Labor takes on racism in GOP "Pledge"

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The Republican Party's platform for the mid-term elections, its "Pledge to America," is already regarded by most progressives and moderates as something that, if enacted, would be a huge step backwards.

Now, a new report  confirms what many could have easily guessed: the Pledge has a sharply racist edge.

The racism can be detected even at first glance, wrote AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.

"It shows off photos of 384 white people by our count," the labor leader said. "One Asian American. A musician who might be Asian. One young man in military cam who may be Latino. And if you look very, very closely, five African Americans. A total of eight people of color."

"What America are they pledging to?" Trumka asked.

Trumka pointed out that 34 percent of the population of the United States is non-white, and went on to ask why "agenda-setters in the Republican machinery think it's OK to ignore more than a third of the population ... including (no coincidence) those who look like President Barack Obama."

But the racism goes deeper than the pictures. While the policies in the Pledge, if enacted, slash services and harm the livelihoods of all working Americans, Blacks, Latinos and Asians would suffer the most.

"The American middle class as a whole continues to struggle as the economy very slowly comes out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression," wrote Tony Carrk in the report, from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. But already, he noted, the economic situation is worse for African Americans and Latinos. "The poverty rate among African Americans and Hispanics was nearly double the overall rate in 2009-25.8 percent for African Americans and 25.3 percent for Hispanics compared to an average 14.3 percent."

The rates are comparably bad in other categories as well, including unemployment, child poverty and median household income.

While the Republicans don't want to extend tax cuts to regular working people, as President Obama advocates, they do favor extending Bush tax cuts for people who make over $250,000 yearly - the richest two percent of the population. That already small percentage of the U.S. population includes just 0.7 percent of African American families and 0.9 percent of Latino families.

This tax cut, which would give an average of $100,000 to each of the richest Americans, would cost the country $830 billion over the next decade. To make up for this, a 21 percent cut in spending on non-military discretionary programs would be necessary, meaning, for example, a $15 billion cut to education.

"At a time when graduation rates among communities of color lag behind white students and an achievement gap persists in our education system, communities of color can ill afford these reductions," noted Carrk.

The Pledge would do away with Obama's signature health care reform even though, as Carrk wrote, "the mortality rate for African Americans was 1.6 times higher than for whites; half of Latinos and more than 25 percent of African Americans do not have a regular doctor, compared to 20 percent of white Americans; and people of color are more likely to suffer from a chronic disease such as diabetes or hypertension. Communities of color represent more than half of the uninsured population."

And, instead of promising bipartisan reform of the immigration system, as Obama and most Democrats have advocated, the Pledge looks to adopt Arizona's draconian approach.

"If people of color needed a reason to vote in the November election," said James Parks of the AFL-CIO, "the Republican Party gave them a handful."

Of course, while people of color would be disproportionately harmed by the Pledge, white working people would suffer as well: only the richest two percent of the population would benefit. Trumka, Carrk and others argue that, to better living standards for all working people, a united fightback is necessary.

Trumka said that the recent One Nation rally was an example of such a united fight. It was a rally that would "issue a very different pledge to America. One that I - a white guy - will be part of, along with my brothers and sisters of many colors, many beliefs, many backgrounds."

The rally, which brought over 100,000 people out to fight for jobs, better public education and immigration reform, was initiated by the Service Employees International Union and the NAACP.

Noting "there will be no ethnic majority in the United States by the year 2050," Carrk argued "neglecting communities of color will have disastrous consequences for the long-term prosperity of our nation."

Trumka pointed out that the Pledge did contain a picture of the Statue of Liberty.

The statue, of course, famously declares, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

But, says Trumka, "Just don't expect to see those huddled masses included in the GOP Pledge to America."

Photo: John Gaudette