Right-wing “blizzard narrative” is anti-worker snow job


As a massive winter storm pounds the Midwest and Northeast with high winds, freezing rain, sleet and snow, budgets are straining to pay for snow removal, as public workers put in overtime plowing and salting streets.

The National Weather Service warns of a "dangerous, multifaceted and potentially life-threatening blizzard." Officials have also warned of possible power outages. And many cities are still digging out from under the last snowstorm.

While cities and states typically budget ahead for winter snow removal, the frequency of storms so far this year - not worker salaries - has eaten away at many public works budgets.

Many states are already dealing with crushing budget deficits due to regressive tax policies, corporate tax loopholes and the recession.

The continuing tea party-Republican slash-and-burn "fiscal responsibility" and "deficit reduction" rhetoric demonstrates a blind unwillingness to develop an alternative plan to deal with local, state and federal budget shortfalls. Ironically, it is their "solution" that caused the budget crisis.

Let me explain.

In some circles it is being called the "blizzard narrative." First, strangle the revenue base and cut budgets for vital social service departments. Second, control the narrative: "Tax cuts for the rich and layoffs aren't the problem. It's those overpaid public workers and their unions." Third, use popular discontent and anger around service cuts to force pay reductions and break unions. Fourth, privatize vital services and turn them into unaccountable for-profit entities.

In fact, we're seeing this tactic play out all across the country. Wisconsin's new Republican governor recently bragged that he's going to "force" state workers to take pay and benefit cuts. New York's new Democratic governor just announced pay freezes for state workers. In Missouri, right-wing Republicans want "a culture of change" for social services and public workers. John Boehner, the new speaker of the House, is calling for austerity when it comes to public workers and the services they provide. There are many other examples. Throughout the country public workers are under attack.

The tea party-Republican mantra is "cut, cut, cut." Public sector workers and the services they provide - services that every day benefit ordinary working class folks - are being sacrificed at the altar of so-called fiscal responsibility and cutting deficits.

Obviously, increasing taxes on the rich and corporations is out of the question for the Republicans and tea partiers. According to this logic, public sector workers and the communities they service must carry the weight of the crisis, a crisis they didn't create.

Put simply, the tea party/right-wing Republican prescription for our ailing economy, crumbling infrastructure and decline in overall social service capacity is to blame public workers and their unions.

The narrative is pretty simple: Union workers are paid too much and have overly generous benefits packages; to reign in the budget deficit we must cut social services and public worker salaries, while cutting taxes on the rich and corporations; Wall Street will stimulate job growth and investment. In the meantime however, communities will just have to suffer without - without plowed streets, without salt trucks, without electricity and heat (due to power outages), without water (due to cracked water mains), and so on.

However, this right-wing free-market myth machine ignores the facts.

According to their anti-union, anti-public-sector logic we should be in the midst of a great economic boom, as union membership has declined dramatically over the past 30 years.

The Department of Labor reports overall union membership in 2010 was around 14.7 million, or 11.9 percent of the workforce, down 612,000 from 2009.

Public sector unions represented 7.6 million workers in 2010, down from 7.9 million in 2009. Public sector unions represent teachers, police officers, firefighters and social service workers, among others. Unionized public workers are about 36 percent of the public sector workforce.

Private sector unions represented 7.1 million workers in 2010, down from 7.4 million in 2009. Private sector unions represented about 25 percent to 30 percent of the workforce in the early 1980s; now they represent only 6.9 percent of the workforce.

So before we hastily blame unionized public sector workers for the mess we're in, let's ask ourselves: Has the sharp decline in private sector unionization over the past 30 years resulted in more jobs, higher wages and better services in the private sector? No! Then why should we expect slashing public sector unions to produce more jobs or better services?

Photo: Stradablog CC 2.0


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  • You are so right, Kelly!!

    The working class, thankfully not all of us, buys into the philosophy pushed by the ruling class from history taught in the classroom to prices we pay for vital services such as gasoline and utilities.

    Towns do not pay into the pension funds of workers while cutting jobs and outsourcing work to private companies with non-union, lower pais workers.

    This continues even with the obama administration in power. Progressives cannot allow themselves to be blinded.

    Posted by detectivetom, 02/05/2011 11:36am (5 years ago)

  • It is amazing how sold the working class is by the rich that they do not deserve a living wage and benefits as well as a retirement plan that allows them to enjoy their non working years.

    The same people that would benefit most are against what is best for them and that belief is sold to them by the one's the profit off of them being denied.

    Union membership is at an all time low and is the blame for the economy and slow job growth. Chrysler and GM needing assistance from the government was frowned upon by the public but was ok when the banks needed it. In both situations the bailouts were the result of poor management and in the case of GM and Chrysler they were not focused on quality and fuel effeciency as Ford was. Ford needed no bailout, continues to have an organized workforce, and was making hybrids and has a quality and reliability rating equal or better than the Japanese competition. No one focused on the product Chrysler and GM engineered or planned and produced. They simply jumped to the packages the workers recieved.

    It is amazing how much the American people are sold by the rich at their own expense. The working class is sold an unpatriotic point of view that the American worker is not worthy of the promise of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The Tea Party like most Conservative Christians have done with religion have done the same with the Constitution. Sworn by it where it serves their purpose, and the bulk of America has bought it. This bulk is a small narrowed majority. Barely greater than 50% but they claim that this is the will of the American people. They forget the other 50% disagree and didn't vote for them.

    Posted by Kelly Lord, 02/02/2011 11:11pm (5 years ago)

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