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Republicans Incite Class Warfare—Within the Middle Class

The Republicans have found a new scapegoat for the economy, in addition to illegal immigrants.

The new scapegoat is public sector workers.

Unwilling to blame Bush for the budget deficit, unable to blame Wall Street for wrecking the economy, and incapable of blaming a lack of regulation or capitalism itself for the morass we're in, Republicans are pointing their fingers now at public sector workers.

The teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and other government employees are just making too much money, the Republicans say, regardless of the fact that public sector workers in state after state have been laid off or put on unpaid furloughs.

But Republicans don't want you to think about. Much less do they want you to notice that it's the top 1 percent that's made off like bandits over the last 30 years. God forbid we raise the marginal income tax rates, or the capital gains tax, or the estate tax.

The last thing Republicans want is to incite class warfare against the upper class. Far better to incite warfare within the middle class and have the majority of Americans blaming each other. (See "War on Public Workers," by Amy Traub in The Nation, July 5.)

One Republican politician after another is joining the chorus against public sector workers, whether it's Scott Brown of Massachusetts or Mitch Daniels of Indiana or Rand Paul of Kentucky or even Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who has ordered all state workers to get minimum wage until the budget mess there is resolved.

In Wisconsin, where I live, the Wisconsin State Journal just ran a story about public sector workers in Dane County earning more than workers doing similar jobs in the private sector, with at least one local politician complaining about this.

But the average public sector salary is only about $35,000. Are we really going to accept that such a salary is too high? Shall we just kiss the middle class goodbye?

Part of this strategy of blaming the public sector worker is mere distraction-a shell game to keep people from focusing on those who are really feasting at the trough: the corporations and the richest of the rich.

And part of it is a calculated attack on unions, since the public sector has a 37.4 percent unionization rate, while the private sector is down at 7.2 percent.

But whatever the motivation, it's a disgusting strategy.

The next time you hear a politician or a pundit trash public sector workers, ask them if they'd like to take minimum wage-or even a salary of $35,000.

Chances are, they're making a lot more than that.

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