California is dying!
With their so-called concern for the fiscal responsibility of California, the front and center of their demolition policies, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Wednesday, the 22ndd of April, that they supported controversial plans to rein in the costs of retirement benefits for public employees. They say the costs are escalating out of control while they give the state over to their corporate friends.
Both of these vicious ruling class lapdogs support no taxes for the rich, complete deregulation for businesses (or regulation when necessary), Reaganomics that has led to the Second Great Depression, attacks on unions of all stripes, the privatization of all public services and employment and any and all corporate plans for avoiding any contribution to the state’s ‘commons’ by way of progressive taxation.
But the culprit in the entire mafia-business like policies supported by the two sycophants and shredders of public life are public policies designed to attack the California working class. This is all orchestrated with their corporate pals, from promoting charter schools to contracting out good paying American jobs. Target tomorrow: public pensions.
The idea is simple: create massive deficits with tax breaks for the rich, allow free havens for corporations like Exxon who paid no tax last year even though they showed the greatest profit in the history of the world (they had three off-shore businesses set up to funnel the money to them to avoid any taxation), and allow the business elite to control local, regional and state policy through their neo-liberal policies of privatizing everything nailed down while we get screwed.
Both of the ‘rulers’ announced that the public working class pension plans were just too lucrative and the state could not afford them anymore. Remember now, we are talking about public service and working people and their hard earned assets, not Wall Street CEO’s and their stolen bonuses, McPensions and stolen public treasures. But you will never hear either the Mayor or the Governor speak about the nauseatingly through-the-roof bonuses for the derivative managers and CDO fraudsters who used California as a carousel for profit making while people literally died in the streets from sickness and homelessness. Nor will you hear them bemoan the forfeitures of homes as a result of massive fraud wrought by the gamesters and financial interests who fish in the pants of the two running dog lackeys. Why? Easy, the corporations and the fraudsters support the two tyrants through campaign contributions and under the table financial deals.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa support corporations and corporatocracy, not working men and women in the state of California or anywhere else and it is as plain to see as the cancer that is running its way through the rot infested state economic system.
This is why you have seen the massive attack on teachers, firefighters, nurses, hospital workers, in home service providers, students and any and all forms of public workers and public expenditures. They are the “special interests” the two have targeted during a time of disaster capitalism when they think they can throw the crisis they helped create with their policies on the backs of decent public working people. This is their big chance to break the unions and restore the dictatorship of capital. Will it work?
Both predators argue that taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of government worker pensions; yet they both sing in chorus about how workers need to shoulder the burden of illegally transferred wealth into the hands of Countrywide Real Estate or Wall Street banksters and their political courtesans who worked to break the state like a mustang horse.
Both men pit worker against worker in an effort to assure that divide and conquer strategies will not allow for an organized working class to be able to confront the power of big money; for this is what they fear most, and with the bankrupt State Congress and a worthless La City council they may get away with it. According to Schwarzenegger:
“The single biggest threat to our fiscal health and California’s future is our public pension system. Here in Sacramento, pension reform must be our No. 1 priority (Schwarzenegger, Villaraigosa back plans to rein in pension costs, April 21, 2010 LA Times, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-public-pensions-20100422,0,2262758.story)
Schwarzenegger and Villaraigosa love the word reform for it means attacks on the hard fought worker savings, pensions, public schools and the historical public investments and achievements of working people. It is working people that are the problem for both of the ‘fellows’ of corporate capitalism. Neither of them work, choosing instead to represent the interests of those who do not.
Villaraigosa came out the same day Schwarzenegger launched his attack, at a separate function and said that the:
“pension system is no longer sustainable. Retirement benefit costs will consume 19% of the city’s general fund budget in the coming fiscal” (ibid).
California is a canary in the coal mine
The politics and economics of California are worse than most people understand and far surpass that of the other 49 states. Unfortunately the microphone and thus the detailed plans and process to fix them, is being commandeered by Villaraigosa and Schwarzenegger, friends of the ruling class.
You will hear no mention from the lips of the lounge lizards about capital gains tax that is only 15%, allowing the leisure class to sit around their pools, play with their cell phones and receive luscious profits while working people see furloughs, cuts in public services, slashed pay, political patronage with privatizers, high income taxes, payroll taxes and little or no taxation on capital.
What Villaraigosa and Schwarzenegger have in store for working people in California is very simple. They are advocating economic and social Darwinist policies to give newly hired government workers less generous retirement packages than those currently offered. According to state law the city and the state are legally prohibited from taking existing benefits away from people already on the government payroll or receiving a pension (they’d crawl them back if they could). So now, Villaraigosa and Schwarzenegger want to raise the age limit in order for you to get your pension, which is simply a reflection of wages that you give up in collective bargaining. It’s wage theft, pilfering by going through the pockets of hard working Californians and rummaging through their future retirements. If these guys could get into your homes they would have the sofa cushions lifted and start munching on stale Cheetos in search of nickels and dimes for their rulers.
So while Wall Street meanders on, raking in profits and bonuses for their clergy while assuring the system remains vulnerable to new vulture economics, both the Governor and Mayor of LA want to raise the retirement age for new state workers and decrease the size of their pension payments. You will have to be able to reach up and grab your own gravestone to get your hard earned monies if these bums get their way.
The proposals being put into place will also call for a jump in the age at which many other state workers could start collecting a pension, to 65 from 55 – a whopping ten years cut off your life with the flick of a pen. If you are a public worker in California you will live to survive, not survive to live in the new feudalistic economic arrangements these psychotics have for 45 million Californians, many of whom are public workers.
“I refuse to pass this crisis onto the next governor or the next Legislature” (ibid)
Schwarzenegger is now chomping at the bit for the fight with public unions and their members; a fight he started when he got into office on lies and hefty support from business allies. He is just echoing the talking points of Fox News and the rest of the sophists who cry about deficits when they are out of power but run them up to exorbitant levels when in office. “Make them work longer, harder, for less pay, cut their pensions, reduce their benefits all of this is good for working Californians”, according to the pair. The two echo the same mantra as they put forth economic devastation as social policy.
Who do they think they’re kidding? These prevaricators of capital seek to engorge their own constituencies while assuring no organized working class can challenge them and they are getting ready to put together their plans to do so right before the election for a new Governor. But working people, already hurt and worsened by the economic policies of these charlatans are beginning to wake up! The issue is massive organizing, for that is what is needed.
If Schwarzenegger gets his way along with Villaraigosa, prison guards, California Highway Patrol officers and state firefighters would see the age at which they could start collecting a pension rise to 57 from 50. The amount the pensions of such public safety workers increases for each year of service would be reduced by 10%. There is no doubt any republican runner for Governor will propose and embrace this as well, so where does this leave Jerry Brown?
Certainly all of this politicking will tie a knot in the underwear of wanna-be Governor Brown. He is one of the biggest corporate takers— from the prison-industrial complex here in California. Now he will have to confront his own constituency, the lock-up bosses and either demand they sacrifice their pensions or he will try to protect them as they say they are us. At what cost?
Organized labor groups, which have close ties to the Democrats who control the Legislature, have vowed to continue to aggressively fight the governor’s efforts to roll back pension benefits; but they are ineffective and can be blamed along with the governor for the state of California’s poor economic affairs. Eating at the trough and cutting deals with the ‘Terminator’ have been their chorus line and now they may be poised to accept another republican if Brown cannot extricate himself from the prison unions.
Meanwhile, according to McClatchy:
“State pension system officials have said the administration has exaggerated the size of the problem by citing studies that don’t take into account investment profits that are likely to offset the cost to taxpayers” (ibid).
Dave Low, assistant government relations director for the California School Employees Association remarked when hearing of the plans:
“This is just the governor continuing to distort the actual facts on what the real situation is. It is our opinion that pension systems are not in dire straits (ibid).
Don’t be fooled. STRS, the State Teacher Retirement Fund and PERS, the Public Employee Retirement Funds have taken it in the teeth with the economic meltdown. Sworn to derivative investments and questionable land deals they have lost, it is estimated, between 20 and 25% of their funds. And with no new public employees being hired, with teachers being laid off and public employees as well, these pensions face severe danger as the spigot is left on for future retirees.
City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said city officials were still ironing out the details of their plan to scale back benefits to public employees, which they say they are negotiating with labor leaders. Labor leaders have warned that that creating two classes of workers — one that gets a more generous retirement package than the other — would harm worker morale and create resentment in the ranks (ibid).
That’s precisely what both the mayor of LA and the Governor want, a divided ruling class blaming each other for their problems; certainly they don’t want not organized opposition to their neo-liberal, horrendous anti-working class policies, now do they?
The city’s contributions to its two largest pension systems — the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System and the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions — will increase 12% to $730.1 million for the next fiscal year from $653.4 million this year, according to the mayor’s office (ibid). The retirement systems were battered by major investment losses in the 2008 financial meltdown, forcing increased contributions that taxpayers must make to keep them afloat.
Heroes and Villains
So just who should pay the brunt of all the theft and damaged lives? Working people — of course. They will do this be receiving less public benefits, from parks to libraries to schools to social workers and less wages and pensions to boot. This is where California, once a bellwether state, is headed if there is not intense worker organizing and labor resistance. All workers must see that the disastrous politics of the two parties are ruining lives, devastating older retirees, and forcing people into servitude either by having to work longer for less, or shoved into the ovens of debt peonage for life.
California students rang the first alarm when they occupied buildings to oppose fee increases in 2009 and now the challenge will be to mount a coalition of public and private sector workers along with youth, to fight the kill-baby-kill policies of the neo-liberal fixers and their corporate crapshooters. If not, with sinking home values, low wages, lack of public services, broken schools, burgeoning prison populations, massive unemployment, massive homelessness and broken infrastructure, California will become its own modern version of Rome, if it already hasn’t.