Mourning In America


A nation doesn’t lose its freedoms in foreign lands. It loses them at home. Atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not diminish American democracy. Neither will drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. The GOP is doing that under our noses every day, right now, in cities and the states, in the congress of the United States. We know, symbolically, what the 2008 presidential election brought us. We need to remember, too, what the 2010 midterm elections produced. 2012 will determine which prevails in setting the nation’s course for decades to come.

From the Guttmacher Institute:

By almost any measure, 2011 saw unprecedented attention to issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level. In all 50 states, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, again an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.

Fully 68% of these new provisions, 92 provisions in 24 states, restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions shattered the previous record of 34 abortion restrictions adopted in 2005.

In another realm, of worker rights, as soon after the 2010 midterms as March 2011,

The National Conference of State Legislatures is tracking an explosion of 744 bills that largely target public-sector unions, introduced in virtually every state.


Nearly half of the states are considering legislation to limit public employees’ collective bargaining rights. In New Hampshire, the House last week approved a measure that one union leader assailed as “Wisconsin on steroids.”


A number of states are considering bills that would limit unions’ ability to collect dues from public employees. The Florida House approved a bill to ban dues deductions from government paychecks and require unions to obtain members’ permission before using dues for political activity. Similar legislation is under consideration in Kansas. Other bills would eliminate a requirement that workers covered by union contracts pay union dues or fees.

Much like the Orwellian inversion of language I characterized in a different context, these bills deceive in their titles:

Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act, Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act, Employee Rights Act, Jobs Protection Act, Employee Workplace Freedom Act, Secret Ballot Protection Act, National Right to Work Act, Truth in Employment Act, National Labor Relations Reorganization Act, and others.

What is the purpose of the Employee Workplace Freedom Act?

To repeal the rule requiring employers to post notices relating to the National Labor Relations Act.

Wouldn’t that make you feel freer?

Gordon Lafer has written an overview of this “coordinated assault on labour standards“:

One of the most striking aspects of the past year is not only the extent to which these legislative initiatives appeared simultaneously in so many states, but also the extent to which such a disparate array of proposals were promoted as components of a coherent policy agenda.

Striking, but not surprising when one considers the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council, as Lafer and others do. What is just some of the purpose?

While policy debates have been largely framed around the need for fiscal austerity, the year also saw widespread attacks on the legal rights and economic standards of private- sector workers. Eighteen states introduced so-called ‘right to work’ laws, aimed at undermining private-sector unions. This Orwellian named policy does not guarantee anyone a job. Rather, it makes it illegal for a union to require that employees who benefit from a collective contract contribute their fair share of the costs of administering that contract. By weakening unions’ ability to sustain themselves financially, such laws aim to weaken the bargaining power of organized workers, and ultimately to drive private-sector unions out of existence.

So, too, a dozen states introduced bills restricting the ability of both public- and private-sector unions to participate in the political process, by requiring unions to obtain annual written authorization from each member in order to spend dues money on politics. Since both federal and state law already allow anyone covered by a union contract to withhold dues from political uses, such laws provide no new rights to employees, but consume considerable union resources in the bureaucratic activity of collecting annual notifications, and aim to muzzle the political voice of organized workers.14 Similarly, thirteen states introduced bills banning public employees from having union dues deducted through the state payroll system – even for employees who voluntarily choose to pay dues. Since there is virtually no cost to states for electronic payroll deductions, the sole purpose of such legislation is to cripple unions financially and limit the ability of organized labour to participate in electoral politics.

The assault on wage standards extends to non-union as well as unionized employees. Most states uphold ‘prevailing wage’ laws, for instance, which ensure that publicly funded construction doesn’t serve to undercut local wage standards. Such laws benefit union and non-union employees alike, but have long been opposed by non-union contractors who believe they could make higher profits with lower wage standards. This year they saw their chance to advance this agenda. Legislation weakening or eliminating prevailing wage standards was introduced in fourteen states and passed in five, severely eroding construction pay scales.

Similarly, minimum wage and overtime laws were scaled back in multiple states, undermining the most important wage protections available to non-union workers.

As Gregory M. Saltzman tells us,

Anti-union changes in labor law are most likely in jurisdictions where simultaneous control of both legislative branches and the executive shifts to the Republicans.

This happened in ten states in 2010.

Most Republicans had not campaigned in 2010 on a platform of restricting publicemployees’ bargaining rights. But the change in the political climate, especially the shift in ten states to unified Republican control of the legislature and the governorship, created an opportunity to weaken public-employee unions.

In Michigan, now effectively a one-party state tyranny, Governor Rick Snyder’s emergency manager powers enable him to deprive American citizens in selected Michigan cities and towns of their rights of self-governance, invalidating their most recent electoral choices and appointing managers who govern without democratic legitimacy or the right of redress.

At the state level in Michigan, the one-party tyranny now produces the scene below, in which a GOP speaker ignores the calls of Democratic legislators for a roll call vote to test the two-thirds super-majority requirement for the legislature’s “immediate effect” provision on new legislation.

Michigan House votes on SB 754 from The Rachel Maddow Show on Vimeo.

In particular, the legislation makes it harder to run a voter-registration drive.

Immediate effect for this legislation is designed to put it into effect in time for the November election, where a diminished Democratic vote might swing the state for Romney.

This as “Voter Suppression Bills Sweep the Country,” not just in Florida.

As we see “Senate Republicans Now Blockading Every Single Appeals Court Nominee.”

And we witness the product of a conservative U.S. Supreme Court – the consequence of GOP Presidential dominance in 28 out of 40 years from 1968-2008 and the elections of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush – having effectively sold American democracy to the super rich, led by Sheldon Adelson.

All this is the meaning of this election. The rest is foolishness.


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2 thoughts on “Mourning In America

  1. A chilling read. All of these things are happening, and the GOP is making no attempt to hide them. They are doing them in plain sight, their insanity on full display.

    And yet…and yet–as you pointed out in previous posts, people like Greenwald (or David Lindorff or Robert Scheer) look at these things, say, “So what?” and instead turn the rhetorical guns on the President. The fact that the GOP is whittling away the Constitution and the rights of millions means nothing to them.

    Drone strikes and Bradley Manning are small potatoes compared the threat of the modern GOP. If some want to hide their heads in the “both parties are the same” sand, mumbling how Obama is worse than Bush, they will face a very ugly wake-up call.

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