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. 858 — November 23 - December 7, 2009

Editorial:
Every Person Could Have Decent Health Care

Nov 23, 2009

Health care “reform” got past a new obstacle, when the Democrats lined up all their votes so the U.S. Senate could begin to debate the bill. The House of Representatives had already passed its own version.

Of course, the Democrats, Obama included, present this as a victory.

Perhaps it is – for the insurance, hospital, and pharmaceutical industries, which all expect to make higher profits from it.

But it’s no victory for the population. Whatever comes out of the final bill, the population is going to get screwed. Costs will go up for almost everyone, 24 million people will remain without any insurance and 168 million will continue to have inadequate insurance.

It’s a crime. Because there’s more than enough wasted administrative costs in the current system to provide decent health care for everyone – for today’s uninsured, as well as for the rest of us, most of whom are inadequately insured.

If the current U.S. system were organized like Canada’s, 400 billion dollars in wasted administrative costs could be saved and spent on actual health care every year – much more than the 85 billion a year the Senate bill is supposed to cost (848 billion dollars over ten years).

Canada’s system is hardly perfect, but it’s much more efficient and less costly, while providing better health outcomes than the U.S. system. These facts are widely known by medical researchers, hidden only by constant propaganda coming from the insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical industries.

The Canadian system is a “single-payer” system, much like Medicare, but for the whole population. You pay a regular contribution every year into the government-funded system, proportionate to your income, much like we do into Medicare. You are covered, letting you go to the doctor you want, the hospital you want, etc. Most of the middlemen are knocked out of the system, and costs and profits of the big industries that today gouge everyone are severely restricted. Remember – drug prices are much lower in Canada than here!

People in this country widely support Medicare, and most want something like that for everyone. Thirty-nine State AFL-CIO Councils, 134 Central Labor Councils and about 400 other labor organizations have endorsed this reform, a single-payer system.

In 2007, 42% of doctors, when polled, expressed support for a single-payer system – up from only 16% five years earlier. Among general family doctors, the ones who really treat us, a large majority favor it. Many of the leading researchers in public health matters have been pushing for a “single-payer” system.

But none of them were invited to appear before Congressional hearings or to speak with the Obama administration. Worse – some of the most respected experts in the field of health care were pulled out of the room in handcuffs when they tried to be heard by the Senate Finance Committee on May 5.

The Obama administration and Congressional Democrats wanted nothing to stand in the way of the steamroller. Their health care “reform” is aimed at providing better access to profits, not better access to health care.

The Republicans certainly have played no better a game. To the extent that they criticized, hoping to tap into the distrust toward the “reform” that exists in the population, they offered no perspective, other than vile reactionary slogans attacking immigrants, women’s right to abortion and defending the system as it is.

The working class cannot expect to gain access to health care as a right through either of these two parties. Both Democrats and Republicans defend this capitalist system tooth and nail. And the capitalists never put human needs before profit. Only in periods with vast mobilizations have they even partly recognized the population’s needs.

We, every one of us, regardless of age or citizenship, should have full access to health care. Anything less is not only inhumane, it also guarantees that disease spreads, that the overall society is not only less healthy, but less efficient.

We already pay taxes and outrageous costs to private industry. That money should be used to provide health care for every person.

Pages 2-3

The Swine of Wall Street Get Their Vaccine

Nov 23, 2009

Early in November, rich Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JPMorganChase got large allotments of swine flu vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sets priorities for the scarce vaccine. Infants and children, healthcare workers, and pregnant women are to be first in line.

In New York, many hospitals and health clinics used by ordinary people – infants and children, healthcare workers, and pregnant women – got little or no vaccine. Even Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center got less than 1% of its request. But Goldman Sachs got about 4% of its request, and Citigroup got more than 50% of the vaccine it requested.

Why? Because money and connections trump the public health – whether it’s the swine flu, or the entire national economy.

Drug Companies’ Latest Ripoff

Nov 23, 2009

Average prescription drug prices went up 5½% this year. Brand name drugs went up by almost 9% and specialty drugs by about 10%.

These are the biggest price increases in years. The average annual cost of a brand name maintenance drug is now more than $2000. The increases will bring in an extra 10 billion dollars for the drug companies next year – more than the eight billion dollar reduction in intended price increases that the companies promised for next year as their contribution to health care “reform.”

The price increases plus extra grants built into the “reform” recently caused a leading industry trade group to raise its estimate of drug industry income over the next four years by 137 billion dollars.

While most people will pay more for their drugs, the drug companies are going to get high on increased profits.

Just a Computer Glitch?

Nov 23, 2009

Last week there was another shining example of our falling-apart infrastructure. The computer controlling the traffic lights in Maryland’s Montgomery County crashed. This meant the lights were not synchronized and traffic ground to a halt.

And like the rest of the aging infrastructure – that is, the water mains and bridges – the Montgomery County traffic computer is old. It is more than 30 years old, which for computers is ancient.

While we ordinary folks take our cars in for oil changes and clean out our gutters, the government waits for some catastrophic event before it does anything.

Maryland Budget Cuts Attack Most Vulnerable

Nov 23, 2009

Need food stamps? The law in Maryland says you have to receive your benefits within 30 days of applying. Reality is an entirely different story.

Despite the 30-day rule, “we are seeing about 4,000 to 5,000 applications being delayed each month,” according to a lawyer for the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

In Baltimore County, Maryland, caseworkers in human resource offices used to handle an already-enormous caseload of 400 to 500 cases. Now their caseloads have doubled. Who could possibly help 1,000 individuals or families? How could a case worker even list that many names and details?

More than 150 positions have been cut in Maryland’s Family Investment Administration, while long lines form everywhere. The one division handling food stamps had its budget cut from a miserable $873,463 in 2008 to $827,979 in 2009 at the very time when need for food stamps is soaring.

Here’s how the world’s richest country handles its poorest people.

Women’s Right to Abortion under Attack

Nov 23, 2009

BOTH the House and the Senate health care bills attack a woman’s access to abortion. The House bill just does it more directly.

The House bill includes an amendment proposed by two Democrats, Brad Ellsworth of Indiana and Bart Stupak of Michigan, that outright bans abortion coverage from the public plan AND from any private plan that wants to be included in the insurance “exchange” where the uninsured can buy coverage. That means that no plan offered to uninsured people, public or private, would cover the cost of an abortion.

The Senate bill is more sneaky. It says that plans included in the “exchange” can offer abortion coverage – but that they must make sure that no public money is used to pay for them. Insurance companies would need to keep a convoluted and detailed set of books showing that money from non-public sources was used for these procedures, while money from public sources did not go to them.

Faced with that bookkeeping nightmare, most insurers will simply choose not to cover abortions and be done with it. So the “choice” that the Senate bill supposedly offers is a lie.

Supposedly, too, the Senate bill will require that at least one plan in each state must offer abortion coverage – while at least one plan must NOT offer abortion coverage. What does that mean for women? Will they have to buy it in addition to their regular coverage, at an additional price? Cost is why they don’t have insurance in the first place!

The end result is the same in both bills: many, many more women, especially lower-income women, will find themselves unable to get an abortion.

If that’s not an attack on abortion rights, what is?

This is how Democrats have long pretended to protect the rights of women to choose abortions, and it has always been a lie. Women won the right to abortion for themselves through their organization, mobilization and demonstrations. THEY forced the court to recognize their rights in 1973.

While Republicans have carried out an open attack on women’s rights ever since, Democrats have been giving away that right – chipping away at it bit by bit, while claiming to “protect” the right as a whole. These health care bills are the latest, biggest attack.

Pages 4-5

A Kangaroo Court to Sell the War

Nov 23, 2009

On November 13, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the U.S. would try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused 9/11 “mastermind,” and four other accused co-conspirators in civilian court in New York City.

Could Mohammed have been involved in terror, or even the 9/11 attack? Maybe. Could he hate the United States? Quite probably. But in that regard he’s no different from the millions upon millions of people in the world who hate the U.S. – and with reason, given what the U.S. has done to their countries.

None of that is explanation enough to bring him to trial NOW, after six years.

For five years Bush could not find any way to bring Mohammed to trial. You can bet that the Bush administration would have loved to carry out a high-profile trial of an accused 9/11 mastermind. They would have loved to make a big show to demonstrate they were doing something to “keep America safe.”

But they couldn’t find a way to make such a trial credible. To bring a man to trial who had been kept completely isolated for years, with no access to any kind of support, legal or otherwise, and who had been tortured continuously – as the U.S. itself admits – means from the outset that the trial is nothing but a new Salem witch trial.

Mohammed’s “confession” itself was extracted only after a prolonged period of torture at Guantanamo. All experts in the fields of criminal justice and military intelligence have said repeatedly that torture never produces reliable information; it only produces whatever lies the torturer wants to extract.

If the Obama administration is pursuing this trial now, it has other interests than the simple pursuit of justice. And those interests are not hard to guess: the Obama administration is trying to figure out a way to step up the U.S. war in Afghanistan, at a time when an increasing number of Americans are opposed to the war. This trial is part and parcel of a campaign to convince us that we’re under attack from terrorism, and that we have no choice but to support the war.

In other words, we’re right back where Bush started.

This is a show trial, pure and simple.

Maybe Mohammed, wanting to be a martyr, will play along with the prosecution by pleading guilty and taking “credit” for the attack on the World Trade Center. Maybe the administration figures it will be able to sway enough jurors, in a New York City still traumatized by the attack, to accept their flimsy evidence and sentence him to death. Either way, the outcome is not in doubt: both Eric Holder and Obama himself have openly made statements about “When he’s convicted and put to death.” Not if – when.

The ONLY reason for this trial – now, in a civilian court, in New York City of all places – is to try to whip up support for that dirty war in Afghanistan.

Britain:
Court Martialed for Opposing War

Nov 23, 2009

Joe Glenton, a corporal in the British army’s logistics corps, was court-martialed in November. The charges against him are desertion, inciting to desertion and disobedience. He could face 10 years in prison.

It’s hardly the first time a British soldier has deserted rather than be sent off to Afghanistan or Iraq. But until now, the army handled these protests discretely by offering those who opposed going to these wars a rapid way out of the military, or at least a reclassification, in exchange for their silence. As a result, the only public opposition to these wars within the military has come from a few families who lost their sons in doubtful conditions, such as “friendly fire.”

The case of Joe Glenton has broken the wall of silence that hides the real morale of the troops. Volunteering in 2002, at age 22, Glenton was sent to Afghanistan in 2006. After coming back to England the following year in a normal troop rotation, his unit was ordered to return to the war without the required 23 months between tours. Glenton decided at that point to join the ranks of those called AWOL (absent without leave) and to disappear into another country.

Two years later, Glenton decided to return to Britain to make known his opposition to the war. While awaiting trial, he spoke out in public against the war. On October 24, he marched at the front of a demonstration against the occupation of Afghanistan. During the rally in Trafalgar Square, London, that ended the march, Joe Glenton was the main speaker to address the crowd.

Glenton declared, “To disobey orders is not simple. But when Great Britain follows the United States to carry out a war against one of the poorest peoples in the world, I see no other choice. The war in Afghanistan does not lessen the risk of terrorism. And far from improving the lives of the Afghans, it brings them only death and destruction. Great Britain has no business to be there.”

For the army, this speech was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The next day, Glenton was arrested and put in prison to await trial. The military reaction was all the stronger because opposition to British engagement in Afghanistan continues to grow. A majority already opposes the war, due in part to the record number of British soldiers killed in action there.

That’s why the position taken by Joe Glenton, covered by part of the press, with the Daily Mirror supporting Glenton, irritates the Army and the government. Prime Minister Gordon Brown already has difficulty justifying the recent deployment of hundreds of special forces soldiers to Afghanistan. Nor has Brown figured out his response to Obama’s call to send more combat troops there.

Perhaps this courageous example of Joe Glenton will encourage other soldiers to publicly express their disgust with this dirty war, in which their role is to terrorize the population.

Puerto Rico:
Government Workers Strike against Layoffs

Nov 23, 2009

This article is translated from issue #1016 of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the paper of the revolutionary group of that name active in Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean.

Puerto Rican government workers went on strike on October 15. Many tens of thousands demonstrated in the streets. They were protesting the massive layoffs carried out by the government, adding up to 25,000 this year. The pretext for these layoffs was the same as used by governments everywhere: a budget deficit, in this case, of the “Associated Free State” tied to the U.S.

The government workers’ unions decided that if there were new layoffs they’d start an unlimited general strike. The government clearly heard the protest in the streets, because there was a big mobilization. People could see workers, women, students and professors and many ordinary citizens vigorously protesting. On the eve of the monster demonstration, a group of people chained themselves to the mansion of Luis Fortuño, the governor. Women’s groups denounced the layoffs. The power of the movement shook the government and let the government workers regain confidence in their forces.

Postal Workers Fight Back in Britain

Nov 23, 2009

The following article, dated October 27, 2009, comes from Workers’ Fight, a revolutionary workers organization active in Britain.

Last week, postal workers staged their first national strike in two years, two days to protest attacks on jobs and working conditions. In the name of “modernizing” postal services, the government has already cut letter deliveries in half and turned postal rounds into nightmarish marathons. Postal workers are under the rule of a former sports official paid two million pounds a year to cut jobs to the bare bone.

At any time such attacks on working conditions would be unacceptable. But at a time like this, with rising unemployment, it is intolerable that any job should be cut. “Modernization” should result in a better service, with better working conditions for all postal workers, whatever the cost to the state. State funds would better be spent on postal services rather than in feeding the banking parasites!

What is true for postal services is true right across the economy. Why should companies that have made profits for so many years off our backs be allowed to cut our jobs, just because, for once, their profits are going down?

Even without the billions in bailouts, the capitalist class is enormously rich. Speculation, returning to the stock and oil markets, and to real estate, is just the visible part of their parasitic wealth.

The working class, which produces everything in this society and is the source of all that wealth, has a right to demand that, in a time of crisis like this, this wealth should be returned to society.

And this means no job cuts should be allowed any more – and no pay cuts either. No more giving in to the blackmail of the bosses, turning the screw under the pretext of “saving” jobs, which they end up cutting more often than not! And if there is not enough work for all, then share the work among all workers, without loss of pay.

The capitalists have caused this crisis due to their profiteering. They should be made to pay for it to the last penny!

Pages 6-7

Tribute to Dave Moore, Organizer of the UAW

Nov 23, 2009

One of the main organizers of the UAW at Ford Motor Co. passed away at the age of 97 on October 26th. He was a lifelong fighter, a militant.

Born in South Carolina in 1912, Moore as a child moved north, eventually coming to Detroit, Michigan in 1927. As a young man, Dave Moore joined thousands of workers and their families in the famous Ford Hunger March on March 7, 1932. Moore later said that day, when he witnessed Henry Ford’s secret police gunning down five men and wounding nearly 60 others, was a turning point in his life.

A black worker, he became a political militant of an important workers’ party at that time, the Communist Party. With other recognized worker leaders, he fought to break down the racist barriers that Henry Ford I had deliberately used to divide workers to keep out the union at the Ford Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, Henry Ford’s company town.

By 1941, nearly four years after the sit-down strikes forced GM and Chrysler to recognize the union, UAW leaders were focusing on government-supervised elections to get Henry Ford to accept the union. But throughout this whole period, Ford was adamant he would never give in. Organizers came under attack by Henry’s Ford’s goons and the Dearborn police. Discipline in the plants was ratcheted up. Workers rallied to defend themselves and their leaders. Dave Moore and other communist militants at the Rouge, like Bill McKie, were instrumental in organizing that collective anger and energy. Walter Reuther rewrote history, claiming credit for himself, pretending the 1937 “Battle of the Overpass” was the decisive blow to Henry Ford’s vehemently anti-union stance. In fact, the massive strike of 1941, where more than 50,000 workers shut down the Rouge, was what forced Ford to step back.

During the McCarthy period in the 1950s, Dave Moore and other working class militants came under attack by the government, with the support of Reuther and other UAW leaders. Dave Moore, along with others like Coleman Young, defied the Southern Democratic racist Congressmen who led the House on Un-American Activities hearings. And despite years of subsequently being barred from holding union office, Moore remained a recognized leader among his fellow workers.

He stayed active on the side of workers and fought against racist oppression all his life. His legacy should be recognized and remembered.

Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal

Nov 23, 2009

The campaign on behalf of Mumia Abu-Jamal asks all supporters to send protest messages to Attorney General Eric Holder.

The defenders of this black militant who has been imprisoned since 1982 are reacting to the Supreme Court decision blocking all attempts to get him a new trial. It refused to take into account the racism involved in jury selection in 1982, as well as all the evidence police had hidden showing his innocence.

Mumia’s defenders demand a civil rights commission to investigate all procedural violations and the many racist occurrences marking his 1982 trial and subsequent appeals.

Mumia’s defenders point out that Attorney General Holder decided to drop all charges against U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, accused of corruption. In the Senator’s case, Holder said that the prosecution withheld information crucial to the defense. The same argument applies to Mumia’s case to a much greater degree.

Mumia Abu Jamal was condemned for killing a cop. The courts refused to hear testimony and evidence that would have led to an acquittal. The verdict was sullied by racial prejudice on the part of Judge Sabo as well as Philadelphia police. These cops have a reputation of falsifying evidence when they want to get someone. A court reporter swore under oath she heard the judge say, “I’m going to help them fry the nigger.”

For 27 years, Mumia Abu-Jamal has rotted in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. And he continues to face either the death penalty or life in prison.

From the beginning, this case has been a travesty of justice. The “justice system” has ignored everything that could clear him.

A letter or email to the Attorney General can help build support for his case. Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal!

Write: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20530

Email: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

Immigrant Basher Nominated as U.S. Attorney

Nov 23, 2009

President Obama has nominated Stephanie Rose to be the United States Attorney in northern Iowa. She was the Assistant U.S. Attorney who directed the infamous May 2008 raid at Agriprocessors, a large Iowa meat packing plant. 270 immigrants were arrested and herded off to a court set up in a cattle fairground. They were charged with a felony for using false Social Security numbers and then sentenced in quick succession to five months in prison.

The U.S. Supreme Court afterwards decided unanimously, including all its reactionary justices, that people couldn’t be charged with a felony for using false Social Security numbers.

Nonetheless, Obama now wants to promote this rabid immigrant basher. So much for Obama’s election promises to break with the policies of the Bush Administration.

OSHA Takes the Boss’s Word for It

Nov 23, 2009

The government’s auditing office (GAO) found that no one knows how many workers are injured or sickened on the job. Why? Because of OSHA’s “sole reliance on employer-reported injury and illness data.”

In other words, OSHA only knows what the bosses tell it. And we all know how completely truthful and above-board bosses are!

The GAO estimated that up to two-thirds of all workplace injuries and illnesses are hidden, not reported. And why shouldn’t the boss cook the books? The more injuries, the more a company must pay for insurance and for workers’ compensation. And there’s no cop on this beat.

This means that the already unconscionable number of worker injuries on record – four million a year as of 2007 – is actually eight million or more, more than double.

The GAO also interviewed doctors and other health practitioners. Fifty-three% had in the past been pressured by employers to underplay worker injuries, to avoid triggering OSHA investigations.

A senator said, “This report confirms that when it comes to documenting of workplace injuries, we can’t just take employers at their word.”

They needed a study for that? DUH!

Page 8

Protecting Bank Profits from Crash Banks Caused

Nov 23, 2009

On November 12, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced that its cash reserves had dwindled to almost nothing, as defaults on mortgages that it insures have skyrocketed. The FHA itself will almost certainly soon need a federal bailout.

The FHA, a part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, insures mortgages of lower income and first time home buyers. It doesn’t protect the homeowners, but the lenders, that is, the banks and mortgage companies, in case homeowners default. Set up in 1934, under Roosevelt’s New Deal, FHA was always a form of government support to the financial establishment.

During the housing boom of the 2000s, when prices were quickly rising and there were few defaults, lenders turned fast profits by issuing mortgages, then reselling them to another institution. So lenders did not push homeowners to take out FHA insurance, because they faced no risk. But when the housing market crashed and mortgage defaults skyrocketed, banks and mortgage companies offered new mortgages to first time and low income home buyers only if the FHA insured them.

Over the last two years, the FHA lowered its requirements and the number of mortgages insured by the FHA quadrupled. It is currently insuring 6,000 new mortgages every day. In many harder hit areas, every single new mortgage is insured by the FHA.

With the housing market in free-fall and unemployment continuing to skyrocket, almost 20% of FHA-insured loans from 2007 are now considered to be “seriously delinquent.” For 2008 loans, 12% of them are already “seriously delinquent.”

More homeowners are losing their homes almost as soon as they move in. More taxpayer money is going to be swallowed up in another bailout. And big lenders continue to make profits from new mortgages, despite the ongoing crash in the housing market that they themselves caused.

Corporate Tax Breaks Do NOT Create Jobs

Nov 23, 2009

The State of Michigan granted a new 2.6 million dollars a year tax break to General Motors, supposedly for “keeping” jobs at its headquarters in the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit.

Actually, GM is cutting at least 1,500 of its 4,000 jobs, moving some to its Tech Center in the outlying suburb of Warren.

When GM moved its headquarters to the “RenCen,” it had to unload an old, obsolete building. The state provided financing to the real estate company that bought the building – only to then pay that same company to lease the building back!

The state also provided a tax break of 8.3 million dollars for GM’s new RenCen parking garage. And it spent more than 140 million dollars to fix roads in the area. It granted tax-free “Renaissance Zone” status to part of the RenCen so that GM could move in EDS, which does GM computer work. The state also gave GM a similar exemption to develop an area along Detroit’s river.

Officials argue that tax breaks like these create jobs. Complete bunk! A recent report for the Detroit City Council found that companies granted tax breaks had not lived up to their promises to create jobs. On the contrary, the companies laid off at least 7,500 workers in the last decade. The two biggest violators were General Motors and Chrysler. General Motors came up 2,500 jobs short at its Poletown plant. Chrysler was 4,800 jobs short at eight sites.

And the Bing Group, owned by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, fell short at four of six sites receiving tax breaks from the city last year.

It’s not just GM and Chrysler and the state of Michigan where this game is played. It’s everywhere. New London, Connecticut used “eminent domain” to take over an entire neighborhood, kicking homeowners out, when Pfizer wanted to build its headquarters nearby. Pfizer was also given huge tax breaks. Eight years later, Pfizer is pulling out.

The corporations threaten, “If you don’t give us what we want, we’ll move.” Then they move anyway, and the local residents wind up taking a bigger loss. It shows you might as well fight because, even if you lost, you wouldn’t lose more. And you always have a chance of winning.

Wall Street Says Bad Housing News Is Good News

Nov 23, 2009

New housing construction fell in October by more than 10%. The bad news follows four months of propaganda about how the economy was recovering because, during the warm months, there was a tiny increase in new construction. In reality, housing construction has been and continues to be at a very low level.

Facing this bad news, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal dared to write, “Housing starts fell: it’s actually a good thing.”

He explained there were more than 14 million vacant housing units; more than 11% of rental units were vacant; there is still an enormous supply of houses waiting to be sold. There is an additional “shadow” inventory, that is, houses taken off the market, not counted, because they cannot be sold.

While millions double up with friends and family, while homelessness grows, a capitalist commentator believes it’s a good thing that construction fell – because more homes would push down prices and profits!

An important need of society for homes for the homeless goes unmet and the economy is a disaster. But capitalism won’t build houses because it can’t make a profit.

What is more insane than celebrating such an upside down economic system?

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