Jul 06, 2010
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
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
Chances are, they're making a lot more than that.
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