Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hunger Games

I just read about a state university in Chicago that sent layoff notices to all 900 of its employees, including all administrators and full-time faculty.  It turns out that the school is among 57 public universities and colleges in Illinois that have not received funding in eight months due to a Republican governor tying passage of his $36 billion budget to changes in collective bargaining rights for public employees and worker compensation, business-friendly moves he says will help turn around the state’s flagging economy. If the legislature refuses to sign on to his changes, the governor wants lawmakers to let him make $3.5 billion in spending cuts in any way he chooses.

Let that sink in for a moment. An entire university being shuttered and a whole state university system being held hostage for the sake of depriving citizens their rights to freely associate and collectively bargain, all so capital can more freely advance its interests. You want higher education? Well, then you must capitulate to capital's imperatives. Then, when you emerge from your education saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt that may never be forgiven, the minimum wage service economy will receive you with its cold embrace and you can live in your parent's basements. Oh, and the staff and full-time professors who worked at Chicago State? They'll work there once again, but at a fraction of the rate they once labored for. They'll live in basements too. The itinerant administrative class will land on its feet as it always does, as will the bankers and rest of our financial masters--"the smartest guys in the room."

We are presently witnessing the systematic dismantling of all public services necessary to a decent, flourishing society. After every scrap of profit has been clawed out of the system the oligarchs will retreat behind tall walls manned by private security and let the rest of us fight for survival in a new war of all against all. This is not the Hunger Games. There are some nations in the developing south for whom this is the model for their actually-existing social order, not a Hollywood fantasy. A brutal model that serves only the distant and isolated few, and which consigns the rest to debt, penury, and hopelessness. The reality is good sight less glamorous than anything you might see in the dark on the silver screen. In reality, it's no game at all.

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