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Mugged by Republicans:
Why American Workers Are So Angry

by Dennis Rahkonen
August 2, 2004

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In recent decades, members of my generation got married and had precious little babies. We loved them so, and were excited about their futures. After all, they had the American Dream to look forward to.

But, because of a rightwing agenda facilitating Big Business profiteering, union-scale manufacturing employment for our country’s wage-earning majority was increasingly outsourced, replaced with a peanut-pay “service economy” that saw typical kids taking jobs at McDonald’s and Wal-Mart as teens...and never rising to positions of much greater purchasing power as adults.

There’s nothing sadder than the countless grown-up souls who lead meager existences in rental housing, without worthwhile or affordable healthcare, and no pensions. Toiling as cashiers at big-box retailers defines bleak years of their dead-end work lives.

Whenever hard-pressed families have sought to be fairly valued by U.S. society, Republicans hypocritically championing “family values” have shot them down. Who thwarted their union organizing efforts? Who fought minimum wage hikes tooth and nail? Who Red-baited as “socialistic” the sensible notion of single-payer medical insurance, when well over 40 million of us possessed no insurance at all? We had to fearfully pray our ill or injured children would get better by themselves, without exorbitantly costly hospitalization that would financially ruin us.

Denied the traditional American prospect of each succeeding generation doing better than their parents and grandparents, our kids were forced to take second jobs to get by. Their spouses had to work as well. From coast to coast, American young people were exhausted from simply trying to put food on the supper table. They were literally sick and tired, but their options were limited.

Education as a key to advancement? Hardly. Secondary schools are being decimated by funding cuts to allow trough-feeding by the wealthy and the Pentagon, and college is just too costly for those from poorer backgrounds. Even those lucky enough to get degrees are finding placement difficult.

China produces countless specialists in the hard sciences, but the U.S. is graduating students who can’t find employment even in general professions. During the Great Depression, university grads often rode the rails as hoboes. Now they take stopgap employment as telemarketers.

The military provided an attractive alternative. Or so it seemed. Join the National Guard, put in a few weeks of easy training, get some badly needed extra cash.

Flash forward to the CBS Evening News on any weekday afternoon. Watch the “Fallen Heroes” segment that movingly honors U.S. soldiers of both sexes who’ve died in Iraq. My eyes moisten with every emotional viewing, but they quickly become tears of rage because of a terrible truth.

Bush lied, they died.

Anyone who still believes our flatland emperor had some valid reason for launching an unprovoked, illegal, surpassingly immoral invasion of a sovereign, foreign land is a hopelessly duped propaganda patsy.

Forget the WMD that never really existed. Never mind that “evil” Saddam would still be our lavishly supported ally if leftists were all he’d been killing.

Oil and hegemony are what the completely fraudulent “Operation Iraqi Freedom” was always about.

Over 900 American troops have perished in a totally unnecessary conflict that should never have been waged. Many more have been terribly wounded. And let’s not overlook the Iraqi casualties.

They’d all still be alive -- with arms, legs, eyes and sanity -- had George W. Bush never come along to do the U.S. military-industrial complex’s most reactionary, imperialistic bidding.

Plus we’d never have had a domestic politics of outrageous giveaways to the already wealthy, measured in direct, commensurate takeaways from average American citizens.

I live in a blue collar community built around railroad and waterborne shipping, and a closed steel mill. It was once as good a place as any in America for ordinary folk to build rewarding tomorrows.

Now, my old neighborhood is pretty much a slum. Unemployment and petty crime are chronic. Even in the better parts of town, moms and dads must both work at inadequate jobs to survive. Children rarely see their parents in quality-time settings. Family cohesion consequently suffers.

Down by a nearby river, poor shore anglers watch as people who’ll probably vote Republican launch their expensive boats from trailers behind mammoth SUVs.

Walking to this favorite fishing site, I’ll go from the aforementioned low-income ghetto to a stretch of affluence marked by beautiful homes. Every driveway has pricey cars, boats, RVs, other adult toys. One yard has a private tennis court.

Blue “Bush/Cheney ‘04” sign are displayed on those well-manicured lawns.

As I pass this enclave of wealth in otherwise impoverished surroundings, I realize there’s one word rightwing Republicans don’t ever utter.

They speak of “freedom” and “democracy,” pretending that harsh rule by self-serving, moneyed elites in either America or Iraq advances “liberty” and the best interest of all.

But “justice” is never mentioned. There’s simply too much inequity -- stemming from their own unrelentingly exploitative policies -- to draw attention to through a term that demands fundamental change.

There are many reasons why the Bush/Cheney gang needs to be ousted. In fact, there’s a website called One Thousand Reasons that shows how viciously it wages class warfare against working people.

The Resident smirks. His Vice Resident sneers.

Both are unwaveringly devoted to plundering policies that allow Enron-corrupt perpetrators of crime in the suites to laugh all the way to the bank.

Given a choice between serving public welfare and the common good, or serving monopolists, they’ll invariably side with the latter.

It’s unconscionable that our “leaders” cheat (or sacrifice in war) the overwhelming majority of us whose labor at under-compensated jobs is the basis of all social wealth and America’s greatness.

Muggers in darkened parks could rob the innocent no more blatantly than the present administration.

Let’s do everything within our collective organizing power to make certain that a massive electoral rebellion on November 2 ends this shameless crime wave.

Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has been writing progressive commentary and verse for various outlets since the ‘60s. He can be reached at

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