A Union for the Wealthy?
Union: "a club, society, or association formed by people with a common interest or purpose"
Many of us upon hearing the word "union" think of labor unions. Labor unions formed after the Civil War in response to the industrial revolution and the income disparities of the Gilded Age. Labor unions are associations of workers with a common interest in securing "wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions." Labor unions exist in response to appalling working conditions and wages prevalent at the time unions arose. No single laborer could possibly wield the clout necessary to assure proper treatment from a rapacious employer interested only in maximizing profit for himself and his shareholders. [The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, published in 1906, a book I read in high school in the 1960s, is formative to my understanding of the need for labor unions.]
Demonization and suppression of labor unions has been a goal of conservatives throughout the history of unionization. The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, more commonly known as "Taft-Hartley," was a major step in limiting the power of unions, one you would do well to review. President Truman called it "dangerous intrusion on free speech," Labor leaders of the time called it the "slave-labor bill." Truman vetoed the bill but was quickly overridden by Congress. Remember this was an time rife with worry about communism, a worry that soon blossomed in the infamous "Red Scare" of the Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) era,
By the late 1960s conservatives were worried not only about unions but about the American consumer movement led by Ralph Nader. The seminal document of conservative worry many would argue is Lewis Powell's Powell Memorandum of 1971, written just before Powell accepted Nixon's nomination of him to the Supreme Court. "The memo called for corporate America to become more aggressive in molding society's thinking about business, government, politics and law in the US."
"The Powell Memorandum thus became the blueprint for the rise of the American conservative movement and the formation of a network of influential right-wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, such as The Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as well as inspiring the US Chamber of Commerce to become far more politically active."
All of that brings me back to the title of this post, "A Union for the Wealthy". The network of non-profit think tanks so richly detailed by Jane Mayer in "Dark Money" [see below] and represented in Spokane by the Washington Policy Center has worked relentlessly to demonize labor unions. Concurrently they propound that all taxes are suspect and likely to be poorly spent. Progressive taxation (e.g. graduated income tax) is a special target. The echo of this is found in Stacey Cowles' citation in a recent Editorial of Washington Policy Center data implying that police and firemen are overpaid (presumably as a result of union clout). Right on cue he argues no increase in the property tax levy should be passed prior to squeezing more money out of police and fire. [Cast your "Yes" vote before tomorrow] Take note the Washington Policy Center (McMorris Rodgers' go-to policy source), endlessly touted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a huge feature of which was a reduction of the rate of taxation for corporations and for people in the highest income brackets. They were waving a flag displaying their true colors...
When I take a step back and squint I see the conservative think tanks and the congress people who take their cues from groups like the WPC as nothing more than a union of the wealthy, "an association formed by people with a common interest or purpose," that purpose being to maintain their wealth while pitting those of lesser means against each other. Thus property tax payers who work at jobs paying less than policing or fire-fighting are encouraged to be suspicious of any tax for expansion of those departments and suspicious of the integrity, intelligence and due diligence of the people we have elected to address these issues.
Powell set in motion a union of the wealthy. It is long since time for the counter swing.
Keep to the high ground,