Tag Archives: anti-austerity

STOP THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP TREATY!

We will be posting as often as we can perspectives on the Fast Track Trans-Pacific Partnership, a treaty that will unite global corporations and twelve nations in a unified agreement on trade.  In summary, the aggreement, in the process of formation for many years now, will lock-on more favors to global manufacturers by providing mostly an easier ability to exploit labor markets in Indonesia and southern Asia.  There also exist loopholes around and restrictions to action involving labor rights, environmental concerns and even traditional tariffs to protect goods produced in countries such as the United States.  If you thought the trade with China over the last forty years or so has destroyed American manufacturing and business, just imagine that expanded even more.  Needless to say, labor leaders and groups worldwide are coming out against new global affront to the planet and to working people.

Our first analysis on this issue comes from the Socialist Worker.org:

A treaty to outlaw democracy

Australian socialist Michael Kandelaars explains what’s what we’re learning about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty, in an article published at Red Flag.

Thousands protest in Tokyo against the Trans-Pacific PartnershipThousands protest in Tokyo against the Trans-Pacific Partnership

THE TRANS-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is set to be the largest economic treaty ever signed. It currently involves 12 countries, including Australia, that represent more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP.

Yet it is being negotiated in secret to ensure it is free of any public criticism or scrutiny–so secret that the text of the agreement will be released only four years after the deal has been signed.

How do we know what’s in the agreement? We know parts only because sections of the working documents have been leaked and published by whistleblower website Wikileaks. These leaks have exposed how the rich and powerful are conspiring to make tougher the lives of millions of people across the globe.

On 25 March Wikileaks released the Advanced Investment chapter of the TPP. It details a massive expansion of the rights of the rich and their corporations to rampage across the world.

The most controversial part is the establishment of an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arrangement. This will give “investors” the right to sue governments if they pass laws that impede profits.

A case would not be held in the country that is being sued, but in a special international court with no right of appeal. This not only grants exceptional legal rights to corporations but also erodes the basic right of countries to make their own laws.

An example of how this can be used involves the provincial government of Quebec in Canada. It is currently being sued for $250 million by U.S.-based Lone Pine Resources Inc. over the government’s ban of gas fracking. Lone Pine is not suing primarily for loss of income, but for the loss of future profits expected from fracking. This is being conducted through the ISDS clauses in the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement.

Another important case involves French multinational Veolia, which is suing the Egyptian government under a similar bilateral agreement for increasing the minimum wage. Egypt is also being sued by Indorama Corp. for the nationalization of a textile factory during the 2011 revolution.

To continue reading:  A Treaty to Outlaw Democracy

Advertisements
Tagged ,

How Americans Subsidize Companies that Pay Low Wages

While this article came out on tax day in the Washington Post in response to the national protests for a living wage, the facts still remain relevant until the issue is resolved, so we post the story here.

The facts speak for themselves; workers cannot subsist on the wages paid to most workers in the retail industries, including food service industry.  We have become accustomed to the convenience and abundance of cheap goods and cheap food but at what price? While this article focuses on Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, two the highest profile retail marketers in the country, almost the entire retail sector relies on a business model that passes their payroll cost onto the taxpayer.  Unlike the ideal “free market” of yore where companies compete on their own merits based on their pure wits and abilities, large companies have modeled their business enterprises on how well they can con consumers and con taxpayers into helping them to carry the burden of their cost of doing business — while they keep the profits for themselves.

Americans are spending $153 billion a year to subsidize McDonald’s and Wal-Mart’s low wage workers

How the minimum wage hurts us all.

Image from Wa-Po article, Andrew Burton, Getty Images

By Ken Jacobs

The low wages paid by businesses, including some of the largest and most profitable companies in the U.S. – like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart – are costing taxpayers nearly $153 billion a year.

After decades of wage cuts and health benefit rollbacks, more than half of all state and federal spending on public assistance programs goes to working families who need food stamps, Medicaid, or other support to meet basic needs. Let that sink in — American taxpayers are subsidizing people who work — most of them full-time  (in some case more than full-time) because businesses do not pay a living wage.

Workers like Terrence Wise, a 35-year-old father who works part-time at McDonald’s and Burger King in Kansas City, Mo., and his fiancée Myosha Johnson, a home care worker, are among millions of families in the U.S. who work an average of 38 hours per week but still rely on public assistance. Wise is paid $8.50 an hour at his McDonald’s job and $9 an hour at Burger King. Johnson is paid just above $10 an hour, even after a decade in her field. Wise and Johnson together rely on $240 a month in food stamps to feed their three kids, a cost borne by taxpayers.

The problem of low wages and the accompanying public cost extends far beyond the fast-food industry. Forty-eight percent of home care workers rely on public assistance. In child care, it’s 46 percent. Among part-time college faculty—some of the most highly educated workers in the country—it’s 25 percent.

Ebony Hughes is paid $7.50 an hour as a home care worker in Durham, N.C., and has a second job at a local KFC. While the home care industry has the fastest growing number of jobs in America, these workers are some of the lowest paid in the country – earning, on average, $13,000 a year. To get enough hours to pay the bills, Hughes works from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. But she and her daughter still rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, which I chair, has analyzed state spending for Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and federal spending for those programs as well as food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Keep Reading at the Washington Post: Americans are Spending…

Tagged , , , ,

Right-Sizing the Federal Government

From Mark Fernald

Republicans argue that the Federal government is too big. Democrats
argue that revenues are too low. The fight is over money, but the real
debate is over the size and scope of the government.

Before we line up on one side or the other, we should look at recent
history.

Over the past forty years, federal spending has averaged a little over
20% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When the economy has been strong,
federal spending as a percentage of GDP has dipped below 20%. When the
economy has been weaker, that figure has been several points higher.
[1] <http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Historicals>

During the same forty years, federal revenues have averaged about 18%
of GDP. As a result, the federal government was in deficit for all but
three of those years.

During the Clinton budget years (1994-2001), federal outlays as a
percentage of GDP declined from 21% to 18.2%. During the following
eight Bush budget years (2002-2009), that percentage rose from 19.1%
to 25.2%, as the Great Recession, and spending for two wars and
Medicare drug coverage, all had an effect. (The Obama stimulus
increased spending by 1.5% of GDP.) [2]
<http://www.factcheck.org/2012/06/obamas-spending-inferno-or-not/>

During the Obama budget years that have been completed (2010-2012),
spending as a percentage of GDP was 24.1%, 24.1%, and 22.9%, while
revenues as a percentage of GDP have been 15.1%, 15.4% and 15.8%
(estimate).

As the economy improves, the gap between spending and revenues will
narrow, but there will continue to be a significant gap.

Social Security and Medicare are not part of our current deficit
problem. Revenues for those programs are about equal to spending. As
the retirement of the baby boomers continues, expenses will rise
faster than revenues, and those programs will have to use their
reserves. Medicare is projected to exhaust its reserves and be unable
to pay all its bills in 2024 [3]
<http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/ReportsTrustFunds/downloads/tr2012.pdf>
while Social Security is projected to exhaust its reserves and be
unable to pay full benefits in 2033. [4]
<file://localhost/%255b4%255dhttp/:www.ssa.gov:oact:tr:2012:tr2012.pdf>

By 2040, Medicare costs are projected to increase from 3.7% of GDP to
6% of GDP. Social Security will increase from 4.9% of GDP to 6.4% of
GDP in 2035. [5]
<http://www.nasi.org/learn/socialsecurity/economy-share>

If we are to keep our promises to seniors, the federal budget,
relative to GDP, will have to increase by several percentage points.

Republicans have other ideas. In 2011, every Republican in the Senate
voted for a constitutional amendment that would mandate a balanced
budget, and that would limit federal spending to 18% of GDP. [6]
<http://www.opencongress.org/vote/2011/s/229>
If implemented, this amendment would require huge cuts in Social
Security and Medicare, or huge cuts in everything else, or a cut of
17% across the board–seven times as large as the sequester.

The goal of the Republican Party is to reduce the federal government
to a size we have not seen since before the days of Medicare,
Medicaid, the EPA, food stamps, Head Start, and student loans. Do we
really want to go back to those days?

There are alternatives. Cuts can be made to eliminate federal subsides
for agribusiness, ethanol, and fossil fuels. The defense budget can be
cut by eliminating weapons the Pentagon does not want, and by bringing
home troops that are stationed in countries that no longer need our
military assistance.

On the revenue side, we could eliminate special tax rates for hedge
fund managers and investment income, enact a financial transaction tax
(both to raise revenue and cut speculation in the stock market), and
limit or eliminate deductions for luxuries, such as the mortgage
interest deduction on second homes and mansions.

These changes would reduce the deficit by hundreds of billions of
dollars a year.

Changes are also needed for Social Security and Medicare so that they
can be self-sustaining programs in the long term. A balanced approach
of revenue increases and benefits adjustments makes sense to
many–unless you are a Republican sworn to oppose all tax increases,
which then leaves only benefit cuts.

It’s budget season in Washington. The media will focus on the clash
between the parties. You should look for the alternate visions of the
parties.

Democrats want to gradually decrease spending, and increase revenue,
so that the two balance somewhere near 21% of GDP. Republicans want to
radically change the scope and mission of the federal government,
reducing it to a size not seen in a couple generations.

You get to weigh in again on election day, 2014.

/Mark Fernald was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 2002. He can
be reached at //mark@markfernald.com/ <mailto:mark@markfernald.com>
/. This column, with supporting footnotes, can be found at
//www.markfernald.com/ <http://www.markfernald.com>

Tagged , , ,

Our Phantom Debt Menace

Is the game rigged?

Nick Vazzana

No matter where we look these days, we find an obsession with debt and the deficit. We hear on a daily basis that the deficit will ruin our economy, turn us into Greece and drown our grandchildren in crushing debt. How true is this understanding?

I am not an economist but I was founder and C.E.O. of a successful corporation for over 25 years. From a business point of view, debt is merely an obligation or liability to pay or render something to someone else. A problem emerges when investors lose faith in the debtor’s ability to repay the obligation. A company, similar to a country, sells bonds to provide working capital. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a bad thing for Chinese or European investors to buy U.S Treasury bonds. It demonstrates confidence in our nation’s economy.

Furthermore, the country’s wealthiest 2% tell us that any day now investors will lose faith in America’s ability to pay its bills. They warn of a run on Treasury bonds similar to what happened in Greece and see inflation skyrocketing. These scare tactics fail to recognize that the United States is not Greece and we have many safeguards in place since the Depression of the 1930’s. In addition, we overcame the Great Recession of 2008-9 thanks to a strong Federal Reserve, a competent President and a Congress that actually did its job.

Unlike Greece, we have our own currency and all of our debt, both public and private, is denominated in dollars. These dollars are not backed by gold but the full faith and credit of the Federal Government. Theoretically, our government can never run out of money because currency is physically manufactured on an hourly basis. Most citizens are unaware that currency printing began in 1861 to fund the Civil War and has always kept our economy solvent. This fact of life often leads to the following question: “If the government prints money to pay its bills won’t that lessen the value of the dollar and lead to runaway inflation?”

Economists tell us that when the government prints more money, investors may start to expect higher inflation down the road and this may push down the value of the dollar.
However, if these results do take place that would actually help rather than hurt the U.S. economy, right now. The fear of higher inflation would discourage corporations and families from sitting on cash, while a weaker dollar would make exports more competitive.

Generally speaking, our deficit is the result of higher spending and reduced tax revenue, caused primarily by a drop in personal income and the cost of two wars and necessary social programs. It is ironic that the scare-mongers of the debt menace are the very people who have benefited the most from our existing economic system.

Tagged , , ,

Workers in Chicago Arrested at Protest for Minimum Wage Raise

chicago protesters

In this article from the Chicagoist, workers and protesters demanded that the minimum wage be raise to a living wage level of $15/hour.  As reported below, 21 people were arrested but sympathy among even the arresting cops existed as quoted in the story.

We need more of this action, more everywhere across the country as people are pressed to work for less than what is required to survive.  Contrary to popular opinion and even apparently the opinion of some unions, “protecting the middle class” is not what unions are all about; they also must be about raising living standards for everyone.

The people who serve the middle class — the people who work on weekends, holidays and nights, who turn their hotel sheets, who smile and say “Thank you come again” because if they don’t they’ll get fired all serve many who already make a living wage, who enjoy the protections that unions brought them.

It is in the interest of all Americans to raise the living standard for everyone so that everyone can live a decent life and participate in the economy in a productive and meaningful way.

Read the full story here: 21 Protesters Arrested at Mag Mile Demonstration for Raising the Minimum Wage

Tagged , , , , ,

Yes, Right to Work Will Kill the Middle Class — But Why Empower Classism?

Center for American Progress has an excellent in depth article, that we recommend everyone read, on how the Right to Get Union Benefits Without Paying for Them hurts the “middle class”.  Now one would ask, if we’re against classism, why do we find this article so good?

Well, because the article analyzes the economic truths about our current capitalist system.  Its hard for most anyone to deny that the numbers that keep coming up everywhere don’t show that the capitalists and their resulting plutocrat class benefit by squeezing workers to their breaking point — workers are nothing more than a commodity nor different than oil shale, natural gas or water; get as much as you can out of it, as cheaply as possible and then let someone else worry about the resulting damage.

The problem of course with the Americans for Progress analysis is that it supports a frame of “middle class” because some geniuses somewhere get the willies thinking about rubbing ideological elbows with the lumpen proletariat.

Well, here’s a clue; we’re all proletariats, so if you work for a wage or as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, are doing your own thing as a “self employed” (meaning non-covered, under the table employee) “independent contractor” then you are a worker, you trade your labor and time for money.  You don’t have extra cash in the bank to speculate on stocks, business ventures, investments or what have you; your money goes to supporting you and that’s all you got.

Read the article, spread it around, but never forget that we’re all in this together and the ultimate goal to achieving real justice for all and democracy is the destruction of the hierarchy of oppression that capitalism requires to exist; destruction of classism and oppression altogether and the creation of a just, egalitarian socio-economic system.  Its possible.

Tagged , , , ,

Workers Burn While Unions Find Their Ass

Make sure you find your local and stick yourself there.

Of course by now nearly everyone from your wingnut uncle Walter who lives in a trailer in the middle Ozarks to the brain-dead hipster in Greenwich Village knows that the Hostess company has filed for bankruptcy and basically screwed workers out of nearly everything.  Of course anyone with half a brain who’s been around long enough to know the lyrics to a famous Nazareth song about being pissed off and ready to fuck some shit up pretty quick, knows this old story about corporate meltdowns and workers getting the boot with nothing more than their last paycheck.  Its old hat these days.

So why the whining and hand-wringing going on among so many in the leftward blogosphere about “What Really Happened to Hostess”.  I mean really, Black Commentator had a piece a bit back, written by someone on the front lines in St. Louis, telling sordid tales of long active racism within the company’s management, about the company’s anti-union tactics and other misdeeds also so typical of the American worker story today.  We noticed other stories, well written that popped out right away telling the whole story for what it was.

So now again, why now all the Johnny Come Latelies?

Possibly we’d say because the unions have had to wake up from their trance and figure out that they just lost their ass again.   Oh wait, I forget myself; that’s right, the unions that the workers at Hostess were a member of weren’t part of the other fight [name one in your community or Local] because you know, the other unions have their own battles and hey, tough luck there kid.

Or something like that.  I know, how naive of me to imagine that possibly unions might be able to climb over their proverbial, imaginary fences that divide them and reach out and work with each other on a meaningful basis.  Of course that might also mean that the AFL-CIO drop their absolutely offensive “Save the Middle Class” campaign and stop trying to convince their rank and file that they are some kind of bourgeois Third Estate that the worker/proletariat must serve and that they must not soil themselves with fighting their battles.

I mean, have you seen teachers, fire fighters, police officers, janitors, hotel workers, meat packers, millwrights or the candle stick maker, the butcher and the baker for that matter all stand together in solidarity when one of them gets threatened by the plutocracy?  No, neither have I.

It seems high time they did.

Classism is a construct and tool of the elites, whether of tyranny by capitalism or whatever other means.  One will not find a donut in a shit pile and you won’t find democracy or justice within the oppression of classism, racism or any other construct made to divide one group against another, which only benefits those outside the struggle for crumbs.

Despite all the hand-wringing and analysis and the “OMG!” going on about the unholy greediness of the plutocrat class, the fact is you’d have to not only live under a rock, but possibly be living under a rock under Uncle Walter’s trailer and be deaf and dumb as a stump to not know that this has been going on with plutocrats for a pretty long time.  It seems at some point we can conclude that the capitalist class really sucks at creativity no?  They keep playing that old song of rape and pillage and many of us hold our hands to our ears and say, “I can’t believe it! I didn’t know they knew that tune!”

But with a regularity you can set your watch by, the liberals and left end of the spectrum here in the Land of the Not-So-Free acts with shocked and stunned surprise when they find out that a capitalist is greedy and selfish.  This happens so often that one might begin to think that a large portion of our society really wants to believe that capitalism really works.  Like the wife of the cheating husband who promises to be good next time, a large sector of Americans continue to sit at home alone, tears streaming down their faces not believing he did it again!  What happened, they think and then they ruminate on husbands misdeeds.  Well sweetheart, that works for the first time around.  Remember the old saying, “Fool me once…don’t get fooled again.” Oh wait that was the Bush II version, anyway, you know what I’m talking about; stop being a damned sucker.

Without solidarity — you know unity, without workers coming together from all sectors and standing up when any sector is threatened — as a unified act of power — nothing will change.  The plutocracy will not stop until every single worker in this country is reduced to the newly cherished and celebrated “entrepreneur” who struggles for whatever he/she can pinch out of the economy, with little hope of a pension or even basic protections such as worker’s comp or the added luxury of health insurance.  Don’t believe this? Look around at skilled jobs in the “private sector” among the working classes, besides the low hanging fruit of the Wal-Marts of the world.

You will see auto mechanics, trades people, sales professionals, temp workers, computer techs, service workers, maintenance workers, those in the building trades — all often working under the ubiquitous “independent contractor”, temp worker status or as the much maligned and marginalized non-voting/non-citizen resident worker.  A part of the new worker frame, found more and more tolerable as the standard among the young, the world many happily escape with a union retirement just one jump before the ax.

All the while though, the major business unions seem to be doing what?  Wisconsin was ready for a major general strike that would have shut down the whole state and showed workers where their power was, but the major unions bargained that power away with the Democrats who wanted a chance to grab power — and couldn’t do that competently.  For whatever the incompetence or compliance the Democrats demonstrated, the fact is that workers lost and large labor unions cemented their traditional bond with the Democratic party — you pay us to organize our people (not all workers mind you, just the select middle class) and we’ll deliver when you need them or hold them back when you ask.

Now again, a major company falls off the edge and throws its workers off the cliff and although the struggles of the workers at Hostess and the poor management of the company was no secret, the larger unions couldn’t find a way to get there and help the workers out.   Maybe run a picket, a campaign.  What did they do, clear their throats before their party overlords and ask permission that was denied?  Or did they more accurately, realize that they probably couldn’t even get their rank and file anywhere since they can’t even get them most of them to come to a meeting.

Now Michigan is about to turn, as one Facebook commenter aptly stated, “Right to Freeload”.  Unbelievable, historically the last bastion of the rust belt.  First Wisconsin last year, now St. Louis and Michigan in a matter of months.  In some ways its no surprise as the unions sat on their hands for thirty years, have ignored the job of educating their rank and file about the labor struggle and had the audacity to even (under the leadership of Lane Kirkland most notably) let Reagan and Carter before that negotiate rust-belt jobs away in the name of “competition” and some other capitalist tripe about impending globalism sold to the workers as meaningful economic theory for worker prosperity.

St. Louis needs another factory to leave that area like capitalism needs another ethical black  hole.  But hey, who cares? Anyone who had lived in the Mid-West knows damn well that workers there cannot afford to lose a job; the city like most of the rust belt was hollowed out long ago.  But let’s go ahead and talk theory; how and who was screwed over and especially how the Republicans are big bad meanies.  There are people going hungry on the streets, losing their homes — not just houses they bought, but apartments they rent.  There are people whose last paycheck was last week, last month, last year and they know all too well what it is to “struggle” in the “free market”.  Oh and by the way, let’s ask Warren Buckets-O-Money what he thinks.

Nothing like being one of those workers and having a member or a lackey of the plutocrat class tell you about how “liberals” need to stop “programs” because you know, what poor folks don’t have is ambition.  Because finding the ambition to make it to the next week is just small stuff; no worries.  Homelessness is a myth of course; it only happens to the drunks down by the river, in a tent, on your street corner with a cardboard sign.  Because we all know what their problem is and they stand as examples of what a “poor work ethic” will do to you too — until of course your company closes and you are thrown out in the street with the paper recycling; a commodity used up, disposed of and gone.

As I write this, a worker tells me tonight that he has worked for a week and a half, after being unemployed for months, his hands rough and nicked from the metal roofing he works with open in frustration before me, “I work for two days, get out for one day to heal myself and then go back to do it all again to make him [owner of the company] more money!” he then goes on, “Then what do I have? Two days of work, a prescription I can’t pay for a hospital bill that I’ll never be able to pay and if I don’t show up, I’m out with nothing.  I work to make him money and wear myself to the ground.”

He said that he told the hospital staff, “Insurance?! I have no insurance, I don’t even have workman’s comp! I’ll have to pay all my taxes myself, I can’t even get unemployment!”  The woman behind the counter quietly says, “Its too bad you don’t have a friend who has a prescription with Wal-Mart where you can get your prescriptions for a few dollars.”

Well I know that fact to be untrue.  I have a Wal-Mart card and I know that only a few commonly used drugs that are cheaply produced on the generic level are offered to Wal-Mart customers at ridiculously low prices and it wouldn’t surprise me if they receive a grant from the government or from the manufacturers to distribute some drugs cheaply through Wal-Mart.

Whoops, now we’re off on the healthcare system, but frankly, its all related.  As wages among workers stagnate with the least organized going first, all workers will face the multitudinous ways in which the capitalist system screws them over.  If they get paid, its so little that they can barely meet their most basic needs, but, a lifeline is woven inside the thicket of human commodification that helps to keep the workers on the thread and also appearing just saved enough for the masses to ignore.

Ignore at their peril as all worker’s wages are inextricably tied together and one lead weight over the side of the ship pulls the whole vessel further to collapse.  So long has this gone on and so gradual has the shift been (although it is disputable as to how gradual it is now, but that’s another discussion) that most of the workers in this country believe the shift to be minimal, to be an isolated event. “Keep calm and carry on” as they traditionally say in Britain with a stiff upper lip supposedly, carry that burden and shut up, keep up the faith, the one speaks first loses so the game goes.

Tagged , , , , , ,

DSA Statement: Reject the Fiscal Cliff

Reject the Fiscal Cliff, Tax the Rich,

Invest in Infrastructure and Services

A statement of the National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America

November 20, 2012

DSA rejects the “fiscal cliff” hysteria of the corporate establishment and the pressure for a “Grand Bargain” that would cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. While unemployment remains high and economic growth slow, the government should not impose austerity measures that reduce essential programs that benefit the middle and working classes and that further shred the safety net for the most vulnerable. Rather, government policy should prioritize investments in job creation, public education and healthcare reform, while raising essential revenues by taxing the large corporations and wealthiest citizens who can afford to pay.

Immediately after the election, Wall Street-backed foundations such as Third Way and the Concord Coalition organized a “Campaign to Fix the Debt” to spin the election results as a mandate for a “bi-partisan” focus on reducing the deficit as the highest national priority. For decades the billionaire Pete Peterson has funded groups that claim that the universal entitlement programs Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the nation and that their future growth must thus be drastically trimmed.  These neoliberals scored an initial success in 2011 when the Simpson-Bowles Congressional Commission put to a vote a long-term “budget compromise” that would have instituted three times as much in budget cuts than in tax increases. But despite President Obama’s evident willingness to reach such a one-sided compromise, Tea Party insistence on no tax increases, even on the wealthiest, scuttled the deal. The “resolution” of this manufactured, alleged “budget crisis” was to postpone a decision on further deficit reduction until the end of 2012, hence the contrived “fiscal cliff.”

What is the fiscal cliff? If Congress makes no changes to the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Bush tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2013. In addition, automatic cuts of $55 billion each in annual defense and “discretionary domestic” spending will begin. These tax increases and spending cuts, combined with the expiration of the FICA payroll tax cut and the end of extended unemployment benefits, will create a significant fiscal drag on the economy. The annual budget deficit will fall from over $1 trillion in 2012 to $500 billion dollars in 2013; and the resulting drop in aggregate demand from this combination of spending cuts and increases in taxes would almost definitely cause a double-dip recession.

Like other progressive groups, DSA rejects the notion that some “unified” fiscal cliff must be addressed in the lame-duck session of Congress. It is in fact a “fiscal obstacle course” that Congress should address without panic early in 2013, while heeding the election results. A progressive solution would include restoring all automatic domestic cuts, while making more strategic and deeper cuts in defense procurement spending. The revenue for expanding domestic social welfare spending can be raised by ending the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% and corporate tax-giveaways, while instituting a modest financial transaction tax on stock and bond transactions. In addition, Congress should restore the tradition of not requiring a separate authorization vote every time the current debt ceiling is crossed. Requiring such a vote provides the right with endless opportunities to blackmail the Congress into counter-productive budget slashing.

Specifically, DSA advocates that Congress pass legislation to:

1. Restore all the automatic cuts to the domestic discretionary budget. These cuts would deny WIC nutrition to 750,000 mothers and children, eliminate Title I funding for 1.8 million low-income school children and would deny 734,000 households home heating assistance. In addition, it would cut financing of all federal regulatory agencies by 10%.

2. Reauthorize federal funding of extended unemployment insurance. Otherwise, on January 1, 1.5 million unemployed workers and their dependents will lose their unemployment benefits.

3. Restore the improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Care Credit that have reduced the tax burden on the middle and working classes. To preserve the purchasing power that would be lost by an end to the 2% FICA payroll tax cut, reintroduce the 2009 Recovery Act refundable tax credit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for families earning under $110,000.

4. Abolish the Bush tax cuts on the top 2% and tax capital gains and stock dividends at the same rate as earned income. Increase effective corporate taxation through the elimination of corporate tax loopholes and corporate “tax expenditures.”  These reforms would yield $275 billion in additional annual revenue. In addition, instituting a “Robin Hood Tax” could net another $300 billion in annual revenues. (This financial transaction tax is a small sales tax, for example 0.25%, charged on all trading in stocks, currencies and debt instruments such as bonds, derivatives, futures and options.)

5. Make major cuts in our bloated defense budget, while creating a public jobs program that trains the unemployed to rebuild infrastructure, creates an alternative energy grid and expands mass transit.

6. Extend and strengthen Social Security for future generations, funding enhancements by progressively lifting the cap on earned income subject to the FICA tax and extending it to income derived from capital.

7. Progressively extend and strengthen Medicare/Medicaid, until it covers U.S. residents of all ages, while installing effective cost controls.

DSA welcomes and will work with broad national and local coalitions that are forming to fight cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; to preserve programs that benefit the working poor and most vulnerable; to promote greater investment in public education and healthcare and to raise revenues by taxing the rich and corporations.  We also support Tavis Smiley’s and DSA National Honorary Chair Cornel West’s call for President Obama to convene a White House conference on poverty.

DSA will bring to these coalitions the educational perspective of our GET UP (Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power) and The Other America is Our America (TOA) projects. GET UP analyzes the neoliberal capitalist roots of the Great Recession and advances social market economic alternatives. TOA demystifies the history of anti-poverty policy and argues for a new, true war on poverty. We can only stop the corporate drive for austerity if we educate, agitate and organize. DSA will join those in the streets resisting the bi-partisan effort to thwart the needs of the very constituencies that just re-elected our president.

Tagged , , , ,

British Unions Shut Down London With Strikes – Over 700,000 March

Image from Washington Post online slideshow

Nearly 800,000 union workers in Britain converged in London on yesterday to demand that the government end its austerity measures.  Similar to other unrest in Spain, Portugal and Greece and across the Atlantic in the US last year, Britian’s workers demand an end to the distribution re arrangement policies dubbed “austerity measures” by the press and politicians.

In favor of the conglomeration of capital among elite global finance and banking interests worldwide, government worldwide have proposed cutting public social safety nets.  The obvious effort to turn the world’s workers into pools of low-wage labor has met with resistance across America and Europe and now Brit workers take their turn to be heard.  In the rally labor leaders call for a general strike.  In addition, as Real News reports, London and other EU countries have November 14th in their sights for a continent wide day of action against austerity.

The Real News has posted a video and report:

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Workers Continue to Defy the EU’s Oppressive ‘Austerity’ Demands

More news that gets little to no air play in the American corporate media: Greece continues, along with other southern countries of the EU, to resist the “austerity” methods of the finance/capitalist sectors in the EU.  Flexing their muscle through the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leaders of the major finance and banking interests attempt to keep the lid on the boiling pot.  No doubt, to much consternation of the powerful elites, workers in the southern tiers demonstrate that they will not be cowed, demonstrating that an educated workforce will not accept reduction to the role of capital commodities for the benefit of plutocrats.

From Socialist World:

German chancellor Angela Merkel is expected in Greece on Tuesday, 9 October. She will be greeted by an increasing bitterness and anger against the ongoing destruction of the Greek economy and living conditions of working people. An escalation of the struggle against the latest Troika-imposed austerity is developing from below. It has the potential to bring down the Samaras government and challenge capitalist austerity. We publish here an article by Xekinima (CWI in Greece) on the latest developments and the steps which need to be taken by the workers’ movement.

Greek society is in uproar. Everybody knows that the situation cannot continue. The so-called Troika (European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund) have led the Greek economy into a collapse, and are now demanding another round of savage austerity cuts.

The Samaras government of New Democracy with the participation of its fake “left” allies (DIMAR and PASOK) are preparing cuts that will lead to untold misery for millions of workers, pensioners, the poor and the unemployed.

Here are the key statistics that themselves explain the type of war that has been launched against working people:

Official unemployment stands at 23.6% (real unemployment is more like 30%) and among young people is 55%. According to the European statistical agency Eurostat (July 2012), 68% live at or under the official poverty line. Gross Domestic Product has fallen by 22% since the beginning of the crisis. The “national” debt is estimated to be 179% of GDP in 2013, according to the government’s new projected budget, while it was 109% of GDP in 2008 (’Imerisia’ newspaper, 2 October 2012).

In reality, the Greek people have no choice but to try to stop the criminal plans of the Troika leraders and that can only mean trying to bring down the government that collaborates with these criminals. The government (which at the moment faces a serious crisis as scandals are exploding) can be brought down with mass strike action, mass occupations across the country and an indefinite general strike.

Read more: Trade Unions Pushed to Escalate the Struggle

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
Advertisements