Governors on the far right of the Republican Party – backed by the Tea Party and by the money of billionaire conservatives – have played their hand in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Kansas. Having a passionate belief that the time to bust public employees and their unions is now, they made their move. They went for broke.
What has been accomplished by right wing assaults on public employees so far? We went to Madison on Saturday to join the protests and learn what we could. Given that the Republicans acted without transparency and perhaps illegally, the legislation stripping employees of their rights is tied up in court at this time (Tuesday, March 22nd). Nevertheless, should the legislation succeed, employees like the teachers pictured below (and who were our fellow protestors on Saturday), will take a major cut in their pay and benefits. Furthermore, they will be left without bargaining rights and, for all intents and purposes, any protection from abusive bureaucratic and legislative abuse.
What will the cuts in pay and increases in payroll deductions mean to Wisconsin public employees – including the teachers above on whom we depend for educating our children? According to the Sunday State Journal (the Madison newspaper), Susan Sprecher, a school secretary, has an annual salary of $30,000 before taxes. She will lose $2,400 due to the Republican cuts. Ms Sprecher already works a second job; she is contemplating trading in her car for an older model.
Ann Armstrong, a custodian for the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, has an annual salary of $24,000 before taxes. The cuts will cost her $1,800. The Sunday State Journal article stated that Ms Armstrong “finally edged into the middle class last year – after decades of struggle – when she bought a 600-square-foot home in Omro for $43,000, her first.” Now she will drop her health insurance rather than default on her mortgage.
An eighth grade math teacher by the name of Don White will lose $4000 of his $60,000 annual salary. That may sound like a lot but this 42 year old father of 5 children with a master’s degree is taking a job delivering pizzas on the weekend to keep his family afloat.
These are the people paying the price for an economic crash, tax cuts for corporations, and a radical right wing agenda. Just imagine, an employee making $24,000 must take a pay reduction of $1,800 as a punishment for what? Being a public employee? Working in education in some manner? Having a union?
I would hope that by reading this you are outraged and scared enough to get involved. Join the protests. Send money. Tune in to what is happening to the working people – working includes all middle class workers as well as very low paid workers. Think about the poor and middle class people in the states that will lose their health care (like “Badger Care for poor children in Wisconsin).
Also think about the successful efforts of right wing with the help of a whole bunch of Democrats (but not Democratic heroes such as the “Fab-14 in the Wisconsin legislature) to keep inheritance taxes nonexistent, to keep an income tax system in place slanted in favor of the very rich, and to keep tax dollars flowing into a bloated Defense Department – just to name a few of the crony capitalist-plutocratic congress now in place.
The concerted effort to reduce the economic well-being of the U.S. middle class has been under way for several decades. The economic forces arrayed against working people in the form of globalization, union busting, decimation of retirement plans (i.e. move to 401Ks), health care and housing rip-offs, and assaults on Social Security, is a juggernaut. Added to all of their successful efforts to reduce pay, benefits, and rights of workers, the wealthy elite has developed a powerful propaganda machine in the form of Washington think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute (Koch funded), the American Enterprise Institute