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“Our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” --James Madison
By Jim Miller
After last week’s slew of bad Supreme Court rulings much of the media attention rightfully went to the horrendous “Hobby Lobby” case where the rights of corporations were deemed more important than the rights of women.
But there was another big decision where the Supreme Court surprised some observers and ruled narrowly on Harris v. Quinn, the case which could have gutted public sector unions and virtually wiped out their ability to play in American politics by ending all public sector unions’ ability to collect agency fees. As the Daily Kos noted of the case:
Harris v. Quinn, is about the constitutionality of “agency fees” charged by public sector unions to all workers in a unionized setting, even non-union members. These fees are essential to their operation . . . Agency fees in principle are important to public employee unions because they’re required by law to bargain for all workers in a unionized setting. If agency fees for non-members are ruled to be a violation of free speech, unions fear they would lose funding, become less effective at bargaining for benefits and, in turn, lose members.
If the Supreme Court had ruled broadly it would have crippled public sector unions by making them much less effective, leading to a loss of political power, bargaining clout, and lots of members. And though Harris v. Quinn only involved public sector unions, their demise would have surely been a death knell for the entire American Labor movement.
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“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
We’ve seen a lot of bad news lately from the dismaying results of our last local election and a slew of reactionary court decisions at the state and national level to the re-emergence of the chaos in Iraq and the seemingly daily news reports of growing evidence that our widening level of economic inequality is becoming an entrenched and sadly taken-for-granted part of our new normal.
Even as we head into the heedless days of summer, we are greeted by yet more studies showing that the climate change fostered by our unsustainable way of life is causing huge chunks of the antarctic to break off which will result in rising sea levels and more severe damage to our ecosystem and consequent human suffering.
If you are paying attention, it’s hard not to be angry. But, of course, there is already a virtual industry in place designed to turn people’s anger in the wrong direction, to deny basic facts about history, the economy, political power, and the actual state of the natural world. Thus, just when we need to be turning the car dramatically to avoid the crash, there’s no one at the wheel.