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My Person Of The Year: The Public Employee

My Person of the Year

Contrary to TIME magazine’s choice for 2012 Person of the Year, President Obama (who at this moment is bargaining to water down benefits to social programs like Social Security and Medicare and others), MY Person of the Year is the Public Employee.MY Person of the Year is the Public Employee.

From Hurricane Sandy to Sandy Hooks Elementary School, America’s first responders, teachers, and other professionals who chose to serve the public are the most significant Person of 2012.

At Sandy Hooks, teachers, psychologists, and administrative staff were gunned down as they tried to stop a severely ill young man armed with a military-style weapon from slaughtering six and seven year old children.

Across the Eastern Coast, public servants left their own families to rescue other people’s families trapped by a most unusual winter storm/hurricane innocently named “Sandy.”

Probation officers encounter the most complicated work of serving a public aggravated by a vicious economic system and an anemic commonwealth to repair damaged humans and return them to some semblance of social order.

Public health workers inoculate the old and the young preventing deadly disease and influenza outbreaks. They could work for private hospitals and make double or triple their salaries, but instead serve the public good, not the private accumulation of wealth.

Even as I sit here today, state and municipal drivers are clearing highways of up to 12 inches of snow that hit in the Iowa Blizzard of December 2012.

Public workers clean and test our water to maintain its safety. They fix water main breaks so you have the luxury of flushing your toilet.

Public workers serve in our world-class state university systems, despite slashing budgets that have driven up tuition rates that has catapulted into enormous student debt.

Police officer and fire fighter lives are at risk as a part of their job description.

They are also increasingly dealing with larger and larger workloads as their budgets get slashed, and all this despite the fact that private sector wealth is at a level previously unknown in the world. How the Caesars, Khans, Borgias and Tudors would envy the Adelson, Koch and Wal-Mart fortunes.

They are not typically the heroes of Sandy Hook or Hurricane Sandy. And this article is not meant to glorify them for doing what they are paid to do. They are ordinary people who, despite their commitment to serve the public for the fair trade of middle class wages and dignified retirements, have become the most maligned workers of late.

This did not happen in a vacuum. It happened as a result of a coordinated movement of conservatives who have funded foundations like the Heritage Foundation, Cato, Media Research Institute, American Enterprise Institute, and Iowans for Tax Relief that churn out constant missives (you’ll see many of them fashioned into letters to the editor in your local paper) to convince the public that government should be in the business of paying poverty wage jobs for its workers. Or that government should pay a private entity to make profit as it pays poverty wages to the workers it subcontracts to serve the public.

This sensibility is not driven by some holy-holy, omniscient hand of the marketplace – like a Wizard of Capitalist Oz. It is the result of billionaire’s like Koch and Adelson and others funding right-wing think tanks and political action committees whose job it is, as Chomsky pointed out, to manufacture an ideology that serves their interests as if it were “conventional wisdom.”

So congratulations Public Workers.  May the public you serve in 2013 unlearn the specious logic of wealth-serving research by right-wing think tanks.

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