Sunday, February 20, 2011


In Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, we are shown a picture of  the lives of ordinary working Americans at the end of World War I. The story revolves around the struggle of Boston policemen (public servants) to obtain a living wage and work conditions. Their work situation was unthinkable by modern standards: wages frozen at 1905 levels despite massive wartime inflation, 75-83 hour work weeks (and no overtime), no money for uniforms or equipment, overnight on-call duty periods in run-down, unsanitary stations, no compensation for those felled by the flu and no collective bargaining rights. The police finally did strike, and consequently were labeled Bolsheviks and anarchists, even though they were just ordinary working Americans who wanted a fair deal for dangerous work that included dealing with real violent anarchists. It would take many decades for public servants and other Americans to be given decent pay, benefits and working conditions they tried unsuccessfully get then. Looking at life back then who the hell would want to return America to 1919?

The so-called "Tea Party", that's who. For 1919 was a time when rights and protection of the law was determined mainly by wealth (the antithesis of the Enlightenment ideals the country was founded on). Their tactics are the same used in that time period, strike fear into the bigoted and stupid by associating any reasonable request by groups of workers to the most extreme elements around, manufacture budget crises,  demonize the opposition and use violent rhetoric and tough guy posturing, the last two are characteristics of authoritarian personalities BTW.

We are told by Wisconsin Governor Walker that the state faces a huge deficit due to to overpaid government employees who refuse to give up lavish salaries and benefits. BUT, it turns out that Wisconsin public employees make less than privately employed counterparts. How about that? And the projected budget shortfall there is not simply due to the economy, the tipping point was tax cuts the gov and new legislature enacted. Of course those cuts are what the majority of people who bother to turn out to vote wanted, of course those people probably also believe that taxes are higher than ever and there's not enough jobs cuz the Mex-a-cans take them all.

In reality the "....unions agreed to cuts in health care and retirement benefits that could reduce take-home pay for many workers by about 8 percent, and it was time for the Republican governor to compromise."  Amazingly, in the commentsbelow  immediately the article I link you to,  some yahoo (whose avatar is a Obama as a monkey) writes, "Where is the cry for democrats to compromise and work with Republicans? I guess only Repubs and independents are supposed to always give in to the democracks, but it's never the other way around." Reading comprehension is not these folks strong suit, and the willful ignorance, bigotry, poor education (evidence by bad spelling and grammar), blustering posture and admiration for tough guys who put people in their place is classic authoritarian "Tea Party".

Anyone who reads this blog knows I have no patience for corruption, knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and laziness and incompetence in the field of education. My rant here then is not some unthinking reflexive response from a dilettante academic leftist. Ultimately this is not about unions and pensions, its about taking away rights of ordinary Americans. Many TP authoritarians would love to eliminate the 40 hour week, benefits, safety regulations and minimum wage laws, even child labor laws. Stripping unions of collective bargaining is the first step, the next is to overturn the laws on the state and then federal level. This affects everyone, not just unionized public workers.

The question then is not just which side are you on, but do you want to move ahead in the 21st century, or back to 1919?

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