Corporate crime pays. Just ask the automakers or insurance giant AIG. They and other criminally mismanaged companies are being bailed out with taxpayer dollars. This massive transfer of public funds into private hands, endorsed by Congress, is supposed to resuscitate the economy.
However, this is no cure for the crisis. As African American journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal observed in a recent column, "The problems are systemic, built into the rapacious nature of the machinery humming all around us."
To really stimulate the economy, a better use of the $700 billion-plus taxpayer giveaway would be to pass it out to workers.
But wait! Why restore a system that feeds off war, the second-class status of women, the brutality of racism, and the inhumanity of xenophobia and homophobia? Working people, who have firsthand experience at running things, are better qualified to manage society than crooked, profit-driven CEOs.
The way things work: one big rip-off. Capitalism is legal theft. Workers are not paid for the value of the products they make and the services they provide, but just enough to live on. The owners pocket the profits and use them to create more. Working people keep the whole social machinery going by raising children, caring for each other, and producing life’s necessities.
So why can’t they get a break from the bosses when they’re behind on their bills?
To increase profits, employers use every strategy they can find, no matter how vicious. They pit workers against each other, paying women, people of color and immigrants less — which drives down everyone’s wages.
With less money for necessities, workers rely on credit. But as real wages continue to fall, people cannot pay their debts and sink further into the quicksand. When they can’t pay, there’s no bailout.
Big businesses, financial institutions, and the federal and local governments also use credit to survive. When bad loans reached a breaking point, banks refused to extend each other any more credit. This set off the current economic storm. The looters-with-license at the Federal Reserve and in Congress readied bucket-loads of public cash for their corporate buddies.
Only the threat of massive rebellion gave them pause, but not for long.
Working-class power. How can working folks defend themselves? Bottom line: they must be organized and fight around survival issues.
Labor unions once again need to step up and lead. Rank-and-filers can push their officials to hold regional emergency meetings to discuss solutions to the crisis. Unions should also use their greatest tool — the general strike — to end the bailouts.
And organized labor could join in united fronts with workers without unions, retirees, the unemployed, students, and hard-pressed small-business owners to win immediate relief for everyday people — like a halt to local government budget cuts and reductions in services.
What are some other goals? What would ease the pain on Main Street?
How about fighting for an across-the-board moratorium on home foreclosures and eliminating all mortgage debt for working-class households? Price controls on food, rent, gas, and heating oil? A 30-hour workweek for 40 hours pay, to provide full employment while lifting the burden of speedup from overstressed jobholders? Real nationalization of the banks: turning them permanently into public services under workers’ control?
What’s ultimately needed is a total reorganization of society so that its purpose is not to generate gluttonous profits for a few, but to meet the human needs of everyone internationally, with the working majority democratically making the decisions and running the show.
That is what socialism is — forget the McCain-Palin blather about Obama’s "socialism" in the heat of the election. Socialist feminist pioneer Clara Fraser wrote, "The global order of competitive trade and multi-currencies is absurd. It cries out to be replaced with production for use, not for greed, so as to eliminate the endless wars and hatreds spawned by dwindling markers and poverty."
There is no superhero who will come to the rescue of working people — not pro-corporate political parties, and certainly not the parasites on Wall Street. Workers must solve this problem for themselves. They will overcome their prejudices and fears by leaning on each other to create a new reality for today and for future generations.
The U.S. working class is in the eye of the storm. With consciousness and organization, it has the opportunity to create a new world on the ashes of the old.