The stock market has surged past its former high recorded in October 2007, before the financial crash and Great Recession. “With the Dow Jones Industrial average [at] a record high,” writes a columnist in a front page article in the New York Times, “the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold”. “That gulf helps explain why stock markets are thriving even as the economy is barely growing and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
In a five-to-four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, in effect, no citizen may challenge the constitutionality of any of the executive orders, or laws passed by Congress, that violate democratic rights under the pretext of the “war on terrorism.” The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges, and several defense attorneys.
The horrific murders of 20 children aged six and seven, along with six adults, at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December has ignited a debate about gun violence in the US. This was the latest in a series of such massacres to occur at schools, malls, religious institutions, theatres and similar places over the past few decades. In many of these instances, rapid-fire military-style weapons were used that sprayed big numbers of bullets in seconds, as was the case in Newtown.
The January 1 deadline for the so-called fiscal cliff has come and gone without resolving anything. In a last minute agreement, taxes were raised a little bit on the wealthiest, with rates going back to what they were under the Clinton administration in the 1990s. But nothing was done to close the “loopholes” through which the rich evade taxes, and indeed, some new loopholes were created.
In the recent elections, Latinos, Asians and Blacks voted against the extreme racist policies and rhetoric of the Republicans. A central plank in the Republican onslaught has been attacks on immigrants who lack documents. Romney said he would make life so miserable for them they would “self-deport”. In the aftermath of the elections, immigrant youth without papers have remobilised to fight for their own rights and for citizenship for all of up to 12 million undocumented migrants working in the US.
To believe the capitalist media, there is a specter haunting the US — the danger that we are about to fall over a fiscal cliff come January 1. This is presented as if it were a natural phenomenon, a physical cliff the nation is hurtling toward — something must be done before we go over and crash on the rocks below! President Barack Obama, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress must come to a compromise to avoid the impending catastrophe, we are repeatedly told.
The capitalist press has been overloaded with the sex scandal of General David Petraeus, former commander US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and his resignation as head of the CIA. The story has morphed into something wider, drawing in other high officers. I’ll return to the saga of the “Real Housewives of the High Command” below, but first I want to discuss a story that has received only scant attention, about one of the grunts who was on the ground in Afghanistan.
The outcome of the United States November 6 elections was the best possible one for the interests of the ruling class, even if some of them don’t understand this. The best candidate to defend their interests, Barack Obama, retained the presidency. The Democrats control the Senate, and the Republicans the House of Representatives. This is a quite pleasant configuration from their point of view. Before looking at why this is the case, I will look at other important results of the elections.
The recent strike and mass mobilisations of teachers and their supporters in Chicago were significant for those who opposed them. The Democrat Barack Obama and the Republican Mitt Romney aligned themselves against this fight to defend public schools. In contrast, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein expressed solidarity with the movement and was invited to speak at a rally.
In the early evening of August 6, a series of explosions at the Richmond Chevron oil refinery in the San Francisco Bay Area sparked a huge fire that burned for hours. The fire sent a huge black cloud that went for miles over densely populated areas. Tens of thousands of residents were ordered to stay in their homes, with windows and doors closed. Local authorities issued a level three warning, meaning the cloud would cause eye, skin, nose and respiratory sickness.
One aspect of the drive by the super rich to make working people bear the brunt of the new Depression is to attack the social wage. Part of this attack is the serious erosion of public education. This predates the crisis that began in 2007, but the recession that followed has been met with a sharp increase in such attacks. The failure of the federal government to adequately fund public education cascades down to the states and cities, who all cry there is not enough money, so cutbacks are necessary.
In a split decision the United States Supreme Court largely upheld the health insurance law, the Affordable Health Care Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. The key provision upheld by the nine robed reactionaries in a five-to-four split decision mandated that all US citizens have to buy health insurance from the private insurance companies beginning in 2014, or pay a penalty. This approach was originally proposed decades ago by right- wing think tanks as an alternative to national health insurance for all.
Workers in the United States know they are losing ground in the current Depression, as they are watching the rich going in the opposite direction. A decline in real wages comes on top of stagnation of wages in the three previous decades. A new report issued by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says: “The recent recovery in the United States appears unusual from a historical perspective … with a much stronger rebound in profits relative to labor income.
The announcement by giant US bank JPMorgan Chase that it had lost US$2 billion in a shady deal shows the kinds of financial speculation that led to the 2007-2009 financial collapse continue to steam ahead. It also underscores that both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Democrat president Barack Obama are in Wall Street’s pocket. As the financial system was collapsing in the waning months of the George W Bush administration, it responded with huge bailouts of banks and other financial institutions.
What's striking about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement and its popular slogan “We are the 99%” is how much the central demand of the movement resonates with the Black community. African Americans, with few exceptions, are in the bottom 20% of income and wealth. Double digit unemployment is the norm in “good” economic times. Yet the social composition of most OWS occupations (some 10,000 including college campuses) has had few Black faces including in urban areas with large Black populations.
There is a sharp reality disconnect in the Black community. On the one hand, the Black population continues to support the first African American president, Barack Obama, by more than 90%. Yet the plight of the Black communities is at its worst condition in three decades. Official unemployment is over 16% ― twice that of whites and iabout 30% for young African Americans. Black household income is in decline and the lowest of the five major ethnic groups. Poverty is at the highest levels in 30 years.