Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Battle Is Nearly Over, The War Has Just Begun

Strike Report 12/22/05
It's Over (Almost), But Pension Battle for All U.S. Workers is Just Starting


The sickening anti-worker propaganda in New York's newspapers - in a confounding twist, these courageous workers were even called "rats" by the New York Post - shows that Americans have a lot to learn about how their own government is screwing them over.

In this increasingly interconnected world, the NYC transit strike has to be linked to the sorry-ass news on Capitol Hill: Vise President Dick Cheney further put the squeeze on Americans by casting the tie-breaking vote yesterday in the Senate that guaranteed a grimmer economic future for all Americans who make less than $250,000 a year. The guy is simply a vulture, and you're only fooling yourself if you store the horrendous budget news coming out of D.C. in a separate part of your brain from the economic issues behind the New York City transit strike.

The Washington Post only partially got it right this time, reporting this morning:

Senate Republicans, by the narrowest margin yesterday, pushed through a major budget measure that would trim federal spending by nearly $40 billion over five years, but they were stymied by Democrats in their effort to open Alaska's wilderness to oil drilling.

Vice President Cheney took his seat as president of the Senate just past 10:30 a.m. to cast the tie-breaking vote on a hard-fought budget bill that would allow states to impose new fees on Medicaid recipients, cut federal child-support enforcement funds, impose new work requirements on state welfare programs and squeeze student lenders - all for the purpose of slowing the growth of federal entitlement programs.
The tax cuts for the wealthy? Not even mentioned in the Washington Post story, even though those tax cuts and our outrageous war spending are breaking the federal piggy bank.

As I pointed out the other day, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg had the gall to label the New York City transit strike as "morally reprehensible" while Wall Street execs are taking home huge bonuses this holiday season.

The transit workers, trying to look out for their futures, are labeled "selfish"?
But pensions...those are up for grabs.

How do you think many of those huge bonuses were paid for by companies rewarding their CEOs and other executives for performance? By not funding pensions.

Elaine Chao, our erstwhile Secretary of Labor (such as she is) estimates that the unfunded pension liability nationwide is $450 billion. And that's a conservative making a conservative estimate! My guess, you can double, perhaps triple, that figure and be closer to the truth.

And guess who pays for that? You. Me. Every tax payer in America will have the opportunity to do right for a fellow working American as the Reagan/Bush legacy comes home to roost squarely on the backs of the people who worked 20, 25, 30, 40, 50 years for a company only to find out the rules changed and their pensions that they thought would be waiting for them, are in default.

Like other commuters, I'm happy that the transit strike appears to be ending. We won't have to pound as much shoe leather. But the fight for reasonable pensions and health-care benefits is just now starting, if we're smart. And it was the transit workers who did the walking for us.

I hear the argument from tired newsroom hacks that pensions aren't a "sexy" topic and that young people don't even think about such things.

Well, for decades, many Americans didn't have to think about such things because they had unions fighting for them and because insurance companies weren't running the health-care business.

Those days are over. People had better start thinking about how to revive the American dream before it expires.

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