PATCO and the 40th President: Happy Anniversary

Presience: August 11, 1981 (The Bulletin): “In short, the ruling class considers the destruction of PATCO as inseparable from its overall capitalist policy of defending the profit system with a program of unrestrained militarism internationally and savage austerity for the working class within the United States.”




Amidst today's clamor for an economic policy that further diminishes the American middle class, Milan Kundera suggests that we reflect, remember, and reckon:
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
'

At one time there was a vibrant American economy, a wealthy middle class, and a standard of living where one wage earner could support a nuclear family.

What was the tipping point? When did we shift from abundance to scarcity and from growth to atrophy? When did Labor stop wrestling Capital for their fare share, and start fighting each other to work for ever-lower wages?

Many think the tipping point was the PATCO strike on August 3, 1981. Our 40th President broke the strike, decertified the young union (1968 to 1981), replaced the strikers, and set a new normal for Industry-Labor relations.

Reflecting on this presidency, Alan Greenspan said: '
Perhaps the most important, and then highly controversial, domestic initiative was the firing of the air traffic controllers in August 1981. The President invoked the law that striking government employees forfeit their jobs, an action that unsettled those who cynically believed no President would ever uphold that law. [The 40th] President ----- prevailed, as you know, but far more importantly his action gave weight to the legal right of private employers, previously not fully exercised, to use their own discretion to both hire and discharge workers.

Tallying the Damage of the 40th Presidency

  • union busting and disruption of the labor-management balance
  • organization and arming of the Mujahideen
  • ending the Cold War by spending both sides into ruinous bankruptcy
.
In a truly just culture, the name of the 40th President would be subject to damnatio memoriae, and yet his devotees named an aircraft carrier and an airport after him, ensuring that his memory his name will persist.

Curiously, our current crop of political leaders compete to be recognized as Reagan's reincarnation, invoking his hagiography for their own reasons and advancing his misbegotten philosophy ever further.

Karma: A Bastard Turns 30

Thirty years later, the system that decertified PATCO is now itself illegitimate; unauthorized, unable to pay employees or bills, impotent to collect revenues, on a path toward privatization.


Happy Anniversary.

Don't forget.

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