According to a report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, released Friday, millions of American workers who lost their jobs after the Wall Street crash of 2008 have failed to find work, while millions more have gone back to work only after taking substantial wage cuts.
According to the BLS, some 12.9 million workers were displaced from their jobs between January 2009 and December 2011. The BLS study focused on those who had lost jobs they had held for at least three years, who comprised just under half the total, some 6.1 million workers.
Of these 6.1 million workers, 27 percent were still unemployed but looking for work, while 17 percent have stopped looking for work, effectively dropping out of the labor force. Of the 56 percent who had found new jobs, slightly more than half took jobs that paid less than their old jobs. For those who took new jobs with pay cuts, the majority lost 20 percent or more compared to their previous wages, on top of the loss of earnings due to part-time work or reduced overtime.
All told, only 1.1 million out of the 6.1 million workers had been rehired at full-time jobs paying as much or more as they earned before the crash. In other words, of the workers hit hardest by the slump, barely 15 percent have been able to regain a position comparable to what they lost.
There is the starkest contrast between these figures, which give a glimpse of the mass suffering and hardship in the working class, and the conditions facing corporate America, where most large companies are enjoying bumper profits, stock prices are back to the levels before the crash, and CEO salaries and perks have broken all records.
In the midst of this bonanza for profits and CEO pay, the giant corporations have stepped up the assault on working-class living standards, following the example set by the Obama administration in its bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which slashed wages for new hires by 50 percent and imposed sharp cutbacks on health and pension benefits.
Last week Caterpillar and the International Association of Machinists pushed through a draconian deal at the company’s Joliet, Illinois plant, as the union called off a 14-week strike and engineered acceptance of a contract that cuts real wages by 20 percent over six years, even though the company is making record profits.
A second report released last week showed that median household income has fallen 4.8 percent during the three years of the “recovery” touted by the Obama administration (July 2009 through June 2012), a bigger drop than the 2.6 percent during the two years officially recorded as “recession” (July 2007 through June 2009). Median incomes have fallen most for African Americans (down 11.1 percent) and residents of the Western states, the focal point of the housing market collapse (down 8.5 percent).
Since the official start of the recession, December 2007, median household income has fall 7.2 percent. From 2000 to 2012, over three presidential terms, two of George W. Bush and one of Obama, real incomes in the United States have fallen by 8.1 percent.
This social reality is ignored by both the capitalist parties competing in the 2012 presidential election, and it will go largely unacknowledged at the convention of the Republican Party, which opens Tuesday in Tampa, Florida, and at the similar gathering of the Democrats the following week.
The Republican Party and the Mitt Romney campaign hope, of course, to profit politically from the catastrophic conditions for working people, focusing their fall campaign on key Midwestern and industrial states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Their protestations of concern for laid-off factory workers and struggling single mothers are cynical lies, given that the policies advanced by the Republican campaign involve the destruction of the social safety net on which millions of unemployed and impoverished working-class families depend.
The true attitude of the Republicans will be demonstrated behind the scenes at the convention in Tampa, where hundreds of banquets, receptions and other lucrative “private events” will be mounted by corporate and billionaire backers of the Romney campaign. Some 1,500 Romney donors—“Stars” who have raised at least $250,000 and “Stripes” who have raised at least $500,000—will get top-level special treatment.
As the New York Times noted Sunday, when the delegates arrive in Tampa, “hundreds of lobbyists, corporate executives, trade associations and donors will be waiting for them, exploiting legal loopholes – and the fun-house atmosphere – that make each party’s quadrennial conventions a gathering of money and influence unrivaled in politics.”
There are no unemployed or displaced workers among the Republican influence peddlers, nor among their equivalents at the Democratic convention when it assembles the following week in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Obama campaign is, if anything, even more cynical and false than Romney’s, because it portrays the Democratic incumbent as the defender of working people against Wall Street interests and the wealthy, when the truth is the direct opposite. Obama spearheaded the destruction of jobs and wages with the auto bailout, and helped launch the war on public education that has accounted for the largest single cut in jobs of the past three years: the wiping out of 600,000 jobs of teachers and support workers by state and local governments.
Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was extending its wage freeze for federal government workers, already two years long, for an additional six months, until April 2013, on the pretext that this would help reduce the federal budget deficit. No such considerations, of course, were allowed to affect the colossal Treasury handout of public money in the Wall Street bailout.
The capitalist politicians, like the giant corporations and banks they serve, welcome the growth of unemployment, wage cutting and poverty, because these are central components of a vast transfer of wealth from the working class—and large sections of the middle class—to the super-rich.
As the Federal Reserve Board noted in a report released in June, the real wealth of the average American household plummeted 38.9 percent from 2007 to 2010, essentially wiping out all the gains made by working people over the previous two decades.
This was not merely the result of the collapse in the housing market, which slashed the value of the only sizable asset owned by most workers. It was the direct consequence of decisions made in corporate boardrooms and in Washington to benefit the wealthy at the expense of working people.
These policies will continue and intensify regardless of whether Obama or Romney occupies the White House next year, and whether the Democrats or the Republicans control Congress. The American ruling class is waging war against the jobs, living standards and social conditions of working people, and both the official parties are enlisted on behalf of the financial aristocracy.
This truth was underscored by an interview Obama gave Saturday to the Associated Press, in which he pledged to reach agreement with the Republicans in Congress if he is reelected. “I’m prepared to make a whole range of compromises,” he said, including concessions that would be opposed within his party, because “the American people will have voted.”
In other words, once the election is safely over, the two parties can drop their populist phrases and their pretense of intransigent hostility and get down to business: meeting the demands of their corporate masters to slash the federal deficit by gutting programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and enacting new tax breaks for the corporations and the wealthy.
TEHRAN – Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Samir Embaby called for the start of direct flights between Tehran and Cairo due to the two nations’ enthusiasm for making reciprocal visits.
“The measure is necessary due to the eagerness of many Egyptian and Iranian people to make reciprocal visits,” Embaby was quoted by the Egyptian weekly, al-Youm al-Sabe’.
He also underlined that starting direct flights between the two countries would play a vital role for trade and economic ties between Iran and Egypt, and said the economic studies carried out in Iran indicate that 60% of Iranians like to visit different Egyptian cities, partly for religious tourism.
In relevant remarks in June, new Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi also underlined his enthusiasm for the further expansion of ties with Iran, and said relations between Tehran and Cairo will create a strategic balance in the region.
“The issue will create a strategic balance in the region,” Mursi told FNA in June, hours before the final results of the presidential election was announced.
Also in July, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mursi, in their first telephone conversation, conferred on the two Muslim countries’ ties and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) now underway in Tehran.
President Ahmadinejad said Tehran welcomes close interactions with the Egyptian government and nation, and attaches no limitations to the expansion of ties and cooperation with Cairo.
Ahmadinejad expressed Iran’s preparedness to transfer capabilities, achievements and experiences in various scientific, technological, industrial and economic fields to the Egyptian people.
Mursi is due to travel to Iran on August 30 to attend the NAM summit.
- Egyptian president heads to China for investment talks (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Egyptian president to attend NAM summit in Tehran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Ahmadinejad personally invites Morsi to attend Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The United States’ weapons sales tripled in 2011, reaching to a record high of USD 66.3 billion, with Persian Gulf Arab countries as the main customers, a new Congressional report said.
A new report from the Congressional Research Service said that the country’s weapons sales in 2011 was an “extraordinary increase” over the USD 21.4 billion in deals in 2010.
The report also said that the figure was the largest single-year sales total in the history of US arms sales.
The former high record was in 2009, when the country’s arms exports reached to USD 31bn.
Saudi Arabia was the largest customer of the US arms, as it bought USD 33.4bn worth of weapons, including 84 advanced F-15 fighters, ammunition, missiles and logistics support.
The Kingdom’s arms deal with the US also included dozens of Apache and Black Hawk helicopters and upgrades of 70 of the F-15 fighters in the current fleet.
The United Arab Emirates spent USD 3.49 billion to purchase a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, which is an advanced anti-missile shield containing radars. The Arab nation also bought 16 Chinook helicopters for USD 939 million.
Oman also spent USD 1.4bn last year to buy 18 F-16 fighters.
Other significant customers for the US arms were India with a USD 4.1bn deal for 10 C-17 transport planes and Taiwan with USD 2bn for Patriot antimissile batteries, that has angered Chinese officials.
By TOURAJ DARYAEE | August 27, 2012
From time to time it is important that one provide a teach-in to nonacademics and educate those who promote wrong and harmful ideas. As a history professor I would like to teach a history lesson to Mr. Dana Rohrabacher, the honorable Congressional Representative of California’s 46th District in Orange County where I live and work. On July 26, 2012 Mr. Rohrenbacher wrote a letter to the US Secretary of the State, Hillary Clinton, informing her that since the “people of Azerbaijan are geographically divided and many are calling for the reunification of their homeland after nearly two centuries of foreign rule,” the United States should help them reach that goal. He then goes on to say that: Russia and Persia divided the homeland of Azeris in 1828, without their consent. “The Azerbaijan Republic won its independence in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed,” continues the letter “Now it is time for the Azeris in Iran to win their freedom too.” Finally, Rohrabacher states: “Aiding the legitimate aspirations of the Azeri people for independence is a worthy cause in and of itself… yet, it also poses a greater danger to the Iranian tyrants than the threat of bombing its underground nuclear research bunkers.”
Obviously Mr. Rohrabacher is concerned with the immediate issues at hand in the Middle East and the interests of the US and Israel in a very twisted way, because he calls the MEK (Mojahedin Khalq Organization, an Iranian exile group on the US terrorist list), “Israel’s Friends.” This obviously demonstrates Mr. Rohrabacher’s political stance and the influence of its supporters which is detrimental to US policy in the Middle East. This shortsightedness and lack of knowledge about the region and its history is indeed exactly the reason for which the US has gotten involved in the Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan), which has bankrupted us. The question is how this kind of interference in different countries and plans of dismantling nation-states, recognized by the UN, would help the US? Or does it simply just help other countries in the region? Well, the short answer is that it doesn’t help a bit! Last time I checked, it was the work of colonial powers in the nineteenth century which created and divided countries in Middle East. Even in Orange County it is taught that such ideas and actions were evil and have caused problems in the world for the past two centuries.
Mr. Rohrenbacher states that the Azeri people have been divided for the past two centuries by Russia and Persia in 1828 (I wonder how much travel he has had in the Republic of Azerbijan and Iran’s province of Azarbijan to make such a claim). Just a short glance in any preparatory college world history book will make it clear that the territory he is discussing was part of Iran (known as Persia then), which was invaded by Russians in 1828 and annexed through a peace treaty. But what is important is that the territory that Imperial Russia took as part of her victory over the Persians was never called Azerbaijan. It was the Soviet strongman, Stalin who in order to meddle in Iran’s affairs renamed the region of Arran (historical ancient Albania) as Azerbijan as a thorn on the side of Iran and those allies who disagreed with the USSR, namely US and the UK. It seems Mr. Rohrabacher is following Stalin’s footsteps!
As an ancient historian I am also tempted to give Mr. Rohrenbacher a history lesson about the very ancient past. The name Azerbaijan (Turkified as Azerbijan), comes from the name of the last Satrap (Persian word now existing in English, check it in any good dictionary) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, named Aturpat, in the 4th Century BCE. His family stayed on as local rulers even after Alexander the Great’s conquest and hence the region became known as Azarbijan (Old Persian Aturpatakan). The Old Persian terms mean “Protector of Fire.” This, however, is only the region south of the Aras River (Iranian Azarbijan), while to the north; Arran was named Azerbaijan by Stalin. The Republic of Azerbaijan is a twentieth century creation. Hence, there was never historically a unity or connection between the two. The region was turkified in the medieval period and that is just one more ethnic group among many others in the modern nation-state of Iran and beyond.
But Mr. Rohrenbacher should also be told that it was the Azaris of Iran and Arran who in fact invented modern ideas of Iranian nationalism. Akhundzadeh, known in the Republic of Azerbijan as Akhundof, a national hero is the man who perpetuated the intellectual movement behind the idea of the greatness of Iran. Since then, many if not most Iranian statesmen and intellectuals have been of Azari background (Ayatollah Khamenei and the previous presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi are both from Iranian Azarbijan). Many of the most famous Iranian historians, linguists and scholars in modern times have also been ethnically Azari, but none have called for such a separation. I don’t know why Mr. Rohrenbacher and his handful of friends (Mojahedin Khalgh in Washington who are spending money trying to buy congressmen and congresswomen, along with Israel), are making such nonsensical statements. They are both incorrect and historically inaccurate.
Furthermore, the Iranian Azarbijan is not only inhabited by Turkic speaking, but also Kurdish people as well as the Christian Assyrian and few remaining Armenians. Mr. Rohrenbacher should read a bit on the consequence of promoting a single ethnicity in a multi-ethnic nation-state such as Iran. Lessons from Kosovo and Serbia-Bosnia Herzegovina, as well as Armenia-Azerbaijan wars among others, places have shown that such ethnic divisions lead to ethnic cleansing and horrific acts of violence. Iran has been a multi-ethnic civilization for the past 2,500 years. It is people like Mr. Rohrenbacher who have fallen into the trap of Israel and the Mojahedin Khalgh who seek such divisions for their own opportunistic aims.
US involvement in the Middle East, particularly in Iran in the twentieth century, with a highlight of the US backed coup in 1953 which dethroned the only democratically elected prime minister in that nation’s history has made modern Iran as it is today. I am sure the congressman has heard of the term “blowback,” meaning any shortsighted action could lead to long-term problems in the Middle East and for the US. It should be a lesson to Mr. Rohrenbacher to stay out of Iranian affairs and concentrate on unemployment, the broken educational system and poverty in his own county. He is needed more here in Orange County where things are falling apart. His similar ideas about partitioning Afghanistan have made him persona non grata in that country. Let’s save California, before others begin to call for its secession from the US!
Touraj Daryaee is Professor of History at University of California, Irvine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Punishing Iran, Endlessly (consortiumnews.com)
- Leading Israeli Rabbi Calls For The Death of Iranians and Destruction of Iran (jonathanturley.org)
Chinese investment, including in industrial and technological projects, is the primary focus of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s visit to Beijing starting Tuesday, state media and officials said.
Mursi leaves for China late Monday on his first visit outside the Arab world since becoming president in June. He will then head to Tehran for the Non-Aligned Movement summit on Thursday.
The visit aims to “attract Chinese investment in Egypt,” presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said.
Cairo and Beijing are to sign agreements for seven major projects, including a power station in Upper Egypt, a desalination plant, industrial bakeries and Internet development, according to assistant planning minister Nabil Abdel Hamid.
Egypt will also propose development of a high-speed train line between Cairo and Alexandria, Hamid told state daily Al-Ahram.
Coinciding with Mursi’s visit, a joint business forum will be held in Beijing attended by some 80 Egyptian business leaders, the investment ministry announced.
Egypt’s imports from China in 2011 reached $7.5 billion, versus exports valued at $1.5 billion, as trade between the two countries rose to a total of $9 billion, according to official figures.
Ousted former president Hosni Mubarak had already made trade with China a priority, as volume rose from $610 million in 1998 to $6.2 billion 10 years later.
Egypt hosted the 2009 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, in its resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where China pledged $10 billion in concessional loans and enhanced trade to African states.
Mursi faces tough economic challenges in the wake of the uprising which forced Mubarak from power last year, and severely affected foreign investment.
On his way back from China, the Islamist president will attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran on Thursday, when he will pass the movement’s presidency from Egypt to Iran.
It will be the first visit by an Egyptian head of state since the two countries severed diplomatic relations more than 30 years ago, although Mursi downplayed the issue of possible resumption of diplomatic relations.
Iran cut ties with Egypt in 1980 after the Islamic revolution in protest against the 1979 peace accords between Egypt and Israel.
- Egypt requests $4.8bn IMF loan (alethonews.wordpress.com)