US wages and salaries rise at record-low levels

From World Socialist Web Site
By Andre Damon
31 October 2009

Employment costs in the US rose at the lowest annual amount in at least 27 years, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department. Stagnant wages and salaries are the outcome of government policies designed to lower the living standards of workers.

 

Over the past 12 months, the Labor Department’s Employment Cost Index rose by 1.5 percent, marking the lowest wage and salary growth since these figures started to be collected in 1982.

Meanwhile, compensation costs for the three-month period ending in September increased by 0.4 percent, among the lowest level since quarterly records began in 2001. This figure was unchanged from the previous quarter, and up slightly from the 0.3 percent growth in the first quarter of the year.

In the 12-month period before September 2008, employment costs rose by 2.6 percent.

These figures were led by falling government wages, which shrank by 0.1 percent in the third quarter, while benefits rose by a smaller-than average 0.3 percent. Compensation costs in private industry rose by 0.5 percent, with benefits rising 0.3 percent.

The decline in government wages is a direct result of policies initiated by states and cities in response to their budget crises. Local governments have laid off thousands of teachers, city workers, and bus drivers in response to their budget shortfalls. Those workers who remain have been forced to take furloughs and pay cuts.

In Detroit, Michigan, for instance, both city workers and teachers have been told to take a 10 percent pay cut.

These cuts are the direct outcome of the Obama administration’s policies, which have left states to fend for themselves amid falling tax revenues. The administration has made it clear that states must balance their budgets through spending cuts. Many states are required to have a balanced budget, and nearly all have resorted to wage and salary cuts, together with layoffs, to meet their obligations.

Consumer spending, meanwhile, fell significantly in September, according to figures released Friday by the Commerce Department. Spending fell by 0.5 percent last month, negating a good chunk of the 1 percent gain in the previous month. Disposable income for households also fell by 0.1 percent in September, in the fourth consecutive monthly decline.

The fall in consumer spending, the largest since December, is in part the result of the end of the government’s cash-for-clunkers program on August 24. Economists have said that this program, among others, accounts for much of the increase in third-quarter consumer spending and GDP.

Lori Helwig, an economist at Merrill Lynch, told MarketWatch that she expects consumer spending to grow 0.5 percent in the last quarter of the year, down significantly from the 3.4 percent growth in the third quarter.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that the US economy grew at a rate of 3.5 percent in the third quarter of the year, after falling consecutively for three quarters. However, as numerous commentators have pointed out, this so-called recovery is unsustainable.

The Financial Times wrote on Thursday, “Household disposable incomes actually fell during the quarter, by 3.4 percent, but consumer spending rose, also by 3.4 percent. This is not a pattern that can be sustained for long.” The uptick in spending was largely financed by the government’s cash-for-clunkers program, along with homebuyer tax credits, which will expire later this year.

A picture of the real state of things emerges from these figures. Real wages in the US are declining, while consumer spending can only be maintained, at least in the short term, by government stimulus programs.

Meanwhile, the real living conditions for regular people are becoming more and more intolerable. Wages for non-managerial workers have fallen by 1.4 percent so far this year, according to an article in USA Today, and are on track for even further declines. The official unemployment rate has reached 9.8 percent, and when one takes into account discouraged workers and people who are underemployed, it is at 17 percent.

While the Obama administration has spent trillions to bail out the banks and financial speculators, it has done next to nothing to address the massive employment crisis.

The White House released a report on Friday cynically claiming that its stimulus program had “saved or created” 640,239 jobs, based on data from a non-governmental monitoring board. This is based largely on inflated estimates of how many additional jobs might have been destroyed—in addition to the far higher figure that have in fact been destroyed.

The number of workers the federal government has actually employed in new projects is miniscule—estimated at 30,000 by the administration itself in a report released earlier this month.

In some states, the impact of federal programs has been negligible—including about 400 in Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 15.2 percent.

In reviewing these figures, the Associated Press found significant reporting errors, with certain new positions being counted as many as five times. The analysis showed that, based on the government’s records, the figure should have been 25,000, not 30,000.

Similar overestimations were quickly discovered in the figures released on Friday. For example, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the White House claimed that 6,598 jobs were saved or created in Utah. “But discrepancies were easy to find,” the newspaper noted. “Some entities seemed to create their own criteria, while others double counted employees over multiple contracts. The most common error appeared to be counting temporary or part-time work as a full-time job.”

Since the recession began in December 2007, 7.6 million jobs have been eliminated from the economy, and 3 million since Obama’s stimulus program was approved. Even if one were to accept the government’s estimates, a stimulus program that would address the unemployment crisis would need to be at least ten times the size of the one that has been passed. Instead, the Obama administration has rejected any further stimulus measures.

In fact, mass unemployment has been part of a deliberate policy, allowing for corporations to exploit workers’ fears over the poor labor market. The financial and corporate elite has used the economic crisis it created to carry out a massive redistribution of wealth. The bank bailouts will be paid for through attacks on the working class—including austerity measures, cuts in social programs and a continual attack on wages and benefits.

Fox News anti-intersex rant

By Curtis E. Hinkle

Below is some commentary from Fox News which landed in my email box this morning. I felt compelled to analyze this because it is typical of the right-wing anti-intersex, irrational thinking which passes as logical. Fox News is a channel I have blocked on my TV because I consider it to be racist, homophobic and nothing but a propaganda network for the Republican Party.

First of all notice that the writer uses “hermaphrodites” as the example, probably for comic and derogatory impact on the readers. As we know the hate crime bill which was passed into law has nothing to do with intersex people or protecting intersex people from hate crimes, but we end up being the example used in this commentary.

The author then pretends that people who are being charged with hate crimes are actually being prosecuted because of thought crimes, as if thought crimes are not already an important part of US law and many of these thought crimes are a result of the very same right wing thinking which is propagated by Fox News. The Patriot Act is definitely replete with thought crimes. As an example, right here where I live, a fellow member of an organization I am part of was arrested a few years ago for simply carrying a poster which condemned the war in Iraq during a visit by the former President Bush. He was charged with being in a “No Free Speech Zone”. Despite many appeals, the charge was upheld and he spent a long time in prison.

Conspiracy is a thought crime. One does not have to carry out the crime, just think about it and discuss is. That is very different from the Hate Crime legislation and that is the serious flaw in the Right Wing’s argument that Hate Crimes are thought crimes. You cannot be arrested for a hate crime or charged with a hate crime just for
thinking about it. You have to act on it.

I am not in favor of outlawing freedom of speech or thought. I am in favor of outlawing hate crimes and making sure that people are not targeted because someone thinks they belong to some identity group which the individual may or may not even agree with. It is not about what the writer says when he writes that we should identify just as human. It is about others who would divide us into groups and kill us. If they do that, they should stand accountable both for making such divisions within humanity and then acting on it because it is a form of madness which humanity desperately needs to end.

FOX COMMENTARY FOLLOWS

———————————————————————————————
President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which by some weird circumstance also includes hate crime legislation.

Now, I’m no fan of hate. Hate in all forms is ugly, even when performed by beautiful people (that’s a shout out to Stephanie Von Pratt, who turned me down for my senior prom). But here’s what I don’t get: If I kill someone, I’m a killer. But hate crime law says that I also broke a new law, one that has to do with my thoughts when I
committed said crime.

So it’s a thought crime more than a hate crime. Which begs the question: How can a thought be against the law?

Now I can barely read, so I don’t want to get too deep into this, but if I were to kill my co-host Bill Schulz, whether I hated him or not, that’s a crime. But, if we find out later that he was a sequential hermaphrodite, one might say it could be a hate crime.

I don’t get that at all.

What of terrorists? Does the fact that they hate us make their crimes worse? Not to them; punishment is meaningless. Which is the real truth about hate, anyway: Hate crime laws won’t stop hate or crime. It’s an after-the-fact gesture that does nothing to stop evil.

Even more, focusing on the killer’s outlook diminishes the victim. It’s no longer Bill Schulz is dead, but “Bill Schulz, the sequential hermaphrodite, is dead.”

Humanity should come before identity. We need to see people as people, not as part of groups. We know bigotry is bad. But murder in any form is so substantially worse, that it needs no footnote.

And if you disagree with me, then you’re probably racist.

Source:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,570527,00.html

Friday Night Fun and Culture

A blast from the disco era of the late 1970s. Alicia Bridges passed away a couple of years back but my fond memories of dancing until dawn first at the Palms and later in the Santa Monica Blvd area after hours clubs. It was a wonderful time, those days before Reagan and AIDS

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“Queer” Community

One of our commenters, Nome has been rather upset with me because I do not embrace “queer” as a label.  Or queer community.  I realized from her e-mail address that she is probably still a student and has a completely different take on the term “queer” than do people who lived in a pre-Stonewall world or even the heady days of 1970s gay and lesbian liberation.

There was a time in 1969 when Gay subsumed Lesbian in the same way that “Man” and male pronouns were supposed to include women too even though the opposite would be more logical since woman actually does include man as part of it and she does include he.

Feminism made the erasure of women’s voices unacceptable.  It meant that in order to work together gay men had to accept using a different word for lesbian women.  As a result we have Gay and Lesbian Centers and strings of initials that give priority to the one that people identify as.

The dreaded identity word.  In the LGBT/T etc string, identity is actually little more than a place marker.  Rather than transgender or even transsexual I long ago realized the truth to the phrase “feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.”  Putting women first and asking the question is this or that good for women or bad for women has guided my politics for many years.

But lesbian community… If that means laughing along and relating to the jokes told by Wanda Sykes in her HBO special we watched last night before the absolutely must see HBO film Schmatta.  Or reading lesbian feminist writers and campaigning for LGBT/T issues then I am part of a community.  But then that means I am a part of a lot of other communities too. Including the photography and folk music communities, the anarchist/socialist communities, the activists for media reform, the anti-WTO and Fair Trade, Not Free Trade communities.

I obviously still care about the interests of people with transsexualism and transgenderism even if I do not see there being some form of overarching “transgender as umbrella” community.  The reality i discovered over 40 years ago when I first came out was just as there was no one particular “gay as umbrella” community there is no “trans community”. For that matter there isn’t a “transsexual community” among those of us who are either pre or post SRS.  Post-op lists dissolve in the same sorts of differences that other larger “communities” do.  Sartre described hell as other people.  The paradox is in the existential loneliness of the group where to assert self-hood negates submitting to a collective identity.

If we are individuals rather than cogs in a machine, then identity politics that require the subsuming of self and the existential individualism of self for membership in  a hierarchically determined collective, where proper identity is dictated, and deviation from that collective identity is cause for great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments accompanied by great wailing moans and accusations of betrayal, then the identity politics of “community” are doomed to failure.

Queer as an anarchic, outlaw position makes an oxymoron of the phrase “queer community” unless one uses a reading of queer as gay with a subtext of sameness.  This immediately becomes problematic given the traditional male sex linkage to the term queer and the historical hegemony of  gay male erasing lesbian.  This along with the historical association of queer with those who exercise an often terrorist level of control over  LGBT/T people.  Queer is the insult that accompanied beatings, imprisonment on laws that made our very being a criminal offense, lobotomies and other horrific acts aimed at curing.

It bears many commonalities with the usage of “nigger” by Black rappers, who are aware of the connotation.  Yet like “nigger” it has the potential to limit LGBT/T people to the negative stereotypes connotative with the historical associations.

The focus on “queer” like the focus on “transgender” tends towards a form of nationalism of the sort that divided the Black militant organizations such as Ron Karinga’s group US from the Marxist and revolutionary Black Panther Party.  It says that “we are the only people who care about our problems and therefore our sole point of focus should be upon our problems”.

This divisive narrow focus upon the politics of identity rather than upon agreed upon issues allowed the rabid right wing to rise to power and thrust into a 30 year period of reactionary politics that have destroyed American industry and the rights of all working people.  It has been a mind set of, “Yes, so and so is good on X,Y, Z but they haven’t spoken out strongly enough on my particular position therefore I won’t work for them even though they are good on many other issues that affect my life.”

As someone who had her sex change operation so long ago that it was done at the time when they had just gone from obsidian operating instruments to bronze, my connections to trans anything are awfully faint.  The issues of transgender people and laws impacting them are something I support not out of identity but rather out of their being human rights issues.

Perhaps rather than identity politics we should return to issues oriented politics.  Lately I have been listening to a lot of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Weavers and Almanac Singers as well as reading Dorothy Healey’s book California Red: A Life in the American Communist Party.  One reason to study history is to learn to avoid the errors of the past.

The New Deal era under Roosevelt was actually a high point for progressive politics in America.  Those politics didn’t die under McCarthyism, they continued through the 1970s.  When World War II started the communists and other progressives formed something called the “Popular Front”.

What slowly bled all the progressive movement energy away was only partially the right wing and reactionary influences even though they played a role. What really did in the liberal, progressive coalitions that included not only different minority groups but labor was increasing factionalism based on identity.

The largest movement I was a member of was the anti-War in Vietnam Movement, the longest enduring have been the feminist and LGBT/T movements.  What those movements have in common is that they are more issues oriented than identity based.  The long enduring movements recognize there are differences including different interests with in and among those involved in the respective movements.

Transgender on the other hand has been very Satalinistic, more similar to the Black Nationalist movements in demanding one identify as transgender or else one is an enemy.  Not allowing post-SRS women to be post-Transsexualism as well as post-op has resulted in more anger, in-fighting and wasted effort than most realize.

Further the insistence that we are queer or gender transgressive silences us, particularly those of us who are older and have the same concerns as not only older L/G folks but as older straight people.  Interests that may involve National Health Care, Reindustrialization.  Ending Free Trade, the G20 and WTO and stopping the economic race to the bottom.

Some may find it unacceptable that I am interested in the rights of all workers to organize around issues such as “Living Wage Standards”, The Employee Free Choice Act but those are matters not limited to LGBT/T worker and especially not to just transsexual or transgender workers.

In short I believe it is time to call an end to all the identity crap and the usage of identity as a basis of movements and to replace identity politics with issues based politics and coalitions rather than “communities”.  While it is important to think locally it is equally important to reach beyond local and act globally.

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Obama Signs Hate Crimes

From The Advocate

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2009/10/28/Obama_Signs_Hate_Crimes/

By Kerry Eleveld

President Barack Obama signed the hate-crimes law Wednesday, flanked by family members of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., saying the law “protects people based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are.”

President Barack Obama Wednesday signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.

“After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation that protects people based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are,” Obama said, addressing the crowd. “I promised Judy Shepard when she saw me in the Oval Office that this day would come.”

Obama went on to thank Sen. Edward Kennedy for his dedication to seeing that the bill was passed. Before leaving, he kissed Judy Shepard on the cheek and shook hands with her husband, Dennis, and son, Logan.

Because the hate-crimes measure was attached a defense bill, the signing was an unusual mix of defense officials and advocates for the hate-crimes legislation.

Alongside Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, and the chairmen of the respective Armed Services Committees, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Ike Skelton, stood LGBT elected officials and the family members of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. (his sisters Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris), for whom the hate-crimes measure is named.

President Obama will host a reception in the East Room of the White House beginning about 5 p.m. to commemorate the enactment of the hate-crimes law. Guests will include Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and a broad spectrum of civil rights leaders, including LGBT advocates.

The president is expected to make brief remarks about 6:05 p.m.

AFA: Hate-Crimes Bill Is Un-American

Ever notice how all these Christo-Fascist bigots have hegemonically colonized the word “Family”?  It is almost as though they have gone through their lexicon and substituted ‘family” every place where the more appropriate term would be “fascist”

What part of the American value of equal treatment does this neo-Nazi moron Wildmon just not get?

Time to tell these fascists, “America love it or leave it.  Embrace the Constitution or get the hell out of our country.

Posted on Advocate.com October 27, 2009

http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2009/10/27/AFA__Hate_Crimes_Bill_is_Un-American/

The American Family Association, a self-proclaimed pro-family advocacy organization, on Monday criticized the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as “simply un-American” and encouraged its members to contact Congress members who supported the legislation.

“The law created by this bill is exceedingly dangerous and represents a huge step toward normalizing homosexual and transsexual behavior in this country,” said AFA president Tim Wildmon in a press release.

“It creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in non-normative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals,” added Wildmon. “This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American.”

Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issues analysis, also critiqued the bill, which  amends the 1969 federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“Despite the protests of homosexual activists, this is a communist-style law against politically-incorrect thoughts, since there are enhanced criminal penalties that aren’t based on what somebody did but on what they were thinking at the time,” said Fisher.

The AFA sent out an action alert on Tuesday to its 2.6 million-member network. The alert informs members how their representatives voted on the bill and urges them to contact Congress members who supported the legislation.

“We must let every senator who voted for the ‘hate crimes’ bill know that his vote will not be forgotten when he stands for re-election,” reads the alert.

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Assimilation Happens

One thing that should be obvious but often isn’t is that “transsexual” really doesn’t belong in the LGBT/T category once one is post-SRS.

It is there because of how laws and politics work rather than how lives are lived.  Discrimination in matters of employment and access to medical care are obvious issues.

WBTs have been called “separatists” for just going off and assimilating.  Calling people who post all over the place “stealth” is a bit of a joke considering how easy it is to track ISPs even when folks use sock puppet e-mail. But let’s assume that most people who have assimilated  are only out in the world of 3D to a select circle of friends or for certain purposes.

It isn’t some separatism for most of us.  It is lack of common interests.  I have known a number of sisters who were involved in the bar and even ball cultures, who found themselves excluded from those scenes once they had SRS.

Once you have had SRS queens no longer relate to you as being one of the gang.  If you do not limit your involvement in their scene they will ask you why and you find yourself labeled as both odd and having made a mistake.

Having a vagina others you to people who live as women but keep their male parts.  Queens put their post-SRS friends they used to see as sisters on pedestals and tell them how brave they are while gossiping behind their backs,  “Well, she got her surgery and thinks she is better than us (forgetting that they put us on the pedestal to begin with) so why is she still hanging around us?”

The message is that we no longer belong there.  Time to move on with our lives.

Of course the activists then accuse us of separatism and deserting the community while conveniently forgetting how every year at Pride Day the same dozen people show up and how most of the “community” is dressed in sequins and riding on one of the bar/club floats.

After a few years even when one is an activist being part of that same dozen people starts to feel like being part of a severely marginalized Trotskyite Faction.  What is the point?

Perhaps it is different for those who come out through the IFGE route but I suspect it isn’t.

I know it isn’t if one is part of Tri-Ess and actually comes out as transsexual, I’ve read Tapestry in the past and have heard the stories at gender groups of how old CD friends are uncomfortable and nasty towards anyone who realizes they are not transvestite but are actually transsexual.  I’ve had transgender friends tell me the same thing about how they were put on a pedestal when they went full time.  Told how lucky they are that they can now dress full time. Never mind that the transgender sister has taken the down elevator on the socio-economic scale.  Comments like that are why transgender sisters who live 24/7/365  call episodic transvestites fetishists.  It isn’t so much that they fetishize the clothes as they hegmonically covet the lives of sisters willing to pay the price in order to live their lives according to their inner needs.

The main reason I believe “transgender” should be limited to only those living 24/7/365 is because, like transsexuals they have their lives colonized and objectified by those of the transvestite class.

At the same time people who are transgender either  because that is where their internal compass has landed, or due to economic issues, face conditions the majority of post-SRS sisters are less likely to face such as violence, ghettoization and denial of both economic opportunity and social safety nets.

The Day of Remembrance will soon be upon us.  I post articles regarding the murderous violence and senseless slaying of TS/TG sisters even though it isn’t a part of my world where violence more often takes place in the form of denial of health insurance, loss of work due to layoffs and fraudulent financial practices on the part of corporations.

While I will mention DOR the likelihood of my going to an event is very slim.  Not because I am afraid of “outing myself” or because I am disinterested but more out of a sense of futility and having to work.  The same reason I missed Pride Day.  Going to something like this requires planning and the arranging of time, a commitment that conflicts with day to day life in a Nickel and Dimed world.

As time passes after SRS the world of TS/TG is less an active part of life.  Even for those of us who blog and consider ourselves activists.  It takes little effort for me to be transgender inclusive on so many issues.  I learned that while working towards adding gender and perceived gender to the hate crimes laws of California.  It isn’t like adding a few phrases that protect transgender folks to any bill aimed at protecting gay and lesbian folks really makes that bill harder to pass.

Yet there are so many causes, so little time and most of my causes are bigger than the identity politics of the “Transgender Community”.  Part of why I have called a moratorium on  name calling, other than feeling like it is sort picking on people who have a harder life than I do, and not wanting to add to their oppression, is that engaging in name calling takes energy away from more important causes.  Like universal health care, hate crimes laws, ENDA, Same Sex Marriage, defending the environment, women’s rights etc.

Of course my working for any of a menu of causes that are positive for me means automatically extending those protections to all.  See I’m not some Ayn Randian right wing moron who is all hooray for me, fuck you.  I actually believe in equal treatment and the right to human dignity.

But as I said assimilation happens…  Even for activists who step beyond identity politics.

It happens for most post-SRS folks without them even trying, indeed it sometimes seems that folks who remain crusaders almost have to constantly make an effort to make themselves visible as transsexual.  The exceptions to this are those who are physically obvious although working retail and having encountered many people whose appearances are different, even odd.  It sometimes seems that facial hair is the only real give away.   I don’t know about some folks but for most of us assimilation seems inevitable.

Particularly if you are authentic and not pretending.  The goal was to be a woman, SRS removes the ties that bind one to those who stay transgender and time does the rest.

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