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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/20/11

The Republican Hate Narrative Against Public Employees and Unions

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Message Bud Goodall

Cross-posted from "The Daily Narrative" at

Let's face it: Rich Republicans hate government workers.   Actually, they hate all union workers too.   For example, let's take a close look at the state of Wisconsin, where multi-millionaire Governor Scott Walker is attempting to end collective bargaining while increasing the cost of state employees' health care and pensions plans to the tune of $137 million.   Why?   In part the answer is to pay for the $140 million tax break he gave last month to the largest corporations, including that anti-union stalwart, Wal-Mart.   But it is also fueled by his hatred of public employees and unions.   And he is not alone.   Scott's move to crush the unions and further demonize state workers is, of course, also heartily endorsed by fellow multi-millionaire Speaker of the House John Boehner, who released a statement commending Walker for "daring to speak the truth about the dire fiscal challenges Americans face at all levels of government."

The truth?   Really?   The only truth Boehner recognizes is how many Benjamins it takes to buy his well-tanned rich man's complicity in the largest budget scam ever perpetrated against the American worker. 

Cutting spending on all federal programs that promote the public good while cutting federal and state jobs during the Great Recession will do nothing more than put a small dent in the deficit while significantly deepening the divide between the have's and have nots.   It will also make our neighborhoods less secure and our schools less capable, as well as rob all of us who give a damn about a quality of life and the chance at an even playing field of our due.  

These two notions--public access and a level playing field--are central to the American Dream.   Both enabled by free access to good schools, public parks, and libraries, as well as to real news and information that is now pretty much limited to what we get from NPR and PBS.   And need I mention that for many working people, the power of unions and the tools of collective bargaining are all that we have to leverage against the rich and oppressive.  

Why must these programs be cut?   Because millionaires don't tax other millionaires.   And, according to an investigative report in Mother Jones and verified by Forbes , billionaires pay them to make sure it stays that way.   In Wisconsin's case, those billionaires are the Koch Brothers.

I guess it is my bad to express any surprise.   After all, Boehner is a guy who claims to be proud of his working class roots but shows no empathy for the unemployed, including his own brother.   The Koch Brothers fund the Tea Party--whose working class members ought to now realize how cynically they are being used--in order to disrupt and dismantle government.  

Like so many of the elected rich who cross over into the rarified air of Congress or the Presidency, which is to say who become the new best friends of the truly wealthy as well as highly effective corporate lobbyists, Boehner and others of his ilk are sustained not by a desire to see America prosper and all Americans to gain collectively as well as individually from our advances.   They are instead sustained by greed and hate, two emotional states based on the same insidious insider narrative that blames everyone who works for a living and who makes less than $250K a year for not being rich.

After all, if we were rich, we would become Republicans.   We would embrace a rich man's--or rich woman's--values.   Which is to say we would understand that there is something wrong with people who don't translate the freedoms and liberties, the low taxes and lack of government regulation of this great nation into vast personal wealth.   We must be either stupid or lazy.   It's really that simple.   We only have ourselves to blame.

It has taken me a long time to truly understand the inner workings of this hate narrative, or at least to see it as an expression of hatred.   Oh sure, when I was young I saw clearly into the Nixon-era hypocrisy about rich Republicans "representing the working family."   I knew it was a ruse when rich Republicans, such as Ronald Reagan, claiming to be "one of the people," went to Washington to do everything in his power to deny the people a fair wage, or health care, or pensions.   And I never believed rich Republican George W. Bush's phony fear-based patriotism nor thought for a moment that oil and corporate profits weren't the real reasons we were going to war.  

So, probably like you, I watched and complained and did nothing as Republicans of a certain income and status wasted $3 trillion of our public dollars on two wars that most Americans no longer supported and have long since abandoned understanding.   I stopped paying attention to the costs and voted for a man who promised to end them.   While I wasn't paying attention and was instead working to elect that man, these same rich Republicans campaigned on pledges to not raise taxes to cover the expense of the wars, and instead, quietly lowered taxes on corporations (many of whom benefited from the wars) as well as on the wealthiest citizens who were invested in perpetrating them for their own economic and political advantage.  

I hoped for audacious change and complained and did nothing as the core reason for why we invaded Iraq--the manufactured pretense of WMDs--became lost among the conflicting stories and rhetorical fog of nation-building and insurgencies and surges.   Winning the "hearts and minds" of people became the new rallying cry, because, as Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs famously put it, "we can't kill all of them."   

He was acknowledging that promoting democracy by force, by destroying countries and installing puppets like Karzai and Chalabi that were and are every bit as corrupt as the dictator Saddam Hussein we took down, that all that we "crusaders" were really accomplishing was a vast radicalization of Muslim youth and a steeling of the will of a now rich Republican-enabled global social movement called radical Islam.

Except, of course, that those newly rich Republicans who had invested in what Dexter Filkins calls "The Forever War" became astonishingly wealthy.   They began believing their lack of paying taxes was an entitlement.   Because they are rich.   And, as we all know, being rich makes them better than you and me.   They will continue to get wealthier as long as defense contracts flourish, the work of the military-industrial complex gets done, and no one in Congress or even our president has the guts to end their lucrative tax advantage.   What that gross accumulation of war profit wealth does, in addition to buying whorish politicians and the ad agencies that ensure their reelection, is to further spread the hate narrative of the rich against the rest of us.

If I parse what they are saying correctly about us--and by "us" I mean all those who work as teachers, as police officers, as librarians, as public administrators, as food inspectors, as military personnel, as government bureacrats, and as fire fighters, just to name a few--we are just one class rung up on the rhetorical hierarchy from the unemployed in the rich Republican narrative of America.  

Public employees .   Two loaded words that are bitter pills on the tongues of the rich.   Wage earners .   Two more loaded words that cause the rich to sneer.   Unions .   A one-word expletive in their vocabulary of hate.

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H. L. (Bud) Goodall, Jr. lives in Arizona where he is a college professor and writer. He has published 20 books and many articles and chapters on a variety of communication issues. His most recent books include Counter-Narrative: How Progressive (more...)
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