The liberal center has folded. Anyone who had any illusions about Democrats and a politics of resistance, you can forget it. The issue that faced both Governor Jerry Brown of California and Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon was the same: whether to tax the rich of both states to offset the state deficits caused by the Great Recession. The public sector labor unions already had legislation at the ready but the Democratic Governors called and said put it all on hold. What did the unions do, they caved.
In California’s case, the large public sector unions agreed to an austerity compromise, which taxes the rich at a reduced rate in comparison with the unions’ proposed legislation while also including an onerous regressive state sales tax increase. This will disproportionally affect working and poor people, not the people who profited from the crisis.
In Oregon, the Governor convinced the public sector unions to abandon plans for any tax on the wealthy.
Oregon’s largest paper, the Oregonian, reports:
“Kizhaber [the Governor] has been having a series of meetings with business and labor leaders to talk about tax reform — and to discourage labor from striking out on its own on tax policy.”
The Governor instead opts for getting rid of what is called the “corporate kicker”. It’s another gimmick. Currently corporations get a refund in state taxes. The Governor wants to eliminate the refund. This won’t raise the needed revenues to run the public commons and the Governor knows it. So do the unions.
Governor Brown and Governor Kizhaber are two sides of the same useless coin: heady compromisers with the one percent under the auspices that the one percent cannot be taxed, even though they continue to profit from the devastation wrought by Wall Street.
And when it comes to raising taxes on corporations, forget it. Neither Governor has the intellectual or moral backbone to face the corporate lobbyists who fund their campaigns. In the case of Brown, it is even more egregious as his father, Edmund Brown, set up the Master Plan for Education in California that was supposed to ensure universal access to all students. Ironically his son, Jerry, is busy unraveling what his father instituted as public policy. Who suffers? Working people and students, the same people Jerry wants o pay higher sales tax. Shared compromise, right? Wrong.
The unions must now apply muscle, pressure from below on these rank politicians. This is the only thing they understand. Without rank and file mobilization putting political coercion on Brown and Kizhaber the two democrats will throw their state’s citizens under the privatization austerity bus.
Reporting for Countercurrents, reporter Shamus Cooke notes that is just what the Oregon Governor has done:
“Governor Kitzhaber thanked the unions who campaigned for him by demanding historic concessions; public workers took unprecedented cuts in health care combined with statewide furlough days. The example of Oregon has been repeated on a state-by-state basis; the Democrats have parted ways with unions while the unions are stuck in denial” (http://www.countercurrents.org/print.html).
As the California and Oregon economy continues its death spiral downward the unions seem not to have the backbone to fight. At least the union leaders don’t. That is why it is time for rank and file to either oxygenate their unions with the spirit of struggle and not compromise or watch the unions fall into irrelevancy as the foreclosures and unemployment rise.
The liberal “center” has collapsed. The Neville Chamberlains have shown their hand. It’s time to demand that working people not face the Greek austerity that is being shepherded by Governor Brown and Governor Kitzhaber in tandem with union bosses. To fail to do so will only assure lower standards of living and defeat.