Tag Archives: revolution

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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Reject capitalist xenophobia! For international socialist solidarity in the fight against the corona-virus pandemic!

19 Mar

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In yet another display of his ignorance, sociopathic viciousness and fascistic chauvinism, Donald Trump, whose administration’s belated and incompetent response to the pandemic has placed millions of lives at risk, has publicly labeled COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus.”

Trump’s words not only recall the old racist imperialist invocation of a “Yellow Peril” and incite violence against Asian Americans, they undermine critical efforts to develop within the population a scientific and fact-based understanding of the coronavirus and the measures that must be taken to stop the spread of the disease. “There is no blame in this,” said World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Dr. Mike Ryan. “This is a time for solidarity, this is a time for facts, this is a time to move forward together.”

The Trump administration, accentuating its nationalistic focus, has urged a German biotechnology firm developing a coronavirus vaccine to relocate to the United States, raising the prospect that “any inoculation would be available first, and perhaps exclusively, in the United States,” as the New York Times reported.

The invocation of nationalism confuses, undermines and serves as a barrier to the fight against the disease. Trump’s statement is only the most grotesque expression of efforts to impart to the fight against the pandemic a false and disorienting nationalist agenda. Utilizing as a cover measures that are necessary to block the spread of the pandemic, governments are seeking to promote nationalism and political reaction.

The global pandemic is impervious to national borders. The coronavirus does not distinguish between ethnicities, nationalities or genders.

For years, scientists have warned of the mounting threat of global pandemics as cities grew and the global population became more interconnected. In 2018, the World Health Organization warned of an unknown “Disease X” that would result “from a virus originating in animals and would emerge somewhere on the planet where economic development drives people and wildlife together,” recalled disease ecologist Peter Daszak.

 

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“Exploiting networks of human travel and trade, it would reach multiple countries and thwart containment. Disease X would have a mortality rate higher than a seasonal flu but would spread as easily as the flu. It would shake financial markets even before it achieved pandemic status.”

Throughout Western Europe and the United States, governments have refused to provide adequate testing and medical care, instead adopting, whether explicitly or implicitly, the position of the UK government that it would be “desirable” for a substantial portion of their population to be infected. This is a death sentence for millions of people.

Even as the United States and Western Europe have failed to provide adequate testing and medical care—by far the most effective way to combat the virus—they have locked down millions of people and imposed draconian travel restrictions.

On March 17, the European Union closed its external borders and, one after another, its member states have sealed off their own borders. On Wednesday, the United States and Canada said they would close their land border and the United States announced that it would prevent all migrants and refugees from entering the country.

The WHO has repeatedly and vocally criticized these priorities. While quarantines and travel restrictions are necessary, they are inadequate. The WHO has made clear over and over that the expansion of the resources allocated to testing for the disease, tracking those in danger, and caring for the ill is the only way to contain the pandemic.

As Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, stated, “We have seen a rapid escalation in social distancing measures, like closing schools and cancelling events and other gatherings. BUT we haven’t seen enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the COVID-19 response.”

Dr. Michael Ryan added, “Countries who rely on travel measures as a way of blocking the virus are just not going to succeed.”

Workers must demand a massive program of testing and treatment, with appropriate facilities to humanely house all of those who have been diagnosed while they are recovering.

Fighting the pandemic is impossible on a national basis. The response to the disease requires the mobilization of all the medical, scientific and social resources of humanity on the basis of shared human solidarity.

Scientists from all over the world must be allowed to share their research and technology, unencumbered by the “national interests” and geopolitical conflicts that serve only to delay the development of effective countermeasures to contain, treat and ultimately eradicate the coronavirus.

The development of vaccines, therapeutics and best practices for combatting the pandemic cannot be encumbered by national borders. Chinese medical workers, who heroically tamed the pandemic in their country, must be brought to other countries to share their knowledge and experience.

 

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There must be international cooperation in the production of face masks, respirators and ventilators, and their allocation based on social need.

A successful effort to combat the pandemic is incompatible with imperialist geopolitics and all forms of national conflicts. Regardless of its initial point of origin, the outbreak of a pandemic in any country is a global event. The fact that the strategists of American imperialism have been chortling over the impact of COVID-19 in Iran testifies not only to their inhumanity but also their appalling ignorance of the global potential of human-to-human viral transmission.

It is essential that all trade war measures and economic sanctions, such as those imposed on Iran be immediately lifted. Also, hospitals, properly staffed and equipped with all essential instruments necessary to treat patients, must be constructed to treat refugees and migrants. No human being should be denied urgently needed medical treatment.

Among the many tragic elements of the pandemic is the impotent role of the United Nations’ World Health Organization itself, whose dedicated scientists, doctors and public health experts—many of them veterans of the fight to eradicate Ebola—have pleaded with governments to take a rational and humane approach to the crisis.

The WHO, vastly under-funded even before the pandemic, has been starved of resources, leading to what internal audits call an “unacceptable” level of hazard to the organization. It has been forced to beg for scraps from governments, raising less than $30 million of its $675 million goal so far—even as governments hand out trillions to the banks.

If millions of lives are to be saved, workers must fight for socialist internationalism—that is, international unity based on the common interests and solidarity of all workers. It is this international solidarity that will sustain medical workers, scientists and all progressive elements in society in their fight against the pandemic.

In the struggle against the pandemic, the working people of the world must view all manifestations of national chauvinism as no less a threat to humanity than the corona-virus itself.

Andre Damon and David North

 

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The Democratic Party rallies behind Biden!

9 Mar

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures to Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., at a primary night election rally in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020 after winning the South Carolina primary. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is making a last-ditch stand in the Michigan primary Tuesday, amid mounting indications that the Democratic Party as a whole has moved decisively into the camp of his main rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Sanders cancelled rallies in Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois—all states where he trails Biden in the polls—in order to concentrate all his efforts in Michigan, where he won an upset victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

On Sunday, Senator Kamala Harris endorsed Biden, the latest of nine former presidential contenders to announce their support for their one-time rival, joining Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg, Beto O’Rourke, John Delaney, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, and Deval Patrick. Harris is to join Biden for a campaign rally in Detroit Monday.

The consolidation of the Democratic Party behind Biden is a damning exposure, not merely of the politically reactionary character of this organization, but of the contemptible falsification on which the Sanders campaign has been based: that it is possible to transform the Democratic Party, the oldest American capitalist party, into the spearhead of a “political revolution” that will bring about fundamental social change.

 

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Former Vice President Biden is the personification of the decrepit and right-wing character of the Democratic Party. In the past 10 days alone, Biden has declared himself a candidate for the US Senate, rather than president, confused his wife and his sister as they stood on either side of him, called himself an “Obiden Bama Democrat,” and declared that 150 million Americans died in gun violence over the past decade. This is not just a matter of Biden’s declining mental state: it is the Democratic Party, not just its presidential front runner, that is verging on political senility.

It is evident that the Democratic Party leadership in Congress, as well as the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee, aims to run the 2020 campaign on the exact model of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016: portraying Trump as personally unqualified to be president and as a Russian stooge, while opposing any significant social reform and delivering constant reassurances to the ruling financial aristocracy that a restored Democratic administration will follow in the footsteps of Obama, showering trillions on Wall Street and doing the bidding of the military-intelligence apparatus.

One could ask of the nine ex-candidates who have now endorsed Biden, why they were candidates in the first place? Why did they bother to run against the former vice president, clearly the preferred candidate of the party establishment? None of them voices any significant political differences with Biden. All of them hail the right-wing political record of the Obama-Biden administration, even though that administration produced the social and economic devastation that made possible the election of Donald Trump.

Even more revolting, if that is possible, is the embrace of Biden by the black Democratic politicians. The former senator from Delaware is identified with some of the most repugnant episodes in the history of race relations in America: the abusive treatment of Anita Hill, when she testified against the nomination of Clarence Thomas, before Biden’s Judiciary Committee; an alliance with segregationist James Eastland on school integration in the early 1970s, highlighted at a debate by Kamala Harris, eight months before she endorsed Biden; and the passage of a series of “law-and-order” bills that disproportionately jailed hundreds of thousands of African Americans, all of them pushed through the Senate by Biden.

 

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How did a politician who boasted of his close relationships with Eastland and Strom Thurmond become the beneficiary of a virtual racial bloc vote by African Americans in the Southern states? Because African American Democratic Party leaders, including Representative James Clyburn in South Carolina and hundreds of others, represent one of the most right-wing and politically corrupt sections of the party.

The thinking of this layer was summed up in a column Saturday in the Washington Post by Colbert King, a former State Department official and local banker, a prominent member of the African American elite in the nation’s capital, who wrote in outrage, “America’s black billionaires have no place in a Bernie Sanders world.”

King denounced the suggestion that black CEOs and billionaires are “greedy, corrupt threats to America’s working families or the cause of economic disparities and human misery.” Voicing the fears of his class, he continued, “I know there are those out there who buy the notion that America consists of a small class of privileged, rapacious super-rich lording over throngs of oppressed, capitalist-exploited workers. You can see it in poll numbers showing the share of Americans who prefer socialism to capitalism inching upward.”

What the Washington Post columnist reveals is what Bernie Sanders has done his best to cover up: the Democratic Party is a party of the capitalist class. It can no more be converted to socialism than the CIA can become an instrument of the struggle against American imperialism.

True, Sanders can dredge up Jesse Jackson for a last-minute endorsement, proof that demagogues engaged in diverting mass left-wing sentiment into the graveyard of the Democratic Party recognize and embrace each other across the decades. But with that exception, the entire black Democratic Party establishment has lined up behind Biden—including, most recently, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Senator Kamala Harris.

 

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Harris’s statement is worth quoting. “I have decided that I am with great enthusiasm going to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States,” she said. “I believe in Joe. I really believe in him, and I have known him for a long time.” The senator was no doubt responding to the incentives dangled in front of her by Biden after she left the race last December, when he gushed, “She is solid. She can be president someday herself. She can be the vice president. She can go on to be a Supreme Court justice. She can be an attorney general.”

Sanders seeks to counter this all-out Democratic Party campaign for Biden by seeking to woo sections of the trade union bureaucracy with appeals to economic nationalism. New Sanders television ads in Michigan feature a United Auto Workers member declaring that his state “has been decimated by trade deals,” while Sanders declares that Biden backed NAFTA, drawing the conclusion, “With a record like that, we can’t trust him to protect American jobs or defeat Donald Trump.” The Vermont senator will find that very few auto workers follow the political lead of the corrupt gangsters who head the UAW.

More than 13 million people, mainly workers and youth, voted for Sanders in 2016 in the Democratic primaries and caucuses. Millions more continue to support him this year, with the same result. Sanders will wrap up his campaign by embracing the right-wing nominee of the Democratic Party and telling his supporters that this is the only alternative to the election, and now re-election of Trump. Indeed, in appearances on several Sunday television interview programs, Sanders went out of his way to repeat, as he said on Fox News, “Joe Biden is a friend of mine. Joe Biden is a decent guy. What Joe has said is if I win the nomination, he’ll be there for me, and I have said if he wins the nomination, I’ll be there for him …”

Working people and young people must draw the lessons of this protracted political experience. The struggle for socialism in America and internationally requires a political break by the working class from the Democratic Party and the entire structure of capitalist two-party politics. It means uniting the working class across all lines of race, gender, national origin and sexual orientation against the capitalist class.

That is the purpose of the Socialist Equality Party campaign in the 2020 elections. Our candidates, Joseph Kishore for president and Norissa Santa Cruz for vice president, fight to unite the working class, not only within the United States, but internationally, in a common struggle against world capitalism and the capitalist ruling elite, on the basis of a socialist program.

Patrick Martin

 

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