Make your own economic incentive
(partial script for today's program)
Forming co-ops to deal with Depression II
Before I say anything else, let me just give you a point to ponder: The seven-plus trillion spent by the Fed, the Treasury, and Congress so far to bail out the very rich, without oversight or firings or reorganizations or anything, amounts to a year's pay for each working American. That's right, if the bailout had been given to you instead of to Wall Street Bankers who are shortly to arrogantly collect their millions-deep holiday bonuses, you'd have more than forty thousand dollars in your hand right now. Do you think the economy would have benefited from that? Would forty thousand have helped you out of the rut? Yeah, I thought so. But the government isn't there for you, pal. It's there for the haves and the have-mores, as in have some more, fellas. And for you? Well, it isn't going to trickle down unless you're selling ninety-six-foot Italian yachts. No, your part is to pay it. So get working.
Forty thousand dollars. Do the math. Forty thousand times 150 million is....Oh yeah.
6,000,000,000,000—six trillion. So I'm estimating low here.
There are still plenty of holidays left in the Solstice season. People tend to party at either end of the solar cycle, and right now in the Northern Hemisphere, there's plenty of party-inducing darkness to go around for everyone, and I would like to suggest that as you gather with your friends and/or family, you make a suggestion: Let's get together, over food, to discuss surviving 2009 in a cooperative manner.
By cooperative, I mean more than having a genial attitude; I'm talking about using the power of community to keep each and every one of us off the streets, warm, lighted, and fed. You may infer from that, that I expect things to get very difficult in '09, and very soon. Already I see articles popping up in the press, wondering if maybe the worst is over. These articles are ill informed indeed. They have as their precedent similar articles that began appearing in the US press around 1930, saying that prosperity was just around the corner. The whole idea is a case of wishful thinking in the service of a nervous establishment.
You already have lost your job, or you know someone who has. At this point in the crisis, many people, who have not worked for a month or so, are still eating and paying bills, using their savings and/or unemployment funds to get by. There is a time limit on such arrangements, and there is no job on the horizon. This is a simple mathematical projection of current and rapidly worsening conditions; it takes no clairvoyance on my part.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) put out a brief showing that there are now 3 people looking for jobs for every job opening, a ratio that has skyrocketed in less than a year.
Michel Chussodovsky described the situation well, even three weeks ago, in Global Research's website:
"The financial crisis is deepening, with the risk of seriously disrupting the system of international payments.
"This crisis is far more serious than the Great Depression. All major sectors of the global economy are affected. Recent reports suggest that the system of Letters of Credit as well as international shipping, which constitute the lifeline of the international trading system, are potentially in jeopardy.
"The proposed bank "bailout" under the so-called Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is not a "solution" to the crisis but the "cause" of further collapse.
"The "bailout" contributes to a further process of destabilization of the financial architecture. It transfers large amounts of public money, at taxpayers expense, into the hands of private financiers. It leads to a spiraling public debt and an unprecedented centralization of banking power. Moreover, the bailout money is used by the financial giants to secure corporate acquisitions both in the financial sector and the real economy.
"In turn, this unprecedented concentration of financial power spearheads entire sectors of industry and the services economy into bankruptcy, leading to the layoff of tens of thousands of workers.
"The upper spheres of Wall Street overshadow the real economy. The accumulation of large amounts of money wealth by a handful of Wall Street conglomerates and their associated hedge funds is reinvested in the acquisition of real assets.
"Paper wealth is transformed into the ownership and control of real productive assets, including industry, services, natural resources, infrastructure, etc.
"Collapse of Consumer Demand
"The real economy is in crisis. The resulting increase in unemployment is conducive to a dramatic decline in consumer spending which in turn backlashes on the levels of production of goods and services.
"Exacerbated by neoliberal macro-economic policy, this downward spiral is cumulative, ultimately leading to an oversupply of commodities.
"Business enterprises cannot sell their products, because workers have been laid off. Consumers, namely working people, have been deprived of the purchasing power required to fuel economic growth. With their meager earnings, they cannot afford to acquire the goods produced.
"Overproduction Triggers a String of Bankruptcies
"Inventories of unsold goods pile up. Eventually, production collapses; the supply of commodities declines through the closing down of production facilities, including manufacturing assembly plants.
"In the process of plant closure, more workers become unemployed. Thousands of bankrupt firms are driven off the economic landscape, leading to a slump in production.
"Mass poverty and a Worldwide decline in living standards is the result of low wages and mass unemployment. It is the outcome of a preexisting global cheap labor economy, largely characterized by low wage assembly plants in Third World countries.
"The current crisis extends the geographic contours of the cheap labor economy, leading to the impoverishment of large sectors of the population in the so-called developed countries (including the middle classes).
"In the US, Canada and Western Europe, the entire industrial sector is potentially in jeopardy.
"We are dealing with a long-term process of economic and financial restructuring. In its earlier phase, starting in the 1980s during the Reagan Thatcher era, local and regional level enterprises, family farms and small businesses were displaced and destroyed. In turn, the merger and acquisition boom of the 1990s led to the concurrent consolidation of large corporate entities both in the real economy as well as in banking and financial services.
"In recent developments, however, the concentration of bank power has been at the expense of big business.
"What is distinct in this particular phase of the crisis, is the ability of the financial giants (through their overriding control over credit) not only to create havoc in the production of goods and services, but also to undermine and destroy large corporate entities of the real economy.
"Bankruptcies are occurring in all major sectors of activity: Manufacturing, telecoms, consumer retail outlets, shopping malls, airlines, hotels and tourism, not to mention real estate and the construction industry, victims of the subprime mortgage meltdown. ...." [end]
There is much more to the article at global research.ca. Chussodovsky is describing a process of destruction that now is clearly moving with more momentum than 1929. As I said, this is the time, during holiday parties, to arrange your survival strategy, to find out how you can help your friends, and to ask what they can do for you. I suggest getting out a large sheet of paper and putting up lists under categories of food, shelter, finances, utilities, amenities, medicines, et cetera, and having each person list what they have, what they need, what they can share. There should be another list, of strengths and abilities, everything from experience in coordination and organization to carpentry and plumbing and car repair.
Do this, because the wholly-owned corporate government has a plan, too. And it's not a plan to help you. Turning again to the Canadian site global research, here are some details:
The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.
The long-planned shift in the Defense Department's role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and ......(more)........
Do you think having Obama in office will turn around that militaristic response? I think that eventually, actually, it could—but that isn't something President Obama can do without public knowledge, public pressure and effective organization, because the US at this point in history is internally and externally a military empire, and as the quotation goes, to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We can't plant our victory survival gardens with hammers. As an emergency measure, I can and do call now, for any and all military personnel listening to this broadcast, to read and understand at least the Bill of Rights, and to uphold your sworn duty and allegiance to the Constitution, a document that bears absolutely no provisions for its own suspension or cancellation. The phrase "this is martial law" is invalid in the United States of America. Remember that.
That said, I have a further suggestion on how to deal with the worsening crisis, as written by Richard C. Cook in global research: Stop paying on your credit cards. (globalresearch.ca)
"...the citizens must do something. How can we just sit and wait while the financial monopolists smother the economy to death in order to protect their wealth and privileges? The least they could do is declare a moratorium on debt payment until the economy is functioning again or cancel the most egregious types of debt-abuse, such as credit card or student debt.
But they are not likely to do this either. So, citizens can be forgiven if they simply stop paying. Many home purchasers are already doing this—turning in the keys to their homes and driving away. Who can blame them?
But the worst of the debt may be credit card debt, where the controls on interest rates and penalty charges were lifted long ago and the government stopped providing a tax deduction for interest paid. In many cases, interest on credit cards is 28 percent or more, which means that even by making the minimum required payment, consumers see their balances grow each month. That the politicians could continue to allow such evil to exist is astounding, but proves who their masters are.
So until real relief is forthcoming, citizens who are in distress should simply destroy their credit cards and stop paying the monthly bills. People are already doing this. Arrearages and defaults are climbing, and credit card debt is starting to be viewed as the next bubble to burst. But so what? If people have to use a credit card, that means they can't really afford to buy whatever it is they think they want. If they can afford it, they should use a debit card instead.
Then tell the credit card company you cannot pay. Ask them to write off some or all of the debt, and if they want to take you to court, go on your own and defend yourself. You don't need a lawyer, and you don't need anyone's permission. You also don't need to go through the horrendous "reformed" bankruptcy system the credit card companies got Congress to pass in 2005. Failure to pay credit card debt is not, thank God, a crime in this country, and there are no debtors' prisons—yet.
Besides, if people do not pay credit card debt, that money remains in circulation. So default is actually a form of patriotism in today's trying circumstances. And the credit card companies really don't lose anything, since the money didn't exist before they lent it to people who are now broke.
Where I used to live in the country in rural Virginia, the story was going around about a farmer who fell down in the pen where he was feeding his pigs, and the pigs ate him. That is what has been happening in this country. The financial industry which is now swilling at the public trough has been eating alive a nation that was once "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Richard C. Cook is a former federal government analyst who writes on economic issues. His new book, We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform, is now available and may be ordered at www.tendrilpress.com (303-696-9227). His contact email is EconomicSanity@gmail.com.
What can we expect when conditions deteriorate to the point that workers become desperate for work—any work—and there are too many workplaces taking advantage of that fact for a gutted government to inspect? We already know:
Kim Bob, Wage Theft in America/In These Times
Billions of dollars in wages are being illegally stolen from millions of workers each and every year. The employers range from small neighborhood businesses to some of the nation's largest employers—Wal-Mart, Tyson, McDonald's, Target, Pulte Homes, federal, state, and local governments and many more.
Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid all their wages, workers are denied overtime when they should be paid it, or workers aren't paid at all for work they've performed. Wage theft is when an employer violates the law and deprives a worker of legally mandated wages.
Wage theft is widespread and pervasive across all types of companies. Various surveys have found that:
• 60 percent of nursing homes stole workers' wages.
• 89 percent of nonmonitored garment factories in Los Angeles and 67 percent of nonmonitored garment factories in New York City stole workers' wages.
• 25 percent of tomato producers, 35 percent of lettuce producers, 51 percent of cucumber producers, 58 percent of onion producers, and 62 percent of garlic producers hiring farm workers stole workers' wages.
• 78 percent of restaurants in New Orleans stole workers' wages.
• Almost half of day laborers, who tend to focus on construction work, have had their wages stolen.
• 100 percent of poultry plants steal workers' wages.
Although wage theft is the most pernicious when employers steal money from workers earning low wages, wage theft affects many middle-income workers too, including construction workers, nurses, dieticians, writers, bookkeepers, and many more. Wage theft affects young workers, mid-career workers, and older workers. Although some of the worst wage theft occurs when immigrant workers aren't paid minimum wage or aren't paid at all, the largest dollar amounts are stolen from native-born white and black workers in unpaid overtime. .... [end]
Eric Sommer, globalresearch.ca
A rare defining moment in social class relations occurred a few days ago in Chicago, U.S.A.: In the wake of the economic chaos unleashed by the financial crisis, class struggle of the working class was reborn in America with a full-force factory occupation by workers.
[This is the event that led to Illinois Gov Blagojevich telling Bank of America that they would not be welcome in Illinois if they did not lend to the bankrupt firm so that it could pay the workers; and of course you know the bizarre and maybe not coincidental tag to that story, that the investigation of the Governor's maniacally greedy corruption culminated with his arrest the next day.]
Workers at 'Republic Windows and Doors' in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. have assembled vinyl windows and sliding doors for many years; now, told that they are to be laid off with only three days notice, they have refused to leave the plant and have barricaded themselves inside until money and benefits owed to them are provided. Large numbers of people, and community organizations, are backing them, bringing food and other support items to the factory.
To understand the Chicago occupations importance, an analogy is useful. In the mid-1960's every U.S. male was required to carry a 'draft card' bearing a number which would be used by the U.S. government to induct or force them into the U.S. Army if the government chose to do so.
As the imperialist Vietnam war expanded, the government required ever-more soldiers, and one day around 1965 a group of young men publicly burned their draft cards together in California to symbolize their refusal to enter the U.S. Army if they should be ordered to do so.
What looked at the time like a lone and perhaps hopelessly quixotic act of a few unusual individuals was in fact very far-sighted. Over time, as literally millions of men were ordered into the army over the next 10 years, hundreds of thousands refused service, following on the example of this first set by the brave initial card burners. In retrospect, the timing of the draft-card burners was perfect; it was a perfect preparation of American males to resist the massive war of occupation and aggression by the U.S. in Vietnam.
Similarly, the auto industry workers occupation today is also a case of perfect timing.
Their example will - almost without doubt - inspire large numbers of other workers in America, also faced by factory closures, mortgage foreclosures, and the like, to act militantly - as members of the working class - to secure their livelihoods and futures.
[I might add that it is also reminiscent of the General Motors sit-down strike of 1932(?).)
It's important to understand that the standard method of worker protest, recognized by U.S. law, is the strike, in which workers refuse to work and perhaps picket outside a workplace.
Occupation or seizure of control of the workplace is a much rarer and more serious matter, as it directly threatens the control of production and of property by the owners of capital, and points, in the limit case, to worker control of the economy.
The Chicago occupation indicates both the severity of the economic crisis, and the kinds of working class actions which are now on the horizon.
Republic Windows and Doors: zeitgeist