Frederick Douglass

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them..." Frederick Douglass

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Open Letter to ATU587 President Paul Bachtel

[ Editor's note: In the original i wrote that twenty-four trillion dollars were more than existed. This is not correct. I meant to say it was larger than our Federal budget. ]

Dear Paul;

As you know, there is an international effort, led by the world's largest financial institutions, to deprive workers, particularly public-sector employees, of our cost-of-living allowances (COLA). This aggressive campaign has now reached us here in King County with Metro and its media allies insisting we surrender this indispensable, hard-won protection. I write to implore you not to wither under this pressure, and to resist this impossible demand.

The cost of living goes up when prices go up. Prices go up when there is more money in circulation than there are corresponding goods and services to be purchased. This glut of money is a direct result of bank loans. When banks hoard money, as they are now, the supply of money shrinks. When they lend, it expands and creates higher prices. The firewall which insulates us against inflation is our COLA.

In 2008, Congress appointed Neil Barofsky the Special Inspector General for the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP), the bank bailout bill signed into law by President George W. Bush. The General subsequently reported that if all the provisions of the Program were fully funded, the actual cost would be twenty-four trillion dollars. This sum is several times greater than our Federal budget. Just about all of this money, he insisted, would have to be borrowed.

Thus far, the big banks have not released our money but have used it to make acquisitions of other financial institutions. However, when they do start lending, we are going to experience currency inflation the likes of which we have never seen before. In fact, we have never had this much money sitting on the sidelines waiting to enter the economy in our history. Even if one is foolish enough to believe that the banks will act responsibly this time around, they may not be competent to control the forces they will unleash when this unprecedented sum of new money enters the marketplace. The danger of hyperinflation has never been greater.

Elsewhere, where national economies were even in worse shape than our own, the banks have begun to release a trickle of money. In France, Greece, and South Africa, inflation has risen to between five and eight percent. If it is true that here in the U.S. the average working-class person's regular expenses exhaust 80 percent of his/her income, then an annual five percent decrease in the real buying of our paychecks would soon be a disaster. Within a few years some of us will be forced to sell our houses, or take kids out of college, or not be able to retire at age 65, or not be able to provide care for aging loved-ones.

It will take a miracle for us not reach or exceed five percent inflation. Giving up our COLA, particularly in light of this onrushing tsunami, is unthinkable. It is the worst of all possible outcomes. There are lots of solutions to this budget crisis, please let Metro know that this is not one of them. Speaking for myself, I do not care if I ever get another raise. I do not ask to advance, only not to be beaten back into a ruinous retreat. I only wish to keep the buying power of my income where it is, so I can keep what little I have. Many drivers feel this way.

And please do not allow Metro to lead you by the nose into agreeing to a contract which is back-loaded with bells and whistles. It is the COLA which they are after and which they must never get. We have already fallen into the their trap by our making recovery times the locus of our counter campaign. No doubt they will offer to return these to what they were in exchange for the COLA. No doubt this offer will be accompanied by the promise of the reinstatement of the allowance when the crisis is over. Do not be their fool. There is an old Italian proverb which goes "He who lives by hope, dies in despair." Once we have relinquished the family jewels we will never get them back. It will be the beginning of a long descent into poverty and misery for us. Please, do not let this happen.

Now are the times which try people's souls. Stand firm! Let Metro know that elimination of the COLA is not now, and will never be, an option. Please, do not disappoint us.