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Who Will Save Social Security and Medicare?

Who Will Save Social Security and Medicare? Shamus Cooke April 7, 2013
Shamus Cooke

Before Social Security and Medicare existed, the elderly were either completely dependent on their children or were left to beg in the streets. These programs thus remain sacred to the vast majority of Americans. They allow the elderly dignity and independence instead of poverty and insecurity.

Attacking these programs has always been political suicide for the assailant; not even the smoothest talking politician would squirm into an aggressive stance.

But now the gloves are off. Obama and the Democrats are aligning with Republicans to strike the first major blows against Social Security and Medicare. This long hidden agenda is finally in full view of the public. The decades-long political agreement to save these programs is dead, and the foundation of American politics is shifting beneath everyone’s feet.

The New York Times reports:

President Obama next week will take the political risk of formally proposing cuts to Social Security and Medicare in his annual budget…

Many liberals are scratching their heads in astonishment, asking “How could this happen?”

The truth is that every liberal and labor leader knew this was in the works for years; they just kept their mouths shut in the hope that Obama could successfully push the blame entirely on the Republicans.

Throughout the summer of 2011 Obama worked with Republicans in the first attempt at a ‘Grand Bargain’ that included cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The Washington Post published an article entitled “Obama’s Evolution” about that summer:

…the major elements of a [Grand] bargain seemed to be falling into place: $1.2 trillion in [national programs] agency cuts, smaller cost-of-living increases [cuts] for Social Security recipients [cuts by dollar inflation], nearly $250 billion in Medicare savings [cuts] achieved in part by raising the eligibility age [of Medicare]. And $800 billion in new taxes.

Labor and liberal leaders kept quiet about this so they could push their members to vote for Obama in 2012. They also kept quite in the fall of 2011 when Obama released his budget proposal that included hundreds of billions of dollars worth of cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

But hiding the most recent betrayal was next to impossible, and every liberal group is now suddenly “shocked” to see Obama officially and publicly on record to pursue the cuts.

The most craven of the liberal groups will continue to spew rotten rhetoric that only blames Republicans for the cuts while making excuses for Obama’s behavior, claiming that he merely buckled under intense Republican pressure and felt the need to “compromise.”

But it’s all nonsense. No working person who votes Republican wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. Obama could have shattered the Republican Party at its kneecaps by broadly exposing their plans to cut Social Security and Medicare. Instead he insisted on co-leading the attack.

These cuts have nothing to do with Obama’s courage or backbone. It’s a matter of political and economic ideology, and the policy that flows from it.

To reverse this policy one cannot make excuses for the president or ignore his “treacherous” behavior. A criminal offensive requires a powerful counterattack. And although labor and liberal groups are reluctant to attack “their” president, the members of these groups share a different perspective.

In an attempt to connect with the rank and file, the president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, said of Obama’s Social Security cuts:

These cuts are bad policy. And the only way we’re going to stop them is if President Obama and all members of Congress hear that we’re not going to tolerate them. Sign our petition to the president NOW.

The trouble is that petitions are not capable of stopping the years-in-the-making bi-partisan attack. Trumka knows this. He is thus faking opposition to a policy that he’s partially responsible for, since his miseducating of the AFL-CIO membership led to an ignorance that Obama exploited — union members couldn’t mobilize against something they didn’t know was happening.

But now the secret is exposed, and working people will expect the leaders of their organizations to wage a serious fight against these policies.

Those in the labor movement interested in organizing against this anti-worker offensive should consider actively building the coming August 24 demonstration called by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and The King Center for Washington, D.C. where they are planning to place the demand for jobs to end poverty squarely on the Obama government. Once working people are mobilized to fight independently for their own interests, it will be far easier to add demands around Social Security and Medicare to the list, since working people overwhelmingly support these programs. The AFL-CIO has endorsed this demonstration. Now they will have to seriously mobilize for it.

If we don’t fight back now, then when?


Austerity USA Begins March 1st
U.S. politicians have cried wolf over austerity long enough for the public to ignore them. A perfect time, then, for politicians to actually unleash the wolves. Barring an unlikely last minute deal, here's a short list of some of the massive, national bi-partisan-created austerity cuts, according to the New York Times.
- 600,000 food stamp recipients will be cut from the program 
- Massive education cuts. According to President Obama: Once these cuts take effect thousands of teachers and educators will be laid off and tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. " 
- $12 billion in Medicare cuts (more to come after 2013) 
- Federal funds to state governments will be cut, creating even more deficits for states and municipalities, and thus more localized cuts (the states have already made austerity cuts of $337 billion!) 
- Also, 700,000 jobs are expected to be loss, while 70,000 kids are also expected to be kicked off of Head Start 

And this is just for 2013. The current plan for the austerity "sequester" cuts is $100 billion of federal cuts every year for ten years, equaling massive cuts to jobs, Medicare, education, and completely destroying federally funded social programs. 

Will it actually happen this time? The New York Times reports: 

In private, Capitol Hill staff members and members of Congress have admitted that there are no viable plans on the horizon to delay or offset the cuts. 

The finger pointing in Washington, D.C. has already reached a crescendo, with the perverted logic being that, if both parties are to blame, it's really no one's fault. In reality Democrats and Republicans created these "sequester" cuts, and they can just as easily undo them with a snap of the finger. 

Both parties are choosing not to delete the cuts. They just don't want political responsibility for the fallout, which many economists have predicted will push the U.S. economy over the edge into official recession. 

Obama has predictably blamed the Republicans for this mess, even though he personally began this process by creating the "deficit reduction commission" that helped shape the cuts (keep in mind there is zero debt crisis that calls for such drastic measures). 

Obama could also just as easily appeal to the American public — over the heads of congressmen — to demand that the cuts be shelved forever. Instead, he's proposing a "grand bargain" deal that he knows the Republicans won't go for. 

What's in Obama's grand bargain deal? According to the White House website: 

- $130 billion in "savings" [cuts] to Social Security, by implementing a "superlative CPI" 
- $35 billion in "savings" [cuts] to the retirement of federal employees 
- $400 billion in health care "savings" [cuts], much of it Medicare cuts. 

Obama cynically fails to mention the words Social Security or Medicare in the above plan, choosing instead to write in code ("superlative Consumer Price Index"). Obama's plan to avoid the March 1st cuts still assumes that $500 billion in cuts will be implemented over the next ten years, as opposed to $1trillion. 

But his plan is just a distraction. Obama knows his plan has no chance of being passed by March 1st. He's falsely portraying his plan as the only alternative to the March 1st cuts, even though a far better idea — the one preferred by a vast majority of Americans — is to simply to shelve the sequester cuts forever. To not put forth this option makes Obama complicit in the cuts. 

Many pundits have speculated that Congress will allow the cuts to go into effect for three weeks, since March 27th marks a fiscal deadline that will pressure Congress to maneuver anew. This might trigger a new round of haggling over a new "grand bargain" that again targets "entitlement programs" and re-packages the massive cuts into a prettier box. The party that does the most effective finger pointing after the March 1st cuts will be in the best position to dictate matters post-March 27th, so say the pundits. 

Whatever the actual result, the Democrats and Republicans share similar enough visions that massive cuts to cherished social programs appear to be inevitable. Much of the made-for-TV bickering is pure political posturing, meant to fool the working people most affected by these cuts into believing it's "the other party" that's responsible. 

Politicians have been able to get away with this disgusting behavior because there are very few independent voices telling the truth about what's happening. Many labor and progressive groups are consciously lying about the dynamic, placing blame squarely on the Republicans, thus allowing the Democrats not to be held accountable for their pandering to the corporate elite's demand to use austerity to attack the social safety net. In reality both parties are jointly attacking working and poor people via austerity, on a city, state, and national level. 

If Labor and community groups united in a demand of 'No Cuts, Tax the Rich' and organized massive mobilizations, there would be a very different public debate happening right now. It's not too late for these groups to tear themselves from the jaws of their attackers. 

________________________________________________________ 

Sources cited for this article: 
 link to www.nytimes.com 

 link to abcnews.go.com 

 http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=711 

 link to www.ibtimes.com 

 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/22/sequester-recession_n_2741558.html 

 link to www.whitehouse.gov 

 link to www.economist.com

homepage: homepage: http://workerscompass.org


 

The Job Crisis, the "Unemployable,” and the Fiscal Cliff

Thursday, 20 September 2012 10:57 By Shamus Cooke, CounterCurrents | Op-Ed

With the November elections right around the corner, the millions of unemployed and under-employed have little reason to care. Aside from some sparse rhetoric, neither Democrats nor Republicans have offered a solution to job creation. Most politicians seem purposefully myopic about the jobs crisis, as if a healthy dose of denial might get them through the electoral season unscathed.

In reality, the jobs crisis continues unaddressed, and threatens to get worse after the election. The post-election "fiscal cliff" of social cuts — "triggered" by Obama's debt commission —will pull the economy below the current treading-water phase, drowning millions more workers in America in unemployment and hopelessness. In addition, two million more long-term unemployed — those lucky enough to still receive benefits — face the very likely possibility of having their benefits ended due to the trigger cuts.

But this is all part of the plan. The current jobs crisis is not accidental; there are public policies that could be implemented — such as a federal jobs program — that would stop unemployment in its tracks. Both parties agree that this cannot be done for the same reason: high unemployment is desirable since it acts as a sledgehammer against wages, lowering them with the intent of boosting profitability for corporations. Creating this nationwide "new normal" takes time.

Until corporations have an ideal environment to make super profits — aside from the short-term money printing of the Federal Reserve — unemployment will remain purposefully high. The Feds massive money-printing program — called Quantitative Easing (QE) — is a desperate move that risks super inflation, yet is deemed necessary until politicians implement the economic new normal for workers in America.

This policy is referred to as an "adjustment" period by some economists. Corporations and their puppet politicians have used the recession to start implementing the new normal of lower wages, reduced benefits, and fewer social programs on a city, state, and federal basis. In order to complete this national adjustment, expectations for working people must be drastically lowered, so that they'll be less likely to be angry and fight against this onslaught.

This was Bill Clinton's intention when he told the Democratic National Convention, "The old economy isn't coming back." Most people in America have yet to realize this, but the economic policies of the Democrats and Republicans reflect a conscious plan to push wages down and shred the safety net to fit the "new economy" standards sought by corporate America.

Because corporations only hire workers in order to make profit, businesses today are sitting on trillions of cash, waiting for a sunnier day to invest in labor. The lower the wages of workers in America, the brighter the skies for corporations' bottom line. It is this basic economic interest driving the jobs crisis, as politicians only offer solutions that "encourage businesses to invest" rather than creating immediate solutions for working people.

But millions of people are waiting for sunnier days too. A large number are seeking to wait out the recession by returning to school and are now graduating; a record 30 percent have bachelor degrees, a number that is expected to rise. The increasing number of graduates will drive up unemployment, while those lucky enough to find jobs aren't finding one capable of paying off their massive student loans. The trillion-dollar student loan business is yet another example of wealth transference from bottom to top: students borrow money from the wealthy, and pay them back with interest, sometimes exorbitant interest.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there are 12.5 million people who are officially unemployed but an additional9.5 million who are "unofficially" unemployed — those who are not actively looking for work, "discouraged workers," part-time workers who want full-time work, etc. The number is almost certainly higher. These workers are not counted in the "official" unemployment numbers, and this unofficial number is getting worse. In August 2012, 368,000 more workers joined this illustrious group by dropping out of the labor force, i.e., they gave up looking for a job and thus are no longer counted as unemployed, in this way giving Obama "positive news" since the unemployment numbers actually improved!

These workers are often referred to as "unemployable," meaning that they are usually over fifty years of age or under 30 and are tarnished with a lack of job experience or an excess of it. Corporations can now have an abundance of workers to choose from, and are being extra picky on whom they hire, if anybody.

The new "private sector" jobs that Obama constantly brags about are much lower paying than the jobs they are replacing. According to a study performed by the National Employment Law Project, 58 percent of all new post-recession jobs come with wages below $14.00 an hour, i.e. a not a living wage.

For those millions unable to find jobs, their future lies in either dependence on family or the state, or a risky life in the informal economy, which implies the possibility of imprisonment.

The reason that many labor and community groups have not fully explained the above facts — nor protested against them — is because they are "embarrassing" to the Democrats. Labor unions have gone into pre-election hibernation, ignoring reality as they push their members to campaign for the president who is overseeing this economic "new normal."

The still-sputtering economy is expected to grind to a halt post-election, with average working people again footing the bill. But millions of Americans are experiencing the politics of the 1%, and drawing conclusions; ever since the recession government policy has been aimed at benefiting the wealthy and corporations, while working people have only experienced layoffs, lower wages and benefits, and slashed public services. To stop this dynamic of austerity working people must unite and protest in massive numbers, like the working people of Europe.

In Portland, Oregon, such a demonstration is being planned, pre-election, by a coalition of community groups to "stop the cuts," for debt relief, and against the above national policy of austerity for working people. By highlighting the bi-partisan nature of the attack against working people, the community organizers in Portland hope to educate the community to take action, so that working people are prioritized. Let the wealthy pay for their crisis.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
August 14, 2012
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The Final Lesser-Evil Election?

Why Voting for Democrats Doesn’t Help Working People

by SHAMUS COOKE

Just when the Obama campaign couldn’t appear any less inspiring, Paul Ryan was put forth as the Republican vice presidential candidate. Suddenly team Obama was supplied with enough political munitions to scare every last American over the possible destruction of Medicare, Medicaid, cuts to Social Security and the various other evils inherent in Ryan’s proposed national budget. Consequently, many Liberals and Leftists across the spectrum are now focused on preaching the horrors of a Republican presidential victory and thus the necessity of re-electing Obama.

But critical thinkers are immune to scare tactics. It’s no coincidence that the Obama campaign is not running on its own merits, but the lack of merit of its opponents.  Many Obama supporters, such as leftists Bill Fletcher Jr. and Carl Davidson, argue that Obama’s record doesn’t matter, because this election is about defeating the right wing’s “white supremacy and political misogynism.”

For progressive economist and former Labor Secretary under President Clinton Robert Reich, Ryan’s budget represents the nightmare of “social Darwinism”, and therefore Obama must be elected.

This writer will not argue with the above points about the far right, since there obviously exists deep elements of racism and misogynism in its camp. But voting for Obama is no way to fight these evils; quite the contrary.

Voting for the Democrats does not empower working people to fight against right-wing extremism. Instead, working people are forced to give away their power to a political party that is in no way beholden to them, since the Democrats have a corporate agenda divorced from the needs of the vast majority of working people. There is no way to hold Democrats accountable once they’re in office, especially when they’ve all but stopped making campaign promises to working people.

By now it should be clear to most Americans that the Democrats and Republicans are corporate-owned parties, and as such they are free to act as they wish, regardless of the political rhetoric they spew.

For example, in 2008 Obama promised Latinos a more humane immigration policy, and then proceeded to deport people more than Bush Jr. did. Obama likewise promised organized labor the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as a more pro-labor policy. EFCA was then betrayed and Obama presided over the most anti-labor environment since Ronald Reagan.

When he campaigned, he voiced support for single-payer health care. He promised to renegotiate NAFTA. When he was elected, he declared single-payer health care “off the table” and did nothing about NAFTA. When he campaigned, he denounced Bush’s tax cuts for the rich; as president he extended them.

Let’s not forget Obama’s bank bailouts, Afghan “surge,” free trade deals, domestic spying, pro-corporate “race to the top” education program, etc. When the Wisconsin uprising happened Obama did not even visit the state; when the Occupy movement was being repressed nationally, Obama’s silence implied support for the anti-democratic police actions.

The point is that Obama and the Republicans are in general agreement about the trajectory of this country and strive through various social policies to create a difference that is largely fictional.

But is not voting for Obama a bulwark against racism? In reality, ethnic minorities in the U.S. suffer directly as a result of Obama’s foreign policy. By continuing Bush’s wars in the Middle East and North Africa, Obama is re-enforcing racism at home.  Foreign wars for conquest and occupations are fueled by racism, since they lack the inspirational purpose that would otherwise enhance combat morale.

When U.S. troops return home, many bring back the racist beliefs supplied to them as their fighting fuel, which can sometimes result in the kind of massacre that recently occurred at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin. The broader population too is subjected to the type of unconscious racism that must result from passive support of foreign wars across the globe, the victims of which want nothing more than U.S. bombs and military bases out of their countries. It’s obvious that if Obama were bombing England — and not Afghanistan — Americans would feel more inclined to protest.

Obama, like Bush, is a war criminal. His drone assassinations in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia — and likely others — are in obvious violations of the Geneva Convention.

Former President Jimmy Carter said of Obama’s foreign policy:

“It is disturbing that, instead of strengthening these principles [of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights], our government’s counter-terrorism policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’.”

When it comes to the domestic economic policies of the right wing, the Democrats have proved an important ally in implementing the corporate agenda. Obama himself has been instrumental in pushing Congress to implement “entitlement reform” — cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and other social programs, opening the political door that Paul Ryan exploited in his anti-entitlement budget proposal.

The only force capable of putting up a true fight against the far right is the power of organized working people, who, by putting faith and resources in the Democratic Party, are squandering their own independence and power.

Arguing that voting Democrat is a “lesser of two evils” is not an argument at all, but rather a statement about the fundamental political problem that is the two party system.

Liberals, Leftists, and working people in general cannot simply accept the lesser of two evils argument as meaningful, but must actively fight to change the absurdity that is the two party, corporate owned political system. This change cannot happen when labor and liberal groups funnel energy back into team Obama as they overlook the destruction his administration is causing at home and abroad.

The final philosophical barrier against breaking with the Democrats is again put forward by Bill Fletcher Jr. and Carl Davidson, who essentially argue that the failure of the last four years was due to the progressive social movement that failed to “put significant pressure on the Obama administration” through an “independent progressive strategy.”

In short, this means that the “social movement” created by Obama’s 2008 campaign did not maintain its independence and organization adequately to hold Obama accountable.

This is patently nonsense.

For one, the activists who campaigned for Obama did so under his organizational umbrella. There never existed an independent pro-Obama “movement.” More importantly, when average people are inspired enough to become active in politics, they do so with the expectation that “their” candidate will serve “them.” When their candidate betrays them, the natural response is demoralization, not organized protest and sustained action. Any average person who understands what Obama really stands for would not actively campaign for him, and thus will be unable to “hold him accountable” once he’s in office.

Anyone who believes that there exists anything near a social movement to campaign for Obama in 2012 is deluding themselves in embarrassing fashion. Many working people will hold their nose and vote for Obama, but this motivation does not include phone banking, door knocking, or financial contributions. The passion that Obama inspired by his demagoguery in 2008 has been crushed by reality, leaving an election that will be determined by the “big donors” and consequently, the number of TV commercials that can be purchased by the rich.

And because the rank and file of labor and liberal groups will not campaign for Obama in a significant way, he will be even less likely to reward them politically, thus ensuring an even deeper slide into the corporate abyss if he is elected.

Also, average working people are pushed into the camp of the right wing by Obama’s anti-worker policies, since the far right offers “solutions” to the two party system, while labor and community groups only offer more corporate Democrats.

The only thing that the Democratic and Republican parties respect is power, which they also fear. The Wisconsin and Occupy movements inspired people across the country, while striking fear into the heart of the two party system. And while the Democrats did their best to co-opt both movements, the potential for independent political action still exists.

Scaring the two party system to pass pro-working class policies requires mass, independent mobilizations for demands that address the real needs of working people, such as a massive federal jobs program, Medicare For All, saving and expanding Social Security, providing full funding for public education and social services, all to be paid for by taxing the rich and corporations. The Democrats cannot be scared by groups that are donating their time and resources into electing Democrats, while tricking their constituents into believing that Obama is a “pro-worker” candidate.

Ultimately, the only way out of the irrationality of the two party system is for working people to organize independently. In dozens of other countries this task was completed decades ago when labor unions broke with the traditional parties and used their own organizational and financial resources to build their own political party to represent all working people.

This remains the task of the day in the United States. Organized labor is the only social force among working people at this time with the resources capable of building a party able to compete with the two parties of big business. If unions broke with the anti-union Democrats and raised their own pro-worker demands, tens of millions of Americans would happily leave both the Democrat and Republican parties.  The Democrats cannot be reformed; their “progressive caucus” has proven unwilling to inspire working people with bold action, and serves only to give political cover to the corporate soul of the Democratic Party. Working people are overdue for change, and won’t be fooled again by fake promises of hope.

Shamus Cooke is a social worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org) He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com


 
Article Originally published in Counterpunch  http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/07/31/the-next-stage-in-the-destruction-of-syria/
July 31, 2012
The American Strategy

The Next Stage in the Destruction of Syria

by SHAMUS COOKE

The U.S. media has made its intentions clear: the ‘rebels’ attacking Syria’s government must have more support to advance Syria’s “revolution.”  This was the result of the much-hyped advance of Syria’s rebels into the country’s two largest cities, which the western media portrayed as a defining moment in global democracy. But “journalists” like these have blood on their hands, with much more in the works.

The systematic dismantling of Syria has more to do with western media lies and geo-politics than “revolution;” and the more that the U.S. media cheers on this bloodletting, the more politicians feel enabled to spill it.

The rebel attacks on the cities of Damascus and Aleppo were, in actuality, meant to convince the western media that the rebels are near victory, with the hopes of attracting more direct military support from abroad. In reality, however, the attacks in Damascus were instantly crushed by the Syrian government, but the U.S. media predicted “victory just around the corner” for the rebels.

Suddenly Syria is becoming a U.S. presidential topic of debate.  Republicans have accused Obama of “outsourcing” the Syrian conflict, refusing to be involved when the rebels deserve extra support (guns mainly). But Obama is the principal cause of this humanitarian catastrophe. Middle East expert Robert Fisk explains:

“While Qatar and Saudi Arabia arm and fund the rebels of Syria…Washington mutters not a word of criticism against them. President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, say they want a democracy in Syria. But Qatar is an autocracy and Saudi Arabia is among the most pernicious of caliphate-kingly-dictatorships in the Arab world.”

Fisk fails to mention that Qatar and Saudi Arabia are virtual puppets of U.S. foreign policy; they would never act independently to overthrow a regional neighbor; they do so on command.

Syria is conveniently surrounded by close allies of the U.S., and it is through these allies that guns and foreign fighters have poured into Syria to cause massive destruction. The rebel-held areas of Syria exist only on the rural borders of Turkey, Jordan, and Northern Lebanon, areas in alignment with U.S. foreign policy.

Revolutions are city affairs, but the Syrian revolution has been a rural undertaking ever since foreign powers decided to destroy the country. It is fortunate for the rebels that Syria’s two largest cities are close to these border countries: the rebels made a quick foray into the cities for some high profile attacks, and then drifted back to the border areas to seek protection from their friends.

Although it is true that the so-called Free Syrian Army includes defectors from the Syrian military, it is possible that these defectors are simply betting that, in the long term, the U.S. will spare no expense in overthrowing the Syrian government.

The commonsense question that the U.S. media never explores is whether Syrians want their country destroyed, the inevitable result of this conflict. In fact, there are numerous indications to the contrary. After constant cheerleading of the Syrian rebels, The New York Times has been forced to admiton several occasions that massive pro-government rallies have been held in Syria’s only two large cities:

“The turnout [at least tens of thousands] in Sabaa Bahrat Square in Damascus, the [Syrian] capital, once again underlined the degree of backing that Mr. Assad and his leadership still enjoy among many Syrians… That support is especially pronounced in cities like Damascus and Aleppo, the country’s two largest.”

This was further confirmed by a poll funded by the anti-Syrian Qatar Foundation, performed by the Doha Debates:

“According to the latest opinion poll commissioned by The Doha Debates, Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55% not wanting him to resign.” (January 2, 2012).

This should be of zero surprise. Syrians have seen Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya destroyed by U.S.-style “liberation.” Americans should know better too — and many do — regardless of their media’s blatantly criminal behavior.

The United States is using a strategy in Syria that has been perfected over the years, starting with Afghanistan (in the 1980′s) Yugoslavia, and most recently in Libya: arming small paramilitary groups loyal to U.S. interests that attack the targeted government — including terrorist bombings — and when the attacked government defends itself, the U.S. cries “genocide” or “mass murder,” while calling for foreign military intervention.

In each instance the targeted society is dismembered, mass murder and ethnic/religious violence is consciously used to gain military advantage that inevitably spirals out of control; refugee crises are also natural consequences, which inevitably lead to cross border destabilization and wider regional conflicts. Millions of lives are completely ruined in each instance, if not ended.

There is every indication that the Syrian conflict has the potential — as the Iraq war before it — to cause incredible ethnic and religious violence on a multi-nation scale. Neighboring Lebanon has already experienced armed conflict as a direct result of Syria and is a powder keg of ethnic and religious tension that needs only a spark to explode, and Syria promises to spew flames.

The U.S. population has largely been spared images of the incredible suffering and social destruction caused by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  Syria’s crisis is thus happening in an already-destabilized region, having the potential to completely tear the social fabric of the larger Middle East.

These war crimes benefit nobody except the very rich who take over the helm of governments and use these positions to privatize the invaded country’s economy, though especially the oil. The people in Syria, however, are being used as cannon fodder for an additional reason: so that the U.S. can have a steppingstone towards destroying Iran (Syria is Iran’s close ally). But Russia and China are acting more boldly against this genocidal behavior, and may act with more vigor in defending their allies, a dynamic that could easily lead to a regional or even world war.

Thus, the hell that has become the Middle East is being poked and prodded by U.S. foreign policy with absolutely no regard for the global implications. Both U.S. major presidential candidates are cheerleading the flood of blood to different degrees, ensuring that the next election will provide fresh “legitimacy” to an equally barbarous U.S. foreign policy.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org). He can be reached at shamuscooke@gmail.com

 


The First Domino Falls in Greecehttp://www.socialtechpop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/one-big-fist.jpg

By Shamus Cooke

After the last Greek elections rejected austerity and caused a global
uproar, early polling indicates that the next Greek elections — scheduled
for June 17 — will do the same, albeit with more fury.

Greece’s situation is not an isolated event, but a bellwether for the
industrial world and beyond. The fallout from the 2008 global crisis hasn't
reached bottom yet, and the depths will be dug deeper as the Euro crisis
spreads — political crisis will create economic crisis and vice versa, as
periods of calm and stability are replaced by international turmoil and
panic.

The media and politicians have portrayed the Greeks as indolent and stupid,
refusing to swallow the economic medicine needed for a healthy
recovery. But the austerity medicine of the bankers — slashing and
privatizing the public sector, cutting wages and benefits, mass layoffs,
etc. — is a cure that threatens to kill.Shamus Cooke

What will happen in Greece? Its future was hinted at in the last
elections.  The centrist parties were devastated by the reality of economic
extremes; the "middle ground" simply fell out from under them, since
society had been torn asunder by the inequality of the very rich versus
everybody else.

In consequence, the radical left party SYRIZA is polled to come in first in
the next elections, based on its firm stance against austerity and its
uncompromising attitude against the bankers of Greece and beyond. The
corporate politicians wanted SYRIZA to take part in a "unity government"
that would magically rebuild the country’s lost middle ground and continue
the pro-banker austerity policies.

But unity in an economically polarized country like Greece is impossible,
especially when the continued existence of the bankers and wealthy rests on
the continued suffering of everybody else.

Since unity failed during the last elections, Greek "technocrats" are now
overseeing the government until the next elections. What is a technocrat?
Someone who supposedly lacks any class bias; the professional strata of
professors, lawyers, or doctors that attempt to sit astride an uneven
society perfectly balanced, blind to special interests, while keeping their
sights set on the "national interest.” But the Greek technocrats are
continuing the wealthy's austerity program, exposing their fake
objectivity.

Europe has a long history of unity governments, technocratic governments,
and "national salvation governments" (a fancy, more alarmist term for a
unity government). In every case the status quo attempts to consolidate
itself yet again, trying to muddle through the crisis by putting forth new
politicians that have yet to expose themselves as corporate puppets.
Shamus Cooke
What will SYRIZA do if it places first in the next election? A left
government could be created — only if the Greek Communist Party agrees —
with a plan to get Greece’s working people out of its current abyss.

But the Greek bankers and EU bank-bought politicians will keep a gun to the
head of a left government, striving to either tame or crush it.  Threats
will be made to withdraw European bailout funds if an anti-austerity path
is taken; the wealthy who invest in Greek debt will run for a safe haven
(those who haven't already).

Therefore, the Greek lefts must go "all out;” drastic action is needed. The
Greek banks should be nationalized, which SYRIZA has already promised to
do; the wealth of the rich must be redistributed through progressive
taxation and, where necessary, confiscated (such "extreme" measures are
necessary when there is no wealth to be found elsewhere).

These extreme solutions are the only answers to the extremity of
austerity. Most importantly, if the Greeks took drastic action against the
corporate class, it would set an example for the world to follow. People
everywhere would be inspired to fix the crisis on the backs of the wealthy
versus working people.

If a left government fails to take drastic action or submits to the
bankers, its popularity will plummet, and the right wing will be empowered
by using the demagoguery of anti-immigration rhetoric. The Greek Golden
Dawn Party (neo-Nazi) used this tactic effectively in the last election to
propel itself into parliament for the first time, though it is greatly
outnumbered by the forces on the left at this time.

The balance of power lies on the side of the left in Greece: the working
class has been radicalized and will not submit; mass demonstrations and
general strikes have become common place. But power can fluctuate quickly
in times of crisis. Unless the left takes drastic action in Greece, a long
period of political instability is likely, with the left and right taking
turns at power, attempting to solve the country’s economic and political
problems by different methods that favor different social classes. The
right wing will seek to "tame" the trade unions and implement austerity,
the workers will seek to tame the bankers and the corporations and tax
their wealth.Shamus Cooke

But in a polarized, crisis-plagued country like Greece, a showdown is
inevitable. Stability can only be found when one class is forced to submit
to the other, since there now exist two powers in the country —  corporateShamus Cooke
power and people power.

It's possible that, after a long period of instability that weakens the
left, the right wing will attempt to impose "stability" through
dictatorship, for the "national interest.” But the army is too weak at this
time and the workers too strong; a premature military move would likely
spark an even harsher response from the workers.

Greek austerity has accelerated the Greek economic crisis, but austerity is
a global problem. It is the bank and corporate answer to an economic crisis
which resulted from their passing their private debts onto the public
purse, while pushing down wages low enough for these same corporations and
banks to regain growth through "profitability.”

The global crisis is structural in nature — the industrial world has huge
debt with little or no growth. The rich insist growth (profits) must be
made on the backs of the workers, who are being made to work harder for
lower wages, fewer benefits, and fewer social programs.Shamus Cooke

Therefore, all over the world the media reports that worker's wages are too
high, their benefits too lush; social programs are suddenly too expensive
and must be slashed alongside education, transportation, and other
essentials of a civilized society. Unions and immigrants are made to be

enemies of the public. Yet more and more working people are coming to the
realization that the blame for the crisis must be placed on those who
caused it — the banks and corporations — and they must be made to pay for
it.


Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for
Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org)

Shamus Cooke
@Shamuscooke
Shamus Cooke is a Social Service worker, trade unionist, organizer, activist and writer for Workers Action  
Portland, Oregon USA ·
http://www.workerscompass.org

 

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Dec 28, 2008 – Found at Dandelion Salad By Shamus Cooke December 28, 2008 ... A quickbiography of each person is necessary to put their politics in the ...

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Apr 30, 2010 – How Wars Are Born: China vs. The U.S.. By Shamus Cooke. 30 April, 2010. Countercurrents.org. Those of us making the “radical” claim that...

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Dec 16, 2011 – By Shamus Cooke... This raises the question: is Occupy a real social movement or one still struggling to be born? The answer to this question ...

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May 12, 2011 – By shamus cooke. Like Bush Jr. before .... Author's Bio: Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action ...

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