The country is in crisis. Unemployment is still hovering at 9 percent, income inequality has soared to record levels, and 46 million -- one in six -- Americans are living in poverty. Meanwhile, corporate taxes are at their lowest level in 50 years. Some corporations like General Electric didn't pay a single dollar in taxes in 2010, despite the fact that profits are through the roof. In fact, The Wall Street Journal reports that corporations are sitting on $2 trillion in profits.
But instead of doing their part to create jobs, Big Business lobbyists and right-wing politicians are complaining. Outrageously, the complaints are never louder than when an attempt is made to give ordinary, working Americans a fair shot at getting ahead. For the millions on Main Street struggling just to make ends meet, the whining from Wall Street is disrespectful. But it's the bullying by corporate-backed lawmakers that is truly setting the dangerous precedent for all of us.
Just look at the hysteria over the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a neutral independent agency tasked with safeguarding the rights of employees -- both union and non-union -- and ensuring that employers and unions play by the rules. In response to the NLRB's complaint against Boeing for allegedly retaliating against its union workers in Washington state, Big Business and its friends on Capitol Hill have not stopped kvetching about how the 'overzealous' agency shouldn't interfere with business operations. Instead of letting due process take its course, they've moved from moaning to rewriting the rules by dismantling the NLRB. Despite legal documents and video interviews that strongly suggest Boeing violated the law, in September the House went so far to pass a bill that would prevent the NLRB from holding companies accountable when they unlawfully cut and run.
And Boeing is just the beginning. Earlier this year, the same right-wing whiners were up in arms over a minor regulatory initiative from the NLRB to standardize union election procedures. The simple rule change would modernize an outdated process plagued by delays, bureaucracy, and taxpayer-funded litigation. But corporate interests claimed this was Armageddon, and then tried to delay the agency's hearings and implementation process. Since the agency didn't acquiesce, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has come to Big Business's rescue with a new bill that would put this small scrap of progress for workers on permanent hiatus.
The latest round of trumped-up outrage comes in response to a ruling that requires companies to post notices informing employees of their existing rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) -- rights they've had for more than 70 years. The poster is a commonsense way to ensure that everyone knows the rules of the workplace, without imposing an undue burden on businesses. Predictably, corporate interests like the Chamber of Commerce have sued the agency because they can't possibly handle the burden of posting a free poster. Bills have even been introduced to stop the poster from ever seeing the light of day.
That's right: The folks sitting on $2 trillion in profits are complaining about a poster.
Not content to unravel protections for workers piece by piece, the House Appropriations Committee just upped the ante by releasing a bill to cut the NLRB's funding by at least 20 percent, effectively hamstringing the agency altogether.
Want to know what's really worth some outrage? That the outcry over these small steps toward balance for everyday Americans has nothing to do with jobs. Recently small business owners surveyed by McClatchy newspapers even confirmed that regulations aren't preventing job creation. On the contrary, the problem is the lack of consumer spending, a direct result of the stagnant wages and race-to-the-bottom economic model that corporate interests continue to promote nationwide.
With such an extreme imbalance in our economy, we can't afford to let these attacks succeed. Because this isn't really about the NLRB. Nor is this just a labor issue. It's about standards that hold big corporations accountable so that the rest of us have a fair shake, commonsense safeguards that protect our families, our communities, and our health. We need agencies and institutions like the NLRB that can protect everyday Americans, without being bullied by corporate-backed politicians.
Main Street is doing its part to get the economy back on track. It's high time that politicians and corporate CEOs do the same. And they can start by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, putting an end to the pity party, and playing by the rules -- just like the rest of us.
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