Tuesday, August 10, 2010

This Is Why

Thanks, Yves. As a state worker myself, I have been trying to fight off the right-wing demonization of my family, co-workers and me as lazy, money-sucking leeches on the hard-working limbs of the body politic for some years now. The truth is that we work hard, spend our money in our neighborhoods and help keep local businesses alive, and pay taxes (yes, taxes!) that allow our non-government-worker neighbors to drive cars with subsidized gas on government maintained roads and bridges, educate their children, maintain fire and safety service, and haul their garbage away, to name just a few benefits we help make possible. I have watched us being painted as "union thugs"--we who are grandmothers and church deacons and suburban gardeners--have watched our hard-won pensions portrayed as undeserved pork, have gotten sick to my stomach as overpaid Neanderthals on TV point fingers at us, accusing us of being the soul of corruption, taking food out of the mouths of the babies of "real America", and basically being everything that is wrong with the country.

It's not our fault that for the last 35 years Americans have allowed their love affair with the rich to dictate the domestic policies that destroyed unions and transferred their wealth to those at the top. If they finally woke up one day and realized that everything turned to shit some time ago, and they haven't had a real raise for most of their working lives, they need to look in the mirror and ask themselves where they were when Reagan destroyed the air traffic controllers' union, when tax policy was changed to favor the FIRE sector over manufacturing, when the 401 (k) clause and the vagueries of the stock market were transformed into the only retirement option available for most, when the anti-trust laws were put into mothballs, when limited partnerships for corporations were given the green light, when TARP was engineered by Wall Street for Wall Street. While they were off railing against the taxes that paid for their decent standard of living, their feudal lords were cutting their economic legs out from under them. And now they wake up and want to blame me.

UPDATE: In response to a fellow commenter--
“…it’s too facile to say local taxpayers should just shut up and pay the defined benefit pensions and no-cost health benefits of their municipal employees — benefits that the private sector surrendered years ago.”
Nowhere did I say the taxpayers (of whom I’m one) should just shut up. I did say that all this happened right under their noses with their complicity (either passive or active). Every time some ignorant yahoo went barnstorming across town or across the nation with a prescription of cutting taxes and privatizing the world, many of them jumped right on the bandwagon, consequences be damned. Not only did people feel un-inclined to pay for the services they still expected to get, but many times they raided those pension funds for more pressing matters, deliberately leaving them underfunded with some pie-in-the-sky self-delusion that they’d pay it back later. Well, guess what? Maybe the “private sector”–i.e., the CEOs with merger-mania on the brain and their own damned agendas–decided to dump the defined benefit pension, but I still haven’t met a single worker who wanted to do it. I sure didn’t sign on to it. If I had my way everyone in the country would have a decent pension to last them through their infirmity. And if you want to hold someone responsible and recoup some of the money pensions are going to need after decades of managerial abuse, get it from the managers. The working people who paid into it never ran a scam on the public, so why should we have to pay for the misconduct of those who did?