Friday, May 27, 2005

The undeclared war, here at home

It had to happen. Now that employers have destroyed the lives of so many private sector employees -- through massive lay-offs, stolen 401(k)s, penurious wages, fear, loathing, and broken pension promises -- the only victims left for new assaults are those working in the public sector. And make no mistake: the corporate interests (and the politicians in their pockets) are out for blood.

While private employers such as United Airlines, US Steel, and uncountable others have been able to illegally renege on their pension obligations without paying the penalty prescribed by law -- which includes prescribed prison time -- and have received governmental carte blanche to impoverish their retired employees, they have also begun lobbying for a dismantling of public sector pensions, turning the concept of “fairness” on its head. Suddenly, in the wake of widespread financial catastrophe being visited upon them by those running the corporations, the passions of the citizenry are being whipped into a frenzy by those same corporate interests, so that those citizens will rise up and demand that public employees, too, partake of the same suffering.

“Why should [public employees] retire with a better retirement package than those of us in the private sector when we’re footing the bill?” asks Karen Hanretty, communications director of the California Republican Party. (1) Now there’s a concept for you: first, the corporations in concert with the Republicans put into place policies that result in gutting or total destruction of private sector retirements, and then, their mouthpieces mine the resulting resentment and anger and direct it toward everyone else’s retirement security.

“We’re footing the bill,” she says, when in reality public employees contribute substantially to their retirements, in actual payroll deductions and in employer contributions known as “deferred compensation.” What exactly is “deferred compensation”? It is part of an employee’s wage that is instead directed toward retirement income. Now, suddenly, such pension income is seen as some sort of gift bestowed upon those fortunate enough to not have their earned deferred wages stolen from them by dishonest and deceitful corporate executives? What is wrong with this picture?

It becomes more obvious with every passing minute that the Republicans and the corporations are at war with every wage-earner. Their clear intent is to destroy every last vestige of financial security that we wage-earners have managed to garner. The Wall Street mutual fund managers are putting their own interests before those of their clients; companies are siphoning off 401(k) contributions of their workers; employers are eliminating healthcare coverage for active and retired employees; corporations are dismantling pensions long-promised to their employees; corporate and Republican interests are working to gut the rock-bottom financial safety net of Social Security; corporations and politicians have colluded to eliminate most of the bankruptcy protection for wage-earners while doing nothing to curb the bankruptcy abuses by corporations and the wealthy; every effort is made to keep wages as low as possible, and taxes as skewed toward the wage-earner as possible, while relieving the wealthy dead of having their silver spoons taxed before being passed into the mouths of waiting idle descendents.

Of course the GOP and their bloviating cronies have redirected their attacks toward public employees -- they’ve gotten about as much blood as possible from the private sector without spiraling those folks into a descent into abject poverty. But don’t be fooled: once they get the public employees into bad straits like those faced by employees in the private sector, the assault will begin anew on the private sector. Anyone who does not believe we are in the throes of a class war -- specifically, a war against all wage-earners -- has not been paying attention, but anyone who believes such a war to be sustainable has not learned from history.

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(1) “GOP spokeswoman rips on unions,” by Scott Marshall, Contra Costa Times, May 25, 2005.

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