Click here to go to the Home Page Cover Story: Right Wing Gloating Over Wisconsin is Par for the Course - Solidarity America - By John Funiciello - BC Columnist

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“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

-Lincoln’s First Annual Message to Congress, Dec. 3, 1861

The declaration that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had survived the recall election last week was barely an echo in the statehouse halls when the chorus of right-wing pundits and right-wing politicians declared that the working class is dead and so are their unions.

Lots of them do the bidding of Corporate America without knowing much about why they do it.

No question about it, the election was between the interests of Labor and Capital, plain and simple. Working people lost. As has been noted over and over since the election of Ronald Reagan to the White House in 1980, a sizable portion of the working class has voted to stick closely to the ruling elite, perhaps feeling that a few crumbs will fall from their table for them and their families.

No matter that they vote with the 1 percent, as we saw in the Walker recall election. Little more than half the working class and middle class electorate voted to keep Walker as governor, even though he promised that he would strip them of their right to collective bargaining, if they ever again got around to forming unions. There are many reasons for their departure from sanity and the rest of the working class will just have to deal with it.

It was time for the right wing pundit, Charles Krauthammer, to crow and crow he did: “Tuesday, June 5, 2012, will be remembered as the beginning of the long decline of the public-sector union. It will follow, and parallel, the shrinking of private-sector unions, now down to less than 7 percent of American workers. The abject failure of the unions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker - the first such failure in U.S. history - marks the Icarus moment of government-union power. Wax wings melted, there’s nowhere to go but down.”

To say they wanted to defeat “workers” might give the actual working class and middle class workers an idea that they are under attack by the ruling elite.

Always, always the pundits and the right-wing politicians follow the lead of the corporations, which pull their strings. They can deny that Corporate America pulls their strings, but one has to discover where all those strings run among the 1 percent. For those who do the bidding of the 1 percent, if the strings were made visible, the whole place would look like an explosion in a spaghetti factory. It’s everywhere. Lots of them do the bidding of Corporate America without knowing much about why they do it. They just know that that’s where their money comes from.

And, they always talk in terms of “unions,” rather than workers. They make unions out to be some invisible entity that has nothing to do with the workers on the job. They have to refer to defeating the “unions,” for, to say they wanted to defeat “workers” might give the actual working class and middle class workers an idea that they are under attack by the ruling elite.

In fact, they are. They have been under attack for decades and it always has been in terms of “defeating the powerful unions.” As in the Wisconsin recall election, the money ruled. Of course, it was not just the money that counted, but it surely tipped the balance in favor of Walker, his mentors, the Koch brothers of Koch Industries, and all the others who have poured hundreds of millions into the U.S. political system, since the Republican Supreme Court decided the Citizens United case, in which money is free speech. And, since corporations are now people, they have as much right to exercise their “free speech” in the form of the limitless money that has polluted American democracy. It is going to be next to impossible for the 99 percent to exercise their constitutional rights.

The floodgates have been opened and the tiny moneyed class has been on a shopping spree, buying up the Congress and the state legislatures, politician by politician. They even write the legislation and give the boilerplate to their minions, for introduction into the legislative process. Few politicians escape the cycle of corruption. Those who do are not long in office. They either are driven out by a challenger who will do the bidding of his or her handlers, or they decline to run for reelection, citing the impossibility of making any meaningful changes in the system.

Jesse Kelly has declared his philosophy over the past few years, included reducing the minimum wage, and then eliminating it.

Not even right-wing pundits have an explanation for the militancy of the French workers, who put a stop to Walker-like actions of government without hesitation, whenever a Walker rears its ugly head. And, in France, unions represent about 8 percent of the workers, just a point above the percentage of American workers in private sector unions. When a strike is called, French workers don’t sit at their desks or stand in front of their assembly line machinery, or stand at office building windows to watch other workers stand up for the rights of all workers. Rightly, they join in to protect the national living standard. If there is a strike, they, too, join it.

What is the difference? Mainly, the difference is in understanding how the political system works and knowledge of politics and knowing when a politician is blowing smoke. They will not be fooled by political rhetoric, at least not all the time. Part of that is being raised in a climate (families, schools, on the job) in which people understand how their lives are affected by politics and the actions of politicians and legislatures. There is little of that in the U.S., especially since the people have been brainwashed into believing that they have the same interests as the ruling elite. They actually believe that. And, just because there are a few individuals who occasionally are brought out of poverty or the working class and into the heady company of the very rich, they think that every American can do the same…and, they’re next.

Holding out that carrot is what keeps most American workers in line. Even as they are being abused for decades of their working lives, they have been propagandized to think that unions really are the enemy and Corporate America is really their friend and, possibly, the savior of themselves and their families. So far, that has not worked out too well, but it partly explains why a little more than half the voters decided that Walker was better than the “unions” and they voted for more of the same for the remainder of the young governor’s term.

Those Walker voters, therefore, should have been more than satisfied with the Republican who ran in this week’s special election for the Congressional seat of Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned after taking a year to recuperate from an assassination attempt. Jesse Kelly, a 31-year-old Iraq War veteran who works for his father’s construction company, has declared his philosophy over the past few years, included reducing the minimum wage, and then eliminating it. That’s for starters. He also thinks that corporate taxes should be eliminated altogether, would not provide much support for Medicare or Social Security, and he rails against government and government spending like a junior Grover Norquist. One of his campaign posters shows him in desert camo, with an assault rifle across his front. The message, written bold across the ad, is “send a warrior to Congress.”

The country and its economy cannot survive this gaping inequality.

Kelly lost to Giffords two years ago and, he lost by a comfortable margin in this week’s election against Giffords’ staffer, Ron Barber, who also was injured in the attempt on Giffords’ life. It will be interesting to see what spin the Republican Right Wingers put on it, especially since Krauthammer declared the Wisconsin vote to be organized labor’s “Waterloo,” meaning that it lost and will not recover from the defeat. At least Kelly went directly after workers, without euphemistically saying he was going after those powerful unions, as do others on the right. If he had his way, Kelly would render all workers powerless in the workplace, first by reducing them to real wage slavery. His handlers have declared during the recent campaign that he has matured, indicating that he no longer engages in name-calling and bravado.

Still, his railing against government is typically Republican, typically hypocritical. His father’s construction company, for which he works, reportedly gets the vast majority of its contracts from government, some $60 million at this time. He is quoted in the local press as having said, paraphrasing here: Somebody is going to get those contracts. Why shouldn’t it be us?

Relatively speaking, the Kelly family operation is like Corporate America in microcosm: While fighting to reduce the size of government (especially the elimination of wage and benefit standards, environmental laws and regulations, occupational safety and health laws, and more), they are busy constructing their own pipeline into government coffers. And the money that they draw off is from one source…the working stiff, the taxpayer, the people who spend every penny they get in their local economy…the people who have kept the economy going.

That largesse is coming to an end and this is not something that the likes of Krauthammer and Kelly and the rest of Corporate America want to hear, not when they look at the final result of their handiwork over the past half-century. The economic chickens are coming home to roost. The disparity in wealth between the 1 percent and the 99 percent stands in stark contrast to the celebration of the stock market’s continued existence. The country and its economy cannot survive this gaping inequality.

As unappetizing as it might be to those on the right, the self-described “patriots,” American workers must take a page from the French workers’ book, become more sophisticated about their politics and their economy, understand thoroughly where their interests lie, and vote with their fellow workers, not with those who have a strong hand on their paychecks and any other wealth they might have under their mattresses, or invested in that mythical American Dream, their home.

This is the time for solidarity among the 99 percent. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer. His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers in New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Click here to contact Mr. Funiciello.

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June 14, 2012 - Issue 476
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