by Michael K. Smith
This ought to be the rallying cry of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and his band of fiscal "patriots." Their solution for budget problems caused by exempting the wealthy from all civic obligations is to destroy public sector unions, which are just about all that remains of social democratic America. And before the advent of social democracy, there was virtually no middle class in this country.
It should be an obvious point, but you don't balance the budget by destroying the right to collectively bargain. Anyone who wants to know what a Tea Party utopia would look like should read up on 19th century U.S. history, when utter destitution was the lot of most U.S. workers. No medical insurance, no retirement pensions, skinflint wages, company housing, company stores to shop in, company scrip instead of money, children railroaded to an early death in mines and mills throughout the country. This is the nightmare unions delivered us from.
Walker and his supporters ignore the fact that his austerity measures were accepted by the public sector unions he seeks to destroy. They only object to his attack on their rights. How unAmerican. Here Israel has a right to exist, but unions don't.
For reasons not too hard to discern, Walker and his ilk also ignore the fact that Wall Street bankers made it impossible for the federal government to bail out state governments by robbing the public of trillions of dollars in advance. State governments are somehow not "too big to fail," though plundering Wall Street firms are. Naturally, the Tea Partiers don't mention that continually extending tax cuts and bailouts to big business is an odd way to avoid the fiscal deficits they say they hate.
Equally curious is a form of "populism" that consistently rewards Wall Street at the direct expense of Main Street. The financial czars have been running the "we're broke" scam for quite some time now. As Arundhati Roy pointed out in her 2003 speech at Riverside Memorial Church in New York City, the total of state government budget cuts the year before the U.S. invaded Iraq was about equal to the initial disbursements for that war. In short, they were really not "cuts" at all, but rather, transfers of money from social services to war. Since the general public prefers social programs to military spending, war funding has to be disguised as fiscal responsibility in a "dangerous world." This process is by now so advanced that the trillions of dollars thrown down the rat hole of endless wars occasions little stir. The corporate media steadfastly refuse to mention the obvious fiscal impact, and ranting "patriots" remain completely unaware that chronic deficits are a deliberate outcome of war profiteering.
In a similar way, relentless anti-union propaganda has made it impossible for many Americans to realize that forming unions and petitioning employers for redress of grievances is a basic democratic right, not a form of treason. Firing us for exercising this right is not only contemptible, but illegal. The fact that employers sometimes get away with such conduct does not in any way make it legitimate. Murderers sometimes aren't brought to justice either.
People worrying about the government "going out of business" due to fiscal policy should stop lending support to tax cuts for the rich. If the rich want to continue doing business in the U.S., they can pay their fair share of taxes. If they offshore jobs, slap a fat tariff on any goods they try to ship into the country. The U.S. is still the world's most coveted consumer market, but it will not retain this status for long if our remaining unions are gutted and the middle class is destroyed.
The specter of having to pay more for every product we currently consume because of "union thugs" extorting ever higher salaries from a public rendered helpless by Obamanian socialism is too ludicrous to caricature. We are constantly paying more for every essential product now in a non-union economy. In a fully unionized economy we would all have full-time permanent jobs and medical benefits, which tens of millions of Americans currently don't have.
Wisconsin is prelude to uprisings in many other states. To maintain their record profits, the major corporations now need to eliminate the middle class. They can't do that without a fight.
-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George," both from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org