The Reality Of Tar Sands Oil.

It’s telling that, among the priorities of the new Teapublican-controlled Congress, several bills came to the forefront. In addition to further attempts to repeal Obamacare, Teapublicans prioritized the Keystone XL pipeline and reduced funding for the Environmental Protection Agency. And who would this legislation benefit? Certainly not the general public. The primary beneficiaries are the Koch brothers whose companies would be able to refine even more of Canadian tar sands oil without interference from those burdensome government regulations.

Perhaps it’s mere coincidence that the Koch brothers and their ideological friends contributed millions to Teapublican congressional and senate campaigns, laundering the money through a complicated network of non-profits in order to disguise the original donors.

The Kochs and their Teapbulican friends would have you believe that the Keystone XL pipeline is a job creator – one that would create thousands of jobs in the US – when, in fact, studies have shown that it would create only a few thousand temporary jobs and fewer than 500 permanent jobs. What they don’t talk about is the fact that, in order to build the pipeline for its Canadian owners, the government would have to use eminent domain to take private land from ordinary Americans who would see no real benefit from the pipeline. Moreover, the pipeline would cross Native American reservations – so-called independent nations – who oppose the pipeline. It would also cross the nation’s largest, and most important, aquifer.

Even more disturbing is the fact that no one yet knows how to clean up the highly toxic tar sands oil after the inevitable pipeline breaks. We have already seen such spills in Michigan and Arkansas and, after months of trying to clean up the spills, the states’ only “remedy” was to allow the oil to sink to the bottom of the waterways where it will take many generations to disintegrate on its own.

And since Koch facilities near Chicago and Detroit have already been refining this gooey muck, we already know the consequences. A by-product of refining tar sands oil is a fine, black powder known as petcoke – sort of a poor man’s coal. Not knowing what to do with the petcoke, and not wanting to dispose of it in an environmentally-safe way, the Koch refineries have created piles of the stuff. Uncovered and exposed to the elements, it is picked up by the slightest breeze and deposited on surrounding neighborhoods where it covers homes, streets, lawns and vehicles. It also invades the lungs of anyone in the area who breathes!

Moreover, scientists tell us the effects of actually burning the planet’s dirtiest oil is “game over” with regard to climate change!

Of course, the Koch brothers and their lapdogs on the right refuse to consider such inconveniences. There is money to be made now. They will reap the profits from refining and selling the oil, all the while denying any responsibility for dealing with the long-term consequences. In other words, they will do what most every other large corporation does: Privatize the profits while socializing the consequences.

Do you still think the few jobs created by the pipeline are worth the damage to our environment? Do you still think the GOP has your best interests in mind?

The Sad State Of Arizona (2015 Edition)

Before the GOP-created Great Recession, Arizona’s state economy was based on the fantasy that construction could continue until the entire Sonora Desert was covered by homes, shopping malls and golf courses. So since the housing market crashed, Arizona’s economy has languished.

While other states were trying to mend their losses by diversifying, stimulating their economies and raising taxes, Jan Brewer and the GOP-dominated legislature chose, instead, to make cuts. Deep, desperate budget cuts. Yet, despite facing a large deficit, they chose to further reduce revenue by cutting taxes for corporations. At the same time, they put teachers out of work by cutting the funding of public schools. Indeed, since 2009, only Oklahoma has cut more from student funding than Arizona. As a result, the state’s per student funding is now just 69 percent of the national average and its student performance stands at 47th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only 1 in 18 students who enter an Arizona high school will receive a degree from a college or technical school, and those who do earn a degree will likely be buried in student loan debt.

Not content with destroying schools and jobs, the GOP also did what it could to destroy tourism, the state’s 2nd-largest industry, by closing state parks and highway rest stops. And to make the state even less appealing to tourists, they passed the anti-Latino law, SB1070, which made tourists and conventions spurn the state costing us tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

It was as if the GOP was intent on pushing our citizens into its ideological clown car and driving us off a fiscal cliff.

Now along comes the new GOP governor, Doug Ducey, who must have frozen his brain while peddling questionable franchises for Cold Stone Creamery. During the campaign, he and his supporters ran millions of dollars in misleading attack ads accusing his Democratic opponent of raising tuition to the state’s universities. But, now that Ducey has been sworn into office, he has presented a budget that would cut $75 million in funding for post-secondary education. And, though he pledged to increase K-12 education funding during the campaign, he is attempting a shell game in which he proposes to take as much from the already stressed school administration and operations budgets as he would add for classrooms. Moreover, his budget completely ignores the hundreds of millions of dollars a court awarded public schools as the result of previous cuts to education in violation of the state constitution.

Of course, one budget item that will increase is the money allocated to corrections. True to the GOP’s commitment to line the pockets of private prison corporations, Ducey proposes building yet another privately-operated prison at a cost of $5.3 million. But there is no money for the education and rehabilitation of prisoners, so after they serve their time, they are all too likely to commit more crimes. And since the privately-operated health care system for prisons doesn’t track or treat infectious diseases, they are also likely to spread infectious diseases into our communities.

In their obviously delusional minds, Ducey and the Teapublicans still seem to believe that, by further cutting the state’s already low corporate taxes, they will be able to attract corporations to relocate to Arizona bringing with them thousands of high-paying jobs. Anyone who has ever consulted with corporations seeking a place to expand or relocate knows that’s a fantasy.

Corporations, at least good corporations, look for places to expand that offer quality transportation, abundant resources, an abundant high-skilled and well-educated workforce, abundant and low-cost energy, a high quality of living, and affordable taxes…usually in that order. Arizona’s approach will only result in the relocation of corporations that offer low-skill, low-paying jobs or gun manufacturers who are drawn to the state by our heavily-armed population and our virtually non-existent gun laws. Even then, they will only come to Arizona if the state is willing to pay for changes in needed infrastructure, provide further tax cuts and pay for other incentives. All of which explains why, when high tax states like California and Minnesota are thriving with low unemployment and budget surpluses, Arizona has failed to emerge from recession and faces annual budget deficits of $1 billion or more.

In the competition to build a sustainable, thriving economy, it would seem that Arizona can only compete in a contest of Biggest Loser against other red states like Kansas and Mississippi. And the biggest losers of all will be our students.

20 Things President Obama Should Do After The Mid-Terms.

In no particular order of importance:

  1. Normalize relations with Cuba.
  2. Support Palestine for UN membership.
  3. End the War on Drugs and begin the process of decriminalization.
  4. Renew calls for a Public Option as part of the Affordable Care Act.
  5. Negotiate pharmaceutical prices as all other industrialized nations have done.
  6. Rally Americans to aggressively deal with Climate Change.
  7. Push for an end to mandatory sentences for non-violent criminals.
  8. Order the Justice Department to aggressively pursue criminal charges against the banksters who collapsed our economy in 2008.
  9. Order the Justice Department to aggressively pursue charges of war crimes against those involved in the CIA’s torture program.
  10. Deny permission for TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline.
  11. Push for changes to the tax code to prevent the use of offshore tax havens by individuals and corporations.
  12. Push the IRS to prevent 501c3s and 501c4s from engaging in politics.
  13. Aggressively push for immigration reform.
  14. End drone assassinations except as an absolute last resort to deal with terrorist leaders and increase transparency.
  15. Order the removal of ALL American troops from Afghanistan.
  16. Offer government-backed, interest-free college loans based on need.
  17. Demand that Congress pass common-sense gun control measures, including universal background checks and a ban on large ammo clips.
  18. Order the Justice Department to create uniform voting rights across all states.
  19. Aggressively push for an end to human trafficking.
  20. Order the Department of Defense to reduce its reliance on private contractors.

We Can’t Afford That Anymore.

Whenever someone proposes rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, improving schools, funding research for chronic diseases, helping the unemployed, treating the mentally ill, paying pension obligations to public employees, etc., our politicians are quick to say that we can’t afford those things anymore.

Say what? The richest nation on Earth can’t afford to meet the needs of its own citizens?

In reality, it’s not that the US lacks the money to do these things. The federal budget for FY 2014 is $6.3 trillion and, for most Americans, our tax rates as a percentage of income are near all-time lows! So it’s not a lack of money. It’s a matter of priorities. We always seem to have money for military hardware and military interventions around the globe. It’s estimated that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost $6 trillion. It costs us $2.1 million per year to maintain just one soldier in Afghanistan, and current plans call for leaving up to 20,000 troops in Afghanistan after our “withdrawal.” Yet, some of the biggest budget hawks in Congress are calling for a larger presence in Afghanistan, military intervention in Syria, as well as confrontation in Crimea and the Ukraine. Some even hint at war with Iran.

Is it any wonder that we can’t afford to maintain our own nation?

These same budget hawks voted to dramatically expand funding for the F-35 jet fighter which is years behind schedule and hopelessly over budget. They even added funding to build more Abrams tanks, despite the fact that neither the Army nor the Marine Corps want them. As a result of such decisions, we will spend $820.2 billion on defense in FY 2014, not including Homeland Security. This money is not needed to defend our nation. It’s needed to maintain the American corporate empire; to maintain US control of resources in remote corners of the world; to maintain US access to Middle Eastern oil deposits; to maintain corporate access to global markets and to open new ones; to maintain massive profits and executive compensation.

Yet studies show that most Americans would rather bring our troops home. They would rather rebuild our own nation than one we bombed into submission. So why don’t our Congressional representatives listen? Why do so many continue to vote against the will of the people?

The answer, in a word, is money.

Large corporate interests take money from ordinary, hard-working people through various forms of scams and corporate subsidies. (You’ll find a great example detailed in a Rolling Stone article by Matt Taibbi linked here.) This leads to increased profits. The corporations then give a portion of that money to the election campaigns of politicians in order to buy access and influence. In return, those politicians pass laws to benefit the corporations. And the cycle starts all over again.

On the rare occasions when the politicians take their hands out of the pockets of their corporate sponsors, they pass laws to deregulate industries; to render the EPA and other regulatory agencies impotent; to increase welfare for large corporations while cutting their taxes; to privatize prisons, schools and public pension funds; to cut funding for parks, mental health facilities, public universities and public schools; to redirect taxpayer money to Wall Street hedge funds. All the while, they blame the nation’s resulting economic problems on labor unions, the unemployed and the working poor. To distract the public from their crimes, these fraudster politicians tell us that their actions are necessary to cut debt and create jobs.

What they don’t say is that the only jobs they’re concerned with are their own.

Illusion Of Justice.

Since the founding of our nation, Americans have always taken pride in our rule of law.  In civics class we learned that this was what distinguished our country from others; that it provided protection from unreasonable search and seizures; that it guaranteed us a quick and fair hearing before a jury of our peers; that it protected individuals from power grabs by government; and that it gave our citizens a non-violent way of settling conflicts. As our nation expanded westward, communities took pride in instituting the rule of law by hiring marshalls, creating courts, ending vigilantism and restricting the carrying of guns. Such things were considered the necessities of polite society.

Now we seem determined to return to the lawless days of the Wild West.

The National Rifle Association and the gun manufacturers it represents have written and pushed laws to encourage the carrying and the use of guns. It is now legal to carry guns in virtually every state. They have pushed for and passed the so-called Stand Your Ground laws that allowed George Zimmerman to go free after shooting a black teenager who was “armed” with a bag of Skittles and an angry white guy to get away with murder because he didn’t like a teen’s music. Most recently, a retired cop has invoked the Stand Your Ground defense after shooting a fellow movie-goer following an argument in which he claimed threatened after a bag of popcorn was thrown at him.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), aided by GOP legislators have written and passed laws requiring states to privatize prisons despite their increased costs. Our state legislators have passed laws requiring lengthy sentences for non-violent crimes. At the same time, our government continues to wage a war on drugs that has sentenced drug users to lengthy prison terms. The result is to turn prisoners into profits, proving that crime pays – for corporations.

ALEC and its GOP servants have passed anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB 1070 requiring local law enforcement to check papers in order to fill the private prison facilities with immigrants whose only crime was to cross an invisible border in search of work to support their families. Now the GOP-controlled House of Representatives is pushing to defund the department that defends immigrants from detention or deportation to further pack corporate-owned prisons.

Misinformed conservative voters elect people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio despite his many instances of using his position to racially profile individuals, to prioritize the arrest of hard-working immigrants while ignoring cases of violent crimes, and to use his office to harrass, intimidate, bully and incarcerate those who disagree with him. And Sheriff Joe is not alone. Each year, there are hundreds of cases from across the country in which law enforcement officers have abused their power. Unfortunately, most of these cases are never pursued because the victims are minorities and lack the video evidence and money to pursue justice.

In the US today, money is often the key predictor of sentencing. White color crimes, such as those committed by the mortgage lenders and hedge fund managers who crashed our economy in 2008, are seldom prosecuted. (Not a single person has been tried and convicted from one of the biggest thefts in world history.) When they are prosecuted, teams of high-priced lawyers are often able to get their clients acquitted. But poor people, especially minorities, can’t afford such representation. Usually, they’re appointed a public defender and offered a plea bargain. Is it any wonder, then, that minorities represent 60 percent of our prisoners, while accounting for only 30 percent of our population? And, according to a survey requested by Frontline, in the 20 states that have Stand Your Ground laws, whites are 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person.

With such statistics, it has become increasingly apparent that justice is becoming more of an illusion in the US than reality.

Patriots Across The Border.

Last week, KPHO-TV in Phoenix aired a story about US military veterans who have been hired as assassins by Mexican drug cartels. It noted that at least four US veterans have been arrested in Mexico and charged with working as hit men for the cartels and others have been approached by the cartels. One of those who had been recruited served as a US Marine despite being an undocumented immigrant. Upon returning from war, he apparently suffered from PTSD leading him to be arrested for alcohol and drug abuse before being deported to Mexico.

It should come as no surprise that cartels would seek the services of US Marines and Special Forces veterans. They are, after all, among the very best soldiers in the world. They have been trained to kill with great efficiency. Many have used their military training to become “private contractors,” the modern-day euphemism for mercenary.  Many suffer from PTSD and struggle to adapt to civilian life. Many are unable to find good paying jobs.

All of this points to the problem with downsizing and privatizing our military.

In past decades, our soldiers tended to serve one combat deployment of 1-2 years before being sent home. Often they were given rest and recreation time away from combat during their deployment. Even then, many struggled to re-acclimate to civilian life at the end of their deployment. (It’s estimated that as many Vietnam veterans committed suicide as those who died in battle.)

By contast, today’s soldiers have been asked to serve multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have been deployed as many as a dozen times. That not only lessens their chances of survival. It places them at far greater risk of PTSD. When they return home from the insanity of war, they often struggle to adapt to civilian life, which explains the atrocious backlog of cases through the Veteran’s Administration.

With each deployment, it must become increasingly difficult for soldiers to distinguish a “good” kill from a “bad” kill, especially when there are no obvious front lines making it difficult to tell the enemy from civilians. Given that, I can easily see the temptation for some soldiers to cash in on their skills, whether it’s as a “private contractor” for companies like Blackwater or as a hit man for a violent drug cartel.

How can we help them?

For one thing, instead of mindlessly repeating the words “thank you for your service,” we can avoid unnecessary wars like Iraq. If we absolutely must go to war, we can give our military clearly-defined goals. We can spend whatever money is necessary to help our soldiers deal with the trauma and after-effects of war. And we can retrain them to help them find jobs of comparable importance and responsibility that don’t involve weaponry.

Maybe then they would be less susceptible to selling their services to the highest bidder.

Why Teapublicans Are Wrong About Government.

After all of the GOP talk of “freeing businesses from government regulation” and “shrinking government down to a size small enough to fit in a bathtub,” it’s time to force a dose of reality down their loudmouth throats. No matter how much they rant about the “evils” of government, we need government to do a variety of things the private sector can’t or won’t.

We need government funding and oversight to build and maintain infrastructure – roads, highways, airports, seaports, and more. We need government to protect our borders; to control our monetary system; to negotiate treaties. And, although we live in a nation built on capitalism, government has always been needed to prevent private businesses from taking advantage of our citizens. Whenever new industries are created by business, government eventually has to regulate them in order to keep them from running amok.

For example, before Ralph Nader and his book, Unsafe At Any Speed, American automakers paid little attention to safety. There were no seat belts, no air bags, no crumple zones, no crash tests…no safety standards at all.

Before the Food & Drug Administration, there was no labeling of ingredients for packaged foods ; no bans or warnings for ingredients known to cause harm. Before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), large corporations felt free to dump toxic chemicals in our streams and in our drinking water. Before the EPA, large corporations spewed tons of toxins into the air we breathe. Before the Securities Exchange Commission, financial institutions could engage in insider trading and sell any junk securities people could be bamboozled into buying. Before the Mine Safety Act, most miners died from tunnel collapses and black lung disease. Before the US Department of Agriculture and the US Forest Service, lumber companies felt free to clear cut our forests destroying critical habitat for many species and mortgaging our future. Before the Department of Labor, businesses thrived on child and slave labor.

Do you really want to go back to the days of allowing corporations to regulate themselves?

Would you buy meat for your family that had not been inspected? Would you drink water that hadn’t been tested for bacteria and other contaminents? Would you give your child pharamceuticals that were untested? Would you strap your child into a car that had not passed basic safety tests? Would you place your life savings in a bank that did not insure your deposits?

We already know what happens when you replace government functions with private companies. We have abundant evidence that contracting with corporations to operate prisons costs more than publicly-operated prisons. Private prisons have also proven to be less secure. We also know that, on the whole, students in private schools perform no better, and often worse, than those in public schools.

Contrary to President Reagan, government isn’t the problem. Often it’s the solution. Instead of trying to reduce government to some arbitrary size, we should be trying to improve it. Apparently, Teapublicans have never considered that.

The Privatization Fraud.

For many years, the GOP has called for smaller government while, at the same time, extolling the virtues of privatization. GOP politicians have pushed for private schools through tax incentives and vouchers. In many states, they have turned the operation of prisons over to private, for-profit corporations. And thanks to the GOP, many of the operations once provided by military personnel are now provided by private contractors, such as Halliburton and Blackwater.

More recently, the GOP has pushed for privatizing Medicare through a voucher system and privatizing Social Security through private financial institutions.

The argument is that private companies can always perform tasks better and cheaper than public institutions. But before you jump on the privatization bandwagon, maybe you should ignore the rhetoric and look at studies which compare the costs and quality of services provided by private institutions with those provided by government.

Let’s begin by comparing charter schools with public schools. A 2009 report entitled Multiple Choice Charter School Performance in 16 States by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found that only 17 percent of charter schools performed better than public schools while 47 percent performed at roughly the same level and 37 performed worse than public schools! This is in spite of the fact that charter schools often get to select students and usually provide few of the extra-curricular activities that public schools do.

As for prisons, a 2012 study by the Tucson Citizen found that private prisons cost the State of Arizona $3.5 million per year more than public prisons even though private prisons do not take high security prisoners or those with chronic illnesses. Ironically, the one exception is Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Tent City. Like the name suggests, Tent City is a series of canvas tents in the desert with no heat or air conditioning. The bathrooms are portable toilets. Prisoners are made to wear pink underwear. And prisoners are served two meals a day. One meal consists of milk, juice, porridge and a hard roll. The other consists of a green baloney sandwich. Yet, despite the primitive conditions, Tent City costs more per prisoner than any other jail or prison in Arizona. Worse, recidivism is 14 percent higher than the national average.

Sheriff Joe may be the self-proclaimed “nation’s toughest sheriff” and an extreme conservative, but he is a failure as a steward of taxpayers’ money.

Nevertheless, the biggest waste of money is the privatization of our military. During the early stages of the Afghan war and the Iraq war, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded no-bid contracts to Halliburton for everything from food service to transport and supply. In addition, the DoD handed out lucrative contracts for security services to Blackwater. The expectation was that privatizing such services would cost the US substantially less and allow the DoD to focus on military operations. But, after examining the DoD’s own documents, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) found that private contractor employees cost 2.94 times more than an average DoD employee performing the same job!

According to POGO, in 2010 the DoD spent $254 billion for contract employees compared to $108 billion for civilian personnel directly employed by the DoD and $150 billion for military personnel.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. After all, the primary difference between a service provided by government and a service provided by a corporation is profit. The corporation must deliver profits in order to pay dividends to shareholders. And the corporate CEOs tend to pay themselves salaries that are many times those of government leaders. In most cases, the only way private corporations can compete with government is to reduce the scope and quality of service.

Imagine what will happen if they ever get their hooks into Medicare and Social Security!

Public Versus Private. Corporations Versus People.

Ever since President Ronald Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” conservatives have attributed virtually all of our problems to the federal government. They believe that the government cannot do anything well. As a result, they have continually cut taxes in order to starve the government of revenue, making it less effective and less efficient so it better lives up to their expectations.

At the same time, conservatives have pushed to privatize many government functions. Private, for-profit contractors now handle many of the functions that our military once did, including food service, transportation, supply and security. Both state and federal governments have awarded contracts to private prison corporations. Public education now competes for funding with private charter schools. Even our most sensitive spying and surveillance programs have been outsourced to private companies as evidenced by the revelations surrounding Edward Snowden.

But are these private entities really better than the government? Is the government really the problem? Much of the evidence says no.

The jury is still out on whether or not privatizing our military is a good idea, but there have been numerous embarrassing incidents in which private contractors were accused of committing war crimes. As for private prisons, studies have shown that they cost far more per inmate than public prisons, even though private prisons refuse to accept high security prisoners and those with chronic illnesses. And a study by Stanford University has shown that private charter schools perform no better than public schools.

Moreover, the 2013 Customer Rage Survey by Customer Care Measurement and Consulting and the Arizona State University W. P. Carey School of Business found that the percentage of people with customer service problems grew from 32 percent in 1976 to 50 percent in 2013. And 56 percent of those who complained in 2013 remain unsatisfied. Most telling is the fact that 98 percent of the most serious customer service problems involved private companies. Only 2 percent were associated with the government!

How can that be? Is it possible Reagan was wrong?

The truth is, our government is ultimately accountable to us. It may seem big and uncaring, but one election can change everything. On the other hand, today’s giant financial institutions and multinational corporations have little accountability to customers. Certainly, you can move your account from a large bank to a smaller one, but the likelihood is that it, too, is controlled by a large holding company. You can switch insurance companies and find that the new company is just as difficult to deal with as the previous one. Likewise, you can get rid of your cable company, but your satellite provider may not be any more responsive. Indeed, it may be worse.

The problem is not a matter of public versus private. Most customer service problems stem from bureaucracy – both public and private.

But our most serious problem involves both public and private institutions. It centers on the alliance between government and large corporations based on disproportionate access and influence. Consider, for example, the alliance between the George W. Bush White House and Richard “The Dick” Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, which was awarded billions in no-compete military contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan; or the alliance between Ohio congressional representatives (both Republican and Democrat) and the Ohio contractor for Abrams tanks which was awarded a contract for additional tanks that the Army neither wants or needs; or the alliance between Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s staff and a private prison company which led to the company receiving multi-million dollar contracts for private prisons. There are many, many more examples.

Not surprisingly, many of the government’s most outspoken critics are conservatives who will gladly spend money to enrich their districts, their states, their corporate friends and themselves.

Conservatives Take Aim At Government Labor Unions.

This year, conservatives are gathering lumps of coal for most Americans’ Christmas stockings. We can soon expect to see multi-million dollar assaults on many of the nation’s remaining social institutions and programs. At the federal level, conservatives in Congress are seeking to cut another $4 billion to 40 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps. They are also targeting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and unemployment insurance. And they are fighting attempts to increase the minimum wage despite the fact that large corporations have raked in record profits since the beginning of the Great Recession, and that wage growth is our main impediment to economic growth.

Conservatives are facing a severe time crunch in order to accomplish these goals. You see, the economy is finally showing signs of real growth. That means more Americans are working and paying taxes, thereby reducing the drain on social programs and lowering the deficit. As the deficit disappears so, too, does the conservatives’ primary argument for slashing social programs and cutting spending.

If conservatives are going to force more austerity and “personal responsibility” on poor Americans, squash labor unions, slash corporate taxes and head off a growing environmental movement, they have to do it now while the deficit is still inflated due to the effects of the Great Recession.

That’s why, as The Guardian reported, the State Policy Network funded by the Koch brothers is coordinating an all-out assault on government and social institutions in 34 states beginning early next year. The focus is on cutting pensions and wages for government workers, cutting budgets for public schools through voucher programs, and combatting attempts to reduce greenhouse gases. But, undoubtedly, the primary goal of the campaign is to rid the country of labor unions, particularly those in the public sector.

Of course, virtually none of their goals are actually good for our country. They are, however, great for large corporations, their executives and their investors.

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Conservatives have been fighting organized labor since the 1800’s. Labor unions grew in the 1930’s following the Great Depression when workers realized that the economic collapse was caused by the rich and their insatiable appetites for more wealth. But labor unions have been under attack ever since. The attacks accelerated during the Reagan administration leading to a decline in union membership, the elimination of more than 85,000 pension plans since 1980, and the export of hundreds of thousands of American jobs. As more high-paying labor jobs were sent offshore, union membership further declined. At the same time, large corporations like Walmart fought to block the unionization of their workers. As a result, union membership declined 11.3 percent in 2012 alone. Simultaneously, corporate profits have soared. But that largess has not been shared with workers.

There is, however, one sector of our economy in which labor unions are alive and well. The percentage of union membership among government workers is now 5 times higher than for workers in private companies. Given their contempt for unions and government, that figure makes public sector unions a tantalizing target for people like the Koch brothers. Their control of workers and the disassembling of government won’t be complete until labor unions no longer exist, corporate taxes are eliminated and the federal government is reduced to the Department of Defense. (After all, somebody has to defend them from those who would like to claim part of their wealth.)

Want to learn more about the attacks on American workers? I highly recommend The Betrayal of the American Dream by Barlett and Steele.