"Elections belong to the people. It's their decision. If they decide to turn their backs on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will have to sit on their blisters."
-- Abraham Lincoln.
About this time four years ago, I was driving past a western Kentucky Walmart and spotted a woman in a “Rand Paul for Senate” tee shirt loading groceries into an old compact car.
Based on her wheels, I guessed the shopper lives far from Easy Street.
I saw the same car pulling out of the Walmart the other day. A fresh “Team Mitch” sticker was on the back bumper.
I don’t know if the driver was the Rand Paul fan I saw in 2010. But a woman was behind the wheel.
McConnell is a millionaire. He is bankrolled by millionaires and billionaires who expect him to do their bidding.
The senate majority leader wannabe always comes through for the plutocrats. That’s ditto for Paul, the junior senator from my native Kentucky.
Paul isn’t running this time. McConnell is, so right now I’d ask my fellow working class Kentuckians to focus on his record.
The AFL-CIO says McConnell voted the union position on legislation just 17 percent of the time in 2013 and only 12 percent of the time since he came to the senate in 1985. Let’s look at the basis for McConnell’s near rock bottom numbers. McConnell:
- Supports a national right to work law.
- Opposes the Employee Free Choice Act.
- Supports repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act.
- Opposes collective bargaining rights for public employees. He said “public sector unions are a 50-year mistake.”
McConnell wants to abolish or render ineffective the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration. He wants to do the same with laws designed to safeguard worker life and limb on the job.
McConnell would like to deep six the National Labor Relations Board or at least pack it with members who share his anti-unions views. His ideal secretary of labor is his wife, ex-Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. She shares her spouse’s deep disdain for all things union.
Anyway, when McConnell praises “free enterprise,” he means free of unions.
McConnell is an old-time Social Darwinist who thinks employers ought to have the right to run their businesses pretty much as they see fit, and if workers don’t like it they can quit and get a job somewhere else.
McConnell is a disciple of the “trickle-down” theory of economics. That is, if politicians make the rich richer with big tax breaks and regulation relief, everybody will be better off.
“Trickle-down” economics gave us the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Reagan recession of the 1980s and the two Bush recessions of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
On the other hand, union jobs go hand in hand with prosperity. Unions played a big part in creating the middle class in America.
Sadly, a lot of good union jobs have been going overseas for years. McConnell is fine with outsourcing.
Earlier this year, he led senate Republican opposition to a measure to stop companies from deducting from their tax bill expenses connected with moving their operations to a foreign country. The measure also would have provided tax credits to companies that bring operations back to the U.S.
Plutocrats like outsourcers vote their class interests. A lot of working class people don’t, and that’s why politicians like McConnell and Paul are in office.
Oh, they love for working stiffs to blame themselves for having to scrape by from paycheck to paycheck or for ending up unemployed.
Politicians like McConnell and Paul claim that the unfettered free enterprise system gives everybody who works hard a chance to go from “rags to riches.” So they want working people to believe it’s their own fault they aren’t rich.
In his TV debate with Alison Lundergan Grimes, his Democratic opponent, McConnell admitted he inherited his millions from his mother-in-law.
Paul was born on Easy Street. His daddy is Rand Paul, the millionaire, right wing ex-Texas congressman.
McConnell and Paul are hardly alone. A lot of today’s millionaires inherited their fortunes or were born into well-heeled families. That’s always been the case.
“While some multimillionaires started in poverty, most did not,” historian Howard Zinn wrote of the late 19th century Robber Barons. “A study of the origins of 303 textile, railroad and steel executives of the 1870s showed that 90 percent came from middle- or upper-class families.”
Zinn added, “The Horatio Alger stories of 'rags to riches' were true for a few men, but mostly a myth, and a useful myth for control.”
The myth is still being pushed by right-wing politicians, the right-wing media echo chamber, and religious right preachers.
In any event, Republicans like McConnell and Paul do all they can to encourage the idea that we’re all in the same boat even if mine is a leaky little dory and theirs is a big fancy yacht.
McConnell, Paul and politicians like them want working people to think that because they might own (or are making payments on) a home – however modest – or a car – even a heap – their interests are the same as millionaires and billionaires who live in mansions and own fleets of luxury cars.
Of course, Mitch and Rand don’t generally invite folks like the Walmart patron over for dinner at the mansion or for a round of golf at the country club. Mitch and Rand want their votes, not their company.
Naturally, when other candidates stick up for unions, government programs that help people who need help and talk about making rich people pay their fair share of taxes, the plutocrats and their bought-and-paid for politicians holler, “class warfare!” and “socialism!”
And they start blabbing how they love God, guns and Old Glory but not abortion and same sex marriage.
(A buddy of mine remembers seeing a TV news show where President George H.W. Bush leveled the “class warfare” charge against the Democrats while standing on the deck of the Bush family yacht anchored offshore from the Bush family mansion at Kennebunkport, Me.)
Edwin Lyngar admits he was once like the Walmart shopper. He had a hard time making ends meet and still voted for millionaire politicians who put the screws to him. “I’m angry at my younger self, not for being poor, but for supporting politicians who would have kept me poor if they were able,” he wrote in Salon.
It took him a while, but Lyngar figured out that right wing politicians had been conning him about the government. “….I earned a bachelor’s degree for free courtesy of a federal program, and after my military service I used the GI Bill to get two graduate degrees, all while making ends meet with the earned income tax credit.”
He added, “The GI Bill not only helped me, it also created much of the American middle class after World War II. Conservatives often crow about ‘supporting the military,’ but imagine how much better America would be if the government used just 10 percent of the military budget to pay for universal higher education, rather than saddling 20-year-olds with mortgage-like debt.”
Speaking from experience, Lyngar said that many working people who vote Republican “know that they are one medical emergency or broken down car away from ruin, and they blame the government. They vote against their own interests, often hurting themselves in concrete ways, in a vain attempt to deal with their own, misguided shame about being poor. They believe ‘freedom’ is the answer, even though they live a form of wage indenture in a rigged system.
“Government often fails because the moneyed interests don’t want it to succeed. They hate government and most especially activist government (aka government that does something useful). Their hatred for government is really disdain for Americans, except as consumers or underpaid labor.
“Sadly, it took me years — decades — to see the illogic of supporting people who disdain me. But I’m a super-slow learner. I wish I could take the poorest, struggling conservatives and shake them. I would scream that their circumstances or failures or joblessness are not all their fault.
“They should wise up and vote themselves a break. Rich people vote their self-interest in every single election. Why don’t poor people?”