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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The GOP war against public employees.

Public employees choose a career where almost all of them will never be rich. In return they get health benefits and a decent pension for when they retire. The GOP are waging war, claiming wrongly that public employees are paid better than private sector employees. That's a complete lie but it suits their current narrative.

People are starting to fight back including an incredible showdown in Wisconsin where the hew GOP governor wants to strip all their bargaining rights. The result is huge protests and the departure from the state of all the Democratic Wisconsin state representatives to prevent the measure from being voted on.

The Great Recession and its aftermath are entering a new phase in the United States, which could bring even more severe assaults on the living standards and basic rights of ordinary people than we have experienced thus far. This is because a wide swath of the country’s policy- and opinion-making elite have singled out public sector workers—including schoolteachers, healthcare workers, police officers and firefighters—as well as their unions and even their pensions as deadweight burdens sapping the economy’s vitality.

The Great Recession did blow a massive hole in state and municipal government finances, with tax receipts—including income, sales and property taxes—dropping sharply along with household incomes, spending and real estate values. Meanwhile, demand for public services, such as Medicaid and heating oil assistance, has risen as people’s circumstances have worsened. But let’s remember that the recession was caused by Wall Street hyper-speculation, not the pay scales of elementary school teachers or public hospital nurses.

States are taking it all out on the neediest while tax increases for the rich and tax breaks for corporations have been taken off the table.

But even with the ARRA stimulus funds and tax increases, states and municipalities have had to make sharp cuts in spending. More severe cuts will be coming this year, with the ARRA funds now gone. These include cuts that will reduce low-income children’s or families’ eligibility for health insurance; further cuts in medical, homecare and other services for low-income households, as well as in K–12 education and higher education; and layoffs and furloughs for employees. The proposed 2012 budgets include still deeper cuts in core areas of healthcare and education. In Arizona, the governor’s budget would cut healthcare for 280,000 poor people and reduce state support for public universities by nearly 20 percent. In California, Governor Brown is proposing to bring spending on the University of California down to 1999 levels, when the system had 31 percent fewer students than it does today.

The Nation has the full story.

In an interview today Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont claimed that the middle class in America is collapsing. Without a strong and vibrant middle class America is well on the way to a Banana Republic economy.

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