To the Editor: The U.S. has had a growing economy for over ten years—which would seem to be good news. The trouble is, as the Guardian noted earlier this year, “that the U.S. economy is now dominated by high-skill, high-wage jobs and low-skill, low-wage jobs. Gone are many of the middle-skill, middle-wage jobs.”
Many of those “middle-skill, middle-wage” jobs are union jobs like those held by the 4,000 health-care workers I represent. Our public sector jobs, however, are threatened by Federal tax policy that has greatly reduced taxes on the rich and on major corporations.
The Trump tax cuts, enacted two years ago, were an amazing windfall for American companies. FedEx, for example—a non-union company—saw its tax bill shrink from $1.5 billion in 2017 to nothing at all last year. It was only one of 60 major American corporations that paid nothing last year in taxes—but made profits of $79 billion, according to the New York Times. Those companies included Amazon, Delta Air Lines, Chevron, Prudential, Molson Coors, General Motors, and Netflix—and many more.
When the rich don’t pay their fare share, cities and states have less money to fund public health-care, infrastructure, emergency services, education and social services—that is, to pay the salaries of the men and women our union represents. Rising health-care costs also take money away from wages, keeping many public employees dependent on credit cards to pay for basic necessities and forcing some to work two and three jobs just to avoid homelessness.
If rising inequality in America is not addressed—that is, if tax rates aren’t adjusted so that the rich pay their fair share, and if spending is not increased in the public sector—America’s growing underclass of the nonunionized, undocumented, unemployed, and under-employed—will continue to grow. And that will put even more burden on our public health-care and social service workers, who above all care about their fellow man. This leads ultimately to a breakdown in social order, more crime, more disease, and more destruction of the environment.
Public-sector jobs are integral to a good, just, healthy and productive society. If we don’t get involved in the fight to preserve and protect public services and our jobs—and to create a fair tax structure that supports them—we invite a grim future where our middle class—built successfully since World War II—collapses and an oligarchy reigns over an impoverished working class that exists at or below subsistence level.
President, Local 768
DC 37, AFSCME
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