From Workers World: http://www.workers.org/2011/us/workers_crisis_0915/
Time to fight back
By Fred Goldstein
Published Sep 7, 2011
The capitalist economy lurched toward renewed crisis as the U.S. government announced that no new jobs were created in the month of August. This disastrous news for the 30 million unemployed and underemployed workers in the U.S. comes against a background of a menacing world economic slowdown.
In addition to the zero jobs growth numbers for August, both June and July numbers for job creation were revised downward by a total of 58,000. The zero jobs number is part of a steady downward trend.
While this is bad news for the unemployed, those who are working also took a hit in August. The greater the unemployment, the greater the pressure on those workers who still have jobs. This pressure shows up in the latest statistics.
Weekly hours worked fell from 34.3 to 34.2, while hourly wages declined by an average of 3 cents. These numbers seem small but they add up to an average decline in weekly wages of almost 5 percent on an annual basis.
Furthermore, there was an increase of 430,000 “involuntary part-time” workers — workers who need a full-time job but have to work part-time, either because they were put on short hours or because that was all the bosses were offering to new hires.
The bosses relish the mass unemployment because of the competition it creates among workers, making it easier to slash wages, enforce speedups, cut benefits and thus wring more and more profits out of the sweat of the workers. And importantly, the higher the level of unemployment, the greater the threat to the unions, as both companies and governments take aim at union contracts, knowing that strikes are difficult to carry out during periods of high unemployment.
The racist effects of unemployment were dramatized again in August as the jobless rate for African Americans officially reached 16.7 percent while for Latinos/as it was 11.3 percent. When you look at the number of workers who have dropped out of the work force and are not counted in the unemployment statistics, the percentages of oppressed workers out of work are vastly greater.
Two years after jobless recovery, a new crisis is brewing
It is now more than two years into the so-called “recovery.” The capitalist profit system, the so-called “free market,” has left tens of millions without full-time employment. The poverty rate is rising; one-sixth of the population suffers from hunger, including one-fourth of the children; millions are facing foreclosure and eviction.
Now, piled upon this jobless recovery is the threat of a new wave of layoffs. The growth of the U.S. economy slowed to 1 percent in the first half of this year. All of world capitalism is in fact slowing down, whether in Europe, including Germany, France, and England; in Asia, including Japan, South Korea, India and China; or in Latin America, including its largest economy, Brazil.
Economic growth and workers under capitalism
The question of economic growth is crucial to the condition of the working class. Under capitalism workers have only two conditions with respect to jobs. A worker is either being exploited by a capitalist boss or by some level of government and thus has a job, or a worker is unemployed. There is nothing in between.
The growth of capitalist production means more workers are needed to be exploited and services need to expand. Thus workers have jobs, even if more and more of these jobs are low-wage, part-time and/or temporary.
The contraction of capitalist growth means workers are not needed by the bosses and they are laid off. Government revenues decline but the banks continue to demand their interest and principal from these governments and military spending goes on in the trillions — so government workers are laid off.
The latest and most menacing threat to government workers comes from the U.S. Postal Service, which is threatening to lay off 120,000 workers, close more than 3,000 post offices and get rid of another 100,000 workers by attrition.
Overproduction and unemployment
Why is the growth of U.S. capitalism slowing down? The bosses are sitting on $2 trillion in cash. Why are they not hiring and are instead laying off? It is not because of uncertainty, as their apologists claim. It is not because of government regulations, either.
It is because of the fundamental contradiction of capitalism itself — overproduction. Capitalist production grows faster and faster as the bosses put in more technology, speed up workers, outsource and offshore production in pursuit of profits. More and more workers, not only in the U.S. but worldwide, produce more and more in less and less time for lower and lower wages.
The take-home pay of the workers not only does not increase, it is decreasing while production of commodities that must be sold for a profit expands at a galloping pace. The consuming power of the people either rises at a snail’s pace or actually goes down.
The more technology the bosses use, the fewer and fewer workers they need. There are 131 million payroll workers today, which is less than the number of workers on payroll in the year 2000. Today the U.S. economy is at the same level of production as it was in 2007, before the housing bubble burst and the economic crisis hit the world.
That means that the bosses need at least 10 to 11 million fewer workers today than they did four years ago. That is because of job-killing capitalist technology and globalizing the system of low-wage exploitation.
Demand a massive gov’t jobs program!
President Obama is scheduled to make a “jobs” speech in a few days. This speech will not put forward a program that can turn around the unemployment disaster in the country. The only way to even begin to address the mass unemployment, which will get worse if there is a new downturn, is to launch a massive government-provided jobs program.
It has to be on the scale of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) under the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression. Seven million workers were given jobs building everything from dams to bridges, parks, schools and highways; they created art, wrote plays, planted trees and did socially useful work.
Back then, just as today, the bosses would not hire because in a depression they could not expand their profits by selling what was produced. People were broke and couldn’t buy. But, under pressure of mass unemployment demonstrations, general strikes and factory seizures, the federal government was forced to become the main employer. State houses and city halls became employment halls. Millions who wanted work, got work.
As a new crisis threatens, the only possibility of blunting a new wave of layoffs and reversing what has happened is to launch a massive struggle for jobs or income and services at every level of government — federal, state and local. The Republicans are openly against solving the crisis, while the Democratic Party is also tied to Wall Street and has put nothing forward to attack the crisis.
Both parties and governments at all levels are claiming they have no money. But the so-called deficit debate is a false debate. Workers, communities, youth and students come first.
The right of workers to a job, to food, housing, education, is a fundamental right, superior to the rights of millionaires and billionaires; superior to the right of bankers to live off the public funds; superior to the right of the military-industrial complex to get rich from war profits as they expand wars of conquest and occupation.
A mass struggle by a mobilized working class in the streets and workplaces everywhere can begin to shake the money loose from the money bags of the capitalist ruling class. This is the only way to push back this crisis.
In the long run, even a government jobs program under capitalism can only be a temporary band-aid. The WPA did not overcome the depression; mass unemployment prevailed up until World War II.
The only permanent solution to the jobs crisis is to get rid of the profit system altogether and put the economy to work for human need and not human greed. Distribution of the wealth created by the working class must take place on the basis of social and economic need. That is called socialism and it works best where the level of productivity is high — which is exactly where capitalism breaks down.
Articles copyright 1995-2011 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.
From The Center for Media and Democracy PR Watch: http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/09/11013/wisconsin-worker-fired-email-free-voter-ids
by Mary Bottari
September 9, 2011
A Wisconsin worker was fired Thursday for reminding fellow workers that photo IDs required for voting are free under Wisconsin law.
A man identifying himself as Chris Larson called into “Sly in the Morning,” a popular Madison radio program on WTDY-AM, and said he had been fired and escorted out of his workplace earlier in the day for sending out an email to remind employees to tell the public that they can obtain a state license for free. Larson said he worked for the Department of Safety and Professional Services, which is under Secretary Dave Ross.
The man was reacting to recent news stories that the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles may be hiding the fact that the IDs, which are newly required for voting in Wisconsin, are free. Hours after his dismissal, a small crowd gathered in front of his place of employment to protest his firing.
When a draconian “Voter ID” law passed in Wisconsin back in May, Democrats charged that requiring citizens to obtain a special photo ID was an unconstitutional and illegal infringement on voting, much like the “poll taxes” of the Jim Crow era. To withstand a likely constitutional challenge, the Wisconsin GOP agreed the IDs should be free of charge.
Problem solved? Maybe not.
This week an internal memo was leaked from a top Department of Transportation official that instructed Division of Motor Vehicles service center workers to “refrain from offering the free version to customers who do not ask for it.”
In other words if you did not specifically ask for the “free” ID, you would be charged $28 bucks for the privilege of voting.
Numerous voters have already had problems obtaining the ID
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/09-6
Watchdogs slept through a decade of rollback
When the USA Patriot Act* was rushed into law after the September 11 attacks, the erosion of civil liberties the Act represented—the broad powers it gave law enforcement to spy on people, and the creation of the dangerously ill-defined crime of “domestic terrorism”—met with little detailed scrutiny or principled challenge from major media.
Typical at the time was a Today show segment (NBC, 10/27/01) in which anchor Soledad O’Brien grilled a concerned legal advocate, “But, certainly, isn’t there a sense in wartime that you have to give up some of your privacies, especially when you’re talking about terrorists who exploited the free-doms that America offers in order to perpetuate their terrorist acts?”
When provisions of the Patriot Act were extended in May 2011, most people didn’t hear even a lopsided debate. NBC Nightly News (5/27/11), for one, focused its report on the presidential autopen used to sign the legislation.
The intervening decade has seen an expansion in federal law enforcement powers, combined with a cloaking of their operations, that is startling to many. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee’s Shahid Buttar (Truthout, 4/15/11) notes that Patriot Act provisions have been reauthorized three times “despite an equal number of Justice Department reports revealing massive and systemic abuses.”
Throughout this time, elite media’s fealty to official rationales and their anemic defense of the public’s rights have amounted to dereliction of duty. Writ large, it has meant accepting the undefined, unending “war on terror” as a challenge-proof premise for significant changes to U.S. law and policy, and dutifully censoring information the White House (whoever’s in it) wants held back, be it evidence of illegal wiretapping (Extra! Update, 2/06) or the location of a secret war’s drone base (FAIR Blog, 7/27/11).
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/09/09-6
From The Institute for Southern Studies: Facing South: http://www.southernstudies.org/2011/09/should-the-poor-be-allowed-to-vote.html
By Chris Kromm
September 6, 2011
Last week, right-wing pundit Matthew Vadum created a stir when he argued that — as his piece at American Thinker is titled — “Registering the Poor to Vote is Un-American.” Here’s how the piece starts:
Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote?
Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery.
Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.
Rick Hasen, an election law professor at UCLA-Irvine, summed up the reaction of many: “Back after I puke.”
Continue reading at: http://www.southernstudies.org/2011/09/should-the-poor-be-allowed-to-vote.html
—By Tom Philpott
Thu Sep. 8, 2011
As the summer growing season draws to a close, 2011 is emerging as the year of the superinsect—the year pests officially developed resistance to Monsanto’s genetically engineered (ostensibly) bug-killing corn.
While the revelation has given rise to alarming headlines, neither Monsanto nor the EPA, which regulates pesticides and pesticide-infused crops, can credibly claim surprise. Scientists have been warning that the EPA’s rules for planting the crop were too lax to prevent resistance since before the agency approved the crop in 2003. And in 2008, research funded by Monsanto itself showed that resistance was an obvious danger.
And now those unheeded warnings are proving prescient. In late July, as I reported recently, scientists in Iowa documented the existence of corn rootworms (a ravenous pest that attacks the roots of corn plants) that can happily devour corn plants that were genetically tweaked specifically to kill them. Monsanto’s corn, engineered to express a toxic gene from a bacterial insecticide called Bt, now accounts for 65 percent of the corn planted in the US.
The superinsect scourge has also arisen in Illinois and Minnesota. “Monsanto Co. (MON)’s insect-killing corn is toppling over in northwestern Illinois fields, a sign that rootworms outside of Iowa may have developed resistance to the genetically modified crop,” reports Bloomberg. In southern Minnesota, adds Minnesota Public Radio, an entomologist has found corn rootworms thriving, Bt corn plants drooping, in fields.
Continue reading at: http://motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2011/09/monsanto-denies-superinsect-science
By Scott Horton
September 6, 2011
Imagine this: Americans are frustrated by taxation policies that they consider to be unfair. They scoff at politicians who are either corrupted or uncaring. They demand a drastic fiscal policy change to address serious shortcomings in the economy.
This is not the story of recent American political history. It’s the 1890s.
In that decade from long ago, the Populist Party emerged as a viable alternative to the two main parties, which seemed to be ignoring the difficulties of average Americans. They were successful enough to get members elected to Congress and even influenced the presidential election of 1896, a turning point election by most historical accounts.
Today we have the tea party that demands many things from government, but the Populists had it right all along. They demanded an income tax but they hoped to lessen the impact of tariffs, a regressive tax, in favor of a graduated tax that asked the wealthiest Americans to sacrifice as much as the average American was sacrificing in the steel mills, coal mines, sweatshops and farmlands. Eventually, their efforts bore fruit when the 16th Amendment was added to the Constitution. It seems our politics today has forgotten the purpose and the intent of a graduated tax when middle class folks pay more, and millionaires somehow pay little to no tax.
Today we have tea party members who attempt to offer a third option, but in many ways they are a rehash of the neo-conservatives who ran the government under President George W. Bush.
Is it time for a new Populist Party? One that wouldn’t cut off its nose to spite its face?