Union President Van Roekel: Top 1 Percent's Wages Have Gone Up 275 Percent

While continuing their conversation about whether government workers' salaries and whether the states can afford to be making good on their pension funds or not when a lot of them are facing huge problems with their budgets, AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff Thea Lee made the point that there's no reason we should not be raising taxes on the wealthiest among us who can afford it rather than cutting services or going after workers' pension funds.
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While continuing their conversation about whether government workers' salaries and whether the states can afford to be making good on their pension funds or not when a lot of them are facing huge problems with their budgets, AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff Thea Lee made the point that there's no reason we should not be raising taxes on the wealthiest among us who can afford it rather than cutting services or going after workers' pension funds.

And as NEA president Dennis Van Roekel noted in the follow up to Fox's Chris Wallace, it's not your average worker out there that's a problem when it comes to who is being overpaid:

VAN ROEKEL: You know, the last 29 years, productivity up 80 percent, hourly wages up eight. The lowest one-fifth, their wages up 18 percent. But the top one percent, their wages go up 275 percent.

We have got to find a way to lift all citizens, not just a few. Not a 1 percent, not just the wealthy few.

He's right of course, but it's a message I'm sure Fox would prefer most of their viewers don't hear too often. CEO pay and executive compensation have been out of whack compared to average your average worker's salary for decades now, but as soon as anyone says we should do something about it, Republicans start screaming about "class warfare," as though most people aren't aware of who it's actually being waged on.

Full transcript below the fold.

WALLACE: Forgive me, though, but you're not answering my question, which is in San Jose, the Democratic mayor says, look, we have a choice. We can let these people keep the pensions that they have, or we can open the firehouses and open the libraries.

LEE: Well, they can find some revenues.

WALLACE: Where are they going to get those?

LEE: Well, you can -- right now, we have seen in the top of the tax scales the wealthiest Americans are paying less taxes than they did 10, 20 years ago. So, that's one place. We have different kind of user fees or tax some corporations that --

WALLACE: So, raise taxes?

LEE: We could raise taxes. We absolutely could raise taxes and we ought to raise taxes if we need to do that to provide social services that Americans need and depend on, and to make sure that we are attracting the best people in public service.

WALLACE: Ms. Lee, how disappointed are you that Barack Obama didn't show up to campaign in Wisconsin?

LEE: That's a decision for President Obama. And I think the people of Wisconsin, the workers of Wisconsin, the families of Wisconsin, worked hard, they led this campaign, they showed a tremendous amount of energy and solidarity --

WALLACE: Well, it was all this effort and it was a tremendous effort. The fact that the president -- I mean, come on, you must have a feeling?

LEE: I'm not going to second guess the president.

WALLACE: OK. Mr. Van Roekel, let me look at it from another aspect. Is it possible for Mr. Romney to oppose the growth of government and not be the enemy of public work?

VAN ROEKEL: You know, I was high school math teacher for 23 years and his math just doesn't add up. I mean, when he said that we need to have less firemen, less police and less teacher, and that we ought to invest in people -- I don't understand that math at all.

I think it is the firemen, the policemen, and teachers who are delivering to the American public. They are the ones who are bringing this incredible service to kid, preparing the next generation and he says what we ought to do is build wealth. There is a difference in building wealth in a very small group of people that doing it for the nation.

You know, the last 29 years, productivity up 80 percent, hourly wages up eight. The lowest one-fifth, their wages up 18 percent. But the top one percent, their wages go up 275 percent.

We have got to find a way to lift all citizens, not just a few. Not a 1 percent, not just the wealthy few.

WALLACE: We're going to have to leave it there. Mr. Van Roekel, Ms. Lee -- thank you both so much for joining us today.

VAN ROEKEL: Thank you.

LEE: Thank you.

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