Time to end the failed experiment with rigged corporate trade and put in place fair trade for the people and planet before profits
Momentum is growing in the campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yesterday, the TPP was dealt two blows. Each could be lethal but the TPP, and its Atlantic counterpart, called TAFTA, are not dead yet. It is time for the movement of movements that formed to oppose the TPP to stand in solidarity, defeat these agreements and end the era of rigged corporate trade.
Yesterday’s first blow came from Wikileaks, showing once again that when government works in secret with big corporations, exposure by whistle blowers is critical to changing the corrupt direction of government and the economy. Wikileaks published the full text of the intellectual property chapter; the leaked document included the positions of all the parties. It will take time for all the corporate rigging in this lengthy document to be understood, but already it is evident that Internet freedom will be curtailed, access to health care will become more expensive and access to information will be undermined.
This is not the first leak of TPP text. Previous leaks are consistent with the Wikileaks leak – enhanced corporate power that puts profits before the needs of the people and the protection of the planet. The Wikileaks release shows that the United States is by far the most aggressive advocate for trans-national corporate interests, often isolated in pushing for harmful policies.
The second blow came from members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In recent days, several letters were sent to President Obama opposing Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority. Fast Track undermines Congress’ responsibility under the Commerce Clause to regulate trade between nations by allowing the president to sign the agreement before Congress even sees it. The letters made public on November 13th demonstrate broad bi-partisan opposition to Fast Track with 179 Members signing at least one of the three letters.
A letter spearheaded by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) garnered the support of three-quarters of House Democrats with 151 Members telling President Obama they oppose Fast Track, writing:
We will oppose ‘Fast Track’ Trade Promotion Authority or any other mechanism delegating Congress’ constitutional authority over trade policy that continues to exclude us from having a meaningful role in the formative stages of trade agreements and throughout negotiating and approval processes.
Important leaders of the Democratic Party signed the letter including 18 out of 21 Ranking Members who would chair committees if the Democrats were in the majority. This means that to pursue Fast Track authority, President Obama will need to challenge three-quarters of his own party.
But, that is not all. In another letter, organized by Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and signed by 12 of the 16 Democratic Party members of the Ways and Means Committee, which is primarily responsible for Fast Track legislation, members expressed opposition to Fast Track unless it was radically different from previous grants of authority. The letter says it “cannot just be an extension of earlier trade promotion authorities. Any new proposed TPA must . . . ensure Congress plays a more meaningful role in the negotiating process.”
And, the opposition is bi-partisan. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) and Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) drafted a letter signed by 23 Republicans. The Republican letter emphasized that Congress has the “exclusive authority to set the terms of trade.” Further, “The Founders established this clear check and balance to prevent the president from unilaterally negotiating with foreign nations and imposing trade policies that Congress would deem to be against the national interest.” They write that they refuse to “cede our constitutional authority to the executive” through Fast Track.
These are just the latest problems in the quest for Fast Track, indeed a bill has yet to be introduced. The previous US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, said in 2012: “We’ve got to have it.” He wanted the authority by the end of 2012. In April, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) promised Obama Fast Track by June of 2013. The broad bi-partisan opposition announced this week shows that winning Fast Track has very little support in Congress. In fact, the letters may be the death knell for such legislation.
The Wikileaks documents show there is a lot of division among the negotiating nations with important disagreements on key aspects of the text. Without Fast Track to guarantee passage of the TPP, these nations will be even less likely to agree to demands by the U.S. Further, Asian countries are negotiating their own competing agreement, which does not include the United States but, unlike the TPP, does include China.
Latin American countries are also speaking out against the TPP. Earlier this year, Rodrigo Contreras, Chile’s lead TPP negotiator quit to warn people of the dangers of the TPP – highlighting how big financial institutions will dominate their governments and how the TPP “will become a threat for our countries: It will restrict our development options in health and education, in biological and cultural diversity, and in the design of public policies and the transformation of our economies. It will also generate pressures from increasingly active social movements, who are not willing to grant a pass to governments that accept an outcome of the TPP negotiations that limits possibilities to increase the prosperity and well-being of our countries.” And, recently the Parliament of Peru passed a resolution “requesting that the government open a ‘public, political, and technical debate’ on the binding rules being negotiated in the TPP.”
In the United States, cities and counties are beginning to pass TPP Free Zones, saying they will not obey the TPP if it becomes law. These local governments are concerned with provisions that would not allow them to give preference to buying local, buying U.S. made goods or other provisions that undermine their sovereignty.
In addition to opposition in the U.S. government and foreign governments, a mass citizen uprising is developing against the TPP. There have been large protests in many of the countries involved in the negotiations as well as in the United States. The night before the Wikileaks documents were released, 13 cities did visibility protests opposing the TPP in light shows. In September we joined with activists in Washington, DC in a series of protests, including covering the office building of the US Trade Representative in banners to expose their secret trade agreement. Protests are scheduled for Salt Lake City, UT on November 19th where lead negotiators from 12 countries will hold meetings. A global day of protest is planned for December 3 against not only the TPP but also the WTO and all toxic trade agreements.
The TPP is running into resistance in Congress, local governments and among Pacific nations in Asia and Latin America; and by people who oppose the agreement all over the world. This is part of a growing movement of movements – all of the movements impacted by corporate trade; e.g. labor, environmental, Internet freedom, health care, food sovereignty, immigrants’ rights, banking regulation – are joining together to defeat it.
The people are winning. Fourteen trade agreements have been stopped in the last 14 years and as Tom Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce wrote this week “the WTO has not concluded a single new multilateral trade agreement since it was created in 1995.” Mass protest against rigged corporate trade agreements can end the experiment in trade that puts profits ahead of the people and planet.
We are on the verge of defeating Fast Track. It is important that we keep the pressure on Congress. Neither the TPP nor TAFTA will become law if people learn what is in them and Congress fulfills its constitutional responsibility to review their impact. Denying the President Fast Track is the essential step to defeat both of these agreements.
Once we defeat Fast Track and prevent TPP and TAFTA from becoming law, we need to remain in solidarity and work to transform trade so it becomes “fair” trade that puts the necessities of the people and the protection of the planet first. The people will have firmly established that they will not tolerate rigged corporate trade deals. If corporations want to see trade between nations, they need a new approach – transparent, participatory and fair – with new goals of serving the people and planet.
To get involved in the campaign to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership visit Flush the TPP.
Kevin Zeese, JD and Margaret Flowers, MD co-host Clearing the FOG on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC, co-direct Its Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC.Their twitters are @KBZeese and MFlowers8.
According to the president of the United States, “we’re all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”
Of course, Barack Obama, like other US politicians, does not actually believe we, the people of Earth, are all created equal. That’s clear enough from his exclusion of non-Americans when he describes who “deserves” equal treatment before the law. As a conservative nationalist, Obama believes some nationalities are more entitled to legal protections than others. Born in America, he might deign to give you a trial; born in Pakistan, he won’t even bother identifying the remains left in the wake of a Predator drone.
But Obama wasn’t talking about state-sanctioned murder. Instead, in a blog for the Huffington Post, he was condemning the continued, legal discrimination on the part of employers against LGBT employees.
“It’s offensive,” an Obama staffer presumably wrote. “It’s wrong. And it needs to stop because, in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fire-able offense.”
This is a great bit of rhetoric that’s ready to be slapped on a photo of a happy gay couple and shared 83,000 times on Facebook. It’s also incredibly disingenuous.
Barack Obama, right now, without needing to convince any bad mean stupid Republicans in Congress, could sign an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation. He could have done that yesterday. He doesn’t need legislation: he could have ended that discrimination instead of blogging, instantly providing greater job security to the tens of thousands of people working right now for the private contractors who effectively provide government services any more.
But he didn’t because Obama and the Democratic Party run a neat little scam, whereby they set themselves up as 0.05 percent more progressive than the GOP — for which they expect accolades and tribute — and then rely on the public’s ignorance of process to explain away why they’re not actually doing anything to make things even 0.05 percent better. In this case, John Boehner and his gang of angry white homophobes in the House get blamed for setting back Progress; discrimination against LGBT people continues; and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee then sends out a mailer with that happy gay couple meme on it asking if you will please donate to help defeat the forces of darkness.
And then they laugh and they laugh and they laugh.
I was unaware that Sarah Palin was still a meme, but the Democratic Party is apparently still using her to raise money and build their email lists. Apparently, because who cares enough to look it up, the former Alaska governor said the US government is “stockpiling bullets” to use against the public. And so a petition has been launched by the Democratic Governors Association to demand an apology because that is important:
Accusing our government of actively stockpiling weapons to use against its own people is not only offensive and wrong — it’s downright dangerous. For Sarah Palin to insinuate that the United States is similar to the tyrannical governments in Syria and Iran who do carry out those types of atrocities is completely reprehensible.
Good on the governors for looping Iran into the mix, rather than a Bahrain or Saudi Arabia. President Hillary may have to bomb them someday, so it’s important to lay the groundwork now. Sarah Palin and Iran: Bad. Got it.
Of course, the unfortunate thing is that the US government is “actively stockpiling weapons to use against its own people” (no one cares about it using them against other people). You don’t end up with 2.3 million Americans in prison cells by asking them nicely. You force them in at the point of a gun. The FBI alone gets over $8 billion a year to do this. Federal prisons get over $8 billion to keep them there.
Is that the same as the sort of political repression that goes on in Syria or Iran? No, it’s different. The people getting shot in the streets by security forces are usually Black or Latino. And no one has anywhere near the size prison population that America does.
It was an impassioned performance by a cynical politician who offers little but corporate tax incentives and continued austerity. Barack Obama peppered his State of the Union address with up-tempo buzzwords about illusory “progress,” but the president’s substantive message was that he is determined to complete the austerity bargain he struck with the Republicans in 2011. Thus, it is a sign of “progress” that “we are more than halfway towards the goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction that economists say we need to stabilize our finances” – meaning, he will collaborate with the GOP in cutting almost $2 trillion more.
The big cuts will come from those programs that enjoy overwhelming support among Americans. He claims to be with them in spirit while opposing them in practice. “Those of us who care deeply about programs like Medicare must embrace the need for modest reforms – otherwise, our retirement programs will crowd out the investments we need for our children, and jeopardize the promise of a secure retirement for future generations.” His reasoning is identical to the Republicans, who say these programs must be bled, or die.
Obama created the model to gut entitlements through his Simpson/Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission, appointed well before the GOP took control of the House. Now he pretends that the cuts have been forced upon him, but that he will acquiesce in the spirit of compromise. “On Medicare, I’m prepared to enact reforms that will achieve the same amount of health care savings by the beginning of the next decade as the reforms proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.”
He constructs a phony trade-off for children, the poor and the elderly. “Why would we choose to make deeper cuts to education and Medicare just to protect special interest tax breaks? How is that fair?” he asks, rhetorically. The cuts must come, but in return Obama will revise the tax code “that lowers incentives to move jobs overseas, and lowers tax rates for businesses and manufacturers that create jobs right here in America.”
This is the double-whammy. Austerity in people’s programs is traded for tax breaks for corporations that will, in totally discredited theory, bring back the jobs they had outsourced overseas.But don’t complain, says Obama. “None of us will get 100 percent of what we want.” And most of us will get the shaft.
Obama’s jobs program is almost entirely a corporate tax incentive scheme, to bribe corporations to send home the jobs they sent offshore, where they have also hidden tens of trillions from taxation – a subject not deemed worthy of mention in a national discussion of shared sacrifice and patriotic obligations.
The military-industrial complex will make “America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing,”says the president. Fifteen manufacturing “hubs” will be built around businesses that “partner with the Departments of Defense and Energy to turn regions left behind by globalization into global centers of high-tech jobs.” You can bet there are huge corporate subsidies involved, through negative taxation.
Obama will repair America’s infrastructure through a “Fix-It-First” program that nobody has ever heard of before, and has no price tag – which means it doesn’t exist in anything more than rhetorical form. And his “Partnership to Rebuild America” proposal to upgrade private infrastructure – oil and gas pipelines, ports and the power grid – almost certainly involves corporate subsidies, or else why wouldn’t the private sector be repairing its own properties, already?
Those business incentives just keep on coming. All one need to qualify is say the word “jobs” – but don’t you dare say “public works.” The Corporate-Subsidizer-In-Chief says: “Let’s offer incentives to companies that hire Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening, but have been out of work so long that no one will give them a chance. Let’s put people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in run-down neighborhoods.” Obama says he will “partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.” How will that get done? By offering “new tax credits to businesses that hire and invest.” Obama can do a passable Al Green, but when it comes to public policy in 2013, he sings only one song: tax schemes for business.And he stole that tune from the GOP.
Obama’s Black boosters will no doubt point to the president’s concern for the “hardest hit” to conclude that he is now open to targeted aid to the those communities that have been most devastated. Not so. He is simply open to aiding corporations under any and all circumstances. His administration failed to spend almost all of $7.6 billion set aside by Congress for a Hardest Hit Fund, to aid communities hurt worst by the housing collapse. Hard-hit people don’t get special attention from this administration; well-off corporations do.
During his 2008 campaign, Obama vowed to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2011. He must have thought no one was listening, because he didn’t mention the subject for the next four years. Now, in 2013, he promises to fight for a $9.00 minimum – 50 cents an hour less. And he didn’t even apologize to the nation, Tuesday night, for reneging during his first term.
“Race to the Top,” Obama’s signature program to privatize education through withholding of funds to states that fail to establish an alternative charter system and transform teachers into temporary workers, is set for a great corporate leap forward. States that craft their curriculum to suit corporate priorities will get additional funding; those that do not, will be punished. “We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.” Obama is an education gangster, hired muscle for the corporate class.
It is fitting that Obama, who has made it possible for all of us to experience the First Black U.S. Presidency, will enhance the experience of choosing between corporate Democrats and corporate Republicans: “I’m announcing a non-partisan commission to improve the voting experience in America. And I’m asking two long-time experts in the field, who’ve recently served as the top attorneys for my campaign and for Governor Romney’s campaign, to lead it.”
We discovered during the presidential debates that there was very little that separated the two contenders. The Republican and Democratic experts should have no problem finding a mutual electoral comfort zone.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
- Obama’s Historic Assault on Social Security (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Let the Wealthy Pay for Their Crisis
With the November elections right around the corner, the millions of unemployed and under-employed have little reason to care. Aside from some sparse rhetoric, neither Democrats nor Republicans have offered a solution to job creation. Most politicians seem purposefully myopic about the jobs crisis, as if a healthy dose of denial might get them through the electoral season unscathed.
In reality, the jobs crisis continues unaddressed, and threatens to get worse after the election. The post-election “fiscal cliff” of social cuts — “triggered” by Obama’s debt commission —will pull the economy below the current treading-water phase, drowning millions more workers in America in unemployment and hopelessness. In addition, two million more long-term unemployed — those lucky enough to still receive benefits — face the very likely possibility of having their benefits ended due to the trigger cuts.
But this is all part of the plan. The current jobs crisis is not accidental; there are public policies that could be implemented — such as a federal jobs program — that would stop unemployment in its tracks. Both parties agree that this cannot be done for the same reason: high unemployment is desirable since it acts as a sledgehammer against wages, lowering them with the intent of boosting profitability for corporations. Creating this nationwide “new normal” takes time.
Until corporations have an ideal environment to make super profits — aside from the short-term money printing of the Federal Reserve — unemployment will remain purposefully high. The Feds massive money-printing program — called Quantitative Easing (QE) — is a desperate move that risks super inflation, yet is deemed necessary until politicians implement the economic new normal for workers in America.
This policy is referred to as an “adjustment” period by some economists. Corporations and their puppet politicians have used the recession to start implementing the new normal of lower wages, reduced benefits, and fewer social programs on a city, state, and federal basis. In order to complete this national adjustment, expectations for working people must be drastically lowered, so that they’ll be less likely to be angry and fight against this onslaught.
This was Bill Clinton’s intention when he told the Democratic National Convention, “The old economy isn’t coming back.” Most people in America have yet to realize this, but the economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans reflect a conscious plan to push wages down and shred the safety net to fit the “new economy” standards sought by corporate America.
Because corporations only hire workers in order to make profit, businesses today are sitting on trillions of cash, waiting for a sunnier day to invest in labor. The lower the wages of workers in America, the brighter the skies for corporations’ bottom line. It is this basic economic interest driving the jobs crisis, as politicians only offer solutions that “encourage businesses to invest” rather than creating immediate solutions for working people.
But millions of people are waiting for sunnier days too. A large number are seeking to wait out the recession by returning to school and are now graduating; a record 30 percent have bachelor degrees, a number that is expected to rise. The increasing number of graduates will drive up unemployment, while those lucky enough to find jobs aren’t finding one capable of paying off their massive student loans. The trillion-dollar student loan business is yet another example of wealth transference from bottom to top: students borrow money from the wealthy, and pay them back with interest, sometimes exorbitant interest.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are 12.5 million people who are officially unemployed but an additional9.5 million who are “unofficially” unemployed — those who are not actively looking for work, “discouraged workers,” part-time workers who want full-time work, etc. The number is almost certainly higher. These workers are not counted in the “official” unemployment numbers, and this unofficial number is getting worse. In August 2012, 368,000 more workers joined this illustrious group by dropping out of the labor force, i.e., they gave up looking for a job and thus are no longer counted as unemployed, in this way giving Obama “positive news” since the unemployment numbers actually improved!
These workers are often referred to as “unemployable,” meaning that they are usually over fifty years of age or under 30 and are tarnished with a lack of job experience or an excess of it. Corporations can now have an abundance of workers to choose from, and are being extra picky on whom they hire, if anybody.
The new “private sector” jobs that Obama constantly brags about are much lower paying than the jobs they are replacing. According to a study performed by the National Employment Law Project, 58 percent of all new post-recession jobs come with wages below $14.00 an hour, i.e. a not a living wage.
For those millions unable to find jobs, their future lies in either dependence on family or the state, or a risky life in the informal economy, which implies the possibility of imprisonment.
The reason that many labor and community groups have not fully explained the above facts — nor protested against them — is because they are “embarrassing” to the Democrats. Labor unions have gone into pre-election hibernation, ignoring reality as they push their members to campaign for the president who is overseeing this economic “new normal.”
The still-sputtering economy is expected to grind to a halt post-election, with average working people again footing the bill. But millions of Americans are experiencing the politics of the 1%, and drawing conclusions; ever since the recession government policy has been aimed at benefiting the wealthy and corporations, while working people have only experienced layoffs, lower wages and benefits, and slashed public services. To stop this dynamic of austerity working people must unite and protest in massive numbers, like the working people of Europe.
In Portland, Oregon, such a demonstration is being planned, pre-election, by a coalition of community groups to “stop the cuts,” for debt relief, and against the above national policy of austerity for working people. By highlighting the bi-partisan nature of the attack against working people, the community organizers in Portland hope to educate the community to take action, so that working people are prioritized. Let the wealthy pay for their crisis.
Why the Teachers Must Prevail
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the pesky little ankle-nipper charged in the first years of the Obama administration with dissing the left (“f…ing retards”), empowering Blue Dog Democrats and killing the public option in the Affordable Care Act, is Barack Obama writ obnoxious. It is of the utmost importance that teachers in Chicago win their strike against his administration.
Theirs is the first battle in what will be a protracted war, during the second Obama administration, to save public institutions, public education especially, from the anti-worker, pro-corporate, privatizing predations of Democratic presidents.
To be sure, it is Republicans who prattle on about Ronald Reagan and advocate the retrograde policies associated with his name. But while they are relentless in praising that villainous old actor, they are terrible at implementing the Reaganite agenda. This is understandable: when they are in the White House, their efforts inspire Democrats to fight back — not so much from conviction but because it plays well with the base and therefore pays off at election time.
Democratic presidents, on the other hand, are good at implementing the Reaganite agenda, whether their hearts are in it or not. No one, so far, has been better at it than Bill Clinton. This is because, as we saw again in Charlotte, he is adept at winning Democratic hearts and minds, and therefore at neutralizing potential opposition and even bringing it along.
This is how that old horn dog was able to win more for the Gipper than either Bush. He did more even than Reagan himself to end the New Deal and Great Society “as we know it,” and to give Wall Street free rein.
Obama might have bested him had he not been stymied by Republican obduracy. Now that obduracy is coming back to haunt the GOP. By pandering to God-fearing, ignorant and stupid white men – and the women who stand by them — they have made themselves scary enough to assure a second Obama term.
Barring unforeseeable developments, therefore, it will be Obama, not Romney, who will be wielding the Reaganite cudgel in the next four years; and therefore Obama, the lesser but more effective evil, whom we will have to fight.
Obama is poised to leave the Clintons standing in the dust. Hizzoner Da Mare is showing the way. Workers be damned, and let the Grand Bargains begin!
* * *
Even before the Occupy movements of last fall, public workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere were beginning to fight back. In Wisconsin, their efforts were unsuccessful, thanks in part to the indifference or connivance of the national Democratic Party and the Obama administration.
It isn’t just that Obama was AWOL throughout the winter and spring of 2011, when workers and their allies occupied the state Capitol in Madison, mobilizing tens of thousands of supporters. When it came down just to a recall election a year later, the hope and change President couldn’t even be bothered to campaign for Tom Barrett, the anodyne Democratic rival to the execrable, Koch-funded, Republican governor Scott Walker. All he could muster was a tweet at the final hour.
With the election less than two months away, Team Obama must realize that it will cost the President to betray the Chicago Teachers’ Union similarly. But count on him to give it his best shot – the Obama-Emanuel tie is tight, and Emanuel’s anti-union, pro-corporate “reforms” are in line with Arne Duncan’s, Obama’s Secretary of Education.
Expect him therefore to remain aloof for as long as he can. After all, who will stop him? Not organized labor. They’ve pledged their troth unconditionally to Democratic presidents so many times that they’ve forgotten how to do anything else, even when the object of their servility poses an “existential threat.”
For a long time, it seemed that the problem with Obama, and the Democratic Party, was their almost pathological “reasonableness,” their preference for compromising over winning. But the real situation was becoming clear even before Emanuel became the face of militant Obamaism.
The problem is not just that Obama is inept at governance or that caution sometimes gets the better of him. It is that he is on the wrong side.
Romney is scarier by orders of magnitude and more onerous by far. But, like Clinton, Obama can deliver, especially nowadays when liberals are hell bent on cutting the man slack. This is why he is, arguably, more dangerous even than his Republican rival. Romney is unabashed class warrior for the one-percent; Obama is a more complicated figure. But by their deeds, ye shall know them.
What Emanuel and Duncan and Obama want is what George Bush wanted: to despoil public education. Of course, this is not what they say. But it is hardly concern for kids, much less poor kids or for their families, that drives Bush-Obama efforts at reforming public education to ruin or that makes “market solutions” and privatization the order of the day. Only hapless Republicans and market theologians (to the extent there is a difference) could believe that.
The Obamaites want to privatize public education, to the extent they can, for the same reason they want to privatize so much else: because there is a lot of money – local, state and federal – involved, and the corporate interests Obama and his basketball buddies work for want to get their hands on it.
Obama and Duncan, and maybe even Emanuel, the “f-ing retard,” are too smart to be taken in by the meretricious charms of corporate bean counting. They surely understand how detrimental teaching to tests can be, and how it serves no one other than corporate managers, or those who have internalized their values, to undermine educators’ morale by imposing impossible working conditions and assaulting workers’ dignity.
It is telling that Obama sent his own kids to the Chicago Lab School and then to Sidwell Friends. Expensive private schools have always been about reproducing social elites – and, in recent years, coopting a few others for diversity’s sake — but Obama’s children, reared in the White House, have nothing to gain on that account.
The Obamas, like the Duncans and Emanuels of the world, just want their own children to get decent educations. No doubt, they’d like that for working peoples’ children too, other things being equal. But other things are not equal; the oligarchy has a different plan in mind.
They want a work force that is trained, not educated; workers ready to do what capitalist firms nowadays require — on the off-chance that capitalists find it more profitable, in certain circumstances, to exploit domestic labor instead of workers abroad.
Not long ago, the children of rich and poor alike were formed in the same schools, taught by dedicated teachers who, though underpaid, were treated with dignity and respect. Not long ago, public higher education was cheap enough to be broadly accessible and good enough to rival or out perform even the richest private universities.
This is all inimical to the Reaganite agenda but, even now, public education, at all levels, is holding up tolerably well, notwithstanding chronic underfunding and increasingly vitriolic opposition from the minions of the one percent. If Emanuel prevails, it will be harder, much harder, to hold the line.
This is a real danger. Emanuel has the austerity mongers in the Obama administration, and Obama himself, at his back. In an election year, he has the support of most Democrats. And, of course, he has the implicit support of Mitt Romney, who at least has the decency to be more forthrightly anti-union and anti-(small-d) democratic than his rival.
Emanuel also has the “liberal” media doing its best to keep the Reaganite tide from receding.
Now that the New York Times has priced itself so much higher than it is worth and made itself, or at least its print edition, scarce, NPR has become perhaps the main source for conventional wisdom and pro-regime propaganda.
As the Chicago strike began, it was almost comical to listen to them struggle to find voices willing to berate the teachers for the inconvenience they are causing parents and students. Evidently, Chicagoans, so far anyway, are behind the teachers because they realize that, in combatting Obama-style Reaganism – in taking on Rahm Emanuel — they are fighting for them.
They are absolutely right. The Chicago teachers’ strike is the successor of last year’s demonstrations in Wisconsin and other states in the grip of reactionary Republican governors; it is the successor of the Occupy movements. Its outcome matters more than the November election. Chicago teachers must prevail!
ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).
- Angry Chicago teachers take on Obama (rt.com)
- What the Chicago Teacher Strike Reveals about Obama and “Progressivist” Media (dissidentvoice.org)
Black America’s median household wealth, compared to that of whites, has sharply declined under Barack Obama. That’s a change. Just not a good one.
This is a consequence of the foreclosure epidemic which began in 2007 and 2008 and has always been concentrated in black and poor neighborhoods. But the Obama administration has allowed the foreclosure wave to continue without any letup during its first three and a half years, rejecting demands for foreclosure moratoriums or other measures which would make it easier for large numbers of families to remain in their homes. Where the ratio of white to black household wealth four years ago was around 11 to one, today it is greater than 20 to 1.
African Americans still make up 12 or 13% of the nation’s population, remain more than 40% of its locked down and locked up, No change there at all…
Latinos, who make up another 13%, are about 30% of the nation’s prisoners and rising, a slight change, but distinctly for the worse. So seven of every ten US prisoners are from the one quarter of the nation that is black or brown, and that percentage is rising.
The fifty-year war on drugs continues. No change for the better at all there.
Like every president since Nixon, Barack Obama has thwarted states that wanted to decriminalize small amounts of drugs, refuses to treat drug use as a medical problem rather than a police one. Like its predecessors, the Obama administration has expanded the frontiers of the drug war into places like Mexico and Colombia, where the US demand for illegal drugs has given birth to vast industries which may be among the largest and most lucrative, and certainly the most deadly, in those countries.
“Too big to fail” banksters and other financial criminals are still above the law. No change here either.
Not a single person responsible for crashing the economy in 2007 has seen the inside of a prison. It’s just not going to happen. Wall Street insiders give as much, and often more to Democrats than they do to Republicans. So the Obama administration has protected banks and lenders and their co-conspirators from prosecution, and shoveled more than ten trillion more at banksters, including those based outside the US, than the Bush-Cheney gang ever did.
It’s worth remembering that when Bush could not pass his own bailout bill six weeks before the 2008 election, he called Barack Obama into town to spend the week on the phone with Congressional Democrats getting them to switch their votes. So the only change here has been the party in charge.
Although governments will create trillions of new dollars to give to banksters and borrow it back from them at interest in the name of “fixing the economy”, it still won’t create millions of jobs for the unemployed. No change:
In the 1930s, the federal government addressed the Depression by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs out of thin air. They built roads and subways, parks, recreational facilities, dams and bridges. They did theater and historical research like tracking down and interviewing the last living survivors of slavery. It was called the WPA, or Works Progress Administration, under the administration of Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The White House could do the same today, creating millions of new jobs, repairing and rebuilding infrastructure, building high speed rail, refitting millions of homes for energy efficiency. But Barack Obama disdains the heritage of his own Democratic party. He sounds more like Hoover than FDR today when he says that it’s the exclusive role of the private sector to create jobs.
It’s still almost impossible to organize a union and fight for your own rights on the job anywhere in the US. No change:
There are laws against firing workers who try, but employers are unafraid to break those laws, while working people are very much afraid to lose their jobs. Candidate Obama did promise to put on his comfortable shoes and walk a picket line. Maybe he just lied. President Obama has frozen the wages and pensions of government workers, and endorsed the traditionally Republican idea that public employee and private pensions and health plans cause economic distress to employes and the economy.
The bipartisan corporate-funded drive to “reform” education by breaking teachers unions, turning teachers into Wal-Mart style temps, hi-stakes testing, dissolving public schools and replacing them by privately owned charter schools, exempt from public accountability continues apace. No change there at all.
Bush’s Secretary of Education called teachers unions “terrorist organizations.” Obama’s Secretary of Education declared that Katrina was the best thing that could have happened to public education in New Orleans.
If anything, the Obama administration’s Race To The Top program pushed the envelope further than Republicans would have been able to without sustained resistance. It required states to compete for available federal education funds based upon how many teachers they can fire, how many public schools they can close, how many so-called “merit pay” schemes and similar atrocities they can inflict. Just as only a vicious warmonger like Nixon could have made the first presidential trip to China, only a black Democrat could have successfully pushed the education policy envelope this far in the anti-democratic directions of charters and educational privatization. If anything, Obama’s heinous education policies provide an even further rightward step-off point for Republicans like Mitt Romney. It didn’t have to be that way.
US troops are in more than 140 countries worldwide, and the US, with under 5% of the world’s people, spends more on the military than the other 95% of humanity combined. Not much change there.
On the other hand, in the first weeks of his administration, President Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize. So the pan-European elite, which feared and despised George Bush, loves Obama. That’s a kind of change they call a distinction without a difference.
The Afghan war drags on, apparently indefinitely. A hundred thousand US-paid mercenaries remain in Iraq, and the war there too is far from over. On the other hand, Barack Obama has been able to use cruise missiles and drones to kill black and brown civilians including children in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, among other places. US military forces took part in the invasion and overthrow of the African nation of Libya, and the White House has openly rather than covertly sent unknown numbers of US special forces into nobody knows how many countries of Central Africa. A Bush administration doing this would have been greeted with nationwide street demonstrations. But a black Democrat gets a near automatic pass. Is this what the real “race card” looks like?
A US president is still orders torture, murder, indefinite imprisonment without trial, and lets corporations that commit crimes abetting those of government employees completely off the hook. But there has been a change here.
When the Bush-Cheney gang did all this stuff, they did it as scofflaws. The Obama Administration has rammed through legislation in Congress and asked for court decisions to cloak most of the previously illegal torture, murder, kidnapping, warrantless spying and similar crimes with thin veneers of legality. This is the all-important difference between having an MBA as president as opposed to a professor of constitutional law.
Black politics, at one time heavily influenced by what Martin Luther King called opposition to the triple evils of racism, militarism, and economic injustice, has shrunken and shriveled under the influence of a new class of corporate funded black political leaders like Corey Booker and Barack Obama. Deep, real and significant change here.
Black politics ain’t about fighting for decent housing or jobs any more. It’s not about diverting resources from the war machine to uplifting the downtrodden. It’s not about funding education or working for the end of the prison state. It’s certainly not about defying unjust laws in the pursuit of just ends, as the Freedom Movement once routinely did.
People forget that King was murdered in Memphis in the middle of a sanitation workers strike in which the National Guard had been called out to patrol the city, and students had stayed home from high school for days to participate in illegal mass actions.
21st century black politics is about electing black politicians, no more and no less. That, and observing Black History Month.
This is far from an exhaustive list, of course.
We could have mentioned the fact that big oil, big agribusiness, big insurance, and big pharma all continue to get whatever they ask for. We might have pointed out that local and state fiscal crises are constantly being provoked, to which the solutions are always “public private partnerships” a standard euphemism for privatizations of public assets like roads, waterworks, generation facilities and public services like payroll, parking and fleet management. We could have pointed out that medical costs are still factors in a majority of personal bankruptcies, and the FCC has essentially abandoned any pretense of regulating the cable and broadcast industries, preferring to simply lease out or auction off the electromagnetic spectrum and leave it all to the “free market”.
Some things have changed over the last four years, and some haven’t. One thing that seems never to change, as long as our choices are restricted to the two corporate parties, is that while you can squint hard enough to make distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, there are few important differences.
Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He lives and works in Marietta GA, and is a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.
It is ironic that the hard core supporters of Israel among the neoconservatives are hoping for a Republican victory in the fall even though the party that has passionate Israel firsters most deeply embedded continues to be the Democrats. To be sure, Eric Cantor, Republican majority leader in the House and the only Jewish congressman from the GOP, has done some heavy lifting for Benjamin Netanyahu, including advising the Israeli Prime Minister that congress would protect him in any conflict with President Barack Obama. Republican from Florida Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is descended from Sephardic Jews, has also burnished her pro-Israel credentials as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee while other Republicans from the Bible belt reflexively praise Israel as, one assumes, a tenet of their faith.
But the breadth and depth of outspoken advocates of Israel in the Democratic Party goes far beyond anything the Republicans can muster. Thirteen Jewish Senators are all Democrats as are 26 of the 27 Jewish members of the House. The Democratic National Committee is headed by Debbie Wasserman-Schultz while Steny Hoyer, who is not Jewish, is Minority Whip in the House of Representatives and an outspoken passionate supporter of Israel. Other frequent sponsors of resolutions favoring Israel and condemning Iran and the Palestinians include Howard Berman, Steve Israel, Steve Rothman, Jan Schakowsky, Brad Sherman, Benjamin Cardin, Carl Levin, Frank Lautenberg, Charles Schumer and Joe Lieberman. The late Tom Lantos, often referred to as Israel’s congressman, was also a Democrat. Many of Israel’s friends have characteristically sought and attained powerful positions on committees that deal with foreign and defense policies to enable them to directly influence legislation favorable to Israel.
One would think that more pro-Israel muscle wouldn’t be needed in congress, but yet another prominent Israeli firster is now being groomed for bigger things. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is being promoted by the Democratic Party leadership to make a run for a Senate seat from the State of Nevada currently held by Republican Dean Heller. Berkley’s support of anything and everything Israel does is notable even by congressional standards. She is co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus (part of the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation) and has been described by the Jewish media as “one of the most hawkish pro-Israel voices in the US House.” She has co-sponsored six resolutions relating to Israel including one “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza” and has been blistering in her condemnation of the several Gaza relief flotillas, which she evidently sees as boatloads of terrorists.
Berkley is also not shy about supporting other special interests. She is currently under investigation by the House Ethics Committee (an oxymoron if there ever was one) because she allegedly used her influence to block the closure of a kidney transplant facility in Las Vegas, where her doctor husband works. Given that lack of separation between her personal interest and her responsibility as a congresswoman one might have thought that she should have recused herself from the issue, though the scandal is unfortunately probably insufficient to derail her senatorial bid.
Unlike in some other recent congressional races in Illinois and New Jersey where Israel was a focal point, Berkley will no doubt campaign on local issues in Nevada because raising the ethnic card could prove risky. Heller is a Mormon in a state that has many of his co-religionists. But it should be assumed that if Berkley is elected to the Senate her advocacy of Israel and its policies will be a hallmark of her time in office, just as it has been during her time in the House of Representatives.
Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.
- Congressional Crusade for Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Lobby Always Believes More Is Better (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- The Israel Lobby Never Sleeps (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama assures Orthodox Jewish delegation of his “fidelity” to Israel (alethonews.wordpress.com)
As labor leaders across the U.S. shift resources away from defending workers and into Obama’s re-election campaign, millions of organized and non-organized workers remain unemployed and hopeless. Contrary to the “optimistic” government jobs numbers, the jobs crisis grinds onward. Some labor leaders will argue that getting Obama elected is the first step towards addressing the jobs crisis, but they know better.
The recent so-called JOBS Act that passed with strong Democrat and Republican support will create zero jobs — the law’s intent is to lower regulations for banks and corporations, in an attempt to boost their profits. The JOBS wording was used for popularity’s sake, requiring heavy doses of deceit.
A similar-minded jobs project was put forth by Obama earlier in the year, when he appointed “experts” to his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. But the Council was front loaded with CEO’s and bankers, with only two labor reps, who allowed themselves to be used to obscure the real intent of the project. Richard Trumka, President of the labor federation AFL-CIO, was one of the token labor leaders on the council, who only later partially redeemed himself by denouncing the Council’s job-creating recommendations (predictably, one of the key “job creating” ideas was to lower corporate tax rates).
Millions of union and non-union workers have seen their lives worsen under Obama while he promotes the above stunts that are intended to serve the wealthy and fool everybody else.
These millions of workers will now be subjugated to pro-Obama door knockers and phone callers from labor unions who will ignore the above facts while trying to put a pro-worker face on the pro-corporate president. Workers will not be so easily fooled, their paychecks — or lack thereof — speak stronger truths than can any pro-Obama campaigner.
The key irony is that the more forward-looking labor unions have already realized that they need the support of non-unionized workers if their movement is to survive. To this extent both union federations — AFL-CIO and Change to Win — have put tremendous resources towards community outreach and organizing. But such efforts can be wasted when unions pursue policies that working people not only disagree with, but denounce.
Non-unionized workers will only actively support labor unions when they are inspired to do so; if the non-union community trusts labor to fight for their interests, they will fight alongside unions in the streets. However, when unions have to skew the facts to encourage votes for Obama, they lose crucial trust with the broader community.
Trust was also lost when working people witnessed many unions publicly supporting Obama’s health care plan, which forces millions of non-union workers to buy shoddy corporate health insurance they cannot afford. Labor’s kid glove handling of Obama’s anti-public education policy is also high on the list of examples where unions weakened their community status by attaching themselves to the Democrats’ pro-corporate polices.
Shockingly, the largest teachers’ union, National Education Association, has endorsed Obama’s campaign even though the NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel, summarized teachers’ experience with the Obama Administration by saying, “Today our members face the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced” — an environment directly encouraged by Obama’s deceitfully named “Race to the Top” education program.
Obama has yet to promise unions or working people anything in the upcoming election. Whoever wins the Presidency will immediately continue serving the corporations with varying degrees of public enthusiasm — the only real difference between the two parties.
Labor leaders are not stupid. They recognize these facts, but have absolutely no idea what to do about it. So they do what they’ve done for decades; align themselves with the Democrats in the hopes that they will be rewarded for their servitude. But the crumbs of gratitude stopped trickling down years ago, and what little remains on the workers plate is now being targeted by both Democratic and Republican politicians who insist on ever more concessions.
The Democrats’ policies signify a clean break from labor unions, an alliance that was always at the indirect expense of the rest of the working class. As long as unions were treated fairly, many labor leaders turned a blind eye to policies that affected non-union workers, creating a suicidal distance between the organized and non-organized.
Now it’s labor unions that are on the menu; Democratic governors on a state by state basis have wrenched major concessions from public sector unions, substantially weakening them and reducing their numbers. This, combined with mass unemployment and Race to the Top, amounts to a concerted anti-union agenda.
Labor leaders solution to this crisis is to raise money and volunteers…to elect Democrats.
Labor’s real power will thus remain unused. The inherent power of unions lies in their numbers, organization, and ability to collectively assert themselves in the workplace and streets. This is how labor became strong; the mass strikes and street demonstrations that built the labor movement created an organizational power that neither Democrats nor Republicans dared touch. President Eisenhower and Nixon, for example, refused to confront unions for fear of the repercussions. Unions were not given this power by compassionate Democrats in past generations; power was forcibly taken from the Democrats.
This truth is kept concealed from the current generation of union members, many of whom are miseducated into believing that their power is limited to electing Democrats. No other belief is as dangerous for the labor movement, which would immediately benefit from de-funding the Democrats and using the money to educate and organize their members to fight in the workplaces and streets for the many pro-worker demands, like a massive federal jobs program, that will otherwise remain “off the table” in Congress.
Shamus Cooke is a social worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)
- Open Letter to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Labor Politics and the Captive Electorate of 2012 (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Obama Set to Use Military Intervention Against Longshoremen (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Dear Mr. Trumka,
You have come to your leadership position of our country’s labor federation of unions with 13 million members the hard way. Starting by working in the coal mines, then becoming a lawyer, heading the United Mine Workers, then becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO before assuming your present position in 2009, who can pull rank on you in the formal labor movement?
Yet, the AFL-CIO’s public leadership in three major areas has been far less effective than one would expect. I am referring to your less than assertive response to President Obama: 1) turning his back on raising the federal minimum wage; 2) failing to advance his card check promise to you in 2008; and 3) dropping the ball on backing long-overdue safety and health responsibilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
I say this with the awareness of your group’s public stands in favor of these three crucial matters to working families. But as you well know, there is a very marked difference between being on-the-record, as the AFL-CIO is, and being on-the-daily ramparts pushing these issues, as your organization is not.
Even just making a statement, however, took a back seat in your March 13, 2012 endorsement of Barack Obama for a second term as president. In what ways has Mr. Obama “moved aggressively,” as you declared, “to protect workers rights, pay, health and safety on the job?”
He has neither championed nor pressed Congress, when the Democrats were in control in 2009-2010, to give you card check which you have long-said was needed to reverse the serious decline and expand the ranks of organized labor by millions of workers (you told me this in 2004).
Second, Mr. Obama appointed an excellent head of OSHA and then betrayed OSHA – an agency that has estimated 58,000 workplace-related American deaths a year from disease and trauma! That is over 1000 people a week, every week, on the average.
Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor and the head of OSHA, cannot get White House approval for issuing long-overdue standards or strengthening weak and outdated standards such as the woefully inadequate silica rule, to save American lives not threatened by terrorists, but by corporate negligence or worse. Why have you not exposed this reality in public? Has Mr. Obama, whom you have socialized with at White House viewings of the Super Bowl, ever invited you to come across Lafayette Square to discuss this serious ongoing, preventable tragedy?
Had he taken worker concerns seriously, he might have asked you why the AFL-CIO for many years, has retained at its large national headquarters so few full-time advocates on occupational health and safety? And you in turn might have asked him why his politicos are blocking Dr. Michaels and why he is content in having only $550 million for OSHA’s annual budget while the U.S. spent $675 million in 2011 paying corporate contractors to guard the overbuilt U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Are these the Obama “values” you extolled in your endorsement statement?
More dismaying is your touting Mr. Obama for aggressively protecting workers’ pay. By pushing for more NAFTA type “pull-down” trade agreements through Congress, and not moving to revise NAFTA as he promised in his 2008 presidential campaigns, he is undermining both workers’ pay and jobs. By totally abandoning his pledge made to over 30 million workers in 2008 that he would press for a $9.50/hour federal minimum wage by 2011, he left them defenseless with more debt and fewer necessities of life.
The AFL-CIO wants at the least to catch up to 1968 with an inflation-adjusted $10/hour minimum wage law. Where is the visible muscular campaign for such legislation? Keeping up with inflation for the federal minimum wage is historically supported by 70 percent of the people. That includes many Republicans and even Rick Santorum and, until his latest flip-flop, Mitt Romney. A $10 minimum wage, after years of windfall price increases and executive compensation windfalls at labor’s expense, would annually pump tens of billions of dollars into greater consumer demand by low-income families in this recessionary economy.
What is the AFL-CIO waiting for? Hundreds of non-profit organizations will follow your lead. Talk is not enough. Resources and muscular lobbying are required along with far more relevant and tough public advertisements than your members are seeing and paying for on TV these days. Enough, already, of the general feel-good mood spots on TV.
As someone who in earlier days had been a dig-in-your-heels labor negotiator in fights with management, what did you receive for millions of American workers in your early, blanket endorsement of Mr. Obama? No wonder he can get away with giving the trade union movement and unorganized workers the back of his hand. You have unnecessarily allowed him to believe that you have nowhere to go. This is another way of saying that the Republicans, by being worse than the bad Democrats, are holding the American labor movement hostage to the corporatist Democratic Party.
The AFL-CIO is in a deep, defensive rut when in these tough times it should be in an aroused, innovative state of high alert and aggressive action. Workers in the 1930s’ Depression were in worse shape than workers today, yet organized labor was more militant.
People inside and outside the AFL-CIO know the problems. They are: complacent bureaucratic rigidity, fractious relations between member unions over how supine they need to be to Obama and the Democrats (with their costly wars), the lack of union democracy and competitive elections both within member unions and at the AFL-CIO plus, except for a few unions like the California Nurses Association, a distinct lack of sustained fervor and money for organizing drives.
You know all this only too well. Yet, as a 14th Century Chinese philosopher once said, “to know and not to do is not to know.” Unless you shake the AFL-CIO up and reorder its priorities against the corporate state, expect another four years of an Obamabush Administration.
- Obama Set to Use Military Intervention Against Longshoremen (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Not All Labor Leaders Happy With AFL-CIO’s Obama Endorsement (thetrialbyfire.org)
- Labor Politics and the Captive Electorate of 2012 (alethonews.wordpress.com)