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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The PLATFORM On Which They Stand: Part 2

As we said two weeks ago on this Blog, even though it has been implied that the Republican platform means very little, it is clear that this is a document that defines where a party stands; it defines the “brand.”  As it says in the first sentence of the Preamble, “The 2012 Republican Platform is a statement of who we are and what we believe as a Party….”

In this case, it defines where the extreme right-wing of the Party stands.  Unfortunately, it is that wing that is now taking over, if it has not already, the heart and soul of the Republican Party.  Indeed, if Romney/Ryan want the complete support of their base, they will pay attention to what this platform says.  And, in that vein, it makes sense that all of us should pay attention.  That’s why, today, I want to pull out for your consideration, two more examples of the adverse policies and concepts that will be the basis of actions in a Republican administration and in a Republican Congress.

1)    “We will restore the rule of law to labor law by blocking ‘card check’, enacting the Secret Ballot protection Act, enforcing the Hobbs Act against labor violence, and passing the Raise Act to allow all workers to receive well-earned raises without the approval of their union representative.  We demand an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act….We support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work  laws and encourage them to do so…. Ultimately we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law….We will aggressively enforce the recent decision by the Supreme Court barring the use of union dues for political purposes without the consent of the worker… proposing legislation to bar mandatory dues for political purposes.”

    What is left to be said?  Only that the Republican party is against anything that gives a break to unions.  Is it not clear from all this that the GOP sees Labor unions as the enemy, rather than an essential part of the work force, and a factor in business growth?  In stark contrast to their support of Business, and corporations -- with all kinds of breaks, subsidies, and tax loopholes, as well as favorable attention -- they are taking every opportunity, not only to diminish the effect of unions on businesses, but to blunt their effectiveness in the political arena.  They do not want unions to have the power any longer to deliver any election - national or local - to Democrats. 

    All of the above planks support one concept:  the right to work without being a union member.  Right-to-Work laws abolish agency fees and allow workers themselves to decide if a union deserves their financial support.  Their effect is to allow non-union workers to work for less than union scale, and thus benefit employers in cutting costs. One 2001 study indicated that “the mean effect of working in a right-to-work state results in a 6% to 8% reduction in wages for workers in these states, with an average wage penalty of 6.5%. Controlling for regional costs of living reduces this amount to approximately 4%. We find that previous research reporting real wage gains associated with right-to-work states is almost purely the result of border cities that benefit from their proximity to a non-RTW state.”

    This attack on labor unions by the Republican party is not new.  According to one article by Joseph A. McCartin, published August 2, 2011, in the NY Times:

    “THIRTY years ago today, when he threatened to fire nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers unless they called off an illegal strike, Ronald Reagan not only transformed his presidency, but also shaped the world of the modern workplace.  More than any other labor dispute of the past three decades, Reagan’s confrontation with the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or Patco, undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions.”

    Today, the attack is so severe, especially in states like Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida, that long-standing support from certain unions (such as firefighters)  for the GOP is at risk.  It is perhaps not so much RTW laws that have turned the tide, but the threat to the very process by which unions gained their strength and their contract benefits - collective bargaining rights. 

    Just three decades later, it has become clear that the fallout from the Patco strike has hurt workers and distorted politics in ways Reagan himself did not advocate or envision.  For although he was a conservative, Reagan basically supported the concept that private sector workers’ rights to organize were fundamental in a democracy.  Not so with today’s Radical Republicans, and their platform is the proof of how far Republicans have moved away from Reagan’s position.
2)    “we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides as the best or sole methods through which fairness can be achieved, whether in government, education, or corporate boardrooms.  Merit, ability, aptitude, and results should be the factors that determine advancement in our society.”

    A hand-up to those in our society needing the support of others is not part of the rugged individualism, individual initiative and “I built it all myself” mind-set of the Republican Party.  There is no room left for affirmative action, or Pell grants, or broad GI bills, or even for help with failed mortgages. 

    The second sentence above says it all:  the only way for people to advance in this society is on their own “merit, ability, aptitude and results.”  Never mind that the GOP is also responsible for cutting back on many programs and policies that would enable some people actually to succeed on their merits if they were just given the chance.  You can’t expect everyone to succeed in the same way.  Moreover, you can’t put obstacles in the way of success if you truly believe that this is a society dedicated to individual initiative and entrepreneurship. 

    How will certain people succeed if they are held back and blocked by poverty, homelessness, racial or sex discrimination, lack of quality education, or societal invisibility?  What if the talent of that young woman who was living in a homeless shelter with her parents had never been recognized by a teacher or mentor?  Would she have gotten to that science fair to display her understanding and aptitude?  Of course not.  Such things don’t just happen.

    The current GOP must be excoriated for its outright tendency to put obstacles to success in the way, to ignore barriers to success, or to actually support those barriers.  Take a young man or woman of the upper economic class - say someone in a family with annual income well into six figures.  What do they have to start their life’s journey with?  A nice home with all sorts of amenities.  Probably a set of parents ready to spend enormous sums to provide the best for them and to dote on them just enough to give them the idea that they are special.  Access to toys and games that are entertaining as well as educational.  Expectations placed on them by parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers - a whole community of like-minded and endowed people who have a stake in the success of “their kind”.  Opportunities abound:  from toys to sports to cars to prestigious colleges to foreign travel to fantastic vacations. 

    Let’s be clear:  these children have everything necessary to succeed.  Taking advantage of what they are given is their assigned task in life.  They probably have a computer, an I-pad, a mobile I-phone and technology galore - even at an early age.  Yet, some would begrudge access to that kind of thing for “welfare” kids because it’s too expensive and “wastes the taxpayers’ money.” 

    And, isn’t that the point:  that there is ingrained in the attitude of individual initiative and aptitude a basic, sometimes unconscious, prejudice against others who have less to start with?  There is nothing wrong with success, as long as it is built on an ethical base that my success must not injure, harm or degrade another’s life, but must contribute to the welfare of other people and to society in general.  Where is that ethical value in this Platform?

    A level playing field is a fantasy.  It does not, and will not, exist in a Republican universe.  They don’t want it because it would take away from their success, from their accomplishments, from their way of life.  This is at the base of my disagreement with their platform, their party, their members, their world-view. 

    True success on many levels is not built merely on a platform of individual initiative and talent.  One measure of the true success of a society is built upon a platform that cares deeply for the welfare of the most vulnerable among us, because a society that doesn’t care for all its vulnerable people cannot sustain a democratic process or a mobile society. 

    Another measure of success is the effort that a society or government puts into removing barriers to success.  This starts with universal health care as a right and not a privilege.  It continues with an education that aspires to be the best in the world, and which provides to every child the tools and opportunities by which they can indeed become anything they desire.  It continues with a job that not only pays adequate wages, but which provides some measure of dignity to the occupier.  It culminates in a retirement that is well-planned, well-funded, and well-managed.  And one cannot do that without Social Security, an adequate pension, and personal savings or investments that are guarded, secured and overseen by just and fair regulators and regulations.  Along the way, everyone needs mentors and advocates who will help remove or overcome the obstacles that we all face.

    This is NOT the definition of a “dependent” society; this is a commonwealth society, built upon a Judeo-Christian platform that does not consign people to a trash-heap but treats all with dignity, respect and with a moral force that says we are all in this together and another’s welfare is as important as mine.  Your success is my success.  Your difficulties are my difficulties. Your problems belong to me as well as to you.  This is what the Republican platform is missing:  the living concept that we are all mutually responsible and forever interdependent.  Yes, it takes a caring community to raise a child and to see that that child prospers on behalf of us all, not simply for his or her own aggrandizement.

    Individual initiative is an excellent concept.  But missing the key ingredients of interdependence,  responsibility to all and community welfare, it is hollow and ineffective for it limits society by creating a privileged class that separates itself from the rest in order to hoard its success and deny the same opportunity to others--all for fear of losing some of its own wealth and standing.  Many other societies have been injured by this creed, for their creation of privilege for the few has resulted in denigration of the many and led to corruption, degradation, injustice, and disorder. 

    Hopefully, by paying greater attention to what is at stake in these platform concepts, we can avoid this fate.  But make no mistake:  buying in to this right-wing, plutocratic, individualistic clap-trap is a sure path to a society that will not, and cannot, maintain “liberty and justice for all.”