What is currently taking place in the US is a ruthless class war perpetrated by the oligarchy on everyone else. The pattern should be clear to anyone because the plan is being done at the federal level and repeated all across the nation at the state level: Cut taxes on the rich to create a budget ‘crisis’ and then use that to eliminate programs that benefit the poor and middle class. As a result we have cuts in wages and benefits, social services, education, regulatory agencies, and an all out war against labor unions, while the rich get richer.
One of the extraordinary features of contemporary American life is the willingness of so many people in the middle class to turn against their own class (and the poor) in the service of the oligarchy. The upper middle classes and many in the middle class support this assault because they do not realize that what the oligarchy is demanding of those below them in the socio-economic ladder is eventually going to destroy them too. Those professionals who smugly see themselves as people whose skills are so valuable that they can succeed on their own in the marketplace without the protection of collective bargaining and thus sneer at unionized workers as pampered and privileged and lazy, do not seem to realize that the reason they enjoy their privileged life and seeming autonomy is precisely because unionized workers laid down the foundation on which they could build their own careers.
Labor unions are what gave us so many of the basic rights we take for granted. Sam Smith lists some of the things that the labor movement in the United States led the struggles for and are significantly the result of labor union organizing and action:
- The end of child labor
- The right of workers to negotiate with their employers over wages, benefits and working conditions
- The 8 hour work day and paid overtime
- Compensation for workers injured on the job.
- Unemployment insurance.
- A minimum wage
- Healthcare insurance
- Paid sick leave, vacations and holidays
- Elimination of job discrimination by ethnicity, color, religion, sex or national origin
- Family medical leave
People who have forgotten the long and often deadly struggle by unions for these things may think of the benefits we now have as somehow ‘natural’ that will remain even after unions are destroyed. But they are wrong. The oligarchy would like to return us to the days when management could demand any amount of work hours, eliminate workplace safety rules, cut salaries and benefits at will, and fire people for no cause.
Thus it has been heartening to see the solidarity amongst so many people in Wisconsin and Ohio who are demonstrating and occupying statehouses to show their opposition to these policies. We have seen some unions see through the divide-and-conquer strategy of the Wisconsin governor who sought to exempt the police and firefighters from his union-busting strategies. Those groups have joined the protestors, rightly recognizing that if the present assault on some unions succeeds, their unions might well be next.
In a weird way, the uprisings in the Middle East have helped their cause. Of course, we should not in any way compare the two kinds of protests since the people in the Middle East are actually risking their lives to overthrow decades-long repressive regimes. But what those other protests have done is make mass demonstrations seem heroic. If not for them, the American mainstream media, which is an arm of the oligarchy, would have been able to portray the labor protests in the US as ‘lawless’ and ‘undemocratic’.
It is extraordinary that the political and media class acts as if there is no choice to solve the budget problems other than to cut wages and services that benefit the poor and middle class. There is an obvious alternative: Raise taxes, with the amount of the hike rising rapidly with income. Yes, tax the rich.
The tax giveaways for the rich in the latest tax deal that Obama and his congressional pals agreed to in December are truly obscene. They have snuck in goodies to benefit the very rich in all kinds of places. As just one example, it is only rich people for whom it is worthwhile to itemize their deductions in Schedule A. Most people claim the standard deduction of $5,700 while the rich can claim very much more. But at least in the past, some limits on Schedule A deductions started to get phased in for those people with incomes over a high amount ($166,800 for married couples filing jointly in 2009). But this year even those limitations have been removed, even though the only people who benefit are those who do not need more money in the first place. No wonder we have budget deficits. If one needed to point to one symbol that clearly demonstrates that the rich are determined to contribute as little as possible to the government while squeezing as much as they can out of it, the elimination of the Schedule A limits is it.
What is extraordinary is that there will be some people (even those who are nowhere close to being wealthy) who protest my post, saying that the rich have ‘earned’ every cent they get and are thus ‘entitled’ to keep as much as they want and that the government is essentially ‘robbing’ them of the fruits of their labor by taxing them at all. They do not see that the entire system is rigged to create a self-perpetuating oligarchy.
Such people have essentially a feudal mentality, a serf-like admiration of the wealthy, and contempt for people in their own class. All that is missing is their willingness to bow down and touch their forelocks as the wealthy drive by in their limousines.