The Spark

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

Issue no. 994 — August 31 - September 14, 2015

Editorial:
Trillions for Financial Parasites, Pennies for Our Safety

Aug 31, 2015

What has the government done to improve its ability to protect the population from natural disasters since Katrina? Very little. It just didn’t spend the money.

But over the same period, the government found trillions of dollars to hand over to the banks and other financial parasites that caused the economic crisis of 2008.

If New Orleans were to be hit by another strong hurricane, the same levees could give out or be bypassed. The same low-lying black working class areas, hard hit the first time and not well improved since then, could be inundated all over again. There still is no public transit which the population could use if it had to evacuate quickly. There isn’t more hospital space. In other words, a new natural disaster would quickly turn into another social catastrophe.

And it’s not just New Orleans. The bridge over the Mississippi river that collapsed seven years ago killing 13 people was replaced by a bridge that is already deteriorating. It has concrete pillars beset by cracks, wide stretches of rust on metal works, a drainage pipe dangling from the understructure. The authorities tell us the replacement bridge won’t collapse, but neither did they predict the first collapse. In any case, there is one thing we do know: big companies construct bridges not to be as safe as possible, but to draw as much profits out of the construction contracts as possible.

All over the country, there are substandard bridges – one in nine is ranked “structurally deficient” today. Seventy-six billion dollars needs to be spent right now just to redo these bridges in critical shape before another one of them collapses. There are more than 4,000 critically deficient dams. The country has 100,000 miles of levees, touching all fifty states, and most of them have never even been inspected. No one even knows what risks of catastrophic flooding exist – but the population has lived through the results, not only in New Orleans, but all up and down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers every spring. And just this past spring, a dam almost collapsed near Dallas, Texas, threatening hundreds of thousands of people.

Wastewater and storm drainage systems, roads, railroad crossings, public transit, drinking water – you name it, it needs fixing.

But while the government has let the infrastructure rot, it has found trillions to hand to the banks and big corporations. It found at least two trillion dollars to bail out the banks and speculators in just the first two years after the 2008 financial collapse. That’s trillion, with a “t.” That’s two thousand billion dollars given to those parasites. And since then, it has continued to hand them money in many different ways.

A small fraction of that money could have fixed every bridge and tunnel, every levee and water system in the country. It could have built roads and public transportation systems in many cities. And in doing so, it would have created jobs. But that’s not how capitalism works.

When the money of the financial parasites was threatened in 2008, the government found all that the banks could possibly want. For them, that was a real crisis because it threatened profits. And ever since then, the government has been pouring more money at those same banks, that same financial system.

But when Katrina killed 1800 people and destroyed a large section of a major city, the government couldn’t find the money to make sure it never happened again.

What kind of backward system is it that we live under? Capitalism has money to burn, but none to spend on what is necessary for the population.

Capitalism has always put the needs of the population after the need to amass profit. But everything in this world eventually grows old and gets more decrepit – and capitalism has long been one of those old decrepit things. Far past its prime, it should have been put into the grave long ago.

Pages 2-3

L. A.:
Billionaires Push for More Charter Schools

Aug 31, 2015

Real estate billionaire Eli Broad and the Waltons, the billionaire owners of Walmart, are pushing for more charter schools in Los Angeles, along with Bill Gates, owner of Microsoft. These billionaires have been pouring millions of dollars into every election in order to get charter supporters on the L.A. School Board.

Their goal is to open up public education – the taxpayer money allocated for public education, that is – to private interests for profit. Charter schools are a way to do that, because charter schools are funded by public school boards, while being operated by private companies. Most charter schools are non-union, and they typically hire only young, inexperienced teachers who get paid less. Many of the charter school teachers come from Teach for America, an organization that recruits recent college graduates for two-year teaching contracts, typically after a three-week “training.”

Backers of charter schools target working-class neighborhoods, where public schools have a long history of short-changing children. With 207 charter schools, the Los Angeles school district already has more charter schools than any other district in the U.S. Currently, one in every six students in L.A. Unified, more than 100,000, are enrolled in charter schools.

Public education money given to charter schools is money cut from the public schools themselves. Fortunately, charter schools have been unable to capture solid support from parents of students. In L.A. districts, voters have often rejected candidates who openly advocate for charter schools.

Baltimore:
Lead Paint Scam

Aug 31, 2015

After years of lawsuits and protests, the state of Maryland set terms for lead paint settlements against landlords who had rented out houses and apartments contaminated with lead paint. Lead paint can do severe mental and physical damage, especially to young children who eat the paint chips.

The settlements ranged into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but they are paid out over many years in much smaller amounts. The insurance industry claims it has paid out 350 billion dollars in lead paint settlements since 1975. But in recent years there are dozens of firms who buy up these settlements for pennies on the dollar.

One such company has been taking advantage of Maryland lead paint victim families, thanks to one judge who, since 2013, has agreed to these deals, actually scams, 160 times!

Companies like this go on to make enormous profits by bundling the settlements into financial instruments and/or taking in the full amount of settlement payments year after year.

One of the families poisoned by lead paint was that of Freddie Gray, the young man who died in police custody at the end of April. The Gray family had received lead paint settlements, but were now going to sell the settlements in order to get an immediate amount of money. In all the family received $435,000 in settlements, but were selling them for about $54,000 to a financial company to get immediate cash.

It is completely legal to give families 20 cents on the dollar, or even less. A whole judicial and commercial system is showing how the poorest, least educated lead-paint-affected families in Baltimore can be taken advantage of.

New Orleans Charter Schools Are Not as Advertised

Aug 31, 2015

Nearly all of New Orleans’ 128 schools were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The State of Louisiana used the storm as a pretext to take more than 60 of the schools it labeled “failing” and placed 20 schools it deemed “well-performing” in another separate school district.

Nearly all the schools have since been converted to charters and the system has been held up as a model showing the supposed ‘advantages’ of charter schools. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called it “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”

Charter proponents present a range of statistics purporting to prove their point. Only problem is, it’s all lies!

Charter proponents point to rising proficiency scores for elementary and middle school students, but leave out the fact that average scores for high school students on their ACTs remain too low to allow them to enter most 4-year public universities. They leave out the fact that scores for the lower grades are inflated because many disadvantaged students disappear and so aren’t counted, according to Andrea Gabor in the New York Times.

Charter proponents claim the proportion of students attending failing schools has dropped considerably since before Katrina. They leave out the fact that once “failing” schools are converted to charters, many of the former students simply do not “re-enroll” in the newly formed charter.

In fact, it’s nearly impossible to know what has happened to students following conversion of their schools to charters, since no agency has responsibility for keeping track of students under the decentralized charter schools, which are run by many separate charter organizations.

The charter schools actively engage in what is known as “creaming” – selecting or pushing out students based on their scores on standardized tests, which distorts any comparisons to be made before and after conversion of schools to charters. A recent study shows they have continued to do so, even after a lawsuit by the Southern Poverty Law Center forced them to make some changes. The suit on behalf of special education students pointed out the confusion inherent in many separate charter school applications. The suit forced many of the decentralized charters to accept a more uniform application process.

Powerful forces would like to make New Orleans school privatization into a model for the rest of the country. They’re not above lying with statistics to make their point.

Movie Review:
Straight Outta Compton

Aug 31, 2015

Straight Outta Compton tells the story of six members of the rap music group N.W.A. It portrays how half a dozen teenagers in a black working class suburb of Los Angeles became internationally known performers.

The movie is timely given the current protests against police brutality around the country. The violence and disrespect the police show all young black men is on full display through much of the movie. This disrespect is shown as part of daily life for the young band members, inspiring their song, “F___ tha Police” which resonated strongly with many young people. The song became a big hit, in spite of the fact that it could not be played on most radio stations. N.W.A’s lyrics were raw and direct -- they portrayed aspects of some of the life that the young men knew. N.W.A started out at a time when much of hip hop music was political, and their music reflected this trend.

But they were also the first group to popularize “gangster rap,” and their music and the genre soon devolved into focusing on violence, drugs and mistreatment and scorn of women.

The record labels saw there was money to be made, and soon signed the group to a record label – under terms that favored the managers and businesspeople at the expense of the young black performers.

The movie shows Ice Cube, one of the N.W.A members, leaving the group once he figures out how bad their deal is. He goes on to a very successful career, first producing very political solo albums and then writing and acting in movies. Ice Cube helped write the movie and his son does a good job playing him in the film.

The movie portrays well the divisions that arose between members of N.W.A due to their manager Jerry Heller’s attempts to play them one against another. It also shows the tragic downfall of Eazy-E (Eric Wright) who rapped on most of the group’s early records.

Though not for the faint of heart, the film is well worth seeing.

Trump:
Someone for Everyone to Hate

Aug 31, 2015

He has called Mexicans “rapists” and “drug dealers.” He has called women “slobs,” “fat,” and “ugly,” and made it clear he only values them as sex objects. He has made fun of Asians for not speaking English properly. And he tries to come off like an ordinary macho guy, a “straight shooter” about why the economy sucks for ordinary people.

But this pompous hypocrite is no ordinary guy, no straight shooter. He made his billions as one of the top exploiters of workers, including thousands of immigrant women working in his hotels. His racist, sexist lies serve the bosses by encouraging workers to blame each other for the problems the bosses cause. While we’re fighting each other, he’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

D.C. Water Officials Need an Education

Aug 31, 2015

Oh joy, it was the first day of school! Except for students at Thomas Stone Elementary in Brentwood. A 12-inch water main broke on Monday. Authorities finally announced the school closure after 6:30 A.M. on Tuesday. The students didn’t get to go to school that day. But they got a lesson in the falling-apart infrastructure and how it messes things up for people.

Pages 4-5

Revolutionary Fighter Leon Trotsky Was Assassinated 75 Years Ago

Aug 31, 2015

August 20th was the 75th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky. He was attacked by an assassin sent expressly for that purpose by Josef Stalin and died one day later.

A Leader of the Revolution

Leon Trotsky was practically the last of the militants who had prepared for and led the 1917 Russian Revolution, and also of the Bolshevik-Leninists who organized in Russia in the years from 1923 to 1938, in opposition to the bureaucracy that strangled the revolution.

Trotsky was a revolutionary known around the world. Among other things, he was chairman of the St. Petersburg soviet during the 1905 Revolution, afterwards put on trial, condemned to Siberia, but escaped. Like many others, he spent years in exile, returning to Russia with the breaking out of the 1917 Revolution. He organized the insurrection that took power, putting it in the hands of the working class soviets. Alongside Lenin he fought against all those who wanted the revolution to wait. He organized and headed the Red Army, which beat back not only the White Army organized by the old Czarist generals, trying to take power back, but also beat back the armies sent into Russia by all the imperialist powers in the failed attempt to conquer the revolution. Eight countries sent sizeable military forces into Russia, and many more countries sent aid to the White Army of the Czarist regime.

The First Five Years of the Communist International

Trotsky also played, along with Lenin, a leading role in the first five years of the Communist (Third) International. Trotsky, like Lenin and so many other of the Old Bolsheviks, understood that if the revolution did not spread from Russia into other countries, the revolution itself would be strangled. And they worked through the new International to reinforce the parties built up in other countries. But after a number of attempts, the revolution did not succeed anywhere else, although workers held power for several days or weeks in some cities or countries.

Bureaucracy Smothers the State the Workers Created

Even though the forces of the Russian Revolution defeated their enemies in the civil war, the working class, which had done the fighting, had paid a terrible price. The most conscious workers were the ones who volunteered to fight. Many of them were killed in the civil war – close to half a million. Many millions more died as the result of starvation caused by the war and the blockade of the Soviet Union, and by disease, especially typhus, which was widespread. The economy was in ruins.

When the revolution was defeated in other countries, the Soviet Union found itself blockaded, alone and still the focus of capitalist forces around the world, which aimed to strangle it.

In this situation the bureaucracy rapidly grew. It had been there since the period immediately after the Revolution – so many of the “experts” needed to resume the functioning of the country had all the habits of the old regime, and of class societies around the world. But with the devastation wrought on the country by all the ills attendant on the civil war, the bureaucracy really expanded.

The Bolshevik-Leninists Organize to Defend the Workers State

An opposition to that bureaucracy grew up, calling themselves the Bolshevik-Leninists. Lenin had begun to make a fight against the growing bureaucratism and some of its policies, but Lenin was pushed to the side of political life in Soviet Russia by a series of strokes that hit him starting in May 1922, ending with his death in January 1924. With the exception of a very few weeks, he was nearly paralyzed, and finally unable even to speak. It was obvious from the last things he dictated and his proposal to Trotsky to take up the fight jointly with him that he was preparing to make a fight against the growing bureaucracy, and against Stalin, who increasingly sat as its master.

With Lenin sidelined, the Opposition grew up around Trotsky, who had been the other acknowledged leader of the October revolution and was even more known as the result of his role in the Civil War.

An Opposition of Tens of Thousands

This movement – the Bolshevik-Leninists – had tens of thousands of militants; it was tied politically to many thousands more sympathizers inside the working class; it came to lead struggles of the Soviet working class. And it did all this even though its militants, for most of its 15-year history, were forced to function clandestinely, even “illegally,” just as the Bolshevik party had once functioned clandestinely during most of the 15 years of its existence before it led the struggle for power in 1917.

What came finally to be called Trotskyism developed out of a struggle carried out inside the Communist party of the Soviet Union, that is, the Bolshevik party, and inside the Communist International, which the Bolsheviks had worked to create after taking power inside Russia. It was a fight to push back the growing bureaucratization inside Russia, to control the bureaucracy that had grown up inside and imposed itself on top of the new workers state and was suffocating political life inside the party and the International. But the fight that developed into Trotskyism was also the fight to offer a different policy both for the economic problems facing the Soviet Union and for the political problems raised by the social upheavals shaking the rest of the world during this period.

In other words, it was a fight by militants to present themselves as an alternative leadership for the party and the International.

The Fight against the Bureaucracy

This struggle was carried out, in part, by those who were called “old Bolsheviks,” that is, the ones who had taken part in the fights against the regime of the czars before the revolution, many of them going back to the period before the revolution of 1905. The other part to make up this movement were the so-called “youth of October,” the ones pulled into the revolutionary fight of 1917 who then took part in the Civil War of 1918 to 1921, against the armies of the imperialist powers and the White armies. But old or young, all of them were militants. They had all been tested by events, and made proofs of their devotion to the working class. They all had a revolutionary history.

Their fight at the beginning did not aim at building a new party or international, at least not until the events of 1933 in Germany, when the lack of any response by any communist party or by the Communist International proved that those old organizations were irretrievably politically dead. It was a fight to take back the party, and to change its course, to pull it back from a course that was rapidly destroying the workers state.

The fight reached a crescendo coming into the 15th Congress, the meeting of the Communist party in 1927. Immediately before the Congress, Trotsky was expelled from the party. And many others were excluded immediately afterwards. Some parts of the Opposition petitioned immediately to be reinstated into the party, offering to give up all opposition, effectively confessing their “mistakes.”

But the vast number of those who had a revolutionary history continued the fight – they understood if they could hang on long enough, a revolution might well break out in another country, giving the Soviet Union a chance to breathe again.

In the Midst of Repression, the Opposition Develops

Repression was increased against those who remained in opposition. By June of 1928, Stalin declared publicly that 10,000 oppositionists had been excluded from the party. But he also admitted that 20,000 more remained in the party. Both of these figures are credible. The cadres who were banished were sent into colonies of exiles in the far reaches of the Soviet Union; or they were put in “isolators,” that is, places of solitary confinement – or into other prisons, or into the camps that finally ended up being death camps.

Inside this system of repression, the Oppositionists developed their ties with each other, and remade them over and over – shipped from camp to camp. They found means of communicating, of keeping track of each other, of working out their ideas. They developed a common program and attracted others to their flag, and kept alive the tradition of struggle in the working class. And for most of that time, they maintained ties with Trotsky, despite the fact he had been deported outside the Soviet Union in 1929. But even when their ties were finally cut off after 1933, they worked out analyses and policies that were essentially the same, using the same basic approach to confront new problems as they came up. It was the mark of how much they had formed a homogenous set of politics, derived from common struggles, common discussion under all these difficulties.

Forced out of the U.S.S.R.

Trotsky, forced outside the Soviet Union, eventually cut off from all contact with the inside, began to work to build up opposition forces, at first inside the Communist International, then with the goal of building forces around the world, continuing to stand for communism and the fight of the working class to take power.

Ultimately, that is, by the end of 1937-38, the Opposition was mostly destroyed inside the Soviet Union. By 1938, most had either died from the conditions existing in the prison camps where the Stalinist bureaucracy had condemned them, or were killed in the purges starting in the mid-1930s. Those whom Stalin killed in one way or another were the whole leading generation of the Old Bolsheviks who had led the party before, during and after the taking of power. After the purge trials, there was no one but Stalin left alive from the Central Committee that had led the Bolshevik Party when it took power in 1917.

Trotsky Speaks for the Revolution

Trotsky, who had been expelled early, was able to continue speaking for the Opposition, making its voice heard. That is exactly what he did during the few short years of life left to him before he was assassinated in August 1940.

In those few years, with the world facing the obvious catastrophe that would become World War II, he worked with very few forces to establish a new International, the Fourth International. He knew their limits, he knew how little influence they had, but with whatever forces he had, at least he could throw out a lifeline for the future, a program, which was a continuation and development of the program communists had fought under since the days of Marx and Engels.

The struggle of those oppositionists inside the Soviet Union from 1923 to 1938 showed, for those able to see it, that communism does not just mean Stalin. Communism is still the future of humanity, because the struggle of this opposition preserved it for generations to come.

What Trotsky did in the years of life left to him was the culmination of what all of them collectively had done in the whole 15 year period when they built the Opposition. And the gift that he transmitted from them, that is, an analysis of the Russian revolution and of the workers state, an analysis of the reasons why so many of the other revolutionary opportunities were lost, but did not have to be, still makes it obvious that communism is worth fighting for and can be fought for.

And this is our conviction, those of us who have worked to build the SPARK.

Pages 6-7

Ten Years after Katrina, New Orleans Is Not the Same

Aug 31, 2015

Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina set off one of the worst catastrophes in American history. It was not simply a natural disaster, but rather a social one. Every step taken by the government at every level before, during and after the storm stands as a testament to the consequences of placing the interests of the wealthy before the well-being of the working population.

More than 1800 people lost their lives in the flooding caused when the levees protecting the lowest-lying places, which happened to also be the poorest areas of the city, collapsed. More than 200,000 people from the city of New Orleans alone were displaced from their homes.

The flooding and what followed were no accident, but the result of deliberate policies on the part of the local ruling class and its politicians. Corporations and the government carried out commercial and industrial development along the Mississippi River and its delta, ignoring warnings from engineers that it would cause the disappearance of islands and wetlands that protected the city against hurricanes that regularly hit the Gulf Coast.

The worst flooding hit the poorest areas of the city. The working population had been expelled from the French Quarter decades earlier, and most of the neighborhoods where workers and the poor lived were in the lowest-lying areas. Despite 40 years of warnings from scientists and public agencies about the potential for just such a catastrophe, the bosses’ politicians cut spending for flood controls, levees, storm walls and outlets and allowed them to fall into disrepair. The ruling class decided it wasn’t “cost effective” to prepare for a flood that might happen “only” once in 100 years.

No Evacuation Plan

The government’s evacuation “plan” depended solely on residents leaving in their own cars. That was meaningless for the 100,000 city residents who did not own one. There were no buses, no trains that would enable them to leave. Yet this received nary a mention when people in other parts of the country were led to believe people “refused” to evacuate.

There was no plan to evacuate the elderly from nursing homes, the sick from hospitals, or inmates from the prisons. As a result, many were trapped and died in the flooding.

“Protecting” Wealthy Areas

When the flooding hit, the authorities’ goal became simply to keep the poor from entering areas that weren’t flooded – neighborhoods of the wealthy, the French Quarter and the downtown business district. Instead, the police either left people stranded on highway overpasses, or herded survivors to the Superdome and the Convention Center, which quickly became hellholes without sufficient facilities to house people adequately.

Lies about “Looters”

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin jumped in front of TV cameras to raise a hue and cry about criminals looting and running amok. It was all lies. Nagin later claimed it was a desperate attempt to get then-President Bush to send in the military to protect “certain areas of the city.” Unfortunately, very little help of any kind ever came from the federal government to rescue people.

Contrary to the picture the media painted, it was, in fact, the poor who pulled together to rescue most of those trapped in their homes, find food, water and medical supplies, and move the sick.

Who Were the Real Looters?

In the aftermath, the wealthy and the corporations moved to take advantage of the disaster to remake the city for their own aims. A primary example lies in the way they used Hurricane Katrina as an excuse to privatize the schools. Prior to the storm, almost all the public schools in New Orleans were under one school board. Now the city has 44 school boards and 91 per cent of the schools have been turned into charters. This has made the schools worse, not better, but allowed private corporations to profit from them and wages and benefits for teachers to be slashed.

Damages from Hurricane Katrina were estimated at 135 billion dollars. The federal government provided 120 billion dollars in spending on the recovery, but 75 billion went simply for emergency relief, leaving only 45 billion to address actual damages. Much of this went not to rebuild homes for the poor, but to enrich corporations and real estate developers. Marathon Oil got more than 1.1 billion dollars. Exxon got 375 million dollars. Real estate developers received money for buying luxury condos near the University of Alabama football stadium or beachfront luxury homes in Mississippi.

Companies like Bechtel, Halliburton, Kenyon International, and even Carnival Cruise Lines also received hundreds of millions of dollars, often with no-bid contracts that allowed them to write their own tickets.

Little Money for Residents

Tens of thousands of working class, and mainly black, residents of New Orleans have been unable to return to their homes. For those who had insurance on their homes, immediately after the storm the insurance companies refused to pay claims, blaming the damage on the “storm surge,” whatever that means, and not on flooding. What a crock!

When insurance companies did pay, mortgage lenders generally took the money to pay off the previous loans on people’s homes. Yet originally, these insurance payouts were subtracted from the amounts people could receive from funds made available by the federal government, leaving residents with little money for rebuilding. As a result, most people accepted the government’s option to not rebuild.

A Lack of Affordable Housing

This meant, however, people needed to find affordable rental housing. This became considerably more difficult after the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development chose to demolish local public housing projects and replace them with mixed-income communities and provided housing vouchers to the poor. However, only 40 per cent of the newly built apartments offered traditional public housing rents. So, in a city where 55 per cent of residents rent, rent for a two-bedroom apartment has increased by 41% since 2005.

No wonder two-thirds of former residents of the Lower Ninth Ward, a largely black area of New Orleans that was the birthplace to many of the city’s renowned musicians, have not returned.

And who can forget the FEMA trailers that became homes for tens of thousands of displaced residents. The trailers were set up in trailer parks far from where people might find jobs, with little transportation available. The trailers were later found to be contaminated with formaldehyde, a chemical known to cause cancer and breathing problems. Many residents of these trailers ended up homeless and on the streets.

How much of this was “planned” may be in question, but whether planned or simply the consequences of decades of neglect, the outcome is the same. The character of New Orleans has been permanently changed. The tourist areas have been largely rebuilt, though hardly the same as before the storm.

As a Chicago Tribune op-ed piece by Kristen McQueary, wishing for something Katrina-like to come and “clean up” Chicago, indicates, the ruling class looks upon the results of this social disaster as a model for how to transform other large cities.

It all shows the bankruptcy of the capitalist system to provide safe and decent conditions for the majority of the population, and why the system needs to go.

Page 8

Subprime Auto Loan Bubble

Aug 31, 2015

The car companies and banks are burying car buyers under a mountain of debt. The average length of time people are borrowing to pay for a new car is now up to 66 months, or almost six years, according to Experian, a credit reporting company. And many new car loans are for eight, nine and even ten years! This, of course, reflects how much our standard of living has fallen – that we have to go in so much debt just to get transportation.

About 30 per cent of these new car loans are considered “subprime,” and have much higher interest rates. Estimates are that GM and Chrysler are using subprime loans to sell close to half their cars.

This growing debt, especially subprime debt, has helped fuel the car companies’ renaissance. This year they are expected to sell close to 17 million cars, compared to 10.4 million cars in 2009. Meanwhile, the car companies have boosted the average price of a vehicle by more than $5,000 in that same period.

As a result, automakers’ profits in the U.S. have been so large, they have largely offset weakening markets in China and Asia. Last month, Ford reported almost two billion dollar profits over three months, a 44 per cent increase over a year ago. GM reported 1.2 billion dollars in profits, up from just 278 million a year before. And the same goes for all the companies in the auto supply chain.

The banks and finance companies have also fattened their profits on car loans, especially subprime car loans for both new and used cars. Subprime finance companies like GM Financial, Ally Financial (formerly GM’s financial arm, GMAC) and the Blackstone Group’s Exeter Finance have been taking these loans and using them to create financial instruments that they have been reselling – just like Wall Street did in the run-up to the subprime mortgage crisis only a few years ago.

Of course, subprime car loans push millions into debt slavery. Subprime loan buyers are stuck paying interest rates of up to 18 per cent on new cars and 30 per cent on used cars. And the longer the loan, the higher the finance charges. Add up all those charges and the cost of the car doubles or triples. Many workers will keep on making payments for a car long after it has been junked.

Not surprisingly, car buyers have been defaulting on those loans in increasing numbers, with the rate of default almost doubling in just the last three years. But so far the auto lenders have been able to protect themselves by quickly repossessing and reselling the car. Loan companies track the cars through GPS and use automatic cutoff switches to disable them remotely – thus, not only robbing people of the only way they have to get to work, but sometimes disabling the cars in the middle of traffic.

By burying consumers in increasing debt – not only are the capitalists sowing increasing misery, they are also laying the groundwork for a new debt crisis. At the point that defaults increase rapidly, they will flood the car market with unsold cars, which can open up a brutal new economic collapse.

What a wonderful system these companies represent: debt-laden, blood-sucking capitalism.