Consequences of Republican Power


No sooner had Republican governors finished their oath of office than they were demanding deep concessions from public sector workers in their respective states.

In Wisconsin, the Republican governor introduced legislation that cut wages and pensions and eliminated collective bargaining. Egged on by the ultra-reactionary billionaire Koch brothers, the governor attempted to railroad the legislation through the legislature, but before he could do so, he ran into an aroused people's movement. 

In Ohio, the new Republican governor turned the state into a microcosm for right-wing social engineering and the scene of a mass rebellion by labor and its democratic allies. 

Governor John Kasich, who comes out of Fox News, Lehman Brothers and the Kochs' Americans for Prosperity, launched unconcealed class warfare. This includes a law, known as Senate Bill 5, that abolishes collective bargaining rights for all public employees and a budget that slashes $3 billion from the strapped public schools, cuts state assistance to local governments in half and privatizes prisons, liquor sales, the lottery and the turnpike.

Already many school districts, cities and county governments have begun massive layoffs and it is estimated the state budget cuts will result in the loss of 50,000 jobs. 

In addition, the Republican majority expects to pass laws to drastically reduce access to voting, promote fracking (hydraulic fracturing of rock to extract natural gas) throughout the state including in state parks, and outlaw use of state hospitals for abortions.

At the same time, the estate tax on the wealthy is being eliminated, funds for vouchers and charter schools are being greatly expanded and a law is being passed to allow concealed weapons in restaurants, bars and sports arenas. 

In Michigan, a state with double-digit unemployment, the Republican majority passed a budget that mandates a 48-month cap on welfare cash benefits. Almost 13,000 families face immediate loss of benefits. Shamefully, an $80 clothing allowance for poor children is also eliminated.

The governor's budget cuts aid to universities by 15 percent and by $300 per pupil for K thru 12 education. Towns are being coerced into privatizing their workforce or face greater cuts in revenue sharing. 

What is more, the governor's tax overhaul increased the state deficit by giving a $1.8 billion tax cut to corporations. How was that made up? By raising taxes on the working poor and by taxing the pensions of seniors. 

What alarms many in the labor movement and in particular public workers is the Emergency Finance Manager legislation passed by the legislature. It gives the governor the power to appoint managers with dictator-like power to replace mayors and councils and void union contracts - a power that he has already exercised.

I could cite other examples, but I think I have made my point that the rightwing-orchestrated assault is unprecedented in its scope and intensity. And for anybody who is wondering what a Republican election victory will look like at the national level next year, they need only look at states where Republicans rule this year.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans, fresh from their victory at the polls last fall, are also pressing their advantage. As a price to pay for their agreement to lift the debt ceiling (to avert a government default on financial obligations with potential catastrophic effect on international financial markets) Republicans are demanding $1 trillion in cuts to the federal budget. If they have their way we can say goodbye not only to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and more, but also to any hope of economic recovery for the foreseeable future.

This behavior is worthy of gangsters and thugs. It holds the nation hostage to their narrow worldview whose overarching objective is to destroy the social contract and democratic rights – beginning with the right to organize into a union - that were won in the Depression years and consolidated in the decades following World War II. 

In doing so, these gangsters show their obeisance to the financial elite and the transnational corporations generally. 

To complicate matters, the bug of austerity has bitten the Obama administration and many Democrats too. While their deficit reduction plans are more modest, these are still the wrong medicine for a faltering economy. It's akin to pouring gasoline on a fire. Rather than withdrawing monies from the economy, additional monies should be injected into it.

If we want evidence of the counterproductive nature of austerity, we need only look to Europe. There several countries – Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, etc. - that have been forced to solve their debt crisis by means of austerity find themselves mired in debt and economic stagnation.

Our national debt is a problem in the longer term, but in the short term our real deficit is a deficit of infrastructure, renewable energy, education, health care, mass transportation, etc. None of these deficits can be addressed without strong, government-led, national strategies.

Moreover, such strategies will not only solve the immediate crisis in jobs, but also lay the material base for a healthy, productive and green economy, including a sustainable solution to national indebtedness. And, to those who say we can't afford it, let's remind them that plenty of money is available if we go to where it is: the wealthiest families, corporations, banks and the military.

Photo by Teresa Albano/PW/cc by 2.0/Flickr

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  • It's obvious that Republicans can't be trusted with power. Their whole agenda is about hurting working families so the rich and already powerful can benefit. Does this make any sense? The very people who put us in this economic mess we're in wants to return to power so they can reward Wall Street, bankers, big corporations for their actions. People don't want that!

    Posted by Larry Z., 06/30/2011 5:48pm (7 years ago)

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