The Spark

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

Issue no. 837 — January 12 - 26, 2009

Stop the Attacks on the Working Class!

Jan 12, 2009

We are living in the midst of a financial crisis, marked by serious failures in the banks, other financial companies and the stock market, leading to a severe recession that is taking its toll in jobs and wages.

It's not the first such crisis. We"ve been caught on an economic roller coaster for three decades. But today's financial crisis is the most severe yet. It has disrupted the banking system of every major country in the world, all at once, including China and India. It is hitting production and the real economy in every part of the world, all at once. For the first time since the 1930s, we are caught in a global crisis.

Nowhere in the world is there enough demand for goods and services, nowhere is there demand that could restart the economy.

Just the opposite. The response of almost every employer has been to do what they had already been doing, to try every trick in the book to reduce the jobs, pay and benefits of their workers:

  • by cutting jobs and increasing the workload of those left,
  • by farming out jobs to lower-paid sub-contractors,
  • by lowering the starting wage,
  • by letting inflation eat up wages,
  • by requiring more co-pays on benefits,
  • by pushing 401(k)s instead of pensions,
  • by changing classifications,
  • by eliminating overtime pay, cutting holidays, etc. etc. etc.,
  • by dropping pensions and medical coverage for retirees,
  • and by two-tier wage deals that openly cut wages for the future generations.

Who's going to have the money to buy the cars, the houses, the refrigerators, the microwaves, the TV's – not to mention even all the small items found in every household? In the working class – very few.

Look at the scam these crooks have been running: After handing out a few trillion dollars to banks and other companies, Congress refused to give the auto companies a measly couple billion, telling them if they couldn't come up with a plan to restructure, they should just declare bankruptcy instead.

Right on cue, the three Detroit companies came back to Congress with a "restructuring plan" – which called for enormous concessions from their workers.

Less than a week after the auto companies released their plans, the Democrats submitted legislation to Congress: In exchange for loans to the auto companies – the Democrats attached conditions – requiring the companies to carry out all of their plans – that is, extract those big concessions from the workers.

Then less than two weeks later, Republican President George Bush made it more specific. He attached special conditions to the government loans given to the auto companies – conditions which were nothing but the same demands the auto companies themselves had already put in their plans.

And then Bush's Treasury Secretary added another condition: that if there were a strike at any of the companies, that company had to give back its loan immediately!

Finally, Democratic President Barack Obama, who could have rejected this open blatant attack, said only that auto workers would have to make some sacrifices, without saying what they were.

It's a political campaign – directed initially against auto workers. But if this push in auto succeeds, it will very rapidly be pushed onto the whole work force.

So, what can be done about it? In the first place, those workers in auto who want to try to organize for a NO vote have to do it.

What can bring such attacks to a screeching halt? We should face this clearly: Nothing less than the kind of fights carried out in the later years of the Great Depression can stop such an attack – struggles by workers who took over factories, demonstrated by the tens or even hundreds of thousands in the streets, surrounded sheriffs to stop evictions, shut down government in city halls around the country, etc.

Yet we think there is a way to make a campaign against these attacks, a campaign that has the possibility to be picked up by other workers. And we know that such campaigns in the past were the kinds of things that encouraged people to start fighting in their own workplaces.

Furthermore, we know full well that if no one tries to make an open public opposition to these attacks, things will only get much worse, and get worse much faster.

Pages 2-3

Slashing the Safety Net

Jan 12, 2009

One out of every 12 people in California was unemployed, as of November. There were 2.5 million workers in the state, either unemployed or “underemployed,” that is, working part-time when they want full-time work.

In addition, one out of five people under the age of 65 has NO health care coverage – close to 6.5 million Californians. Those figures came from the beginning of 2008, so the number of people without health care has certainly increased since then.

Local county social service offices are swamped. Applications for safety net programs, including cash assistance, health care and food stamps, have increased 40% in the last year. Yet many people are denied any aid at all. Those who do get some aid, don’t get nearly enough to survive.

“I’ve given up trying to eat every day,” a 30-year-old injured veteran told the San Jose Mercury News last month, as she waited with her young daughter on line for a free holiday food basket. Her unemployment benefits had just run out. She is homeless, and has to depend on handouts and charity to feed herself and her daughter, who has a number of medical problems. “I’ve almost given my daughter up at a fire station at least four or five times since we’ve been homeless,” the veteran told the reporter. “I’m waiting to go under.”

Just at the moment when government assistance is most needed, when the private economy is cutting jobs right and left, the governor and state legislators have announced what they intend to do: they want to cut social programs still more. Their message to hungry Californians: tough luck for those who need a safety net.

Less Food for Each Dollar

Jan 12, 2009

Feeling a little hungry these days? It’s not your imagination. Food items are shrinking, but prices are not.

A large coffee that used to be sold as 34.5 ounces is now 27.8 ounces, which is a 19% reduction in size. A 6.25 ounce can of tuna now weighs 5 ounces, a cut of 20%. So it goes, whether it’s chips or cereal or soup.

Paying the same amount of money for less food is putting us on a diet – one that only fattens up the food bosses.

Less Road Salt, More Deaths

Jan 12, 2009

On Tuesday evening, January 6, a snow and ice storm hit the Detroit metro area. Four people, including a 5-year-old girl, were killed amid over 100 reported car crashes on the unsalted, unplowed roads.

The Michigan Department of Transportation had recently told county road commissioners to cut back on road crews’ overtime, to save money.

The day after Christmas, an 80-year-old man was killed by a truck at an icy intersection, as he was trying to walk across. The owner of a market on the corner of this major intersection said that for the previous two weeks the road had not been cleared as it should have been, and he had complained about it to the road commission.

Officials blame these deaths on forces of nature. No – blame the nature of the system that cuts normal services for citizens, while bankers are getting bailouts that are unlimited.

Pages 4-5

Stop the Aggression of the Israeli Army against the Palestinian Population!

Jan 12, 2009

Israel has justified its latest war on the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by claiming to fight for its right to exist. This political hypocrisy knows no bounds. The problem is precisely that, for over 60 years, the right of the Palestinians to have their own country and their own national existence has been denied by Israel.

Israel refuses to recognize the rights of the Palestinians. This is the fundamental problem.

Since the creation of the state of Israel, the Palestinians have not had any right to be treated as a nation. Chased off their land in 1948, most of these people have been forced to live in refugee camps, usually in Lebanon and in Jordan. The West Bank was then annexed by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip was under the control of Egypt. In 1967, as part of the end of the so-called Six Day War, Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Since then, the ongoing policy of the Israeli state – aided by Israeli settlers who have never stopped eating away at Palestinian lands in the West Bank – has been to confine the Palestinian population in isolated enclaves, separated from one another by a multitude of walls and other barriers.

In November of 1974, the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the right of the Palestinians “to sovereignty and national independence.” But between this formal recognition and its acceptance by Israel, there has been a gulf so wide it has never been crossed. On the contrary, all Israeli governments, whether right wing or left, have always opposed this recognition – including by military force. In June 1982, the Israeli army invaded Lebanon and chased down the Palestinian organizations in Beirut, among them the PLO of Yassir Arafat. In October of 1985, an air raid against the headquarters of the PLO in Tunis left 70 dead. In August of 1986, the Israeli parliament voted to ban all contact with PLO leaders.

It took many years of the Intifada (the uprisings) before the Israeli governments agreed to enter into talks with the PLO. It was the Oslo Accord that recognised an autonomous and temporary Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip and the town of Jericho in the West Bank. Yassir Arafat recognised the right of Israel to live in peace (November 1988) and removed all wording from the PLO charter that questioned the right of Israel to exist (April 1996). But still the Israeli governments did not make a single significant gesture toward satisfying the national desires of the Palestinians. Instead, despite meeting after meeting about “peace,” Israel provoked the violent reaction of the Palestinians. One provocation was opening a tunnel under the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (September 1996). It led to a confrontation between the Israeli army and the Palestinian demonstrators, resulting in 70 deaths. And the worst provocation during this entire period has been the continued building of new settlements. In January of 1998 Israel announced it intended to control large parts of the West Bank, even if there were new agreements with the Palestinians.

Even with a partner ready to make compromises, the state of Israel has always remained intransigent in its refusal to accept an independent Palestinian state on its border. And even when it decided to pull out of the Gaza Strip, it did so in such a way as to turn the area into an open-air prison, keeping control over the land, sea and air borders, intervening whenever it felt like it. Since 2006, Israel has imposed a complete blockade of the Gaza Strip, a veritable seizure in which the inhabitants live at the edge of starvation, often without such basic necessities as water and electricity. Access to fuel, to basic medicine, etc. is drastically limited. This blockade had already caused a humanitarian catastrophe, and today it is further aggravated by a military aggression.

Hamas as an Excuse

Does Israel react this way because of Hamas? Certainly not. Today Hamas has taken the place of the Palestinian Authority, a government bogged down in compromise and torn apart by corruption. But, just like the radical PLO of the years from 1970 through 1980, Hamas – a nationalist movement that wrapped itself in a religious ideology – is also ready to compromise with the Israeli government, although the Israelis aren’t interested. In 2006, a Hamas leader accepted the creation of a Palestinian state within the borders defined in 1967, under the condition that the Israeli aggression stop and that the settlements be dismantled. In June 2006, Hamas, along with the Palestinian Authority, signed a document of national understanding that recognized the existence of Israel.

Not only did these overtures gain no response from Israel, but on June 28, 2006, after one of its soldiers was captured inside Gaza, Israel launched a land and air offensive in Gaza, nicknamed “Summer Rain,” which was a prelude to the fire storm that was unleashed a few days later against Lebanon.

No, the government of Israel is not looking for the peace that would come from the recognition of the national rights of the Palestinians. Israel is the aggressor one more time. Because, contrary to what is said and repeated, it is not Hamas that broke the truce, but Israel. In November 2008, the cease-fire that had been in existence for four months was broken by Israel with a bombing raid that left six Palestinians dead. It is only after these assassinations that the rocket fire from Gaza reappeared. And what can be said of the decision to completely cut off Gaza? Between November 5 and November 30, only 23 trucks with vital supplies were allowed to enter the territory. On average, 3000 trucks a month are needed to meet the needs of the million and a half people living in Gaza.

Apparently, neither the Israeli bombings nor the blockade are considered acts of aggression by those who lead the imperialist world and by those who support them. The military and aggressive policies of the Israeli leaders serve imperialism very well, acting as a permanent threat against the peoples of the entire region, including the Israeli population, that has every reason to live in peace and fraternal cooperation with its neighbors.

So, in Israel as in the Arab countries, and in all the imperialist countries, it is up to all the peoples, to all the workers who suffer from this cynical and deadly policy, to say no to the aggression of the Israeli army against the Palestinians population and to affirm that they must finally have the right of national existence.

The Population is Being Assassinated

Jan 12, 2009

What’s happening in Gaza is outrageous, revolting. One of the most powerful, best equipped armies in the world sends in its assault tanks to terrorize an entire population of a million people crammed into a tiny territory.

The Israeli leaders are cynical hypocrites, daring to claim they aren’t aiming at the Palestinian people, but only at Hamas, the Islamist party controlling this territory. Gaza is one of the densest areas on the planet. So it’s a certainty that many of those bombed weren’t Hamas militants.

The week of bombing before the ground invasion killed more than 400 people, many of whom were civilians, women, men and children. How many others will die during the ground invasion, from bullets but also from lack of care? For the territory is currently closed off, so that the Israeli army can tranquilly carry out its crimes hidden from view.

The Israeli leaders pretend, “Hamas broke the truce by sending its rockets into southern Israel.” As if there were a common measure between some dozens of rockets, which mainly caused material damage and one death before the Israeli land offensive, and the massive bombing of an overcrowded territory!

There had been a signed truce that called for the end of military action, and the lifting of Israel’s complete blockade of Gaza. Israel never lifted the blockade. Gaza depends on imports from outside for all its provisioning – food, medicine, etc. Israel’s blockade was another way of decimating a people without bombs or bullets.

Nothing justifies the war of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. It is an unjust war because it is designed to perpetuate the oppression of the Palestinian people, a political oppression as well as an economic and social oppression.

When Israel perpetuates this oppression, it hurts the Israeli people as well. A people who oppresses another people can’t be free. Prison guards certainly have a more desirable situation than the prisoners, but nevertheless they in part share the same life within four walls.

Stop the Widening War

Jan 12, 2009

The U.S. military has announced it is sending an additional 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan in a few months. This will double the U.S. presence there and bring the total occupation forces up to almost 100,000.

The Afghan insurrection against the occupation seems to be gaining more and more ground.

With good reason. The Western coalition was supposed to put an end to the Taliban dictatorship and restore democracy – which in fact had never existed in Afghanistan. Instead, seven years after the intervention of the so-called “coalition of the willing,” Afghanistan is suffering only more destruction and death. Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Today it suffers from drug traffickers, from war lords in the different regions, and from the corrupt Karzai government, which the U.S. installed in the capital, Kabul, but which today doesn’t control even all of Kabul. French troops control a region of Kabul only partly. In the south, British, Canadian and Dutch troops have suffered important reverses. And in 2008, the occupation troops suffered their biggest losses – including those of the U.S.

This doesn’t count civilian deaths, which the central command of the occupation troops makes no record of – nor do the journalists. The population is the victim of indiscriminate bombing and violent theft carried out by foreign troops, by mercenary soldiers from many countries and by the forces of the Afghan government.

The U.S. is having much bigger problems in resupplying troops. Trucks bring in three fourths of the supplies for coalition troops through the Khyber Pass, on the border with Pakistan. In the northwest portion of Pakistan, the so-called “tribal areas,” convoys are attacked. Pakistani drivers balk at being targets in order to resupply foreign armies. Thus, the U.S. army increases its bombings and incursions into this region of Pakistan, which doesn’t improve the situation, but simply extends the war from Afghanistan.

The Afghan government, a faithful ally of the U.S., led by Hamid Karzai, in fact doesn’t govern anything. Today, the U.S. is trying to replace his regime with the warlords, who carry out a reign of terror in different regions, selling themselves to the highest bidder. They traffic in opium or serve “democracy,” whatever pays the most. At the same time, the U.S. is sending in its own troops to control the capital Kabul, which is rapidly slipping out of Karzai’s hands.

Obama, who said and repeated that the war in Afghanistan was a “just war” and who made it his priority, not only called for sending additional U.S. soldiers; he also is asking the allied imperialist countries to intensify their war effort. General James Conway, commander of the U.S. Marine Corps, told CBS he wants to send as many as 10,000 additional Marines to Afghanistan. He said when the Obama Administration takes power, “that will help us greatly in determining where the forces need to go.” That is, to Afghanistan!

Each additional foreign soldier pushes this region a little more into barbarism.

Every single one of the occupation forces, beginning with U.S. troops, needs to get out!

The U.S. Supports Israeli Terrorism

Jan 12, 2009

Over 40 Palestinian civilians were killed and dozens more wounded when Israeli tanks shelled a United Nations school in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. The school was clearly marked with a U.N. flag, and the U.N. had given the Israeli military its co-ordinates.

Israeli forces also killed a Palestinian truck driver and injured two others when they fired on an aid convoy bearing U.N. flags in northern Gaza. The U.N. had coordinated their movements with the Israeli military.

Even the U.N., which turns a blind eye to many of Israel’s actions, was forced to condemn the attacks on its own institutions, which housed only civilians.

In 2002, Moshe Yaalon, the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, said, “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people.” It’s clear that seven years later, the Israeli military is still pursuing the same policy. It bombs densely populated civilian areas to terrorize the population.

The United States hypocritically pretends Israel is only “defending” itself. According to George Bush, “Instead of caring about the people of Gaza, Hamas decided to use Gaza to launch rockets to kill innocent Israelis. Israel’s obviously decided to protect herself and her people.”

That’s like saying the U.S. had the right to kill civilians in Viet Nam, after the U.S. invaded – because they fought back. Or in Iraq. Or in Afghanistan. The U.S. has always reinforced Israel since its origin, because Israel has been one of its weapons used to impose the rule of U.S. oil companies throughout the Middle East.

Pages 6-7

Maryland Hospitals Making Out Like Bandits

Jan 12, 2009

A Baltimore woman living on Social Security and food stamps was sued after emergency brain surgery to pay a bill of $36,224. A disabled man living on $1,619 per month was told by the judge he owed $10,736 to Hopkins Hospital PLUS interest of $1,542. Only after the hospitals received some bad publicity about these cases did they agree to wipe out the debts.

Hospitals in Maryland have benefitted for 30 years from a system that guarantees them payments. Last year, the 47 hospitals in Maryland received a combined total of 921 million dollars for the free care they claimed they had provided.

The fact is, no one monitors this debt payment, so no one knows for sure whether hospitals are collecting for the same bills from both the patients and the insurers.

Newspaper reporters discovered all kinds of dirty tricks – billing poor people who couldn’t pay and didn’t have lawyers to defend themselves; suing patients covered by Medicaid; charging patients 12% on outstanding balances, which is twice the legal rate on other debts; suing for “balance billing,” that is, demanding to be paid although the hospital had an agreement with the insurer to accept the amount paid by the insurer; bringing suit over amounts as small as $30.

Maryland lawmakers have voted down more than one bill proposed to overcome these abuses.

Maryland hospitals can get away with this hospital care robbery thanks to their friends in the state legislature. Illinois is not the only state where corruption reigns.

Sinking the Economy with Debt and Layoffs

Jan 12, 2009

Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which once bragged about never laying off a worker, just laid off 1,000 workers.

Not because business was down. Most of its business comes from insurance companies paying for accidents. But in 2007, Enterprise bought the Alamo and National car rental companies – using leveraged debt to buy them.

Today, Enterprise, unable to refinance its debt, took the ax to its workforce.

But this adds to unemployment. How can the unemployed buy goods or services? It’s the worst possible thing for a sick economy!

This is the madness of our day. As each individual company tries to save its profits by laying off workers, the general economy crumbles faster and faster.

Prohibiting layoffs is the first basic step toward steadying the economy.

New Layoffs Crash State Claims Systems

Jan 12, 2009

In the first week of the new year, a tsunami of layoffs hit unemployment offices. In Michigan, New York, Ohio and North Carolina, telephone and internet systems crashed completely under the loads. Workers in many other states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania reported waits of hours and hours to get through.

In Michigan, workers who couldn’t get through by phone reported to a suburban Detroit office where they were given numbers. If their number wasn’t called after they had waited all day, they had to come back the next day – and even the next, for many.

Like government officials didn’t see this coming?

For years, state governments have engaged themselves in an orgy of giving grants, subsidies and tax breaks to any business that asked. Now, it’s time for the state and the companies to repay. Make them keep workers on the payrolls and out of the unemployment lines!

Michigan Utilities
– Not a Bug
– Keep Customers in the Dark!

Jan 12, 2009

Over 400,000 homes and businesses in the Detroit area lost power in late December. Some people were without power for as many as five days.

The utility explained away their responsibility in the matter by blaming ... an insect. John Austerberry, a DTE Energy spokesperson, said, “About two-thirds of the outages are the result of trees coming in contact with the lines and grounding them out.... Because of the Emerald Ash Borer, every ash tree in the state is dead.”

Maybe the Ash Borer killed trees in Michigan, but the utility companies are supposed to maintain the electric lines, which includes keeping them clear of dead trees. And the state is supposed to deal with insect infestations.

The real problem is that both the state and the utility companies have cut back on staff. The utilities do not have enough staff to maintain the lines. They also do not hire enough people to restore power when outages occur.

It’s a backward system that puts many lives at risk, while there are plenty of people who could be put to work keeping the power grid in working order and trees healthy!

Bernard Madoff and the Swindle of the Capitalist System

Jan 12, 2009

Bernard Madoff was arrested on December 11 for the largest swindle in Wall Street history. He lost 50 billion dollars of his clients’ money through a giant pyramid scheme – or Ponzi scheme – using new investors’ money to pay out dividends to old investors. The scheme fell apart when some of his clients asked to withdraw seven billion dollars of their own money, which Madoff didn’t have.

Madoff was one of the most respected figures on Wall Street. He had been the chairman of NASDAQ, the second biggest stock exchange, and ran one of the biggest private investment companies. He was also a philanthropist on the side.

Madoff obviously didn’t manage money for ordinary mortals, but for those with tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to invest. Among his clients there were very rich people, big banks and also industrial companies. Ascot Partners, run by the chairman of GMAC, Jacob Ezra Merkin, could lose nearly 1.8 billion dollars. This is the same GMAC that is tying to fleece GM workers as well as the taxpayers. Tremont Group Holdings stands to lose 3.3 billion dollars. Fairfield Greenwich Group invested 7.5 billion dollars and Kingate Management 3.5 billion dollars. The super-rich Carl Shapiro may personally lose 545 million dollars. Major financial institutions in Spain, Switzerland, Japan and France each invested hundreds of millions of dollars they stand to lose.

But this pillar of Wall Street did nothing different from his peers at the big banks and hedge funds. They all promised high gains, knowing that it was impossible to distribute as much as they promised without it leading to the collapse of the collective swindle. Madoff is certainly a swindler, but the functioning of their system is a generalized swindle.

We could laugh at the idea that these high finance swindlers steal from one another. But this isn’t a giant Monopoly game, where the losses and gains are fictitious and concern only those who play. The entire economy has already paid for their swindles. Big companies are threatened with bankruptcy. Workers are laid off or suffer from greater or lesser periods of reduced hours. Factories close. Subcontractors collapse.

Since the financial crisis broke out, there has been a lot of talk about “cleaning up the financial system,” “regulation” or “transparency.” But, while the political leaders sound off in front of the TV cameras, banks and businesses continue to speculate.

This is the way their world functions. Swindlers and completely irresponsible people decide what happens with the economy, and with the lives of the women and men of the planet – while political leaders distract the population.

They shouldn’t be astonished when one day the whole thing flies apart in their faces!

Police Execute Another Black Man

Jan 12, 2009

On New Year’s Day, a 22-year old black man was killed by a transit cop on the subway platform in Oakland, California.

Transit police say they were trying to question people getting off a train on which a fight had been reported two stations before! But cell phone video recordings and narrations made by dozens of people who were on the platform or on trains going home after New Year’s parties, were soon posted on the internet. They showed the cops roughly herded Grant and other young black men into one part of the platform and forced them to sit or kneel, some handcuffed. After Grant put his hands up, the cops forced him from a seated position to lying face down on the platform. Grant begged for his life. Then, while one cop held Grant down with his knee to the back of his neck, Officer Mehserle stood up, drew his gun and shot him through the back.

Grant died a few hours later in the hospital. But despite all the evidence of this police murder on the internet and on cell phones the police had confiscated at the station, transit and Oakland officials did nothing for a week.

Finally, the anger of some young people boiled over. On January 7, a protest over the shooting ended with hundreds of young people showing their anger in the streets – store windows were broken and cars trashed.

State prosecutors said they would move more quickly to complete their investigation of Grant’s shooting. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, who is black, urged people to remain calm and said he was hopeful things will change after Barak Obama takes office.

Horse manure! Police brutality and murder continue against working class and poor people, especially against black people, over 40 years after the Black Panthers, founded in Oakland, organized against it. For a period, such actions forced the police to back off. Politicians, black and white, still side with police or cover up their crimes. It will take young people ready to fight for their own security and dignity to once again make the authorities act differently.

In a system based on a small minority exploiting the huge majority, where police are used to keep us in line, it’s long past time for us to organize to protect ourselves again.

Page 8

Politicians Found Something to Agree on

Jan 12, 2009

Workers don’t go on a spending spree when budgets are tight, but politicians do.

Michigan is projecting a 1.5 billion dollar deficit next year. In what’s becoming a holiday tradition, both political parties came together in Lansing in December to give away up to 517 million dollars in corporate tax credits for companies producing batteries. These “new and improved” tax credits double as cash hand-outs.

According to the Free Press (12/19/08), up to 200 million dollars IN CASH will be handed out to battery corporations if tax credits exceed taxes owed.

Bank Execs Pocket Bailout Billions

Jan 12, 2009

So far, 116 banks have taken bailout money from the government. Those same banks paid their top executives 1.6 billion dollars in salaries, benefits and bonuses in 2007, according to an AP study.

That money would cover the bailout money taken by 53 of the 116 banks!

The AP study shows the average compensation to an executive was 2.6 million dollars.

In other words, the government is happy to support the very wealthiest bosses who are most responsible for the mess the economy is in. Instead of putting them in jail where they belong!

Obama Economic Plan:
A Cynical Attack on Workers, to Hand More to the Rich

Jan 12, 2009

Barack Obama’s economic “stimulus” plan is a big gift to corporations and a big attack on working people.

First the gift: the plan includes 300 billion dollars in new tax breaks to individuals and corporations. While he was campaigning, Obama said those individual tax breaks would only be for incomes below $200,000 per year; now, though, his office says that they haven’t decided on a cap. In other words, still more tax breaks will go to wealthy individuals. And Obama is no longer talking about immediately repealing the huge tax breaks Bush gave to the wealthy, or even letting them lapse when they are supposed to in two years. Instead, he says, a recession is not the time to cut tax breaks.

The corporate tax breaks are in addition to Bush’s tax breaks of the previous eight years; those earlier tax breaks helped to fuel the huge bubble that created the mess we’re in now. Giving those banks and corporations more money will NOT “grease the wheels” of the economy; it will just give them MORE money that they will use to speculate – creating MORE of a mess, all over again.

That’s not stopping Obama from proposing three huge new corporate tax breaks, though.

The first would allow corporations to declare losses they claimed last year AND losses they’ll claim this year, retroactively on tax returns dating back 5 years. In other words, it would amount to a huge, immediate tax refund on losses they haven’t even had yet!

The second is yet another tax break on “investments,” as if that will create new jobs. They always tell us it will – and it never does.

The third is the most cynical boondoggle of the bunch: it would give corporations 3,000 dollars for every worker they hire that they SAY they otherwise wouldn’t have hired, OR every worker they KEEP who they say they would have otherwise laid off. There’s nothing stopping corporations from declaring EVERY worker hired, and EVERY worker they don’t lay off – heck, every worker they have – and gobbling up 3,000 dollars each!

As for spending – without ever saying what or how much, Obama talks about spending on infrastructure, expanding unemployment benefits, and giving money to the states to cover Medicaid benefits. These “proposals” are a LOT more vague and undefined than his corporate tax cut proposals. They sound much more like token sound bites than anything real. The most concrete he’s gotten has been for money gifts for corporations investing in “green energy,” saying that will create jobs. We’ve seen for years just how much that DOESN’T work.

On Saturday January 10, Obama said his plan will “create or save” at least 4.1 million jobs over the next few years. Just the day before, that number was 3 million. And two days before that, it was 2 million. Nothing changed in his plan – but the “analysis” kept pushing that number up as he needed to sell his tax cuts. He might as well come out and say that his job estimates are meaningless hype. Heck, why not say 100 million – especially since every corporation can claim his tax breaks got them to “save” their whole workforce!

But whatever number he claims, even if true, that’s nothing. That 4.1 million jobs REALLY pales in comparison to the actual number of workers who are without a job or are under-employed right now: almost 21 million people.

To address real problems facing millions of working class families, Obama’s plan proposes nothing. Obama said nothing about expanding medical care for those who don’t have it; the ONLY proposal he made about medical care was to computerize all medical records within five years!

But when it comes to paying for his plans, Obama proposes – cuts in programs. Specifically, his advisors have talked – again – of going after Social Security and Medicare and other so-called “entitlements” – all the programs of the “social safety net.” Right when workers are needing it most.

Obama has said much about how Americans voted for change in November, and how we need a completely new approach to address the problems we face. But his economic plan comes down to tax breaks and money gifts to the wealthy, while making the working class pay.

It’s nothing more than another Bush proposal, made by another Clinton administration.

Too Old to Work?
Or Too Poor to Retire

Jan 12, 2009

The most striking fact about the current dismal job picture is that there are actually MORE people over 55 working today than there were a year ago – including 104,000 more workers over 75.

It’s not out of choice, but out of necessity that most older Americans delayed retirement or went back into the workforce. During the past year, almost all the 50 million people in this country who have 401(k) plans for their retirement have seen their 401(k)’s either seriously hit, some even wiped out. And many older workers are losing medical care, or paying much higher expenses for it.

You work all your life and what do you get to look forward to? Less and less from this capitalist system that is taking us on a long detour from 2009, way back to 1929.