State of Emergency: GOP at Large

So now Donald Trump — acting at times as tyrant-in-training, others as distractor-in-chief – has qualitatively changed the idea of the presidency as a “bully pit.”  Much of the nation sits on edge awaiting Trump’s next tweet, feeding his insatiable ego while he rants on and on, careening from one topic to the next.  Meanwhile, the congressional majority of Republican crazies is taking advantage of their numbers, moving to abolish Obamacare and such governmental frills as the departments of education and environmental protection – as well as such annoyances as financial and business regulations that (feebly) protect the interests of the increasingly hapless citizen-consumer.

Collective bargaining is in their sites as well, not to mention a nation’s right to choose: Trump and his GOP Congress want to cut off funding to any international women’s health or family planning entity that disseminates any information whatsoever about contraception or abortion.  And the list just goes on and on.  These are reactionary times.

Here in the Pennsylvania, the party of Know Nothings is also making hay while the sun shines on them.  Their response to the massive Women’s March is to use their majority in both houses of the General Assembly to ram through the senate – without any public hearings — a bill rolling back abortion rights in the never-ending effort to put women back in their places. A version of this bill passed in the house last year and the Republicans have the necessary votes to override Governor Wolf’s promised veto this year. Every senator from southwestern Pennsylvania voted for this reactionary legislation.

“Illegal” immigrants should, of course, stay in their place as well – which isn’t in our state.  The legislative GOP has promised to withhold whatever funding they can from cities and municipalities that advertise their willingness to offer sanctuary to “illegal” people.

And union rights are also on their early radar, the senate having passed a bill – under the guise of “paycheck protection” – forbidding public sector unions from automatically deducting PAC contributions from members.

As for Governor Wolf’s most recent, modestly liberal budget proposal?  Dead on arrival, say majority leaders in both houses of the Assembly.

On the warpath

Have I missed anything?  You bet!  it’s quite a challenge to list all of the attacks regular people face from these reactionaries.  If you’re for it, they’re probably against it.  Put succinctly, the US ruling class – filthy rich capitalists swimming in record wealth and luxury – is on the attack, with the President of the United States and the Republican Party leading the charge.

Our only choice is to fight back.  It’s nice to see all the people who weren’t upset at President Obama for his record number of deportations or timidity in the face of racist cop killings, catch the spirit of outrage.  I put even more stock in the fresh innocence of youth: the Pittsburgh Public School students who staged a strike over the appointment of an education secretary who’s never set foot inside a public school; or the Lower Merion High School basketball team that has been taking a very public stand in support of Muslims, immigrants and refugees.

Let the protests continue: at airports, town hall meetings, federal buildings, city halls, sporting events, awards show, wherever.

We have no choice except to fight back but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fight to win.  The potentially powerful voice of organized labor remains largely silent and on the sidelines. Labor needs to begin organizing workplaces like it’s 1929 – because it could damn well be that bad before long.

Politically, labor should have no trouble joining with other progressive forces in calling for a fair tax structure.  Here in Pennsylvania, the governor is continually hamstrung in his efforts to pass a budget that adequately funds schools and addresses social concerns.  There just isn’t enough money coming into the General Fund and the only “acceptable” source of new revenue is the working-class, low- and middle-income taxpayer: Democratic governors continually raise the flat income tax rate, stick it to the unfortunate tobacco addict, and come up with new ways to cash in on monopolized gambling, largely taking advantage of the poor working stiff who’s looking for a quick windfall.

More than 70 percent of revenue in the current state budget comes from two regressive taxes – income and sales.  Corporate income taxes account for just eight percent of revenue, with other business taxes accounting for another seven percent.  In the 1970s, corporate taxes accounted for 28 percent of the General Fund, and the corporate rate averaged 22.25 percent from 1988 to 2003 before corporate contributions to the public good really started to fall (Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center).

We should demand a dramatic reversal of this trend from every state legislator (and the governor) – no ifs, ands or buts.  Corporations should pay their fair share of taxes, as should wealthy individuals; therefore, the state income tax should be progressive and not flat.

These are the things for which we should be willing to go on the warpath.

— James Collins