Monday, February 21, 2011

Wage Freeze Here, but Billions for Jobs Over There

At the same time that President Obama announced a two-year wage freeze for federal employees, he is asking for an additional $128 billion to hire 73,000 more security force cops in Afghanistan.  The idea is that propping up security in an unpolice-able state will let us start leaving this July, in time for the presidential campaign kickoff.

The wage freeze announcement coincided, of course, with the extension of  the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich. Federal employee union president John Gage called it "a slap at working people." The move was pure political theater, trimming the $1.3 trillion deficit by a mere 0.4 percent. The president pompously explained: "Small businesses and families are tightening their belts.  The government should be too." (and hint, wink, nod to the states - start doing your own union busting without guilt, the Prez has your back!)
One of the largest categories of federal employment is nursing.  A typical VA hospital nursing assistant, who turns paralyzed, brain-injured soldiers in bed to prevent decubitus ulcers, empties bedpans, and does what is commonly called "scut work," earns about $28,000 a year.  Factoring in cost of living increases, this federal worker is being slammed with a virtual pay cut.  This nursing assistant will still have to pay four percent more for groceries, as much as ten percent more for clothing and shoes for the kids, and who knows what outrageous gas prices this summer.  Compare this with the $175,000 salary of a member of Congress.  Before the gold-plated health coverage.

But hiring of "folks" (as Obama and most politicians annoyingly call people) goes on unabated in Afghanistan, where the typical security recruit can't read or write and staves off hunger by smoking opium, before during and after work.  Policemen (no female cops over there) have been photographed in their GI duds, smoking hash pipes.   Bribery, shakedowns and corruption are rampant.  There have even been murders by security forces of our own troops. Yet they can get paid by the billions with our taxpayer money and with Chinese loans while our own workers suffer.  They will get rewarded while our own government crushes unions and punishes decent human beings who only want to feed their families.

How about we just make Afghanistan the 51st State?  Maybe then there'd be some equity.  If we owned that hell-hole of an empire, we could just stop the pretense and treat them over there the same way we treat working people over here.  Like crap.


Anne Lavoie said...

Women, who are predominant in the nursing profession, make up much of the federal workforce who have had their wages frozen. Women also make up most of the teachers union in Wisconsin. Did Gov. Walker exempt the police union because they are mostly male, or because they carry guns and can enforce the law/crack down on protesters when ordered to do so? Or both.


Anne Lavoie said...

BTW, I love the sizzling, scathing pieces that you come up with, Karen. This is definitely one of them. You've really got a way with words.

I feel the same outrage - the whole war thing makes my blood absolutely boil! Now if we could only do something about it. Too bad we know that elections don't work anymore.


jackl said...

Agree with almost/# everything you said and love your NYT letters, you and Marie are my heroes!

#/Nothing wrong with smoking a little opium or whatever before work. Takes the edge off, puts things in perspective. Especially if you're an Afghan po-po, a pretty tenuous existence.