As the Republicans celebrate their mid-term election victory, the drums of war are growing ever louder, and the bourgeois economists insist that a sustained recovery is just around the corner. We are told that the passing of the Homeland Security bill will mean greater safety, stability, and that the "war on terror" is being successfully waged in the interest of all Americans. However, the real situation is becoming more and more clear to millions of working people. The new bill means only more restrictions on the "freedom" we are raised to cherish and defend, and the economic situation for hundreds of thousands will continue to deteriorate. Billions have been spent on "defense", and still we are told that the threat of attacks is as high as it was before September 11.
So just what has all this military and other "war on terror" spending achieved? Bin Laden is still on the loose, terrorist attacks on US and allied interests are on the rise globally, Afghanistan is still a disaster zone for 99 percent of those who live there, and Al Qaeda has rebuilt its infrastructure and is planning "spectacular attacks". In the meantime, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the Patriot Act and Homeland Security Department legislation threatens to crush what little remains of democracy and privacy in the "land of the free and the home of the brave".
The new Homeland Security Department is the biggest reorganization of American government since 1947. Among its "democracy-defending" components are:
· The elimination of vital aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, allowing the government and private corporate contractors to operate completely in secret and beyond citizen oversight;
· The creation of something called a 'Total Information Awareness' program within the Defense Department. Conservative columnist and former Nixon aide William Safire summed up succinctly what this will do. "Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend - all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as 'a virtual, centralized grand database.' To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you -- passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance."
· A new definition of the term 'Terrorism.' Before, 'Terrorism' involved explosions, murder, kidnapping and any activity that used violence to frighten civilians and change the manner in which a government functioned. Under the new legislation, the definition of 'Terrorism' is expanded. Now, 'Terrorism' is defined as an act that, "Is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States," or "Appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Protests against the government or against a private contractor involved with the government are intended to 'coerce' the civilian population. Loitering is a criminal offense. If you do either of these from now on, you may consider yourself welcomed into the ranks of international terrorism. Seriously.
· The elimination of any possibility of an effective independent investigation into what went wrong on Sept. 11, thanks to the aforementioned FOIA restrictions.
It also means that 850,000 federal workers will see their jobs privatized – i.e. contracted out to the lowest bidder. Forget about job security and safety on the job – private business interests will cut all the corners they can in order to make the greatest possible profit from government contracts. That's more of our tax money going straight into the pockets of corrupt and unregulated corporate CEOs. This is a tremendous kick in the face to organized labor, and a gift on a silver platter to the big business allies of Bush and co.
Bush professes to feel the pain of working people, but he does absolutely nothing to improve their situation. As he throws around the idea of yet another $100 billion tax cut for the rich, ostensibly to strengthen the economy, we see headlines such as: "Boeing to cut another 5,000 jobs", "Sweden's Autoliv Cutting 850 US Jobs", "Black & Decker Cutting 1,300 Jobs", "Morgan Stanley expected to cut 2,200 jobs", "AOL Cuts 90 Jobs", and so on. Some two million jobs have been lost since Bush took office, and the layoffs continue apace. What little remained of a social welfare safety net has been mercilessly slashed, and now we read that the "Jobless Program Will Not Be Extended”.
Over 1,000,000 unemployed workers will now see their benefits stripped practically overnight. The onslaught against working people is now hitting workers at all levels. No longer is it just the ultra-poor and minorities in particular who face a bleak future under US capitalism. Now even those who felt they were "getting along just fine" under the current system are being laid off in droves, only to find that they can't even stand in the unemployment line as it was dismantled during the "boom"! With their savings and pensions wiped out, and even jobs at McDonald's hard to come by in many areas, the hard lesson of life under capitalism is hitting home.
One example is Jo-Anne Hurlston a 47 year old single mother who can't find a job after nearly six months of searching, even with her master's degree and experience in education, human resources and the hospitality industry. She has sent out hundreds of applications, and had only two unsuccessful interviews. As she said recently in the Associated Press, "All the money that's being spent on homeland security and we're left stranded. If they want more money for homeland security, we have to be able to work to pay taxes."
Another example is Shirley Deane, 53, said that last December she lost her $25,000-a-year job as an administrative secretary at Howard University in Washington and still can't find work. She ran out of unemployment benefits in August, and has no health insurance and no retirement savings. She says her future looks bleak. "I've been taking tests, going on interviews," she said. "I've never had this hard a problem finding a job. Never."
These are the workers who worked hard, diligently paid their taxes, and mourned on September 11th when thousands of the class brothers and sisters perished in a disaster brought about by the predations of US imperialism. Yet Congress approved last minute legislation which provides perks to the gluttonous drug and insurance companies.
The working class has been under attack for the past twenty years, but now, in the current economic and political climate, the assault on workers' rights and conditions has reached astounding new proportions. While Bush makes his feeble case for war on the people of Iraq, the people of the United States suffer under the system he defends and represents – capitalism. Our rights are being trampled, our jobs are disappearing, and perpetual war and impoverishment is the only future we can look forward to. The Democrats offer no better alternative, and the union leaders refuse to give a class-independent lead to the millions of workers they are supposed to represent.
The "elected" leaders of the American people showed their true colors when they approved a $48 billion increase in the military budget which totals $379 billion, yet refused to provide a fraction of that for workers who have fallen on hard times. As one Congressperson put it, "The House will not address the issue [of extending unemployment benefits] due to the exorbitant costs associated with it." Only $5 billion would have extended benefits to those receiving them for another 13 weeks. Instead, billions are handed to the rich in corporate welfare, which can lead only to Enron, WorldCom, and the rest. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and trillions in savings obliterated.So what can we do? The fact is, we do not want welfare and handouts – we want quality jobs with real benefits, universal healthcare, and education! We want real democracy and real control over our lives. We want to live in peace and safety, and we want to look forward to long and healthy lives in a world not torn apart by war, poverty, racism, and ignorance. But capitalism can never offer this – not even in a trillion years! The only system which can offer us this is a system of socialism – a system of genuine workers' democracy. Through its arrogance and bullying, US capitalism is preparing a massive explosion of the class struggle around the world – not least here at home. The workers and youth need to start organizing now in order to prepare for the massive events which are impending. Join us in fighting against the war, against poverty, and against a system where we have to beg for scraps from the table of the rich! Join us in the fight for socialism and a better world!