Saturday, April 14, 2012

Creating a Permanent Underclass

Life isn’t sunny without money
Body and soul separate too soon
We’ve learned there is no Easter Bunny
You must work hard and cannot swoon
Yet, to inherit the earth, you must first die
So test your freedoms as you fly
You have so little choice
And so I say: Rejoice
Especially you women
Take the day off to go swimmin’

As the GOP commits to fight for freedom, you may begin to ask for whom? Surely, there is no freedom for women to control their own bodies as now a couple dozen “conservative” states are enacting laws that mandate that women asking for an abortion undergo a forced sonogram as a way to shame them. Even if the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, this denial of 4th amendment rights will be done by state functionaries with the cost to be borne by the woman despite the fact that she gets no medical benefit from the intrusion. Wisconsin, that last year slashed the rights of unions to negotiate, has also declared that women have no right to equal pay for equal work with the bill just signed by Scott Walker. That puts a consistent and official face on Republican policy no matter their utterings.

Several states controlled by Republican legislatures and governors are moving rapidly to tear rights away from women. While the given rationale is to enhance Christian morality, the consistent outcome is to reduce the power of women in our democratic society. Recent presidential candidate Rick Santorum, or “Sanitarium” as some of his Southern supporters call him, has said that he wants to “throw up” when he hears JFK talk about separation of Church and State. He sees this as a rejection of the concept of getting our basic rights from God. There is an almost delicious irony that it is exactly his theme that rights given by states can be taken by states that is being executed by right wing state governments across this great republic. No serious voter would have imagined that law settled in the1950s that guaranteed women the right to contraceptives would be threatened in 2012. Surely nobody imagined that the democratic process of voting for representatives would be shelved in favor of autocratic rule by unelected petty/party czars as now in Michigan. Of all the threats to democracy, I cannot imagine one worse than that now thriving in Michigan. In that state, controlled by an ultra-conservative majority, the governor has absolute authority to disenfranchise legally elected representatives and replace them with highly paid czars who report only to the governor and not to the people. Governor Snyder has, in fact, appointed single authorities to replace the governments of Benton Harbor, Flint, Highland Park, Ecorse, Pontiac and Hamtramck as well as several school districts. In other words, the governor has the power to void the elections of any Michigan political entity and supplant the elected with his appointment. If that sounds totalitarian, and it does, it has been executed in a totalitarian manner as well by violation of the Michigan rule that laws not specifically endorsed by 2/3 of the state legislature cannot be immediately put into effect. The second aberration has been fulfilled in the state legislature where the majority has not allowed a count to prove/disprove that 2/3 voted to support “immediate effect.” No Democrats have voted to support the aberration and video shows Democrats trying to get that count and being rejected by the Majority Speaker. It is a putsch in America.

Surely, Michigan is not the first state to experience money issues or even to have elected politicians who cannot immediately solve a financial crisis. In other states, a receiver has been appointed, often by a court, to guide elected politicians and even manage money. I have known where a receiver was required to sign city checks over a given amount, say $5,000. This is the very first time that I have known of a complete takeover by a governor with the abrogation of duly elected officials. Further, the local czars appointed by Governor Snyder can dispose of city property by selling it to friends or otherwise deprive the city of property/revenue without review. Those are dictatorial powers, not compatible with democracy. Another unique aspect of this dictatorship is that only minority cities and towns were grabbed. This alone poses a threat of creating a permanent underclass of minorities in Michigan. Women have long been subject to deprivation by systems that pay men more for equal work and by systems that block access to women’s healthcare such as that offered by Planned Parenthood. Mittens Romney, when asked by a woman how she could get healthcare if Planned Parenthood were eliminated callously remarked that she “was free to seek the healthcare anywhere,” as if she had the money to do so. Please tell me how a woman who is so resource poor that she depends upon Planned Parenthood for her healthcare can possibly shop for healthcare. This is an insidious sentence to permanent poverty because the woman will be denied healthcare and accelerated in her cycle of poverty. Contraceptives may be available for women with money to pay for them, but poor women simply are not able. The poverty cycle gets boosted by unwanted pregnancies. Women susceptible to complicated gynecological issues need special and expensive contraceptives. Otherwise, they are unable to get meaningful and fairly compensated work. So we have a concentrated effort by the right wing that now controls the GOP to worsen the status quo for women and minorities. Combine this with a tax code that favors the wealthy and demands no sacrifice from them and we begin to see the concrete harden for an ever more permanent underclass.

Historically, we once saw men and women, especially women, lift themselves by their bootstraps with two major components being available to them. We actually had 1) a safety net in healthcare and aid for food subsistence as well as 2) an affordable secondary education system. By using the circular argument that women have no right to equal pay (Wisconsin, 2012 despite Lilly Ledbetter Act) because they may have to leave the workplace due to unwanted pregnancies or health issues and then denying women cheap healthcare and contraception, we have denied them equal access to the workplace. Policies that support outrageously high secondary education costs, seal off the last remaining exit from poverty. So the cycle of the illogical is completed. Women are not entitled to equal pay for equal work because they may not become qualified in the workplace, and our policies will ensure that the women cannot become qualified. While some may see a religious message in all that, I see an economic message. Across this nation, women are being told that the Viagra so needed to enable men to get them pregnant is economically justified, but contraception is not economically justified. Everybody knows that preventive healthcare is about 90% cheaper than emergency room visits or pregnancies. Is the motive for this policy religion or economics? Have women become too competitive for us men in the workplace? Women and minorities suffered most from the 2007 recession. Is it best to write them off as a permanent underclass? When we do hire them (women and minorities), we can pay them less, thus achieving greater competitive power and allowing even higher profits for the real people: “Corporations are people, my friend.” (Mitt Romney, August 11, 2011, Iowa State Fair).

As we continue to lower the cost of labor and compete for the lowest available markets, we need fewer educated people and can return to the good old days of Charles Dickens. The wealthy will protect us and our children by putting us all to work for less. “God Bless us, every one.”

We have an election coming and we need to see what has happened to our nation through the current redistribution of wealth from the have littles to the have lots through corporate welfare/socialism and tax systems that reward wealth (Romney pays less that 15%?) We must take on that mission with as much determination as we have to stop the reverse. Real tax rates are the lowest they have been in more than 50 years and wealth inequity charts demonstrate that we are out of balance. Did we learn that trickle down does not work? The Bush tax cuts have been operating for more than 10 years. Has that helped anybody in the middle or lower classes climb the economic ladder?
Summer will soon be upon us. It is nearly time to go swimming, but keep your eyes peeled for the sharks out there. They will have a feeding frenzy at election time. The chum is in the water.

George Giacoppe
14 April 2012

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