Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Nasty Party


The party that brought us trickle-down-economics (the sainted Ronald Reagan) and trickle-down-democracy (the much-feted Scott Walker), and which possesses a rock-hard radical carapace, apparently impervious to reason and compassion, is looking once again to the place that enabled the political comeback of one of its less-favourite sons, and one of its own earlier reincarnations: Orange County.

Costa Mesa in particular.

The LA Times reported that state Republican Party leadership is enamoured of the city’s plan to lay off half of its workers, give critical work to private contractors (thereby neatly side-stepping the inconvenience posed by public-sector unions), and—by focussing their fire on public-sector workers’ pensions—embrace a strategy based on dragging down the standards of the workforce as a whole rather than looking at the ways in which unionisation has played a role in improving the livelihoods of public-sector workers. 

It is extraordinary that a major political party ascribes to an ideology and political program which not only permits, but encourages, the artificial generating of unemployment by deliberately making use of the very institutions of government it incessantly derides to maliciously target sectors of the workforce which in turn perform work that is essential to the public’s well-being.

Their actions are all the more extraordinary in the face of a mass of evidence showing that the economic insecurity their plans would engender is itself a major contributor to many social ills.  And that the fractured social services that would result from GOP plans has been identified as particularly detrimental to those hovering on the economic brink, populating, among other areas, those rural regions of the state dominated by the Republican Party. 

The state Republican Party also ignores the evidence that suggests that the shortage of highly-skilled workers in a service-oriented economy (who are largely the product of our public higher education system) will have severe implications for our state in the long term.  And they fail to acknowledge that the wage stagnation that has characterised Californians’ lives since the 1970s* is actually exacerbated by attacks on organised labour, particularly for people at the bottom of salary scales (A Portrait of California, 2011: 116-120). 

This nasty political party is relying on widespread public ignorance, a mis-directed sense of grievance, and the acquiescence of just enough Californians to the view that what is good for the high fliers at the top is good for the rest of us: that we can all live well without the wealthy paying their fair share; and that success in the face of long, politically-engineered economic odds is the only proper measure of our worth.

* “By 2005, California taxpayers in the top 20 percent were reporting 64 percent of all the income in the state, up by 50 percent since 1975.  The income share of the middle 60 percent fell from just over half in 1975 to only one-third in 2005.  In the past decade, income inequality has been so extrme that the income share of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has exceeded that of the combined shares of the bottom 60 percent of income earners since 2000” (A Portrait of California, 2011: 117).

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