Nov 19, 2001
Unemployment rose sharply in October, with companies cutting 439,000 private sector jobs. This was the largest monthly job decline in over a quarter of a century.
The politicians and political commentators blamed most of these job losses on the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Of course, this is sheer nonsense. Whatever limited impact that attack had, it did not at change the overall direction of the economy. For over a year, the biggest companies have been announcing mass job cuts. For over a year, the unemployment rate has been rising. Officials now estimate that a new recession began last March, that is six months before September.
When they ask us to blame September 11, they are trying to divert us from seeing the situation as it is.
Take unemployment benefits. The U.S. Labor Department says that 23 state trust funds earmarked for paying out unemployment benefits are in danger of going broke within a year. Three states – Texas, New York and North Dakota – say they may even run out of money within a few short months. And Texas is the worst – no surprise!
These funds are not going broke at the end of a period of high unemployment, such as in the early 1980s. No, this is only the beginning of a period of rising unemployment – with unemployment expected to go much higher.
If these funds are in danger it is because state governments had already been cutting the corporate taxes earmarked for unemployment benefits. State officials admit it. Larry Jones, a spokesman for the Texas Workforce Commission, recently told the Houston Chronicle that the state purposely kept its unemployment fund barely solvent in order to cut corporate taxes.
Governments at all level – federal, state and local – have been steadily cutting all the rest of the social safety net earmarked for the working class and the unemployed as well.
Welfare used to be the last resort for all those who either couldn’t qualify for unemployment benefits, or exhausted their unemployment benefits. But no more. Not only has the government made it almost impossible for the newly unemployed to get onto welfare, it is kicking more and more people off of the welfare rolls – even as unemployment has risen. At the same time, government programs for job training and low income housing, Medicaid and food stamps have all been scaled back drastically. Workers compensation and disability have also been restricted so that many fewer are covered.
State and local governments slashed these programs during the supposed good times, when governments bragged about running large surpluses, and cut business taxes right and left. Now state after state, city after city have suddenly discovered that they are running deficits. Thus, they say, that we have to sacrifice.
This is why the politicians, with the media backing them up, today call on us to come together to sacrifice in the “national interest.” But all the flag-waving and patriotic rhetoric is nothing more than a blind to cover up the fact that WE are being asked to sacrifice so the capitalists can go on accumulating wealth.
Let the politicians wave all the flags they want. We should not join in solidarity with the very people who are leading a war on us here at home. Our concern should be us: not the big oil companies, for whom wars in the Middle East are always fought; not the insurance companies, whose money has been funding the stock market speculation which today threatens the economy; not the airlines, which have been going into debt for years to buy up other companies.
Our concern should be us. Our sacrifices should be made in fights we carry out to improve our lives and the lives of all working people in this country. Our solidarity should lie with our class, the working people of this country who make everything run.