Thursday, May 06, 2010

Conservatives Would Rather Blame Working People For The Country's Woes Than The Robber Barons Who Finance Their Careers


Ever talk to a conservative? I have; in fact, I've talked to lots of them. What really binds them all together isn't really the hatred and the bigotry and the stupidity. Those are just things they use to appeal to a mass audience of hateful, bigoted and stupid people (their base). What really binds them together and gives their belief system meaning is the greed and, especially, the selfishness. Let me go off on a little tangent for a minute and tell you about a discussion between Thom Hartmann and Professor Tim Roper from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Sussex in England, which Hartmann relates in his incredibly useful book, Threshold.
[I]n our modern society, the libertarian era of "self over all" has taken considerable root, being the animating theme of the conservative movement. How could it be, I asked Roper, that democracy-- where an individual often doesn't get what he personally wants-- is best? The answer, he said, is that democracy always best supports the survival of the group over the long term, and because the individual is a part of the group, democracy therefor benefits the individual as well.

...But what about the American ideal of the noble woodsman, the rugged individualist, the man who looks out for himself first in all cases? Such a mythos, Roper pointed out, sounds nice, but it would ultimately lead to chaos and perhaps even species extinction. "The idea of individuals going it alone is simply not viable for most intensely social creatures, because if they left the group they would get knocked off by a predator in five minutes, or starve... [or not make it through a winter].

"Being a member of a group is a sort of survival necessity in individual terms. And therefor it's in every individual's selfish interest that the group remains a cohesive unit."

End of tangent. I went down that path because I wanted to remind you about how conservatives are always denigrating public employees. In fact, "demonizing" is probably a more accurate word. A few days ago Kate Thomas and Jessica Kutch for the SEIU make a stab at deunking some of the orchestrated myths perpetrated by the conservative propaganda machine about public employees.
The Grover Norquists of the world have waged a coordinated, decades-long war on public sector employees. Whether you're a teacher, fire fighter, social worker or engineer-- nobody has escaped the right's smear campaign.

Attacking the imagined wealth of public employees is a constant refrain in the Republican playbook:
Sen. Scott Brown denounced the "lavish pay and benefit packages [that] have unfortunately become a way of life for public employees."

The Wall Street Journal editorialized that public employees-- and their unions-- "may be the single biggest problem" for the nation's economy.

• And CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger claimed that the "The single biggest threat to the fiscal health and California's future, obviously, is our public pension system." continues, writing that public sector workers have "turned themselves into a coddled class that lives better than its private sector counterpart."

But this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, while we've demanded more from public services in the past decade, we've paid our public servants far less. The gap between public and private sector wages has widened, making public sector jobs less competitive than they were 20 years ago. A new report by the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) and the Council on State and Local Government Excellence (CSGE) finds that we pay our state and local public sector employees 11-12% less than their private sector counterparts.

The right wing has seized on the economic downturn as an excuse to rail against public employee compensation, often in favor of private contractors and overhyped privatization schemes. Recently, the headlines have only gotten worse. The Christian Science Monitor printed a commentary, "Want a balanced budget? Cut state workers' pay." Michelle Malkin has invited readers to "compare your salary to a California public employee's."

But pegging the massive economic crash on an underpaid civil servant is not only misguided-- it's highly suspect. Writes Amy Traub of the Drum Major Institute, "Those looking for a 'coddled class' should look to the Wall Street bonus pool, not the Parks Department."

It's just too bad that the right isn't more interested in Lloyd Blankfein's lavish pay.

Washington State Senator Craig Pridemore has been a stalwart defender of working people, including public employees and he's noticed the same insidious trend of blaming working folks first. He's running against a very wealthy conservative Democrat who is no friend of working families. It's part of the reason why Blue America is so enthusiastic about our endorsement of Craig's campaign to win the WA-03 seat being given up by Brian Baird. "Over the past three decades, "pointed out this week, "we’ve seen a steady assault on the workers who are the engines of our economy. I support the Employee Free Choice Act because we need to honor the tradition of labor in our country and provide security for working families during these uncertain and difficult times.

"Just as with health care and financial reform issues, I am the first candidate in this race to make clear my position on the rights of labor to organize.

"Time and again I have asked, ‘where is Denny?’ And all we hear back is silence. From financial reform to health insurance reform to the rights of labor, Denny Heck has failed to tell us unequivocally where he stands. These are crucial issues and voters deserve to know how their next representative will serve them in Washington, D.C.

"The Employee Free Choice Act would strengthen the ability for employees to organize and collectively bargain for their wages. It would also provide for mandatory injunctions should unfair labor practices arise." 

If you support working people and if you're not the type who gets sucked in to conservative memes blaming workers and covering up for Wall Street robber barons and the political hacks they own for the turmoil in the economy, please consider supporting Craig Pridemore and the other pro-working family candidates Blue America has endorsed. In fact, do it today, and you get a chance to win an autographed copy of Al Franken's book, The Truth-- With Jokes.

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