Robert Reich has a column in which he exposes the false assumptions behind the Republicans attacks on public unions. Republicans maintain that public unions were a major cause of large deficits. It turns out that many states without public unions have deficits exceeding 30% of government spending and many states with public unions have deficits below 10%. It is also the case that public employees do not make more money than private employees if education is taken into account. As Reich further observes, if the the Republicans can spotlight attention on public unions, they might divert attention from the rich. Many hedge fund managers have their jobs because of the bailout, and here's the scandal: "Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.
"If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers. Who is more valuable to our society – thirteen hedge-fund managers or 300,000 teachers? Let’s make the question even simpler. Who is more valuable: One hedge fund manager or one teacher?"
Reich concludes by wondering what the Democratic strategy for combatting this might be. Noam Chomsky had some thoughts about this in the first few pages of an interview by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now (see here). I think he overstates by omission the complicity of the Democrats in anti-union behavior. But he provides enough material to make clear why union leaders would not think of Democrats as unqualified allies.
The heartening news is that people are taking to the streets. If the corporate grip on our government is ever successfully combatted, it seems to me that direct action will have to be the catalyst.