Monday, September 05, 2005

After 30 Years on the Line

After 30 Years on the Line

After 30 Years on the Line (2001)

From workingforchange -- "When Things Go Bad, Bush Attacks Unions" by David Sirota (5-5-05):

President Bush is back at his war against labor unions, this time promising them retribution if they continue to oppose Social Security privatization. GOP political hacks at the Labor Department sent the AFL-CIO a threatening letter claiming the union's opposition to Bush's plan may be breaking the law. In fact, it's exactly the opposite: if the union didn't oppose destroying Social Security, it might be breaking the law.

First, the details: the administration charges that the union is violating its fiduciary duty by threatening to remove its pension investments from Wall Street firms that are actively lobbying for the privatization scheme. By law, pension systems are basically obligated to try to get the best pension benefits for their workers, regardless of politics.


But here's the thing with Bush's argument: the union has a fiduciary duty to make sure workers get the best return on their investments, and more broadly, the most generous overall pension benefits possible. What the administration didn't acknowledge in its letter is that those overall pension benefits inherently include Social Security because a workers' overall retirement pension is the mix of both their private pension, and Social Security.

Thus, the AFL-CIO is perfectly justified in using workers' pensions to advocate for the policies that will best shore up Social Security for the long-term, and oppose those that will destroy the system. If, as Bush wants, the union continued to blindly invest worker pension money in Wall Street firms that were actively working to destroy Social Security, the union would be doing a financial disservice to the workers it is supposed to protect. In other words, the union would likely be violating its fiduciary duty if it DIDN'T do everything it could to oppose Bush's plan and try to make sure Social Security was preserved for the long-haul.

It is easy to see that Bush's move has little to do with "upholding the law" and everything to do with trying to save his privatization scheme. Even congressional Republicans admit as much. As the New York Times notes, "House Republicans viewed the warning as a shot over the bow of labor at a time when Mr. Bush's plan has largely stalled in Congress and when Wall Street firms have distanced themselves from it." His plan is so radical and controversial, the Financial Times this morning noted that even House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) is backing away from it.

Now, desperate for a lifeboat, Bush is going back to the doing what he always does when he is in a fight: attack workers and unions. As I've shown in an earlier post, this is all part of Bush's desire to destroy the labor movement, and limit workers' rights. After all, at heart, Bush is a blueblood elitist who never had to do a days work in his life. To him workers' rights and interests are nuisances, not priorities. Too bad for him workers are fighting back.

Today, as you have the day off to celebrate labor in America, it might be worth noting that workers have lost considerable ground under the current administration. Bush sees only the "have mores" -- his base, as he once said in his own words. See the link in the last paragraph above for an excellent summary of all the ways BushCo has actively campaigned to undermine labor. And, ironically, the New York Times reported today on the ever-increasing gulf between workers and CEOs:

The top fifth of earners in Manhattan now make 52 times what the lowest fifth make $365,826 compared with $7,047 -- roughly comparable to the income disparity in Namibia, according to the Times analysis of 2000 Census data. Put another way, for every dollar made by households in the top fifth of Manhattan earners, households in the bottom fifth made about 2 cents.

That represents a substantial widening of the income gap from previous years. In 1980, the top fifth of earners made 21 times what the bottom fifth made in Manhattan, which ranked 17 th among the nation’s counties in income disparity.

[...]

Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, said the income gap, which in Manhattan has historically been large, can endure indefinitely.

"The elites, the top sliver of the income scale, can drive consumption and investment forward while the bottom half slogs along," he said. "If inequality had embedded within it its own seeds of destruction, it would implode sooner than later. But that doesn't appear to be the case. Many who have fallen behind have a skewed notion of their prospects for upward mobility."

This income disconnect is a national phenomenon -- and perpetuated through catapulted propaganda. As a book like What's the Matter with Kansas shows, the have-nots, drawn to emotional wedge issues like gay marriage, continue to vote for Republicans, who, consistently and without a shred of empathy, show again and again that filling the coffers of the American aristocracy trump filling the bellies and enriching the lives of hardworking citizens.

Kayne West was only half right. Bush doesn't care about anyone -- but the "have-more," upper 1%.

And, inexorably, the rest of us lose ground with each passing day. Maybe next election more of you will think about Bush the Oilman working hard to gut social security and what it cost you in gas to travel this holiday instead of voting to end the scourge of flag burnings that you encounter, well, never.

~/~

UPDATE: Could Bush's obliviousness for anyone but the "have-mores" be genetic? Don't strain your brain wondering -- as Barbara Bush's comments today (courtesy of Eschaton) show mental workouts aren't part of the family trust:

NEW YORK Accompanying her husband, former President George H.W. Bush, on a tour of hurricane relief centers in Houston, Barbara Bush said today, referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."

[...]

In a segment at the top of the show on the surge of evacuees to the Texas city, Barbara Bush said: "Almost everyone I’ve talked to wants to move to Houston."

Then she added: "What I’m hearing is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed with the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (she chuckled)--this is working very well for them."

Does this just blow your "beautiful mind?"

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