all of the talk about getting our economy back from its
2008 crash, two things haven’t changed. The super
rich continue to get richer at the expense of the rest of
us, while workers continue to lose ground. Now that
Congress and state legislatures are struggling with what
additional safety net programs to cut, it’s clear that despite
lots of protests and lots of hope, the widening gap between
the rich and the poor is going to keep growing. Our
elected officials from both major parties are setting things
up to guarantee that the super rich will continue to get
richer at the expense of workers and the middle income and
poor. And guess what - they’re using the power of
government to reorganize society so that private corporate
power dominates everything and public services nearly disappear.
What we have to understand is that all of this is being
driven by an economic revolution that should be used to
provide a more secure life for everyone by expanding public
resources instead delivering them to private interests.
Here are some of the latest indicators that show how our political
leaders are setting things up to get government on all levels
- federal, state and local - out of the business of providing
public services that are good for everybody, and into the
business of using everybody’s tax money to help the richest
people and companies get even richer:
In 2010 the richest 20 percent of Americans earned half (49.4 percent)
of the national income, while people living below the poverty
line earned only 3.4 percent. This earnings ratio
of 14.5 to 1 was even better for the wealthy than in 2008,
the year wealthy Wall St. speculators sent the economy into
the worst depression since the 1930s.
In California, in late March the newly elected democratic Governor
signed into law billions of dollars in budget cuts that
according to the Los Angeles Times will mean fewer government
services, particularly for the old, the poor and the sick.
Unions, along with public employees, have called for large
public protests similar to those in February when tens of
thousands demonstrated against the gutting of collective
bargaining rights for most state workers in Wisconsin, but
there is no indication that will deflect the slashing of
In Ohio the anti-union moves are even tougher than in Wisconsin.
In both states collective bargaining over health and pensions
are being prohibited. While firefighters and
police were spared in Wisconsin, in Ohio first responders
are subject to the same austerity measures. A race
is under way state by state to gut collective bargaining
while setting a blow torch to the safety net.
In Michigan, the state government passed a new law in March allowing
the governor to remove elected officials and replace them
with emergency financial managers in any municipality or
school district facing financial difficulties. One
of the legislators sponsoring this law called it “financial
martial law.” Among other things, it allows the emergency
financial managers to cancel labor contracts, fire elected
officials and even dissolve local communities and school
districts. And the emergency financial managers, appointed
by the governor, don’t even have to be human beings. They
can be corporations if the governor wishes. This is
coupled with a governor’s budget proposing billions of dollars
in cuts in state aid to Michigan cities and school district,
virtually guaranteeing if it passes that many more will
face financial difficulties.
The Michigan law didn’t draw the large public protests that developed
in February and March in Wisconsin, when Gov. Scott Walker
attempted to strip public employees of their collective
bargaining rights. His proposal, which prompted Democratic
legislators to flee the state rather than be defeated by
the Republican majority, was passed anyway and is currently
hung up in a court challenge. Walker has told a congressional
hearing that he sees collective bargaining as a negotiated
entitlement, not a basic right.
the federal level, President Obama made it clear in a mid-April
speech that he expects all Americans to sacrifice to slash
the federal deficit, he just doesn’t want the sacrificing
to be as unequal as the budget proposal passed in early
April by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
The new federal health care plan hasn’t fixed what’s wrong
with our broken health care system, but it is delivering
millions of new customers to boost insurance company and
drug company profits. New bi-partisanship proposals
aren’t simply a blend of Democrats and Republicans but rather
proposals to move public resources out of the public domain
and put more resources into the clutches of corporations.
Everywhere you look workers’ rights, wages and benefits
are under attack.
The thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. But it will continue
to be this way until we understand that our elected officials
of both major parties have failed us. They are determined
to put corporate profits ahead of the public good.
And that’s not right, because the public good is what has
helped so many people in this country achieve the American
dream. Isn’t government - on all levels - supposed
to be about the public good? Providing services, from
quality education to water, to roads and bridges, that benefit
all of us. It will take some unconventional thinking
before, as Sam Cooke sang it, “a change gonna come.”
And when the change comes, it’s going to have to come from
us ordinary people. There are people fighting back
against the steadily widening gap between rich and poor.
But the fight back strategy, important as it is, can’t get
us where we need to be. It can slow down the takeaways
and the givebacks, but even fighting back doesn’t address
the economic revolution that is at the heart of our problems.
What nobody in the public policy arena seems willing to discuss is
how digital technology and the computerized control systems
and robots it spawned has fundamentally disrupted our economy.
It’s a huge change, as big as the Industrial Revolution,
because digital technology and globalization have changed
the basic relationship between labor and profits that is
the fundamental enabler of capitalism. It used to take huge
numbers of people to make things, and most people lived
reasonably close to their jobs. Not any more.
Every day the list of goods and services produced by computer-controlled
machines instead of people grows longer. It’s
no longer possible to have the capitalism that your grandparents
and parents grew up under. We began getting evidence
of that 40 years ago with the first massive industrial layoffs
as the manufacturing base of old industrial capitalism was
systematically destroyed and employers moved jobs overseas
in search of cheaper labor. Then 20 years ago, the
economic boom of the 1990s made the rich much, much richer
without doing anything to improve the declining situation
of blue collar workers and the poor. That was how
determined our political and business leaders were to use
the profits from digital technology for their own private
gain. Making public services healthy enough to serve
everybody was not part of their plan. Parallel to
this process was the transfer of much of much of old manufacturing
base to the developing world, where workers rights were
scarce to non-existent and rampant poverty insured higher
profits through reduced labor costs. We see more evidence
of this today with all the talk of a “jobless recovery.”
When economists say “jobless recovery,” what they mean is
that companies have found a way to produce more and more
stuff with fewer and fewer workers.
a nation, we’re not adjusting very well to this disruptive
fundamental economic change. And that’s not good.
Our history tells us that when big and successful institutions
can’t adjust to disruptive fundamental change they die.
The American industries that grew rich and powerful building
steam locomotives for 100 years were killed off in one generation
by the perfection of the diesel engine. General Motors,
once the world’s most powerful corporation, ignored fundamental
changes and is now merely a shadow of what it used to be,
and would be dead if it hadn’t been put on government life
support. Newspapers, once our nation’s most profitable
and powerful central gateways for public information, are
shrinking rapidly as they struggle to cope with the decentralized
information brought by the Internet. Dealing with
such a revolutionary change in the structure of the national
economy requires a big leap forward in thinking to take
advantage of the opportunities it offers.
country hasn’t made that leap forward in thinking yet.
It keeps trying to build the future by going back to the
past, and we see the tragic results all around us.
The current global drain of wealth from lower income people
to the higher income super rich has resulted in more poverty,
escalating U.S. Unemployment, looting of the public coffers and
destruction of services on state and local levels.
The decimation of industrial capitalism by what is now a
“robotic nation” has hastened the destruction of the tattered
safety net and thrown away the social contract of the mid-nineteenth
century. It’s been decades since U.S. workers could
count on their children having better lives than they did.
of looking realistically at the advantages and disadvantages
of the revolutionary change, our ruling elite creates scapegoats
to blame the changes on. In the 80’s & 90’s
we saw a bi-partisan portrayal of women on welfare as the
scourges of society falsely blamed for killing jobs and
sucking up resources. Today it is immigrants and public
sector workers who are being wrongly blamed for disappearing
jobs and skyrocketing taxes. And while the politicians,
the press and corporations present misinformation to a public
looking for answers, the real issues that will determine
our future are not discussed. The real issues include
the steady reorganization of government to move it out of
the business of securing the public good, and putting it
to work to boost corporate profits at both the state and
federal levels, giving corporations what they need at the
expense of workers and the community at large.
gives new meaning to the often quoted words of rightwing
political strategist Grover Norquist, who has said the goal
is to starve the beast of government with trillions of dollars
in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts:
"My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five
years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it
in the bathtub." Norquist’s comment has become a mantra,
revealing how determined the elite class - the global super
rich -- is to grab the money now being spent on valuable
public services, and use it instead to bolster corporate
profits. The goal is to privatize the government by
turning over its public service functions for corporations
to run as a profit-making business. Once corporations provide
“services” that used to be guaranteed in the name of the
people, then government simply denies it has any responsibility
to people at all. People who are elderly, or
disabled, or poor, workers who are injured or simply not
well, will get only as much services as they can afford
to pay for, even though they may have worked hard all their
is a lie to claim that taxes must not be raised. To
claim that, and then turn around and cut benefits to needy
human beings, is class warfare, waged against working and
middle income people to benefit the corporate class.
We now have a system that glories in the greatest polarization
of wealth in human history while actively dispossessing
the people who are being devastated by the economic crisis
and throwing them on the streets.
surveys show the number of millionaires and billionaires
in the world is rising faster than ever before. Who
are these new super rich? There are 10 million millionaires
in the world. It is said that real wealth begins when you
have around $10 million. Fifty-five countries have billionaires.
Today there are 1,210 billionaires in the world with combined
wealth of $4.5 trillion” in U.S. dollars. Six years ago
there were 447 which shows how rapidly the wealth is being
super rich global elite are awash in cash. In his article, Hedge
Fund Gamblers Earn the Same In One Hour As a Middle-Class
Household Makes In Over 47 Years, Les
Leopold makes a compelling argument describing how the super
rich are awash in cash that could help with supporting the
public good , “The top 25 hedge fund earners took in $22.07
billion in 2010. Thanks to a generous tax loophole these
billionaires will pay a top tax rate of 15 percent instead
of 35 percent... It would take the median US household over
47 years to earn as much as Paulson pocketed in just 60
minutes. And, every hedge fund manager pays a lower tax
rate than the average family.”
fights are not simply against nearby corporations, but against
the global super rich with a global appetite for super profits
and a dedication to accelerate dismantling our safety net
and further destroy collective bargaining as a means to
reduce labor costs.
super rich global elite is moving to reorganize government
to help them maintain their super profits. To
help them maintain their super profits, the super rich global
elite have brought a powerful weapon into play here in the
United States – nationalization to achieve the government
help they need to transfer income from workers to themselves.
The $13 trillion Federal bailout of the 2008 national bank
meltdowns was perhaps the greatest single transfer of public
wealth into private hands in history. The government
seized our personal property in the form of tax money, and
simply handed it over to corporate private property, without
so much as even requiring the banks to report on how they
intended to use it. These were the very corporate
elites, of course, that ruined the economy in the first
• The new national Health Insurance program our nation is operating
under is a form of nationalization which primarily benefits
the Insurance Industry. The so-called Health care
reform leaves intact the cash cow aspect that the insurance
companies and drug manufacturers depend upon for their profits.
That’s why health insurance and medicine prices keep going
up to feed shareholder needs. Additional examples
include new proposals to further privatize Medicare and
Medicaid programs by limiting services to those able to
pay the costs.
• This massive reorganization of government to meet the profit needs
of corporate America is also happening at state and municipality
levels. Here in California the goals of the
super rich were secured by an orchestrated “budget crisis,”
for more than twenty years. This is still being
used as a means to destroy government for public purposes
while further transferring public wealth into private hands.
The so-called “budget crisis” could have been averted simply
by having corporations pay more state taxes. Corporations
claim that they pay a high percentage of the total business
tax, but this is because property taxes for corporations
are so low. California is 45th in
the country in corporate property taxes.
Similarly in 40 other states across the nation the only solutions
being seriously pursued are to increase taxes on working
people, cut more of the public services to the society at
large and cut all of the jobs connected to those public
services. Just this year billions of dollars
worth of cuts to services and jobs have been secured by
bi-partisan legislatures. While well oiled misinformation
campaigns by corporate media pretend that job cuts are not
also service and resource destroyers. Lynda Carson’s
summary in indy media, Budget cuts, and the pathway to homelessness, sounds
the alarm about the further damage to the poor by the latest
state actions and their continued benefit to the super rich.
workers, our lives and our rights are under fire at every
level as the super rich and corporations stop at nothing
to increase their profits by squeezing workers pensions
or health care or slashing life saving safety net programs.
Ultimately either the corporations are going to win by creating
a society where everything is privatized, there is no public
good and you can only have as much qualify of life as you
can pay for; or we the workers are going to win a world
where the power of computer controls and robots will be
used for public benefit, not private gain. As they
continue to extend their power over our government we need
a new vision and a new strategy.
need to build a broad transformative movement with organizing
campaigns that show how we can establish a new social contract
that puts the things we need into the public domain, from
housing, to education, to health care, for the safety and
security of all society!
will be the fight of a lifetime, but we can do it.! One
of the tragedies of where we’re stuck now is that the digital
technology which is destroying the economic basis for capitalism
is also creating the opportunity for a wonderful new world
of a good life for everyone.
Great opportunities lie in the challenges of computer-driven technology,
but it’s hard to see those opportunities if you stick with
conventional wisdom. Futurist Marshall
Brain explains one of the primary
challenges quite clearly in his essay “Robotic Nation.”
Our ATMs and supermarket self-service checkout systems are
early, primitive signs of the robotic revolution we are
living in. From about 2001, these automated systems proliferated
and evolved until nearly every retail transaction can be
handled in an automated way. Corporations like automated
systems because they’re cheaper than workers. The
price we pay is in jobs. Five million jobs in the
retail sector have been lost as a result of these systems.
Automated systems are now taking over a huge proportion of industry,
from the manufacturing of cars, to flying our airplanes,
to picking tomatoes. Soon they are going to be cleaning
our rooms and homes. Marshall Brain predicts that
by 2030 we will be able to buy a humanoid to do mundane
and routine household tasks. Capitalism as we
know it is hitting a distribution wall. How do you
get men and women who have no jobs and no money to buy goods
automated systems that are destroying our jobs have have
also given us the resources to give a good life to everyone
without backbreaking labor. In the not so distant future
we could have better food and housing production, the opportunity
to end the agonizing worry and unnecessary suffering of
so many people about their health care, a better education
for many of our children. What stands in our way is
an idea that has become time-honored because it’s been around
since the dawn of the industrial revolution. It’s
been around so long that it seems as natural as wearing
clothes, but it’s now as outmoded and backward as the horse
and buggy transportation that many of our ancestors thought
would never go away. It’s the idea that nothing should
be done unless some private company can make a profit on
it. Thanks to computers, we no longer need the idea
that making profits should determine how much respect we
get as human beings. What we do need is a new way
of thinking about how to make the best use of this fundamental
technological shift in the relationship between labor and
profits. What we need is a new social contract that
puts people first, human rights first, and discourages profits
as part of an outmoded value system.
So going forward we
need to build a broad transformative movement that pushes
for the future instead of the past. For instance it
could push for protecting and keeping Medicare out of the
clutches of the super rich and their market driven forces.
So going forward we could push for improving Medicaid by
bringing it up to the level of Medicare while expanding
medical care for all. This would allow us to keep
these resources in the public domain for the good of everyone,
not just private shareholders and the wealthy.
This would be a cost saver, and would help the 14,000 people
who are losing their health insurance every day when they
loose their job.
So going forward we need reject this false idea that there’s
NO money and follow the money trail in the way that Les
Leopold and others suggest. “There’s a movement underway
for what economist Dean Baker aptly named a “financial speculation
tax...The FST (also known as a financial transactions tax
or the Robin Hood tax) is a modest set of taxes on Wall
Street trading – e.g. 0.25% (1/4 of a percent) on a stock
purchase or sale and 0.02% (1/50 of a percent) on the sale
or purchase of a future, option, or credit default swap.
These rates are proportional to the actual transaction costs
in the industry. An FST would raise over $100 billion
per year in badly needed revenue or $1 trillion over the
course of a decade.This is a substantial sum of revenue,
which skims the fat off of a sector of the economy that
can afford to pay it.”
So going forward we need a new solidarity movement that
truly proceeds that an injury to one is an injury to all.
This includes elevating the importance of poverty elimination
in the our daily battles for workers rights, to defend and
secure the safety net so that we might live.
This is especially important in the face of the onslaught
against public sector workers. Besides telling the
truth about what’s really going on we need to share workers
rights fights aimed at keeping and expanding the resources
we need in the public domain, such as reflecting our goals
and aims as workers in this new era, from the positive
impact in the state by state battles to aimed at curtailing
health costs on a state and municipal level.
Ways we can start are exemplified by work and actions of
auto workers from the old industrial area and now left with
gutted benefits and little health care,
Retirees for Single Payer, and
Health Care - Now’s recent
meeting on threats to Medicare and Medicaid.
So going forward will include challenging popular corporate-sponsored
rhetoric that Latinos - and undocumented workers specifically
or public sector workers - are the reason for our budget
problems and the job loss we have in America.
So going forward work today to build a movement to make
public the resources we need to live & to Eliminate
Board member Ethel
Long-Scott is Executive
Director of the Women's Economic Agenda Project, (WEAP), dedicated to attaining economic human rights for all
people.. WEAP serves as state host of the California Poor People’s
Economic Human Rights Campaign. She is known nationally and internationally
for devoting her life to the education and leadership of
people at the losing end of society, especially women of
color. She is dedicated to economic security and justice
and believes that the US is engaged in a relentless war
against workers and the poor. Click here to contact Ms. Long-Scott.