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The guns of February

Class warfare rages across America this month.

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Class warfare rages across America this month, the upper class furiously hurling its politicians and its media against the middle and lower classes, comparatively unarmed.

In Wisconsin, a Republican governor and legislators are engaged in union busting, offended that unions provide workers with decent wages, benefits and working conditions, as well as a bit of dignity. It's hard to be dignified with a boot on your neck.

In Washington, the U.S. House of Representatives, including the Arkansas members, voted to withhold federal funds from the new health-care program that would keep more low-income people alive. A higher survival rate means more demand for government services, the House must have reasoned; the next thing you know, those people will be wanting education for their children.

(The House also voted to end all federal funding for Planned Parenthood because it provides abortions. The organization does other things too for its low-income clientele — cancer screenings, birth control — and the House was unsympathetic to all of it.)

In Little Rock, the state House of Representatives exempted capital gains from taxation, a $44 million tax break for the wealthiest Arkansans, using money that could otherwise benefit the majority. Noting that the bill would shift the tax burden from rich to poor, from capital to labor, Rep. Jim Nickels, D-North Little Rock, quoted Lincoln at Rep. Ed Garner, R-Maumelle, the bill's sponsor. "Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." What would Lincoln think of Ed Garner and the other Republicans of today? He'd cry, probably.

Corporate media have been discovering for some time that public-employee unions are what's wrong with this country. The steelworkers, the auto workers and other unions that practically created the American middle class have been weakened by foreign competition, corporate hostility and government indifference, but the teachers' union can still secure jobs worth having for its members. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker thinks teachers should be happy with less — much less — so he and his Republican allies in the legislature propose to deny public-employee unions the right to collective bargaining. They also would require unions to win annual elections in order to stay organized, and would prohibit unions from collecting dues from workers who don't want to pay. Arkansas already has such a law concerning union dues, and it has kept Arkansas a low-income state. Wisconsin aping Arkansas is not something we expected. Better that Arkansas move up to Wisconsin's economic level than that Wisconsin slip down to ours.

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