Public Employee Unions Losing the Fight
Despite what some polls are telling us, the Democrats at the national level are rapidly losing the narrative thread on the issue of collective bargaining rights for public employees. The frame of the “debate” on public worker pensions, and the role of labor unions in American society generally, has already largely moved in the direction that Wall Street CEOs, hedge fund managers, and the Koch brothers want it to go. On MSNBC, Ed Shultz of The Ed Show is trying his best to counter the dominant narrative but an hour of programming here and there against the Fox noise machine is like strumming a lute in the middle of a heavy metal concert.
The national press and corporate media news shows are now — and for the foreseeable future will continue to be – obsessed with the pension plans, salaries, and bargaining rights of public employees. No amount of triumphalist commentary coming from MSNBC, especially now that Keith Olbermann is gone, can counter the dominant narrative of the Fox News/Talk Radio/Corporate Media propaganda system that pounds the line into our heads, day in and day out, that what’s ailing America these days is not the biggest rip off ever by mortgage securities giants but the retirement plans for elementary school teachers, nurses, social workers, police officers, correctional officers, firefighters.
Just as President Obama and the Democrats lost the handle on the health care narrative in the summer of 2009 (when they allowed the Tea Party to hijack the debate at town halls while sitting by passively watching), they’re doing it again by standing on the sidelines, watching, as the most aggressive assault on labor unions we’ve seen in a generation takes place.
The propaganda function of the corporate media is a modern marvel. Even after Wall Street pumped up a $8 trillion housing bubble and extorted from taxpayers trillions of dollars in bailouts and loan guarantees the dominant media frame has successfully pitted people who earn about $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 a year against other people who earn about $30,000 or $40,000 or $50,000 a year.
Millions of working Americans apparently do not understand that weakening labor unions — yes, Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan, even teachers’ unions — will only serve in the long run to lower their own living standards. And the reason they don’t understand this simple fact is because they’re constantly swimming in a polluted sea of propaganda. Pick up a newspaper or turn on the local news and in between the stories about layoffs of state, county, and municipal employees you’ll find editorials and news “analyses” with the same simple message: “We” can no longer afford to pay public employees what they’ve been paid for the past half century.