02.21.11

On Scapegoating — continued

Posted in Permanent Fail at 9:41 am by George Smith

Frank at Pine View Farm continues on the riff that scapegoating — not a word he uses — is at the root of GOP exploitation of anti-labor sentiment.

It relies on rallying the private sector middle class workers against their public sector counterparts. Since private sector livings have been squeezed so hard by the corporate plutocracy, they’re prey to the idea that public-sector unionized workers are being parasites off their wages.

The answer, which should be explained more and isn’t, is to ask them why their wages have squeezed so. And to work to restore to them what has been steadily taken away since the age of Reagan.

Pine View Farm, and quote from the Boston Globe:

Republicans are framing an issue of non-government employees vs. government employees fighting over a shrinking pie. Current events in Wisconsin illustrate this.

If employees’ share of the pie is shrinking, doesn’t it make sense to consider whose share of the pie has been increasing.

Renee Loth considers this in the Boston Globe (emphasis added).

“The problem is that wages and benefits for private-sector workers have collapsed. ‘People are squeezed,’’ said Harris Gruman, executive director of the Service Employees International Union state council. ‘Working-class people who’ve lost their own benefits are subsidizing workers in the public sector who still have these things. It’s an unsustainable situation politically.’

“The answer, Gruman quickly adds, is not to strip government workers of their health and security — a beggar-thy-neighbor approach that lowers everyone’s standard of living — but to improve the prospects of others. ‘The resentment is misplaced,’ he said. “You need to increase private-sector unionization so those workers can start getting decent benefits again.’’

And resentment it is. DD wrote about it earlier, again triggered by PVF. And I regularly read the columns of the horrid Ted Nugent. Nugent is all about resentment. Without it, he has no material for his columns.

From January:

Lamentable articles in the New York Times have outlined Republican and Wall Street efforts to attack state unions as root causes of our economic troubles. It seems to do no good to say that unions have been under public attack for a long time and that they’ve been crippled by US business interests.

Those with the money rely on scapegoating and resentment to fuel sentiment against them. The mental equation appealing to baser emotion is simple one: Because those in the private sector have had it very hard, then the middle class union workers left — mostly in state and federal government — need punishing as well.

There have been other ways to describe it, Nitzschean Ressentiment, being one: “[Because] (I or we) have suffered, it is appropriate and good that even more suffer.”

This is pure scapegoating, rationalized as austerity and belt tightening. The President helped fuel it last year when he fecklessly announced federal employee wage freezing after election losses.

My view, from seeing the protests on television, is that once neighbors see the faces of the protesters, even if they’re not public-sector union workers, they’re far less likely to fall prey to GOP machinations in the state. And maybe more likely to join them on the line. Or at least wish them good luck from the comfort of the home.

Add a small measure of doing DD performances at Artscape — nobody in the small audiences, which must surely include some middle class Republicans, complain when we do “Middle Class Blues,” “China Toilet Blooz” or “Lloyd Blankfein.”

They have either been beggared personally or have friends who’ve fallen on very hard times. And they don’t mind when you suggest going after the real villains instead of the neighbors.

There are people whose incoherent rage over union workers is almost inexplicable.

Here we have the Lehigh Valley Conservative, a right wing lunatic blog in my old PA stomping grounds, an ex-union man who can be counted upon to foam at the mouth over what’s going on in Wisconsin.

The LVC kook is a great example of the people the GOP anti-labor dogwhistles are exquisitely tuned for.

The man hates on the Wisconsin protesters who, he sez, are on the dole:

The situation in Wisconsin is out of hand. The teachers are playing hooky from their teaching responsibilities and are actually busing the students to protest against the Governor at the Capitol. They have no right to do that. The Democrats are fleeing out of state so they don’t have to vote to bring the issue to a close. They are on the public dole along with the teachers and union leaders and yet they are AWOL. The teachers should be given an ultimatum to show up in class or be fired.

And that is what a union exists for. You can’t fire even half of a state’s school teachers. They are not immediately replaceable and have the power of a collective.

From January, again:

In his book, Class, Paul Fussell had a few things to say about scapegoating and how it is tied to bitterness in the working class. And how easily it turns people on each other. Or perhaps I’m reading too much into it. The book, after all, was written many years ago.

However, I’ve mentioned it from time to time on this domain. And it seems appropriate to close from something back in 2008 on the old blog.

Class war, Fussell noted, was never far from the surface in the United States.

Now it has erupted. But we’re still losing because Wall Street and the Republican Party are adept at turning … loathing at the wrong targets.

“Inflation, unemployment, a static economy” have set into stone conditions in which “the mass of Americans now find themselves” moving down, he wrote. “There used to be room at the top.” Now there’s plenty of room at the bottom, vicinities near which many of us will become acquainted with, sooner than later.

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