MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS
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Oh My... Capitalism By Edward W. Miller, M.D
"Capitalism Works To Concentrate Income In The Hands Of A Few Capitalists" - Karl Marx
The recent fall and shaky, uncertain recovery of the stock market bubble which, as it burst, according to the San Francisco Chronicle), has cost investors over $6 trillion in US dollars, was echoed in England where thousands of Brits stood in line to demand their money back from one of the country's largest banks... Meanwhile, the disturbing failure of millions of mortgages with foreclosures across the country, the increasing demand for "affordable housing" and the almost daily not-quite believable assurances by Wall Street and big money that " the economy is strong", comes as no surprise to those who have been keeping a close eye on our economy for the past half century.
Beginning not too long after June 23rd, 1947 when a newly elected Republican Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act over president Truman's veto, the economic signposts have been out in the open for all to see. Following the Republican assault on American labor, the downhill slide of our economy could have been anticipated. Truman himself, who had sold clothes in a haberdashery before he entered politics, understood all too well the importance of strong unions to balance the political power of big industry, hence his attempt to stop this assault.
The results of labor's defeat presented themselves slowly over the next decade American dads, who for years had fed and clothed their families, educated their kids and provided a safe retirement, found their paychecks no longer covered all the bills, and began to accept 50 or 60 hour weeks or found a second job. A few years later mother pitched in to bring home extra cash, and not too many hears passed before the percentage of women in the American workforce far exceeded that of any other industrialized country. Labor statistics demonstrate that since 1972 the income of the great American middle class has been falling farther and farther behind the rising cost of living.
The next step down the economic slide was the subtle onslaught of the Credit-Card industry which began mailing their plastic cards out by the millions to the unwary shoppers who, lacking enough cash at the Safeway checkout, found it increasingly easy to run that pretty piece of plastic through the machine. " In 2006 banks sent out 8 billion credit card applications, a 30% increase since 2005. Credit card companies spend an average of $56 to sign up a new customer and since 1996 when the Supreme Court struck down limits on credit card fees, the average late penalty has jumped 102% and the average fee for exceeding credit card limits is up 138%. After Discovery charged a woman more than $9000 in interest,
penalties and fees, on an initial bill of $1900, an Ohio judge erased her debt in 2004, slamming the company for being "unreasonable, unconscionable, and unjust."(Mother Jones Sept 2007 pg 28) Before long Americans had found themselves with billions in credit-card debt.
While all this was going on at home, big manufacturing, with total disregard for their loyal local employees, in towns and cities across the country, were quietly closing their plants to re-assemble them, first across the border into Mexico and then in Chine, India and Malaysia, while at the same time, while Congress was paid to look the other way, those same companies which began to avoid their patriotic responsibility to support their country's economy established tax-exempt entities on off-shore islands and distant lands.
Statistics show that in the past ten years, US labor has lost over six million manufacturing, jobs to foreign countries, jobs that had always paid good wages and had often been the major economic support in the towns and cities in which they were located. Add to these economic injuries Bush's 2001 tax cut for the rich, which over the next ten years will subtract an estimated $2 Trillion from our economy over the next critical ten years.
To better understand the damaging effects on labor of the Taft-Hartley Act, one must, as Steven Wagner, Professor of History at Missouri Southern State College, has pointed out, (http//hnn.us/articles/1036.html) one should go back to the Wagner Act, of 1935, which was passed by a post New Deal Congress. The Wagner Act, often termed "Labor's Bill of Rights", covered all firms and employees except agricultural and government workers and most railroad, giving workers the right to organize and join labor unions, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to strike It set up the National Labor Relations Board, and gave it the right to certify a union as representing a certain group of employees. The Wagner Act forbade employers from interfering with workers right to organize and bargain collectively, or to interfere with these processes. It required " Good faith" in bargaining and forbade discrimination against labor for union activities, thus permitting "closed shops" and "union shops"
The Taft-Hartley Act, passed by a Republican-controlled Congress over Truman's veto has served to undermine many rights to which labor had become accustomed since 1935. In fact, some labor leaders have termed this Republican bill the "Slave Labor Act." The Bill permitted the president, when he felt a strike threatened the country's health or safety, after appointing an investigating board, to get an injunction from the Attorney General and force a "cooling off " period. The Bill forbids both secondary boycotts and sympathy strikes by labor, forbids jurisdictional strikes, forbid closed shops and hiring halls that discriminate against non-labor and requires union officials to file "non-communist" affidavits
with the government, a questionable practice which has been subject to extensive court litigation. During the Eisenhower administration, several attempts were made by democrats to revise the Taft-Hartley Act, but without avail. Labor had lost much of its political muscle.
As writer Paul Craig Roberts (Information Clearing House 9/10/2007) points out " The US economy continues its slow death before our eyes". Roberts notes that in goods- industries, jobs declined by 64,000 this August, and that most domestic job growth has been in service, rather than in manufacturing positions while noting that the unemployment figures reported in Washington have remained steady largely because only those actively seeking jobs are counted. Many of the 340,000 Americans who dropped out of the work force in August were thus not counted. Roberts also noted that the US is running a trade deficit with every part of the world, totaling $838 billion in 2006. Our deficit with OPEC alone is $106 billion. Having moved so much manufacturing overseas, today the US imports more than $326 billion industrial supplies and materials.
Roberts points out that our $800 billion trade deficit means Americans are consuming $800 billion more than they are producing. He adds that with the exception of CEOs, hedge fund manages and investment bankers " the 21st Century has brought Americans no growth in real medial household income." The continued increase in US budget debt and trade debt has flooded the world with US dollars, which have lost about 33% in value related to other currencies. The war in Iraq adds $2 billion every week to a national debt of $453 Billion.
It seems obvious that the sooner we bring our troops home from both Afghanistan and Iraq, the sooner we can begin to address the problems associated with a failing economy. Though not mentioned by any of our gang of politicians campaigning for the 2008 election, a repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act should be one of the first political challenges offered the 2008 congress. Confining our political campaigns to six weeks with taxpayer funding for both incumbent and challenger plus free TV and radio time would do much to return control of this country to the people.
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