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Uncommon Ground

Failed Rhetoric

Labor Unions

It becomes more and more apparent that corporate politicians are doing the bidding for multinational corporations. Our political landscape has drastically changed, with middle class workers left on the sidelines. The debate appears less about Democrats versus Republicans, though there are plenty of glaring differences between the parties. Today’s debate is historically reflective of middle class union workers versus multinational corporations.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker holds the fiery ball of ambition. He targeted $117 millions in tax breaks to the wealthy prior to demanding that civil servants give up their right to collectively bargain for fair wages. In essence, Walker escalated the budget gap, and now wants the middle class to fill it.

Today, the Wisconsin GOP balances the budget shortfall on the backs of the people who put out the fires, plow the roads, teach our children and lock up criminals. Wisconsin has become the epicenter of the assault on the middle class.

At a recent rally outside the Wisconsin capitol, a filmmaker challenged the network news to just once iterate that the richest 400 people in America have as much wealth as 155 million of its citizens. CNN’s and Fox News’ combined 2009 incomes from corporate advertising are estimated well above a $1 billion. Neither news outlets covered a rally estimated at tens of thousands.

It appears most Americans still remember that labor unions can be credited for the middle class, the two-day weekend, 40-hour workweek, child labor laws, vacation days and Social Security. Risking their lives, union firefighters rushed to help the victims of the World Trade Center attack.

Corporate politicians like Walker are using the economic downturn to re-engineer society to fit into their own myopic view of the world, to pit the middle class against ourselves. This has nothing to do with balancing a budget. An assault on the collective bargaining rights of union members is an assault on the collective rights of the middle class. Rather than pushing knee-jerk policy, we need a debt-recovery plan that the public can embrace.

Locally, we see the same kind of political shenanigans. Instead of working toward a bipartisan plan, the U.S. House drastically cut funding for senior Medicare, cancer screening for women, the community health center in Kalispell, and asbestos health care aid in Libby.

While Wall Street is again driving the price of gasoline at the pumps and coffee bean futures in Columbia, grocery prices and health insurance premiums continue to rise. The middle class is getting hosed. Our millionaire-club Congress has lost contact with everyday people. Instead it seeks to broker unadulterated power deals while toasting champagne with big money lobbyists. The middle class is left asking, “who represents everyday Americans?”

But by pitting the middle class against itself, corporate politicians hope to curry favors from multinational corporations. The United States Supreme Court’s decision asserting that corporations are people, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, opened a floodgate for corporate money. It was an unprecedented judicial decision that politicians seem happy to exploit. We have now entered an old realm of secrecy reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s infamous 1972 campaign funds referred to as “Rose Mary’s Baby.”

This assault on the middle class is a colossal mistake. It is the first step toward class warfare. And the uber-wealthy should be concerned. Many of us are still looking for decent jobs to feed our families.

America needs civility and leaders who are willing to lead with reason and compromise. It’s time we call for a reasonable plan rather than the old failed rhetoric from our elected officials in Washington, D.C. Fanning the flames of class warfare will degrade our great nation and is dangerous, particularly when we demagogue the union firefighters we depend on to extinguish our fires.

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