February 16, 2007

WEDGES OR BRIDGES? but first some cool stuff from WV

Caption: Workers rally at WV state capitol in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.

BREAKING WV NEWS. It was a hot time in the old town yesterday when workers and citizens held a feisty rally in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in the capitol building of El Cabrero's Beloved State of West Virginia (ECBSWV).

(Briefly, EFCA would make it easier for workers to join unions, raise penalties for companies that threaten, fire or otherwise illegally intimidate workers trying to organize, and provide mediation and arbitration for first contracts. For more on EFCA, check the link on Monday's post.)

That bill has just been reported out of committee in the U.S. House of Representatives where it will soon face a floor vote.

MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE LEGISLATURE, the WV House of Delegates yesterday passed a resolution in support of EFCA. I regret to say that I missed the debate, but I'm told the rhetoric was flying like minnie balls in a Civil War battle.

In another interesting WV note, reportedly 25 delegates have signed on to a resolution opposing the "surge" of troops in Iraq. This may come for a vote as soon as Monday.

The resolution is pretty Spartan. It simply states
That the West Virginia House of Delegates and the citizens of West Virginia will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq; and

Further resolved:

That the West Virginia House of Delegates disapproves of the decision of President George W. Bush announced on January 10, 2007, to deploy more than 20,000 additional United States combat troops to Iraq.

Be it further resolved, That a suitable copy of this resolution shall be sent to George W. Bush, President of the United States, to the Congressional delegation of our state, and to the United States Congress.
OK, BACK TO A MAJOR NATIONAL ISSUE. One of the nastier aspects of political life for the last few decades has been the use of wedge issues which have been cynically exploited by clever operators.

Often, these have pitted the middle class against the poor and both against themselves for the benefit of the very wealthy.

It's the old divide and rule thing which I believe was first articulated by Julius Caesar, although the practice is older than him.

In the Feb. 2007 issue of Sojourners, Tamara Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos, calls for the building of a "grand alliance" between the poor and the middle class.

The challenge to end poverty and improve economic opportunities for low-income households must be linked to the broad economic insecurity plaguing America’s middle class. As the concentration of income and wealth has reached historic proportions, Americans at the bottom and the middle of our income distribution have suffered the consequences. Rising costs of essentials—health care, housing, energy, college—are a shared anxiety. A reliance on high-cost debt, risky home finance (and refinance) deals, and the proliferation of predatory lending threaten to strip the working poor and the middle class of the few assets they can claim.

Some advocates for the poor may see this as a step back, but the fate of the two groups is linked.

And besides, purity is generally politically useless.

(El Cabrero, a modern day student of Aristotle, would argue that the main problem with the middle class is that it isn't big enough. I say let's get the poor folks in there too.)

Draut argues persuasively that

Unless we build a broad coalition around a shared agenda for the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution chart, it's very likely that the next generation will indeed be worse off than their parents.

As they say, do the math.


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