I am beginning to think that we are going to have to reinvent the entire New Deal before long. Bit by bit, its fundamental programs and ideals appear to be under attack from the right in wave after wave which seem to be externally choreographed.
This concerted, sophisticated attack is new in my political memory and I’ve lived a long time. In fact, I was a baby when FDR was first elected. I was a child and teenager when union membership became a fact of life and a source of strength for working men and women. Social Security pensions were enacted when I was in grade school and Brown v. Board of Education desegregated schools when I began my teaching life.
Yes, I thought this was settled history, settled policy and, if you will, settled public morality. However, the very existence of unions are under attack these days and so are the economic policies that we have associated with them. (Typically, in my neighboring school district, the teachers are working without a contract and yet the highly paid superintendent has been given a substantial raise.)
Crooks and Liars, that marvelous liberal blog, has posted a video of FOX’s Bulls and Bears Panel in which all the talking heads, except the poor lone Democrat, were lauding the current GM plan to link plant productivity to pay raises. (Doesn’t this sound strangely similar to promoting and paying teachers based on their students‘ test scores? Interesting similarity, eh? Sounds as if they have found a talking point that sounds great to them.)
This GM plan sounds strangely similar to “piece work” which was something that the original UAW organizers fought against. In the first assembly line, Henry Ford fired workers who had to leave their posts for bathroom breaks. By the way, one of the rights that striking workers won in the bloody Flint Strike in 1936-7 was the right to talk in the lunch room. (Talk is dangerous.)
I wonder if young people today even hear in classrooms the names of the great American labor leaders, such as Walter Reuther [Here] and Hugo Chavez [Here], and union advocates, such as the great Frances Perkins? [Here.] Probably not.
Another bleak forecast for this year (2011) is the number of homes that are expected to be foreclosed. [Here] Realtors are predicting that this year will be the bleakest year since the housing collapse in 2006. At the present time more than 5 million Americans are behind in their mortgages. A real estate tracking firm predicts that 1.2 million homes will be foreclosed this year. [Here]
I cannot begin to imagine the heartache and despair that that figure represents. More than half of the foreclosures last year were focused in five states: California, Florida, Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. I wonder how many of these foreclosures were accompanied by legal and proper paperwork?
And, yes, all of the above thoughts are connected. The attack on the very foundations of the union movement and the growing despair of the most vulnerable in our society with no effective and outraged governmental response means that the spirit of the New Deal is dying for the first time since it was born in the 1930’s.
Social Security and Medicare will be attacked from the rightwing directly after the Congress deals with the new Health Care Plan. The billionaire brothers Koch and Pete Peterson have been waiting for this moment for years.
Do you think Obama is ready for them?...