Rick Perry Reveals The Right Wing Agenda.

It would seem that 2012’s “Ooops” candidate has had another “Ooops” moment. In launching his 2016 presidential bid, he finally remembered the 3 federal departments he would eliminate: the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy. And that’s not all. He would also eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and, of course, Obamacare.

He’s also not very keen on the Department of the Interior and the legal system, saying “It’s [America] in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.”

That’s the ticket.

Perry believes that we don’t have to worry about the state of our crumbling infrastructure, our militarized police departments, our over-stressed environment, our large corporate polluters, global warming, growing inequality, rampant racism, debilitating poverty, political polarization, and our for-hire Congress.

All we have to do is let God run the country. Oh, wait. How, exactly, can he do that? Since He doesn’t talk to all (many) of us, who will be his interpreter? Who will carry out His orders? Why Teapublicans, of course! According to the right, only they are the true patriots; only they have a close relationship with God; only they know what God wants.

Is that what you believe? That Teapublicans are the only moral, God-fearing politicians? If so, then how do you explain the pedophilia of Dennis Hastert? How do you explain the adultery of Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston and so many other Teapublicans? How do you explain the war-mongering of John McCain and Lindsey Graham? How do you explain the GOP’s uncaring attitude toward the poor? How do you explain the GOP’s embrace of the rich and powerful? How do you explain the GOP’s lack of interest in preserving the environment and all of God’s creatures?

You can’t…because it simply defies explanation.

The real problem for the GOP is that Perry was, in a manner of speaking, speaking out of school. You see, his beliefs are the same as those of most – if not all – of the declared GOP candidates. And the GOP would rather not have you know about them. They don’t want seniors to know that they want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare as “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they consider public education “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they are against worker’s rights and any form of collective bargaining. They don’t want you to know that they are deep in the pockets of the oil companies and are paid to do their bidding. They don’t want you to know that they simply don’t care about the poor.

Don’t believe it?

Then take a close look at what’s happening in Teapublican-controlled states like Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin. In those and other red states, the GOP has cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy and balanced the budgets on the backs of the poor, as well as the teachers and students. The results have been disastrous, yet they don’t seem to care.

Instead of admitting their mistake and addressing the problems, the GOP is doubling down. They want to expand the misery to the entire country.

The Difference Between The Facts And The Truth.

Since President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration, various news organizations have been crawling all over each other to “fact-check” the president’s statements. Predictably, they found a number of things that were at odds with the “facts.”

What those news organizations fail to recognize is that the facts don’t necessarily represent the truth. So I’ll do their job for them. The truth is that illegal immigration, and the resulting influx of undocumented workers, has been a large problem for many years. As a result, President Obama has overseen the greatest expansion of border security in history in addition to an unprecedented growth in deportations. In addition to the “fence,” we now have 21,000 border patrol agents. We have at least one agent for every half mile of the border. Combined with slow job growth (as opposed to a slow economy), that has resulted in a net loss of illegal immigrants.

The fact is that many immigrants have crossed our southern border. The truth is that 40 percent of undocumented immigrants entered the US legally through our airports, bus stations, and seaports and they have overstayed their visas. Building a bigger fence and stationing more agents at the border will do nothing to stop these immigrants.

The fact is that an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants work in the US. The truth is that these workers do not take American jobs. They do the work that very few Americans will. For example, despite advertising for American workers to pick his fruit, a fruit grower in Georgia could not find a single American to do what undocumented workers will.

The fact is drugs are still being smuggled into our country illegally. The truth is that most of them are being smuggled into the US on airplanes, in freight cars, in boats. Few are being brought in by human mules.

The fact is that some criminals cross our borders illegally…drug smugglers, human smugglers and gang members. The truth is that these people represent a very small percentage of illegal immigrants.

The fact is that we pay to educate the children of illegal immigrants. The truth is that these children grow up to contribute far more to our society than their education costs. It is also true that illegal immigrants cannot receive food stamps and welfare benefits. Neither can they vote.

The fact is that many immigrants came across the southern border in search of a better life. The truth is that these immigrants had little choice. Many came to the US as refugees in the 1980’s when the Reagan administration was supporting dictators and death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. (Remember Iran-Contra?) Many were small farmers who were put out of business by our large corporate farms that dumped low-priced corn into Mexico and Central America as a consequence of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement).

The fact is that thousands of children recently crossed our southern border. The truth is that few tried to sneak across the border. Most simply turned themselves into Border Patrol officers seeking asylum from the violence in Honduras and El Salvador.

The fact is that our border security has greatly limited the number of illegal crossings. The truth is that is has also greatly limited the billions of dollars in trade between Mexico and the US. 6 million US jobs depend on exports to Mexico and the US receives nearly $9 billion per year in tourism from Mexico. Yet despite being on the border, thanks to SB1070, Arizona ranks 21st in exports to Mexico behind Wisconsin and Minnesota!

The fact is that millions of undocumented workers are employed in the US. The truth is that most of these workers pay federal and state income taxes, sales taxes and licensing fees. They also contribute approximately $7 billion per year in payroll deductions to Social Security and Medicare even though they will never benefit from these programs.

The fact is that we need comprehensive immigration reform. The truth is that Republican politicians have used the issue of immigration to promote racism and fear in order to be elected.

The fact is that President Obama acted alone in an attempt to solve the immigration crisis. The truth is that the US House of Representatives had more than 500 days to vote on the Senate’s bi-partisan comprehensive immigration bill, but Speaker Boehner refused to bring it to a vote. Republicans also refused to negotiate the issue with Democrats. The president was left with no other option than to act by Executive Order.

An Informed Voting Public?

Our Founding Fathers created a democracy based on informed voters carefully selecting a representative government. The reality is that, after nearly 240 years, we have neither an informed public nor a representative government. The most recent election is a case in point.

After six years of Teapublican obstruction, the approval rating of Congress was lower than the approval of cockroaches. So what did our “informed” voters do? They re-elected the vast majority of the incumbents and gave extra seats to members of the party that was responsible for the obstruction. Our national political pundits explained this phenomenon as the result of a low voter turnout and massive spending of “dark money” to elect candidates who would repay their benefactors with fewer regulations and more tax cuts. I explained that it was the result of the failure of the Democratic Party to promote its record of pulling our economy out of perhaps the biggest hole in history, making affordable health care available to most Americans, improving our nation’s standing throughout the world, expanding consumer protections and attempting to expand civil rights to all segments of our population.

There’s a better explanation.

This past Sunday, Fareed Zakaria, on his CNN show Global Public Square, featured an Ipsos MORI international study that measured the political ignorance in 14 western nations. The study asked respondents from those nations about various issues ranging from unemployment to immigration. While Italy ranked number one as the least informed citizenry, voters in the US ranked a close second. For example, when asked about unemployment in the US, our respondents guessed that the figure was 32 percent when the real number is less than 6 percent nationwide. When asked about the number of recent immigrants in our country, Americans guessed that they make up 32 percent of our population, when the real number is about 13 percent. Asked about the number of Muslims in our country, Americans guessed that Muslims comprise 15 percent of our population, when the real figure is 1 percent.

The large number of poorly informed voters explains why voters continue to vote against their own self-interests; why poor people vote for officials who give large tax breaks to the wealthy and large corporations; why they vote for officials who refuse to raise the minimum wage; why women vote for officials who refuse to demand equal pay for equal work; why the retired and near-retired vote for representatives who want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare.

Of course, we also have to ask ourselves why so many Americans are so poorly informed. The answer can be summed up in two words: schools and media.

Many of our schools no longer teach civics. As a result, many of our young people have never read the Constitution. They don’t even know how our government works. In addition, many of our nation’s textbooks are edited and approved by Texas conservatives so that they more resemble Christian and military propaganda than American history or science. For instance, we are still teaching children that Christopher Columbus discovered America when historians agree that he didn’t. And many of our schools are forced to teach “creationism” as an alternative to evolution, even though evolution is a fact as established as the theory of gravity.

Further, our so-called news media have placed an emphasis on entertainment and sensationalism to drive ratings at the expense of real news and information. As a result, we all know about the latest murder trial or the marital status of celebrities. But we don’t know the beliefs and agendas of the candidates on our ballots. Neither do we know world events that will ultimately affect us. We don’t even know that the US has been fighting wars for all but 13 years of our nation’s history. And we don’t know that our own actions led to most of them. Worse yet, we don’t know that our nation is no longer a democracy. Numerous political scientists and economists have proven that, by definition, it has become an oligarchy. (Of course, our poorly educated public likely doesn’t even know what an oligarchy is.)

The point of all this is to say that, if you don’t like our government, it’s not entirely the fault of those who were elected. It’s not necessarily the fault of one political party or our political system. The fault is our own, because we voted the scoundrels into office without ever bothering to ask what they will do. We’re only interested in which tribe they belong to – red or blue.

Where Is Our Conscience?

If the events of this past week disclosed anything, it’s that the people of the United States have no conscience. We not only support a government waging war on civilians, including women and children, resulting in 860 dead and more than 5,000 wounded. We have accelerated deportations of desperate mothers and kids escaping the violence and poverty of Central America.

One must ask why? What happened to us? Where is our concern for our fellow men, or more accurately, our fellow women and children? Where is our sense of charity? Where is our morality?

For many years, we have unconditionally supported Israel. That made sense when the Arab nations around it refused to accept its right to exist. But that is no longer the case. Now Israel is the baddest bully on the block, with state-of-the-art weaponry purchased with our money. The Israeli government has made Gaza a prison and every so often, in the words of Israeli military leaders, it invades Gaza to do “a little lawn-mowing.” Israel refuses to negotiate a permanent two-state solution with the PLA because, in its view, the PLA has nothing of value to offer. It has no weaponry other than rocks. Israel also refuses to negotiate with those Palestinians who are armed…Hamas…probably because Hamas provides Israel a reason to justify its repression of Palestinians and its development of Palestinian territory in the West Bank.

So what is the US attitude to the violence in Gaza? Secretary of State John Kerry is working hard to negotiate a cease fire, saying that any agreement must first assure Israel of its security and Palestinians of an economic future. Not to villify Kerry, but why just talk about Israel’s security? It is the Palestinians who are being killed!

As for the refugees from Central America, why are their lives of so little value? Why are we deporting them when we have accepted refugees from around the globe who were facing similar conditions? Are Guatemalan lives worth less than Somalis? Are Honduran lives worth less than Romanians?

Conservatives preach that our entitlements will soon be bankrupt because, as baby boomers retire, there will be fewer people to contribute portions of their salaries to add to the trust funds. They say that we will soon have more people “on the dole” than people working. If that is true, why not accept refugees who have come here looking for jobs? Don’t the taxes and contributions of Latinos count as much as those from Sudanese, Ukranians, Russians, Vietnamese, Cambodians and all of the other refugees we have welcomed?

If we can so easily watch Palestinians die with our complicity; if we can so angrily turn our backs on desperate people seeking our help, we may as well remove the inscription from the Statue of Liberty. We must admit that we are no longer the beacon of freedom for the world. We must admit that we no longer hold the moral high ground.

We must admit that we have no conscience.

Conservative “Values.”

Whenever I hear someone talk about “values,” I silently prepare myself to endure yet another lecture about religion, hard work, freedom and patriotism. That’s because conservatives assume that they are the only ones who appreciate such things – the only ones who admire hard work, dedication to family and the benefits of living in the US.

Conservatives talk about religion, but they spout hateful ideas. They talk about freedom, but they want to discriminate against those who look different and those with whom they disagree. They talk about hard work, but they refuse to see others rewarded for it. They talk about getting the government off their backs, but they don’t want anyone to touch their Medicare or Social Security. They rail against illegal immigrants while denying equality to the First Americans. They spout quotes from the Founding Fathers, but ignore the statements from those Founders with whom they disagree.

They talk about patriotism, even as they are at war with our federal government.

For the so-called “values voters,” everything is black or white; us against them; Christians against heathens; fiscal conservatives against spendthrifts; cut-and-save against tax-and-spend. There simply is no room for middle ground. As stated by former president George W. Bush, “you’re either with us, or against us.”

I suspect this will fall on deaf ears, but here’s some news for conservatives. Caring for and helping others is a value. Negotiating peace is a value. Showing compassion for those less fortunate than yourself is a value. Leaving the environment in the same shape you found it is a value. Helping to educate others is a value. Honoring knowledge and accomplishment is a value. Tolerance for other lifestyles, ideas and religions is a value. Moderation and compromise are values. And you can be patriotic without waving the flag, shouting “USA” or supporting yet another war.

I understand, dear conservatives, that these may be distasteful and foreign concepts to you. But these are values shared by most of the developed world. In fact, your “values” of greed, anger, hate and intolerance are reviled by most of those who are educated and enlightened. You remember who used those words to describe themselves and their aspirations, don’t you? We refer to them as the Founding Fathers.

The Teapublican Zombie Apocalypse.

Following eight years of the George W. Bush administration, which included two wars (including one pre-emptive war of choice), the failures of FEMA to give aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the crash of the housing market, the nation’s second-largest stock market crash, the bailout of the nation’s largest banks, soaring debt, thousands of home foreclosures and skyrocketing unemployment, the general public was understandably outraged. The Democratic Party stood a good chance of tapping into that outrage thereby ensuring its dominance for generations.

Not only did it fail to do so, it allowed the Tea Party to capture the voters’ anger and help the GOP seize the House of Representatives in 2010.

Was that outcome the result of astute planning and insightful strategies by Republicans? No, it was the result of the stupidity, timidity and outright cowardice of Democrats! Instead of charging Bush officials for the war crimes they committed, Democrats allowed them to profit from the speaker’s circuit and to rewrite history with their inevitable memoirs. Instead of pursuing criminal charges against the banksters who defrauded ordinary Americans, the Department of Treasury and the Justice Department allowed them to give each other six and seven-figure bonuses for their misdeeds. Instead of rewriting the tax code to prevent corporations and individuals from avoiding taxes by stashing profits in off-shore accounts, they bowed to Teapublicans making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

By 2010, the populist outrage created by Teapublican policies was re-directed toward Democrats – not so much for what they had done, but for what they had NOT done. They have not established a brand, making their core values clearly understood. They have not embraced those who joined the Occupy movement and the 99 percent. Too few have stood up against big money and big business. They have not fought hard enough for what they claim to believe in. And, instead of staying focused on solutions to our nation’s problems, they have too often and too easily buckled to criticism.

Now we are heading toward yet another seminal moment in politics and the analysts are suggesting that the Teapublicans will not only hold onto the House. They are likely to take over the Senate! In other words, voters are likely to reward the party that blocked the regulation of financial institutions; the party that panders to large corporations and billionaires while demeaning and dismissing nearly half our population; the party whose policies have hollowed out the middle class and transferred trillions of dollars of wealth upward to those who least need it; the party that took us to war based on a series of lies; the party that has repeatedly tried to cut Social Security and Medicare; the party that refused to allow the duly-elected majority to legislate through a record number of filibusters; the party that prioritized the profits of large corporations over jobs; the party that ignores the needs of small businesses; the party that has destroyed labor unions; the party that underfunds Veterans Affairs then howls when it can’t meet demand; the party that believes that climate change and environmental conservation are based on flawed science.

If you’re a small business owner, a white collar worker, a blue collar laborer, a woman, a retiree, or anyone who wants to breathe clean air and drink clean water, the GOP has made it abundantly clear that they don’t care about you. By the same token, many in the Democratic Party have shown an unwillingness to fight for you. And their election strategy seems to consist of, “A Republican said (or did) something stupid, send us money.” Maybe that explains why so few Democratic voters show up at the polls during midterm elections.

Indeed, the two parties can best be summed up by two quotes. In the HBO series The Newsroom, Jeff Daniels’ character stated, “You know why people don’t like liberals?…cause they lose. If liberals are so f***ing smart, why do they lose so goddam always?” And conservative author P. J. O’Rourke famously wrote, “Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.”

Unfortunately, I believe they are both right.

The Politics Of Division And Deception.

For many years, the GOP has used so-called “social” issues, such as proposed anti-abortion legislation and “sanctity of marriage” laws to divide the voting populace and fire up their base. The Democratic Party has focused on issues like social safety nets, minimum wages and availability of health care. And the debate has left our government largely paralyzed.

In some ways, arguing about the issues that divide the rank and file of the two political parties is akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s not that the issues aren’t important. But compared to other issues, they are mere distractions…the political equivalent of a con artist bumping your shoulder while picking your pocket.

The con artists are working for large, multinational corporations and the very wealthy. In order to grow and thrive, these companies need two things: A plentiful supply of natural resources and cheap labor. Over the course of history, those needs have led the wealthy to finance exploration, nations to build wide-ranging empires, and corporations to destroy collective bargaining movements.

Following World War II, the desire for access to oil, rubber, timber, tin and other resources led the British, the US and the Soviet Union to attempt to divide much of the world culminating in the Cold War. The desire to acquire resources led us into conflicts in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It was the cause of the Spanish-American War, the war with Japan, the war in Vietnam, and the war in Iraq. It led our CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of elected leaders in Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Similarly, the need for cheap labor led mining companies to create company stores and to build entire towns designed to trap workers into becoming hopelessly obligated to the owners. It caused companies to hire thugs to brutally beat striking workers. It led to shooting wars between corporate interests and labor unions. More recently, it led corporations to move factories to Southern “right-to-work” states then on to Mexico to China to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The executives behind these actions aren’t evil. They’re just doing business. They claim that it’s not their responsibility to worry about social or environmental problems. They believe that their only responsibility is to increase the return on investment for shareholders by decreasing costs and increasing productivity. To them, picturesque mountains merely cover the precious minerals they covet. Pristine forests are merely the lumber needed for construction. Impoverished people in distant lands are simply motivated laborers.

And so it goes.

While we argue over the debt ceiling, corporations and billionaires quietly park their profits in off-shore tax havens then lobby for a tax “holiday” that will allow them to bring the money home at greatly reduced tax rates. While we argue over extending unemployment benefits, corporations lobby for more subsidies and government giveaways. While we argue over food stamps, corporate agribusinesses pocket billions in taxpayer funds. While we argue over Social Security retirement benefits, too-big-to-fail financial institutions steal trillions from 401ks, IRAs, pension funds and foreclosed homes. At the same time, all of these corporations continue to lobby for reduced government regulation and oversight.

It is because of our inattention that a mere 85 individuals now own as much wealth as half of the world’s population…the equivalent of the populations of China, India, the United States, Indonesia and Brazil combined. It’s why unemployment has grown and why most salaries have not. It’s why a few corporations now control most of our food supply. It’s why those same corporations are able to poison the food supply in search of ever larger profits. It’s why the incidence of chronic disease has skyrocketed despite government-funded technology and research that give us the ability to end it. It’s why our climate is rapidly changing while we continue to subsidize the companies responsible for changing it.

As long as we focus on the distractions instead of the actions, things will only get worse.

The Conservative War Against Labor.

In the years following the Great Depression, labor unions were popular and thriving. The Wagner Act of 1935, also known as the National Labor Relations Act, guaranteed workers the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike. As a result, union workers, particularly those in mining and manufacturing, experienced dramatic gains in salaries and benefits, along with safer working conditions.

Corporations didn’t give up these things without a fight. But public sentiment was temporarily on the side of workers and World War II demanded unity between corporations and unions.

The end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War gave corporations a new opportunity to undermine unions with the rise of Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) and his House Un-American Affairs Committee (HUAC). Likely emboldened by President Truman’s loyalty program intended to discredit Democratic rival Henry Wallace (former V.P. to FDR, nuclear disarmament advocate and pro-labor candidate) prior to the 1948 presidential election, McCarthy launched a witch hunt in search of communist sympathizers. News of the Soviet Union’s growing nuclear capability spawned a national paranoia that allowed McCarthy to portray labor unions as a communist front .

By the time McCarthy’s lies and un-Constitutional tactics were exposed, hundreds of Americans had been imprisoned, thousands more had lost their jobs and tens of thousands had been investigated. The victims included those who had supported Wallace, civil rights leaders, union leaders…even the unions’ rank and file.

The unraveling of the HUAC may have posed another setback for corporations and the wealthy, but McCarthy’s accusations left many suspicious of organized labor, even as labor unions continued to help build the middle class. Finally, in the 1980’s, anti-union forces suceeded in electing a president sympathetic to their cause – Ronald Reagan. When the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) went on strike, violating a law banning strikes by government workers, Reagan fired all 11,345 members who failed to return to work.

Reflecting on the event, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan commented, “His [Reagan’s] action gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.”

The war against unions resumed in earnest.

Corporations began sending jobs offshore in search of labor willing to work for low wages and without benefits such as health insurance, disability insurance and unemployment insurance. The export of jobs also eliminated the need for worker pensions. (In the years since Reagan’s election, more than 85,000 defined benefit pension funds have been eliminated.) Many of the jobs that can’t be exported, like those at Walmart and McDonald’s, now pay so little that their employees require public assistance. And with fewer workers eligible to pay dues, many labor unions have been weakened.

Meanwhile, management compensation has soared. The savings on labor costs has resulted in million dollar annual salaries and bonuses for executives.

With money comes influence allowing corporations and industries to successfully lobby Congress for subsidies, tax write-offs and lower tax rates. In addition, many corporations have been allowed to avoid taxes by creating Post Office box “headquarters” in off-shore tax havens. The resulting drop in tax revenue led to increased deficits and greater debt. But, rather than rewrite the corporate tax code and raise taxes on those who could afford it, conservatives have seized the opportunity to cut social programs. They not only cut food stamps. They have targeted Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, as well.

Not surprisingly, conservatives have also taken aim at the labor unions which represent government workers, such as teachers, firefighters and police. In particular, they want to eliminate government pensions. The argument is that, if private workers don’t have pensions and benefits, why should government workers? If successful, conservatives will have turned the clock back to the gilded age; the days prior to labor unions; the days of extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

Some say that we already have two Americas. I would argue three.

One is the America of the one percent; those who make lots of money and pay little to no income tax; those who can buy influence by donating to political campaigns and build new businesses with government subsidies financed with the taxes paid by others.

The second is the America of hard work, limited upward mobility and shrinking investments. In this America, you work ever longer hours in order to meet the corporate demands of increased productivity. Each year, you are forced to do more with less. For you, retirement may be little more than a dream. And for your children, college will become a financial burden they may never be able to repay.

The third America is one in which people work for so little money they can’t afford many of the necessities of life. According to the Working Poor Families Project, one in three American families are now among the working poor. One in six Americans and one in four children don’t know where the next meal is coming from, or even if there will be a next meal. In this America, more than 630,000 are chronically homeless and 3.5 million will experience homelessness in a given year. For many of these people, there is little hope that their circumstances will change. They not only lack political influence, many face new laws and obstacles intended to discourage them from voting.

Both President Obama and Pope Francis have recently called economic inequality the biggest problem we face. But President Obama can’t reduce inequality in America by himself. We will need a Congress that represents all Americans. We will need a sympathetic and unified citizenry. And we will need organized labor.

(As a footnote, I should make it clear that, having become part of middle management almost immediately following college graduation, I was ineligible for union membership. But, like most Americans, I was able to take advantage of the improved working conditions, salaries and benefits negotiated by labor unions.)

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!

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.