Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Natural Disasters Are Reminders That Public Workers Are Not Thugs

Stop Bashing Government Workers

Two thousand and eleven has been one of the toughest years for public workers that I can remember. Every month until this past one, the private sector has added jobs, and every month the public sector has lost them. The August employment report [2] shows that the public sector got hit hard again—losing 17,000 jobs. In states across the country, public workers aren’t just being laid off; they’re being made into economic scapegoats. These workers deserve to be treated fairly any time. But in the wake of Hurricane Irene, as we watched teams of federal, state and local government workers tirelessly saving lives, and on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Sept.?11 terrorist attacks, they deserve much better.

The last decade has been marked by both peril and possibility, and in all of it there has been no shortage of American heroes. Many, if not the vast majority, worked for the government — as firefighters and police, as teachers and rescue workers. In the aftermath of Sept.?11, 2001, men and women proudly wore hats and shirts labeled “FDNY” and “NYPD.” When we wept for our nation, it was the bravery of the first responders that reminded us of our national character. There was a newfound respect for public service and a heartening change in how Americans viewed their government. Fire and police departments, and organizations such as the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, saw a surge in applicants. We didn’t just want to believe in those workers. We wanted to be them.

In the 10 years since, those and other public workers haven’t been any less heroic or any less essential. But they have been significantly less appreciated, even demonized. “There are a lot of government employees that need to go find a real job,”Rep. Paul Broun (Ga.) [3], a Tea Party favorite, snorted in June. For too many on the right, a government worker isn’t a worker at all.

This, more than anything, comes from a broadening acceptance that government can do no good. Anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist infamously called for government to be made so small that it could be drowned in a bathtub. But even within the far-right fringes, it used to be the case that government, though small, was supposed to serve essential functions. Chief among them: Providing security to its citizens, doing for the people what no private corporation could.

There was a time, for example, that disaster relief money was a foregone conclusion. And yet here we are, in the wake of a hurricane that has devastated parts of New York and Vermont, being told by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that disaster aid can come only after spending cuts.

Conservatives make sure that government does not work so they can bash government. If America's Founders had not wanted a government that worked they would not have designed one. Government can work and as part of government, the people can accomplish what is difficult or impossible for individuals to do. If you could turn back the clock 100 years and ask how to keep senior citizens out of poverty, could you do that on your own or even with the help of a few people. Today a government program called Social Security keeps 20 million seniors out of poverty. Not back for a government program. Who are we going to trust, a government by and for the people or Enron, or Wall Street. This full article is available here.

The Republican Party Wishes You a Happy Labor Day!

To mark Labor Day 2011, conservative flame-thrower Michelle Malkin offered American workers a look back at the "top 10 union thug moments of the year." As it turns out, Malkin's union-bashing hyperbole differs little from the leading lights of the Republican Party. While Sarah Palin has decried "union thugs," Mitt Romney promised to take on "union bosses" and Michele Bachmann said she's open to reducing the minimum wage and eliminating the corporate income tax, virtually the entire party leadership has propagated the myth that public employees are overpaid.

Sadly, the numbers show that incomes, working conditions, educational performance and health care are worst where union protections are weakest and Republicans poll best. More disturbing still, recent polling confirms that in the face of chronic unemployment, the GOP has largely succeeded in demonizing unions and shifting attention from creating jobs to reducing the national debt.

This is where we are in America - if you are an American truck driver, a paper-mill worker, an auto assembler, a plumber, if you're an America worker you're thug according to conservatives.