Thursday, February 24, 2011

Class war in America

While everyone is watching the Christchurch quake, and the revolutions in the Middle East, something interesting is happening in America. Newly-elected Republican legislatures and governors are using the recession as an excuse to finally destroy the unions, attempting to pass laws ending collective bargaining rights for public sector workers (the last groups which are still unionised) and prohibiting businesses from collecting union dues on behalf of unions. The result has been extraordinary. Rather than meekly accepting a further erosion of their living standards, there have been mass protests against these laws, first in Wisconson and now in Indiana and Ohio. And to prevent their passage, Democratic lawmakers have rendered their legislatures inquorate by fleeing to other states.

As Paul Krugman points out, this isn't just about wages and working conditions, but power. Unions are pretty much the only organisations in America speaking out on economic issues who don't work for the plutocracy. Destroying them will silence that voice, making America "less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy". Krugman's conclusion: "anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people" should hope this plan doesn't succeed.