The Spark

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

Issue no. 929 — December 10, 2012 - January 7, 2013

Editorial:
The Workers’ Right to Organize Depends on the Workers’ Readiness to Fight!

Dec 10, 2012

In the last days of the lame-duck session before the holidays, Republicans in both the Michigan state House and Senate tried to sneak through so-called “Right-to-Work” legislation. About to see their big majority in the legislature reduced as the result of the 2012 elections, Republicans overrode all the normal procedures to wriggle something through before the new legislature takes over.

“Right-to-work,” as a name for these laws, is an outright, boldfaced lie. These laws have never given anyone the right to work, never gave anyone the right to a job. They have always been intended as wedge to weaken unions, as unions exist today.

Specifically, these laws say that no worker can be required to join a union, and no worker can be required to pay dues or agency fees to a union. The bills just introduced in Michigan cover either public or private sector employees, though police and firefighters unions would be exempt.

Obviously, the Republicans intend this legislation as an attack on the Democrats, who receive a sizeable amount of their campaign funds from union contributions.

But it’s also obvious that this legislation is intended as an attack on the possibility for unions to exist today – an attack carried out by the Republicans for the whole capitalist class.

The question is, how to defend against this attack. Trying to snuggle up to the politicians, Democrat or Republican, asking them to force workers to join unions, is no way for workers to protect themselves, nor to protect their ability to organize.

It’s certainly possible today that many workers, if given the chance, would decide not to pay dues. But that’s in part because the bureaucracy that sits on top of the unions has spent years siding with corporations in pushing concessions. The continual worsening of workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions in union shops has made some workers even question the need and desirability for unions.

But getting rid of unions will not stop the bosses’ attacks.

Workers need to organize themselves, and this means, among other things, to form unions or to join them when other workers have formed them.

It also means money. We exist in a society run on money. Why wouldn’t we pay dues if the union took our side?

The problem is to actually make the unions organizations of the working class, built by the working class, serving the interests of the working class.

We’re being pushed down because the capitalists and public officials are trying to lower our standard of living. The existing union leadership has not been ready to carry out a fight against the drive to impoverish us.

That’s the problem we face. That’s what we have to change.

We won’t defend ourselves without fighting. And we won’t have unions without fighting for them. Our grandmothers and grandfathers who built the unions didn’t get them because some politicians made them all sign up. They got their unions because they organized, because they fought to defend themselves and their standard of living.

The Republicans say that nothing in this legislation prevents workers from organizing a union. Let’s see what happens the first time workers try to organize themselves someplace. Will the Republicans rush in to defend the workers’ right to organize?

Who’s foolish enough to believe that?

The Democrats may be willing to require everyone to join a union, when one exists, and to make them all pay dues – so the Democratic Party can get their hands on some of it!

But that doesn’t make a union.

The emancipation of the workers will be carried out by the workers themselves – as Karl Marx once remarked.

Pages 2-3

Los Angeles:
Fire Dept. Budget Cuts Are Deadly

Dec 10, 2012

The Los Angeles Fire Department rescuers were accused of failing to respond to medical emergencies within six minutes, which is the department’s standard.

In fact, even six minutes is too long. In cases of heart attack, for example, brain damage can begin four minutes after the heart stops beating.

The fire chief defended himself to the LA City Council, pointing at the budget cuts. In 2008, the LAFD got 561 million dollars; by 2011, their budget was cut to 473 million. After the cuts, more than 20 fire houses of the city’s 106 had engines shut down.

But don’t expect City Council members or the mayor to worry over avoidable deaths. They are too busy handing out tax breaks to local businesses: the latest one gives 50 million dollars in business tax breaks over the next three years!

Chicago’s Transit Fare Hikes

Dec 10, 2012

The Chicago Transit Authority just announced big fare increases that will especially hit people who use the city’s buses and trains to get to work every day. Monthly passes are going up from $86 to $100, and weekly passes from $23 to $28. Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the nerve to say that anyone who doesn’t like the higher costs can take their car. “Now you, as a commuter, will pick,” he said. “You can either drive to work or you can take public transportation.”

According to the CTA’s own survey, only about 41% of CTA riders even own a car. Most of the rest can’t afford one. When he got called on this ridiculous statement, Emanuel tried to backtrack – but everyone had already heard perfectly well how much he despises the low-paid workers who can’t afford cars. Guess what? The feeling is mutual!

Movie Review:
Flight

Dec 10, 2012

Flight, directed by Robert Zemekis, is about a veteran airline pilot who crash lands his plane after a critical part fails in mid-air. Out of 102 passengers and crew members on board, 96 survived due to the actions of pilot Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington). Whitaker is a hero.

But we also know that Whip, an alcoholic, had been drinking and using cocaine during the flight.

The film depicts addictive behavior, all the lies and the denial, not only by Whip, but by all those around him.

After the crash, a lawyer for the company tells Whip that it is standard procedure after a crash to test the pilot’s blood, urine, and hair for drugs. Whip, who has just finished dumping out all his booze, confidently says, “No problem,” and asks when are they going to take the samples. Hugh, the lawyer, explains that they already took the samples at the crash site and that it indicated a very elevated blood alcohol level. So Whip is facing manslaughter charges and jail time. The lawyer defends Whip in order to defend the airline. He intends to argue that the crash was an act of God and therefore the airline and the pilot bear no responsibility.

It was no “act of God” that doomed this flight. The plane was destined to crash. Nor could the most sober, awake pilot have prevented the crash. This flight was doomed by the airline itself. A screw in the tail-section was stripped but never replaced, causing the plane to lock in a dive.

As part of the NTSB investigation, experienced pilots try landing in a simulator with the same malfunction – all fail and in the simulation, everyone dies. Whip’s landing was successful because he compensated for the downward locked position of the tail flap by flying the plane upside down. This allowed the plane to level off for a more controlled crash, after the pilot put the plane right side up. He also dumped the fuel before crashing. His actions saved 96 lives. The NTSB knows this plane was doomed. Still they want to blame the pilot – which is the way the NTSB works to protect the company.

What is really upside down in this film is that Whip gets jail time and the company gets ... the movie never says. Of course, it’s not OK to fly drunk. Whip Whitaker may have been a broken man, but he was definitely, without question, flying a broken plane.

Baltimore and D.C. Utilities Rate Hogs

Dec 10, 2012

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. wants to raise rates – around $6.62 per month more for electricity and $4.26 more for gas for the average customer. Only two and a half years ago, BGE already raised rates by $1.34 for electricity and 85 cents for natural gas. Meanwhile, in the Washington, D.C. area, Pepco wants $2 more from electricity customers, after already raising rates by $2 in July! The cost of energy has gone way down in the last two years. So why the rate increase?

Here’s where the money from rate increases goes: The CEO of BGE's parent company was paid 17 million dollars in 2011, 11% more than in 2010. Pepco’s CEO was paid seven million dollars in 2011, and the CFO got three million dollars!

It’s time to stop this power play!

Michigan Legislators Attack Women

Dec 10, 2012

Michigan state legislators have already voted to limit a woman’s right to abortion in Michigan. The legislation shot through both houses of state government attached to bills regarding Blue Cross Blue Shield’s business structure. The attached amendment to make abortion coverage available to women only through supplemental policies was added as a last minute rider that would apply to other insurance carriers as well. It is ready for signing into law by Governor Snyder.

Today, around 80% of health care policies in the state cover abortion. The law would not just prevent women who have an unwanted pregnancy from having an abortion paid for under their current policy. It would also apply to women who have problem pregnancies and have to abort fetuses late in pregnancy for complications that threaten the mother’s life or prevent the fetus from being born alive or surviving after birth. These types of abortions are tremendously expensive and not within the financial reach of most women. After the new laws, in order for any abortion to be paid for, it would have to be under a policy or rider separate from the regular insurance coverage. And most likely, it would have to be paid for by the woman herself.

Another similar piece of legislation was passed by the Senate and will continue through the House. This set of three bills will do the same thing for the future purchase of health care policies on the upcoming state health care exchange.

A third set of bills would allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions.

These bills are a horrific attack on women and a woman’s right to control her own body. While right wing politicians and their supporters targeted abortion clinics and doctors for attack, these so-called “representatives” of the Michigan legislature are accomplishing the same goal by preventing a woman from being able to secure a safe, affordable abortion.

Michigan:
Lame Duck Attack

Dec 10, 2012

State legislators in the Michigan House and Senate have gone on a rampage in this end-of-the-year “lame duck” series of sessions. They have been passing any and every reactionary, power-grabbing bill they ever dreamed of. And “to hell with what the people think or need” has been their motto.

The citizens of Michigan just voted down the Emergency Manager proposal touted by Governor Snyder as Ballot Proposal #1. “So what?!” the legislators shouted, and passed a new one!

Then there is the Right to Work legislation. “A way to reduce workers’ wages and benefits by breaking unions? Great!” they said, and put that in the Shopper’s Cart.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan bills, with their potential to give flexibility to major health care capitalist concerns to raise rates and limit coverage, shot through both houses.

Add to that proposals to deny tax revenue to municipalities, to townships, to cities; add to that proposals to force poor children into so-called “super districts” for schooling along the path of charter schools that are already failing. The list goes on and on....

So much for this so-called democratic process that only works AGAINST the workers!

We Are “Entitled” to Decent Jobs, Wages!

Dec 10, 2012

Detroit mayor Dave Bing recently said on national television that workers have a sense of “entitlement.” He basically said that workers should feel lucky if they have a job and they shouldn’t worry about little things like having a living wage and benefits for your family!

So it came as no surprise on December 8 when Bing said he wants to lay off 400-500 city workers and hopes to impose unpaid furlough days on hundreds more.

Bing openly says what is the attitude of politicians and corporate bosses today. They think we are nothing but slaves in their system.

But you know what, if all the politicians like Bing disappeared, all city workers could still do all the work to keep their cities running. And if all the corporate bosses disappeared, workers could still keep their factories running and build the products that we build every day. They need us; we don’t need them.

And the sooner we make them understand that, the better.

Pages 4-5

The Banks Are Strangling the Cities

Dec 10, 2012

Every day we hear intricate details about corruption in the city of Detroit under the administration of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Probably there was corruption.

But ex-mayor Kilpatrick certainly did not invent government corruption. Corruption in government has gone on for a long time, and don't anyone believe that it happens only in Detroit. It goes on in every major city.

But the corruption that makes the news is nothing compared to the real corruption going on, the plundering of every big city by big corporations and the banks. Detroiters might ask, for example, why Compuware chief Peter Karmanos, Quicken Loans head Dan Gilbert, racing magnate Roger Penske, and chemical company executive Jim Nicholson handed Kilpatrick $150,000 to go away to Dallas. It's because they were some of the biggest beneficiaries of the corruption that is destroying the city. Karmanos and Compuware got the land its new headquarters sits on from the city for $1 plus 70 million dollars in tax breaks from the city. Dan Gilbert and Quicken Loans got a 1.25-million-dollar subsidy from the city for a parking structure and 47.2 million dollars from the State in tax credits (MEGA). Penske got to tear up some of the nicest areas of Belle Isle for his Grand Prix racecourse. Nicholson's company PVS Chemicals got a 13-million-dollar contract in 2011 from the city water department.

The Big Thieves

Let's talk about some of the even bigger recipients of tax breaks and subsidies from the city of Detroit. General Motors, for example, got 250 million dollars from the city in 1980 to acquire land and provide infrastructure for its Poletown plant, plus a 50% tax abatement for 12 years. GM promised 6,000 jobs there. As of two years ago, it employed 1,200.

In 1996, GM was stuck in an old dilapidated building on West Grand Boulevard. GM wanted to move into new headquarters, but it didn’t want to pay what it would have cost. At the same time, Ford was stuck in the Renaissance Center, for which it had been given huge tax breaks in 1977. But the tax breaks had run out, the building wasn’t nearly occupied, and it was draining money from Ford. Ford wanted out.

The state and the city combined to rescue both of them. They gave GM a new modern headquarters in the RenCen, for which it paid next to nothing. They paid Ford for getting out of the RenCen, letting Ford go back to its Dearborn headquarters, which also had a lot of empty space.

And who took GM’s old headquarters? The state did! And it paid GM directly and indirectly to do it. The city chimed in with tax breaks all around, including for the realty company that actually bought up GM’s old building. What a great deal for everyone – except for the people of Detroit, who have to cover the cost.

GM received an additional 15 to 20 million dollars in 2010 for supposedly "keeping" 2,000 jobs in the Renaissance Center.

The city gave Chrysler 380 acres of land for its Jefferson North Plant, after the city pushed out residents from the area. How many millions of dollars are 380 acres worth? And before handing the land over, the city paid to get rid of the pollution from sites like Budd Wheel, which was an enormous undertaking.

Billionaires Max Fisher and Al Taubman received a 100% tax break totaling more than four million dollars for real estate development along the riverfront. Peter Cummings, Fisher’s son-in-law, got paid for selling the development when it was about to go under – to another developer who got more tax breaks.

Cummings also got land the city had cleared of poor people who lived there. Cummings had been putting together a big portfolio of land, based on inside information concerning the city’s future plans for development – in the Woodward corridor running from the Fisher freeway up to Warren Avenue. He got the land cheap as the city pushed people out. Then land values went up in those areas when the Detroit Symphony Orchestra built a big new office building, a high school for the performing arts and other structures nearby. To do it, the symphony went deep in debt, from which it has never recovered. But the expansion that its debt funded was a magnet to attract new residents to the area, raising the value of Cummings’ own real estate holdings, including a high rise apartment building. And guess who helped the symphony structure all its debts in a very creative way – debts that soon backfired: none other than Cummings himself.

Part of that land is where Whole Foods is going in. Cummings is getting another four million dollar tax break for that.

The city also paid 50 million dollars to acquire land for the casinos while Dennis Archer was mayor. In addition, it paid 189 million dollars to provide Mike Ilitch with the land where Comerica Park sits, and another 215 million dollars for the land for the Ford family’s football stadium.

American Axle received five million dollars in tax breaks from the city more than 10 years to build its headquarters. It has since closed its plant in Hamtramck and moved production to its plant in Three Rivers, Michigan where it imposed three-tier wages – and, to Mexico.

The city actually paid Blue Cross, which already is tax-exempt, 35 million dollars for moving into and "refurbishing" two towers of the RenCen. In the end, that’s also more money going to GM, which owns the towers Blue Cross is leasing.

Someone else who made a lot of bucks off of the city were real estate speculators, who have bought land cheaply, often from tax auctions for a portion of the taxes owed – people like Matty Moroun, who are given advance info on new projects the city is preparing. Their land holdings then become valuable because of the tax breaks the city gives people and businesses.

A 30-Year “Perfect Storm”

The federal and state governments have cut revenue sharing to cities like Detroit, in order to free up more money for the corporations. The city of Detroit lost much more than 220 million dollars in revenue sharing. Then, with the economic crisis, the city’s income tax revenues went down. Finally, given what the city has done in clearing out whole areas and making other areas uninhabitable, it has pushed people to move out of the city, causing property tax revenues to go down. And the property tax breaks it has given in the areas being gentrified mean revenues go down even more.

The Financial Vultures Swoop Down

It’s under these circumstances that the banks see the city as the perfect victim, and show themselves to be the vultures and predators that they really are. They step in at this point with all kinds of “creative financing measures.” Such was the case in 2005, when UBS, formerly known as the United Bank of Switzerland, proposed that the Kilpatrick administration borrow money from UBS against the city’s pension fund. They proposed the city borrow money at a 4% variable interest rate, and led the city to assume they would earn an 8% rate of return on their investments, so the city could make more than it paid out. It was a gamble, and it turned out to be a stupid one. The city lost money on the deal. Because of conditions written into the deal, what the city had to pay to UBS went up from 1.2 billion dollars to 2 billion, when the deal went sour.

As part of this deal, another bank, US Bancorp, was made the trustee for handling Detroit's debt payment to UBS. For its “services,” it gets a hefty fee, and is responsible for seeing that all state revenue-sharing money to Detroit and all of Detroit’s casino taxes go to pay UBS – for the next 20 years.

The city’s water department entered into another complicated loan deal, technically referred to as an “interest rate swap.” The banks pretended the deal would save the department money. It didn't, so in June, the department paid the banks more than 500 million dollars to get out of the deal before it lost even more money – on top of what it still owed.

To pay these outrageous debts to the banks, the city had to borrow more money. Another bank, JPMorgan Chase, was happy to help out. It made 7.8 million dollars in fees for helping the water department issue new bonds to raise money.

There is one final actor in this disaster: bond ratings agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch. These agencies, which are themselves owned by or controlled by big corporations, a few billionaire investors, and the big banks, kept lowering the city’s bond rating.

Every time the ratings agencies lowered the rating, it meant the city had to pay out even more money. And then, having helped drain the city of money, when the city tried to resist one of these torturous loan deals, the ratings agencies sent representatives to appear before the city council to threaten the city with lowering the city’s ratings even further! That happened in 2005. Even though the city accepted the deal, that hasn’t stopped this gang of thieves from lowering the city’s ratings anyway.

Together these thieves have driven the city further and further into debt. The city’s total long-term obligations have more than doubled from just under five billion dollars in 2002 to more than ten billion in 2011. In the words of Woody Guthrie, “some will rob you with a six-gun, and some with a fountain pen.”

Making the Population Pay

In this situation, in order to keep bailing out big business, the city has been progressively cutting services like public lighting, buses, police and fire protection, EMS, and health centers and clinics. They’ve made the city uninhabitable for the population in large sections of the city. It’s not only in Detroit. In September, a 10-year-old boy in Southfield died from an asthma attack. It took EMS 40 minutes to get to the boy’s house and by that time it was too late. The Southfield fire department said it did not have manpower available because firefighters were busy responding to a fire at the time.

City politicians, along with state politicians, have already imposed 10% wage cuts on city workers and begun layoffs. The city proposed to close its rec centers, but when the public protested, the city found a way to supposedly "keep them open," but with their staffs drastically cut back. Those who remain on the job are trying to do the work of several people, all the while trying to maintain the centers and keep them secure.

These are just the most recent cuts. They come after decades of similar cuts.

The politicians and the media blame the city’s budget crisis on the population leaving the city, thereby reducing income and property tax revenues. In effect, they’re blaming the population. In reality, the city is driving people out with cuts.

The politicians are also using the deteriorating condition of services as an excuse to privatize them. They’re proposing to privatize both the health department and the public lighting system. The water department is using its financial situation as a pretext to threaten its workers with a cut in the workforce of 80 per cent and outsource much of the work.

If anyone thinks this is only happening to Detroit, they're living in a dream world. Cities like New Orleans and Pittsburgh have gone through some of the same mess in the early post-2000 years. More recently Jefferson County, Alabama, which is home to Birmingham, was forced to declare bankruptcy, as did Harrisburg, PA, and three cities in California – Stockton, San Bernardino, and Mammoth Lakes.

Do they say there's no money to pay workers a decent wage and allow them to have a pension and health care when they retire? Not true! Look at all the money that's been drained from the cities by the blood-sucking banks and corporations.

Not one tax break to big business! It's not small businesses, like the Mom and Pop stores, that benefit from the tax breaks. Mom and Pop are paying the taxes so that the stadiums, GM, Compuware, American Axle, and Blue Cross can get out of their obligations.

Yes, there is money, but it has to be taken back from the people who stole it. Of course, none of the politicians are going to take back that money. It has to be the goal of people when they fight. That could happen if workers strike and their example gets picked up by other workers. A section of workers from the water department, members of AFSCME local 207, recently stood up to the attempts of the department to outsource their jobs and went out on strike. The city threatened them with firings, but the strikers managed to force the city to take them back and do what it said it didn’t have to do – negotiate those issues.

It’s only one strike, and we don’t know if other workers will take up the fight the water department workers started, and those workers alone can’t do much, but it’s important. It’s happened often enough that a strike like this has provided the spark that started a larger movement.

Wouldn't it be a shame if such a movement did erupt and workers settled for simply improving their own wages and benefits, but left the same setup in place? The fights in the future need to force the issue. Workers need to insist to the politicians: “The banks and the corporations are responsible for the city’s debts. Get the money from them! And if they won’t pay it, expropriate it!”

Pages 6-7

Egypt:
Has the Dictatorship Returned?

Dec 10, 2012

On November 22nd, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi granted himself new powers, in particular, preventing the judiciary from any control over the head of state – himself. Less than two years after the fall of Mubarak, Morsi has taken executive and legislative power in his hands. Morsi is like a new dictator, which the majority of Egyptians had hoped to be rid of.

After Morsi’s announcement, there were demonstrations: anti-Morsi Egyptians clashed with Muslim Brotherhood militants and the even more fundamentalist Salafists. In attacks by police on demonstrators, seven people have died and hundreds have been wounded.

Although Morsi then said he would reduce the impact of his new powers, the rallies against him have not ended. On November 27th, thousands of anti-Morsi demonstrators went from the Cairo suburbs to Tahrir Square, crying “Bread, Freedom and Down with the Constituent Assembly.” (This assembly is totally subservient to the president and the two Islamic political parties.)

At the same time, the International Monetary Fund announced that 4.8 billion dollars in aid would be given to Egypt, on the condition that it revised the 2012-2013 budget – meaning it would tax Egyptians more and cut expenditures. Such conditions could really hurt millions of Egyptians. Already a large percent of 18 to 30 year olds are unemployed. Men continue to work 12 hours a day in a Cairo brick factory for $11 a day. To keep their families alive, people take all sorts of little jobs. If subsidies are cut on bread, the poor may starve. If living conditions get worse, it may provoke deep anger in those who believed after the Egyptian “spring” that their lives would change.

A year and a half after the revolts, those in power intend to reestablish an Egypt for the benefit of the wealthy and their imperialist protectors. Clearly, a great part of the population isn’t ready to accept this.

Water Main Breaks:
Don’t Hold Your Breath

Dec 10, 2012

Since July, Baltimore City has had four major water main breaks, at Light Street downtown, the sink hole on Monument St. near Johns Hopkins Hospital, on Charles Street at North Avenue in November and the latest on East Madison downtown. Traffic jams on these main streets were horrendous. The sink hole still needs more work.

But it’s hardly a surprise since the water pipes in Baltimore are very old. In some places, there are pipes more than 100 years old.

City officials admitted repairs are not moving fast enough. Their big announcement was that they would “speed up” repairs was that they would increase the rate of replacement of old pipes from five miles a year to 40 miles a year.

At that rate it will take 95 years to replace 3,800 miles of water pipes around the city!

Bangladesh:
Angry Workers Protest 112 Deaths

Dec 10, 2012

In Dacca, the capital of Bangladesh, demonstrations have grown to thousands following the Tazreen Fashions textile factory fire that killed 112 garment workers on November 24. Demonstrators demanded that fire safety procedures in the country’s 4,500 textile factories be respected. Officials have admitted that at least a third of the textile factories inspected have safety violations. At least 700 Bangladesh workers have died in factory fires over the last six years.

And that’s not all the workers have protested. In strikes and demonstrations over the last few months, workers have demanded better wages. Right now their monthly wage is $52. The bosses’ association has enough fear of the textile workers’ anger that they announced compensation to the families of the fire victims at Tazreen, worth two years of their salaries.

Three managers of the Tazreen factory currently sit in jail awaiting trial. But greedy Bangladesh bosses are hardly the only ones to bear responsibility. These garment factories – the most important industry in Bangladesh – are subcontractors to companies in the rich countries. They are actually sub-contractors for merchandise going to Walmart, Nike, Sears and Disney, to name a few U.S. corporations.

Walmart was quick to deny responsibility, claiming a sub-contractor used Bangladesh factories without their authorization. A labor organizer released documents to The New York Times that showed five of Tazreen’s 14 production lines made apparel for Walmart.

A meeting was supposedly held at the factory in 2011 in which a Walmart official said, “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments.” This Walmart employee was referring to improvements in electrical and fire safety in Bangladesh factories.

Audits are carried out on behalf of these major corporations, supposedly to pressure contractors in the poorer countries of the world to act in a way that keeps their work force safe. Instead, the sub-contracting of work for rich country corporations leads to miserable working conditions and even death for workers in poor countries.

Palestine:
U.N. Admission and Netanyahu’s Attacks

Dec 10, 2012

On November 29th, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, went to the General Assembly of the U.N. and asked for member status. That body voted with138 for, nine against and 41 abstentions to give the Palestinian Authority observer status.

The votes against included Israel, the U.S. and Canada, and some very tiny island nations. France voted for, Britain and Germany abstained.

Getting observer status won’t miraculously give the Palestinian state rights to land that Israel contests. But recognition gives it the right to join U.N. agencies, and to appeal to the International Criminal Court about Israel’s permanent aggression against it. Despite the limitations, it’s obviously a moral victory for the Palestinian population.

The Israeli state understood this message. After declaring that U.N. recognition won’t change anything in the concrete reality for Palestinians in the occupied territories and Gaza, Israeli officials immediately declared retaliatory measures against the Palestinian Authority and, in reality, against the population.

The Israeli prime minister also announced the extension of Israeli settlements, in particular in the so-called “sensitive” zone around Jerusalem. These settlements encroach a little more on the land reserved for the Palestinians and make it more difficult to establish a Palestinian state from East Jerusalem to the West Bank. Israel announced other reprisal measures, including seizing taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority, so its employees won’t get paid.

The arrogance of the Israeli leaders is undoubtedly tied in part to the upcoming legislative elections and the pressure from Netanyahu’s far right allies. But this isn’t new. For decades, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has led it to treat Palestinians as prisoners in their own country, with the total complicity of all the great powers. The U.S. is very happy to have a state in the region totally devoted to its interests. But the European leaders, for their part, while officially saying they are for the right of the Palestinians to a state, continue to develop profitable trade relations with Israel, including in the settlements they have criticized.

In fact, the great powers continue to support Israel in its denial of Palestinian rights. No one can be surprised that Netanyahu continues his provocations and murderous offensives.

Page 8

Pretending to Tax the Rich – But Cutting Social Security

Dec 10, 2012

The Democrats and Republicans pretend to be feuding over taxes on the wealthy. The Democrats say, “tax the wealthy,” the Republicans say, “No!”

It’s nothing but a cheap soap opera – trying to draw attention away from the budget deals being cut right now behind closed doors.

Yes, the wealthy should be taxed more, much more. Since 1963, their taxes have been cut five times. The top tax rate today is less than one third of what it was in 1963.

Taxes on corporate profits have been cut even more. In the early ‘50s, big companies paid more than 30 per cent of all taxes. Today, they pay less than 10 per cent.

We make up the difference. Our income taxes have gone up because the rates ordinary people pay have not been indexed to inflation. Over time, we all get pushed into a higher bracket. And we pay more in Social Security taxes. The Social Security tax rate increased 22 times since 1950 — today it is almost six times higher than what it was then.

Yes, taxes should be reformed. But a real reform would lower our taxes back down to where they were decades ago — and increase taxes on the wealthy and the corporations back up to where they once were.

But that’s not what Democrats or Republicans are talking about today. Not nearly.

They may push up the rate on the wealthy a very, very tiny bit. But so what? The wealthy never pay the tax rate they’re supposed to pay anyway.

When all the smoke has cleared, after all the back room deals are cut, we’ll discover that all the talk about taxing the wealthy is only a smokescreen to hide the real aims of this budget deal: wringing much more money out of Social Security, out of Medicare, out of road construction and the Post Office; and reducing money going to social programs, public services, health and safety inspections, and education.

The two parties are searching for still more money in the government budget to hand over to the banks and the rest of the capitalist class.

The election is over. Both parties are showing their fangs. They’re nothing but a pack of werewolves!

Corporations Feed at the Local Public Trough

Dec 10, 2012

State and local governments hand out more than 80 billion dollars in tax breaks to corporations, according to a report by the New York Times. And the Times admits that’s an underestimate.

The report found that 48 companies received more than 100 million dollars from state governments alone since 2007. Among the biggest moochers were the auto companies GM, Ford, and Chrysler and other large corporations like Shell Oil, General Electric, Boeing, Amazon, Microsoft and Dow Chemical.

The State of Texas gave out the most, $759 for each state resident; Michigan was not far behind with $672 per person.

State and local governments continue to dole out these massive subsidies with one hand, while they cut services and raise taxes on everyone else with the other – to the tune of 150 billion dollars in cuts and tax increases by state governments last year alone.

The report by the Times simply confirms what many people already know. By pitting city against city, state against state, the corporations get billions for the promise of jobs that mostly never materialize – while governments, run by Democrats and Republicans, cut jobs, reduce social services, allow infrastructure to rot, and raise taxes on working people.

U.S. Bank Profits Near Record High

Dec 10, 2012

U.S. banks recorded nearly 38 billion dollars in profits during the third quarter of 2012, up 6.6 percent from the same period in 2011. The top one to two percent of all banks got most of these soaring profits – 82 percent of them. If bank profits remain at this level or higher for a year, they will exceed the record set in 2006, before the housing bubble burst.

It’s not surprising that bank profits are so high. The government has been bailing them out ever since the start of the financial and economic collapse that they triggered. The government is continuing to buy up bad mortgage loans the banks made that created the housing bubble. And it is lending them all the money they want at extremely low rates, which they are taking and lending out at much higher rates – some of it right back to the government.

Working people here and around the world are paying for all these handouts. Public services and social programs are being shredded to pay off the money the government is borrowing – from the banks – in order to continue to bail them out.

With help like this, how could their profits not go up?

“Right to Work” Is a Lie

Dec 10, 2012

Promoters of “right to work” laws all push one idea: that “right to work” is somehow connected to creating jobs. They are liars, well-paid liars.

There are more than 800,000 unemployed workers in Michigan. About 256,000 have lost their jobs within the last six months. All the rest have been unemployed more than six months, including about 375,000 who have lost hope and given up looking. If a “right to work” meant anything, these 800,000 workers would have jobs as soon as the bill passes!

But, no such thing. “Right to work” in a billionaire’s mind means, “I want the right to work you however I want.” Or to leave you just as jobless as you were.

It Takes One to Know One

Dec 10, 2012

After Michigan’s governor Snyder did a 180 and said he would sign a “right-to-work” bill, the president of the United Auto Workers, Bob King, was interviewed about it. King said that Snyder “didn’t have the strength of character to say no to the right-wing forces.”

Bob King himself has never been able to say no to concessions demanded by auto bosses. No wonder he understands the governor’s problem!