Does it matter who rules?

Does it matter who rules: Republicans or Democrats?

Posted to May 31 2012


“All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he loves America, yet he hates labor, he is a liar. If a man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.”

– Abraham Lincoln

Does it really matter whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge after the November elections?

Taking a nearsighted view of the political landscape, some have concluded there is little or no difference between Republicans and Democrats.

After all, even in states like California where Democrats now control state government, the dilemma is not whether to cut social services and jobs, but how much.

But a broader view helps us see that it does make a difference.

A Republican takeover of both houses of Congress and the White House in November would mean the dramas in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan would play out with a vengeance at the national level.

Since their 2010 electoral victory, the Republican-majority legislatures and governors of those three states have been cutting deep into public services and jobs.

Yes, there is still a need to struggle in states like California where Democrats control state government. But cuts to the public sector workforce and services there pale in comparison with those of Republican-controlled state governments. (And California’s situation is complicated because Democrats lack the two-thirds legislative majority required to overcome the Republican pledge to block new revenues.)

Anyone who says there’s no difference between a pay cut on the job and a permanent job loss has never been unemployed or lived on the margins.

There is another critical reason why it matters who wins in November.

In Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, the Republican-controlled governments are challenging the very right and ability of working people to fight.

When Republicans move to take away the hard-earned right of public employees to collective bargaining, and decimate union density through massive layoffs, it is that much harder for workers and their unions to fight for their rights and those of the poor.

The Republicans are out to paralyze workers’ capacity to fight from a position of collective power through their freely chosen unions.

And that’s exactly what we can expect from Republicans if they win the White House and both houses of Congress in November.

So, what does Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have to say about unions?

Earlier this month at a campaign rally in Lansing, Mich., Romney said:

“Liberalism once taught that unions would ensure lasting prosperity for workers. Instead, they too often contributed to disappearing companies, disappearing industries and disappearing jobs.”

Nice work!

Why not blame the victim and absolve you and your cronies from responsibility?

Never mind that in the 1970s the capitalist barons of high finance and industry began turning thriving Midwestern industrial centers into “rust belts.”

They moved industry and good-paying union jobs wholesale from states like Michigan and Ohio into “union free” Southern states and abroad.

They accelerated the introduction of job-killing technology and management techniques in their quest for maximum corporate profit (and jacked up CEO pay in the process).

It was in the 1980s, when former Republican President Ronald Reagan loosened up financial regulations and launched the assault on unions that continues to this day, that a new breed of capitalists in the private equity business emerged, among them Mitt Romney.

Former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich bluntly describes private equity firms as “using other people’s money to make big bets which, if they go wrong, can wreak havoc on the economy.”

It is precisely this and other “financial innovations” that largely contributed to the 2008 Great Recession when the financial bubble that had come to dominate the U.S. economy burst.

President Obama’s re-election campaign is now highlighting one of Romney’s “bets” that went bad.

Under Romney’s leadership, Bain Capital bought steelmaker GS Industries in 1993 and loaded it with debt while paying millions to Bain investors.

After Romney left Bain, GS Industries declined and in 2001 went into bankruptcy, laying off more than 700 workers.

“It was like a vampire came in and sucked the life out of us,” said one former worker highlighted in the Obama campaign ad.

At Romney’s ¬†Michigan campaign rally, he accused President Obama of taking “his marching orders from union bosses.”

Perhaps we should ask Romney when was the last time “union bosses” closed down plants and fired workers en masse, foreclosed on their homes and threw them and their families out on the street, in pursuit of maximum private profit?

Meanwhile, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka set the record straight when he told In These Times in March, “Sometimes we have disagreed with the president on strategy, but I know one thing, he’s a friend of the 99 percent.”

Photo: PW Photo

Traveling the road away from war

Posted to May 22 2012

NATO’s pledge, at its Chicago summit, to turn over the lead in combat operations to the Afghan National Security Forces by the middle of next year, and end the alliance’s combat mission by the close of 2014, sets up a new signpost on the road to ending our country’s longest war.

But NATO’s stated commitment to “enduring partnership” with Afghanistan, and the new U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement which could stretch out U.S. military involvement long after 2014, should dampen any optimism that the war is really coming to an end.

What NATO’s commitment does reflect is the continued and growing opposition to the war among people in the NATO countries, symbolized by new French President Francois Hollande’s decision to withdraw French combat troops a year ahead of schedule.

And, the ever-growing opposition here at home, with over two-thirds of the U.S. people now saying it’s time and past time to leave.

A fascinating drama took place in the U.S. House of Representatives last week, as the Republican leadership refused to allow a vote on an amendment to the 2013 Defense Authorization Act.

The bipartisan amendment, introduced by Representatives James McGovern, D-Mass. and Walter Jones, R-N.C., would require President Obama to stick to his pledge to end all military and security operations by the end of 2014, and to get Congress’ okay if any troops were to stay beyond that deadline.

A similar measure nearly passed last year, and House Republican leaders reportedly worried that it might actually pass this time. Rep. Jones told CNN his colleagues said another seven or eight Republicans were prepared to vote for the amendment. He said he believed it wasn’t brought up because this time it would have passed.

The vote the Republican leadership scheduled instead held its own drama. The amendment first introduced two years ago by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to limit spending on the war to that needed for the safe and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops and contractors, predictably failed. But for the first time a majority of House Democrats voted for it, by a margin of 101-79.

Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters are surging through Chicago streets this week, led by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, dozens of whom have thrown away hard-earned medals in protest 

As the enormous costs in money and lives continue to soar, it is more urgent than ever to end a war which is only making conditions worse for the Afghan people.

The only way forward lies in bringing all the U.S. troops and contractors home, negotiations involving all parties to the conflict and all countries in the region, and international aid to help Afghans rebuild their country and achieve a viable economy.

It’s now the job of everyone among the two-thirds of the American people opposed to the Afghanistan war, to roll up our sleeves for a complete end to the conflict.

The determination and commitment to ending the war that’s being shown by the demonstrators in Chicago points the way.

Photo: At a NATO protest, Chicago, May 20, 2012. Teresa Albano/PW