Get ready for March madness, by which I mean a brutal, full-contact assault on public employees, their unions and, in the words of Campaign for America’s Future analyst Dave Johnson, “on government and democracy itself.”

Beginning today when President Obama unveils his federal budget proposal, and on to Thursday when Gov. Snyder does the same for Michigan, the war on public services switches into high gear. 

By March 4, when the current federal spending bill expires, expect the far right to try and take us over the economic cliff with a government shutdown unless they get their way with $100 billion in proposed job-killing spending cuts that will endanger everything from food safety to the Great Lakes.  

Never mind that the most recent Pew opinion poll shows most voters want to actually increase spending when asked about specific areas of the federal budget like education and the environment.  Anti-government ideologues and too many of their GOP friends are on a mission and that mission is to destroy government as we know it.

Underlying much of this is the concerted campaign to demonize public employees so instead of thinking about public services being cut we think about those allegedly public employees. 

As Johnson writes in the Huffington Post:

It is difficult to read, watch or listen to the news without hearing that public employees are paid too much and get “lucrative” pensions and this is “bankrupting” your state, county or city. Public officials are “in bed” with “union bosses” and state and local government; taxpayer dollars are wasted to pay for people who don’t do much work but live the good life. “Reports” and “studies” confirm this.

Sound familiar? 

Here in Michigan, the politics-as-usual attacks from the right have taken the form of proposed legislation that would dramatically weaken organized labor as a counter to Big Corporations with so-called Right to Work laws. 

So far Gov. Snyder hasn’t embraced that tactic. But he did promote a since-discredited study that claimed public employees are paid twice as much as those in the private sector.  They aren’t, of course, unless you believe government janitors making $14.05 an hour are overpaid. Almost immediately after Snyder’s compensation report went public an independent study was released that refuted the governor’s data. 

In the most comprehensive explanation I’ve seen explaining how the right-wing echo chamber is driving the narrative that public employees are overpaid, corrupt tax-leeching , analyst Johnson connects the dots for us.  For example, he not only documents the New York City blizzard snow removal slowdown hoax, but goes on to point out that the problem with clearing streets actually resulted from budget cuts.  

Imagine that. 

Actually, in Michigan, you won’t have to.  When Republicans are done whacking $1.8 billion from the state’s budget so they can hand out massive tax cuts to big corporations there will be no need to imagine how deep budget cuts will impact all of us in most unpleasant ways.

And if you are among the nearly800,000 Michiganders who are working but just getting by, unpleasant doesn’t begin to describe what’s in store for you if the governor and other Republicans get their way.  Start with their proposed $400 tax hike on low income workers through elimination of the Earned Income Tax Credit. That means you may not be able to get that car repair done, or hire a babysitter so you can work a second job.   

At the same time, if you make $250,000 or more, you can expect around the same time that your fellow citizens making $29,000 are getting a tax hike, you will be getting a $500 tax break from the government.  That, of course, courtesy of Republicans in Congress who insisted tax breaks for the richest among us were absolutely, positively vital to our economic well-being.

Tax breaks for the rich and tax hikes for the working poor?  That’s real madness. Very real.


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