A handful of rich, right-wing families and corporate chieftains are dedicated to returning America to the days when robber barons ruled.
-By Jim Hightower
June 6, 2011- In January, a small group of Indiana schoolteachers encountered their governor, Mitch Daniels, in a hallway of the state capitol. They were part of an outpouring of Hoosiers who had come to Indianapolis that day to protest Daniels' almost-gleeful political attack on the pay and even the worthiness of public employees. Having the chance, this scrappy group dared to confront his eminence. Why, they asked, was he demonizing and so drastically under-cutting those who educate Indiana's children?
"You teachers are all making too much money," the governor snapped. He then lectured them with a prepackaged factoid: "You are all making 22 percent more than the taxpayers who are paying your salaries."
Hmmm, too much? Let's see–classroom teachers in Indiana earn a middle-class paycheck that averages $47,255 a year for handling a daily workload that would break the back (and haughtiness) of any pompous and pampered governor. Yet they are being belittled and their compensation is being slashed by this peacock of a public employee who sucks up more than twice what teachers get in annual salary, plus gold-plated benefits, assorted perks of office, and a barn full of personal staffers to help him make it through his day. Someone needs to buy Mitch a mirror.
Daniels is one of a flock of far right-wing governors who seem to have flown out of the same dark political hellhole in the past couple of years. Now ruling from the highest roosts of power in more than a dozen states, all of them are pushing vituperative measures designed to disempower and downsize not only public employees and unions, but also the entire workaday majority of their states –the middle class itself. Among other assaults, they are canceling collective bargaining contracts, suppressing union rights, arbitrarily eliminating hundreds of thousands of both public and private-sector jobs, turning over schools and other public functions to low-paying corporations, doing away with minimum wage protections, and cutting unemployment benefits and worker pensions (while simultaneously giving new tax cuts to corporations and millionaires).
Curiously, the governors all seem to have the same playbook. Not only are their agendas alike and the content of their proposals remarkably similar, but they're also parroting the same scripted rationale for their extremist actions: "The sky is falling on our Great State of [Blank], but luckily I was elected by the good voters of [Blank] to do the people's will, so I am taking these bold steps to balance [Blank's] budget."
What a crock! First, none of them campaigned on what they're now doing. Second, poll after poll shows that the public supports the workers, not the megalomaniacal governors. And, third, gutting the fundamental workplace rights of wage earners has nothing to do with balancing budgets.
Indeed, if a budgetary fix was really their goal, the governors could easily achieve it by setting up dunking tanks on their capitol grounds, putting their own ample butts on the dunking boards, and charging a dollar a pop for anyone wanting to dunk them. The lines would stretch for miles, and budget deficits could be quickly wiped out, one dunk at a time.