Fight for a New Direction for the Economy
For many Americans, the present direction of the economy has become untenable. More than 50 million families live below the poverty line, including one in five children. Child hunger is also increasing. Unemployment remains high and many youth cannot even enter the workforce, while long-term unemployment grows. More than 25 million people are looking for full-time employment, 125,000 jobs a month are needed for young workers, and the economy cannot provide for either under its present course.
We live in a country where massive wealth is produced by the working class and people, enough to feed, clothe and house everyone at an American standard of living, and contribute to doing the same worldwide. Yet, given ownership by the private monopolies, the economy serves unending war for empire, a huge apparatus of repression, with its prisons and mass incarceration of national minorities, and yet more squeezing of the economy for private profits and giant CEO payments (up 26 percent this year).
More attacks on the environment and public water supplies by the oil and gas monopolies are in the works, as exemptions from EPA rules and laws are demanded and granted. Hydrofracking, which poisons the water and fractures the rocks and earth to such a degree that earthquakes occur, is increasing. Another oil pipeline, this one from Canada to Texas is planned — all to the benefit of the oil, gas and military monopolies.
And while the workers have stepped up resistance and demanded that the rights of workers, immigrants, youth, pensioners and all be met, the government repeatedly shows itself to be an instrument of the rich against the people. Far from blocking the monopoly abuse and blackmail of workers, it has succumbed to wholesale extortion by the monopoly financiers. The monopolies secure trillions of dollars in government handouts, whether through open bailouts, or more tax breaks, or tax incentives. There is not to be “any termination or diminishment” of debt and debt service payments to the rich, while Medicare and Social Security are put under the gun.
The current direction of the economy is untenable and contrary to the demands of the people for an economy that serves them and puts the rights of all at the center. A new direction for the economy must be found. And this new direction should be a project of the actual producers themselves and their communities. Worker politicians are needed, from the ranks of the unions and other organized forces. Organizing our own town meetings where the agenda of decision-making and solutions to the current economic crisis can be discussed, information and experience exchanged and steps to further intervene politically worked out.
Monopoly right must be restricted. Monopoly abuse and extortion of workers, their communities and even governments must be stopped. Instead of debating proposals that solve no problem, let there be discussion on nationalization of different sectors of the economy and the replacement of private monopolies with public enterprises with a mandate to serve the people, their communities and society. This would be a step toward a new direction. At the very least, the government has to renew anti-monopoly, anti-trust legislation that restricts and limits the size, power and extent of ownership by any particular group. The private monopolies like ExxonMobil, Boeing, AT&T, U.S. Steel, GM and all the others are too large and powerful. Legislation should restrict their rights and defend public right. Legislation should encourage a public banking system and local ownership in the basic industries, especially cooperative or public enterprises at the community level. In this way, some vestige of control can come back to the actual producers and their communities to put an end to monopoly right abusing public right and wrecking the socialized economy.
The necessity for a new direction for the economy is daily making itself felt. So too is the need for decision-making by the people. The monopoly rulers have no solutions because they cannot escape acting in their narrow capitalist interests even though it is ruining the country and threatening the world. A short-term solution is available: End U.S. wars and bringing all U.S. troops home, stop paying the rich and provide wide-scale wage, benefit and pension increases and increased investments in social programs. This would give an immediate boost to the economy. There are trillions of dollars available — as war funding and handouts to the rich make clear.
When those in power cannot provide for the needs of the people, there is a necessity to remove them and organize for a new direction. Working people face a situation where the socialized economy as a whole is in constant turmoil because of private monopoly ownership of its competing parts. And most importantly because the actual producers play no role in making the decisions on the economy's direction. And that is the key problem to be addressed. For a new direction for the economy, workers must become political to defend their own interests and the rights of all and begin to solve the country's economic, political and social problems.
The resistance that has been mounted needs to be built on by keeping matters in our own hands and becoming more political. The politicians of the rich refuse to provide a new direction. We need worker politicians and an organized opposition to the monopolies and the governments that defend them. We need our own town hall meetings and other mass meetings where we decide!
President Barack Obama will be speaking to a Joint Session of Congress September 8. The speech is being presented as one addressing the problem of jobs and unemployment and more generally the discontent of the people with where the economy and the country are headed. It is taking place at a time when the number of jobs available lags far behind the needs of the people, both in terms of young workers entering the workforce and making up for the millions of jobs that have been lost. Unemployment remains more than 9 percent and for many cities, far higher. Long-term unemployment is also at its highest levels, with more than half of those counted as unemployed out of work for more than 26 weeks. An estimated 25 million workers are looking for full-time work. News for August brought no new jobs created.
In addition this past year has seen an increase in resistance by the workers and their unions to brutal anti-worker laws and demands for concessions by the monopolies. This includes the recent strike by Verizon workers and mass actions in defense of rights in many states, including Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and New York. Capital buildings were occupied and the sentiment of the people to be the decision-makers in government was expressed in slogans such as “Whose House, Our House!” The growing discontent among the broad mass of workers is such that Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, said they may no longer fund the Democratic Party. Speaking of Obama’s upcoming speech, Trumka said, “This is the moment working people and, frankly, history will judge President Obama on his presidency.” Trumka added that if the Democrats “Don’t have a jobs program, I think we better use our money for other things.” Obama spoke in Detroit on Labor Day with Trumka and other union presidents beside him. But they, like workers across the country, want more than what Trumka termed “nibbly things” when it comes to jobs. Many doubt that Obama will deliver.
It should be remembered that when Obama came to office he emphasized, “Many, many Americans are both anxious and uncertain of what the future will hold.” He referred to the "devastating loss of trust and confidence in our economy, our financial markets, and our government.” He promised to restore the promise of the American Dream, which lay in tatters as a result of wholesale theft, corruption and gambling by the financial sector that shamed and shook the confidence of the entire country in an unprecedented way.
Now, nearing the end of his third year in office, trust and confidence have been further eroded. Obama’s presidency has been used to pay the rich on a massive scale and use the plight of the unemployed and homeless to cover-up plans to do more of the same. The recent “debt deal,” with more than $1 trillion in cuts to social services and another $1.5 trillion planned, while not a dime of debt service payments to the rich was cut, is just the most recent example.
What then can we expect from Obama’s speech? Certainly there will not be talk of cutting $2.5 trillion from the Pentagon budget and bringing all U.S. troops home now — immediate steps that would assist the economy and peoples abroad and at home. Nor will Obama challenge the control over the economy by the owners of capital and the current direction of the economy serving their narrow interests.
Facts are bringing to the fore that the current direction of the economy is untenable, for the human and natural environment. A new direction is needed. A serious jobs program meeting the right of all to a job or income requires calling for a new direction for the economy. But we can expect that these vital matters will not be addressed. This leaves it to the workers themselves to organize their own meetings and town hall debates to address the issues of who decides.
Obama will undoubtedly appeal to Americans to stand together to help U.S. monopolies out-compete all other rivals on the global markets — to help “America win,” as he puts it. There will be legislative proposals for more government handouts to private monopolies to “encourage” them to hire people. This will take the form of tax incentives and federal funds for, as Obama put it “private companies with the equipment and manpower to do the building,” of roads and bridges. In his speech Labor Day in Detroit he further hinted that more attacks on workers are planned. He reminded everyone that unions have “made tough concessions,” and will need to continue to “work with management” because “we live in a more competitive global economy.” He mentions union workers accepting wage freezes and pay cuts, in order to “make this country great.” So there is little doubt that when Obama calls on everyone to organize for “America to win,” what is meant is accepting more sacrifices to ensure the America of the monopolies can out-compete all rivals on the global markets (see article below for more on Obama’s call to put “country over party”).
A main difficulty Obama faces is providing a justification for the continued erosion of confidence and growing anger among the people with the direction of the country. To do so he will target Congress. As he has repeated in recent speeches, “gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts.” He will appeal to people to instead follow him and support executive action to get things done, as those in Congress would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win.” He will attempt to whip up U.S. chauvinism, emphasizing how great the U.S. is if all stand together. All to hide the reality that there are two contending America’s, one in service to the rich, the other embodied in the working class fighting for the rights of all.
Obama is also speaking on the eve of the tenth anniversary of September 11. Numerous news articles show that the war on terror has meant the creation of a whole army of “special forces” armed to the teeth with their own drones, right alongside a CIA which now openly acts as a killing machine with no regard to rule of law. Yet another war against Libya has been unleashed and more threatened against Syria and Iran.
Overall, the evidence confirms that the Obama presidency is institutionalizing the use of violence as the means to achieve regime change abroad and to destroy the creation of public opinion at home. It has reached a point where the political parties themselves are disintegrating, in favor of executive rule and use of a “super committee.” There is to be no politics, no defense of rights, only service to country. The talk about “gridlock” serves to hide the reality of intensifying conflicts within the ruling circles as they contend for power. And to hide the growing concentration of power in the Office of the President. There is to be no serious public debate and public participation in government. The role of the public is to “agree with me,” the president and join in ensuring the America of the monopolies wins.
But what coherent argument can be made as to why an America at war, with a war economy serving the rich, is the America the people want and should work together to achieve? And will the consolidation of executive rule solve the problem of the failure of American institutions to sort out the differences within the ranks of the ruling elite and cover up the increasing violence of the dictatorship against the American people?
The more history demands the empowerment of the people to govern themselves and make the decisions which affect their lives, the more we can expect President Obama to engage in attempts to escape this call of history and maneuver to get away with it. This is what we can expect from Obama’s speech.
In most of his recent speeches President Obama has been calling on everyone to do what is "right for the country." He has repeatedly targeted Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, for failing to do so. As occurred during the “debt debate” fraud, Obama echoes the Wall Street financiers in saying that Congress is not capable of doing what is needed. At the same time, he presents himself as the only one who is willing to do what is “right for the country.”
His presentation of “country over party” is taking place at a time when the public anger with Congress is increasing, with opposition to both Republicans and Democrats rising, from within their own ranks and from independents — who are estimated to be about 35-40 percent of voters at this point. The large majority of people disapprove of Congress and more than half say they would like to vote out the entire Congress. The large majority also disapprove of the direction the country is headed in.
Obama is attempting to contend with this anger and the growing illegitimacy of government as a whole, using calls for “country over party.” He is positioning himself as the one who can solve problems, if the public sides with him against Congress.
In his speeches, Obama commonly prefaces his comments about "country over party" with the U.S. chauvinism that despite all the problems "there’s not a country on Earth that wouldn’t trade places with us." He emphasizes “seeing America win.” For example, in various speeches, after talking about how people are hurting and the need for more jobs, he says, "The response from Washington has been partisanship and gridlock that’s only undermined public confidence and hindered our efforts to grow the economy. So while there’s nothing wrong with our country, there is something wrong with our politics, and that’s what we’ve got to fix...But we can no longer let partisan brinksmanship get in our way – the idea that making it through the next election is more important than making things right. That’s what’s holding us back – the fact that some in Congress would rather see their opponents lose than see America win," (Weekly Address, August 13, 2011)
The problem is not the people, who work hard and are disciplined and honest, but “the worst kind of gridlock — and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy.” Then the appeal again, “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and the only way we will get it done is if everybody, Democrats and Republicans, find a way to put country ahead of party. That’s what I’m fighting for. I’m here to enlist you in that fight. You’ve got to hold everybody accountable, because if we can come together and find common ground, there is no stopping the United States of America.”
As also occurred at the time of “debt debate” fraud, Obama calls on people to join him: “If you agree with me – whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican or not much of a fan of either – let them know. If you’ve had it with gridlock, and you want them to pass stalled bills that will help our economy right now – let them know. If you refuse to settle for a politics where scoring points is more important than solving problems; if you believe it’s time to put country before party and the interests of our children before our own – let them know."
The same emphasis can be found in another speech:
"There are some in Congress right now who would rather see their opponents lose than see America win. And that has to stop. It’s got to stop. We’re supposed to all be on the same team, especially when we’re going through tough times. We can’t afford to play games — not right now, not when the stakes are so high for our economy.
“And if you agree with me — it doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or an independent — you’ve got to let Congress know. You’ve got to tell them you’ve had enough of the theatrics. You’ve had enough of the politics," (Remarks at Johnson Controls, August 11, 2011).
It can be seen here that politics is equated with gridlock and a failed Congress that does not want to see "America win." And whatever your political persuasion, the solution is to agree with Obama and tell congress you have "had enough."
Several things stand out here. The ground is being laid for acceptance by the public of the elimination of political parties and Congress as a significant decision-making body. Already there is the Super Committee being put in place to take over budget matters. Obama, as president, is being put forward as the one who can get things done, paving the way for more open rule by the executive. Obama hints about such action in the speeches. He mentions, for example, that he “brought together the world’s largest auto companies” who agreed to double gas mileage. And he adds, “We didn’t go through Congress to do it. But we did use the tools of government — us working together.” In his speech Labor Day in Detroit, he said, “I’m going to propose ways to put America back to work that both parties can agree to…Given the urgency of this moment, given the hardship that many people are facing, folks have got to get together. But we’re not going to wait for them.” These are both indicators that Obama will take executive action, in the name of doing what is “right” for the country, and further relegate Congress to a consultative body with little power.
Perhaps more importantly, it is a fascist appeal to the people to put their own rights aside in the name of having “America win.” But just which America is being referred to? The America of the monopolies conducting aggressive wars and massacring civilians worldwide? The same one responsible for guaranteeing trillions to the rich and massive unemployment and growing poverty for everyone else? The same one with the highest incarceration rate in the world, with mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos a form of genocide? The one with increasingly brutal anti-worker and anti-immigrant laws? Certainly what has come sharply to the fore in the past year and more is that there are two Americas, the one the people are striving for, where governments uphold their social responsibility to meet the rights of the people. And the one of the monopolies. Obama, in striving to remain the champion of the rich, has the task of organizing the people against their own interests and to the side of the America of the monopolies. Anger is not to be directed at the wrecking of the economy by these monopolies, not at the massive war funding serving their empire, not at the anti-worker and anti-social attacks on the people they have imposed. Instead, Congress is the problem, and Obama and executive rule the solution.This is a highly dangerous direction for the people as it opens the way for complete fascist rule, rather than blocking it. It paves the way for the rich to more easily and readily control the public treasury while further enslaving the people, abroad and at home. The people need to increase their role in politics and in developing political organizations of their own making, based on defending their rights. Being more political is critical. Destroying political parties, equating politics with the hated gridlock, are means to block the people from being political and defending their own interests. What is needed is for the working class and people to win and to do so they need their own politics, their own thinking, a democracy of their own making.