Near the end of the now-classic film Chinatown, set in Los Angeles during the 1930s, working-stiff private detective Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) confronts the greedy land developer Noah Cross (John Huston) about his sinister, murderous behavior:
Gittes: I just wanna know what you're worth. More than 10 million?
Cross: Oh my, yes!
Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?
Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.
That scene's been on my mind as I have listened to the repugnant rhetoric that's recently spewed out of the mouths of some of our newly elected public officials and other right-wing representatives of the super-rich.
During his campaign, incoming Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said, "We cannot and should not maintain a system where public employees are the haves and the taxpayers footing the bill are the have-nots." Now he's talking about rescinding the right of government employees to bargain collectively.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich recently told Fox News that public service workers -- not the Wall Street CEOs who crashed the economy (and got rich doing it) -- are the privileged class.
These statements are false and absurd. By blaming public service workers and working families, the right wing tries to divert attention from the simple fact that reckless, unregulated behavior of multi-millionaires on Wall Street caused unprecedented state budget shortfalls, the loss of 15 million American jobs and the collapse of our economy.
We're not going to let them get away with it. At this pivotal moment in the economic history of our country -- indeed, the world -- we cannot stand by and let corporate CEOs and their flunkies define the debate and shape the future.
Working families didn't create class warfare. The facts speak for themselves: While median incomes in the U.S. have stagnated since the mid-1970s, incomes for those in the top 5 percent have more than doubled. In the past 10 years, with record-breaking tax cuts for the wealthy -- incomes for the top 1 percent have tripled. Economic bubble after economic bubble benefited a small elite while private sector workers watched their retirement security and health care benefits dissipate.
Now, after capping private sector workers and their unions in the knees, the rich and the right have set their sights on public services and the men and women who provide them.
That's why AFSCME has created a campaign we're calling "Stop the Lies." You can join us by watching our new video and adding your name to our Stop the Lies open letter.
We aim to remind the country that attacking public services and public service workers will not fix our broken economy, create jobs or solve the growing income disparity in America.
Recently, the former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote a column saying public employee pensions had "metastasized into grotesque shadows of their initial good intention." He blamed workers' pensions for all kinds of things and pushed private savings plans as the future of retirement. That just doesn't make sense. So AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Lee A. Saunders set the record straight by demonstrating that pensions make sense while privatized retirement accounts put retirees at risk. He also made it clear that AFSCME would aggressively go after those who are "eager to do the bidding of the Wall Street firms that profit at the expense of workers."
The campaign calls out right-wing mistruths on issues such as Social Security, the deficit and tax cuts for the very wealthy. We will use every communications tool at our disposal to dispel the myths and reveal the hypocrisy.
It won't be easy - even as we begin, Beck falsely claims AFSCME is part of a conspiracy to silence right-wing media. But we are good at standing up and fighting. And what's at stake for working families is nothing less than the future.
Follow Gerald McEntee on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AFSCME