Vote No On Issue 2--Reverse The Post-9/11 American Decline
My family and I attended the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Ceremony on September 11, 2011. We were deeply moved by the unveiling of the new memorial created using two steel beams from the World Trade Center. Touching those beams unleashed a wave of emotions about what took place that day. Reflecting on the events that have unfolded in the ten years since that attack still leave us with much to grieve about--not only the loss of life that day, but a lost decade for America.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 were many things. Among the most important, we can see now that a decade has passed, is that they were a portal into an alter-reality world, which America has wandered through ever since. Four hundred fifteen firefighters and law enforcement officers--public workers--died that day and were justly honored at that time as heroes. That is a fact we would do well to remember today, as their counterparts, and all public workers for that matter, are pilloried as gluttonous anchors on the economy and denigrated as needless government bloat.
The 9/11 attacks and immediate aftermath eerily foreshadowed the trend by fusing the real with the unreal, the actual with the mythical and forsaking fact for falsehood. With its use of passenger aircraft to smash into giant buildings filled with innocent workers, it was designed to create a horrific spectacle. The World Trade Center and the Pentagon were clearly chosen for their symbolic value. And then, by chance and likely unanticipated by even the attackers themselves, the consequences expanded further into the realm of fantasy when not one but both of the towers fell, as if mischievous gods had sided for the moment with the evil perpetrators.
The United States, as if picking up Osama bin Laden’s cue, oriented its response to the mythical symbolism of Al Qaeda and bin Laden’s stage-managed inflation of their own importance. Soon, our foreign policy and domestic politics were revolving like a merry-go-round around Al Qaeda and the global threat it allegedly posed. Al Qaeda was absurdly likened to the Soviet Union during the cold war and Hitler during World War II, and treated accordingly.
Now real and immense forces were in play, as the power of the United States was real and immense, and what it did was truly global in its reach and consequences. The policy of “regime change” was born and the 1.5-trillion-dollar wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were launched in its name. Yet no sooner had America’s global imperialism been proclaimed that it began to disintegrate. The two regime-change wars quickly turned into studies in bloody futility that they remain a decade later, with no clear end in sight for either. The pseudo-threat had given rise to a pseudo-empire, which was no sooner launched than it began to unravel--undone by the stark reality of our manufactured alter-reality. The lost decade of America was prompted but not forced by 9/11; we have turned our power against ourselves in both foreign and domestic policy.
For ten years now, the habit of exaggerating or making up threats has persisted and spread as a new inclination to manufacture and create illusion infected the public discourse. The list of delusions and absurdities that played such an active role in our political sphere this past decade has been orchestrated in a perverse pattern. It consists of falsely alleging the existence of some problem to which your proposed solution is something you want to do anyway, for some other reason that you prefer not to make public. The false allegation in the case of Iraq was, of course, that weapons of mass destruction existed in that country--we all know how that illusion has played out.
Unfortunately, that pattern is now rooted at the center of economic policy. The strategy of manufacturing a threat in order to respond to it is a familiar one, but it has never played such a significant role in our politics as it has since 9/11. I feel that the most disturbing element of our lost decade is the fact that the United States has been exhausting itself trying to find solutions to unreal problems, while the real problems facing our country go largely unattended. The nation that was absorbed in its misguided wars failed to notice the looming financial crisis that overtook it in 2008. Our belligerent acts of self-destruction since 9/11 have more been acts of self-distraction in that we have summoned up imaginary demons precisely in order to spare ourselves from facing the real burdens of our time.
That belligerence brings us to Ohio Governor John Kasich’s favorite manufactured foil to demonize--public sector workers. I have laid out a long and winding road to speak to the root cause of how the anti-union-worker fires of scorn and scapegoatism have been ignited by the smoldering ashes of 9/11--manufactured by conservatives and funded by America’s largest corporations. In our post-9/11 world, any conversation in regard to John Kasich and Ohio’s Republicans’ dominance of our state legislative process begins and ends with four letters--ALEC.
ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a toxic alliance of corporations and state legislatures that work together to ensure that corporate interests stay at the top of legislative agendas across the country. This alliance is anti-union, anti-working class, anti-regulation, and is pushing their corporate interests with complete disregard for any regulatory measure that could lessen their profits.
ALEC, not Ohio’s elected officials, drafted the bulk of Ohio’s union-busting Senate Bill 5--which a “No” vote on Issue 2 this upcoming election seeks to repeal. How do we know this? Recently, a leak of ALEC documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy revealed how ALEC's model legislation has spread to the Ohio Republican legislature. The details of ALEC’s model bills had once only been available to the group’s 2,000 legislative and 350 corporate members. But thanks to Ohio’s own Aliya Rahman, an economic justice activist, who was able to secure a leak of over 800 secret documents from a southern Ohio state legislator--we now have ALEC’s blueprints for the wholesale dismantling of labor and the privatization profiteering schemes set to unfold as part of the manufactured working-class downfall.
In the world according to ALEC, government contributes nothing to profit from other than a bloated military contract apparatus through which to pipeline public money. Outside of this role, it should be demonized, starved and privatized. Any force in a civil society, especially labor, that contests the rights of corporations to grab all social surplus for themselves, and that prevents the wholesale privatization of government services and functions in order to treat people like liabilities and the earth like a sewer, should be eliminated.
This view of the world dominated the Ohio legislative sessions as Republican leaders pushed a consistent message--“Public sector workers are to blame”--and deployed legislative tools and language drafted by ALEC for a sweeping range of anti-union laws, the broad aim of which is to make it harder to be a union and easier for workers not to pay the costs of collective bargaining or union political activity. The Right to Work Act eliminates employee obligation to pay the costs of collective bargaining; the Public Employee Freedom Act bars almost any action to induce it; the Public Employer Payroll Deduction Act bars automatic dues collection; the Voluntary Contribution Act bars the use of dues for political activity. Yet, via the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling allowing corporations to direct unlimited amounts of money into political races and ballot issue initiatives, over six million dollars has been raised so far by corporations in an effort to defeat the repeal of Senate Bill 5. It is estimated that by Election Day, over ten million dollars will be spent on public worker attack ads alone.
I don’t know about you, but I would prefer that even ruinous legislation at least be drafted by those who were elected to occupy the Ohio Statehouse and not by a team of out-of-state lobbyists holed up in shadowy corporate bunkers. This spring, ALEC-model anti-labor laws--in the form of Senate Bill 5-- reached their tentacles into Ohio to create, among other things, laws to restrict the scope of collective bargaining; to eliminate “project labor agreements” and eliminate state “prevailing wage” requirements; and to preempt local living-wage ordinances or other labor standards. Just keeping track of all the anti-union legislation is often daunting.
I will be the first to acknowledge that unions are not as pure as the driven snow, but it has been well documented that states with high union membership equates to higher wages across the board for ALL workers within those states. Are there inept and indolent public employees? Yes, of course, but every single sector of the economy has its share of personnel that just don’t live up to certain standards. I have had the opportunity to work in the private sector, non-profit sector and now within the public sector, and no one sector trumps the other for worker productivity, passion and quality. I currently work for the City of Lakewood as a member of AFSCME Local 1043, and each and every day I recognize that it is a privilege to work on important public works projects for my community. It is not something I take for granted--I care deeply for my community and take pride in doing the job right and to the utmost satisfaction of our residents. I am not alone in that regard.
The willingness of people to blame unions for our economic crises is because there’s so much anger in the public about the economy, but we haven’t figured out who the real enemy is. People need more time to figure out the connection of the forces lined up against them, but they’re getting there. It may be that unions and other progressive organizations, moved by the carnage, will work together and with the public to build a mass movement to reverse it. Many people are trying to do that now. The “No on Issue 2” campaign has become a virtual melting pot of the entire cross-section of the diverse economic, spiritual, racial, urban, rural, environmental and social justice interests and passions found throughout the State of Ohio--we have found a common bond that unites us. That common bond is the universal acknowledgement that capitalism has been corrupted. This is a problem where left and right can agree. When government and private finance are in bed with each other, it’s not a left versus right issue; it’s a haves versus have-nots issue.
Two important events happened this past month that I found most disturbing--they both point to the post-9/11 decline of America. At the September 16th Republican Tea Party debate, a cheering jeering crowd supported the idea that a sick person who didn’t get health care insurance should be allowed to die. The very next day, the Census Bureau reported that poverty in the US reached its highest level since 1992. One in six Americans lives in poverty. These events are connected. When greed defines us and becomes our moral compass, then tolerance and humanity die, and prosperity is a casualty.
Yes, I have a problem with an attack on people who are a bright light in our economy--people who are committed to our communities and the welfare of our friends and families--and target them as the problem. I urge you to vote No on Issue 2 this November. The repeal of Senate Bill 5 will become a catalyst to help end the decade-long-running circus featuring illusion, delusion, distraction and deception.
My Family and I relocated to the City of Lakewood in 2008 to be near my Wife’s extended Family. We have two young children that attend Lincoln Elementary School.
I have over 25 years experience as a community organizer, political campaign manager, director of a non-profit, environmental and social/economic justice writer, lobbyist, demonstrator, non-profit board member and lifelong community activist and volunteer. I am passionate about economic and social justice, environmental causes and identifying and addressing the root cause of social, economic and ecological ailments that undermine our long-term prosperity and sustainability.
In my spare time I enjoy time with my wife and kids hiking, kayaking, gardening, traveling, enjoying all four seasons and exploring all that Lakewood and Northeast Ohio have to offer. I’m also an avid runner and have a passion/addiction for running marathons and 100-mile ultra-marathons.