The Ongoing Economic Assault on the 99%
by Andy Piascik
Leave it to somebody from Greenwich to wax delusional about “unfair and unsustainable levels of public sector compensation” in regards to state workers (Red Jahncke, A Poor Excuse to Defend Public Workers, in a recent Post column). To achieve his sleight of hand, Mr. Jahncke contrasts the compensation levels of public sector employees with those of the gutted private sector. The moral of the story, apparently, is that the Super Rich have successfully destroyed the living standards of those who work in the private sector so let’s cheer them on while they do the same to public sector workers.
This is a tired but dangerous theme that the Super Rich and their flacks have been promoting for decades. It’s part of a vicious race-to the-bottom in which the living standards of the 99% are destroyed so that corporate elites can live in still greater opulence. It has unfolded over the last 40 years, under administrations both Democratic and Republican, and has resulted in the most radical upward redistribution of wealth in human history.
People in Bridgeport and Waterbury and Ansonia are all too familiar with this phenomenon. They have seen once thriving blue collar communities destroyed by the profit-driven decisions of the boards of General Electric, Bridgeport Brass, DuPont (owners of the former Remington Arms), Westinghouse (owners of the former Bryant Electric), Underwood and others too numerous to list. The closing of such factories and the elimination of millions of good-paying private sector jobs around the country were not accidents or whims of the marketplace; they were conscious decisions made by human beings with names and addresses who worship at the altar of profit and care not one wit about whose lives get destroyed as a result.
The notion that public sector work is layoff-proof is also wrong and part of a two-pronged attack on public programs and collective bargaining. Not only do public sector workers get laid off on a regular basis, open positions often go permanently unfilled. The result is increased workloads for fewer and fewer workers and diminished service for the public.
The destruction of good-paying private sector jobs and the current assault on the public sector is further evidence of the failure of capitalism. In many ways, this is a historical epoch as we witness the utter bankruptcy of a system where the global Super Rich have bled the people dry and now seek to gut what remains of the public sector. Those efforts are being met with tremendous resistance, however, as millions work together in search of a better way. Perhaps most instructive is the burgeoning cooperative movement where workers and communities make do without owners or bosses and instead produce cooperatively based on need. Such workplaces are mainstays in places as diverse as Argentina and Greece and shine much-needed light on how people around the world might free themselves from the clutches of corporate predators.
Though you would never know it from the corporate media, worker-owned cooperatives are also on the upswing in the United States. There is much still to be learned about these ventures but the effort must be made, as the alternative of the further enrichment of corporate elites at the expense of the rest of us promises only further destruction. There probably aren’t many worker owned coops in Greenwich so we can forgive Mr. Jahncke if he’s as unfamiliar with them as he is dishonest about public sector workers.
The corporate assault on society of the last 40 years has been unrelenting and enormous in scale. It has featured the gutting of pensions, outsourcing, privatization, plant closings, union busting, huge tax breaks in exchange for jobs that mysteriously never materialize, financial deregulation, drastic changes in tax laws, the massive growth of the prison industrial complex, the slashing of programs and dozens of other means. The result has been the destruction of the middle class and a huge increase in poverty, as well as all of its attendant problems.
We can take heart from the fact that resistance around the world is strong and growing. Together, we an reject the notion that the destruction of the living standards of millions of private sector workers should be the rationale for the destruction of the living standards of millions of teachers, social workers and bus drivers. We can reject the notion that because corporate elites have gutted the wages, benefits, pensions and workplace rights of those in the private sector that they be allowed to do the same to the public sector. We can instead say that we would be better off without the Super Rich and that the road to a good living standard for all is away from capitalism and toward cooperative economics. We can build a movement to demand good pay, good pensions and free health care for all. And if Mr. Jahncke is really interested in “unfair and unsustainable levels” of compensation, all he need do is take a walk around his neighborhood. There are probably more of the corporate sharks responsible for our economic mess per capita in Greenwich than anywhere else.
Bridgeport native Andy Piascik is a long-time activist and award-wining author who writes for Z Magazine, The Indypendent and other publications.