Whose State of the Union?

February 16, 2019

The U.S. president’s annual State of the Union address to Congress has morphed from its more humble beginnings into a full-on, Hollywood-style extravaganza, broadcast on all television channels and radio stations to tens of millions of people, in which the big-business party in office tries to burnish its image with a speech full of tear-jerking anecdotes and self-congratulatory platitudes.

Trump’s Feb. 5 talk — delayed by two weeks while the government was shut down over his demand for a $5.7 billion wall on the southern border — was no exception to this tradition.

It would take more than a modest editorial to tease apart all the lies, exaggerations and threats contained in this 90-minute speech. Suffice it to say that this silver-spoon billionaire repeated, ad nauseam, his usual vicious attacks on migrants and his demagogic attempts to speak for “American workers.” He tried to take credit for gains made by women and Black people — yes, roll your eyes — and of course made a big pitch to increase the already astronomical military budget.

In sum, he tried to make it appear that everything is getting better in this country for the people and that he should get all the credit for this presumed progress.

Of course, in Trump’s circle things ARE getting better. There are more billionaires, and their wealth has vastly increased, while their taxes decreased. This stands in contrast to the struggle of workers, especially younger people starting their often futile search for a stable, decent-paying job, many of them burdened with immense debt for post-high-school education.

Big bright spots

Are we saying that everything about the real “State of the Union” is bad? No, there are some pretty big bright spots. Of course, they’re not what Trump or Democratic Party leaders want to talk about.

Take the information recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics about strikes in 2018.

There were 20 major work stoppages in the U.S. — the highest since 2007. And the number of workers involved in them — 485,000 — was the most since 1986.

And this is only “major” work stoppages. It doesn’t count all the smaller strikes.

According to the BLS, “Educational services and health care and social assistance industry groups accounted for over 90 percent of all workers idled in 2018.

“In 2018, the largest work stoppage by days idle was between the Arizona State Legislature and Arizona Education Association and involved 81,000 teachers and staff totaling 486,000 days of idleness. The second largest stoppage in 2018 involved the Oklahoma State Legislature and the Oklahoma Education Association accounting for 405,000 days idle. Statewide major work stoppages in educational services also occurred in West Virginia, Kentucky, Colorado, and North Carolina.”

These strikes indicate the many workers today fighting back against their eroding standard of living. Many of these strikes were actually illegal — especially the ones by education workers in states that don’t recognize their right to strike. But the authorities had to negotiate with them and their unions without arrests because the teachers had such strong popular support.

This reflects a big change in class consciousness, on the part of both the teachers themselves and the communities they serve.

Millenials and Generation Zers

Another big shift to include in our rosy “State of the Union” report is the state of mind of the Millennials and Generation Zers, as reflected in polls taken by the Pew Research Center. Millennials were in their 20s and 30s last year. Gen Zers were between 13 and 21.

“When it comes to views on race, the two younger generations are more likely than older generations to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites in the United States today. And they are much more likely than their elders to approve of NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a sign of protest.

“Majorities among Gen Z and the Millennial generation say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is a good thing for society, while older generations are less convinced of this. And they’re more likely to have a positive view of interracial and same-sex marriage than their older counterparts.

“Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation we have seen. While Generation Z’s views resemble those of Millennials in many areas, Gen Zers are distinct from Millennials and older generations. Gen Zers are more likely than Millennials to say they know someone who prefers that others use gender-neutral pronouns to refer to them.”

Look out millionaires, patriarchs, slave-driving bosses and migrant bashers. Gen Z is gonna get ya!