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September 11, 2011 - Ray Hall (Archive)
“By the year 2020, 80% of middle-class consumers will be outside the United States.” Deborah Wince Smith, President of the Council on Competitiveness:

America’s middle class is systematically being destroyed.

Our greatest achievements as a nation occurred with the creation and rise of an upwardly mobile middle class. So strong once was middle class America that generation after gen-eration knew for a certainty that succeeding generations would fare better than the last.

Much of our success as a nation was attributed to an abundance of natural resources and human resources—our native population supplemented by a constant stream of immi-grants—workmen that built this country rail by rail and brick by brick. Conservatives and Tea-Publicans first and always give credit for the success of the United States to an unfettered free enterprise system regardless of the resource, natural or human, that was exploited.

However, there are at least two constituent parts of our grand experiment that held to-gether this democratic republic and made it wealthier, stronger and more resilient despite repeated attempts to cripple or kill both—public education and labor unions. Be not de-ceived, the attack on public education and labor unions is nothing less than all out war on America’s middle class.

Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine were the first national leaders to advocate for public education. Despite that early advocacy education remained localized and primarily for the wealthy until the middle of the nineteenth century. But as this country progressed parents of every nationality and background recognized the value of public education and admonished their children to “get an education, they can never take that away from you.” “They” being oppressive governments or aristocratic landlords, mistrusted and feared by the increasing numbers of immigrants arriving on these shores.

Indeed, the bias for education was so strong that during the nineteen fifties and sixties and even into the seventies education in the United States became the absolute “gold standard” for the world. Now, today, countries like Australia, South Korea, Norway, Sweden, German and indeed much of the free world has surpassed us.

Instead of examining what other countries did to supplant the United States as the world leader in education public school teachers and public schools came under relentless at-tack. Today in America, teachers who were once the envy of the world are savaged as lazy, unfit and uncaring lackeys of a powerful teachers union.

The attack on public education and teachers is not hidden—it is in plain sight and appar-ent to even the most casual observer. Why might one ask has a public school district in Wake County attracted the attention of two billionaire brothers who are not residents of Wake County or even the state of North Carolina?

According to the Huffington Post since 2000 the Wake County public school district, which includes Raleigh, has used a “system of integration based on income.” What that means is that no more than 40% of the students in any Wake County school can receive subsidized lunches. That particular plan was implemented in an effort to eliminate chronically and desperately poor schools—a problem that plagues many school districts.

However, in 2009 five conservative candidates were elected to the Wake County school board with the single intention of eliminating that integration policy. A group called WakeCares that opposes the county’s busing and integration policy backed those conser-vative candidates. WakeCares received public and financial support from the Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity funded in large part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch who live in Texas or Kansas or Colorado or California or who knows where, but not in North Carolina.

One wealthy North Carolina resident, Art Pope, a national director for Americans for Prosperity gave more than $15,000 to the Wake County Republican Party which used nearly all of that money to finance conservative candidates in the 2009 Wake County School Board election.

Our landscape is littered with the consequences of this war on America’s middle class. It has been widely reported that the Koch brothers, the Tea Party and Tea-publicans spent more than $40 million in Wisconsin’s recall elections for the state senate with more than $8 million spent in a single senate recall. In Ohio newly elected Governor John Kasich followed Scott Walker’s lead and neutered labor unions.

Pride of the Tea-publicans and poster boy for the nutty religious, Texas Governor Perry, brags about creating low paying jobs while firing teachers and firefighters as Texas burns. Tea-publican Florida Governor Rick Scott decided to drug test poor people and defends his policy although only 2% of welfare recipients tested positive. Other Tea-publicans advocate drug-testing people receiving unemployment benefits.

This is an attack on America as serious as any we have ever faced. We ought to be alarmed even frightened. We must repel repugnant ideologies; those politicians and elected officials that are willing to ravish America’s middle class for the profits of a few and who so recklessly reject science and our national security for a temporary political advantage.


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(Double click to enlarge) 02 Olga Ruiz Olga Ruiz, a striker at Diamond Walnut in Stockton, California, cheers the announcement of a legal victory won by her union, Teamsters Local 601. The strike is one of the longest in modern U.S. labor history.