Brett Kavanaugh–The More We See, The Worse It Gets

While critics of his nomination fixate on Kavanaugh’s distaste for Roe v. Wade, his vendetta against health care programs like the ACA, and his antagonism to government oversight (evidently, the king can do no wrong), Paul Krugman highlights an even more dangerous element of the nominee’s judicial philosophy, his anti-worker bias.

It isn’t as if working-class Americans haven’t been taking it on the chin for a long time. But in the era of stagnant wages and diminishing worker protections, Kavanaugh might just be the coup de grace. Krugman points out that Trump has governed as a pretty orthodox Republican, if you overlook the way he has replaced racial dog-whistles with raw, upfront racism; accordingly, he has consistently betrayed the populists who supported him.

Many people have made this point with respect to the Trump tax cut, which is so useless to ordinary workers that Republican candidates are trying to avoid talking about it. The same can be said about health care, where Democrats are making Trump’s assault on the Affordable Care Act a major issue while Republicans try to change the subject.

But I think we should be seeing more attention devoted to the way Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court fits into this picture. The Times had a good editorial on Kavanaugh’s anti-worker agenda, but by and large the news analyses I’ve seen focus on his apparently expansive views of presidential authority and privilege.

I agree that these are important in the face of a lawless president with authoritarian instincts. But the business and labor issues shouldn’t be neglected. Kavanaugh is, to put it bluntly, an anti-worker radical, opposed to every effort to protect working families from fraud and mistreatment.

Kavanaugh wrote the opinion absolving Sea World from  liability for the death of a worker attacked by a killer whale–hey, she should have known the risks. He says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional–so caveat emptor, consumer. He’s also supported the rights of business to suppress union organizing.

Krugman reminds his readers that Trump’s betrayal of working class Americans goes far beyond his counterproductive trade policies.

There’s growing evidence that wage stagnation in America – the very stagnation that angers Trump voters — isn’t being driven by impersonal forces like technological change; to an important extent it’s the result of political changes that have weakened workers’ bargaining power. If Trump manages to install Kavanaugh, he’ll help institutionalize these anti-worker policies for decades to come.

I grew up in Anderson, Indiana. My father was a Democrat and my mother was a Republican. Despite their other political differences, they agreed about unions: they both hated them. Back then, Anderson’s economy was dependent upon then-thriving General Motors and Guide Lamp factories, and periodic labor unrest was characterized by thuggish (and sometimes violent) union behavior. It was the (brief) heyday of union power, and that power wasn’t always used in moderation.

Today, the situation is reversed. Decades of successful Republican efforts to enact anti-union policies, plus such things as automation and the so-called “gig economy,” have eviscerated the unions that used to bargain collectively on behalf of workers. Meanwhile, corporate America has used its superior weapons–political contributions and lobbyists–not to level the playing field, but to tilt it dramatically  in management’s favor.

Wildly unequal power is not a recipe for fairness to anyone. When clout is more or less evenly distributed between labor and management, productive bargaining can occur. When either side of the equation dominates, the outcomes unduly favor the powerful– and generate resentment from those who leave the bargaining table empty-handed (if there is a bargaining table at all).

That resentment–and the racial anxiety that feeds on it–is what elected Donald Trump and accelerated the deconstruction of America’s democratic norms. The last thing we need is a Justice Kavanaugh to make the current impotence of organized labor a permanent feature of American law.

If Democratic Senate candidates in red states need a persuasive reason to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his overwhelming animosity to the rights of American workers should fit the bill. (Senator Donnelly–are you listening?)


  1. This essay re-iterates the foibles of unregulated capitalism. Why, for example, would so-called management want to keep working people poor? Aren’t they the consumers of goods and services? Aren’t the working classes/consumer classes the engine that drives our economy? The answers are obviously YES.

    So, perversely, to be anti-worker is to be anti-economy, anti-American and anti-anything else that makes sense. For those of us who read, the ideal and perfect labor environment for the capitalists that create creatures like Trump, Kavanaugh and most Republicans is SLAVERY. No wages means no impediment to profits, unless, of course, you have no consumers.

    Republicanism has ALWAYS favored the capitalist over the worker throughout history. And, as history shows, the end result is always rebellion, revolution and a lurch toward the socialistic styles of government that so panic capitalists and Republicans.

    Oh. And if living and fair wages were paid, and there was an assured, healthy workforce, unions wouldn’t be necessary. Teachers, who loath the idea of cooperating with one another, HATE being in unions, but if they don’t organize, they will remain poor and not be able to feed their families.

    Republicanism has morphed into something quite wicked and evil with regard to working people. Why any blue collar or lower-level white collar workers would vote for a Republican is beyond comprehension when the sole goal of Republicanism is to take as much away from working people as possible so that they can give it to the richest among us…who also aid and abet the abject corruption of our political system.

  2. “If Democratic Senate candidates in red states need a persuasive reason to vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his overwhelming animosity to the rights of American workers should fit the bill. (Senator Donnelly–are you listening?)”

    I block out the local campaign ads for/against Donnelly and Braun; they are worded to appear factual regarding Donnelly outsourcing jobs from Indiana to Mexico. Research on that issue reported that after August 11, 2017 and the Carrier fiasco, Joe Donnelly sold his stock in Stewart Superior (who were moving jobs to Mexico); proceeds from that sale were to go to local charities. He kept the previously earned profits. Just one issue in this Kavannaugh appointment situation where Donnelly’s record gives us a glimmer of hope.

    I’m sure we all know with or without Donnelly’s vote; Kavannaugh will be appointed to SCOTUS. McConnell is dragging it out to appear to be taking action on this issue while others are slipped through Congress and we learn of them after the fact. In addition to the issues Sheila listed above; the current immigration issues need to be considered, will this issue or individual cases come before SCOTUS at some future date? What are Kavannaugh’s views on this government wanting the ACLU to do their job in a horrendous, inhuman situation regarding the separation of children which they created, hoping for a hostage situation to get Trump’s wall built? We have never been told why ICE was put in charge of border actions, an issue I have yet to see addressed. Jobs have been part of the escalating immigration crisis for decades; making this a two-fold issue. Was/is immigration part of the union issue; helping to bring about the downfall of unions?

    Does Kavannaugh’s decision record against individuals mirror Sessions’ racist, bigoted decisions? “But in the era of stagnant wages and diminishing worker protections, Kavanaugh might just be the coup de grace.” He appears to be another Trump clone in his politics and his judicial history; this alone will get him appointed. November elections will not stop this appointment and those elected will not be inaugurated till January 1, 2019. Can local Democrats, if elected, have enough judicial power in their home states to prevent cases from coming before SCOTUS?

    “The last thing we need is a Justice Kavanaugh to make the current impotence of organized labor a permanent feature of American law.” And all other issues current and future on the SCOTUS calendar.

  3. I would never have thought this “Exceptional country” would lower itself to the level of watching a judge the likes of Kavanaugh into SCOTUS. I was wrong. Very wrong, in fact.

    Plato told us, “The price of voter antipathy is we will be ruled by our inferiors.”

    Both parties have failed us AND the people have failed us. How can republicanism continuously poor out rabid voters which basically inflicts more damages to themselves then the other team?

    Meanwhile, the other parties strategy is “we aren’t those dummies.” smdh

  4. Henry Giroux has written concerning neoliberalism:

    “Since the 1970s, American society has lived with the curse of neoliberalism, or what can be called the latest and most extreme stage of predatory capitalism. As part of a broader comprehensive design, neoliberalism’s overriding goal is to consolidate power in the hands of the financial elite. As a mode of rationality, it functions pedagogically in multiple cultural sites to ensure no alternatives to its mode of governance can be imagined or constructed.”

    “As an economic policy, it creates an all-encompassing market guided by the principles of privatization, deregulation, commodification and the free flow of capital. Advancing these agendas, it weakens unions, radically downsizes the welfare state and wages an assault on public goods. As the state is hollowed out, big corporations take on the functions of government, imposing severe austerity measures, redistributing wealth upward to the rich and powerful and reinforcing a notion of society as one of winners and losers. Put simply, neoliberalism gives free rein to finance capital and seeks to liberate the market from any restraints imposed by the state. At present, governments exist preeminently to maximize the profits, resources and the power of the wealthy.”

    “As a political policy, it empties governance of any substance and denounces any viable notion of the social contract. Moreover, neoliberalism produces widespread misery and suffering as it weakens any vestige of democracy that interferes with its vision of a self-regulating market.”
    I believe Giroux has covered all the bases. The idea that we should have a “social contract” among us proles, must be either actively attacked, or moderated to the point it is so watered down it becomes meaningless. Triangulation of people into social, economic, religious, racial and ethnic silos is prerequisite to keeping us proles divided among ourselves, rather than united against the 1%.

    Unions have been characterized as sometimes being “thugs”. The Wall Street Vampire Capitalists no matter how destructive they are remain at least in Myth and Corporate Media as clean cut businessman in three piece suits.

  5. Good article, thankfully California is still in the Union.
    California Says Starbucks Has to Stop Stealing Its Workers’ Wages.

    “California’s Supreme Court has ruled against Starbucks in a wage theft case that could have vast implications throughout the state. The July 26 decision established that employees throughout California should be paid for every minute that they work, including any tasks that they do after punching out. Although Starbucks was at the center of the opinion, the ruling applies to all employers and could lead to an increase in wage theft lawsuits.”

    The longtime face of Starbucks also seems to oppose key economic measures. Howard Schultz retired as the company’s CEO in 2016 and retired as its executive chairman last month, amid speculation that he might run for president in 2020. “It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left,” he told CNBC in June. “I say to myself, ‘How are we going to pay for these things,’ in terms of things like single payer [and] people espousing the fact that the government is going to give everyone a job.”

    The Ex-Ceo of Starbucks Howard Schultz lays it all out – The Democrats are going too far to the Left. The implication is the Democratic Party, at least the Progressive Wing, must be brought under control.

    The fact that Reactionary Rabid Ring Wing Republican Party would agree with the Schultz viewpoint is not enough ANY opposition to a Corporate Friendly political environment must be amputated. The Proles must have no voice.

  6. Monotonous,

    Stay with Professor Giroux. We’ve worked together or an important project in the past. He was forced to leave Penn State and move to Canada because of his accurate political vision.

  7. “Teachers, who loath the idea of cooperating with one another, HATE being in unions, but if they don’t organize, they will remain poor and not be able to feed their families.”

    Vernon, you must not know any teachers. My husband is a teacher, and your statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

  8. Marv @ 10:28 am, you know it is interesting how many intellectual voices there are on the Left. These intellectuals are never invited to contribute on the Corporate Media Outlets. They are an intellectual threat to the Corporate Neo-Liberal State so that is as good a reason as any.

    The Reactionary Right has relied upon what I would call marketing jingles or expressions for their base such as: Death Taxes, Thuggish Unions, Drill Baby Drill, School Choice, Welfare Queens, Eco-Terrorists, among a few. I am sure you could add more.

    The Left in contrast seems have this fatal attraction to manifestos, i.e., long winded writings that lose all but the most dedicated reader. I understand this in a way. It is easier the explain Genesis as source point for creation, than it is for someone to absorb and comprehend all the Science behind the “Big Bang” and evolution.

    I hate to think the Left has to resort to slick marketing to get the point across, but there maybe a place for it.

    I can turn on my television any time of day and find some snake oil Pastor lamenting the sad state of America, with an appeal to Jesus and of course a generous donation to fight the devil.

    So I wonder given all the financial resources Unions have as whole – Why they cannot get it together and have a Voice of Labor on Cable TV. There would be no shortage of material to report on. The vast majority of Americans have no idea of the history of labor rights in this country and the efforts of the Corporate State to crush labor (union or non-union).

  9. Monotonous,

    “So I wonder given all the financial resources Unions have as whole – Why they cannot get it together and have a Voice of Labor on Cable TV. There would be no shortage of material to report on.”

    Great idea. Pursue it. Those like Henry Giroux, with strong labor credentials [He’s from a working class, Catholic, background and attended college on a basketball scholarship] are being limited to appearances on You Tube.

  10. Monotonous – Thanks for your rundown of neoliberalism and triangulation, which have been known to those of us who are paying attention for years. The question now is what are we going to do about it. Piketty and Stiglitz, among others, have lamented the absence of “countervailing force” to capitalist expansion following Powell’s infamous memo of 1971 and a clueless and union-busting Reagan with his trickledown idiocy since 1980 and a triangulation game played by Clinton afterwards.
    Piketty and Stiglitz have identified the countervailing force to be unions, who are at their nadir in economic history dating from the New Deal days of FDR which, along with rampant vote-buying by the rich (helped along by Citizens United), explains the ownership of America’s politics and its economy by Big Money.

    Since the union movement as traditionally formed and expanded into industry-wide bargaining has been defanged by the rich due to our political climate I have come to the conclusion that we
    will have to restore “countervailing force” by statute, such as a rejuvenation of the Wagner Act, and one with teeth designed to encourage union formation and designated powers in the representation of the workforce they represent.

    How important is it to come up with countervailing force to counter current runaway capitalism? It is, paradoxically, perhaps key to survival of such system since there are already signs that millennials (our future) are reacting to such excesses by a hard turn to the left where “socialism is not a dirty word anymore.” I worry about this turn to the left for fear it will get out of hand and bring us an externality few expected. I think this attempt by millennials to bring their own version of countervailing force would be unnecessary if we had a Democratic administration and Congress that provided the alternative of countervailing force via a Wagner Act #2 – with teeth – among other reforms in leveling the playing field.

    Someone, probably Marx, said that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. We may be seeing this view fleshed out in plain sight these days as the rich and the politicians plunge on with their tax cuts and other greedy policies in a country containing 42 million Americans in poverty and many others not far from that cutoff designation what with rampant wage inequality and terminal greed of the financial sector. To do > elect Democrats.

  11. Kavanaugh is one more potential setback to recover from. One more result from not the failure of our ongoing experiment in liberal democracy but our ability to remain deserving of it. Our collective ability to resist entertaiment’s siren song of confirmation bias and branding. If this is who you are this is what you must think because it’s what everyone like you is thinking.

    We failed to honor the truth and substituted what makes us individually feel good by telling us how smart we are and at the same time how ordinary.

    Given that loss of critical thinking what’s next?

  12. Here’s a good NPR article about the take over of the Supreme Court.

    What strikes me about it is that Republicans are able to be truthful about the degree to which they are co-conspirators with the Koch Bros oligarchy plot without seeing or admitting to why it’s wrong. As far as they are now concerned aristocracy is an improvement to liberal democracy and we the people should surrender our rights to wealth.

    Putting those beliefs in the center of the institution that is supposed to be defending the a Constitution is a revolution using wealth instead of bullets.

  13. Rosemary,

    I was a secondary teacher for 12 years and a school union rep. I speak from experience. Teachers find ways to like each other, but really don’t feel compelled to organize until they are pushed to the wall. I also used to be a member of the Teamsters union, and the teachers union I was affiliated with was a cupcake council by comparison.

    As I stated earlier, unions wouldn’t have to exist if workers were paid a fair wage.

  14. A deep and wide middle class is necessary to maintain both a thriving economy and a thriving democracy. Weakened unions have weakened the middle class, their wages, their benefits, their pensions, their workplace safety AND legislation which elevated and enlarged the middle class in the past.

    Social Security, Medicare, non-discrimination, 40 hour work-weeks with more pay for overtime, child labor laws, environmental protections, and regulations for safer working conditions all happened because of lobbying and political action by labor unions. That advocacy also protected the competitiveness of good employers who went to the expense of taking good care of their employees.

    Now if only our nation would set the standard for both domestic and international employers – if you want to sell your products to this large American economy, you must raise your standards too.

  15. I resent the good word “liberal” being used in Neo-Liberalism. I challenge such use. Calling fascist principles a nice name does not make the gas smell better or the thinker seem smarter. This animal is omnivorous, cannot climb trees, has four legs, sharp teeth, is known as man’s best friend, and it barks; therefore, to sound intellectual and to confuse critics of neo-kaninism, we shall henceforth call this animal a neo-pussycat.

  16. Still, it is Kavanaugh’s support for a totalitarian presidency with power beyond the rule of law that I find the most chilling. He would make the kind of Attorney General Trump has long sought, but he may be better able to protect Trump as a Supreme Court justice who maintains that the president can do no wrong.

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