Scapegoating in Ohio, Minnesota & New Jersey
by Fred Redmond, United Steelworkers International Vice President (Human Affairs)
Ohio’s Governor John Kasich, Minnesota’s former Governor and Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty, and New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie claim that unionized public service workers are the cause of the financial crisis, apparently hoping to focus the attention of their states and the nation off their proposed policies and onto their chosen scapegoat.
Governor Christie actually characterized public service unions and their leaders as “nameless, faceless” people who are “bankrupting our country.” Really? Public service workers and their unions are the source of the Great Recession? Consider this:
- The top 25 hedge fund managers on Wall Street pulled in more than $25 billion (yes, that’s a billion each) in compensation last year despite the fact that hedge funds create no discernable public benefit. Much of these hedge fund managers’ compensation is taxed (as Capital Gains) at a rate much lower than the vast majority of American wage earners.
- American businesses in the third quarter of 2010 realized the highst quarterly profits since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago.
- Profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history.
- This breakneck pace can be partly attributed to strong productivity, according to the US Commerce Department.
- Non-financial companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 have a record $837 billion in cash on reserve. That's enough to pay 2.4 million people $70,000-a-year salaries for five years.
- BUT U.S. corporations still aren’t hiring in large numbers.
Now compare this with Public Services in the U.S.:
- Studies show that state and local public employees make less that their comparably educated counterparts in the private sector.
- When you compare deficits in states with unionized government employees and those without, you cannot conclude that unionized government employees are the problem. For example Nevada, North Carolina and Arizona which deny collective bargain rights to their employees have huge deficits and states that have strong public unions such as Massachusetts, New Mexico and Montana have small ones.
Nonetheless, Governors Kasich, Pawlenty, and Christy blame those that plow our roads, teach and serve our children, care for our elderly parents, patrol our streets, nurse our sick, and stand ready to rush into the most acute life-threatening emergencies.
The real causes of the Great Recession are two: The systematic repeal of legislation and regulation that protected all of us and our economy from the hyper-greed of investment bankers and insurance companies; and a political system that has legalized bribery, where, for example, Wall Street firms gave $49 million in campaign contributions in 2010 to a handful of the most powerful right-wing members of Congress to insure that Washington didn’t get too tough on the Street.
During the aftermath of the tragedies in Arizona and in light of Dr King’s birthday, let us all remember, that when emotions run high, those that have billions and billions of dollars on the line will try to use our grief and anger to confuse and divide us.
Instead, let us keep our eyes on the prize of a just America, of a fair and compassionate America, of an America that refuses to scapegoat public service workers or union members or public service recipients or any other segment of this nation. Everyone deserves a place in the sun. As Dr King asserted, America rises when we recognize in each of us a brother or a sister.