The Spark

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

Issue no. 783 — October 2 - 16, 2006

Editorial:
Election season is here
– but “lesser evils” are still no good!

Oct 2, 2006

The season of the lesser evils is here.

From now until November, political campaigns will spend millions of dollars, given by rich people, to send endless campaign junk to working class voters.

Every two years we suffer through the same lies by the same politicians who want only to prove how well they can fool us.

Even the candidates themselves admit they have nothing to offer! How do they campaign? Their ads carry the message: “Vote for me because I’m not as bad as the other one.”

Haven’t we seen enough of these elections where lesser evils are elected, and things get worse anyway – no matter whether the lesser evil is a Democrat or a Republican?

Four years ago, Democrat Jennifer Granholm was elected governor of Michigan – the “lesser evil” over the Republican governor John Engler. Granholm proceeded to spend the next three years attacking the jobs, wages and benefits of state workers.

Three years ago in California, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor when the Democratic governor, Gray Davis, who was implicated in California’s sky-high electricity rates, was recalled. Schwarzenegger promptly attacked nurses’ case-load protections and twice vetoed minimum wage increases.

If we let them trap our votes in the “lesser of two evils” ballot box, what does it mean? Simply that we have let them fool us once again. Not only that – we let them know it! When we vote for the “lesser evil,” the politicians and their backers sense that they have some credit, allowing them to carry out the next attack.

The rich don’t care which of the evils we elect. Why should they care? Their interests will be protected in either case. Both the Republican and Democratic parties openly carry out policies to boost business interests and promote corporate welfare.

The parties and their supporters argue that benefits will “trickle down” to workers after businesses succeed. A person has to be blind to believe that lie today. Big businesses are profiting at a record pace, succeeding as never before, while workers’ conditions go daily from bad to worse. Money doesn’t trickle down, it floods up, as corporations and their owners steal greater and greater wealth from the hard labor of workers.

Workers’ gains have always come from putting up a fight. Nothing more, and nothing less. It takes a fight to pry something from the grasp of the “lesser” evil, as much as from the “greater.”

It’s long past time that the working class turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the lesser evils. We need to concentrate our attention on fighting for our real interests. Not for a lesser evil. But for a greater good.

Pages 2-3

Lincoln Park, MI:
Dressing up school problems in a complicated dress code

Oct 2, 2006

In Lincoln Park, Michigan, a working class suburb of Detroit, the school board passed a new dress code. Many students, as well as their parents, are not happy.

The dress code is a full eight pages long. It contains a long list of banned clothing items. It goes far beyond a typical dress code, to ban just about anything that students normally wear: for example, jeans of any kind, hooded sweatshirts, and t-shirts with printing on them. In other words, most students would have to get a completely new wardrobe – and parents would have to shell out the money for it.

Parents complained at a school board meeting last week that the dress code is far too confusing for students to ever follow it properly and that it is inconsistently enforced.

Over 300 students were sent home or made to change their clothes in the first week of classes. Ever since that first week, students and parents have been protesting. One family of brothers and sisters started coming to school wearing t-shirts containing the text of the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech. They were consistently sent home. By switching to armbands, they avoided expulsions – so far!

The school board vice president expressed surprise over the opposition; he said the dress code was introduced because “we wanted to eliminate distractions.”

Oh, so that’s the problem in the schools? Distractions? What about the deteriorating conditions of the buildings in this working class suburb? What about the lack of lab facilities or classrooms or textbooks? No, according to the school board, the problem in the schools is the STUDENTS! Their clothing is creating a distraction!

Want to talk about distractions? Then talk about a school district using a dress code to divert attention from its inability or unwillingness to demand money from the corporations so they can provide a decent education.

Student count day hoopla:
We can see what really counts!

Oct 2, 2006

In Michigan, the state disburses money for schools based on the number of students in attendance in each school – on one particular day, four weeks into the semester. This year “Count Day” came on Wednesday, September 27.

With funding resting on one day’s attendance, some schools pull out all the stops to make sure students attend: not only carrying out publicity campaigns, but holding parties with pizza and ice cream – and giving away prizes like new Apple iPods.

The Detroit Public Schools, which complains about a lack of money, and fought teachers to get them to take concessions, came up with the cash for TV ads in the week before Count Day. One line from the ad: “If you don’t come any other day, come that day.”

What an admission: the school system doesn’t really care about you or your education. All it wants is the money!

It’s a disgusting lesson the children learn all too easily.

California politicians play election year politics with minimum wage

Oct 2, 2006

In mid-September, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill passed by the Democratic-controlled state legislature that would raise the state minimum wage from its current level, $6.75 per hour, up to $7.50 in January 2007 and then to $8 per hour a year later. Schwarzenegger bragged that this will be the highest state minimum wage in the country.

That’s not saying much.

Even when the minimum wage reaches $8 per hour in 2008, it will still come to less than $17,000 per year – when someone works all 52 weeks in the year. Those who try to support a family of three on the minimum wage will remain lower than the official federal poverty line. Today in California, about 1.5 million workers, or about 10% of the workforce, barely earn the minimum wage.

The increase doesn’t begin to keep up with housing and transportation costs. In Los Angeles County, for example, estimates are that a worker has to make $22 per hour, or more than three times the current minimum wage, just to be able to pay the rent on an average two-bedroom apartment!

So the “new, improved” minimum wage will not allow millions of workers to live on an average 40 hour work week, not to speak of raise a family – or cover medical expenses.

This paltry raise was passed only because there is an election this November. With opinion polls showing that almost three-quarters of the electorate supports an increase in the minimum wage, Schwarzenegger could not have opposed such a raise in an election year without taking a big political risk.

Not to be outflanked, the Democrats complained that Schwarzenegger had prevented an automatic annual cost of living raise from being added to the minimum wage. In fact, the Democrats control both houses of the state legislature. They could have put it in the bill and put Schwartzeneggar really on the spot. As a matter of fact, only a few years ago the Democrats could have passed this measure themselves, since a Democrat, Grey Davis, was governor, and the Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature. But they didn’t.

The Democrats are just as responsible as the Republicans for pushing down the wages of the working poor – to the profit of big business.

If working people want a decent minimum wage, they will get it in the same way as all their other gains were made – through their own struggles.

Gas prices:
Going down, down, down

Oct 2, 2006

Throughout September the entire nation enjoyed an almost miraculous decline in gasoline prices. Down, down, down, below the $3.00 many of us had been paying, below $2.75 in some parts of the country, below $2.50 in other parts of the country; below $2.25 and even – is it possible! – below $2.00.

What happened? How could we have such low prices? Hadn’t we heard the nation’s supply was lower than usual, thanks to problems caused by Hurricane Katrina, or thanks to BP having to fix the Alaska pipeline?

Has someone found a new source of oil? Has Christmas arrived in September? No, what is coming is only November 7th – election day.

If we had an election every three months, gas prices might be down to $1.00 a gallon by now.

Parties play politics, make our rights disappear

Oct 2, 2006

On September 29, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It gives the President authority to throw into jail anyone he wants, at any time, without regard to their legal rights and without any obligation to respect those rights – ever.

The core of the bill is the cancellation of the right of habeus corpus, that is, cancelling a jailed person’s right to be released if they are not officially charged with a crime. On the president’s say-so, any citizen can now be made to “disappear” into government prisons – for as long as the government wants, without any charges, let alone any trial.

Republicans pushed this bill. Democrats could have blocked it but did not.

Both parties find the bill handy for their respective election campaigns this year.

Republicans will use it to argue that they are defending the country and being “tough on terrorism.”

Democrats will thunder against the bill, in order to pose as defenders of essential civil liberties.

Voters are supposed to ignore the fact that they both lie like rugs.

Contaminated spinach:
Absolutely no excuse

Oct 2, 2006

The Food and Drug Administration says it is now safe to eat fresh spinach, following an outbreak of E. coli contamination that killed at least one person and sickened 188 others. They say they have traced the source of the outbreak to just one spinach processor in California – Natural Selection Foods.

Does anyone believe it? Spinach might be safe to eat, but that’s what the FDA said before the outbreak! The outbreak was widespread, affecting people in 26 states. It also apparently involved bagged spinach packaged under different names.

The means to prevent E. coli contamination are well-established. For example, the company believed to be the source of the outbreak says it will test all the raw produce it processes – now! That’s what every company should do every day in every plant.

Unfortunately, at a time when science knows a great deal about how to prevent such epidemics, the government is doing the opposite. The fact that it took so long to isolate the source of the contamination shows how infrequently the government carries out inspections of produce processing plants and fields and how little it insists on companies meeting any standards. The FDA, which is responsible for regulating the safety of produce, visits processing plants only once every few years. It doesn’t inspect farms unless there’s an outbreak.

In addition, 97% of the water used to irrigate the farms in the area of California where the outbreak supposedly started comes from private wells. The rest comes from recycled sewage water. There is no law requiring private wells to be tested.

With as much as science knows about preventing disease, there’s no reason for deadly outbreaks like this to come from contaminated food. But the science has to be applied – and that takes money, money that might otherwise go as tax breaks and subsidies to the corporations. And requiring the corporations to keep their premises sanitary costs them money. From the population’s standpoint, that would be money well-spent.

Our interests are not the same as those of the big corporations.

Pages 4-5

President Bush on Iraq:
“Progress” on the way to the cemetery

Oct 2, 2006

Since marking the 5th anniversary of 9/11, President Bush has been claiming that the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are part of the war on terrorism. He has also endlessly repeated that progress is being made in these wars and that U.S. troop withdrawals will soon begin.

What is this man talking about?

In fact, more and more Iraqis and Afghans – mostly non-combatant men, women and children – are being killed by U.S. rockets, bombs and gunfire. Whole cities have been destroyed. Tens of thousands more are dying in the warfare the U.S. has precipitated between various Iraqi factions. Hundreds of thousands of people in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been seriously injured, frequently with little or no medical care. Millions of others have been turned into refugees in their own country.

These wars are not winding down. The overall level of violence in both these countries is increasing, not decreasing. In Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, more people have been killed in the last couple of months than since the slaughter during the first days of the U.S. invasion. In Afghanistan, it is reported that the Taliban is making a come back.

Recent polls conducted in Iraq by the U.S. State Department and Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland show that over three-quarters of Iraqis want U.S. forces out of Iraq now. Three-fifths support attacks on U.S. forces.

In response to this rising opposition, U.S. forces are not being reduced; they are being increased. There are more U.S. troops in Iraq today than ever before – about 147,000. This doesn’t include the thousands of CIA agents, mercenary soldiers and employees of U.S. military and private contractors. And the top military brass is now saying U.S. forces are going to be in these countries for years to come and they will have to start calling up even more National Guardsmen for active duty in these wars.

According to Bush this all adds up to “progress.” Don’t tell us that lie!

Fake medicines and real profits in the pharmaceutics industry

Oct 2, 2006

The production of counterfeit medicine is growing throughout the world. According to figures from 2003, 70% of anti-malarial drugs used in seven African countries were fake. The same was true for more than 10% of drugs sold in Russia. In Vietnam that same year, 64% of anti-malarial medicine did NOT contain the active ingredient.

Such medicines make hundreds of thousands of victims in the poor parts of Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The English medical journal Lancet says counterfeit medicines caused 192,000 deaths just in China alone in 2001.

This production of counterfeit medicines is not some little homemade brew from shady little businesses. These fakes have exactly the same packaging and labeling as legitimate medicines. Sometimes they are simply expired medications no longer sold in the rich countries. Even worse, some of the counterfeiters replace the active drug ingredients with harmful substitutes. And if the active ingredient is still in the drug, it is in a dosage too weak or too old to do what it is supposed to do. In an antibiotic, such medicines no longer help the patient to resist the bacteria they are designed to battle.

Fake medicines exist as a business thanks to the disgusting cost for genuine medicine. When the real medicines are found in poor countries, which is rare, their cost puts them out of reach of any but the rich.

It’s easy to blame officials in underdeveloped countries for turning a blind eye to the problem. But the reality stems from the attitudes of the big pharmaceutical companies. This industry is created to make profits, big ones. In the process, effective medications are priced completely out of the range that poor countries or the poor in rich countries could ever afford to pay.

Thus industry mainly researches and produces where there is a large and profitable market. So millions are spent on researching obesity but almost nothing is spent for malaria.

A recent U.N. journal pointed out that of “1223 medicines synthesized between 1975 and 1997, only 11 were researched for tropical diseases. Of those 11, more than half were for veterinary problems,” that is, useful for the huge agri-businesses that produce in tropical countries.

What a ridiculous waste of resources!

France:
"Workers, we are all immigrants!"

Oct 2, 2006

The following is an editorial from the September 29 issue of Lutte Ouvrière (Workers Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers organization of the same name active in France.

Hundreds of immigrants, men, women and children, were crammed for a month into a gym in Cachan, a Paris suburb. They had been forcibly expelled from student housing where they had found refuge for three years.

The police intervention and the political confrontations around it made Cachan the symbol of the situation of immigrant workers.

Who can believe that a rich country like France is incapable of providing housing for a few hundred people crammed into horrible conditions, whether they have papers or not? The mayor of a nearby town even offered an unused state building to house them. But Interior Minister Sarkozy turned down this offer.

Sarkozy uses police provocations around the gym and the spectacular arrest of undocumented people, followed by deportation, in order to parade on television flaunting his firmness on immigration. Sarkozy is addressing the electorate of Le Pen (a far-right racist politician), "You can see that I have the same program as Le Pen, but I"m already enacting it as a government minister, and unlike him, I have a chance to be elected president of the republic."

Sarkozy engages in this electoral demagogy at the expense of others, primarily those who were arrested and deported, who are here with their families and children. But his campaign against "illegal immigration" makes life harder for all immigrant workers. They face increased demands to display their IDs simply because of how they look, and more humiliation inflicted by the police and the bosses.

Sarkozy speaks about "selected immigration," since he knows that assembly lines and construction sites couldn't operate without immigrant workers. Obviously "selected" by the French government, depending on the needs of the bosses! The expression aroused the reaction of African leaders, especially the leader of Senegal. He rejected the idea that his country be considered a breeding ground, where workers are selected only according to the needs of the French economy, depriving Senegal of people and skills.

So Sarkozy went to Senegal to obtain an agreement on "consulted immigration." In plain words, Senegal will collaborate to prevent its citizens from fleeing misery in exchange for some loans.

These African leaders may be content with a change of words, "consulted" rather than "selected" immigration. But those who are pushed to emigrate have no reason for satisfaction. A growing number of Senegalese youth leave their country for Europe and risk dying to do so. It's not a taste for pleasure or adventure that motivates them. They are driven by misery, by the hope of finding a job and a better life.

Promising "co-development" as an alternative to emigration is a sick joke.

Official institutions recognize that the flow of money going to Africa is quite small compared to the money drained out of it – that is, profits, interest and loan repayments, which go from the poor countries to the rich countries. Not only is there no co-development, but Europe continues to empty Africa of its very substance.

So even if leaders string barbed wire around Europe, immigration will continue. And our interests, as workers of France, is not to claim that immigrant workers cause unemployment. We must receive them as brothers and sisters, in solidarity with their demand for a normal life, without police brutality, without the threat of deportation.

Hungary:
An explosion of anger

Oct 2, 2006

For two nights, the center of Budapest was the scene of a real riot. On September 18th in particular, some 10,000 demonstrators occupied the square next to the Parliament and clashed violently with police lines. Some of the protesters seized the television building and blocked broadcasts before the police dislodged them. The protesters demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany.

What triggered the riots was a radio broadcast of Gyurcsany’s speech to leaders of the Hungarian Socialist Party at a private meeting held four months ago.

The Socialist Party had just won the legislative elections, after making many promises during the election campaign. In his secret speech, Gyurcsany used crude language, “we screwed up,” “no one in Europe has talked crap like us,” “we won the election by lying from morning to night,” etc. He urged the ministers and deputies of his party to stick by him in order to impose an austerity plan on the population. He said,“Reforms or the collapse of our government. There isn’t a choice.”

This frank and cynical speech was made among friends and wasn’t intended to be publicized. But secretly recorded and played on the radio four months later, it illustrates the duplicity of the government.

The speech was even more scandalous because the government’s newly announced austerity plan was particularly drastic. Using the pretext that Hungary needed budget cuts to be able to use the Euro currency, the government is massively cutting jobs in public services, including hospitals and schools. It will cut the number of public employees by 23%, raise the national sales tax from 15% to 20% on items of daily consumption and raise gas and electric rates. Students will have to pay for college education. Public employees will suffer a wage freeze and the elimination of a 13th month of pay at the end of the year etc.

This austerity plan comes from a government that represents the privileged layer of the country. These Hungarians are the ones who built their fortunes under the so-called “popular democratic” regime and in the name of “socialism;” then they continued to enrich themselves after the change in the regime, now in the name of liberal capitalism.

Gyurcsany himself is a perfect example of this privileged layer: an old leader of the Communist Youth, he used his relations in the party apparatus to grab privatized businesses. Specializing in real estate and failing businesses, he became one of the richest men of the country. Once his fortune was made, he returned to the service of his old party, transformed after the change of regime into the “Socialist Party.” Barely 40 years old, he became Prime Minister and an outstanding personality of a “modernist left.”

The cynical and lying Gyurcsany, once in office, carried out the opposite of what he promised during his election campaign. He preaches austerity for others while enriching himself. He certainly isn’t an exception in leading political circles, not in Hungary ... or elsewhere. But for once someone like this may see his political career suffer!

In Hungary, the leaders of a party which pretended to be communist, made an opening toward the West and toward unbridled capitalism. They transformed themselves into a layer of intermediaries, delivering the biggest businesses to Western capital while enriching themselves with the rest. That leaves them open to attack by the right wing in the opposition and especially by a far right which has emerged that blames the rottenness of the regime and the growth of inequalities on the “survival of communism.” During the confrontations, the cries of “down with the reds!” that were heard may have been the act of individuals or little far right groups. But it also means that an explosion of discontent against the government could be channeled into reactionary currents.

Such a turn of events would result in the disappointment of the people who came out into the streets to protest. Either they put their own interests forward or someone else will take advantage of this mobilization.

Pages 6-7

More and more workers losing their homes

Oct 2, 2006

Foreclosures have more than doubled in the Detroit metro area during January to August 2006 compared with the same period a year ago. In Wayne County, they were up 143%, from 10,348 to 25,179. In neighboring Macomb County, where historically there have been many fewer foreclosures, they rose 234%, from 1,547 to 5,173.

The job cuts in the auto industry over all the years, and the ripple effect they have had in the rest of the Michigan economy, are catching up with people. Businesses that provide services to auto-related companies and their workers have been hit in turn. It’s like a vicious snowball.

Homeowners, who have refinanced and “re-re-financed” their homes and piled up credit card debt, are now reaching the end of the line.

The worst is yet to come, as the results of the latest job cuts by GM, Ford, and Delphi have not really hit yet.

Not long ago, economists were bragging about how the housing market was pulling the economy forward. They forgot to mention that much of that market was based on debt, and they certainly never discussed what would happen when the corporations started axing jobs.

But the mortgage problem is not just a Detroit problem, with its reliance on the auto industry. Across the country as a whole, almost half the value of homes is pledged to pay off debt. This stands as a record since World War II.

The banks today stand ready to swallow up what working people have paid for with their sweat and blood. Under capitalism, decades of hard work and saving are no guarantee of even a home to live in. The only guarantee for workers is in mobilizing their own forces.

Northwest Airlines:
Federal judge protects the bosses, but not the workers

Oct 2, 2006

On September 8, a Federal judge ruled that it is illegal for Northwest Airlines’ 9,000 flight attendants to go on strike.

In making his ruling, the judge declared, “Congress has gone to extraordinary lengths to legislate its view of the vital role that these carriers play for the economy, national security, movement of goods and people, and general well-being of the United States.” He said that a strike at Northwest would stop the transit of more than 100,000 passengers that the airline moves daily, impacting particularly hard on the 23 cities served solely by Northwest, and the 20 cities where Northwest provides 50% or more of the airline service.

Obviously, the role played by Northwest workers is so important to the national interest – shouldn’t the judges be protecting their interests? After all, they do all the work that provides this service. In this capitalist society, however, judges don’t act this way.

Book review:
Sara Paretsky, Fire Sale

Oct 2, 2006

This recent novel features V.I. Warshawski, a woman private investigator in today’s Chicago. Returning to her old neighborhood in South Chicago to coach a girls’ basketball team, she finds the area still suffering from the closing of US Steel’s South Works mill. The novel is centered around the actions of a giant department store conglomerate called By-Smart and its workers, both in a retail store and a warehouse, in South Chicago.

The owners of By-Smart pay a young gang member to torch a local garment shop they have a dispute with over the cheapest possible production of U.S. flags and linen. The young Hispanic gang member spends months in Cook County Jail awaiting trial since he can’t afford bail, while the wealthy paymasters of the murder he carried out are released immediately on bail despite the solid evidence they ordered the killing, and then use interminable legal procedures to drag out their case.

The novel could be taken out of today’s headlines. The company is owned by a fundamentalist Christian, whose wife spends large amounts of her personal fortune on anti-abortion causes while paying for the abortion of her granddaughter. The preacher at a Hispanic fundamentalist church, which many By-Smart workers attend, puts a heavy emphasis on no contraceptives and no abortions, while teenage girls in his church get pregnant and have babies at an early age.

This novel gives a somewhat realistic portrayal of life in a poor working class Chicago neighborhood, showing the stresses on poor families – while revealing how the very wealthy are allowed to use every connection to get what they want.

Page 8

Watts/Los Angeles:
Stop the attack on King/Drew hospital

Oct 2, 2006

The federal government intends to stop all funding to King/Drew hospital in South Central Los Angeles by the end of the year. The cut amounts to 200 million dollars, or half of the hospital’s budget.

This is a full-fledged assault on vital services that the working-class population in Watts and much of South Central L.A. depends on. And it’s nothing new – this is only the latest phase of the ongoing attack on King/Drew.

For the past three years, citing several cases of patient deaths, the media have put the spotlight on care at King/Drew. Does this hospital really “kill people” as these media reports suggest? Do such serious lapses happen systematically at King/Drew, and more often than at other hospitals?

Perhaps. But if so, then the government should try to fix these problems – not run the hospital into the ground, as the county supervisors have done!

First, they closed King/Drew’s trauma center – one part of the hospital which consistently had been getting good reviews! Then they put King/Drew under the management of Navigant, a private consulting firm. Navigant bled the county treasury of more than 17 million dollars without doing anything to improve the hospital’s situation.

So now the county supervisors say they have only two choices: either to cut services or sell the hospital to a private company – which would result in more layoffs and cuts in services as well, in the name of profit.

Obviously, politicians have not been trying to “save” King/Drew. They have been trying to get rid of it!

And it’s not just King/Drew. L.A.’s entire county-run health-care system is being dismantled. Within the past five years, the county has closed 11 of its 18 clinics, resulting in a loss of hundreds of jobs and health-care facilities serving the county’s over two million uninsured residents. Add to this the 10 emergency rooms that private hospitals have closed within the same time period, and it amounts to a disastrous reduction in health care services available to the working class and poor.

King/Drew was a direct gain of the Watts uprising of 1965; and it has been a symbol for the black community.

Until 1965, there was not one large, modern hospital to serve the health-care needs of the black, working-class population in and near Watts. Forty-one years later, county supervisors want to take Watts and the rest of South Central L.A. back to those times before 1965.

These politicians may think that they can pull this off because the community has not had a major mobilization for almost four decades. But there are still enough people around who remember the Watts uprising, and the changes it brought, from personal experience. Some of them, joined by younger people, have been coming out daily to protest this latest attack on King/Drew. These protests have been relatively small. But the fight that gained King/Drew over four decades ago did not start in 1965 full-blown either.

Los Angeles:
Another hospital closes its ER for profit

Oct 2, 2006

Freeman Memorial hospital in Inglewood, near Los Angeles, announced that it’s closing its emergency room.

It’s not that the mostly working-class community in that area no longer needs this service – Memorial’s ER treated about 38,000 patients last year alone. But the company that owns the hospital says it’s closing the ER because, taken by itself, the ER is losing money.

Memorial is not alone. This will be the tenth ER that L.A. County has lost in the last five years. Companies blame a federal law – which forbids ER’s to turn patients away because of inability to pay – for these closures.

In fact, the law does allow hospitals to turn ER patients away – if the ER is full. And, obviously, the more ER’s are closed, the more the remaining ER’s will be full and send patients away.

But this means that some patients, who are in a critical condition, will die looking for an ER. And they will have died for one reason only: so that a few “investors” can make more money!

Memorial hospital is typical of this trend in the health care industry. In 2001, Memorial was bought by Tenet, one of the biggest for-profit hospital chains in the U.S., along with two other hospitals in the area. Then, in 2004, Tenet sold the hospitals to Centinela Freeman, a so-called “investment group” formed by managers of the three hospitals. These investors now say they have to close Memorial’s ER, and possibly other parts of the hospital too, so that they can pay off their high-interest loans – the same loans they took out in order to buy the hospitals in the first place!

This pattern has been repeating itself, over and over, all over the country. Studies conducted after 9/11 have found that, today, no major U.S. city has the emergency and trauma care capacity to handle a major epidemic, natural disaster or anything else that could sicken or injure a large number of people at the same time.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone, for it’s exactly how capitalism is supposed to work: the profit of a few “investors” is supposed to be more important than the needs of the whole society.