have languished. The wealth disparity has never been worse. And now while Americans are desperate and vulnerable, theyre going in for the kill.

Heres their strategy according to Robert Reich, former secretary of labor: "To split the vast middle and working class ã pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class Ä and distract attention from the nearly unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top.” Its a despicable and disgraceful campaign that requires propaganda.

Lie: Our budget woes are due to excessive spending.

Oregons budget shortfall is because of decreased revenues, which are a result the Great Recession, which was caused by financial deregulation and the greed-is-good Wall Street mentality. Oregon doesnt have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem.

Lie: We cant afford first-class education, public safety, and health care for every single American.

We are the richest country in the world and are as rich as we have ever been. In 2009, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes since 1950. Nearly one quarter of the nations income now goes to the top 1 percent. While most Americans share of the nations income has been shrinking, the wealthiest Americans have been shrinking their share of the tax burden. Even conservative billionaire investor Warren Buffet has warned that Americas tax system favors the ultra-rich and kills jobs by stifling opportunity and motivation.

The notion that our only choice is to slash and burn is pure fantasy. We clearly have the resources to fully fund education and other essential state services; enough of us simply need to muster the moral fortitude to collect those resources and invest them in our people.

Lie: Public servants earn more than private sector workers.

While private sector wages and benefits shouldnt determine how public servants are compensated, the claim is nonetheless false. When compared to private sector workers with equal levels of education including benefits, they earn nearly the same in some cases less.

Lie: Public servants havent shard in the sacrifice.

Public servants have been giving concessions for years and continue to do so. Those who cheer on the shakedown ought to keep in mind that the more we squeeze the public sector, the easier it is to squeeze the private sector.

Lie: Unionized labor hurts non-unionized labor.

Organized labor raises the standard of living for ALL workers. Last time I checked, thats most of us. California State history professor Joe Palermo tells us: "With the disempowerment of labor in our society, any sociologist will tell you, the living standards of all working people will be lowered.”

In advanced democracies where most of the labor force is organized, workers are by law treated far better, receiving significantly more vacation, more sick days, and ultimately more family time. Not surprisingly these places are the happiest and healthiest societies on Earth.

Lie: Organized labor is bad for business.

Is trashing essential services pro-business? Short school years, large classrooms, and shortchanged teachers, surely isnt good for business. Business owners want a school system that produces high quality graduates and attracts educated and talented workers. Businesses want safe neighborhoods and healthy customers. Lets not forget that public service spending doesnt just provide core services, but also fuels our local economy. Unlike tax cuts for the rich, nearly every cent spent on public service goes right into our grocery stores, restaurants, and retail outlets, in turn creating private sector jobs and preserving our quality of life.

These scoundrels waging war on workers are literally banking on hoodwinking ordinary Americans into joining them. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman tells us, " Its a power grab ã an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy.”

Dont let them bamboozle you. Dont turn your back on our children, teachers, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, social workers, the poor, the elderly, and the mentally ill. Stand with them Ä its the right fight.

 

Joshua Welch is a political writer, a licensed middle and secondary social studies teacher, a know-it-all, and a proud member of a family with lots of dedicated public servants of all political stripes. He can be contacted at joshuawelch@comcast.net