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Jerry Waxman Headshot

Will They Ever Get It, And Do They Care?

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The great trumpeter and American icon, Louis Armstrong, was once asked by an interviewer "What is Jazz?" Armstrong responded, "Man, if I have to explain it to you, you'll never know," or words to that effect. That statement currently applies to today's right wing assault on all forms of governing bodies. They really don't "get it." Getting it is something more than either knowing or understanding, which are purely intellectual concepts. Getting involves a visceral reaction as well. The great con man, Werner Erhard (nee Jackie Rosenberg, a Philadelphia used car salesman) used the term in his EST trainings in just that way. Erhard/Rosenberg would tell his assembled audiences not to question what he or his other trainers said. Instead, they were supposed to "get it." The by-product of the EST training was for people to see things in a clear, unmuddled way.

The current breed of right wing politicians now in power have no desire or need to "get it." They are ideologically controlled through the vast network of right wing think tanks and Chamber of Commerce money to think and act in lockstep to policies that were designed to completely dismantle all concepts of FDR's New Deal, which raised the standard of living for everyone in this country, not just the rich. The New Deal provided for the proliferation of labor unions and afforded even the most disadvantaged among us the prospect of a dignified retirement. The New Deal made the Middle Class a working partner with the Owner/Managerial Class. The forces working against the New Deal are still out there and they have been working tirelessly since 1955 (Brown v Board of Ed.) on regaining the upper hand. Since Ronald Reagan's ascendency they have made huge gains and in their thinking they're on a roll and there's no need to stop.

If you think that Scott Walker or any other Republican governor is worried about his poll numbers or that he may be recalled, you can forget it. His future employment and income is assured. He'll immediately become a corporate lobbyist or a fellow at one of the big think tanks, as will the minions of others who, lemming-like, follow in the same path. They care about their marching orders; they do not care one iota about their subjects ... oops!... constituents. There are enough Democrats in Congress, as well as our President, who have bought into the "starve the beast" and "don't tax the rich" philosophy (at least to some extent) just to keep their jobs that it is unconscionable to anyone with progressive leanings. These Democrats don't "get it" either.

Unfortunately, here in Florida we have a situation where neither our governor nor our legislators can be recalled so, basically they can do what they want almost at will. The assault on teachers is in full swing and more is coming. No amount of protest will nullify that at the present time, yet elements in the state are beginning to organize and the future is nowhere near bleak. Awake the State and other similar organizations are going to the grass roots and a movement is starting to build. It will take time and lots of organization but there is a growing feeling of unrest in most neighborhoods and every one of these organizations is going to be converting that negative energy into positive action. When average citizens "get it" things will change.

How not to be part of the problem
The Irish philosopher Edmund Burke wrote, "The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing." Radio and TV host Thom Hartmann always closes his program with the words "Tag, you're it!" Eldridge Cleaver in 1969 paraphrased an old African proverb, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem." It's a wakeup call for ordinary people to get involved. Theologian Martin Niemoller's famous statement First They Came referred to the Nazi takeover in Germany and the lack of resistance to it. The idea is that you and I, ordinary everyday people need to unite together to reverse the current abuses heaped on us. Write letters (not e-mails) in your own hand to your elected representatives outlining your dissatisfaction with their policies. Write letters to the editor. Support your local public schools in letters to the school board. Make it a point to attend at least one local rally supporting a good or protesting a bad government action. Go online and read news and opinion from several sources. Get involved, get off the couch, DVR the "Real Housewives" and get to know your neighbors and their reactions to the issues. The walk will do you good. Attend a city or county commission meeting and see the craziness that happens there. Voting in a presidential election every four years is not enough. Floridians in general got the government they deserved because too few good people were involved or engaged. It's not a matter of money; it's a matter of too many good people doing nothing. Buy American when and where possible and look for the union label.

Florida needs to fight back
Here's a novel idea, especially if you're a teacher: If you graduated from a college or university outside Florida then contact your school president, dean of admissions and board of governors informing them of the current funding and legislative situations here. Plead with them nicely to not accept students from Florida public schools because, despite your best efforts, educational policies from the top down have severely restricted your students' ability to do the required work at your alma mater and you have concerns that they would be inadequate. Make these institutions aware of the backward attitudes in this state. Here's another: Rick Scott will produce zero meaningful jobs in Florida. One major global concern is starting its exodus out of the central part of the state because of the loss of high speed rail. One third of its workforce is being transferred to North Carolina almost immediately. Almost 1000 high paying executive and technical jobs will leave this local economy, and these people are going to have to sell their homes at much less value than they bought them for. Not good for local Florida businesses or property taxes. So, get in touch with Fortune's list of 500 and get in touch with anyone whose stock is publicly traded. Write to their CEO's, their board chairmen and their shareholders magazines and let them know what kind of a crook Rick Scott is. Cite his company's Medicare fraud conviction and his taking the fifth an unprecedented number of times. Let them know that, contrary to his claims, Florida is not a place for them to do business. The dearth of real cultural and first class educational facilities, a non-existent public transit system, and a woefully under-educated work force would be contradictory to their expansion or relocation plans. The more people do this, the less these companies will be inclined to invest in Florida. Yes, it may hurt us a little economically, but... hey! We're already hurt and we have been for twelve years, and we'll remain this way until Rick Scott and the Republican legislature is gone. I'll bet that at least half of the schools and executives you write to have no clue as to what's going on in this state. They need to be awakened as well.

Getting it

We need to emphasize that since the election of Ronald Reagan people have been lied to for thirty years about the role of government and government workers in our society. It took thirty years to get this way and it will take a lot of time to reverse these lies and myths. Here are some pointers on how we can stop the lies and myths:

 All governments, local, statewide and national exist to serve (not rule) their respective constituencies.

 All people involved in government including our elected officials are public servants and ultimately answer to us.

 Government is there to deal with quality of life issues that affect everyone, i.e. clean air, clean water, clean streets, education, health, law enforcement, fire protection and other things that within government's realm.

 All citizens are entitled to these basic services that we'll call things of common interest.

 These services are necessarily paid for by property taxes and service fees on a local level, sales taxes at the state level and income taxes on a national level. In a county the size of Orange it takes a lot of people to serve the public and give them the services they demand. Quality of life necessities must not be regarded as free market commodities.

 Public employees at local levels are paid less than their private sector counterparts. Their pensions and benefits were negotiated as a part of their total compensation package, in lieu of salary, based on previous property tax valuations.

 Local and state non-elected public employees were in no way responsible for the economic collapse and are in no way responsible for any economic shortfalls. The fault lies with legislative policies which neither adequately nor properly address our society's obligation

 Cutting taxes for people who can well afford to pay them and cutting services for people who rely on them is today's equivalent of ancient and medieval "Bloodletting."

 Eliminating public sector jobs and services in order to balance the budget will just further depress meaningful economic recovery.

 Governments are supposed to serve us, not make a profit on us. If government is not serving us properly, it is our responsibility to do something about it.

 Public School Teachers are well trained, highly regarded professionals, to whom we as a society have entrusted our children's futures. They deserve our admiration and respect.

The assault on our public education system is especially troubling and is going to require a lot more work to reverse the damage, but if we don't get teachers fired up to defend themselves and if we don't get parents and guardians to see the harm that's being done to their children it will cost us dearly. Got it? If not, you'd better "Get it."