Tag Archives: enviornmental

Corporate America Fleeced Us Again!

29 Mar

The coronavirus bill is an orgy of corporate welfare that rivals the 2008 bailout.
BY Moe Tkacik

Boeing’s CEO of Commercial Airplanes Stanley Deal speaks at the annual Aviation Summit in Washington, D.C., on March 5. Boeing, its business floundering after a a series of debacles, was quick to ask for a coronavirus bailout–before the pandemic affected it at all. It’s an audacious power grab by the same bunch of monstrous grifters who’ve spent the past 20 years reverse mortgaging the American economy to finance Third World dictator lifestyles.

The fundamental spirit of the CARES Act, the diabolical plutocrat bailout the Senate just passed, is summed up by the fact that it was inspired by the 60 billion dollar demand of a company whose business had not yet even been impacted by coronavirus.
You read that right. When Boeing made its humble plea for $60 billion in coronavirus relief funds on Saint Patrick’s Day 2020, leading the pack of corporate supplicants, all its assembly lines unrelated to its notorious self-hijacking 737 Max jets, whose production halted in January, were still operating at normal capacity. They were still open in spite of the fact that Seattle public schools had been closed for six days at that point, in spite of the fact that every restaurant and bar in the state had been closed the weekend earlier, and in spite of the fact that the disease was quickly spreading among the factory workers, one of whom, a 27-year veteran of the company, would die within days.
And they were still running in spite of the fact that demand for Boeing planes, thanks to the 737 crashes, is at an all-time low, with the company in January, a month in which its archrival Airbus sold 274 planes, reporting its first month in history without a single order. Which is to say, I can think of a lot of reasons Boeing might need a bailout. In December a space capsule the company designed to transport astronauts to the International Space Station failed to launch into orbit during a test mission because its timer was eleven hours off, a potentially half billion dollar mistake that may cost the company billions more in lost NASA business to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. In January, the company revealed that its attempts to load a software fix onto the 737s was repeatedly crashing the planes’ computers. Not long after that, the company finally admitted that the three-year-delay on its KC-46 aerial refueling tanker was going to be, at minimum, another three years. And then of course there’s the $70 billion the company has squandered over the past decade on stock buybacks and dividend checks.
What all of these problems have in common is that none of them has shit to do with coronavirus. And neither does the $500 billion corporate bailout the Senate appended to an otherwise vitally important relief package. It’s an audacious power grab by the same bunch of monstrous grifters who’ve spent the past 20 years reverse mortgaging the American economy to finance Third World dictator lifestyles. It’s just like the secret multitrillion dollar scramble to throw money at insolvent banks in 2008, only a hundred times more craven, and even though the American public is also considerably less naive than we were when we assumed programs with words like “home affordable relief” might actually, you know, offer some relief to homeowners hit with extortionate mortgage payments, it doesn’t matter. We don’t matter. We don’t matter because we don’t have lobbyists.

 

 

 

 

The airlines have faced an avalanche of criticism for their bailout ask for good reason: They took the spoils of a decade spent gouging passengers with fees for baggage and chips and wifi and ticket changes and four extra inches of legroom, and spent 96% of them on stock buybacks. But the strings attached to the airlines’ bailout are quite possibly the sole redeeming lines in the slush fund section of the bill. Thanks no doubt in large part to lobbying by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA under the leadership of Sara Nelson, the airline bailout is structured to avoid layoffs, including those of contract employees, who are targeted in a special $3 billion loan program. In exchange for cash, airlines must keep their staff and pay full salaries through September 30.
And in their defense, the airlines can at least claim to have been legitimately done in by the coronavirus. Can the same really be said for the cargo carriers? Just last week, an air cargo travel consultant told Wired the cargo carriers were charging twice the typical per-kilogram fee to transport cargo from China to Chicago—and yet there they are in Section 4003, earmarked for a dedicated loan guarantee program totaling $4 billion.
And what about the provision lowering capital reserves for small banks, who say loosened reserve ratios will free up capital for emergency lending to small businesses (because that’s what they always say) but will invariably end up plowing the funds into real estate speculation (because that’s what they always do, and, also, the CARES Act just made real estate speculation $170 billion more profitable.)
You might have heard about the special provisions for abstinence-only education and for-profit colleges and the Kennedy Center. But in the end it’s probably the general free money programs that haven’t been earmarked yet that threaten to inflict the gravest injustices upon our already grievously unbalanced economy. There are the myriad special crisis era lending programs the Fed has resurrected to halt the stock market selloff, as well as Mnuchin’s $350 billion slush fund to the special Small Business Administration program, which forgives the loans of companies that retain or re-hire employees. Under the CARES Act, any individual Marriott or Hilton or Cheesecake Factory qualifies as a “small business” if it employs fewer than 500 people; the applications otherwise involve “very few borrower requirements,” according to an overview of the legislation prepared by law firm Steptoe & Johnson. But the federal government has demonstrated time and again, most recently with its pathetic student loan forgiveness programs and before that during the foreclosure crisis, that it has no real appetite or aptitude for processing large amounts of loan paperwork on behalf of hundreds of thousands of new applicants, and literally no one thinks the woefully neglected Small Business Administration is remotely up to the task. And so we can only assume the loans will go to he who hires the best lobbyists. Do not be surprised over the coming weeks when genuine small businesses begin getting swallowed by such ersatz small businesses, flush with private equity dry powder and lobbyist-secured government cheddar.
And don’t be surprised when in a few years someone reveals, as TARP watchdog Neil Barofsky did of then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithnner’s comments about using the fiction of foreclosure relief programs as a ploy to “foam the runway” for the banks, that another corporate welfare orgy was the plan all along.

 

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The US-backed coup in Bolivia – Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

14 Nov

 

The US-backed coup in Bolivia;

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

Bolivia, South America’s most impoverished nation, teeters on the brink of a civil war in the wake of a US-backed coup that led to the resignation Sunday of President Evo Morales, Vice President Álvaro García Linera and various ministers, state governors and government officials.

While Morales, García Linera and others have fled the country for asylum in Mexico, the Bolivian workers, peasants and indigenous majority that they purported to represent have been left behind to confront heavily armed troops and fascist gangs in the streets.

The bitter lesson that the Latin American working class can advance its interests not by means of “left” bourgeois nationalist regimes, but only through its own independent revolutionary struggle, is once again being written in blood.

Thousands of workers and youth have responded with courageous resistance to the coup, taking to the streets of La Paz and the neighboring working-class district of El Alto, where they burned down police stations and confronted security forces. Elsewhere, miners and peasants have blocked highways, and anti-coup protesters have confronted heavily armed troops firing live ammunition and tear gas grenades. In Cochabamba, the military brought in a helicopter to fire on crowds. The toll of dead and wounded has steadily risen.

The military-police violence has been accompanied by a reign of terror by the fascistic opponents of Morales, who have burned down homes of those linked to the government, kidnapped family members of officials and carried out violent assaults against those linked to Morales’s Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, as well as targeting indigenous people, especially women, for attacks. Headquarters of social organizations have been attacked, and radio stations invaded and taken off the air.

After three weeks of protests over the disputed October 20 presidential election, the coup was consummated Sunday with a televised address by Gen. Williams Kaliman, the chief of the armed forces, surrounded by the entire military command, in which they “suggested” that “the president resign his presidential mandate and allow the pacification and reestablishment of stability for the good of Bolivia.”

Morales and García Linera took the “suggestion,” saying that they were doing so to “avoid bloodshed” and “guarantee peace.” If that was their objective, their capitulation to the military and the Bolivian right has failed miserably.

US President Donald Trump celebrated the overthrow of Morales as a “significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere,” warning that Venezuela and Nicaragua are next.

But it wasn’t only Trump. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post published editorials Tuesday supporting the coup and suggesting that it was a blow for “democracy,” and that the role of the military in forcing Morales out was merely incidental.

This reflects the fundamental continuity in Washington’s imperialist policy in Latin America under Democrats and Republicans alike, from the abortive 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela under George W. Bush (prematurely celebrated by the Times), to the 2009 US-backed overthrow of President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras under Barack Obama, to today’s ouster of Morales under Trump.

Underlying this continuity is the drive by US imperialism to reverse the decline of its global economic hegemony by means of military force and violence, particularly in the region that it has so long regarded as its “own backyard.” This is driven both by the desire of US transnationals to lay unfettered claim on Latin America’s resources and markets—not least Bolivia’s vast energy and mineral reserves, including 70 percent of the world’s lithium—and by the strategic confrontation between US imperialism and China, whose trade with the region rose to $306 billon last year.

Morales’s government was part of the so-called “Pink Tide” of left-posturing bourgeois nationalist governments that came to power in Latin America, beginning with that of Hugo Chavez in 1998.

Like Chavez, Morales declared himself an adherent of the “Bolivarian Revolution” and socialism. He and the MAS were swept into office on the wave of revolutionary upheavals that shook Bolivia and brought down successive governments during the so-called water and gas “wars”—against water privatization and for the nationalization of gas—between 2000 and 2005.

The leader of the coca growers’ union and the first Bolivian president from the country’s long-oppressed indigenous population, Morales won broad popular support for a government that served as the vehicle for containing the revolutionary struggles of the Bolivian masses.

This government, however, soon allowed that its aim was not really socialism, but rather “Andean-Amazonian capitalism,” which consisted of “nationalizations” that imposed new taxes on transnational corporations that were guaranteed even greater access to the exploitation of Bolivia’s gas and other natural resources.

In addition to its alliance with transnational capital, the Morales government cemented a pact with the agricultural oligarchy. Both were granted rights to exploit lands that had previously been declared national parks to protect their indigenous populations.

The government also relied upon what it described as the “military-peasant alliance,” through which it sought to solidify support in the military command by offering it control over sections of the economy, resources for creating its own businesses and generous benefits. It created an “Anti-imperialist Military School” and had soldiers salute their officers with the Guevarist slogan of “Hasta la victoria siempre.” In the end, the bourgeois army, which Morales never disbanded, proved loyal to its roots in the fascist-military dictatorships of Generals Hugo Banzer and Luis García Meza and the national security state doctrine of the Pentagon’s School of the Americas.

The right-wing policies of the Morales government led to continuous confrontations with the working class and peasantry and steadily eroded its support. Its right-wing opponents in Bolivia’s traditional ruling oligarchy were able to exploit Morales’s attempt to secure himself another term as president—in violation of the constitution and the results of a 2016 referendum—to win a popular base for its counterrevolutionary objectives.

Morales and the MAS leadership bear criminal responsibility for the coup which they condemn. Its principal victims will be not Morales and his fellow politicians, but the masses of Bolivian workers, peasants and oppressed.

Also sharing blame for the acute dangers now confronting the masses of workers and oppressed in Bolivia are the various pseudo-left groups that promoted the Bolivarian revolutionary pretensions of the Morales government and demanded that the working class subordinate itself to the leadership of the bourgeois nationalists. Chief among them are various revisionist tendencies that split from the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), rejecting its struggle for the international unity and political independence of the working class based upon a revolutionary socialist program in order to adapt themselves to Stalinism and various forms of bourgeois nationalism, chief among them, Castroism.

The period in which these parties have been able to help suppress the class struggle is coming to an end, not only in Latin America, but internationally. The events in Bolivia, along with the mass uprisings of workers and youth in Chile and elsewhere on the Latin American continent, are demonstrating that the ruling class is no longer able to rule in the old way, and it has become impossible for the working class to live in the old way, creating the conditions for a new period of revolutionary upheavals.

The most urgent political task is the formation of a new revolutionary leadership in the working class based on an assimilation of the long struggle of Trotskyism against revisionism. This means building sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International throughout Latin America.

Bill Van Auken

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“Strike” From Chile to Lebanon: Working class offensive sweeps the globe! by WSWS.Org

26 Oct

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI)

 

The past week has seen a new stage in the eruption of the global class struggle, with mass protests bringing two seemingly disparate countries to a halt over what are undeniably similar grievances that are rooted in the historic and systemic crisis of the global capitalist system.

In Chile, the announcement by the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera of a 4 percent rise in mass transit fares ignited an uncontrollable wave of mass protests that have created a crisis of capitalist rule. The government’s response, reflecting the fears of the Chilean bourgeoisie, has been to impose a state of emergency and curfew, deploying 20,000 troops in the streets of Santiago and thousands more across the country. According to official figures, 18 people have been killed since the protests began, hundreds wounded and at least 5,000 arrested. The criminal methods of the US-backed Pinochet dictatorship have been resurrected, with reports of disappearances, torture of prisoners and sexual assaults against women detained in the protests.

This naked repression has only succeeded in swelling the protests. According to figures from the Chilean Interior Ministry, 424,000 people participated in 68 separate marches and demonstrations across the country Wednesday. Undoubtedly, the real figure is far higher. A general strike continued into its second day on Thursday, with hundreds of thousands more taking to the streets.

 

 

Meanwhile, Lebanon has also been rocked by mass protests over the past week, bringing an estimated one quarter of the country’s 6 million people into the streets. The immediate trigger was the government’s attempt to impose yet another gouging austerity measure aimed at making the country’s working class pay for its deep economic crisis—a $6-a-month tax on WhatsApp messages. As in Chile, attempts to use the army to break up protests have only inflamed popular anger.

Both Piñera in Chile and his Lebanese counterparts, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun, attempted to allay the popular upheavals with statements of contrition and offers of minimal economic relief measures. In both countries, the masses in the streets dismissed these cynical gestures as too little, too late, and are demanding the downfall of the regimes.

In both countries, the driving force behind the mass protests is the ceaseless and malignant growth of social inequality. The richest 1 percent monopolize 58 percent of the wealth, while the poorest 50 percent own less than 1 percent, in Lebanon, long-considered the region’s “free enterprise” haven for capitalist investment. In Chile, recently touted by Piñera as a regional “oasis” for finance capital, the richest 1 percent gobble up 33 percent of national income, according to World Bank data from 2017.

The New York Times, a principal voice of the US ruling elite, has taken note of the eruption of mass protests in Chile, Lebanon and other countries, commenting in a front-page article that “experts discern a pattern: a louder-than-usual howl against elites in countries where democracy is a source of disappointment, corruption is seen as brazen, and a tiny political class lives large while the younger generation struggles to get by.”

 

 

Strangely missing from this review of what the article’s headline describes as “popular fury across the globe” is what is happening in the United States itself. It quotes one of the “experts”, Vali Nasr, who recently left his post as dean of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, as commenting: “In countries where elections are decisive, like the United States and Britain, skepticism about the old political order has produced populist, nationalist and anti-immigrant results at the polls. In other countries, where people don’t have a voice, you have massive protests erupting.”

Are the Times editors genuinely oblivious to what is happening in the US, or are they just whistling past the graveyard? They publish this as 48,000 autoworkers have been on strike against General Motors for 40 days and 32,000 teachers and school workers in Chicago are entering the second week of a walkout that has shut down the country’s third-largest school district. The number of workers in the US on strike last year—over half a million—was the highest in more than three decades.

All the conditions that the Times describes in other countries—profound social inequality, corruption and a political system that is utterly indifferent to the interests of masses of working people—find stark expression in the US, the center of world capitalism, where the top 1 percent hoards roughly 40 percent of total wealth, and a social explosion is also on the agenda.

Thursday’s Times also carried an editorial titled “Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality”. Noting that Chile’s “protesters’ rage is born of the frustrations of everyday life,” it goes on to state: “Chileans live in a society of extraordinary economic disparities … Santiago’s prosperity is undeniable. Viewed from the top of the tallest building in South America, which stands in the middle of a financial district called ‘Sanhattan,’ neighborhoods with luxury apartments, private hospitals and private schools stretch as far as the eye can see.

 

 

“But Santiago’s poverty also is striking: crumbling public hospitals, overcrowded schools, shantytowns that sit on the outskirts of the metropolis.

“And farther from Santiago are cities untouched by the recent boom.”

Substitute United States for Chile, and Manhattan for “Sanhattan” and little of this depiction of a country dominated by social inequality would need to be changed.

The Gini coefficient, the most commonly used statistical measure of income inequality, places the United States, at 41.5 barely less unequal than Chile, at 47.7.

The Times editorial attributes Chile’s crisis to the government’s “unsustainably narrow conception of its obligations to its citizens,” which it in turn blames upon the Pinochet dictatorship, which ruled the country from 1973 to 1990, for dictating policies based upon “free-market competition”. What it neglects to mention is that these policies were drafted by the so-called “Chicago Boys”, bourgeois economists trained by the University of Chicago’s “free market” godfather, Milton Friedman.

The same essential policies have been introduced by successive US governments—Democratic and Republican alike—depriving millions of essential social services ranging from health care to food stamps and retirement income, while leaving 40 million people living below the absurdly low official poverty rate of $25,000 for a family of four.

A striking feature of the protests in both Chile and Lebanon are the statements by demonstrators in both countries that the latest austerity measures are merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that they are fighting against an unequal social order that has been built up over the past 30 years. In Chile, these three decades began with the end of the military dictatorship, and in Lebanon, with the end of the civil war.

 

 

This also is an expression of a global shift. The social relations created over the past 30 years, began with the Stalinist bureaucracy’s restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union. They have been based upon the suppression of the class struggle, the uninterrupted growth of social inequality and financial parasitism and the vast transfer of wealth from masses of working people the world over to a tiny wealthy elite. Today, this social order is rapidly unraveling under the weight of a resurgence of struggle by the international working class.

Objective events are exposing the complete political bankruptcy of the pseudo-left organizations and so-called “left” academics who wrote off the working class and the struggle for socialism. Nothing in their perspective, based on nationalism and identity politics, foresaw the emerging global eruption of class struggle.

These events, however, were substantially anticipated by the World Socialist Web Site and the International Committee of the Fourth International in both their theoretical analysis and practice.

In its 1988 perspectives document “The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” the ICFI explained why the class struggle would inevitably assume a global character, based upon the “massive development of transnational corporations and the resulting global integration of capitalist production have produced an unprecedented uniformity in the conditions confronting the workers of the world.”

The document stated: “It has long been an elementary proposition of Marxism that the class struggle is national only as to form, but that it is, in essence, an international struggle. However, given the new features of capitalist development, even the form of the class struggle must assume an international character. Even the most elemental struggles of the working class pose the necessity of coordinating its actions on an international scale.”

This now becomes the most urgent and concrete political question. The current mass social protests and strikes are the initial expression of a growing revolutionary struggle of the international working class to put an end to capitalism and reorganize the world economy to meet social needs, not private profit.

Bill Van Auken

Published by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) wsws.org

 

 

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