Category Archives: Student Loans

Economic Collapse Continues Uninterrupted

To conceal the economic and social decline that continues to unfold at home and abroad, major newspapers are working overtime to promote happy economic news. Many headlines are irrational and out of touch. They make no sense. Desperation to convince everyone that all is well or all will soon be great is very high. The assault on economic science and coherence is intense. Working in concert, and contrary to the lived experience of millions of people, many newspapers are declaring miraculous “economic growth rates” for country after country. According to the rich and their media, numerous countries are experiencing or are on the cusp of experiencing very strong “come-backs” or “complete recoveries.” Very high rates of annual economic growth, generally not found in any prior period, are being floated regularly. The numbers defy common sense.

In reality, economic and social problems are getting worse nationally and internationally.

“Getting back to the pre-Covid standard will take time,” said Carmen Reinhart, the World Bank’s chief economist. “The aftermath of Covid isn’t going to reverse for a lot of countries. Far from it.” Even this recent statement is misleading because it implies that pre-Covid economic conditions were somehow good or acceptable when things have actually been going downhill for decades. Most economies never really “recovered” from the economic collapse of 2008. Most countries are still running on gas fumes while poverty, unemployment, under-employment, inequality, debt, food insecurity, generalized anxiety, and other problems keep worsening. And today, with millions of people fully vaccinated and trillions of phantom dollars, euros, and yen printed by the world’s central banks, there is still no real and sustained stability, prosperity, security, or harmony. People everywhere are still anxious about the future. Pious statements from world leaders about “fixing” capitalism have done nothing to reverse the global economic decline that started years ago and was intensified by the “COVID Pandemic.”

In the U.S. alone, in real numbers, about 3-4 million people a month have been laid off for 13 consecutive months. At no other time in U.S. history has such a calamity on this scale happened. This has “improved” slightly recently but the number of people being laid off every month remains extremely high and troubling. In New York State, for example:

the statewide [official] unemployment rate remains the second highest in the country at just under 9%. One year after the start of the pandemic and the recession it caused, most of the jobs New York lost still have not come back. (emphasis added, April 2021).

In addition, nationally the number of long-term unemployed remains high and the labor force participation rate remains low. And most new jobs that are “created” are not high-paying jobs with good benefits and security. The so-called “Gig Economy” has beleaguered millions.

Some groups have been more adversely affected than others. In April 2021, U.S. News & World Report conveyed that:

In February 2020, right before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, Black women had an employment to population ratio of 60.8%; that now stands at 54.8%, a drop of 6 percentage points.

The obsolete U.S. economic system has discarded more than half a million black women from the labor force in the past year.

In December 2019, around the time the “COVID Pandemic” began to emerge, Brookings reported that:

An estimated 53 million people—44 percent of all U.S. workers ages 18–64—are low-wage workers. That’s more than twice the number of people in the 10 most populous U.S. cities combined. Their median hourly wage is $10.22, and their median annual earnings are $17,950.

The Federal Reserve reports that 37 percent of Americans in 2019 did not have $400 to cover an unanticipated emergency. In Louisiana alone, 1 out of 5 families today are living at the poverty level.  Sadly, “60% of Americans will live below the official poverty line for at least one year of their lives.” While American billionaires became $1.3 trillion richer, about 8 million Americans joined the ranks of the poor during the “COVID Pandemic.”

And more inflation will make things worse for more people. A March 2021 headline from NBC News reads: “The price of food and gas is creeping higher — and will stay that way for a while.”  ABC News goes further in April 2021 and says that “the post-pandemic economy will include higher prices, worse service, longer delays.”

Homelessness in the U.S. is also increasing:

COVID-driven loss of jobs and employment income will cause the number of homeless workers to increase each year through 2023. Without large-scale, government employment programs the Pandemic Recession is projected to cause twice as much homelessness as the 2008 Great Recession. Over the next four years the current Pandemic Recession is projected to cause chronic homelessness to increase 49 percent in the United States, 68 percent in California and 86 percent in Los Angeles County. [The homeless include the] homeless on the streets, shelter residents and couch surfers. (emphasis added, January 11, 2021)

Perhaps ironically, just “Two blocks from the Federal Reserve, a growing encampment of the homeless grips the economy’s most powerful person [Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell].”

Officially, about four million businesses, including more than 110,000 restaurants, have permanently closed in the U.S. over the past 14 months.  In April 2021 Business Insider stated that, “roughly 80,000 stores are doomed to close in the next 5 years as the retail apocalypse continues to rip through America.”  The real figure is likely higher.

Bankruptcies have also risen in some sectors. For example, bankruptcies by North American oil producers “rose to the highest first-quarter level since 2016.”

In March 2021 the Economic Policy Institute reported that “more than 25 million workers are directly harmed by the COVID labor market.” Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more than 100 applicants for each job opening in some sectors.

Given the depth and breadth of the economic collapse in the U.S., it is no surprise that “1 in 6 Americans went into therapy for the first time in 2020.” The number of people affected by depression, anxiety, addiction, and suicide worldwide as a direct result of the long depression is very high. These harsh facts and realities are also linked to more violence, killings, protests, demonstrations, social unrest, and riots worldwide.

In terms of physical health, “Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults report undesired weight changes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.” This will only exacerbate the diabetes pandemic that has been ravaging more countries every year.

On another front, the Pew Research Center informs us that, as a result of the economic collapse that has unfolded over the past year, “A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression.”   And it does not help that student debt now exceeds $1.7 trillion and is still climbing rapidly.

Millions of college faculty have also suffered greatly over the past year. A recent survey by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) found that:

real wages for full-time faculty decreased for the first time since the Great Recession[in 2008], and average wage growth for all ranks of full-time faculty was the lowest since the AAUP began tracking annual wage growth in 1972. After adjusting for inflation, real wages decreased at over two-thirds of colleges and universities. The number of full-time faculty decreased at over half of institutions.

This does not account for the thousands of higher education adjuncts (part-time faculty) and staff that lost their jobs permanently.

In April 2021, the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities stated that, “millions of people are still without their pre-pandemic income sources and are borrowing to get by.” Specifically:

  • 54 million adults said they didn’t use regular income sources like those received before the pandemic to meet their spending needs in the last seven days.
  • 50 million used credit cards or loans to meet spending needs.
  • 20 million borrowed from friends or family. (These three groups overlap.)

Also in April 2021, the Washington Post wrote:

The pandemic’s disruption has created inescapable financial strain for many Americans. Nearly 2 of 5 of adults have postponed major financial decisions, from buying cars or houses to getting married or having children, due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey last week from Bankrate.com. Among younger adults, ages 18 to 34, some 59 percent said they had delayed a financial milestone. (emphasis added)

According to Monthly Review:

The U.S. economy has seen a long-term decline in capacity utilization in manufacturing, which has averaged 78 percent from 1972 to 2019—well below levels that stimulate net investment. (emphasis added, January 1, 2021).

Capitalist firms will not invest in new ventures or projects when there is little or no profit to be made, which is why major owners of capital are engaged in even more stock market manipulation than ever before. “Casino capitalism” is intensifying. This, in turn, is giving rise to even larger stock market bubbles that will eventually burst and wreak even more havoc than previous stock market crashes. The inability to make profit through normal investment channels is also why major owners of capital are imposing more public-private “partnerships” (PPPs) on people and society through neoliberal state restructuring. Such pay-the-rich schemes further marginalize workers and exacerbate inequality, debt, and poverty. PPPs solve no problems and must be replaced by human-centered economic arrangements.

The International Labor Organization estimates that the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs have been lost globally as a result of government actions over the past 13-14 months.

In March of this year, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reported that, “Acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries in the coming months without urgent and scaled-up assistance.” The FAO says, “”The magnitude of suffering is alarming.”

And according to Reuters, “Overall, global FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] had collapsed in 2020, falling by 42% to an estimated $859 billion, from $1.5 trillion in 2019, according to the UNCTAD report.” UNCTAD stands for United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

The international organization Oxfam tells us that:

The coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, the first time this has happened since records began…. Billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade. (emphasis added, January 25, 2021)

According to the World Bank, “The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed about 120 million people into extreme poverty over the last year in mostly low- and middle-income countries.”  And despite the roll-out of vaccines in various countries:

the economic implications of the pandemic are deep and far-reaching. It is ushering in a “new poor” profile that is more urban, better educated, and reliant on informal sector work such as construction, relative to the existing global poor (those living on less than $1.90/day) who are more rural and heavily reliant on agriculture. (emphasis added)

Another source notes that:

Pew Research Center, using World Bank data, has estimated that the number of poor in India (with income of $2 per day or less in purchasing power parity) has more than doubled from 60 million to 134 million in just a year due to the pandemic-induced recession. This means, India is back in a situation to be called a “country of mass poverty” after 45 years. (emphasis added)

In Europe, there is no end in sight to the economic decline that keeps unfolding. The United Kingdom, for example, experienced its worst economy in literally 300 years:

The economy in the U.K. contracted 9.9 percent in 2020, the worst year on record since 1709, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a report on Friday (Feb. 12). The overall economic drop in 2020 was more than double in 2009, when U.K. GDP declined 4.1 percent due to the worldwide financial crisis. Britain experienced the biggest annual decline among the G7 economies — France saw its economy decline 8.3 percent, Italy dropped 8.8 percent, Germany declined 5 percent and the U.S. contracted 3.5 percent. (emphasis added)

Another source also notes that, “The Eurozone is being haunted by ‘ghost bankruptcies,’ with more than 200,000 firms across the European Union’s four biggest nations under threat when Covid financial lifelines stop.” In another sign of economic decline, this time in Asia, Argus Media reported in April 2021 that Japan’s 2020-21 crude steel output fell to a 52-year low.

Taken alone, on a country-by-country basis, these are not minor economic downturns, but when viewed as a collective cumulative global phenomenon, the consequences are more serious. It is a big problem when numerous economies decline simultaneously. The world is more interdependent and interconnected than ever. What happens in one region necessarily affects other regions.

One could easily go country by country and region by region and document many tragic economic developments that are still unfolding and worsening. Argentina, Lebanon, Colombia, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Jordan, South Africa, Nigeria, and dozens of other countries are all experiencing major economic setbacks and hardships that will take years to overcome and will negatively affect the economies of other countries in an increasingly interdependent world. And privatization schemes around the world are just making conditions worse for the majority of people. Far from solving any problems, neoliberalism has made everything worse for working people and society.

It is too soon for capitalist ideologues to be euphoric about “miraculous economic growth and success.” There is no meaningful evidence to show that there is deep, significant, sustained economic growth on a broad scale. There is tremendous economic carnage and pain out there, and the scarring and consequences are going to linger for some time. No one believes that a big surge of well-paying jobs is right around the corner. Nor does anyone believe that more schemes to pay the rich under the banner of high ideals will improve things either.

Relentless disinformation about the economy won’t solve any problems or convince people that they are not experiencing what they are experiencing. Growing poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment, under-employment, debt, inequality, anxiety, and insecurity are real and painful. They require real solutions put forward by working people, not major owners of capital concerned only with maximizing private profit as fast as possible.

The economy cannot improve and serve a pro-social aim and direction so long as those who produce society’s wealth, workers, are disempowered and denied any control of the economy they run. Allowing major decisions to be made by a historically superfluous financial oligarchy is not the way forward. The rich and their representatives are unfit to rule and have no real solutions for the recurring crises caused by their outmoded system. They are focused mainly on depriving people of an outlook that opens the path of progress to society.

There is no way for the massive wealth of society to be used to serve the general interests of society so long as the contradiction between the socialized nature of the economy and its continued domination by competing private interests remain unresolved. All we are left with are recurring economic crises that take a bigger and bigger toll on humanity. To add insult to injury, we are told that there is no alternative to this outdated system, and that the goal is to strive for “inclusive capitalism,” “ethical capitalism,” “responsible capitalism,” or some other oxymoron.

But there is an alternative. Existing conditions do not have to be eternal or tolerated. History shows that conditions that favor the people can be established. The rich must be deprived of their ability to deprive the people of their rights, including the right to govern their own affairs and control the economy. The economy, government, nation-building, and society must be controlled and directed by the people themselves, free of the influence of narrow private interests determined to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone and everything else.

The rich and their political and media representatives are under great pressure to distort social consciousness, undermine the human factor, and block progress. The necessity for change is for humanity to rise up and usher in a modern society that ensures prosperity, stability, and peace for all. It can be done and must be done.

The post Economic Collapse Continues Uninterrupted first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Small Acts Can Become A Power No Government Can Suppress

The American Rescue Plan (ARP) was passed in the House this past week and now heads to the Senate, where it will no doubt be changed before it becomes law some time in mid-March. The current unemployment benefits expire on March 14.

While we don’t know what the final bill will look like, at least now we can get an idea of what is in it. Overall, as expected, the provisions in the bill will help to provide some financial assistance to some people, but they won’t solve the crises we face. And the Biden administration is backtracking on promises made on the campaign trail.

As Alan Macleod writes, Biden has abandoned raising the minimum wage, ending student debt and the promised $2,000 checks. His focus is on forcing people back to work and school even as new, more infectious and more lethal variants of the virus causing COVID-19 threaten another surge in cases and deaths. There is only one promise Biden appears to be keeping, and that is one he made to wealthy donors at the start of his campaign when he said, “nothing would fundamentally change.”

Despite this, people are organizing across the country for their rights to economic security and health and an end to discrimination. These struggles are necessary as we cannot expect either of the capitalist parties to act in the people’s interest. But together, we can demand that one of the wealthiest nations on earth upholds its responsibility to provide the basic necessities for its people. This is consistent with a People(s)-Centered Human Rights approach.

What is and isn’t in the ARP?

The current version of the American Rescue Plan contains provisions that would provide money to people earning less than $75,000 per year. One is the one-time $1,400 check.  Another is raising the tax credit for families with children, which will benefit those who file tax returns but leave out the millions of poor people who don’t.

The ARP will also extend unemployment benefits until the end of August and increase the enhanced benefits to $400/week. Unlike the previous bills, this one includes workers who left their jobs because of unsafe conditions and those who had to leave work or reduce their hours to care for children. The benefits are retroactive for some workers who were denied benefits.

While this will temporarily improve the economic situation for many people, it is not a plan to address the poverty crisis in the United States nor is it sufficient to support people through the current recession and pandemic. People will still face barriers to receiving the aid. Instead of making the programs something that people have to apply for, the government could provide monthly checks to everyone with incomes under a certain amount automatically. Numerous examples show that putting money into people’s hands, such as through a guaranteed income or giving unrestricted lump sums, improves their well-being.

An increase in the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, a promise of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party, is in the House version of the bill, but it will not be in the Senate version unless the White House or Democrats intervene, which they seem unwilling to do. The minimum wage increase is being blocked by the Senate Parliamentarian, but the Vice President could override the decision or the Democrats could take steps to work around the Parliamentarian, as has been done in the past on other issues. They are choosing not to take this stand.

The ARP also fails to extend the eviction moratorium, which will expire at the end of March. While it does contain funds for rental assistance, they are being given to the Treasury Department to disburse to the states, so it is not clear how these funds will help people directly. A recent study found that corporate landlords received hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks last year but continued to evict thousands of people. When the eviction moratorium ends, those who cannot pay the back rent risk being evicted.

The health benefits in the ARP are not only inadequate but they are set to further enrich the medical-industrial complex, as I explain in “Biden’s Health Plan Shifts Even More Public Dollars into Private Hands.” The ARP is fulfilling a laundry list provided by private health insurers, hospitals and medical lobbying groups. It will subsidize the cost of insurance premiums but leave those who have health insurance still struggling to pay out-of-pocket costs and at risk of bankruptcy if they have a serious accident or illness.

And finally, another group that is being left out is those who have student debt. I spoke with Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice on Clearing the FOG this week. He said the current student loan burden is likely over $2 trillion and that the vast majority of debtors will never be able to repay . Collinge argues that it is imperative the Biden administration cancel student debt using an executive order, which he has the power to do, rather than leaving it to Congress. If the President does it, then the debt disappears (tax payers have already paid for the loans), but if Congress does it, which is unlikely to happen, they would have to offset the ‘cost’ through cuts to other programs or by raising taxes. Collinge also explains that cancelling student debt would be a significant economic stimulus.

All in all, the current ARP is another attempt by Congress to throw more money at a failed system that doesn’t change anything fundamentally. We must demand more.

The case for wealth redistribution

Lee Camp recently made the case for a massive change in the direction of wealth redistribution based on a new study that finds “the cumulative tab for our four-decade-long experiment in radical inequality has grown to over $47 trillion from 1975 through 2018. At a recent pace of about $2.5 trillion a year, that number we estimate crossed the $50 trillion mark by early 2020.” This amounts to over $1,000 per month per person in wealth that has been redistributed to the top or almost $14,000 per year.

It is time to reverse the direction of this wealth redistribution from one of consolidation at the top to one that creates greater wealth equality. This could be accomplished in a number of ways. In the middle of the last century, it was done through extremely high taxes on the wealthy and government investment in programs for housing and education. Camp advocates for taking all wealth over $10 million and redistributing it to the bottom 99.5% in a way that benefits the poorest the most.

Raising wages is another way to redistribute wealth. Professor Richard Wolff explains there are ways to raise wages without harming small businesses by providing federal support to them to offset the costs. Think of it as a reversal of the hundreds of billions in subsidies that have been given to large corporations, which they use to buy up and inflate the value of their stocks, to the small and medium businesses. It is smaller businesses that are most likely to keep wealth in their communities, unlike large corporations that extract wealth, and are the major drivers of the US economy. Small businesses alone comprise 44% of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

If workers earned higher wages, it would also save the government money that is currently spent on social safety net programs such as Medicaid and food stamps for low-wage workers. These programs enable large corporations to profit off worker exploitation, especially Walmart, Amazon and McDonalds, according to the DC Report.

Robert Urie points out that another price society pays for the gaping wealth divide is state violence and incarceration. He writes, “At $24 per hour, the inflation and productivity adjusted minimum wage in the U.S. from 1968, workers were still being added to employer payrolls. The point: $24 – $7.25 = $16.75 per hour plus a rate of profit is one measure of economic expropriation from low wage workers in the U.S. Maintaining an unjust public order is critical to the functioning of this exploitative political economy. Most of the prison population in the U.S. comes from neighborhoods where the minimum wage affects livelihoods.” Imagine the many ways that greater economic security would positively benefit families and communities.

People are fighting back

In our current political environment, we cannot expect Congress and the White House to do what is necessary to protect the health and security of people without a struggle that forces them to do so. There are many ways people are fighting locally for their rights through resistance and creating alternative systems. Here are a few current examples.

On February 16, fast food workers in 15 cities went on strike to demand $15 an hour. Other low-wage workers joined them. Last Monday, in Chicago, Black owners of McDonalds franchises began a 90-day protest outside of the McDonalds headquarters because of discrimination against them. They say, “McDonald’s has denied the Black franchisees the same opportunities as white operators and continually steer them to economically depressed and dangerous areas with low volume sales.”

In Bessemer, Alabama, workers are conducting a vote to start the first union for Amazon employees. If they succeed, it will be an amazing feat considering that Alabama is a right-to-work state and Amazon is doing what it can to stop them. In Arizona, another right-to-work state, workers at two universities are leading an effort to unionize all higher education employees in the state. They are concerned that federal funding provided to keep universities open will not be used in a way that protects all workers. They cite recent practices that prioritize the financial well-being of the universities over worker health and safety.

Some workers are taking power in other ways. Bus drivers in Silicon Valley organized with the support of community members to stop fare collections and only allow boarding in the rear, moves designed to aid passengers during the recession and protect drivers during the pandemic. They were committed to doing this whether management agreed to it or not. Others are building worker-owned platform cooperatives to challenge platform corporations that exploit their labor such as Spotify and Uber.

Others are working to meet people’s basic needs through mutual aid. Food not Bombs has been feeding people throughout the pandemic in various cities. In Santa Cruz, CA, they are out every day to feed the houseless despite being hassled by the city and moved around. A rural area in Canada that includes 65,000 people pulled together it local resources to make sure everyone is fed through a food policy council of elected officials, organizations and stakeholders. They reallocated their budget from events and travel to food security. They opened their seed banks to support local gardening efforts and commandeered unused buildings as spaces for assembling food boxes that were delivered to those in need.

These examples illustrate the tremendous power people have to force changes and create support networks in their communities when they organize together. While we should continue to expose and pressure Congress and the White House to invest in programs that provide for people’s needs, that is a function of government after all, we also need to organize in our communities to build popular power and create alternative systems that will slowly build the society we need.

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world.

— Howard Zinn

The post Small Acts Can Become A Power No Government Can Suppress first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Critical Lessons From Dr. Martin Luther King For These Times


NOTE: Margaret Flowers and Askia Muhammad will co-host an inaugural special on Pacifica Radio on Wednesday, January 20 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm Eastern. It can be heard on WBAI and WPFW. The theme will be Dr. King’s triple evils and what Biden’s cabinet picks tell us about what we can expect from this administration. Guests include Dr. Greg Carr, Abby Martin and Danny Sjursen.

Also, on Tuesday, January 26 at 8:00 pm Eastern, Popular Resistance will co-host a webinar, “COVID-19: How Weaponizing Disease and Vaccine Wars are Failing Us.” The webinar will be co-hosted by Margaret Flowers and Sara Flounders and it will feature Vijay Prashad, Max Blumethal, Margaret Kimberley and Lee Siu Hin. All are editors or contributors of the new book “Capitalism on a Ventilator.” Register at bit.ly/WeaponizingCOVID.

This week we celebrate the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and witness the inauguration of our next president, Joe Biden. This inauguration will be unique, first, for being held during a pandemic and, second, for its heightened security in fear of another attack by Trump supporters. Downtown Washington, DC is normally secured during an inauguration and people must pass through checkpoints to get into the Mall and parade route, but this time is different.

There are 25,000 members of the National Guard on duty in the city to protect the President and Members of Congress. But even this does not guarantee security. The FBI is screening every national guard member for ties to right wing militias and groups responsible for the January 6 assault on the Capitol. The ruling class experienced what it is like when those who are supposed to protect you don’t.

This insecurity is another facet of a society in break down. As Dr. King warned us over 50 years ago:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-centered’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. . . . A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Migrants march from Honduras to the United States with the hope of a better reception under a Biden administration (Luis Echeverria)

The pandemic and recession have exposed more widely what many communities have known for a long time, that corporate profits are more important than their lives and that lawmakers serve the wealthy class. During the pandemic, the rich have gotten richer, the Pentagon budget has ballooned with bi-partisan support and the people have not received what they need to survive. Unemployment, loss of health insurance, hunger and poverty are growing while the stock market ended the year with record highs.

Many are hopeful that a Democratic majority in Congress and a Democratic President will turn this around, and it is reasonable to expect there will be some positive changes. The Biden administration claims it will take immediate action to raise the federal minimum wage to $15/hour, extend the break on student loan payments, provide a one-time $1,400 payment and invest more in testing and vaccine administration, among other actions.

These actions are welcome, but they are a far cry from what is necessary. A family with two parents working full time for minimum wage will still live in poverty, even at $15/hour. The majority of people in the United States, 65%, support giving $2,000/month to every adult during the pandemic. This is supported by 54% of Republicans polled and 78% of Democrats. People with student loans are calling for them to be cancelled, not delayed. And, as I wrote in Truthout, Biden’s priority for managing the pandemic is on reopening businesses and schools, not on taking the public health measures that are called for such as shutting down with guarantees of housing and economic support and nationalizing the healthcare system, as other countries have done.

What is required is massive public investment in systemic changes that get to the roots of the crises we face. In addition to the triple evils that Dr. King spoke about, racism, capitalism and militarism, we can add the climate crisis. An eco-socialist Green New Deal such as that promoted by Howie Hawkins would get at the roots of each of these crises.

Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute argues that the economy can handle a massive investment of public dollars without fear of negative consequences, such as inflation, because for too long the economy has been starving the public while funneling wealth to the top. It is time for redistribution of that wealth to serve the public good.

In fact, Sam Pizzigati of Inequality.org writes that throughout history, governments have fallen when they fail to address wealth inequality and meet the people’s needs. This is the finding of a recent study called “Moral Collapse and State Failure: A View From the Past.” They write that the fall of pre-modern governments “can be traced to a principal leadership that inexplicably abandoned core principles of state-building that were foundational to these polities, while also ignoring their expected roles as effective leaders and moral exemplars.”

From Socialist Alternative

So far, it looks like what we can expect from the Biden Administration is a few tweaks to the system to placate people and relieve some suffering but not the system changes we require. Biden is actively opposed to national improved Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, two proposals that a majority of people, especially Democrats, support. Mark Dunlea explains why the Biden climate plan is inadequate for the dire situation we face.

Biden’s cabinet picks and language make it clear that the United States’ aggressive foreign policy of regime change and wars for resources and domination will continue. Samantha Power, a war hawk, has been chosen to head the USAID, an institution that invests in creating chaos and regime change efforts in other countries. Victoria Nuland, who was a major leader of the US’ successful coup in Ukraine that brought neo-Nazis to power, has been picked for Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Biden’s choices for CIA Director, Mike Morell, and Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, are both torture proponents. Abby Martin of Empire Files exposes the dark backgrounds of several other nominees for Biden’s cabinet, including Antony Blinken as Secretary of State, Jake Sullivan as National Security Adviser, Linda Thomas-Greenfield for United Nations Ambassador and Michael Flourney to head the Pentagon.

It also doesn’t appear that Democrats in Congress will show the necessary courage to fight for what the people need. Danny Haiphong of Black Agenda Report writes about the “Obama-fication” of “The Squad” and how they serve to protect the status quo and weaken the progressive movement. It is important to understand how they are the “more effective evil,” or as Gabriel Rockhill explains, they are the arm of liberal democracies that convince people to consent to the neo-liberal capitalism that is destroying our lives and the planet. This is how Western fascism rises within legislative bodies. Already, we are seeing champions of national improved Medicare for All, Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, back down to a position of lowering the age of Medicare eligibility, which would not solve our healthcare crisis, only delay that solution.

Chris Hedges often warns us that we need to know what we are up against if we are to effectively challenge it. Dr. King warned us that our nation was heading toward spiritual death if we did not get to the roots of the crises, the triple evils. He demonstrated that social movements should not align themselves with capitalist political parties because then the movement becomes subservient to their interests and compromises its own interests. And he told us what we must do. Prior to King’s death, he was organizing an occupation of Washington, DC to demand an end to poverty.

During the Biden administration, many of the progressive forces will work to weaken those of us who make demands for bold changes. They will try to placate us with a diverse cabinet of women and people of color who were chosen because they support capitalism, imperialism and systemic racism despite their identities. Chris Hedges describes this as a form of “colonialism.”

Our tasks are to maintain political independence from the capitalist parties, struggle for systemic changes and embrace a bold agenda that inspires people to take action. Through strategic and intentional action, we can achieve the changes we need. We have a key ingredient for success – widespread support for the changes we need. Now, we only need to mobilize in ways that inspire people and that have an impact – strikes, boycotts, occupations and more that are focused on improving the lives of everyone.

We can turn things around and reduce the suffering that is driving the polarization and trend towards violence in our country. It’s time to embrace our radical Dr. King.

The post Critical Lessons From Dr. Martin Luther King For These Times first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Solutions Are Obvious, But It Will Take A Revolution To Win Them

The United States has reached a severe crisis point and the next few months will determine how we address it. The COVID-19 pandemic is raging across the country and some areas are struggling to provide enough hospital beds and staff to care for people. The recession is deepening as unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions run out. Yet, members of Congress cannot even agree to pass a weak version of the CARES Act they passed last March when the situation was less serious.

This is our moment. This is the time to make demands that the government take action to address the people’s needs. Even the most ‘progressive’ members in Congress  have shown they are unwilling to do more than talk about the crisis. They refuse to use what little power they have to confront their leadership. It is up to us to bring the crisis to members of Congress and demand immediate action.

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The minor economic recovery that occurred over the summer when businesses started to open back up has faltered. The real number of unemployed people rose in November as hundreds of thousands of people stopped looking for work. On top of that, the crises have gone on for so long that businesses, especially restaurants, are scaling back or closing making the job losses permanent. In fact, 110,000 restaurants have gone out of business this year.

Bill Quigley provides some “tragic facts” about the crisis. Without Congressional action, 87 million workers will lose their sick leave, 30 million people will face eviction and 12 million people will lose their unemployment benefits by the end of the month. The student loan deferment is also set to expire.

Hunger and poverty are rising with 50 million people, including 1 in 4 children, lacking food security. The number of children who are homeless, 1.5 million, is at a record high. And fewer students are applying for college.

Unemployment, homelessness and hunger put people at risk of poor health and death from COVID-19 and other causes. It is all connected and there are obvious solutions to these crises. The problem is that Congress is refusing to act.

Sarah Lazare points out that Congress had no trouble approving a $740 billion budget for the Pentagon on December 2. She writes, “That we can find the mon­ey for war but not for coro­n­avirus relief expos­es the moral rot at the cen­ter of U.S. pol­i­tics, a rot that must be dug out and expunged if we are to get through this crisis.”

This week, Congress agreed to a one week extension of funding to keep the government open and to give them more time to agree to a COVID-19 relief package. The package currently being discussed is much smaller, just over $900 billion, than the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House last May. It would give $300/week in unemployment benefits for 18 weeks and extend the two pandemic unemployment programs, one that targets gig and self-employed workers and the other that extends unemployment benefits. It would provide some funding to small businesses and local and state governments as well as funding for vaccines and health care. It will also extend the eviction moratorium and student loan deferment, give funds to schools and increase food stamps. It will not provide direct payments to people.

The sticking point seems to be that the Republicans are insisting on immunity for businesses from liability for workers being infected with COVID-19 on the job. There have been record numbers of complaints to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this year by workers who are not being provided with adequate protection on the job. The Democrats are refusing to concede on this provision in the bill, which is far weaker than what is needed.

CNBC.

Project Syndicate reports that scholars who study wealth inequality and its impact on the overall economy are pretty clear about the problems and solutions. The wealthy, who have benefited greatly during the pandemic, hoard most of their money, keeping it out of circulation. The rest of the people spend any money they have out of necessity to cover basics like food and housing, but this doesn’t add up to much when the bottom 80% of people only hold 14% of the wealth.

The consensus is that the best way to stimulate the economy and reduce wealth inequality is to give more money to the bottom 80%. Project Syndicate cites policy recommendations from MIT’s Task Force on the Work of the Future that include taxing the rich, raising the minimum wage and strengthening collective bargaining, and providing government healthcare, free education and more extensive unemployment benefits.

These are similar to demands that many groups are making. This week, taxi drivers from New York to Maryland converged on Washington, DC to demand relief. They rallied at the Capitol and drove around downtown with signs on their cars. Health care workers continue to strike over long hours and lack of protection. Students at Columbia University, the most expensive school in the country, are preparing for a tuition strike to protest student debt. Teachers are also resisting school re-openings. Churches are raising funds to buy up and forgive medical debt.

One demand that is getting a lot of attention is National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA). The Congressional Budge Office came out with a report this week that found NIMA would save $650 billion a year in administrative costs. If it included long term care, it would still save $300 billion. There is a NIMA bill in the House that is pretty good, HR 1384, introduced by Pramila Jayapal.

Jimmy Dore is calling on so-called progressive Democrats who champion NIMA to demand a vote on HR 1384, which has 115 co-sponsors, by threatening not to support Pelosi for Speaker of the House if she refuses. The Democrats will have a slim majority in the House next year, so even if as few as 15 members had the courage to do this, they could force a vote. This would expose whether the Democrats who have run on NIMA and won really mean it. The Congressional Progressive Caucus is the largest caucus in the House. They have the power to stop legislation, but to date, they have refused to use that power.

If there were ever a time to demand NIMA, it is now. At least 14 million more people have lost their health insurance this year, bringing us to similar numbers of uninsured people as there were in 2009 when the health reform process took place. But, sadly, it doesn’t look good. Even the “Squad” in Congress is refusing to go against Pelosi.

People’s Dispatch.

This is why it is up to us to take action. We can’t count on Congress or a Biden-Harris White House to take action to meet our needs. In his most recent article, Chris Hedges calls out the liberal class that called itself “The Resistance” while Trump was in office. Where will that liberal class be in 2021 as the pandemic, recession and right wing violence escalate?

The liberals and those who are funded by Democratic Party-aligned groups will not demand what is needed unless there is a strong left that exposes them and holds them accountable. In fact, groups like the Poor People’s Campaign have already abandoned support for NIMA and are supporting the totally inadequate Biden-Harris healthcare proposal.

To win what we need, we must be clear about what we are demanding. The People’s Agenda is a good place to start. And we must take action in our communities to pressure lawmakers at every level, to withhold our support through strikes, boycotts and other actions, to build networks of mutual aid to sustain us through these crises and to create alternative institutions that are founded in equity and democratic participation. This is what revolution looks like.

Caitlin Johnstone wrote in “In an Insane World, Revolution Is the Moderate Position,” that our demands for putting people and the planet over profits and for respect for human rights are not radical, although the power structure will tell us they are. If we want to defeat the extreme right, we must create a country where all can prosper. It is economic insecurity and the power holder’s blaming certain sectors of society for it instead of taking responsibility that is fueling division and violence.

Johnstone concludes with these wise words:

To live a revolutionary life, you should insist on the normality and mundaneness of your own position. Sanity should not be special and unusual, and we should not participate in the delusion that it is. Let your life be an expression of the common sense ordinariness of revolution.

It is time to take revolution mainstream.

The post The Solutions Are Obvious, But It Will Take A Revolution To Win Them first appeared on Dissident Voice.

People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We

Protest in Peru:  The people demand neither corruption or exploitation

This weekend, ten thousand people took to the streets in Guatemala to protest the President and Congress over a proposed budget, the largest in its history, that cuts funds for health care and education as poverty rises, and provides slush funds to politicians and governments. In Colombia, the people held a national strike to protest their violent, right-wing government. In Peru, protests against a right-wing power grab have ousted one appointed president and people are demanding a new government and constitution. And people in Chile won the right to a new constitution. Now they are defending the process to make sure it represents them.

Across the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria, in what began as a response to ongoing and severe state violence, the #EndSARS movement, has evolved to a struggle for full liberation from a corrupt and repressive government. Their new hashtag is #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria. I spoke with Abiodun Aremu, a long time movement leader in Lagos, on Clearing the FOG, about the current conditions and history of looting and exploitation by those in power.

In these countries and more, the people are rising up against the elite power structure to fight for their rights. Across borders, we share a common enemy, neoliberal economies that funnel wealth to the top, deregulate industries so they violate worker rights and destroy the environment, and impose austerity programs to deny our basic necessities. We also share a common vision for a world where the self-determination of peoples is respected and all people have equitable access to a life of dignity and prosperity.

Boxes of food were handed out by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Gene J. Puskar/AP.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a new report that finds the economy, which improved slightly over the summer, is stagnating again. As the provisions from the CARES Act expire, poverty is rising, especially for black and brown people. Women are also being adversely impacted because of the lack of childcare. Most of the jobs that have been lost, 52 percent, are low-wage jobs.

They point to a recent study from the Department of Health and Human Services that predicts ten million more people will become impoverished by the end of this year. Currently, 24 million adults say they don’t have enough food in their homes and 80 million adults say they are struggling to afford basic necessities. Without adequate support from the government, the economy won’t recover and people will continue to suffer.

The COVID-19 pandemic is surging with more than 200,000 cases in one day last week and deaths are rising again. Across the country, hospitals are struggling without enough beds and the staff to care for patients. The United States is expected to remain at this crisis level through the winter unless drastic steps are taken such as a national shut down, including all non-essential businesses. At present, that is not an option being considered by either President Trump or President-Elect Biden.

Both Trump and Biden are putting corporate profits over the needs of people by focusing on reopening businesses rather than providing the relief people desperately need. The Institute for Policy Studies reports that billionaires have increased their wealth by nearly $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic while their workers are left unprotected and without increases in their wages. They specifically call out a “delinquent dozen” of “pandemic profiteers.”

David McNew/Getty Images.

As Congress refuses to provide support for the millions who have lost their jobs, their health insurance and their homes, people are calling on the incoming Biden administration to take immediate action. For example, David Dayen points out that a provision in the Affordable Care Act allows the President to use executive power to expand Medicare to whomever needs it.

Biden, unfortunately, has made it clear that he opposes Medicare for All.  I spoke about the COVID-19 crisis and our for-profit healthcare system with Chris Hedges on his program, On Contact, this weekend.

This past week, more than 235 organizations called on Joe Biden to cancel student debt, which can also be done using executive power. Student debt has reached a staggering $1.6 trillion, a burden that is crippling people in the current recession. The groups state, “Cancellation will help jumpstart spending, create jobs, and add to the GDP. Short-term payment suspension alone is not enough to help struggling borrowers who are unemployed, already in default, or in serious delinquency.”

In addition to failing to address the pandemic and economic hardship at home, the United States government also inflicts pain and suffering across the planet through the many regime change efforts and military aggressions. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies outlined ten steps Joe Biden could take immediately to change our foreign policy to one that is in line with international law, provides humanitarian aid instead of bombs and reduces the threat of nuclear war.

Federal spending on the security state dwarfs what is spent on domestic needs. Only 32 percent of the federal discretionary budget is used for health care, education, energy and housing and the biggest chunk of that goes to the Veterans Health Administration. The rest goes to the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the State Department, and NASA. Imagine what could be done to provide universal health care, child care, fully-funded education through the university level, low-cost clean energy and affordable housing if we stopped our wars and brought the military home.

Sean Rayford/New York Times.

Now that it is clear the next president will be Joe Biden, some people may think it is time to relax and let him go to work running the country. This is the message the power holders want the people to hear. The Biden administration will go to great lengths to give the appearance that it is different and that it will make positive changes, but just as we have experienced over and over again, when it comes to domestic economic policy or foreign policy, there is little difference between Democratic and Republican administrations. Both serve the wealthy class and the military industrial complex.

The power elites are never going to give us what we need. We must demand it. As we see people in other countries doing, we must organize and mobilize with a clear set of demands now. Joe Biden can take immediate steps to relieve suffering, and in a time of crisis as we are in now, he can do it using executive power. We must not give Biden a honeymoon. We must not be fooled by the excuses used to convince us it can’t be done.

The post People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We first appeared on Dissident Voice.

People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We

Protest in Peru:  The people demand neither corruption or exploitation

This weekend, ten thousand people took to the streets in Guatemala to protest the President and Congress over a proposed budget, the largest in its history, that cuts funds for health care and education as poverty rises, and provides slush funds to politicians and governments. In Colombia, the people held a national strike to protest their violent, right-wing government. In Peru, protests against a right-wing power grab have ousted one appointed president and people are demanding a new government and constitution. And people in Chile won the right to a new constitution. Now they are defending the process to make sure it represents them.

Across the Atlantic Ocean in Nigeria, in what began as a response to ongoing and severe state violence, the #EndSARS movement, has evolved to a struggle for full liberation from a corrupt and repressive government. Their new hashtag is #EndBadGovernanceInNigeria. I spoke with Abiodun Aremu, a long time movement leader in Lagos, on Clearing the FOG, about the current conditions and history of looting and exploitation by those in power.

In these countries and more, the people are rising up against the elite power structure to fight for their rights. Across borders, we share a common enemy, neoliberal economies that funnel wealth to the top, deregulate industries so they violate worker rights and destroy the environment, and impose austerity programs to deny our basic necessities. We also share a common vision for a world where the self-determination of peoples is respected and all people have equitable access to a life of dignity and prosperity.

Boxes of food were handed out by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Gene J. Puskar/AP.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has a new report that finds the economy, which improved slightly over the summer, is stagnating again. As the provisions from the CARES Act expire, poverty is rising, especially for black and brown people. Women are also being adversely impacted because of the lack of childcare. Most of the jobs that have been lost, 52 percent, are low-wage jobs.

They point to a recent study from the Department of Health and Human Services that predicts ten million more people will become impoverished by the end of this year. Currently, 24 million adults say they don’t have enough food in their homes and 80 million adults say they are struggling to afford basic necessities. Without adequate support from the government, the economy won’t recover and people will continue to suffer.

The COVID-19 pandemic is surging with more than 200,000 cases in one day last week and deaths are rising again. Across the country, hospitals are struggling without enough beds and the staff to care for patients. The United States is expected to remain at this crisis level through the winter unless drastic steps are taken such as a national shut down, including all non-essential businesses. At present, that is not an option being considered by either President Trump or President-Elect Biden.

Both Trump and Biden are putting corporate profits over the needs of people by focusing on reopening businesses rather than providing the relief people desperately need. The Institute for Policy Studies reports that billionaires have increased their wealth by nearly $1 trillion since the start of the pandemic while their workers are left unprotected and without increases in their wages. They specifically call out a “delinquent dozen” of “pandemic profiteers.”

David McNew/Getty Images.

As Congress refuses to provide support for the millions who have lost their jobs, their health insurance and their homes, people are calling on the incoming Biden administration to take immediate action. For example, David Dayen points out that a provision in the Affordable Care Act allows the President to use executive power to expand Medicare to whomever needs it.

Biden, unfortunately, has made it clear that he opposes Medicare for All.  I spoke about the COVID-19 crisis and our for-profit healthcare system with Chris Hedges on his program, On Contact, this weekend.

This past week, more than 235 organizations called on Joe Biden to cancel student debt, which can also be done using executive power. Student debt has reached a staggering $1.6 trillion, a burden that is crippling people in the current recession. The groups state, “Cancellation will help jumpstart spending, create jobs, and add to the GDP. Short-term payment suspension alone is not enough to help struggling borrowers who are unemployed, already in default, or in serious delinquency.”

In addition to failing to address the pandemic and economic hardship at home, the United States government also inflicts pain and suffering across the planet through the many regime change efforts and military aggressions. Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies outlined ten steps Joe Biden could take immediately to change our foreign policy to one that is in line with international law, provides humanitarian aid instead of bombs and reduces the threat of nuclear war.

Federal spending on the security state dwarfs what is spent on domestic needs. Only 32 percent of the federal discretionary budget is used for health care, education, energy and housing and the biggest chunk of that goes to the Veterans Health Administration. The rest goes to the Pentagon, Homeland Security, the State Department, and NASA. Imagine what could be done to provide universal health care, child care, fully-funded education through the university level, low-cost clean energy and affordable housing if we stopped our wars and brought the military home.

Sean Rayford/New York Times.

Now that it is clear the next president will be Joe Biden, some people may think it is time to relax and let him go to work running the country. This is the message the power holders want the people to hear. The Biden administration will go to great lengths to give the appearance that it is different and that it will make positive changes, but just as we have experienced over and over again, when it comes to domestic economic policy or foreign policy, there is little difference between Democratic and Republican administrations. Both serve the wealthy class and the military industrial complex.

The power elites are never going to give us what we need. We must demand it. As we see people in other countries doing, we must organize and mobilize with a clear set of demands now. Joe Biden can take immediate steps to relieve suffering, and in a time of crisis as we are in now, he can do it using executive power. We must not give Biden a honeymoon. We must not be fooled by the excuses used to convince us it can’t be done.

The post People Are Rising Up Against The Elites, So Should We first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Two Parties Have Failed Us, But The People Can Succeed

The Republican and Democratic Party conventions showed that both major parties are failing to control the pandemic and protect people, address the climate crisis and clean up the environment, support families and businesses during the economic collapse, prevent police violence or deal with any of the other major problems we face.

These were two substance-less conventions. The Democrats focused on criticizing Trump without putting forward an agenda while the Republicans claimed Biden was a front for socialism when he is a deeply embedded corporate Democrat. Trump’s term as president has been a disaster and Biden has been consistently on the wrong side of history over his 47 years in politics. On issues today, both are out of step with the views of the majority of voters.

The two parties demonstrated that people must lead from below because the parties represent the wealthy and transnational corporations. We must continue to organize and build popular power if we are to win the changes we need.

Join us for a webinar and rally on Sunday, August 30 at 2:00 pm Eastern to learn how people can build power to shape the future.

After the DNC-RNC We Can’t Breathe: Keep The Struggle In The Streets
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The Two Parties Have Failed Us, But The People Can Succeed

At the Democratic Convention, no one used the phrases Medicare for all, Green New Deal, tuition-free college and vocational school, universal basic income, or wealth tax, even though all of these issues are supported by the majority of voters. Sen. Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Andrew Yang were silenced on issues they had championed during their campaigns.

At the Republican Convention, if those policies were mentioned, they were derided or called ‘socialist.’ The two parties did not talk about economic, health, and environmental policies because neither has any solutions. Instead, the bi-partisan policies they support have created the economic, public health, and environmental crises we are facing.

The United States is in crisis because the two-party system has failed the people and the planet. On a global scale, the United States is rated as a “flawed democracy” and corruption is on the rise. Studies within the United States find that popular support for a policy has no impact on whether it will be made into law by Congress, while wealthy interests have a significant impact over whether a law passes or fails. This is consistent with the United States being a plutocracy ruled by the wealthy.

As we have written in the past, the United States is a mirage democracy where the candidates are largely chosen by the power holders and the people get to vote for one or another corporate-approved candidate. A few progressive candidates are elected from time to time but they are marginalized at the federal level. If they do gain power, the elites move swiftly to rein them in or redistrict them out.

Third party candidates are kept out of the debates and the media, even left-leaning media like Democracy Now has not interviewed the Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins although he’ll be on the ballot in most states. Third party candidates have to fight to be on the ballot in each state, a challenge often made more difficult by Democrats and Republicans challenging them and tying them up in court.

For this reason, many people throw up their hands and decide that trying to work within the two-party system is the only available option, as flawed as it is. But, where has that gotten us? Federal elections these days are more commonly about voting against what you don’t want rather than voting for what you do want. Lesser evil voting has driven a race to the bottom in the quality of the candidates because as long as people are voting out of fear, it doesn’t matter who the candidate is or what they stand for.

Trump and Biden as the major party presidential candidates this year are the result of the system we have. Whichever one wins in November, the outcome will still be a plutocracy. The climate crisis will still rage on with climate-transformed wildfires, derechos, and drought that destroy crops and strong hurricanes that flatten towns but the Green New Deal will be off the table. The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to sicken and kill hundreds of thousands but Medicare for All won’t be an option. Workers will still be forced to work for low wages in unsafe conditions, families will lose their homes and students will be buried under heavy loans, but when Wall Street corporations or banks need help, the Federal Reserve will whisk their troubles away to the tune of trillions of dollars. Wars and interventions will continue as the Pentagon receives record budgets year after year, but for some reason, there isn’t enough money to fund our public schools, feed hungry families, or rebuild our failing infrastructure.

This system is protected by a security state that has no regard for human life, especially if you are black or brown. Time and again, the legal system lets the police get away with cold-blooded murder. This lack of accountability emboldens law enforcement. And now, it is clear from the recent events in Kenosha Wisconsin, and even before that, those right-wing militias are an unofficial arm of the security state. If this continues and they are not held accountable, they will also be emboldened to kill with impunity.

This is the reality in which we live. It is not the first time in history that this situation has existed in the world but it is unique to our generations in this country. We are living in a dark period, a failing state, and changing this situation is going to take hard work and sacrifice, but history also teaches us that people do have the power to take on the power elites and win.

After the DNC-RNC We Can’t Breathe: Keep The Struggle In The Streets, Webinar and Rally, Sunday August 30 at 2:00 pm Eastern.

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People have the power; protest in Ferguson City Hall in 2014

Building Power To Lead From Below

We are in the midst of a national uprising on multiple fronts of struggle. There are widespread protests against racist police violence and there have been more than 900 wildcat strikes since March over worker safety and low pay. Teachers are striking over school reopenings. There are ongoing protests stopping pipelines and extreme energy extraction projects as well as demanding action on the climate crisis. Just last week, there was a national day of protest involving actions in hundreds of cities to save the US Postal Service.

Since the Occupy protests of 2011, which focused on wealth inequality and political corruption, but also included system-wide change on low wages, police violence, the climate crisis, and student debt, people have been building deeper movements in all of these areas. During the Obama-era, the Fight for $15 began, along with Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights, climate, and debt protests. When the pandemic and recession began, people started organizing General Strike and Rent Strike campaigns

The potential for people power has never been greater. Hundreds of thousands of people are ready to take the streets and stop business as usual. This is a time when every one of us has a role to play, whether it is sharing information in our communities (being the media), starting conversations in our social circles (education), organizing and mobilizing people in the groups we belong to or providing support for our neighbors and people who are in the streets (mutual aid). Learn how social movements create transformational change in our free online course.

No matter what happens this November, the protest movement must continue to fight for economic, racial, and environmental justice as well as peace. The next presidential Inauguration Day will need to be a day of protest when more people come to Washington, DC to make demands of the next president than are there to celebrate him.

The growing movement of movements has a broad foundation of education, organization, and mobilization on which to build. We have the ability to make this country ungovernable and if we use that power, we can make demands that cannot be ignored.

The 5th Coronavirus Relief Package We Need

The coronavirus depression is fast becoming as deep as the Great Depression. The federal government’s response has been too little, too late.

While sickness and death spread, while unemployment and small business failures soar, while health care and essential workers lack personal protective equipment (PPE), Congress is in recess until May 4.

The childlike dummy, Donald Trump, spouts bad advice daily in his televised briefings. Thursday he said we could beat the coronavirus by injecting disinfectants or somehow shining ultraviolet radiation inside our bodies.

Meanwhile, the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is MIA. Is he sitting on a park bench somewhere feeding bread crumbs to pigeons?

Since the lockdown started five weeks ago, 26 million people have applied for unemployment insurance. But many qualified people have yet to receive unemployment benefits, or even get their applications accepted through overwhelmed state unemployment insurance agencies.

Economists estimate that the real unemployment rate may have reached 23% in April, which is about as high as it ever got in the Great Depression. The economy had contracted nearly 50% four years into Great Depression, while economists predict a contraction of 25% to 50% over a few months now.

Many of these temporary layoffs are turning into permanent job losses as businesses fail, particularly the small business that provide half of the nation’s jobs. Half of small businesses went into the lockdown with less than a month of cash reserves to cover fixed expenses like rent or mortgage and utilities. When small businesses run out of cash, they are dead.

The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) was supposed to keep these small businesses going, but like the unemployment insurance program, the loans are not getting to most people and the money allocated is far from enough to meet the need. 60% of small businesses have applied, but only 5% small businesses have received PPP funding.

When the lockdown started, Obama’s Small Business Administration head, Karen Mills, predicted a small business failure rate of 20% in a “best case scenario” and 30% in a “good scenario.” With a nearly 100% failure rate by the federal government in responding to the coronavirus depression, the carnage among small businesses and their workers is looking like a worst case scenario.

Big businesses are getting bailed out. Much of the money designated for small businesses has been snatched up by big businesses before small business’s applications were even considered. The half a trillion allocated for big businesses is being doled out to Trump cronies without disclosure of the recipients and without restrictions against firing workers or bonuses for executives. The Federal Reserve has cut its overnight borrowing interest rate for banks to zero and is engaged in unlimited trillions of dollars of quantitative easing to backstop corporate debt.

Meanwhile, essential workers—in hospitals, grocery stores, public transit, sanitation, food processing, package handling, delivery—are working in most cases without adequate or any PPE. We have already lost 83 transit workers to COVID-19 in New York City. We must demand an OSHA Temporary Standard to provide enforceable PPE protection for workers.

Most of the elements of the 5th Relief Package we need have been introduced by various members of Congress, but they won’t be included if we don’t speak up and demand real emergency relief.

Here are measures the 5th Relief Package should include to protect our health and well-being during the crisis:

– Medicare to Pay for COVID-19 Testing and Treatment and All Emergency Health Care
– Defense Production Act to Rapidly Plan the Production and Distribution of Medical Supplies and a Universal Test, Contact Trace, and Quarantine – – Program to Safely Reopen the Economy
– An OSHA Temporary Standard to Provide Enforceable PPE Protection for Workers
– $2,000 a Month to All Over Age 16 and $500 per Child
– Loans to All Businesses and Hospitals for Payroll and Fixed Overhead To Be Forgiven If All Workers Are Kept on Payroll
– Moratorium on Evictions, Foreclosures, and Utility Shutoffs
– Cancel Rent, Mortgage, and Utility Payments; Federal Government Pays Those Bills; High-income People Pay Taxes on this Relief
– Suspend Student Loan Payments with 0% Interest Accumulation
– Federal Universal Rent Control
– Aid to State and Local Governments Sufficient to Keep Essential Services Running
– Universal Mail-in Ballots for the 2020 General Election

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that over the last 600 years, the economic depression after pandemics persists for about 40 years, in contrast to much faster recoveries after wars. The difference is that capital is destroyed in wars that has to be rebuilt, but not in pandemics. Coming out of this pandemic, we should destroy the productive capital stock that has been heating up the planet and poisoning the environment and replace it with clean energy, zero waste production systems.

To rebuild our economy when it is safe to go back to work, we should invest public money on the scale needed to put everyone to back to doing what we should have been doing before the coronavirus crisis hit in order to protect our climate and our people. I have detailed a 10-Year, $42 Trillion budget for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal that would create 38 million new jobs rebuilding all of our production systems for zero-to-negative greenhouse gas emissions, zero-waste recycling, and 100% clean renewable energy by 2030 in order to reverse the climate crisis and other environmental problems.

This full-strength Green New Deal includes an Economic Bill of Rights to end poverty and economic despair. It provides for a job guarantee, a guaranteed income above poverty, affordable housing, Medicare for All, lifelong tuition-free public education, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. We need the Green New Deal now for economic recovery as well as climate safety.

Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy

As someone who has been a union member since I was a Marine with the American Servicemen’s Union until I retired last year as a Teamster as well as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, I have lived the reality of mistreatment of workers in the United States.

It is good to see labor rising with teacher and other strikes increasing across the country and with the US public showing its highest support for unions in decades. The next president should harness the energy of working people and build political power for a transformation agenda for working people who have not gotten a real raise in decades, while executives and investors have been getting rich off of higher rates of exploitation with increased productivity and globalized markets and corporate-managed trade deals that enable global corporations to pit the working classes of different countries against each other in a race to the bottom.

Urgent Reforms Needed, Time to Transform the Workplace

The centerpiece of my campaign for president is an ecosocialist Green New Deal. Responding to the climate crisis is going to require changes to many sectors of the economy. We need to create a new democratic and ecological economy. We must define this economy with the rights of workers in mind, not only their right to collective bargaining but the need to make workers into owners to end the capitalist crisis highlighted by the reality that three people have wealth equal to 50 percent of the population.

We need social and cooperative ownership where workers receive the full value of their labor. Now we are exploited. We get a fixed wage and all the surplus value we create with our work is taken by capitalists as profits simply because they own the company, not because they did any work.

The Green New Deal requires the United States to reconstruct all economic sectors for ecological sustainability, from agriculture and manufacturing to housing and transportation. This means millions of new jobs in a democratized economy where some sectors are nationalized, others are controlled by state and municipal government and more are re-made into cooperatives that are worker-owned.

A Green New Deal must include a Just Transition, which means income to compensate all workers whose jobs are eliminated by steps taken to protect the environment. Displaced workers should be guaranteed up to five years of their previous income and benefits as they make the transition to alternative work.

As part of the Green New Deal, I am calling for an Economic Bill of Rights, which includes a job guarantee and a guaranteed minimum income above poverty for all. The housing crisis will be alleviated with the institution of universal rent control and expansion of public housing in walkable communities with access to regional mass transit. Air and water pollution will be relieved by putting in place a 100% electrified transportation system emphasizing freight rails, high-speed inter-city rails, and urban light-rail mass transit, with electric powered cars and trucks where they are still needed.

A crash program of federal government investment and public enterprises to rebuild our economy for zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030 will create full employment and shared prosperity. But not everyone is able to work. And some things should be human rights, not commodities you can only get if you have enough money. That’s why we need a social safety net of social services funded publicly, not privately out of pocket. That means a national health service for universal health care, lifelong free public education, student debt relief, and a secure retirement by doubling Social Security benefits. The ecosocialist Green New Deal is a plan to remake the economy so that it serves the people and protects the ecology and the climate. Those objectives require a socialist economic democracy so that we the people–not big business interests–have the power to choose economic justice and ecological sanity.

Immediate Reforms For Working People

In addition to changes coming as a result of putting in place an ecosocialist Green New Deal, we need are immediate labor law reforms.

Repeal Repressive Labor Laws: Repeal the sections of the Taft-Hartley Act, the Landrum-Griffin Act, the Hatch Act, and state “Right-To-Work” laws that have crippled labor’s ability to organize by outlawing or severely restricting labor’s basic organizing tools: strikes, boycotts, pickets, and political action. This should include putting in place Card Check which extends union bargaining status to majority sign-up or card-check recognition.

A Workers’ Bill of Rights: Enact a set of legally enforceable civil rights, independent of collective bargaining. This should include:

(1) Extending the Bill of Rights protections of free speech, association, and assembly into all workplaces.

(2) Establishes workers’ rights to living wages, portable pensions, information about chemicals used, report labor and environmental violations, refuse unsafe work, and participate in enterprise governance. OSHA must be funded adequately to protest workers and communities and workers empowered to enforce safety and health regulations. Retirement should include a mandatory system of Guaranteed Retirement Accounts that provide a return of at least 3 percent above inflation guaranteed by the federal government.

(3) Establishes workers’ rights to freedom from discharge at will, employer search and seizure in the workplace, sexual harassment, and unequal pay for work of comparable worth. These rights should ensure that workers can take legal action to stop wage theft. In addition to a living wage, workers should have subsidized, high quality child care and elder care. Workers should receive six weeks of paid vacation annually in addition to federal holidays. For every seven years worked, they should receive one year of paid educational leave and one year of parental leave for each child with no loss of seniority.

Employer Accountability: There must be strong and speedy penalties for employers who break labor laws. In addition, federal law needs to ban striker replacements, provide triple back pay for illegally locked-out workers, and there must be unemployment compensation for striking and locked-out workers.

Labor Law Protections for Farm workers: Extend to farm workers the same rights under labor law as other workers, including A Day of Rest, Overtime Pay, Collective Bargaining Protections, Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, Child Labor Protections, and Occupational Safety and Health Standards.

Labor Law Protections for Prisoners: Enact legislation to end the super-exploitation of prison labor at pennies per hour, which undercuts the wages of workers outside the prison system. The prison labor system as it exists now is akin to slavery and the prison labor camps in other authoritarian countries. Work done by prisoners can be part of rehabilitation and enable prisoners to acquire job skills, support their families, and have savings upon release. Work done by prisoners for private contractors and for public works and services should be paid prevailing wages. Prison workers should have all the protections of labor law, including the right to organize unions.

Fair Trade: Trade deals should be rewritten to uplift labor and environmental standards across borders. Fair trade pacts should eliminate secretive trade tribunals to which only governments and corporations have access. Trade disputes should be adjudicated in public courts to which workers, unions, and public have access.

It is time to correct the decades of diminishing worker rights and shrinking unions as well as low-pay. The United States is about to begin a transformation to a clean, sustainable energy future. The new economy we create must prioritize the rights of workers to create an economy that works for the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.

U.S. 2020 Presidential Election: A Watershed Moment for Humankind and the Planet

The 2020 presidential election in the United States may be the most critical political event in human history. At no time in the history of global civilization have human beings faced existential crises on a global scale. Regional crises of the past 10,000 years reveal that economic regimes have often outstripped local and regional resources, but these crises remained regional in scope. Today, however, the excesses of global capitalism have driven all of humanity to the brink of ecological and civilizational collapse.

Our addiction to fossil fuels has significantly warmed the global atmosphere and accelerated the loss of polar ice caps faster than predicted. Capitalism has fueled industrial activities that have ravaged large portions of the planet, destroying habitats and endangering innumerable animal, plant and insect species worldwide, according to a recent UN report on global biodiversity. Our oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. Global population pressure, inefficient and wasteful industrial practices combined with climate change have placed enormous pressure on fresh water sources.  Destructive superstorms, wildfires and persistent drought will likely bring profound economic instability and declining food production in coming decades.

Global capitalism has also generated vast disparities in wealth distribution, destabilizing social systems as well as ecosystems. As global and national wealth concentration grows rapidly, the poverty of billions and declining living standards for millions more strain social relations throughout the world. These injustices give rise to disillusionment, desperation, terrorism and mass migration, to epidemics and resistant bacteria and fungi. Armed conflict is endemic in many of the world’s poor regions and wars have brought invasions of poor countries by wealthy countries to stem perceived terrorists’ threats and protect geopolitical interests.

In less than a year and one-half the 2020 U.S. presidential election will occur and the candidate and policies the majority of Americans embrace will help lead the world in one direction or another.  American voters will decide whether the most powerful leader in the world will aggressively tackle the world’s unprecedented and unfolding environmental and social crises or will exacerbate these crises by facilitating unrestrained capitalist exploitation and accumulation. Working Americans are primed for an alternative to global economic system, having recently lost millions of jobs and much of their modest wealth during the Great Recession. Universal healthcare and child care, a higher minimum wage and equal pay, student debt relief, tuition-free higher education, climate change and a green economy as well as a truly progressive tax policy to fund social and environmental initiatives are on the minds of ordinary Americans, if not the majority of them. This is an opportunity for progressive voices across the nation to demonstrate that unregulated capitalism threatens American families and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Certainly, ingrained capitalist ideology and vested institutions present formidable political obstacles leading to the 2020 presidential elections. Donald Trump and the Republican Party actively resist reform of capitalism, rejecting the Paris Accords and enacting severe cuts in domestic regulations restricting corporate activity and protecting the environment. Conservative strategists are clearly framing the 2020 election to protect the advantages in wealth and political power conservatives have gained in the global economy. Trump’s abject disregard for global warming and the failure of Republicans to address it is a clear threat to the future of the planet. His nuclear war-mongering, with the tacit endorsement of the Republican Party, has flirted with planetary annihilation. For these reasons renowned linguist and ferocious political critic Noam Chomsky has stunningly and aptly dubbed the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”.

While it will likely take decades and even generations to rein in and reform our global economy enough to achieve some practical level of global sustainability, the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we and the world face make the 2020 U.S. presidential elections an extraordinary watershed moment. This is no time for a program of tepid, incrementalist reforms.  If the Democratic Party fails to embrace an agenda of far-reaching regulation of global capitalism that focuses on climate change and wealth disparity, it risks losing the presidency. Should a moderate Democratic candidate lacking the necessary vision and resolve be elected president in 2020, it may prove to be a kind of hollow victory.

The fundamental questions before American citizens could not be more crucial to the future of our nation and the world: Can we afford to ignore the ravages of climate change and the deleterious impact of our unsustainable production and consumption on the planet’s health? Can we fail to confront the concentration of wealth in fewer hands while poverty, lack of opportunity, ill health and violence driven by these realities rob generations of their potential as human beings? Should we discount, or even underplay, the fact that environmental degradation and wealth disparities on a global scale are exacerbated by inadequately regulated global economic regime?