Radical Ideas, Real Politics: Some Thoughts on the Coming Period

Published on political affairs pa, by Joel Wendland and Peter Zerner, June 2, 2010.

… Signs of Recovery?

Although we have started to see the first fruits of Obama’s Recovery Act, with over 500,000 jobs created in the past three months, the economy must do much more to meet the needs of all working families. While few working families are out of the woods, unemployment remains disproportionately high for African American and Latino workers, who face home foreclosures, school closings, and declining public services. Congress needs to pass a comprehensive jobs bill in proportion to the size of the unemployment crisis, such as the Local Jobs for America Act authored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. The push to create jobs should contain four essential features: 

  • 1) affirmative action principles are needed to ensure new federal investments flow to the communities hardest hit by the economic crisis;
  • 2) special funds must be set aside to protect the jobs of teachers (and other school staff) threatened by state-level budget cuts that promise nothing but further economic harm in the near future and long-term difficulties for the country’s youth;
  • 3) conversion to a green economy that produces alternative energy and builds a public infrastructure using renewable and recyclable materials will create about 5 million new jobs with a sustainable future;
  • 4) and, meaningful investments in our country’s vital social infrastructure – schools, hospitals, libraries, universities, and public transportation – would create 20 million jobs, starting immediately.

People are justifiably worried about the rising federal deficit, but we can pay for a proportionate jobs bill, our schools, health reform, and environmental improvements by bringing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a quick end and shifting federal budget priorities from militarism to people’s needs. Further tax code fixes should require the rich to pay their fair share, end revenue-draining loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes by moving offshore, and force Wall Street pay for its corrupt practices and failures by taxing, for example, the billions made each day by means of lightning-fast electronic transactions.

The Cost of War:

A recent study by the National Priorities Project shows that the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds $1 trillion, and some 58 percent of the federal budget annually is consumed by the Pentagon. An economic recovery for Main Street is directly linked to reducing military spending. Opponents of spending cuts for the military often insist military contracts create jobs. But the evidence of the past nine years of war shows the bloated military budget has proven inadequate to stave off massive unemployment. War has made working families poorer.

Today, the US is number one in military spending, accounting for 45 percent of the entire world’s military spending. Reducing militarism means putting an end to foreign interventionism and bringing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end.

In addition to the cost of war, a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute reveals that the richest Americans have greatly benefited from the carefully-targeted Bush tax cuts, which resulted in the 400 richest families averaging $345 million in annual income seeing their effective rate fall from 26 percent in 1992 to 16 percent in 2007. At the same time, working families saw their tax rate virtually unchanged. Robbed of tax revenue from the wealthiest Americans and drained by payments for Bush’s war of choice in Iraq, the federal deficit skyrocketed.

There will be a true economic recovery only when working families have good-paying jobs, comprehensive benefits, and the guaranteed right to join a union. President Obama’s staunch defense of workers’ rights deserves wide support and applause, but the labor movement has vowed to intensify its fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA would make it far easier for workers to form unions and win the right to collectively bargain for a decent standard of living and safe working conditions. As an example of the safer conditions provided by union representation, the non-union miners who perished at Massey Coal would not have been bullied and intimidated into working in an unsafe mine for fear of losing their jobs if they had had a union. UMW safety teams would have quickly reported the methane danger, and workers would have had the union-guaranteed right of refusing to work in the hazardous conditions that took their lives.

The Tea Party: … (full long text).

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