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.
In a qualitative escalation, the government of President Barack Obama has for the first time used the “war on terror” against socialists in the United States. On September 24, the FBI conducted a series of coordinated early-morning raids at homes and offices in Minneapolis, Chicago, Michigan and North Carolina. The political police seized computers, passports, books, documents, cell phones, photos, financial records, diaries, maps and other materials. In one case, children’s artwork was confiscated.
Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco’s major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future. ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 87, said: “They’ve been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years.