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Thursday, April 14, 2011 04:00 pm

Sacrificing teachers and firefighters to Hoovernomics

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America owes a debt of gratitude to such insightful Republican governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Were it not for them, many Americans — myself included — would still be thinking that today’s state budget messes are mainly the product of a national economic crash caused by the reckless greed of Wall Street banksters and rich speculators, as well as the abject failure by political leaders to tax their super-wealthy campaign contributors in order to meet the growing needs in education and other essentials. Luckily, the GOP guvs have set the record straight by explaining that the budget woes are the fault of teachers who have health coverage and firefighters who get pensions.

You see, it’s these greedy public employees, pulling down $30,000 to $50,000 a year, who’re sapping the economy and draining government treasuries — NOT billionaire casino dealers in Wall Street hedge funds who pay far lower tax rates than a firefighter and contribute far less to our nation than a teacher.

It has literally been incredible to hear these learned governors lecture us that fixing state budgets is simple: deregulate corporate power, cut taxe on the super-rich (again), fire tens of thousands of middle-class public employees, eliminate state programs even as the need for them rises and — just to boost the morale of teachers, firefighters and others — take away their democratic right to bargain collectively for workplace fairness.

Unfortunately for the governors, the public still doesn’t get it. By overwhelming margins, the people oppose these gubernatorial assaults on workers, worker rights and America’s middle-class dream. The governors can flim and flam, deceive and deflect, but they should remember that two things not long for this world are dogs that chase cars and politicians who lie to the people.

While lying to the people is a big problem for these guvs, they’ve got another fundamental flaw that needs fixing. They’re Hooverites.

“Hoover” as in Herbert Hoover. It took him some 80 years, but he has now made what looks to be a full comeback to power. With the Great Depression spreading misery across America, President Hoover’s prescription was to insist on reducing the size and spending of governments in order to boost “business confidence.” Hoovernomics was a disaster for our country, and it was not good for him — he lost the presidency in 1932 to FDR.

So here we are in a new century with widespread relentless unemployment, mass underemployment, stagnant wages, a rapidly falling middle class and dimming economic prospects even for college-educated young Americans. In the face of this destabilizing, inegalitarian pressure on our economy and society, what remedy are America’s corporate and political leaders demanding? Hoovernomics.

Not a single jobs bill is in the congressional hopper. Despite rhetoric about a new green economy, the White House has offered no job-creation plans at all. Instead, Washington’s entire energy is going down the Hoover-hole of restoring business confidence. The deficit is the devil, cry the New Hooverites, as they wildly slash spending and try to kill federal programs like Head Start that lift people up.

Not to be outdone, a covey of extremist right-wing governors are demonizing, disempowering and firing thousands of public employees. These Little Hoovers maniacally shriek that with state revenues down and so many families out of work, the smart thing to do is to eliminate more jobs! They’re shoving teachers, firefighters and other public employees out the door — thus shutting off the taxes that these employees pay to the state, while simultaneously increasing the number of out-of-work people looking for jobs.

If ignorance is bliss, they must be ecstatic. Hoovernomics is back — as goofy and destructive today as it was last century.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.


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