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SHOCK AND AWE OVER GAZA — Jonathan Cook reports from the West Bank on How the Media and Human Rights Groups Cover for Israel’s War Crimes; Jeffrey St. Clair on Why Israel is Losing; Nick Alexandrov on Honduras Five Years After the Coup; Joshua Frank on California’s Water Crisis; Ismael Hossein-Zadeh on Finance Capital and Inequality; Kathy Deacon on The Center for the Whole Person; Kim Nicolini on the Aesthetics of Jim Jarmusch. PLUS: Mike Whitney on the Faltering Economic Recovery; Chris Floyd on Being Trapped in a Mad World; and Kristin Kolb on Cancer Without Melodrama.
Putting People Back to Work

How Would You Spend a Trillion Dollars?

by STANLEY HELLER

It’s up to the Left to construct a program to put people back to work. The captains of industry can’t do it. Obama won’t do it and the labor movement leadership hasn‘t got a clue other than to buck up the Democrats.

The 500,000 new applicants for unemployment insurance last week surprised all of the “experts” who endlessly repeat the mantra of “slow improvement”. What a croc! 20 million without full time work is the New Normal and that will jump higher in the looming “double dip” recession. Signs of desperation are impossible to ignore. At the start of the month the New York Times wrote about the 1.4 million people who had exhausted 99 weeks of unemployment insurance payments and now were eyeing their new residence … their car. NPR did a story on homeless college students.

For the people on unemployment it’s a bitter path of job fairs, job counseling, Craig’s list scanning, occasional interviews and aimlessly passing the time. And think of the immense waste: millions of work hours that could be used for production or preserving the planet all gone down the drain. There’s also the eight million underemployed going from one dead end temp job to another or working a slew of part time jobs.

Wall Street and the entire U.S. corporate economy have been brought back from the precipice by $13 trillion in subsidies and guarantees. Profits have recovered nicely. And with all this money the corporate world has done zilch when it comes to jobs. The Washington Post reports that non-bank companies are sitting on $1.8 trillion in cash. What they don’t keep in the money market they’re using to buy back their own stock or to gobble up other companies like the digesting of Connecticut’s New Alliance Bank by First Niagara Bank. Bloomberg business news notes that “more productive” companies are buying up less productive ones and that means it might be efficient to fire “employees” at the companies that have been consumed.

We do have a President who talks about jobs all the time and he does have a program. It’s made up of several parts, enormous welfare to the banks and Wall Street in the hopes they’ll start lending, gargantuan weapon sales to fortresses of democracy (like Saudi Arabia) and various stimulus programs from unemployment benefit extensions to cash for clunkers. And the best this has gotten us is the New Normal.

There’s a growing misconception that Obama is a Muslim. Wrong! Obama worships at the temple of big business. FDR put millions to work in government programs from the CCC to the WPA, but no such thoughts are uttered by our current President. He could have nationalized the auto industry last year, but he wouldn’t dream of it. On August 17 Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., said the U.S. should consider “full nationalization” of the mortgage- finance system. Sean Donovan Obama’s man at Housing (HUD) disagreed. The Obama Administration is going to make things good again so “vitality” of private capital can do its work.

One would expect that organized labor, battered but still standing with millions of members would be raising hell. Alas, in mid-August the President meet with labor officialdom in what In These Times called a “lovefest”. Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, represents a million teachers who are being slowly forced to give up fair dismissal rights under an Obama education “reform” that’s based mainly on scapegoating teachers. Yet she “gave the president a kiss on the cheek and gleefully took photos of him with her iPhone”. What magic did Obama pull out of his hat for the meeting? He apologized for not getting card check. He’ll try in the next Congress. That brought thunderous applause. And he promised to rebuild the economy around the concept of “Made in America”. How? By enforcing the trade laws. And that was it. Big whoop!

After the ovations the article says the labor fat cats basked in Obama’s supposed “rock star” status. “Rock Star”? Falling like a rock is more like it. Haven’t they noticed what happened to Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts? Don’t they read the polls?

Why didn’t they challenge him about jobs instead of fawning and boasting about the $53 million they’ve pledged to keep the corporate adoring, health-care taxing Democrats in Congress.

With the growth of the Tea Party Right it’s finally dawned on the union brass and the civil rights old timers that they better get people out into the streets. So there will be a “One Nation” rally in DC on October 2nd. The idea started with SEIU and the NAACP and the AFL-CIO has given its endorsement. A major theme is “jobs”. The AFL-CIO demands “Good jobs, fair jobs, safe jobs”, but its program is more unemployment insurance, some more highways and schools and a vague call for government to bypass the private sector. The enemy is supposedly the Republicans and “some Democrats” who want to make the world safe again for Goldman Sachs. As if Obama wasn’t the Commander in Chief of the effort to make the world safe for Goldman Sachs! The whole Oct. 2 enterprise could end up as a bullshit cheering rally for Obama, a mass sticking ones fingers in the dike to protect the lesser-evil Democratic majority in Congress.

Or the Left could make something out of it by coming in with its own far reaching demands.

Back in January the Greater New Haven Central Labor Council came up with an idea, “A Trillion Dollars for U.S. Jobs”. It called for “millions of new government jobs in production and transportation and education to create a new Green economy.” That’s a great start and we should flesh it out demanding the government fund enterprises that will hire people directly and permanently in full time jobs. And the enterprises shouldn’t be giant bureaucracies. Worker owned co-ops should be the model.

And here are some ideas on how to spend a trillion dollars:

* Build “green” modest houses and apartments. Retrofit older homes. Convert unused McMansions into several rental units or bulldoze them

* Develop crash program to develop solar and wind energy. The Earth is broiling.

* Hire workers to get the lead out, to discover and remove lead and the other pollutants left over from factories built with 19th century industrial thinking.

* Nationalize the auto industry and make it a goal to produce less cars and more mass transit

* Put gyms all over the place. Fight obesity and the diabetes epidemic

* Develop parks and playgrounds. Kids need to be outdoors. Studies show this alone improves eyesight.

* Employ people to put free Wi Fi broadband in every U.S. city.

* Our medical and nursing techniques are world class. Let’s plow money into this. Fund nursing homes adequately to improve the nurse/patient ratio. Fund adult day care so that working people don’t have to put their aged parents in nursing homes.

* Expand preventative check-ups and wellness programs for kids

* Train and employ legions of new mental health workers to treat the hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers screwed up by the wars.

* Make college free and higher more full time professors. We need to be smarter.

* Create jobs for teenagers: leaf raking, babysitting, snow shoveling, block aids, playground supervision and such

* We need more farmers doing organic farming using local resources, organized into coops

Now we do need to pay for this. Economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman, who has been valiantly warning Obama that a Depression is threatening, says we can stimulate our way out of the recession. He thinks we can pay for it by going into even more debt showing that debt levels now aren’t nearly what they were in the 1940’s. Yes, but American economy is nowhere as strong as in the ‘40’s. We’re a debtor nation in every aspect. We have plenty of powerful competitors and we’re and in no position to rapidly expand sales to foreigners. So we need to raise taxes and cut out the wars and waste.

* Put a tax on stock market transactions. Just a tenth of one percent tax on transactions will bring in $100 billion and discourage the Casino

* Have a property tax on stocks and bonds worth over $100,000

* Raise gasoline taxes gradually.

* Add sales taxes to products based on how hard it is to recycle or destroy them

* Save billions with single-payer health care. Junk Obama-care and wipe out the health insurance companies

* Raise the tax on corporations. We can use the money more productively than they can.

* Cut the military budget in half. Stop the oil wars. Close the foreign bases and stop “modernizing” weapons. Unilaterally dump nuclear weapons.

These are just some ideas from a few of us in Connecticut. Maybe half suck and you’ve got better ways to raise a trillion and spend it. Feel free. But let’s work on this and get something together for October to open the eyes of the tens of thousands of workers who’ll be in DC for the One Nation demonstration.

STANLEY HELLER is a newly retired teacher who has been in various unions for over 40 years. He encourages people to contact him at stanley.heller (at) yahoo.com.