GOP War on familes
Series of articles on Buzzflash: This is part two but the full series is on the website :http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/waronfamilies
Electoral Politics and the Working Class, Part 2: Republicans Wage Clandestine Class War
Submitted by meg on Wed, 09/10/2008 - 5:41am. War On Families
BuzzFlash Editor's Note: As we noted in Part I of this series, with great reluctance, BuzzFlash had to cancel the September 27th conference in Philadelphia focusing on why progressives should embrace issues of importance to the working class -- and why the two groups should find much common ground. The registration was just too low to justify continuing on with the groundbreaking day of investigating "The GOP War on the Working Class." If you want to know what we had planned, you can listen to this interview with me, Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash.com, with Bob Kincaid of Head-on Radio, about what we had in store: https://www.yousendit.com/download/b...dENuSlJFQlE9PQ.
PART TWO OF A BUZZFLASH SERIES ON THE REPUBLICAN WAR AGAINST THE WORKING CLASS
by Meg White
As part of an ongoing series on electoral politics and the working class, we bring you part two: the Republicans' class war.
For Republicans, waging war on the working class is not hard. The tricky part is making said war invisible. In order to keep on top economically, Republicans still have to win elections (or at least appear to do so). Now that the economy is at the top of most voters' issue lists, that is becoming harder and harder for them to pull off. Hence, we have shark-jumping antics like the Sarah Palin roll out. But that's just the most recent in a long line of distortions of what the Republican Party truly is all about.
Only lies and deceptions can distract working Americans from the fact that the GOP is pickpocketing them, so the GOP runs elections by using personality politics, image, wedge issues, and brazen lies.
Because Republicans know they can't win elections on the economy, so they turn to appealing to socially conservative values-voters, as one example. Up until the recent economic downturn, abortion, gun rights, school prayer, gay marriage and other socio-religious pseudo-political issues were a bigger deal than economic problems. They set up liberals as the enemy responsible for all the problems facing working class voters, when it is the GOP oligarchy that disdains America's embattled middle class; and it is the Republicans who have caused the redistribution of wealth from the middle and bottom classes to the upper, upper class. It's quite a shell game.
Thomas Frank wrote about this phenomenon in his seminal book, What's the Matter with Kansas. He calls Republican strategy to win votes "a systematic erasure of the economic." He described in 2004 what he saw as the phenomenon unfolded in his home state in an analysis for Harper‘s Magazine:
"Strip today's Kansans of their job security and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land and the next thing you know they're protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO and there's a good chance they'll join the John Birch Society."
Such actions by Kansans and other Americans are prompted by the fear tactics of the far right. And of course, the classic "tough on crime" argument that has in the past seven years morphed into "tough on terrorists," is yet another strategy of diverting the attention of the working class while they get pickpocketed by the party of greed.
A major battle front in this class war is the institution of the American workers' union. David Sirota pointed out in 2005 that the GOP's unholy marriage with corporate America necessitates a generalized attack on unions:
"Clearly, the alliance between Big Business and the Republican Party has been, in part, responsible for demonizing unions and thus driving down union membership and reducing union rights. They ultimately want a country that has no unions at all, and they claim that would be good for America... nothing could be further from the truth. If we hadn't had a strong union movement in America's history, we wouldn't have a weekend, we'd have a seven-day work week; we wouldn't have a minimum wage, we'd have slave wages (which we are approaching fast because Congress refuses to raise the minimum wage); and we wouldn't have laws preventing child labor, we'd have kids working in sweatshops."
The Republican Party war on the working class has been in full force since the Reagan administration. However, the crusade against the American laborer continues today unabated.
The highest profile and most applicable example of this is the battle raging over the Employee Free Choice Act. The act makes it possible for unions to more easily organize, free of intimidating and often illegal employer pressure. The act also requires arbitration in disputed cases, making collective bargaining agreements easier to accomplish and strikes less frequent. The Employee Free Choice Act is the number one goal of virtually every union, regardless of the current split in the union movement based on other issues.
The law is far from perfect in advancing the right of collective bargaining, but with union membership at its lowest in recent history, it's better than nothing. The only way Republicans have been able to successfully oppose the act is to twist the facts to try to make it look like they are on the workers' sides. They say (falsely) that the act will get rid of the secret ballot.
As is evidenced by political ads put out by opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act, Republicans haven't yet gotten their fill of demonizing labor and unions. For example, an ad on behalf of Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) against his challenger, humorist Al Franken, features an actor from The Sopranos, Vincent Curatola, saying that Franken's support of the act puts him on the mob's side.
The deceivingly named Employee Freedom Action Committee (typically stamped with a misleading and cynical benign title) and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (ditto for the Orwellian name) are responsible for the campaign, which also targets Maine Senatorial candidate Tom Allen in a similar ad. The AFL-CIO has condemned the ads as misleading and demeaning to union members.
Republican Senators also showed whose side they're on earlier this year when they blocked the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have made it easier for women to stand up to discriminatory employers in court, among other redresses for women who receive unequal treatment and pay in the workplace.
Not only is the average woman still earning about 80 cents for every dollar a man earns (minority women tend to earn even less compared to men, as low as 62 cents on the dollar) but the most recent unemployment numbers show they are "hit hardest" by the recent downturn in jobs.
The Bush Administration has done its fair share to keep workers down. Massive tax cuts for the wealthy, archaic views of immigrants that keep them in dangerous working conditions, dramatic cuts in domestic spending programs that overwhelmingly benefit the working poor; these are but a sampling of the ways in which Bush shows his contempt for workers.
As if that weren't enough, Bush's Labor Department is rushing through a last-minute rule change that would make it harder for workers exposed to deadly and dangerous toxins to seek compensation. The rule would also make it harder for the government to put restrictions on exposure levels in the workplace. A quote from a story in The Washington Post revealed that the attempt to change the rules puts this latest move in context with the greater mission of Bush‘s Labor Department:
"It's an insult to America's workers for the Department of Labor to be spending its time in the last year of this administration allegedly fine-tuning the details of how to do these regulations when, other than the one ordered by a court, they have issued no major worker-health regulations," said Adam Finkel, a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who is a former health standards director at Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. "The reality is there's a great need to light a fire under this moribund agency to do something -- anything -- to protect workers."
Not only that, but the Bush Administration has, for the past eight years, allowed companies to take advantage of their workers and the American people by allowing tax shelters, outsourcing and corporate welfare.
Look no further than Wal-Mart, one of the least worker-friendly mega-corporations, to find evidence of the Republican class war. Wal-Mart recently required its management employees to attend meetings which warn of all the awful things that will happen if Democrats win the upcoming election. Like, say, unionizing.
Speaking of the upcoming election, what of the average Joe's best friend, John McCain? Why, just Thursday night in his Republican Party presidential nominee acceptance speech, he said that he doesn't want to be president for himself, he wants to be president for us. Plus, he said he was going to make more jobs!
McCain missed the Senate vote on the Lilly Ledbetter bill, but he made it clear he was opposed to it. Apparently being a "working mom" isn't enough for his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to support equal pay either. But Palin is not your typical working class mom, much as she and her husband pretend to be. They live in a $400,000 house on a lake, own a water plane, co-own a cabin in the country, and have other businesses and properties. Plus, their family gets about $25,000 from this year in state oil rebates as a result of legislation signed by, of course, Sarah Palin! They are hardly a family struggling economically.
It's hard to believe that McCain really feels Americans' pain at the pump. Come on, this is the guy who takes a six-car motorcade on a Starbucks run and who can't remember what kind of car he drives (it‘s a Cadillac, unsurprisingly). Ditto that for housing crisis empathy from the guy who owns seven houses, but doesn't even know how many he owns. The media had to count them up for him.
McCain came out looking tough on CEO pay and the Republican spending problem earlier this year. But his lobbyist and fatcat advisors make it clear that he's not going to actually do anything about it. In fact, he and Palin wrote (well, the McCain campaign actually wrote it -- you don't think John and Sarah sat down on banged it out themselves, do you?) an op-ed for Murdoch's Wall Street Journal the other day against the type of lobbyists who represent Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In another mindboggling revelation, we learn that one of McCain's top five campaign staff a chief lobbyist for, you guessed it, Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac!
Sure sounds nice though, doesn't it? Too bad, McCain's entire campaign is based on the big lie, just like Bush, Cheney, Papa Bush and Reagan did before them.
After all, what, in McCain's extensive legislative record, points to him as a champion of working class America? His plans to privatize social security and veterans' healthcare are both clear handouts to insurance industry, not a hand up to the working class. He's beholden to the "K" Street lobbyists while pretending to oppose them. Speaking of the letter "K," does anyone remember the Keating Five?
These examples are but a small, small, small sampling of the ways in which Republicans are waging a class war against America. Join the conversation; tell us what you think. What is the most egregious offense in the GOP war on the working class? What do Democrats and progressives need to do to win over the working class? And be sure to stay tuned for our next BuzzFlash installment on the GOP War on the Working Class.
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