Feb 18, 2013
To hear President Obama’s State of the Union speech it would appear that we are all on an upward path. He stated, “Together, we have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger.”
But for workers living in the heart of this nightmare of lost jobs, lost homes and ruined communities, this statement rings false. What is he talking about? Why is he saying this? It sounds very presidential, but it is patently untrue.
We are in the midst of a seemingly unending crisis. The recession that began at least five years ago has lingered unremittingly; the authorities and experts have the audacity to call it a “jobless recovery.” How can you speak of real recovery in a situation where almost 8 percent of the working class is unemployed with millions of others working for poverty wages?
The President’s speech touched on many, many aspects of the current situation. And, unlike many politicians, he is not afraid to describe the problems we face, sometimes in great detail. But the answers are not there, not in his speech, and certainly not in the plan that he puts forward for the future.
“A growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs – that must be our North Star,” he says and infers that “we” can make this happen. But the “we” Obama represents is not creating good middle-class jobs: far from it. The capitalist class is slashing jobs and replacing them with lower paying, no benefit, far-from-middle class ones. To infer that raising minimum wage to nine dollars per hour will lift millions from poverty is dishonest at best. First of all, the bosses are not hiring. Secondly, nine dollars an hour is not a livable wage.
On immigration, he puts forward a reactionary policy that makes it harder, not easier, for non-documented workers to ever have an equal footing here. They might reach citizenship in one or two decades, but in the immediate future, these workers will be constantly under the gun, in fear of deportation for crossing their employer in the slightest way.
On the war, he speaks of removing 34,000 troops from Afghanistan – only half the current troop level – nearly two years from now. In other words, he plans to continue the same troop levels for two more years, and the war WILL continue after that.
Protections from the violence of assault weapons? Protections from global warming? The answers are nowhere in sight. And in fact, promises to work on these problems into the future hide the policies that today allow the capitalist class to further pollute, further profit from the sale of assault weapons.
In fact, the speech was an expertly fabricated web of lies designed to placate a population that is more and more angry, more and more unable to stay above water. Raising the minimum wage and providing for early childhood education are nice-sounding solutions for Obama’s liberal supporters – but he knows they will never be passed, not with this Congress. If he had really wanted them passed, he’d have pushed them in his first two years, when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress!
In fact, even as Obama throws out these meaningless liberal tidbits, he continues to talk about the need to “cut the debt”. In other words, cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are still very much on the table for this president.
We cannot afford the luxury of being put to sleep by a warm and comfortable bedtime story. If the working class is ever to see a day when full employment; decent education; decent wages; and protection from pollution, from destructive climate change and from violence come true – it will be because it begins to struggle for its own agenda, build its own party, find its own leadership.
There IS wealth within this society that can be used to address all of our needs, wealth that we created. That wealth has been stolen from us and hoarded by the capitalist class, with help from Obama and all the politicians.
There is wealth – but we will need to take it back.