“Class Warrior” Bruce Rauner

I really don’t want to be a class warrior, but what I continue to see going down is that rich people, no longer satisfied with the privileges of being rich, are going for complete control. …

Rauner’s anti-union agenda… relies on buying into the concept that life will be better for working people in Illinois if they just give the corporate community what it wants: an easier path to lowering wages and benefits.

– Mark Brown in the Chicago Sun-Times (via Rich Miller)

Bruce-Rauner-of-by-and-for-Illinois-Richest-1_blog_post_fullWidthThanks again to my teacher friend Todd Mertz, who writes today with a few very valuable links:

First, to this wonderful column by Illinois College history professor Steve Hochstadt.  It’s worth the few minutes it will take you to read the whole piece, but I particularly like these excerpts, as they make a favorite point of mine, that stronger unions make a stronger middle class, and that it’s not a coincidence that as unions have lost strength in recent decades, so has the middle class in our country.  I’ve bold-faced the central argument text.

It’s been a bit more than 100 days since Republican Bruce Rauner became governor of Illinois. Despite our state’s enormous financial problems, he has yet to propose specific methods of dealing with our deficit and our debt. He has yet to propose any tax reform.

But he has been very active on one of his pet projects – killing unions.

To those who believe that unions have too much power to influence government, here is a surprising statistic. For every dollar that labor unions and other public-interest groups spend on lobbying, large corporations and their associations spend $34. Of the 100 organizations that spend the most on lobbying, 95 represent business. The largest companies now have upwards of 100 lobbyists representing them. Lawmakers in Washington and in state capitals are besieged daily by lobbyists representing corporate America, not by union members.

The gains won by unions in wages and benefits over many decades raised the standard of living of all Americans. These gains also can raise costs. When teachers’ salaries go up, so do the costs of public schools. But paying teachers good salaries benefits our whole society by making this most important profession more attractive to the best students and by strengthening the middle class. Paying factory workers good salaries can raise the cost of automobiles and other goods, but the 20th-century gains in factory wages contributed to the strong American economy. As unions declined, workers’ wages stagnated, and the share of total income in the U.S. that goes to the middle class has fallen from 53 percent to 46 percent. The loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs overseas is one of the causes of our economic problems.

What is often said about democracy should also be said about unions: they are not the best we could imagine, but they are the best we have. For those who can’t afford to buy a seat at a party fundraiser, who can’t pay for a lobbyist, who can’t invite politicians out to eat or to play golf or fly a jet, no other form of collective power is more successful and more democratic.

That’s not good enough for conservatives like Rauner, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and every other Republican Party prominence. They don’t want a fair competition. They see nothing positive about unions and never discuss a fair fight. Their desire to destroy unions has not diminished as unions have declined in power – it has grown.

Listen to Bruce Rauner. He has not positioned himself at the Republican extreme, like Walker, Cruz and many others. He must live with a Democratic legislature. But he hates unions like the CEO he used to be, who doesn’t want to hear what workers have to say and who is fighting them every day for money and power.

If he has his way, our whole democracy will suffer.

The second terrific link from Todd’s email is to this recent 1-minute speech on the House floor by our Congressman, Bill Foster.  Watch it (text here):