Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Enemy Within

Last November the Republican Party made their hugest gains ever in controlling state legislatures.

Before the November 2010 election.

After the November 2010 election.
Images are from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

For some time now the Republican party has been castigating unions and public sector employees, portraying them as greedy, self-interested, uncooperative, etc. Unions are are not perfect and they have proven to be just as fallible as legislatures, but there is no hue and cry to eradicate legislatures. The claim is that public sector employees' pay and benefits have outpaced those of the private sector when in fact the private sector has lost the protections associated with banding together and watched helplessly as their jobs went overseas, pensions were defunded or defaulted, and their pay stagnated. Today, in the interest of liberating our economy and putting our citizens on a path to prosperity, Republicans want to take away what little prosperity working citizens possess.

So we witness in Wisconsin where a budget surplus was expected, the Republican-controlled government passes a tax cut for businesses which created a budget shortfall. It's a tribute to the Republican party fiscal responsibility theme. This manufactured emergency is being used to force public employees to take on a greater share of their pension contribution and health insurance as well as erase their collective bargaining rights. While the public employee unions have been willing to talk, Governor Scott Walker has totally ignored their entreaties.

Along with removing collective bargaining rights from public sector employees, Ohio's Governor John Kasich wants legislation passed that allows him to fire or dock the pay of any public employee who goes on strike.

As the middle class shrinks more every year the rolls of the poor increase, placing a greater burden on services provided by already overextended state governments, and wealth becomes more concentrated then ever. It's a return to the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century and those in power are ready to battle with workers just as they did back then. What remains to be seen is just how much history will repeat itself.

In the meantime we have almost 21 months to find out what effect the Republican's boot on the American worker's neck will have on the 2012 elections.

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