Truthout: State Budget Cuts: Starting at the Top

-By Dean Baker

February 7, 2011- The elite media are on yet another jihad. They are determined to cut the pay and benefits of public-sector workers who can still enjoy a middle-class lifestyle.
The idea that a schoolteacher or highway worker can retire with a pension of $2,000-$3,000 a month is directly at odds with their view of government. They believe that government exists to redistribute income from everyone else to those who already are rich and powerful. To these people, the money that is going to pay the wages and pensions of ordinary workers is money that could be in the pockets of the rich.

The economic crisis caused by the collapse of the housing bubble has created a great opportunity. State and local tax revenues plummeted as employment fell. Lower property values also meant lower property taxes. This meant that governments across the country suddenly faced severe budget shortfalls. This provided the opportunity to attack the pay and pension packages of public-sector workers.

It is difficult not to admire the brilliance of this attack. The country's elite, with the Wall Street high rollers at the forefront, wrecked the economy through a combination of incompetence, greed and outright fraud.

As tens of millions of workers are still struggling with unemployment, underemployment and underwater mortgages, this gang now turns around and starts demanding that middle-income workers take pay cuts and give up part of their pensions. This is like a child setting fire to his parents' house and then complaining because dinner isn't ready on time. But this is the way America now works, with the spoiled children on Wall Street calling the shots.

While there can be no doubt that many states face a serious budget squeeze as a result of the economic crisis, that doesn't mean that we have to join their attack on teachers, firefighters, and other public workers. Instead, we can go right to the top.


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