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This is What Democracy Looks Like! (Can’t Back Down!)

I just wanted to say how tickled I was to see large and growing crowds of people who have been actively pushing back against Republics’ attempts to deny workers the right to bargain collectively. What started in Wisconsin seems to be expanding to other nearby states that have also recently acquired Republic Governors. It’s been going so well that I think I smell a true movement developing. The thing is, now that folks are in the streets, the movement must be nurtured; we simply can’t let it stop. This is a matter of the survival of our whole way of life: if we can’t find ways to adapt to new conditions without leaving thousands upon thousands of our own citizens behind, if we can’t get ourselves out from under the thumbs of our newly discovered corporate overlords so that governing is once again by consent of the governed, if we can’t find a way to free our political representatives from their addiction to corporate concession cash for their political coffers, ours will be among the last generations to have lived in a free democratic society.

I was motivated today by the simplistic spinning of a troll on a recent thread. He portrayed private industry as the driving force behind everything good in America. In his view, the proud profit-makers not only

“stand on their own two feet, but they support (push the wagon) the government and fill the treasury [net loss].”

I’m sure he has valid reasons and most certainly he has the right to believe whatever he wants, but I must say, what I saw at the very end of the Bush administration and all the way up to today does not show a private industry success story. Our financial industry was crumbling all around us and came begging for our tax dollars (NYT) no strings attached. Then came the auto industry who was virtually bleeding red ink and needed just a few hundred billion or so, but they’d gladly take whatever they can get (a tip of my hat to Ford for actually being able to stand on its own, likely due to good business practices and better management.) Wait, I think I see a pattern developing! Could it be that some of our largest and sometimes most profitable industries are learning a new financial reality (also a way to cash in on some of those lobbying bucks they’ve doled out to legislators and executive branches of both state and Federal governments). Who’d thunk you could privatize the profits but socialize the losses!

Meanwhile, I am watching as an entire industry that perpetrated a several many frauds on the citizens of this country costing many citizens their homes and/or retirement savings, an industry that not only got bailed out, but got bonuses for all of their misdirected efforts because, as we are told, those contracts could not be broken. Really? Then how is it that the Republic Governors can cancel all the contracts with unions and also want to strip government workers of their right to collective bargaining? Btw, while the captains of industry and finance are living in the lap of luxury, and lapping up all the ego boosting idolatry of movie or rock stars, they are enjoying compensation packages of from seven to eight figures, and generally range from 42 times more than average worker pay in 1980, to 525 times more than the average worker in 2000, to 264 times more than the average worker in 2009. CEO compensation in the USA also vastly exceeds CEO compensation in other countries:

They also made three times more than the top 20 CEOs of European companies who had booked higher sales numbers than their U.S. counterparts.

On the other hand, the government workers whose pay and benefits packages are currently under scrutiny in several states based on questionable statistics spouted by those that want to break their unions for political purposes are denigrated. They are called slobs and other nasty names by officials of the states they work for. They are generally belittled by Republics and Tea Party types alike. These people are the teachers that teach our children, the firemen and women and police who we rely on for our protection and security. They are librarians, toll booth attendants, road repair crews, even garbage collectors and sewer workers (because if they don’t do it, who will? Will you? Well, there you go! They deserve respect, too, not to mention a living wage, health care, and perhaps a 401K because Soc. Sec. is not enough to get through a month.) Can anyone answer why it’s alright to disparage the value of the work that these government workers do, while it is considered heresy to the capitalist ideal to dare question whether the CEO or officers of a company that would be bankrupt but for government intervention deserve a bonus for his/her work? In fact, why is it ever okay to dishonor the labor of the rank and file worker whose value is derived from the sweat of their brow and the risk that they take to their life and limb, but to lionize CEOs or officers whose main value is their corporate management skill, or investors whose sole contribution to success is his financial contribution? Put another way, what makes folks think that the sweat of your brow is a less compelling contribution than that of the corporate managers or investors?

Without the sweat equity workers put in along with the risks that they are subject to as a result of their employment, jobs would not get done, garbage would not get collected, sewage plants would go unattended, roads would not get built, airplanes would not fly. No amount of management skills and money could make up for the dedication of the work force. It’s time workers regain their dignity, march down the street with their heads high, and take their government back from the corporatists and the politicians that keep them pumping out campaign funds. There are other ways of funding campaigns that don’t include soliciting funds from special interests, but there is no way for a democracy to work if the elected officials are not adequately representing the voters. For that reason, the first thing on the agenda of the throngs of people still demonstrating, as well as those taking signatures for recall of those Governors and Senators who have remained so dismissive of the workers, should certainly be campaign finance reform. Good luck to all who have spent their time doing the lion’s share of the work to correct the disastrous effects of the last decade or so. Here’s hoping that if we all pull together we can get this ship of state back on track by the election of 2012, although something tells me it’s gonna take a lot more than luck.

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