MEXIFORNIA IN METLDOWN: First, illegal immigration is the problem. CA has spent hundreds of billions on illegal aliens and their bills — public schools, free meals at school, special bi-lingual teachers, healthcare, housing allowances, low income energy assistance, aid to families with dependent children, prisons, cops, courts, public defenders, welfare, food stamps, and a hundred other gov handouts. And don’t forget lower college tuition for illegal immigrants. WAYNE ALLYN ROOT
General Motor’s announcement that it’s cutting thousands of jobs
and closing several plants has met intense criticism because the
company was the beneficiary of a $50 billion government bailout
in 2009—which wound up costing taxpayers $11 billion—even as
the government awarded the United Auto Workers’ health-care
fund a 17.5 percent stake in the restructured company. Like many
big American companies, GM has been the recipient of
government-subsidized largesse over several decades. One
particular piece of this history is especially noteworthy now.
Nearly 40 years ago, in one of the most egregious cases of eminent
domain abuse in American history, GM built a plant on land seized
from homeowners and businesses in Detroit, obliterating a multi-
ethnic neighborhood known as Poletown—all for a plant that will
now be shuttered so that GM can invest somewhere else in new
Beset by foreign competition, America’s automakers began retrenching in the late 1970s, closing manufacturing facilities in and around Detroit even as the city struggled to rebound from the riots of 1967. Dodge had closed a giant plant in Hamtramck, a suburb that adjoins the Poletown neighborhood, and when GM announced that it wanted to build a new plant somewhere in America with modern industrial technology—though it was closing plants elsewhere—Detroit officials pleaded for an opportunity to find a site for the new facility. Mayor Coleman Young came up with a plan: seize some 1,500 homes and 144 businesses in Poletown, a low-income community of 3,500 where Polish immigrants had once settled. By the early 1980s, Poletown was a more diverse neighborhood, housing older Poles but also more recent immigrants and black Detroit residents. As the city deteriorated, Poletown remained relatively stable. “There is no place for us to go, no place we want to go,” two elderly residents told the New York Times in 1980, to no avail. To Detroit officials, Poletown’s appeal was its proximity to the Dodge site, providing some 465 acres for GM—if officials could just move out those inconveniently located businesses and people. To help make it happen, in April 1980 the Michigan legislature passed its infamous “quick-take” law, providing that government agencies could seize land deemed necessary for a “public purpose” and determine later how much to compensate the private landowners. That law accelerated the process of clearing out Poletown.
The neighborhood did not go down without a fight, however. Homeowners and their advocates mounted legal challenges, refused government offers, and hunkered down. Some patrolled their property, brandishing weapons and daring the government to come in and take their property. What happened next was chilling. To “encourage” homeowners to leave, Detroit began withdrawing city services. The city had managed to empty out some buildings, such as apartment houses, by paying off renters, who had little stake in the neighborhood. A few elderly residents took the money for their homes and moved on, creating a landscape dotted with abandoned buildings marked with a blue X—a prescription for chaos, which quickly ensued. Looters moved in and, in a strategy that became all too familiar in the 1970s in places like the South Bronx and Bushwick, they proceed to strip the buildings of sinks, wiring, pipes, furnaces—and then burn them. “There was virtually no trash pickup, no police presence, and before long the once-quiet neighborhood was a jumble of looters and demolition crews during the day and arsonists and fire trucks by night,” wrote filmmaker George Cosetti, who witnessed the neighborhood’s last days while filming the documentary Poletown Lives! “The night air was always smoke-filled and people slept with guns nearby.”
Residents sought to have the quick-take law declared unconstitutional, but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that taking private property and handing it over to a business to provide jobs for the unemployed and taxes to pay for city services qualified as a legitimate public purpose. One dissenting judge did warn that justifying government seizure of land in order to create jobs was an extension of eminent domain that “seriously jeopardized the security of all private property ownership.” Even then, however, some residents hung on, forming a redoubt in Immaculate Conception church, a focal point of much of the resistance, until police arrived to cart away the group, which included a handful of elderly Polish women.
General Motors opened the new plant, Detroit-Hamtramck, in 1985. It employed some 4,500 workers, about 70 percent of the original projection of 6,500 jobs. But the plant fell far short of the claims that city officials used to justify the property seizures. They had envisioned Poletown as a crucial step in a Detroit renaissance—the plant would attract other carmakers and auto-accessories manufacturers to the area, they believed, and spark a jobs boom. These scenarios never materialized. Detroit’s economy continued to decline, people fled the city, and today Detroit, with some 670,000 residents, is about half its size in 1980.
In 2004, Michigan’s Supreme Court overturned the “quick-take” provision that allowed the state to seize Poletown before demonstrating a public purpose for the land. General Motors got 34 years out of the plant, thanks to a $200 million government subsidy (what it cost Detroit to clear Poletown). No one can say whether Poletown, which had existed as a vibrant neighborhood for more than 100 years, would have endured longer, serving as at least one bulwark against the decline of the city, had GM not moved in. But neighborhoods have a way of outlasting manufacturing plants. That’s one reason we shouldn’t destroy them willy-nilly for the sake of a few jobs—or even a few thousand.
GENERAL MOTORS DUMPS THOUSANDS OF WORKERS AND CLOSES PLANTS - Stockholders celebrate!
"It identifies socialism with proposals for mild social reform such as “Medicare for all,” raised and increasingly abandoned by a section of the Democratic Party. It cites Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher to promote the virtues of “economic freedom,” i.e., the unrestrained operation of the capitalist market, and to denounce all social reforms, business regulations, tax increases or anything else that impinges on the oligarchy’s self-enrichment."
“The yearly income of a typical US household dropped by a massive 12 percent, or $6,400, in the six years between 2007 and 2013. This is just one of the findings of the 2013 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances released Thursday, which documentsa sharp decline in working class living standards and a further concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich and the super-rich.”
"The American phenomenon of record stock values fueling an ever greater concentration of wealth at the very top of society, while the economy is starved of productive investment, the social infrastructure crumbles, and working class living standards are driven down by entrenched unemployment, wage-cutting and government austerity policies, is part of a broader global process."
"A defining expression of this crisis is the dominance of financial speculation and parasitism, to the point where a narrow international financial aristocracy plunders society’s resources in order to further enrich itself."
GM Closing Five Plants in North America as Consumers Turn Against Cars
The turn of the American consumer away from cars in favor of SUVs and trucks has prompted General Motors to announce that it will shutter plants in Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, and Ontario next year.
The company said Monday that it will stop production at five plants next year. The affected plants are Detroit-Hamtramck and Warren Transmission in Michigan, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Canada, and Baltimore Operations in Maryland.
The closures will affect some 3,300 workers in the U.S., and another 3,000 globally.
In corporate-speak, these plants will become “unallocated.” That means they will have no product to produce.
The affected plants and the vehicles they make are:
Detroit-Hamtramck and Oshawa make the Chevy Impala.
Detroit-Hamtramck is the sole producer of the Cadillac CT6, Chevy Volt, and Buick LaCrosse.
Lordstown makes the Chevy Cruze sedan.
Oshawa is the only plant that builds the Cadillac XTS sedan.
The move by General Motors follows similar shifts by Fiat-Chrylser and Ford. U.S. automakers are shifting production away from sedans and smaller vehicles in favor of cross-over SUVs and trucks, reflecting the preferences of U.S. buyers. In recent years, consumers purchases have increasingly been concentrated in the larger vehicle market.
The reasons for the shift include improved fuel efficiency and cheaper oil, which both make fing the larger vehicles less costly. As well, many consumers perceive the higher carriage of the trucks and cross-overs as preferable and safer.
All five of the plants will cease production by the end of 2019, according to GM executives.
The company said that it is making these changes now, while the economy is strong, to adapt to “fast-changing market conditions.”
Shares of GM were up by more than 2 percent Monday morning before being halted while the company announced the changes.
GM Announces Cuts At Car Assembly Plants In Michigan, Ohio, Canada
Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, shown here in 2008, is one of the plants that General Motors plans to cut production in 2019.
General Motors says it is planning to cease production of some models at three vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada in 2019. It also plans to cut production at two plants in the U.S. that make transmissions. The company said the moves are part of an effort to cut 15 percent of its workforce.
The decision, announced Monday, will impact Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit, Lordstown Assembly in Warren, Ohio, and Oshawa Assembly in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Two transmission plants — one in White Marsh, Md., and another in Warren, Mich. — are also set to stop production.
The company said it plans to halt production of the Chevrolet Cruze at the Lordstown plant in March. In Detroit, it plans to halt production of the Buick LaCrosse and Chevrolet Volt in March and the Cadillac CT6 and Chevrolet Impala in June. In Ontario, it plans to halt production of the Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac XTS by the final quarter of 2019.
The company says 5,901 hourly employees and 804 salaried employees work at these plants.
"We are announcing the cessation of certain products resulting in a number of plants being without allocated volume to produce," GM spokesperson Julie Huston-Rough told NPR. She added that shutting down or closing a plant is an issue that must be discussed in negotiations with the United Auto Workers.
GM added that it expects to save some $6 billion by the end of 2020.
"With changing customer preferences in the U.S. and in response to market-related volume declines in cars, future products will be allocated to fewer plants next year," the company said.
UAW Vice President Terry Dittes called it a "callous decision" that would be "profoundly damaging to our American workforce."
"The UAW and our members will confront this decision by GM through every legal, contractual and collective bargaining avenue open to our membership," the union said in a statement.
BANKSTERS AND BILLIONAIRES PREPARE FOR THE WORST.
REVOLUTION IS IN LOOMING AND WILL MARCH RIGHT DOWN WALL STREET FIRST.
"A series of recent polls in the US and Europe have shown a sharp growth of popular disgust with capitalism and support for socialism. In May of 2017, in a survey conducted by the Union of European Broadcasters of people aged 18 to 35, more than half said they would participate in a “large-scale uprising.” Nine out of 10 agreed with the statement, “Banks and money rule the world.”
"The ruling class was particularly terrified by the teachers’ walkouts earlier this year because the biggest strikes were organized by rank-and-file educators in a rebellion against the unions, reflecting the weakening grip of the pro-corporate organizations that have suppressed the class struggle for decades."
*“The yearly income of a typical US household dropped by a massive 12 percent, or $6,400, in the six years between 2007 and 2013. This is just one of the findings of the 2013 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances released Thursday, which documents a sharp decline in working class living standards and a further concentration of wealth in the hands of the rich and the super-rich.”
"The American phenomenon of record stock values fueling an ever greater concentration of wealth at the very top of society, while the economy is starved of productive investment, the social infrastructure crumbles, and working class living standards are driven down by entrenched unemployment, wage-cutting and government austerity policies, is part of a broader global process."
*"A defining expression of this crisis is the dominance of financial speculation and parasitism, to the point where a narrow international financial aristocracy plunders society’s resources in order to further enrich itself."
General Motors Says Factory Closings and Restructuring Will Cost 14,700 Jobs
The company said Monday that it would cut 15 percent of its salaried workforce in North America. That is likely to be around 8,000 employees.
In addition to the white collar job cuts, the company is shutting down plants that make models it is discontinuing. This will result in around 6,700 job cuts.
The closures and layoffs follow similar moves by other big U.S. automakers as the industry adjusts to lower consumer demand for passenger cars. While sales smaller cars temporarily boomed in the wake of the financial crisis, largely due to Obama administration subsidies and a steep rise in the price of oil, compacts and sedans have fallen out of favor with American consumers. Demand has shifted to trucks, vans, and SUVs.
The layoffs and closures will face protests from autoworker unions. The United Auto Workers union has said the move was callous.
General Motors employed around 180,000 employees worldwide at the end of 2017, with around approximately 103,000 in the U.S. Earlier this year, it offered a buyout package to some employees. It is not clear how many took the company up on the offer.
While the company has said that it believes tariffs on steel and aluminum will add about $1 billion in costs over the next year, there is little sign that the layoffs and closures are related to the tariffs. The company had around $145 billion in sales last year and costs of production of $118.7 billion, down significantly from $130.5 billion four years prior. So the overall additional costs of the tariffs is relatively small for GM.
Many of the cars that General Motors says it will cease producing were hailed as major break-throughs when introduced. The high-priced Chevy Volt, which initially benefited from enormous government subsidies intended to promote electric vehicles, and the more modestly-priced Chevy Cruze, however, both were sales disappointments. Both were derisively called “Obamamobiles” by some critics, based on the support the Obama administration through behind them.
Industry publication boasts: GM plant closures aimed at extorting more concessions from autoworkers
In its coverage of the General Motors plant closure
announcement, the has stressed that one of the central aims
of the job massacre is to intimidate 140,000 GM, Ford and
Fiat Chrysler workers whose contracts are expiring next
summer and break their determination to win significant
improvements in wages and working conditions from the
highly profitable automakers.
This has been confirmed by the chief industry publication Automotive News in an article published Thursday, headlined, "GM sends bold message to UAW with potential plant closures." In the article, Automotive News reporter Michael Wayland acknowledges that GM made the announcement, carefully timed to precede the start of negotiations, not only to undermine workers’ aspirations, but to soften them up for the imposition of even deeper concessions in the next labor agreements.
"While the negotiations don't officially kick off until next year, both sides have assembled their bargaining teams, and members are discussing what to focus on during the talks. As always, many UAW members want more: more raises, more profit-sharing, more everything," Wayland complains.
By announcing that no new products would be allocated to the Detroit-Hamtramck, Lordstown, Ohio and Oshawa, Ontario assembly plants, he boasts, "GM is managing UAW members’ expectations" and "changing the narrative from members wanting more to potentially just wanting to save jobs and plants."
He quotes Kristin Dziczek of the corporate think tank Center for Automotive Research, who adds, "These are real stakes in front of the bargaining team next year for the negotiations. It might actually help the membership focus on jobs and survival more than getting more, more and more in terms of raises, benefits and bonuses."
Like the Mafia, the corporate executives are using the threat of plant closings, which would destroy tens of thousands of direct and related jobs and decimate entire communities, as a gun pointed at the heads of workers. Either they accept less pay, fewer benefits and conditions of industrial slavery or the workers and their families will starve.
This "bold message" is directed at rank-and-file workers, not the UAW or the Unifor union in Canada, which are co-conspirators in this extortion racket. Wayland expresses the hope of the auto bosses that the threatened shutdowns might help the UAW reassert its control over rebellious workers who see the union as nothing more than a corrupt tool of management.
GM’s announcement, he says, "could actually be a blessing in disguise for UAW leaders, who are fighting an internal battle with members following a federal corruption scandal. If union leaders can save one, maybe two plants, they could be seen as heroes instead of company pawns, a view of several recent UAW leaders painted by federal prosecutors."
Any deal the UAW signs to keep a factory open, however, will come at a huge cost to workers. Wayland writes. "If any of the plants are saved, union members should read the fine print in the contract. Expect GM to demand untraditional employment practices such as an increase in temporary, subcontracted or outsourced workers."
"The UAW already opened the door for the practice at Orion Assembly in suburban Detroit with an Autonomous Vehicle Memorandum of Understanding that allows the automaker to offer reduced wages and benefits for some jobs," Wayland writes. This is a reference to the secret deal signed by then UAW Vice President for GM Cindy Estrada that allowed GM to contract work out to its wholly owned subsidiary GM Subsystems, which pays vastly lower wages.
Wayland continues: "The reality is GM has too many plants, legacy costs that remain unacceptable, and it doesn't see crunching metal as a long-term opportunity for growth and profits. The company likely wants to close the plants but could be persuaded to change its mind under the right circumstances."
He concludes, "Collective bargaining between the UAW and Detroit automakers is a theatrical chess match. GM just raised the curtain with a bold move that sets the stage for the next year of negotiations."
Indeed, the contract "negotiations" are a well-orchestrated play where the performers pretend to represent antagonistic parties when in fact both the corporations and their bribed union "partners" are on the same side and workers are across the barricades on the other.
For the past 40 years, the UAW and its Canadian counterparts have asserted again and again that concessions were necessary to defend jobs. The companies, for their part, pocketed workers' givebacks and carried out mass layoffs and plant closings regardless.
It should be recalled that in the 2015 contract talks workers were overwhelmingly determined to win substantial wage increases after a seven-year freeze, restore the eight-hour day and abolish the hated two-tier wage and benefit system imposed in 2007 and expanded under Obama’s 2009 restructuring of GM and Chrysler. On the eve of the opening of talks, Ford announced it was shifting production of its Focus compact and C-Max hybrid and plug-in models to Mexico after 2018, threatening the jobs of more than 4,000 workers at its Michigan Assembly Plant in the Detroit suburb of Wayne.
When the UAW came back with a contract that maintained the two-tier system and other concessions, including a proposal to shift current workers onto a union-run health care program, Fiat Chrysler workers rebelled, voting down the contract by a 2-to-1 margin in the first defeat of a UAW-backed national contract in three decades. The UAW was able to ram through a slightly refurbished deal and similar ones at GM and Ford only by resorting to lies and threats of more plant closures and layoffs amid allegations by workers of outright vote-rigging.
After relying on the UAW to do its dirty work, the auto executives boasted to Wall Street that the 2015 contracts kept labor cost increases below the rate of inflation and would facilitate the layoff of workers by vastly increasing the number of temporary part-time workers, who could be fired at will with no cost to the employer. The UAW also signed separate “competitive” agreements that included a third and fourth tier of lower-paid workers, supposedly to keep several GM and Ford facilities open.
The Automotive News article is a statement right out of the horse’s mouth. The auto executives and the Wall Street financiers have no intention of granting the slightest concessions to workers even though the ruling class is choking on billions in profits. On the contrary, the corporate and financial oligarchy is reacting to the growth of strikes and mass protests against social inequality in the US and around the world by doubling down.
The GM plant closings must be fought. This struggle must be guided by the principle that a good-paying and secure job is non-negotiable and must be a social right guaranteed to all.
This fight will not be carried out by the corporate stooges in the UAW. Nor will the struggle be advanced by making fruitless appeals to Trump or the Democrats, who, despite their phony protests, defend the capitalist system and insist that the corporations have the right to throw workers onto the streets to defend their profits. The unions and the big business politicians want American and Canadian workers to blame workers in Mexico and China for this threat, not the capitalist owners.
If there is to be a struggle, and there must be, then it must be carried out by workers themselves. New organizations of struggle, factory and workplace committees, must be built that are independent of the corrupt unions and democratically controlled by rank-and-file workers themselves. These committees should link up workers across the targeted factories and the entire auto and auto parts industry throughout the US, Canada and other countries. They must unite with workers and young people in Detroit, the cities around the Lordstown plant, and in Oshawa, Ontario to fight.
As the brutal actions of GM make clear, this is a class struggle, a war between two irreconcilably opposed classes. The capitalist exploiters have thrown down the gauntlet. Now it is time for the working class to fight.
Should economic growth be policymakers’ top priority? In The Once and Future Worker, published earlier this month, I argue no. Growth is important, to be sure, and rising material living standards depend on it.But I propose what I call the
Working Hypothesis: that a labor market in which
workers can support strong families and
communities is the central determinant of long-
term prosperity, and should be the central focus of
public policy. “While growth is necessary to a
prosperous society,” I write, “it is not sufficient.
Not all growth is equally beneficial, and the
policy choices that yield the most immediate
short-term growth don’t necessarily prepare the
ground for sustained economic and social
Michael Strain and Jim Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute have taken offense to this suggestion, and have launched a series of heated rebuttals in defense of the honor of economic growth. “The only thing [the book] really demonstrates is that it’s devilishly difficult to make sense out of nonsense,” writes Pethokoukis. “And trying to do so forces one to embrace the absurd.” They accuse the book of being “anti-globalization,” though the first sentence of its chapter on globalization observes that “practical objections to ‘globalization’ tend to be quite narrow.” The book, again, purportedly “downplay[s] growth,” though its discussion of how best to understand prosperity emphasizes that “this isn’t to say that economic growth isn’t important; of course it is.”
These critics are fighting the last war, without showing a clear sense of where the current dispute lies. Both men insist repeatedly that growth leads to rising material living standards, especially when paired with rising redistribution, a point no one is questioning here. This is the classic idea of the “economic pie,” which policymakers seek to expand so that everyone can have a bigger slice. The Once and Future Worker’s core argument is that while this view—which I call Economic Piety—is self-evidently correct on its own terms, it is incorrect in the unstated assumption that present consumer welfare is the correct measure of prosperity.
Rather, I contend, work matters. People’s well-being is more closely tied to their productive capacity, and their commensurate ability to support their families and contribute to their communities, than it is to their level of consumption. Further, growth is itself an emergent property of a healthy society; insofar as the goal is to maximize long-term growth, all segments of society must remain engaged in a broad-based economy. We should not simply adopt the policies that appear most growth-friendly at a given moment in time, because ensuring wide participation in economic productivity is foundational to a healthy society, not a nice-to-have byproduct.
So when Strain and Pethokoukis affirm their correctness from within their own consumption-maximizing perspective, they miss the point. They repeatedly attribute positions to the book that it does not take, avoid quoting from it, criticize none of its actual policy proposals, and fail even to acknowledge the existence of the question whether Economic Piety or the Working Hypothesis offers a better way to understand prosperity. Compare Pethokoukis’s claim that I argue “globalization has brought only stagnant living standards” for the non-“elite” with the book’s text: “we got exactly what we thought we wanted: strong overall economic growth and a large GDP, rising material living standards…” But as the book’s next sentence notes, “we gave up something we took for granted: a labor market in which the nation’s diverse array of families and communities could support themselves.”
Focusing on concrete points of disagreement might help us avoid talking past each other. How, for example, should we understand the present condition of the American working class—roughly, those who have not earned a college degree? If our standard is material consumption, they have never been better off: virtually all of them have microwave ovens, mobile phones, and other consumer products. If our standard is supporting their families and communities through productive work, however, the past decade has been the worst of the post-war era. So, is the working class thriving or not? I think the evidence points clearly toward a crisis. The working class is beset by withdrawal from the labor force, family collapse, rising dependence on government programs, skyrocketing substance abuse and suicide rates, and declining life expectancy. On what basis should we say things are going well?
Second, is all growth of equal value? An aggregate measure of GDP or productivity obscures the question of who is producing or becoming more productive. If the least productive 20 percent of a nation’s workers drop out of the labor force entirely, but the most productive 20 percent double their productivity, GDP will be higher. Is the nation better off? I would say no. Do my critics disagree?
Regarding globalization, Strain and Pethokoukis take particular issue with my suggestion that trade and immigration may not be always beneficial. My view is that they can be beneficial, but balance matters. An international market in which America imports $50 billion of cars from Japan and sends back $50 billion of airplanes is healthy. But if we send back $50 billion of IOUs (i.e., Treasury bonds) instead, American workers lose and the American economy suffers. Do my critics see these transactions as comparable, and voice no preference between them? Likewise, immigrants bring many positive assets to America, but adding unskilled workers to a labor market struggling to accommodate those already here is a mistake. Do Strain and Pethokoukis believe high levels of unskilled immigration have been and will continue to be superior to a skills-based system, either for American workers, or our long-run economic growth?
Obviously, there is much to discuss. I hope Strain and Pethokoukis will answer these questions and perhaps pose some of their own, but that in doing so they will take the time to understand what The Once and Future Worker actually says, and how it differs from their own views.
One million dead from suicide, drug overdoses since 2007
Casualties of the social counterrevolution in America
1 December 2018
This year’s report on mortality rates released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveal that the American working class is confronting an unprecedented social, economic, health and psychological crisis.
The CDC’s findings show a staggering increase in the indices of social misery in just one year, from 2016 to 2017.
Life expectancy dropped from 78.7 to 78.6 years, the third consecutive year-by-year decline.
The age-adjusted death rate increased 0.4 percent, from 728.8 deaths per 100,000 people to 731.9 per 100,000 (including a 2.9 percent increase among young people aged 25-34).
Drug overdose deaths increased 9.6 percent (including a 45 percent increase in deaths from fentanyl). Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for those under 55.
Suicide rates increased in 2017 by 3.7 percent, from 13.5 per 100,000 to 14.0 per 100,000.
The report’s historical figures quantify the devastating impact on the working class of the financial crash of 2007-2008 and its aftermath.
From 2007 to 2017, suicide deaths rose from 34,598 to 47,173, a 36.3 percent increase.
Drug overdose deaths nearly doubled, rising 95.0 percent, from 36,010 in 2007 to 70,237 in 2017.
The total dead from suicide and drug overdose since 2007 alone is 954,365 people—equivalent to the population of America’s 10th largest city. This is more than the total number of US soldiers killed in all of America’s wars, excluding the Civil War. With 2018 nearly complete, the total dead has now likely crossed one million people.
The response of the political establishment to the report is entirely predictable: an article or two in the major newspapers, a quick segment on the evening news, and maybe a tweet from a handful of politicians.
But everyone knows that nothing will be done. The stock prices of the corporations peddling pills to disabled veterans and injured workers will continue to rise. By tomorrow, the CDC reports will be long forgotten, buried beneath the ruling class’s anti-Russia and anti-China campaigns, #MeToo hysteria, and demands for internet censorship.
The cause of the deaths of 100,000 people per year from social misery is not a great mystery. It is the product of the capitalist system and the intended result of policies of deindustrialization and social counterrevolution carried out for more than four decades by both the Democrats and Republicans, in collaboration with the trade unions.
This is a widely recognized fact among medical professionals. A 2018 study published by the American Journal of Public Health titled “Opioid Crisis: No Easy Fix to its Social and Economic Determinants” blames “a multi-decade rise in income inequality and economic shocks stemming from deindustrialization and social safety net cuts” for growing differences in life expectancy between the rich and the poor.
In particular, the study notes the devastating impact of the massive wealth transfer carried out by the Obama administration after the 2008 financial crash. “The 2008 financial crisis along with austerity measures and other neo-liberal policies have further eroded physical and mental well-being,” the report states.
While the banks and corporations received trillions in bailouts, millions of workers lost their homes, their jobs and their sense of dignity and purpose.
Last Monday, when General Motors announced that it was closing five auto plants and laying off 15,000 workers in the US and Canada, its stock soared nearly 7 percent. For the company’s affluent shareholders—including the bureaucracy of the United Auto Workers union (UAW)—this news means longer and more exclusive vacations, new and more expensive cars and homes, and plenty of jewelry and champagne for the holidays.
But for autoworkers, their families and the millions of residents of the impacted areas, it means desperation, drug addiction and death.
Those cities impacted by the GM plant closures—including Detroit and its Warren, Michigan suburb, White Marsh, Maryland and Lordstown, Ohio—are already among the most horribly affected by the opioid crisis after decades of cuts to jobs, wages and social services. The difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest 25 percent is already 6.7 years in Youngstown, Ohio, near Lordstown. In metro Detroit the difference is 8.2 years.
GM’s move was hailed by the corporate press. The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post (owned respectively by the multibillionaires Rupert Murdoch and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos) praised the decision as a stroke of genius. Automotive News named company CEO Mary Barra “Industry Leader of the Year.”
The duplicitous and staged anger among a relative handful of Democrats, Republicans and UAW officials to GM’s move is totally fraudulent. All those politicians and union bureaucrats who are pounding the podium with one hand are accepting company payoffs with the other.
GM gave billionaire CEO Donald Trump $25,000 for his 2016 presidential run and he reciprocated with massive tax cuts for corporations and the rich. That same year, GM gave more money to Bernie Sanders ($33,000) than to any other senator. In 2018, GM contributed to the campaigns of a majority of those elected to the House and Senate, in equal parts Democratic and Republican.
As for the UAW, this organization of bribe-takers and company agents is responsible for decades of concessions, which have transformed auto towns like Dayton, Toledo and Kokomo from relatively comfortable communities to epicenters of the opioid crisis. In return, the union bosses have been well compensated. A growing list of current and former UAW officials is under federal investigation for accepting bribes from GM, Fiat-Chrysler and Ford in exchange for helping the companies increase exploitation and cut labor costs.
Under capitalism, the working class is entirely excluded from the decision-making process. The political establishment makes nothing available to help the victims of factory closures and deindustrialization, leaving them to die.
Instead of meeting the needs of the working class, the ruling class pockets the wealth created by workers and allocates trillions of dollars to the military and intelligence agencies so that they can implement through military force the demands of the banks and corporations.
The Trump administration cut more than $200 million from health programs to help pay the cost of locking up 14,000 working-class children from Central America, whose only “crime” was to flee their impoverished homelands in search of a better life.
In September, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it was transferring $16.7 million from the CDC, $9.8 million from Medicare and Medicaid, $87.3 million from the National Institute of Health and $80 million from refugee care to establish internment camps for immigrant children. And Trump wants workers to believe that immigrants—and not the government and corporations—are to blame for plant shutdowns and cuts to wages and social programs!
The CDC reports provide a quantitative expression of the immense social anger and desperation that have built up in the working class, for which there has been no progressive outlet. The decades-long suppression of the class struggle imposed by the trade unions has forced workers to channel their anger inward, and in their isolation, many are taking self-destructive measures.
But this long period of one-sided class war is coming to a close. This year, which has seen a major increase in strike activity, is only the beginning of a new period that will be marked by increasingly powerful strikes and protests in the US and internationally.
Workers must build their own organizations—rank-and-file committees—to unite and coordinate their struggles across industries and national boundaries. In this way, workers can harness their collective social dissatisfaction and channel it in a political direction in the struggle against capitalism and for socialism. By unleashing their immense social power, workers will storm the commanding heights of the capitalist system and free up trillions of dollars to meet the urgent needs of the human race.