May I ask a few moments of your time to contemplate the events in Wisconsin? I believe there can be no clearer picture or clearer truth as to where this country is right now, and what the Republican and Tea Party is truly all about.
In the streets, we have Democrats, mostly progressives (i.e. the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party) representing the good, decent, hard working Americans who have spent their lives in service to their fellow Americans. Policemen who keep us safe, firemen who protect us and our property at the risk of their own lives. Teachers who teach our children and work with us to prepare them for the future. Community services workers who take on dozens and dozens of cases, working one distressed family or one orphaned child at a time to help lift their fellow American out of poverty, to give them a chance in life. Elderly services workers who look after those who can’t look after themselves anymore. Mental health workers who help those who have often been abandoned or left helpless by families who don’t care or who can’t afford to care. Public works employees who work in the dead of night, the cold and snow, the heat of summer, to keep our roads up, our drinking water safe, our sanitation services intact.
These people, our neighbors, who have done so much for their community, most of whom donate many of their off hours to the cause, who pay money out of their own pocket to provide a better experience for their students, or provide a treat to a child who will never know what childhood is. These people, who make it possible for the rest of us to go about our day. These men and women – who are not rich, who did not cause the financial sector to blow up one year, then pay themselves billions in bonuses the next. These people, who had the foresight and acted responsibility to take part of their compensation in the form of a pension and retiree health care benefits, to look after their families and retirement.
And how does the Republican and Tea Party treat them? By telling us that these people are to blame for our problems. These people are to blame for deficits. Oh, it’s perfectly fine for the Koch brothers to hire lobbyists to bribe Republicans into spending billions on wasteful agribusiness subsidies and unnecessary defense spending that lines their pockets, but it should be against the law for an elder services worker to join a union or have collective bargaining rights. Many Tea Party activists go even further and suggest that these workers shouldn’t even be allowed to vote because they might benefit if their candidate wins! There’s a real belief in the constitution for you.
Here, then, is the stark naked truth: the Tea Party is naught but those who covet their neighbor’s goods. The “government worker” has a pension? I don’t, it must be his fault. The teacher pays less for health care insurance than I do? – it’s her fault. The poor single mother trying to feed her children – she gets food stamps, I don’t, it must be her fault. Try to tell them that America was at its strongest when income inequality was low and unions were strong, and all they care about is that they think someone else has something they don’t, whether its true or not.
And the Republican Party, the party that calls for responsibility and accountability in government? The party that let the banks write the bankruptcy laws to keep people from “avoiding responsiblity” for their debts and then bailed them out? The party that hands billions to General Electric, Haliburton and other companies that have time after time been found guilty of defrauding and overcharging the government? They want to let states or localities declare bankruptcy and walk away from their responsibilities, walk away from the pensions and health care benefits. All the years they should have been funding the retirement obligations, funding the pensions, but they fraudulently underfunded them, creating the deficits in the first place, and now they want to balance the budget on the backs of those who have given the best years of their lives and fulfilled their part of the bargain. Cut social security, a program that keeps approximately 40% of retirees out of poverty, but don’t raise the social security cap back to 90% of wages where it’s supposed to be set per the Reagan administration’s 1983 amendments.
At long last, the cards on the table, the hand is in play. Do we stand with our neighbors who have served us all these years, or do we turn our backs on them and balance the budget on their backs, the backs which have borne so much for us? Do we covet and live our lives in fear that someone else might get something that we don’t have, or do we work together to stop the Republicans from turning this nation into little more than a class based apartheid? Do we continue to tune in to the dog whistles blown by Limbaugh, Beck, Palin, et al, or do we listen to our better angels? In the end, do we “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for our country”, or do we reduce the greatness of this country to “are you better off now than you were 4 years ago”?
You decide. The floor is yours.