McCarthyism’s stench

The lid was pried opened this week on the Joe McCarthy archives. The files contain the transcripts of the secret proceedings conducted by Sen. Joseph McCarthy during his notorious anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s. They were sealed for 50 years.

The files show McCarthy to be a sneering, vicious, manipulative, browbeating, and racist bully. He grilled those hauled before him about their personal beliefs and affiliations like the Grand Inquisitor. He treated them with contempt. He then dragged many into public hearings for even more intimidation and abuse.

The hearings were a part of McCarthy’s hysterical anti-communist crusade, a crusade that created fear throughout the country about alleged Communist spies in and out of government. The crusade’s real purpose, however, was quite different.

McCarthyism created an ideological fog that allowed big business to unleash a violent wave of intimidation against all militant, left-wing trade unionists and progressive community activists in the post-World War II era. It facilitated the break-up of progressive unions, weakened all unions, and undermined all forces that were struggling at the time for better wages, working conditions, and an end to racism and inequality.

McCarthyism also created an atmosphere of panic and fear among the public that facilitated the U.S. government’s waging of wars, both hot and Cold.

People’s lives were destroyed. Many lost their jobs. Families were broken up. Some people were beaten up or killed, including Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Some committed suicide, and at least one suicide note can be found among these files.

Some politicians and pundits remarked piously this week about how horrible McCarthyism was and how it can’t be allowed to happen again.

But what about Bush’s “War on Terrorism”? What about this new crusade that is being used to curtail civil liberties, to bust labor unions, to victimize immigrants and racial minorities, and to mobilize support for unending war? Isn’t this cut from the same cloth?

A foul stench indeed.

Corporate flim-flam

Corporate America’s latest pension scam is its most obscene “heads I win, tails you lose” flim-flam yet.

Corporate actuarial experts, have developed another creative new way to get out of obligations to fund workers’ pensions. Finagling with the numbers, they can show that blue-collar workers have life-expectencies lower than the overall population listed on actuarial tables. Their not-surprising conclusion – less money needs to be paid into funding blue-collar workers’ pensions.

Once again it’s win/win for the corporations in Bush’s America. Increase profits when you cut back on work place health and safety and environmental measures. The devastating effects on the health of workers shortens their life spans so you can achieve even more savings by cutting funding to their pensions.

Workers’ pensions are not freebies given by generous employers. They were earned as part of compensation for every hour worked. While the captains of industry can walk away with their profits, playing the stock market, opening and closing plants around the world, hiding their riches in secret deals and mergers, the workers share sits for all to see, irresistibly tempting greedy capitalists.

Like a salivating dog hovering around the family’s Thanksgiving turkey, corporate America finds the billions of dollars accumulated in the pension funds of America’s workers an irresistible lure. Like the dog, they’re just waiting for someone to turn their back for just one moment.

With corporate profits at sky-high levels, there is no excuse for any bookkeeping hanky-panky that provides excuses for pension funds to be diverted back to employers. If blue collar workers truly have shorter life spans (honest actuarians have pointed out that it is actually the category of lower-paid workers who have the lower life span – thus indicating that union membership may actually prolong your life) then it’s time to look at lowering the retirement age so that American workers can both live a little longer and enjoy the hard-earned fruits of their labor.