22 Reasons Why American Workers Hate The State
By James Petras
Why does the rightwing attack on "Big Government" increasingly resonates with working people? Liberals claim wage and salaried workers are acting against their "self-interest", citing government welfare programs like social security and unemployment payments. Progressives argue that workers hostile to the state are 'racists", "fundamentalists" and/or irrational, blinded by misplaced fears of threats to individual freedoms. I will argue there are many sound, rational, material reasons for working people to be in revolt against the state
Twenty-Two Reasons Why Working People Hate the State
1.) Most wage and salaried workers pay disportionately higher taxes than the corporate rich and therefore, millions of Americans work in the "underground economy" to make ends meet; thus subjecting themselves to
arrest, and prosecution by the state for trying to make a living by avoiding onerous taxes. (Also nervousness, guilt, DIS-EASE! Running around in TERROR.)
2.) The state provides generous multi-year tax exemptions for
corporations thus raising the tax rate for wage and salaried workers or
eliminating vital services. The state's inequitable tax revenue policies
provoke resentment. *(provoking seething rage, hatred)
3.) High taxes combined with fewer and more expensive public
services, include growing costs of public higher education and higher health
charges, feed popular antagonism and frustration that they and their
children are being denied opportunities to get ahead and stay healthy.
4.) Many working people resent the fact that their tax money is
being spent by the state on endless distant wars and to finance bailouts of
Wall Street instead of investing it in reindustrializing America to create
well paying jobs or to aid unemployed or underemployed workers unable to
meet mortgage payments and facing eviction or homelessness. Most workers
reject the inequitable budget expenditures that privilege the rich and deny
the working people.
5.) Working people are appalled by the states hypocrisy and double
standards in prosecuting "welfare cheats" for taking hundreds but
overlooking corporate and banking swindlers, and Pentagon military cost
overruns of hundreds of billions. Few working people believe there is
equality before the law, implicitly rejecting its claims of legitimacy.
6.) Many working class families resent the fact that the state actively
recruits their sons and daughters for wars, leading to death and crippling
injuries instead of public service jobs, while the children of the rich and
affluent pursue civilian careers.
7.) The state subsidizes and upgrades public infrastructure roads,
parks and utilities in upper end neighborhoods while ignoring the demands
for improvements of low income communities. Moreover the state locates
contaminants incinerators, high polluting industries etc. in close
proximity to workers housing and schools.
8.) The state holds the minimum wage below increases in the cost of
living but encourages and promotes excess profits.
9.) Law enforcement is strict in high end neighborhoods and lax in
low income communities resulting in higher rates of homicides and robberies.
Famous example: Guilty of driving while being black.
10.) State imposes constraints on labor organizations struggling to
secure wages and benefits and ignores corporate intimidation and arbitrary
firings of workers. The state encourages corporate mergers and acquisitions
leading to monopolies but discourages collective action from below.
11.) State economic institutions recruit policymakers from banks and
financial houses who make decisions favoring their former employers, while
wage and salaried workers are excluded and have no representation in
economic policy positions.
12.) The state increasingly infringes on individual freedoms of
social activists via the Patriot Act, arbitrary arrests, and grants impunity
to police violence and punishes whistle blowers, rejecting citizen reviews
with punitive powers.
13.) The state is highly responsive to and increases funding for the
military-industrial complex, the relocation of MNC overseas and the high
income Israel lobby while cutting funding for public investment in
productive activity, applied technology and high tech job training for US
workers and salaried employees and their children.
14.) State policies have increased inequalities between the top 10%
and the bottom 50% for decades, turning the US into the industrial country
with the greatest inequalities.
15.) State policies have led to declining living standards as wage
and salary earners work longer hours with less job security,for a greater
number of years before receiving pensions and social security and under
greater environmental hazards.
16.)Elected state officials break most campaign promises to working
people while fulfilling promises for the upper class/corporate banking
17.) State officials pay greater attention and are more responsive
to a few big financial contributors than to millions of voters.
18.) State officials are more responsive to payoffs from corporate
lobbies protecting corporate profits than to the health, educational and
income needs of the electorate.
19.) State-corporate links lead to deregulation, which results in
contamination of the environment leading to the bankruptcy of small
businesses and loss of many jobs, as well as the loss of recreational areas,
spoiling rest and recreation for working people.
20.)The state increases the retirement age rather than increase the
social security payments by the rich, with the result that workers in
unhealthy work environments will enjoy fewer years of retirement in good
21.)The state judicial system is more likely to render favorable
decisions to wealthy plaintiffs with high paid, politically connected
lawyers against workers defended by inexperienced public defenders.
22.) State tax collectors are more likely to pursue wage and salary
tax payers than upper class corporate executives employing accountants with
expert knowledge in tax loopholes and tax free shelters.
The state in its multiple activities, whether in law enforcement,
military recruitment, tax and expenditure polices, environmental, pension
and retirement legislation and administration, systematically favors the
upper class and corporate elite against wage, salaried and small business
The state is permissive with the rich and repressive of the working
and salaried employees, defending the privileges of the corporations and the
impunity of the police state while infringing on the individual freedoms of
the working people.
State policies increasingly extract more from the workers in terms
of tax revenues and provide less in social payments, while lessening tax
payments from Wall Street and inflating state transfers.
Popular perceptions of a hostile and exploitative state correspond
to their everyday practical experiences; their anti-state behavior is
selective and rational; most wage and salaried workers support social
security and unemployment benefits and oppose higher taxes because they know
or intuit that they are unfair.
Liberal academics and experts who claim workers are "irrational" are
themselves practioners of highly selective criticisms pointing to
(shrinking) state social benefits while ignoring the unjust, inequitable tax
system and the biased behavior of the judicial, law enforcement, legislative
and regulatory system.
State personnel, policy makers and enforcement officials are
attentive to and responsive and deferential to the rich and hostile and
indifferent or arrogant toward workers.
In summary the real issue is not that people are anti-state, but
that the state is anti the majority of the people. In the face of the
economic crises and prolonged imperial wars, the state becomes more brazenly
aggressive in slashing living standards in order to channel record levels of
public funds toward Wall Street speculators and the military industrial
While liberal-progressives' remain embedded in 'neo-keynsian'
statest ideology, outmoded in the face of a state thoroughly embedded in
corporate networks, the New Right's "anti-statest" rhetoric resonates with
the feelings, experiences and reasoning of important sectors of wage and
salaried workers and small businesspeople.
The attempt by liberals and progressives to discredit this popular
revolt against the state, by pointing to the corporate financing and
rightwing manipulation behind the anti-statist movement is doomed to
failure, because it fails to deal with the profound injustices experienced
by working people today in their daily dealings with a state, largely
administered by liberal corporate-militarists. The absence of an
anti-statist left has opened the door for the rise of a mass based 'New
A 'new left'will emerge from civil society when it recognizes the
pernicious exploitative role of the state, and is capable of dealing with
the powerful ties between liberalism-militarism-corporate "welfarism". The
revival and expansion of the debilitated public welfare programs for working
people can only take place by dismantling the current state apparatus, and
that depends on a complete break with both corporate parties and an agenda
that 'revolutionizes' the way in which politics works in America.
J.Petras is a SUNY professor emeritus in Latin Amer. Studies.
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