Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and homes since the financial collapse of 2008. Tens of millions more are in fear of losing their jobs and homes. Conservatives and tea party activists have chosen to blame the government and public sector workers for what ails us. This narrative has flourished in our political discourse despite the facts to the contrary.
And what this clearly demonstrates is that a fearful electorate can be easily manipulated by a corrupt and self-serving political elite. The most recent targets of anti-government forces are American unions, especially public sector unions. Why, you ask? It’s a political calculation. Deny unions the ability to organize and collect union dues and you rob the Democratic Party of a major source of political campaign funding and muscle.
And how are they turning American workers against unions? Through something that can be characterized as “union envy”. Recent surveys suggest that union workers tend to be more educated, and earn 27% more than non-union workers. Union members often also have the pensions and health insurance benefits that millions of non-union workers no longer have. The conservative, tea party narrative leads many to ask the question: “Why should they have something I don’t have?” And that’s exactly the wrong question. The real question is why we don’t all have what union members have.
The answer is that powerful, special interests have taken over important government institutions, and turned them against the American people. Tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans seem to be winning out at all levels of government (federal, state, and local) over services such as health care, education, and infrastructure that are important to the middle class. A government that cares about people would dedicate itself to creating the conditions needed to grow the middle class, not allow more and more wealth to be concentrated in the hands of the few.
There is plenty of wealth to go around. Americans should all receive high quality health care, should have a decent place to live, and enough food to eat. Americans able to work should be paid a livable wage, and should be able to trade pay for benefits as many union members have done, to opt for the health insurance, child care, pensions, or anything else they need. The point is, we should collectively be figuring out how to make the lives of American families better, not turning on one another. Misery may love company, but in the long run, wouldn’t we all rather see to it that each of us has a shot at not being miserable?