Who really has your best interest at heart in the battle to balance state and federal budgets?
In the battle of the state budgets the bottom line on all sides comes down to money. Gee, what a shocker in our consumer oriented culture. For conservatives it’s all about cutting costs in the public sector where the people they represent who have the least power will be denied that assistance that keeps them in the game of life. For Progressives it’s about preventing the private sector from hijacking social programs that enable those who have the least power and would otherwise not benefit on a level playing field without them.
But this divide really isn’t along ideological splits as much as it is along societal and self-interest concerns. Both sides have those who will be negatively impacted by cuts that either see their salary lowered, the workload increased or a combination of both. For many others it will be the worst scene scenario of job losses. But for well-healed conservatives this tact really doesn’t improve the quality of life for those future generations they claim they are fighting this fight for.
In the situation playing out in Wisconsin and soon to be carrying over into other states is the attempt by the conservatives who are backed by private monied interests to bust up unions; one of the largest groups in the country that tend to support social-conscience Democrats. With unions weakened the campaign contributions that many Democrats rely on could dry up. This counter-measure to the wealthy conservative PACs that support Republicans has helped maintain a balance in political battles but once it’s gone the GOP and other conservative groups will have an upper hand in funding their candidates and causes. The Robert’s Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case guaranteed that. Long-term rule by one Party will be the outcome.
But this is only an aspect of what corporate private interests are really after. By killing unions and the right of public workers to unite for the purpose of protecting their positions, the CEO’s and their lucrative paid board members gain more control over a factor that affects their profits – workers’ wages. If there is any doubt that GOP interests are not aligned with wealthy corporate interests one merely needs to look back at the battle they waged last December where they threatened that the Bush tax cuts would not be sustained for anyone unless the wealthiest 2% were included. Unwilling to battle for the wealthy at a later date when the economy had revived some was not even a consideration by the GOP.
No one bemoans the fact that companies exist to make profits in order to survive and grow. Our economy relies on it. But profits that don’t promote growth for all who have invested themselves in a company’s goal is money that only makes a handful of people wealthier and the larger, working class population poorer. And the bogus notion that tax cuts for the wealthy improve the economy can now be easily dismissed in face of the it’s abysmal failure during the Bush/Cheney years.
When conservative legislators cut wages to balance the state budgets on the backs of educators, public health workers, fire fighters, police and community infrastructure workers like waste disposal and water supply maintenance, they are sending a signal to corporate investors that says we won’t tax you to assist in providing essentials to our citizens. That’s money they can put back in their overstuffed pockets.
By eliminating public jobs to correct mismanaged budgeting practices of the state, corporations are given a larger base of people to pick and choose from who are often forced to take jobs where the pay scale is lower than in times past and with fewer, more costly benefits like health insurance coverage for workers. Once unions around the country have been brought to their knees there no longer exists a force to keep employers honest concerning wages and work safety. All that private sector employees enjoy today in terms of job income, health care benefits, two-day weekends, work safety conditions and minimum wages are the results of unions fighting for them through collective bargaining.
The ultimate goal of many corporations is to fulfill the scheme of people like Grover Norquist who literally wants to eliminate the public sector to allow private interests to cash in on the vast wealth citizens lay out in taxes for services and programs. This of course has a certain appeal to it from the business model that supposedly works efficiently to serve their customer base lest they lose that loyalty to a competitor. But unlike the public sector the private interests of a few people are dedicated to their self-interests and those of big investors and stock holders, not primarily to the people they are supposed to serve.
The belief that if a business isn’t serving their clientage satisfactorily at reasonable prices will force the customer to go elsewhere and serve as a corrective force for providing quality products (the so-called “invisible hand” of the market) is true , but mainly when you are talking about small businesses; businesses who do not have slush funds or a Political Action Committee (PAC) to influence legislators to favor them with no-bid contracts and to look the other way when laws are broken. Large corporate, multi-national businesses have vast amounts of wealth they spend solely for fighting law suits from citizens who have been harmed by their goods or services while spreading that wealth into diverse branches of the business to reduce their risk of losses that might be impacted by such lawsuits. Small businesses do not have this luxury.
Illustration by Victor Juhasz
Thus the citizen actually loses real control, theoretically anyway by allowing private interests, not state agencies overseen by elected officials to provide our children basic education, health care facilities for the elderly and the means to ensure air and water safety for public consumption. Private sectors will look at their bottom line first before they make a needed adjustment that insures a safe and cost-effective outcome for the goods and services they provide. Public funded entities rely on established standards set by concerned citizens as their guide, not profits that could determine a high bonus for one of their executives.
And for anyone who would suggest that we can have the best of both worlds where the private sector performs the service or supplies the goods with some governmental watch dog agencies making sure they don’t cut corners that undermine the general welfare, need I remind you of the slush funds and the corporate PACs already in place that attack such watch dogs today as interferences and obstacles to “free markets mechanisms” – that hallowed claim that invokes the fear of “socialism” by the very people who have already robbed the nation of billions with their toxic mortgage assets, high credit interest rates, predatory lending practices and polluting waste disposal into our drinking water systems.
The imagery that corporate billionaires have established with their phony funded Astroturf organizations of an over-reaching government, like the Koch Funded Americans for Prosperity group, were never intended to protect the public from government excesses. They were established to allow those excesses to continue WITHOUT regulatory oversight so the federal largesse would continue to flow into their personal and corporate accounts and out of the paltry savings, purses and pockets of working families.
The conversation that Governor Walker of Wisconsin thought he was having with corporate billionaire David Koch is not unlike all the other conversations that go on between political figures in local, state and national offices and private corporate lobbyists. Their’s is a partnership to divest the public of funds that were intended to improve the general welfare of their citizens through elected officials. As they succeed in this they slowly eliminate competitive markets of the public sector that block the self-serving, profit-motivated private interest.
The assurance by free-market capitalists that some “invisible hand” will keep well-funded, diverse, multi-national corporations honest in today’s global market is a whitewash of a principle that no-longer has the merit it did when it was formulated 250 years ago. Why do people keep taking the bait about how deregulation is good and the business model serves all of our social needs? If the failure of capitalism and cronyism between government and corporate lobbyists in 2008 didn’t expose this fraudulent notion to voters, then we are doomed as a democracy and headed for a plutocracy
Large, unregulated or so-called self-policed businesses are an invitation for greedy people to do what they have done since man first walked the earth – take from others everything they can for their own well-being.