The Republicans in state offices are taking the fact that their supporters voted in the last election whereas the Democrats’ supporters stayed home as an absolute mandate for change. I’m not the first and hopefully won’t be the last to point out that in every state it seems, the Republican governors and legislatures are shoving extreme right-wing positions down the throats of citizens, ignoring the fact that surveys show that voters wanted one thing and one thing only—more jobs.
Most notorious at the moment is the attempt of the new Wisconsin Republican governor Scott Walker to unilaterally end collective bargaining with public unions, but Walker is the mere tip of an iceberg of anti-public union activity. New Jersey, Connecticut (Democratic governor), Ohio and Florida are just some of the states in which governors want to balance the budget on the backs of public unions.
Side note: In going after public unions, these governors are taking advantage of the low esteem in which the average voter currently holds unions. The anti-union feeling which today is so prevalent among the non-wealthy is a text book case of media brainwashing overcoming the best interests of individuals. Studies show that unions raise the overall income of most people because they lead to higher incomes both for members and for other employees whose employers have to keep up with union wages and benefits to compete. But despite this fact, many employees remain adamantly against unions. The impact of the news media in shaping anti-union opinions since 1980 has been two-fold: 1) Thirty years of anti-union coverage and sub-textual messages in the main stream and right-wing news media; 2) Constant promotion of the Reagan ideology, summed up by the phrase, “the politics of selfishness,” which makes people more inclined to take away from others instead of wanting to emulate why those others are doing well or doing better.
But it’s not just in union-bashing that Republicans are unabashedly pursuing a right-wing agenda:
- Privatization, which leads to a net transfer of wealth from employees to owners while gutting future state revenue: In Pennsylvania, the new Governor Tom Corbett is fast-tracking privatization of hard liquor sales, which will help the state short term but lead to a long-term loss in revenues.
- Loosening gun control laws: Legislators in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, New Hampshire and other states have all introduced legislation that makes it easier to either own a gun or carry it in public.
- Ending a woman’s control over her own body: Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to end all funding for abortions. Republican legislators and governors in several states have introduced bills that curtail abortion, make it harder to get or cut funding for women who have them. The weirdest bill, of course, is the one in the South Dakota legislature that would expand the definition of justifiable homicide to include protection of unborn fetuses. In other words, it would be open hunting season on abortion providers and women who have abortions in the state of “great places and great faces.”
The Democrats are not immune to pulling these right-wing grand stands. As the American political establishment has moved increasingly right since the late 70’s, Democrats have picked up the bad habits of Reagan, Bush II and other Republicans to fund government by creating risk-free and often tax-free investment opportunities for the wealthy. In Illinois, for example, instead of raising taxes on the wealthy to meet a budget shortfall, Democratic Governor Pat Quinn wants to float a bond, which means borrowing money and repaying with tax-free interest.
Who would have paid more if Illinois raised taxes?—everyone, but primarily rich folk, especially if the new taxes were progressive.
Who is going to buy the bonds? Mostly rich folk.
What were the rich folk going to do with the money that could have been paid in taxes? Mostly invest it in fixed assets like real estate and art or in financial instruments, stocks that are not initial public offerings (the only time the money made in the stock market actually helps a company) and bonds.
History suggests that raising taxes, especially on the wealthy, always helps the economy, because the government always recirculates the money to recipients of benefits, government employees and government contractors. It worked for Clinton and it also worked for Reagan! Keeping taxes on the wealthy low (and remember that taxes on the wealthy in the United States are at a historic low for an industrialized country) hurts the economy because the wealthy rate of recirculation is much less. And yet the news media and politicians of all mainstream persuasions continue to say the exact opposite.
Welcome to a land ruled by naked oligarchs whose clothes are ideological messages with no basis in reality.