Archive for October, 2011

The whole mass of the people against Neo liberal economic policies.

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people… They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” Thomas Jefferson
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

WE, THE NINETY-NINE PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in order to form a more perfect Union, by, for and of the PEOPLE, shall elect and convene a NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY beginning on July 4, 2012 in the City Of Philadelphia.

I. Election of Delegates:
The People, consisting of all United States citizens who have reached the age of 18, regardless of party affiliation and voter registration status, shall elect Two Delegates, one male and one female, by direct vote, from each of the existing 435 Congressional Districts to represent the People at the NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY in Philadelphia. Said Assembly shall convene on July 4, 2012 in the city of Philadelphia. The office of Delegate shall be open to all United States citizens who have reached the age of 18. Election Committees, elected by local General Assemblies or Working Groups from all over the United States, shall coordinate with the Working Group on the 99% Declaration to organize, coordinate and fund this national election by direct democratic voting. The Election Committees, Working Groups and local General Assemblies shall operate like the original Committees of Correspondence.

II. Meeting of the National General Assembly and Approval of a Petition for a Redress of Grievances:
In addition to ensuring a free and fair election of the Delegates to the NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY, the Working Group on the 99% Declaration shall be responsible for raising sufficient funds to secure a venue wherein the the 870 Delegates may convene, deliberate, consider, vote and ratify a PETITION OF GRIEVANCES to be presented to all 535 members of Congress, The 9 members of the Supreme Court, the President of the United States and each of the political candidates seeking to be elected to federal public office in November 2012. Subject to the voting procedure for the final vote of ratification of the PETITION OF GRIEVANCES as set forth in section III, the Delegates of the National General Assembly shall vote upon and implement their own rules, procedures, agenda, code of conduct, elections or appointments of committee members to efficiently an expeditiously accomplish the People’s mandate to present a PETITION OF GRIEVANCES before the 2012 elections.

III. Content of the Petition For A Redress of Grievances:
The PETITION OF GRIEVANCES shall be non-partisan and specifically address the critical issues now confronting the People of the United States of America. The Delegates shall deliberate and vote upon proposals for the PETITION OF GRIEVANCES and if necessary adjourn for further consultation with the People of the United States of America as our founding fathers conferred during the first two Continental Congresses. The final vote ratifying the PETITION OF GRIEVANCES shall be by simple majority vote. A duly elected chairperson of the National General Assembly shall determine the outcome of the vote on ratification in the event of a tie.

IV. Suggested Content of the Petition For A Redress of Grievances:
In order to facilitate the timely election of the 870 Delegates to the National General Assembly by July 4, 2012 and petition the government for a redress of grievances before the 2012 elections, the Working Group on the 99% Declaration, founded and duly announced to the New York City General Assembly on October 15, 2011, shall draft a suggested list of grievances to be respectfully submitted to the Delegates of the National General Assembly no later than June 30, 2012. The final version of the PETITION OF GRIEVANCES ratified by the National General Assembly, MAY or MAY NOT include the following issues suggested by the Working Group on the 99% Declaration:

1. Implementing an immediate ban on all private contributions of money and gifts, to all politicians in federal office, from individuals, corporations, “political action committees”, “super political action committees”, lobbyists, unions and all other private sources of money or thing of value to be replaced by the fair, equal and total public financing of all federal political campaigns. We categorically REJECT the concepts that corporations are persons or that money is equal to free speech because if that were so, then only the wealthiest people and corporations would have a voice. The complete elimination of private contributions must enacted by law because it has become clear that politicians in the United States cannot regulate themselves and have become the exclusive representatives of corporations, unions and the very wealthy who indirectly and directly spend vast sums of money on political campaigns to influence the candidates’ decisions when they attain office and ensure their reelection year after year. Our elected representatives spend far too much of their time fundraising for the next election rather than doing the People’s business. The current system’s propagation of legalized bribery and perpetual conflicts of interests has reduced our once great republican democracy to a greed driven corporatocracy run by boardroom oligarchs who represent .05% of the population but own 38% of the wealth.

2. The immediate abrogation, even if it requires a Constitutional Amendment, of the outrageous and anti-democratic holding in the “Citizens United” case proclaimed by the United States Supreme Court. This heinous decision, which equates the payment of money by corporations, wealthy individuals and unions to politicians with the exercise of protected free speech. We, the People, demand that this institutional bribery and corruption never again be deemed protected free speech.

3. Prohibiting all federal public employees, officers, officials or their immediate family members from ever being employed by any corporation, individual or business that they specifically regulated while in office; nor may any public employee, officer, official or their immediate family members own or hold any stock or shares in any corporation they regulated while in office until a full 5 years after their term is completed; and a complete lifetime ban on accepting all gifts, services, money or thing of value, directly or indirectly, to any elected or appointed federal official or their immediate family members, from any person, corporation, union or other entity that the public official was charged to specifically regulate while in office. In sum, elected politicians and public employees in regulatory roles, may only collect their salary, generous healthcare benefits and pension. Any person, including corporate employees, found guilty and convicted of violating these rules in a court of law by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, shall be sentenced to a term of mandatory imprisonment of no less than one year and nor more than ten years.

4. Term Limits. Members of the United States House of Representatives shall be limited to serving no more than four two-year terms in their lifetime. Members of the United States Senate shall be limited to serving no more than two six-year terms in their lifetime. The two term limit for President shall remain unchanged. Serving as a member of Congress or the President of the United States is the one of the highest honors and privileges our culture can bestow. These positions of prominence in our society should be sought to serve one’s country and not provide lifetime career designed to increase personal wealth and accumulate power for the sake of vanity.

5. A complete reformation of the United States Tax Code to require ALL citizens to pay a fair share of a progressive, graduated income tax by eliminating loopholes, unfair tax breaks, exemptions and deductions, subsidies (e.g. oil, gas and farm) and ending all other methods of evading taxes. The current system of taxation favors the wealthiest Americans, many of whom, pay fewer taxes to the United States Treasury than citizens who earn much less and pay a much higher percentage of income in taxes to the United States Treasury. We, like Warren Buffet, find this income tax disparity to be fundamentally unjust.

6. Medicare for all American citizens or adoption of a single-payer healthcare system. The Medicaid program, fraught with corruption and fraud, will be eliminated except for the purpose of providing emergency room care to indigent non-citizens who will not be covered by the single-payer healthcare system.

7. New comprehensive regulations to give the Environmental Protection Agency expanded powers to shut down corporations, businesses or any entities that intentionally or recklessly damage the environment and/or criminally prosecute individuals who intentionally damage the environment. We also demand the immediate adoption of the most recent international protocols, including the “Washington Declaration” to cap carbon emissions and implement new and existing programs to transition away from fossil fuels to reusable or carbon neutral sources of energy.

8. Adoption of an immediate plan to reduce the national debt to a sustainable percentage of GDP by 2020. Reduction of the national debt to be achieved by BOTH a cut in spending to corporations engaged in perpetual war for profit, the “healthcare” industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the communications industry, the oil and industry, and all other sectors that use the federal budget as their income stream. We agree that spending cuts are necessary but those cuts must be made to facilitate what is best for the People of the United States of America, not multinational and domestic corporations who currently have a stranglehold on all politicians in Washington, D.C. in both parties.

9. Passage of a comprehensive job and job-training act like the American Jobs Act to employ our citizens in jobs that are available with specialized training and by putting People to work now by repairing America’s crumbling infrastructure. We also recommend the establishment of an online international job exchange to match employers with skilled workers or employers willing to train workers in 21st century skills. In conjunction with a new jobs act, reinstitution of the Works Progress Administration and Civilian Conservation Corps or a similar emergency governmental agency tasked with creating new public works projects to provide jobs to the 46 million People living in poverty, the 9.1% unemployed and 10% underemployed.

10. Implementation of a student loan debt relief forgiveness program. Our young students are more than $830 billion in debt from education loans alone with few employment prospects due to financial collapse directly caused by the unbridled and unregulated greed of Wall Street. Interest on these debts should be reduced and deferred for periods of unemployment and the principal on these loans reduced or forgiven by using a Wall Street corporate tax surcharge as reparations for their conduct leading to the economic collapse of 2007-2008 and current worldwide recession.

11. Immediate passage of the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration and border security reform including offering visas, lawful permanent resident status and citizenship to the world’s brightest People to stay and work in our industries and schools after they obtain their education and training in the United States.

12. Recalling all military personnel at all non-essential bases and refocusing national defense goals to address threats posed by the geopolitics of the 21st century, including terrorism and limiting the large scale deployment of military forces to instances where Congressional approval has been granted to counter the Military Industrial Complex’s goal of perpetual war for profit. The annual estimated savings of one trillion dollars per year by updating our military posture will be applied to the social programs outlined herein to improve the quality of life for human beings rather than assisting corporations make ever increasing profits distributed to the top 1% of wealth owners.

13. Mandating new educational goals to train the American public to perform jobs in a 21st Century economy, particularly in the areas of technology and green energy, taking into consideration the redundancy caused by technology and the inexpensive cost of labor in China, India and other countries. Eliminating tenure and paying our teachers a competitive salary commensurate with the salaries of employees in the private sector with similar skills because without highly skilled teachers, there will never be a highly skilled workforce.

14. Subject to the elimination of corporate tax loopholes and exploited exemptions and deductions stated above, offering tax incentives to businesses to remain in the United States and hire our citizens rather than outsource jobs. Introducing an “outsourcing tax” to discourage business form sending jobs overseas. Providing tax breaks to companies that invest in reconstructing the manufacturing capacity of the United States so that we again make everyday products in the United States rather than importing them from countries like China and India.

15. Implementing immediate legislation and WTO intervention to encourage China and our other trading partners to end currency manipulation and reduce the trade deficit.

16. Immediate reenactment of the Glass-Steagall Act and increased regulation of Wall Street and the financial industry by the SEC, FINRA and the other financial regulators, and the commencement of a Justice Department criminal investigations into the Securities and Banking industries practices that led to the collapse of markets, $700 billion bail-out, and financial firm failures in 2007-2008. Introduction of a small financial transaction fee to collect a tax on each and every stock trade and all other forms of financial transactions. Uniform regulations limiting what banks may charge consumers for ATM fees, the use of debit cards and other miscellaneous “fees”. Ending $4 billion dollar a year “hedge fund loophole” which permits certain individuals engaged in financial transactions to evading income tax rates by treating their income as capital gains which are taxed at a much lower tax rate (approximately 15%).

17. Adoption of a plan similar to President Clinton’s proposal to end the mortgage crisis and instead of the Federal Reserve Bank continuing to lower interest rates for loans to banks who are refusing to loan to small businesses and consumers, the Federal Reserve Bank shall buy all underwater or foreclosed mortgages and refinance these debts at 1% or less to be managed by the newly established Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and foreclosure task force described below) because 1% or less is the interest rate the Federal Reserve Bank loans to the banks directly who hoard the cash rather than loan it to the People and small businesses. The immediate formation of a non-partisan commission, overseen by Congress, to investigate the economic risks and possibility of eliminating the privately owned Federal Reserve Bank and transferring its functions to the United States Treasury Department.

18. An immediate one year freeze on all foreclosures to be reviewed by an independent foreclosure task force appointed by Congress and the Executive Branch (in conjunction with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ) to determine, on a case by case basis, whether foreclosure proceedings should continue based on the circumstances of each homeowner and the propriety of the financial institution’s conduct when originating the loan.

19. Subject to the above ban on all private money and gifts in politics, to enact additional campaign finance reform requiring new FCC regulations granting free air time to all candidates; total public campaign financing to all candidates who obtain sufficient petition signatures and/or votes to get on the ballot and participate in the primaries and/or electoral process; shortening the campaign season to three months; and allowing voting on weekends and holidays; issuance of free voter registration cards to all citizens who are eligible to vote so that they cannot be turned away at a polling station because they not have a drivers license or other form of identification and the option to mail-in voter ballots in all elections.

20. An immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and a substantial increase in the amount of funding needed for veteran job placement and the treatment of the physical and emotional injuries sustained by veterans in these wars. Our veterans are committing suicide at an unprecedented rate and we must help now.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that IF the PETITION OF GRIEVANCES approved by the 870 Delegates of the NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY in consultation with the PEOPLE, is not acted upon within a reasonable time and to the satisfaction of the Delegates of the NATIONAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY, said Delegates shall organize a new COMPLETELY NON-PARTISAN INDEPENDENT POLITICAL PARTY to run candidates for every available Congressional seat in the mid-term election of 2014 and again in 2016 until all vestiges of the existing corrupt corporatocracy have been removed by the ballot box.


Copyright 2011 by The99PercentDeclaration Working Group

Read Full Post »

Globalization and Global Chaos

Globalization and Global Chaos


By Ron Hera

August , 2011

As social and political upheaval and civil unrest have spread across the globe, it has become clear that the problems facing Western countries are neither transient nor temporary.  Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States share a common set of problems over and above economic decline and sovereign debt issues linked to problems of the global financial system.  The issues surrounding civil unrest comprise a lack of economic opportunity, political disenfranchisement, erosion of individual rights, a systematic lack of accountability from local authorities to national leaders, deteriorating credibility of political and financial leaders and disintegrating national government legitimacy.  The reason that the above problems are common to Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States is that they are all linked to globalization.

National governments have become increasingly subordinated to international bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), Group of 20 (G-20) or the European Central Bank (ECB), as well as to large multinational corporations.  Large multinational corporations, which are a central feature of globalization, enjoy privileged status granted to them by governments.  The bailout of large multinational banks by Western governments in the face of the financial crisis that began in 2008 illustrates that the well being of sufficiently large multinational corporations preempts national interests.  The rationale that large multinational banks cannot fail stems from the fact that they make up the infrastructure—the valves, pipes and pumps, so to speak—of the international financial system.  What is important is that the same rationale can be applied to virtually any international industry.  The precedent of bank bailouts ushered in a new paradigm wherein the agendas of international industrial cartels take precedence over the laws, regulations, economic and trade policies of national governments.  Although the world financial system is at a more advanced stage of globalization relative to most other industries, the bank bailouts revealed, with startling clarity, a new world order.

The financial crisis of 2008 and the global recession that followed suggest that globalization may fail for basic economic reasons.  Globalization, as opposed to promoting sustainable, economic communities, advances an agenda of central economic planning designed to optimize global output, mainly for the benefit of multinational corporations.  Policies or regulations that benefit multinational corporations do not necessarily promote economic stability or sustainability and may run counter to the interests of local or regional commercial concerns.

The law of unintended consequences states that when a simple system attempts to control a complex system, unintended consequences are the result.  Globalization places the relatively simple, rigid bureaucracies of international bodies and large multinational corporations in a position of oversight and policymaking over the affairs of roughly 196 countries and 6 billion human beings around the world.  Unintended consequences are, therefore, endemic to globalization.  What is more important than the economic failure of globalization, however, is its imminent political failure.

International trade and capital flows are emergent phenomena that exist as a consequence of the individual human actions that form the basis of every local and regional economy in the world.  Economies, like biological ecosystems, are spontaneously self-organizing systems that develop naturally in a local or regional context.  Breaking down naturally occurring local or regional economies in order to reassemble their components, e.g., capital, labor or natural resources, in a wholly artificial, centrally planned system, is a profoundly flawed and politically dangerous concept.  Specifically, the political structures required for globalization breed unrest.  Political systems that require human beings to behave in ways contrary to human nature are, by definition, oppressive.  Since political structures arise in a social context, replacing local and regional economic relationships, characterized by ethnic and cultural social structures, with an abstract concept, such as the global economy, requires oppressive political structures.

Globalization and Individual Liberty

Understanding the political failure of globalization requires some familiarity with political philosophy.  The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that “excess generally causes reaction and produces a change in the opposite direction, whether it be in the seasons, or in individuals, or in governments.”  Under a policy of globalization, national governments defer to international bodies and to the agendas of large multinational corporations, which are thought to make up the global economy, but the removal of economic and political control to international bodies represents a radical centralization of power.  The European Union, for example, has been described as a centrally planned economic union where unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats make decisions in place of democratically elected national leaders.  If Plato is right, then the more excessive the centralization of power becomes, the more forceful the reaction against it will ultimately be.

Philosophically speaking, the institution of the state always opposes individual liberty to some degree.  There is an enduring, inherent conflict between the rights of individual human beings and the rights of human collectives.  By nature, human beings are social animals, thus the survival of the collective, e.g., a family, clan, tribe, village, etc., takes precedence over the survival of individuals.  However, individual human beings innately desire freedom to pursue their own selfish interests.  Of course, the pursuit of selfish interests on the part of individuals includes behaviors that benefit the collective, of which they are a part, i.e., it is in the self interest of individuals to maintain their own collective.  Thus, selfish pursuits are not necessarily destructive to the collective and can be supportive of it, which is the basis of philosopher Ayn Rand’s view of selfishness as a virtue.  The limitation on individual liberty in the context of any collective is that behaviors that impair the capacity of the collective to survive cannot be tolerated.  Conversely, behaviors that are not harmful to the collective can be safely tolerated even if they do not benefit the collective.

The great complexity of human social and political organization springs from the constraints on individual behavior necessary for the survival of the collective and from how such constraints are enforced by the collective.  In a political context, the most important, defining issue is the treatment of individual liberty.  According to Ayn Rand, “individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).”  Since the global collective is the ultimate political majority, it is also the greatest threat to individual rights.

The social contract, under which human beings live harmoniously in collectives, is reflected in the legal and political structures of a society.  As a practical matter, laws require law enforcement and law enforcement presupposes the existence of an enforcing authority.  It has been said, for example, that government is “…an institution with a monopoly on the legitimate use of deadly force within a specified geographic territory” (Max Weber 1918).  Globalization violates the social contract.

While no government can be separated from the use of force, the use of force is only legitimate if it serves the interests of the collective, e.g., of a particular nation.  The use of force by a government against its own citizens in order to serve private, rather than public, interests or to serve the interests of another nation is not legitimate and is merely violent oppression.  The latter distinction is clear to Westerners when observing, for example, the shootings of nonviolent protesters in countries like Iran or Syria, but is less obvious when observing police violence against nonviolent protesters in Spain or Greece.

Globalization and Government Legitimacy

Human social structures, such as those of families, clans, tribes, villages, etc., naturally have elders or other leaders that, in theory, have an understanding of the structure of the collective and of what is necessary for or harmful to its survival.  Throughout human history, the relationships of human collectives and their leaders have been based on various combinations of force, rational or irrational beliefs, social class structures, economic factors, and on the will of the collective.  For example, oligarchies are typically based on beliefs, e.g., religious beliefs, or on material wealth, e.g., land ownership.  Military dictatorships are based on force; while democracy, at least in theory, is based on the will of the collective, and so forth.

Globalization corrodes the legitimacy of national governments.  Setting aside leadership based purely on force, e.g., military dictatorship, legitimate leadership depends on the assent of the collective.  The assent of the collective is lost when leaders fail to understand the structure of the collective or what is necessary for or harmful to its survival.  Just as individual behaviors that are injurious to the collective are not tolerated, leaders that are injurious to the collective can be rejected by the collective, sometimes violently, i.e., revolution.  Of course, revolutions are relatively uncommon and, throughout history, the vast majority of human beings have lived as subjects.

The American Declaration of Independence states that “…governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  Thus, loss of legitimacy on the part of a government is a necessary condition for revolution but it is not sufficient.  Generally, subjects that receive benefits from their rulers or that feel they have something to lose, e.g., their livelihood or property, will not revolt unless they stand to lose more by failing to act, i.e., when a long train of abuses and usurpations evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism.  However, when economic mismanagement threatens the survival of individuals, the probability of revolt greatly increases.

Globalization and Political Disenfranchisement

As the collective encompassed by a government grows wider in scope, the constraints on individual behavior, and on the rights of individuals, grow accordingly.  In a family, clan, tribe or village, leaders are more or less directly accessible and accountable and individuals have direct input on decisions affecting the collective.  As the scope of the collective grows, individuals are increasingly subordinated, eventually having no meaningful input on decisions, no significant access to leaders and no influence over the policies of the collective.  Political disenfranchisement, therefore, follows globalization in lock step.

The European Union, for example, has arguably devolved into an autocracy were unelected bureaucrats dictate fiscal, monetary and trade policies based substantially on the requirements of the largest European banks.   In other words, national governments and democratic elections in Europe have become largely irrelevant.

While democracy ensures that leaders have the assent of the collective, given sufficient resources, elections can be influenced, e.g., through the news media.  Theoretically, in a republic, the fickle majority is constrained by principles enshrined in fundamental laws, but, for better or worse, laws can be changed.  Roman Senator Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56 – AD 117) wrote “the more corrupt the state, the more laws.”  The political duopoly in the United States is dominated by large, corporate sponsors that fund political campaigns and that, through professional lobbyists, write many of the laws passed by the U.S. Congress.  The U.S. Federal Code contains tens of thousands of pages of laws and regulations written by lobbyists that certainly benefit their employers more than the public.  At the same time, American politicians are accountable to corporate sponsors that can, in effect, dismiss them from their posts by withholding campaign funds.  Thus, outside of the careers of individual politicians, the input of American voters has a limited impact on government policy.

Globalization, which reflects the agendas of large multinational corporations, has had the effect of alienating the citizens of Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States from their own governments.  National governments are increasingly accountable to international bodies while elected officials are increasingly accountable to large multinational corporations.  Thus, the citizens of Western nations have been reduced to the status of politically disenfranchised subjects.

Climbing the Wall of Ruin

While the economic failure of globalization is already evident, its political failure is only just beginning.  Civil unrest in Greece and rioting in England, for example, are only cracks on the surface of a much deeper and more complex problem.  Since globalization is the agenda of the largest corporations in every country, leaders in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States almost universally support it.  In the face of growing global chaos, political, financial and business leaders do not appear to be contemplating a return to simpler, genuinely democratic, self regulating and sustainable economic and political structures.  Nonetheless, the economic and political consequences of globalization will continue to escalate until efforts to force economies and political nation-states into an artificial global collective cease.

As globalization progresses, it leaves in its wake political disenfranchisement, reduced individual rights, unaccountable leadership, illegitimate governments and the potential for violent oppression.  It is perhaps a profound irony that the positive vision of a unified, global human collective is one of harmonious, peaceful cooperation, without warring nation states.  Sadly, the unintended consequences of globalization include social and political upheaval, civil unrest and, eventually, revolt.  In the best case, the foreseeable future holds greater, more widespread and increasingly severe economic and political volatility.  In the worst case, any number of civil conflicts or international wars might erupt.


Read Full Post »

Should Labor Fight to Revive U.S. Manufacturing?

Should Labor Fight to Revive U.S. Manufacturing?

by Shamus Cooke

Every social movement faces countless obstacles by those in power. Although brute force is used to stifle movements when they become especially effective, more subtle methods are typically employed. Diverting movements to adopt ineffective strategies and “safe” ideas is the normal way people in power keep others powerless. When applied to the barely-moving labor movement, these methods are becoming increasingly important, as workers strive to defend themselves against attacks on their wages, benefits and social programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Before working people can become powerfully independent, they must first shake off the shackles of bad ideas and fake solutions.

What are these misleading ideas and who benefits from them? In response to the non-functioning economy, an idea becoming popular in the mainstream media — and echoed among some labor leaders — is for the U.S. government to adopt strategies that will re-vitalize domestic manufacturing. At first sight such an idea appears “progressive,” since industrial manufacturing was the basis for the U.S. labor movement. But times have changed. The policies being proposed that would breathe new life into U.S. manufacturing would suck the life from the labor movement.

What are these policies? There are two general ideas to “boost manufacturing,” both ineffectual for working people: 1) Obama’s free-trade approach, where wages in the U.S. are driven down far enough to compete with lower-wage countries like China and India on the international free market, combined with signing bi-lateral free-trade agreements with smaller economies like Colombia, Peru, South Korea, etc. 2) Protectionist trade policies, where foreign imports are shut out of the U.S. market, giving U.S. corporations monopoly domination of the market. Sadly, U.S. labor leaders have supported both ideas to varying degrees.

For example, Obama’s anti-worker free-trade approach was displayed by his “nationalization” of General Motors and Chrysler. This move is now celebrated by labor unions as having “saved the auto industry,” but at what expense? A key aspect of the “restructuring” of the companies was the insistence that workers make far less money, so that they could be “competitive” on the global market. The result is that new hires at automobile plants — as part of the “two-tier wage system” — make $14 an hour, with far fewer benefits on the side than do incumbent workers who make twice as much. This is not a temporary measure, but the “new normal.” A recent article in the New York Times was revealingly titled: Detroit Sets Its Future on a Foundation of Two-Tier Wages:

“The new [lower wage] jobs, which are seen as long term, are being watched closely by economists, executives in other industries and Washington policy makers eager to increase employment in manufacturing and other areas…What was once seen as a desperate move [the two-tier system] to prop up the struggling auto industry is now considered an integral part of its future…” “This is not going away,” said Kristin Dziczek, a labor analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It has allowed the Big Three to reduce labor costs without cutting the pay of incumbent workers. Is it good for the health and competitiveness of the companies? Yes.” (September 12, 2011).

These ideas are applicable to the entire manufacturing sector and are an integral piece of Obama’s approach to revive U.S. manufacturing. “Auto Czar” Ron Bloom — a former Steelworkers employee — oversaw the above auto-restructuring plan. Bloom was also nicknamed Obama’s Manufacturing Emissary, meaning that his approach towards the auto restructuring was to apply to the wider economy as well. In an article about Bloom and the Obama administration’s manufacturing strategy, The New York Times reported:

“The Obama administration is counting on sharp increases in exports to buoy the nation’s manufacturers. The president has set a goal of doubling exports in the next five years.” (September 9, 2010). What the article doesn’t mention is that, for the U.S. to double its exports, U.S. workers will likely have to shrink their wages in the way that GM workers were forced to, all in the name of “competitiveness.”

The recession is performing this task of wage shrinking with amazing efficiency. Wages are shriveling as corporations and state governments use the threat of unemployment to demand concessions. Bloomberg reports:

“More than half of U.S. workers were either unemployed or experienced reductions in hours or wages since the recession began in December 2007… The worst economic slump since the 1930s has affected 55 percent of adults in the labor force…” (June 30, 2010).

This is one reason that nothing of substance is being done about the massive unemployment problem in the U.S.: it effectively drives down wages which, in turn, is good for exports and manufacturing.

The not-so-radical alternative to Obama’s free-trade approach is its opposite, restricting free-trade via protectionist trade policies. Within this category the three most frequently demanded policies from liberal economists and labor leaders are:

1) increasing taxes on foreign imports (especially China).
2) Demanding that China re-value its currency, so that U.S. corporations can increase their exports on the world market, since China’s exports will no longer be as cheap as they have been.
3) Demanding that U.S. government contracts go to U.S. corporations, instead of the bidding system that aims for the cheapest price.

Here’s how Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff to the President of the AFL-CIO, explains it:

“There are two pieces to what it would take to rejuvenate manufacturing. One is trade policy, a more restrictive approach than the free trade, open borders arrangement that we now have. The other is to reward domestic production. When the government makes a purchase, for example, the presumption should be that the first crack goes to manufacturers who stay within the United States.”

There are many reasons why these ideas are false solutions for working people. Protectionist policies fail economically because they trigger economic retaliation: if we shut out Chinese goods, then China shuts out U.S. goods, blocking the exports that were supposed to result from the action. Such a trade war implies a lower standard of living for both countries, since economic cooperation and exchanging resources — no matter how unequal — is superior to sealed borders. By blocking cheap Chinese imports, consumer goods in the U.S. would skyrocket in price, while workers wages would remain low. Also, history shows that trade wars and military wars are closely linked. Working people would end up suffering most from all of these unintended consequences.

One myth about trade is that all corporations are pro-free-trade. In fact, only the most successful multi-national corporations are for free trade, so that they can ship and sell their products with ease around the globe. There are many U.S. corporations that are anti-free trade — less competitive companies — none of which deserve working people’s support. Both free-trade and protectionist corporations are anti-worker, meaning that their profits depend, in large part, on low wages and weak benefits.

The best example of how being anti-free trade is not “progressive” is that the political far-right — including self-proclaimed fascists — eagerly advocate protectionist policies. These groups view the world through corporate-colored lenses; their trade policy is not a “progressive” exception to an otherwise reactionary worldview. They blame foreign countries and immigrants — and unions — for U.S. economic problems, but never the corporations inside their countries who dominate the economy and politics.

Why are trade policies incapable of resurrecting both manufactures and higher wages like the post World War II era? After World War II the U.S. had near-monopoly status over many industries, since their competitors had been obliterated by warfare. Now, numerous big multinationals in various countries have equal levels of capital and technology, creating a dog-eat-dog competitive struggle on the world marketplace, with low wages being the trump card for a successful manufacturing sector.

The recession has heightened the competitive tension between corporate-dominated nations in their quest to dominate foreign markets, a goal that can be achieved through free-trade agreements, military intervention, and lower domestic wages (the U.S. uses all three tactics at once). Currency manipulation — done by the U.S. and China — is becoming the new trend in this fight for markets, signaling a desperateness that comes from exhausted options. It’s possible that, during this struggle for markets, U.S. corporations may switch to protectionist policies in order to monopolize the U.S. market if they feel uncompetitive on the world market. Such a move will not be “progressive.” Whatever the trade policy, working people cannot support “their” nation’s corporations over foreign ones, since working people do not own corporations, but suffer under them.

This is the worst part about the labor movement advocating protectionist trade policies. It assumes that working people have a stake in the corporate battle for global markets. This assumption disarms the labor movement from having an independent strategy, funneling working-class energy into supporting domestic corporations against foreign competition.

If free trade and protectionism are both bad, what is the alternative? This question automatically triggers a greater questioning of capitalism itself, since both free trade and protectionism are based on the assumption that giant corporations will continue to dominate the economy, and consequently politics. As long as corporations own the economy, workers cannot overly concern themselves with how these corporate products are bought and sold. The best way for workers to challenge corporate power is not through lobbying politicians to restrict free trade, but by waging battles at the work sites and in the streets for demands that resonate with all workers. And in the final analysis, workers of each country must come to the realization that workers in other countries are their real allies, not the corporations in their own country. Until workers realize this, they will be caught in the web of the corporate agenda that has workers of each country competing against workers in other countries by accepting increasingly lower wages. But when workers in one country go on strike in support of workers in another country who are demanding higher wages, then all workers will benefit. The race to the bottom will be replaced by the race to the top.

The issue of the day for U.S. workers is how to fight for jobs, better wages, benefits, and how to save their social programs. If workers fight for these demands and ignore diversions such as trade, a powerful movement can erupt that could actually unite the majority of working people, including on an international level, and thus render the corporations powerless.

Reprinted by permission.

Read Full Post »