The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Issue no. 1076 — March 4 - 18, 2019

The Trump Circus:
The Latest Episode

Mar 4, 2019

The testimony of Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, was supposed to pull back the curtain on the corrupt workings of the Trump empire. But nothing that Cohen revealed in the public hearing before the Congressional Oversight Committee is new. We didn’t need Cohen’s testimony to tell us that Trump is a racist, or that Trump cheated on his taxes, fleeced people who worked for him, regularly used threats and intimidation to get his way, made illegal hush payments, or used political influence to negotiate business deals with foreign governments.

This is so obvious that not even the Republicans in Congress defended Trump against Cohen’s allegations. They limited themselves to merely calling Cohen a liar.

For decades, Trump and those around him had gotten away with breaking laws, operating like gangsters. None of that was a problem for the government, law enforcement or all those politicians now pretending to be outraged. After all, these officials work to serve the interests of Trump and other capitalists, bending the laws in their favor. Crooked tax returns, ripping off people left and right, or taking out full-page virulently racist ads? For them it is business as usual.

But when Trump became president, he went from capitalist to top government official in the service of the capitalist class – something which Trump obviously never could bring himself to do. As president, he still put his own personal enrichment and interests in front of everything, even other U.S. capitalists and the government agencies that are supposed to defend those interests, such as the Pentagon, CIA, FBI and State Department.

When Trump defied those agencies, he crossed the wrong people. Those government agencies, made up of career officials responsible for defending the interests of the capitalist class, have the real power. And they used that power to call Trump to account. Trump has been under investigation ever since, as are all those around him. There are currently 18 investigations into Trump, and even more Congressional investigations are scheduled.

Of course, the Democrats pretend that getting rid of Trump will make all the difference. At the close of the hearing with Cohen, Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the Congressional Oversight Committee, who promises more and more hearings, said that getting rid of Trump will return things back to normal.

No, it won’t.

Changing a few faces at the head of the government changes nothing, even the most disgusting public officials, like Trump and the rest of his gang. Government officials are expendable. They take the heat for what the capitalist class is doing.

And that capitalist class is on the offensive against the working class. It is increasing its profits by increasing the exploitation of the working class. It is cutting jobs, wages and benefits, forcing fewer workers to do more work. And it is getting government officials to cut spending for the needs of the population, for everything like education, health care and the infrastructure, in order to hand ever more money over to the capitalist class, through tax cuts and other giveaways.

Rooting for one side or the other in the Trump soap opera only wastes the workers’ time, time workers should be using to organize our own struggles to defend our own interests against our main enemy: the capitalist class itself.

Pages 2-3

Chicago Mayor’s Race:
No One Speaks for Working People

Mar 4, 2019

Chicago’s next mayor will be a black woman, either Lori Lightfoot or Toni Preckwinkle. Out of 14 candidates, these two made the runoff in the February 26 election. They will face off on April 2.

Given Chicago’s racist history, and racist present, it can seem like a major step forward that two black women, one of them openly gay, come out on top.

But this election was not like 1983, when Harold Washington was elected Chicago’s first black mayor. He was elected with a very high turnout from the city’s black population, mobilized by people who had come out of the black movement. In the current election, neither of the candidates excited the city’s working class. This was reflected in very low voter turnout: the second-lowest turnout in Chicago history, just 34%.

And neither Lightfoot nor Preckwinkle won in the bulk of the working class precincts. A third candidate, Willie Wilson, won in the majority of the black neighborhoods. Lightfoot dominated the wealthiest neighborhoods on the North Side, while Preckwinkle won votes especially in her base around Hyde Park, Bronzeville, and South Shore, where she had served as alderman.

Now the two candidates are fighting over who is the most “progressive.” But both have shown they will serve the capitalists and the elite while having little to offer the city’s working class.

As President of the Cook County Board of Supervisors, Toni Preckwinkle carried out a series of attacks on the county’s workers and the people they serve. She oversaw the conversion of the Oak Forest hospital, a public hospital in the south suburbs, to an outpatient facility, with dire consequences for its sickest patients. Under her, Cook County Health systems increasingly hired temp workers to undercut the full-time, unionized staff.

Preckwinkle even brags that there are 1,000 fewer people working for the County today than when she took over. She acted like every other boss, to the detriment of County workers and the people they serve.

Lightfoot’s record is no better. In addition to working as a federal prosecutor and corporate lawyer, Lightfoot’s main political experience has been serving as the political cover for the Chicago Police Department. From 2002 to 2004, she headed the Office of Professional Standards, charged with investigating accusations of police misconduct. During this time, Detective Reynaldo Guevara and Sergeant Ronald Watts carried out a reign of terror, torturing dozens of suspects into false confessions. The OPS did nothing about it.

Lightfoot now poses as a police reformer because she advocated making some changes to the police, after the video of Officer Jason Van Dyke murdering Laquan McDonald caused an uproar. But her appointment to the Police Accountability Task Force in 2015 was clearly aimed at giving the police political cover after the tape came out.

Both candidates support continued tax breaks for business. As Cook County Board President, Preckwinkle signed on to Chicago’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, which would have given the super-rich company billions of dollars. And Lightfoot agreed.

In fact, both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot say that the way to help fight poverty in Chicago is to support business even more. We’ve heard these trickle-down theories before. They don’t work.

Both candidates talk as if big business and the working class have the same interests. But that is a lie. Workers’ standard of living in Chicago is going down exactly because business has been doing so well exploiting us – and stealing our tax money to boot!

This election in Chicago illustrates very clearly the dead end of “progressive” politics. The next mayor of Chicago will be a black woman – but she will also be a politician who will carry out business as usual.

A Trillion Dollars:
The Steal of the Century (For Now)

Mar 4, 2019

In 2018, the 500 biggest U.S. businesses spent a TRILLION dollars buying back their own stock. All the big businesses carry out this type of maneuver, all over the world. In ten years, Apple spent 250 billion dollars in stock buy-backs; ExxonMobil and Microsoft almost 100 billion each, etc.

Buying back stock drives up the price of the stock, and reduces the number of outstanding shares, thereby also increasing the dividends each stockholder gets. It is simply a way to distribute money to stockholders.

On top of their “normal” profits, generated by exploiting workers all over the planet, this year, U.S. businesses benefitted from the government’s helping hand. On top of reducing taxes on the big companies, which automatically increased their profits, Trump let these companies bring back money they had hidden in overseas tax-havens without paying a penalty. For a company like Apple, this gift was worth hundreds of billions of dollars. And for companies that don’t have enough cash to buy back their own stock, they can always turn to the banks and borrow money to satisfy their stockholders....

In 2018, a TRILLION dollars was transferred into the coffers of the tiny minority of the richest capitalist families who hold the bulk of stock in the big U.S. companies. The defenders of the system claim that this chunk of capital will be invested in new businesses, helping create new wealth and more jobs. That is a lie.

Today, the capitalists build their fortunes by reducing the number of workers, reinforcing exploitation, grabbing up public resources, and cannibalizing all of society. Their fortunes are growing while the standard of living of the working class is going down and society is regressing.

This trillion dollars that the workers of the world have contributed will just make the masters’ tables groan a bit more, and add to the size of their yachts and the price of fancy wine.

Why Are Eye Glasses So Expensive?

Mar 4, 2019

We pay a lot for prescription eyeglasses (lenses plus frames) if we want a decent new pair. The prices can easily start at $100 and can go up to $800, even more. People shelled out an average of $275 after insurance for new glasses in 2016, according to Consumer Reports.

Why are they so expensive? After all, the lenses are made of plastic, and the frames consist of thin plastic parts and metal wires. Considering these materials and work that goes into manufacturing lenses and frames, which is mostly done by automated machines, the eyeglasses should not be more than $20 to $30.

But this market is cornered by a handful of companies, among them, Luxottica. The company is not known by its name among the public. It owns major brands including Armani, Brooks Brothers, Oakley, Polo, Ralph Lauren, and Versace. Luxottica also runs EyeMed Vision Care, LensCrafters, Sears Optical, and Target Optical. This company also owns Essilor, one of the largest lens manufacturers in the world.

About 50% of the adults in the U.S. wear eyeglasses, according to the Vision Council, an industry group. That's roughly 126 million people purchasing new eyeglasses every few years. These consumers are paying 10 to 20 times what frames and lenses actually cost, according to the Los Angeles Times. A lot of profit out of thin plastics and wires!

Human Trafficking at Playground for the Rich

Mar 4, 2019

Palm Beach, Florida has been a playground for the wealthy elite for more than 100 years. Trump’s “Winter White House” Mar-a-Lago is there. It is the richest city in the U.S. in terms of “passive income.” Most of the income of residents comes from dividends, interest, rent, royalties and distributions from trust funds.

A scandal in Palm Beach made the national news. The owner of the New England Patriots football team, Robert Kraft, got charged with soliciting a prostitute at a day spa. Among the hundreds of men who ended up with charges was also John Havens, a former president of Citigroup, and John Childs, the founder of a private equity firm.

What has not gotten attention is the hideous abuse of immigrant women who “worked” at this “spa.” The accurate description is that the women were victims of sex trafficking. Women were held captive and crowded into a small space. Most were working off debt they “owed” and were not paid. Their passports had been taken from them.

One woman explained that she had been brought to the U.S. from China by promises of a good job at a nail salon. She ended up the victim of sex traffickers. An investigator said, “I would never consider them prostitutes – it was really a rescue operation.”

Formal charges were not trafficking because victims must be willing to testify in court. One of the women stated why she would not do so by explaining she has relatives in China who would be in jeopardy if she cooperated. Sex trafficking is organized by criminal gangs who keep women quiet with threats to harm family members back home.

Human trafficking – forcing adults and children into sex slavery and labor slavery – is estimated to have hundreds of thousands of victims in the U.S. today. This estimate comes from Polaris, a nonprofit group that operates a national 24/7 help line.

In the end, these wealthy men charged in this round-up will get a slap on the wrist. They will have the best lawyers money can buy. Their lawyers will say that the men didn’t know. How could they not know? The complete powerlessness of the women was what the men enjoyed!

In this Palm Beach area of glitz and glamour, what was happening was not prostitution but ugly sex slavery!

Pages 4-5

Trade Union Work, Elections, and the Bigger Picture

Mar 4, 2019

The following is the text of a speech given by Gary Walkowicz at a SPARK public meeting in January 2019.

Last fall, many of you heard me speak for the Working Class Party, the election campaign that myself and others took part in. And going back a few years, you have heard me speak about the fights against concessions that I and other union militants have organized among autoworkers. Tonight, I am going to speak about the bigger picture.

Every Decision Based on Profit

We live in a capitalist society. We can all see that the bosses run things for profit. The auto companies aren’t in the business of making cars and trucks. They are in the business of making money. And the same is true for every company, whether it is mining coal, manufacturing drugs, or operating nursing homes – every decision the bosses make is based on making a profit.

And that means that the basic problems of this society – jobs, wages, racism – these problems cannot be fixed within the confines of the way this society is currently organized, that is, within the confines of capitalism.

In this society, there are never enough meaningful jobs for all those who want to work. No matter whether the government says the unemployment rate is higher or lower, there has never been a time when there have been enough good jobs for everyone. Never. That’s because every company tries to make bigger profits by spending less money, which means hiring as few people as possible. The companies always try to get more work out of fewer people through speed-up and job eliminations. Decisions are made, not based on how many jobs are needed; decisions are made based on how to make bigger profits.

In this society, the wages that people are paid are never enough for everyone to have a decent standard of living. That’s again because every company tries to increase their profits by paying the workers as little as possible. That’s why we have been in a so-called economic recovery for the past 10 years and yet wages have not gone up. And, in fact, when you figure in inflation, wages have gone down.

The capitalists don’t stop with just making all the money they can in their own companies; they also turn to the government and take for themselves the tax money that should be used for education and roads and clean water. That’s why people in Flint are poisoned by the water; that’s why the roads are crumbling; that’s why schools for working class children are overcrowded and deteriorating. In this society, for our children, their education and their hopes for the future are crushed by a system that enriches the 1%, to the detriment of everyone else.

Capitalism – Born Out of Slavery

In this society, a large share of the working class lives in poverty or near poverty.

And the institutional racism and discrimination in this society means that the worst effects of this poverty rest upon black people. There are historical reasons for this.

Much of the first capital accumulation that built this country came from the trading and selling of human beings, most of them from Africa. The first economic development came in the 1600's and slavery was already here. Slavery existed legally for another 250 years. The legal institution of slavery determined the whole of the slaves’ lives – what they would eat, where they would live, what work they would do, whether they would be given an education. Legal slavery existed for a period of time much longer than the time that slavery has been illegal. And you don’t get rid of this institutional racism by just legal changes.

Capitalism was born out of slavery and it shouldn’t be a surprise that racism is deeply ingrained within this society.

All of these things show us that it is not enough to fight against this problem or against that problem of the society. We live in a system that requires racism, requires low wages; requires not enough jobs; requires poverty.

That’s why the working class needs to get rid of this society, run by a class of parasites who exploit the labor of working people; and replace it with a society where all of humanity can benefit. In other words, throw out the old society and replace it with a society organized by working people.

The Working Class Can Build a New Society

I will tell you that the working class can do this. The working class has the power, has the capacity to fight for and build a new society, where none of these ills exist. The working class can lead a revolution.

Revolution? So how can we talk about making a revolution when people today aren’t even fighting for a tiny pay increase?

Today the working class is not nearly ready to make that kind of fight. We have lived through a period of a few decades where the working class has been quiet. The few fights that workers have made have not spread; they have been isolated. A revolution means, not just a fight by some workers, but a fight that spreads everywhere.

You and I and the people in this room can’t change that situation by ourselves. We can’t start a fight or force a fight. That will happen only when enough workers decide to act. But history has shown us that this will happen one day. And history has also shown us that, when it starts, a fight can spread very quickly, and even take us by surprise.

If you have followed what has been happening in France with the “yellow vests,” there were some people who protested when the gasoline tax was raised by a few cents and, within a few weeks, there were protests across much of the country against, not just the tax increase, but against economic injustice.

I look at what happened in 1941 at Ford, where I work. By 1941, autoworkers had already organized unions at the other auto companies. But Henry Ford said it would never happen at his company. A few years earlier, Dearborn Police and Ford Security goons had killed five workers who dared to protest against Ford. But then that day in 1941, tens of thousands of Ford workers walked off the job and surrounded the Rouge Complex, holding hostage Henry Ford’s empire. And within days, Ford surrendered, and the workers won what they wanted.

We see what happened here in Detroit in 1967 when the black population went into the streets and forced the capitalist class to take an enormous step backwards.

When all of these things happened, in 1941, in 1967 and in France today, they seemed to jump off out of nowhere. But that’s not true. They were the result of accumulated suffering and then things finally exploded.

I think it was best said in a poem written by Langston Hughes.

When the working people start to move, things can change very quickly. Things can explode.

That’s why it is important to understand that any fight the workers make must also have the perspective to spread that fight to other workplaces. For the workers to move forward, any fight that is started will have to spread.

It is in fights such as these, where the fight spreads across different companies, different workplaces, across many sections of the working class; it is in fights such as these that the working class can use its real power.

Prepare for the Day Workers Move

Just because nothing is happening today doesn’t mean that things can’t change tomorrow, especially in a time when many people are suffering the effects of living in a society where profits come before human needs.

So for those individuals who want to see something different, I tell you we can prepare for that day. We don’t have to wait.

Most of us work somewhere, big or small, union or non-union. We are active in our workplaces, whether that means collecting money for a co-worker or making fun of a hated boss. It’s those little things that allow us, when the opportunity arises, to organize a fight, at whatever level, so that workers can gain confidence in their own ability to make a fight. If there is no union, we may try to build a union, knowing that the workers need to be organized to stand up to the bosses. If we are in a workplace with a union, we can fight to make that union the strongest that it can be, knowing that the workers standing together have the power to fight the bosses. It is in fights such as these, that the working class will gain the experience that will enable it to change the society and run the society.

We also all know that fighting is not enough. Many of us here today understand that the working class needs its own political party. The interests of the working class and the capitalist class are opposed to each other.

In this country, both major parties – the Republicans and the Democrats – act on behalf of the capitalist class. The working class cannot count on the political parties of our class enemies to express our desires, our needs, our hopes.

The working class needs its own political voice. That’s why I and others helped to get the Working Class Party on the ballot in Michigan. It is only a beginning step because a real working class party will be a mass party across the country, but we have to start building it. With the Working Class Party, we were at least able to say what had to be said; we were able to say that the working class needs its own party, independent of the other classes.

We Need to See the Bigger Picture

It is important to remember this – whether we are fighting in our workplaces and our unions, or whether we are campaigning in an election – it is important to remember that unions and elections are not enough. Even as we fight to defend ourselves and even as we speak out, the capitalists still control the society, and they run it to benefit only themselves. The capitalists impoverish the working class in order to enrich themselves. That reality doesn’t change, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. That’s why we need to see the bigger picture, we need to have a revolutionary perspective.

The working class has the power to throw out the capitalist class. The working class has the power to build a new society where all people will be able to live decent and fulfilling lives.

That’s why I say that, while the revolution may not be here today; today we can see everything that people are going through; today we can see how many people are getting fed up; today we know that revolution can be our future.

We know when it happens, the working class can finally show itself as a class that can build a society in the interests of all humanity.

Harlem by Langston Hughes

Mar 4, 2019

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore –

and then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over –

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Pages 6-7

No U.S. Bases on Okinawa

Mar 4, 2019

The residents of the island of Okinawa in Japan voted February 24 against building a new U.S. military base there. People have held demonstrations in recent years to show their opposition to any new bases. But the Japanese government still wants to keep pleasing its American ally.

The island’s inhabitants suffered terrible battles during World War II and then the humiliation of American occupation and administration from 1945 to 1972. Since then, U.S. imperialism has kept its bases and more than 20,000 soldiers on this island, near Taiwan and the coast of China. In 1995 the rape of a young woman by three U.S. marines enraged the population.

The islanders have good reason to refuse to support the bases and all the trouble they mean, such as very loud noise, pollution, and crime. Okinawans don’t want the bases relocated. They want them gone.

Yellow Vests:
The Anger Continues

Mar 4, 2019

The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

Three months after the November 17 demonstration, the fourteenth mobilization of the yellow vests assembled tens of thousands of demonstrators on Saturday, February 16. A group of researchers counted more than 100,000 people in 148 towns.

The participants in the movement have to stand up to a derogatory campaign orchestrated by those who put themselves in the camp of French President Macron and the government, out of a political choice or opportunism. Their condescension comes through with each declaration of a minister who, as if they were schoolmasters, but less benevolent, know only how to inflame the persistent anger.

Neither the “That’s enough!” of Castener, nor the insults of his Secretary of State Nunez, who called the Yellow Vests “savage hordes,” can silence this anger. Neither the show of big debates from which, finally, miraculously, proposals emerge which are already inscribed in Macron’s reforms, nor repeated police violence, and still less the disinformation of the media, can stem this spirit of revolt among the poorest.

Of course, the long duration of this movement, which finishes by turning around the round-abouts, in the majority of cases until they are kicked off by the police, makes its participants tired. And the groups of the far-right, hostile to the demands of the workers, unemployed, and retirees among the yellow vests, are also trying to find a way to take advantage of the demonstrations. It goes without saying that the mobilization of the yellow vests deserves the support of all the workers.

The untenable situations that the Yellow Vests expose and denounce have not been reduced. Unemployment, precarious jobs, insufficient wages and pensions, the fall in workers’ buying power, the rise in prices, including that of gas, the inexorable degradation of services for the population, these sources of the population’s anger are not going away. To the contrary, despite Macron’s words, nothing has been done, other than further attacks on the working class, including the rise in the price of food, cuts to the health and school systems, and threats against the unemployed. “We cannot live with dignity from our work”, “Unemployment is poverty, the old no longer have any more to eat”, we could still hear these chants during the demonstrations of February 16.

The reasons for the anger of the population remain, and the movement of the yellow vests continues to raise the problem of a society where a minority of capitalists enrich themselves by impoverishing the majority. This is the problem for all workers.

Summit Ends, 68-year Korean War Continues

Mar 4, 2019

Donald Trump apparently came away with no diplomatic breakthrough after his second summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un. Trump made it sound like Kim wanted the moon – the lifting of all sanctions, in exchange for a little bit of movement on North Korea’s part toward de-nuclearization, as if it is North Korea that is the aggressor.

In reality, it’s always been the other way around, ever since the Korean War. The U.S. fought that war, as well as the Vietnam War, to impose its domination on Asia at a time of nationalist revolts and revolutions after World War II. Nothing less than complete, abject defeat of the North Korean population would do.

Few people know that in the Korean War, 1950-1953, the U.S. dropped more bombs on Korea – North and South – than in all of the Pacific Theater during World War II. Millions of Korean people died, and every city on the peninsula, North and South, was burned to the ground.

Almost seven decades later, the U.S. has never agreed to declare the war ended – the Korean peninsula has remained divided. The continuing war-like stance by U.S. imperialism has allowed North Korean dictators to appear as protectors of the population against attack by the U.S. and its continued aggressive maneuvers.

In fact, it is the U.S. government that has 28,500 troops stationed on North Korea’s borders. With fleets sailing waters just offshore, missiles are poised to bring “fire and fury” to millions of people.

This large U.S. military presence is not just aimed at North Korea, but its main protector, China, not to speak of Russia. The continuing U.S. tensions with North Korea are a convenient excuse for the U.S. to keep its bases and military in the region.

Trump and his advisors are continuing the longtime position of U.S. imperialism toward North Korea: “Cede to our demands or endure the sanctions strangling your economy and your people.” The only difference this time is that Trump seems to have pretended that his personal charm toward Kim would allow him to declare some kind of diplomatic breakthrough – even the Nobel Peace Prize!

5-year “Peace” Plan for Afghanistan!

Mar 4, 2019

On February 28, the New York Times published an article about a new so-called Afghanistan “peace” plan being negotiated by Pentagon generals with the Taliban.

As reported by the Times, the Pentagon wants to reorganize who will do what to carry out the war for the next five years. U.S. troops, along with an untold number of CIA and contractor fighters, will take over combat roles in Afghanistan, while European and other foreign troops will take over the training of Afghan Army forces that the U.S. has done up to this time. Negotiations with the Taliban and other forces, both foreign and domestic, will continue for the next five years – supposedly to set up a new coalition government.

The “peace” plan is first of all a plan for more war. The bloody 17-year-long U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan is going to continue. The U.S. military, defending the interests of U.S. imperialism around the world, cannot afford for Afghanistan to slip into complete anarchy. It sits at a key strategic spot in the world – both in political terms, as well as in terms of oil shipments.

But the Pentagon’s announcement was also a way to check Trump, who thought he could make publicity for himself by announcing in December that he would pull troops out of Afghanistan.

The Pentagon was simply letting Trump know who makes policy in this country – and it’s not any president, much less a megalomaniac who can announce something one day, only to completely change it the next.

Page 8

How a Company Runs This System

Mar 4, 2019

Mounting evidence shows that PG&E, California's largest utility, was responsible for numerous repeated safety violations that resulted in deadly wildfires. Still, politicians, state officials and courts protect and provide immunity to the company.

California lawmakers have continuously benefitted from PG&E's political donations and clout. These politicians have blatantly covered up the company's misdeeds. Two days after federal investigators announced that failures of PG&E equipment caused a massive gas explosion that killed eight people, injured 58 and incinerated a neighborhood in the San Francisco suburb of San Bruno, a previous San Francisco mayor, Ed Lee, declared, “PG&E is a great local company who gets it.”

The City of San Bruno has sued and obtained thousands of e-mails between PG&E executives and the California Public Utilities Commission. The e-mails revealed that the PG&E executives wined and dined the commission officials. One executive complained to the commission about a judge assigned to determine who should pay for pipeline upgrades, which were very costly. Later, PG&E got an administrative judge more to its liking.

After e-mails proved a very clear collusion between PG&E and the commission, the city of San Bruno appealed to the California attorney general at the time, Kamala Harris, to bring charges for this illegal cooperation. Harris did nothing.

PG&E acts and profits with impunity. No surprise. After all, it runs the system.

Where’s the Education?

Mar 4, 2019

More than 40% of Baltimore City Public Schools’ high school students choose vocational education, now called Career and Technical Education (CTE). A new report shows how the program has failed students. Ten years after it started, the program has data that says two-thirds of CTE students fail to find work in the area they studied. The majority don’t even graduate with a certificate in the area they studied, such as IT or hospitality or cosmetology. The students interviewed reported earning an average of $13,000 a year, or poverty wages.

It’s outrageous enough that every child in this country cannot expect to get a quality education and that even fewer can afford to go to college. In many other industrialized countries a college education is free.

Yet these students couldn’t even get the vocational training they were promised, which might at least allow them to get a somewhat better paying job when they graduate. Baltimore’s CTE program lacked teachers, resources, scheduling that worked and counselors who could help the students find jobs in their chosen fields.

Once again a program does not seem to prepare Baltimore City high school students for graduation. Employers in the trades and auto industry say they want younger people to hire. But city school administrators seem unable to make programs work for their students.

Not for Amazon

Mar 4, 2019

Tax time for most working people means there are wages every one or two weeks, with taxes already taken out. We give the government an advance on what taxes are owed all through the year. Then the IRS gives us a little of our money back in tax season.

But if you’re a really big corporation, like Amazon, with the third greatest value in the world, the tax code is made for you. Sure there are federal, state, local and sales tax, BUT there are lovely tax breaks. Corporations get breaks on the cost of equipment; they get breaks on the cost of research; they get breaks on top of breaks, all written into the tax code.

So Amazon had a record 10-billion-dollar profit last year but will pay NO taxes. Why? Because the tax code is also written so that corporations can string out years of losses to offset years in which they have gains, that is, profits.

Not only does Amazon pay nothing this year, like it did last year, it has more than a billion dollars left in tax credits. So if there are profits next year, Amazon will have tax credits to prevent their paying taxes again.

It’s not that the tax code was written by Amazon – it was made to be passed by their friends in Congress, i.e., a majority of Democrats and Republicans.

Oxfam Report:
World’s Riches in a Few Hands

Mar 4, 2019

The 26 richest billionaires on earth possess as much wealth as 3.8 billion people, half the world’s population. This awful equation, revealed by the charity Oxfam, sums up the monstrous and parasitic character of capitalism.

The 2008 economic crisis meant a reduction in production at the level of the entire world, an explosion of unemployment, and increased misery. But the number of billionaires, along with their personal fortunes, has continued to grow over the past 10 years.

First and foremost was Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, whose fortune rose from “only” 39 billion to at least 137 billion dollars. To give an example, Oxfam shows that 1% of Bezos’ fortune is the same as the entire budget for health care in Ethiopia, a country with 105 million people.

Oxfam goes on, “Whereas the billionaires saw their fortunes go up 12% last year, the wealth of the poorest half of the population fell by 11%.” This means increasing inequality for access to health care, for life expectancy, for schooling in the poorer countries that cannot compare to richer countries’ resources for education. In the poorer parts of Chicago, life expectancy is 16 years less than in richer parts of the city.

The extreme enrichment of the top causes the extreme poverty at the bottom. In order to maintain their profits, capitalists in crisis continue to reduce the share of the wealth that workers all over the world produce by their labor. This reinforces exploitation on the job, lowers real wages, increases the intensity of work for some while laying off others. And capitalists increasingly seek to maintain their profits by sucking wealth out of government budgets. This further reduces consumption by ordinary people, reducing the market for goods and throwing the economy and all of society into chaos.

But since when have capitalists been concerned by the future of humanity?

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