This first appeared in Briarpatch magazine.
First appeared in Skewed News.
The stagnation of the global economy is structural. Everything capitalists do to try to overcome it just makes it worse. From Greece to Puerto Rico to China to the US to many other places, its weakness is spreading.
Easing credit has failed to spur growth, as has the lowering of interest rates to almost 0%. An executive I chatted with randomly while traveling invoked the well-worn but evocative metaphor of “pushing on a string” to describe these futile efforts. Investors aren’t motivated to pull their end of the string. The generally low return on investment is keeping many capitalists waiting on the sidelines, hoping the game improves.
The capitalists have been trying to save their collective asses with some massive structural changes, imposed over the last few decades. Elements include increased austerity, deregulation, free trade agreements, slave labor, underemployment, debt, and imperialist conquest. All this brings massive pain to the vast majority. Capitalists know we can only take so much of their assaults, and that odds are increasing for broad and sustained social upheaval.
Thus far workers have not coalesced into an autonomous movement, but capitalists know there’s a chance the working class will wake up like a lion roaring for blood. They’d rather prevent this, because if workers organize, they will be the one social force that could take down capitalism altogether.
Continue reading The Capitalist Pincer Strategy: Smothering the Working Class Between Two Butt-Cheeks in the Same Rotten Pair of Pants
First appeared in Skewed News.
Every year, domestic terrorists of various reactionary ideological stripes kill an average of about five people. Cops kill many more than that: at the rate they’re going, 1,100 people will die at their hands this year alone.
But there is another group of despicable and ruthless killers in the United States that no one ever talks about: capitalists. 4,585 people every year are killed on the job, and an additional 50,000 people are killed slightly more slowly from occupational diseases. That’s 150 people EVERY DAMN DAY.
In addition, capitalists subjected nearly 3.8 million workers to injuries and illnesses. Those are just the reported cases; unreported ones could be as high as 11.4 million per year.
Largely because of fracking, North Dakota is currently the deadliest place to work. Its death rate, 14.9 per 100,000 workers, has more than doubled since 2007. Wyoming (9.5) and West Virginia (8.6) took second and third place. Texas has highest total number of workers killed on the job: 493 in 2013. The deadliest occupations there are construction and land transport.
Some might think I’m going too far by blaming capitalists and accusing them of killing workers on purpose. After all, business owners and investors aren’t marching onto jobsites and gunning people down; these are considered accidents.
But is it an accident that on freight trains, some carrying highly flammable crude oil, crews are being cut from two people to one? Is it an accident when construction sites have unprotected sides and edges or when guardrails are left off scaffolding platforms? Is it an accident when we breathe in toxic chemicals that we don’t even know we’re being exposed to? Is it an accident when farm workers are transported without seat belts?
Continue reading Violent Extremists in the US Kill 150 People Every Day! For Capitalists, Workers’ Lives Don’t Matter
First appeared at Skewed News.
The entire purpose of a union is to assert and defend the interests of its members. The reason that workers organized themselves into unions in the first place was because we can assert more social power collectively than individually. Historically, unionized workers have fought heroically and righteously for the 8-hour (as opposed to the 16-hour) day, for overtime pay, for safety measures, for better working conditions, and most importantly for higher wages. This is what unions are for, what they’re all about.
So how are we to interpret the current spectacle of unions demanding the right to bargain for lower wages for their members? Is today “opposite day”? Has the world gone mad?
Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, proposed an exemption to the new $15 minimum wage for union members. He wants LA businesses to be able to pay union members less than other workers.
This may seem insane, but he has his (self-serving) reasons. It’s not the first time unions have done this.
Continue reading Unions Seek Lower Pay for Workers—WTF?
First appeared in Skewed News.
A Bunch of Clowns Stuffed into a Volkswagen
What’s behind the mind-boggling mess of candidates running for President this electoral round, ranging from the ultra-reactionary Trump all the way across the spectrum to the pseudo-left populist Bernie? We’ve never seen such a mad chaotic rush to power, with so many squabbling bullshitters in one place ever.
Each one claims to have a unique approach and program with which they wish to lead America into a better tomorrow. But their better tomorrow is not ours. For us, they’re all just trouble.
Politics is a Reflection of Economics
Politics is a mirror that reflects the goings-on in the economy. When we see clusterfuckery in the political field, we can usually point to clusterfuckery in the economic field as the cause. Financialization has pushed the economy deep into a pit of debt mixed with toxic bubbles of false wealth inflated through speculative gambling. Not just individual enterprises, but capitalism as a whole is experiencing rapidly intensifying crisis. Each candidate is attempting to offer a special brand of snake oil as a cure, but each formula has side effects negating any medicinal properties it might have. Everything they do to try to mitigate the crisis only ends up making it worse.
Continue reading The U.S. Presidential Election 2016: a Clusterfuck of Candidates
First appeared on Skewed News.
Every day we’re being dragged deeper into the capitalist nightmare. While workers are the only ones directly exploited by capital, many others such as the petite bourgeoisie (the “middle” classes) are also subject to its terrible effects: economic crisis, wars of conquest, oppression, poverty, police-state terror, global warming, suicidal thoughts, Febreeze ads and all the rest.
Academics, content-providers and the staffs of nonprofits are among those sounding the alarm ever more vehemently, seeking to soften the pain of the accelerating horror. But because these people don’t directly face capital in the workplace (as workers do in the process of production), they can’t lay hands upon it to combat capitalism directly. So instead they employ their professional skills (corresponding to their economic role as circulators of capital) to solve the problem—they market and sell new ideas to re-design, re-engineer, re-boot the system.
First they offer reassuring-sounding it-won’t-be-that-bad schemes like “cradle to cradle,” “conscious capitalism,” “social entrepreneurship,” and “green capitalism.” But these are quickly revealed to be the same old crap in prettier packaging.
Then they decry capitalism’s “excesses” by defining the problem not a capitalism itself, but as errors within an otherwise acceptable economic system. They add qualifiers: crony capitalism, disaster capitalism, corporate capitalism, blah blah blah. They build stellar careers as public intellectuals by offering the comforting thought that if we could simply eliminate its worst elements, the system might yet be saved. But this formula sounds increasingly hollow, as people figure out that the worst aspects of capitalism aren’t a mistake. They’re inherent to it.
Continue reading So-Called “Post-Capitalism” is Just Another Crappy Capitalist Snowjob
First published at Skewed News.
Last week there was some debate over how many Americans are actually out of work, i.e., the “real” unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency within the US Department of Labor, put the official number at a laughable 5.3%, down from 6.1% the previous year. (When counting those who have given up but say they still want to work, and part-timers who want to work full-time, they admit the number should be raised to 10.4%). Political clown Donald Trump estimates it at 18%. Former Reagan administration Budget Director David Stockman puts it at a more realistic 42.9%
But none of those bloodsuckers are counting it right. They can’t, because they take for granted their own capitalist definitions of “employment,” “underemployment,” and “unemployment.” This is like snakes describing the reality of horses. Those who should define those categories are the ones living them. For working people it is not a numbers game, but a deeply problematic social relationship.
For capitalists, workers are a necessary inconvenience. To make a profit in the productive sector, they must purchase our labor power. (They’d prefer go robotic or full-financial—moving money around rather than selling goods or services—and not have to deal with pesky workers. Sadly for them, robots aren’t everywhere yet. They still need us—without exploiting us, their whole economy falls apart.) For them, the employment rate is not determined by what society needs; it’s determined by how much money they can accumulate. If it’s not profitable to employ us, they throw us in the street.
Continue reading Non-Jobs Don’t Count: The Working Class Perspective on the Unemployment Rate
Originally published in Skewed News.
A new rule being proposed by an Obama Administration executive order will update salary regulations frozen since 1975. 5 million salaried workers who’ve been bullied and coerced to provide countless hours of overtime labor without compensation are now (well, next year) supposed to actually get paid for work they do that exceeds 40 hours a week.
Currently, workers who are considered managers or supervisors have to make less than $23,660 to qualify for overtime pay—less than the official poverty level for a family of four. Many employers have taken advantage of this by giving fake “Manager” titles to workers to force them to work extra hours for free. The new rule would adjust that threshold to $50,440, basically restoring it to what it was in 1975 in real purchasing power. The new threshold will not be tied to inflation though, so we’re back at square one, and the price of food is still going to rise faster than our paychecks.
Getting paid for our work: what a concept! The fact that this is portrayed by some as a great victory for labor is pathetic. (And let’s not even mention those who argue that we shouldn’t even get this much). Getting paid for our work should be an obvious, expected base line.
It is not a gift. We earn it every day. So let’s not embarrass ourselves by being grateful to our oppressors and exploiters.
Continue reading Obama Administration Throws Workers an Overtime Crumb — We Want the Whole Cake
Originally published in SkewedNews (a division of ANewDomain.net).
According to the complaint, the air used to maintain cabin pressure gets sucked into the planes through the engines. When the air is exposed to heated engine oil, it becomes toxic. (That means if you travel on one of their planes, you’re breathing that shit too).
“By reason of Boeing’s design decisions, the environmental control system on the subject aircraft lacked filters which would have purified the cabin air and prevented the subject flight attendant crew from being exposed to toxic fumes,” the lawsuit says.
Continue reading Boeing Poisons Flight Attendants
This first appeared in Briarpatch magazine.
Full size behind the cut:
Continue reading The NGO Trap
To see it in its natural habitat: http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/left_coast/13407/
My first editorial cartoon for the Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA) appears today! Look for one each month. http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2014/06/in_the_pa_legislature_whats_15.html