Why Our Generation’s Best Chance Is Socialism

You don’t need a $200,000 college degree to know when you’re getting screwed.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sarah Leonard, Bhaskar Sunkara / The Nation

Emphasis Mine

Every election season is a time of bemoaning why millennials won’t vote for politicians boldly committed to picking at the edges of their problems. Consider a snapshot of the situation young people face: the unemployment rate for workers under age 25 is 18.1 percent; unemployment for black people who have not graduated from high school is 82.5 percent; the people most likely to be shot by police are black 25–34-year-olds; the national student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion; and the only jobs lucrative enough to pay off college loans are in the financial industry that detonated our economy or Silicon Valley companies deregulating working-class industries.

The future doesn’t hold much hope either, with median household income declining 12.4 percent between 2000 and 2011. Having a family is simply harder to afford now. Meanwhile, each new year sets another low record for union density, meaning we have few levers for turning those income numbers around. Unlike most wealthy countries, the United States lacks universal childcare and maternity leave, so women are stuck with the same old debates over an impossible work-life balance.

We were told that in the knowledge economy good jobs followed higher education; there are few jobs, and we lock ourselves into miserable ones as quickly as possible to feed the loan sharks. The magazine writers who report on self-indulgent 20-somethings (think Time’s “The Me Me Me Generation” cover), the well-meaning guidance counselors who coach kids to “invest in themselves”—they should save their breath. You don’t need a college course to know when you’re getting screwed.
The most grotesque feature of the 2016 election is the razor-thin spectrum of solutions proposed by the front-runners to a historic set of problems. Lost in the noise of the 2016 election cycle is the fact hat no viable candidate offers any hope for a radically more equal society:(N.B.: I feel the Bern, and don’t agree) The policies on offer would merely mitigate the dire inequality that has been growing since Reagan. And this is despite the fact that a majority of Americans express widespread discontent with the country’s extreme consolidation of wealth: about three in four Americans think that inequality is a serious problem in the United States. (This places Americans in the mainstream of world opinion, where in all 44 nations polled by Pew, people think inequality is a big problem facing their countries.) It is this popular dissatisfaction that no doubt accounts for the unexpected surge of support for the unlikely long-shot Democratic candidate, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist. (N.B.: I feel the Bern, and don’t agree)

Indeed, the most obvious source of this election’s futility is that popular opinion, expressed through elections, has essentially proved to have no influence on policy. According to a now-famous 2014 Princeton and Northwestern study measuring influence in American politics, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” On key issues like gun control, financial reform, and education spending, the policy-makers’ divergence from popular opinion has been particularly stark. The United States is now, in effect, an oligarchy. Beyond this sad reckoning lies an even more fundamental problem: There is no better alternative on offer. We need a vision of a better future, one that turns our modern capacity for abundant food, shelter, and health into a guarantee that no one will suffer for their lack.

So when people demand that we vote, you can see why the answer comes back: For what?

The economic crash was not just an ugly fluctuation that we’re all trying in good faith to correct. It has provided cover for neoliberal benefit rollbackscutting government services in the name of budget crises—in which all of these candidates have participated. Vulnerable people who need the services the most get screwed first: the young, the old, the poor. Eligibility for unemployment benefits has been tightened and opportunities to extend them rejected because we “can’t afford them.”

A college education is edging beyond reach for many of us. In 2012, Congress restricted Pell grants for low-income college students. While national student debt has surpassed $1 trillion, the federal government has made it impossible to default on these college loans—even your Social Security can be garnished to pay them off. And before students even make it to college, they are subjected to schools with such attenuated budgets that physicians have started prescribing Adderall to poor kids to keep them focused in unruly classrooms, whether they have ADD or not. In the words of one doctor, “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Perhaps it’s wise to modify the kid for the brave new world that will await her: one with constantly shifting and disappearing jobs and no safety net of any kind. It is a truism now that no one expects one career. Most people now in college or high school will have six jobs by the time they’re 26. And let us not mistake flexible work for fulfilling work. This is an age when the power of the boss is so ascendant over the power of the worker that we can be shuffled around to match precisely the needs of capital. Department stores and retailers now use apps that will inform an employee midway through a workday if their services are no longer needed to match customer demand. About half of early-career hourly workers learn their schedule for the week less than one week in advance. A full day’s work, or a “steady” job, is a thing of the past. This is a chronically unstable way to operate in the world, picking up bits of knowledge work, service work, or manual labor as needed.

When asked what factors led to such a dramatic divide between the needs of the average citizen and the actions of the state, Princeton sociologist Martin Gilens, co-author of the 2014 study measuring influence in American politics, cited moneyed lobbying on the one hand, and “the lack of mass organizations that represent and facilitate the voice of ordinary citizens,” on the other. “Part of that would be the decline of unions in the country, which has been quite dramatic over the last 30 or 40 years,” Gilens added. “And part of it is the lack of a socialist or a worker’s party.”

It is not only in the United States that unions are crumbling and the safety net is being torched in the name of leaner, more responsible budgets. The eurozone, which was once touted as the means to a prosperous and peaceful continent, has revealed itself to be nothing more than a continental system of extraction.

Poor countries in Southern Europe borrowed money from foreign banks before the devastating financial crisis of 2010, only to find themselves unable to pay them back. To protect the euro, much of this debt was restructured and taken over by the troika—the International Monetary Fund, European Commission, and the European Central Bank—that then forced countries such as Greece, Spain, and Italy to cut social spending to pay off the debts. Now in Greece, for example, unemployment has hit 25 percent in part because of huge public-sector cuts, and suicide, addiction, and infant mortality are all on the rise because the troika has required cuts in healthcare spending.

For examples of turning radical ideas into platforms for power, we might consider the rise of radical European parties in opposition to this sort of austerity—examples of Gilens’ counterweights to oligarchy. As we write, these parties are being buffeted by international creditors and may collapse, but they have far outpaced Americans in organizing militant-left institutions. Greece elected Syriza, the first radical leftist, anti austerity party to hold power within the EU. Syriza entered government promising to defy troika mandates and leave debt unpaid rather than starve Greeks. They promised, as well, greater democracy in the workplace, supporting enterprises such as the national television station, which had come under worker control during the crisis. In Spain, the Indignados movement, a sort of  precursor to Occupy in the United States, has transformed into a political party called Podemos. They, too, promise to defy EU austerity measures, root out corruption, and devolve more democracy to local councils. These parties are quite different from each other, the former born from a fusion of radical-left forces and the other out of a haphazard and less ideologically coherent coalition of regional groups. They will not solve the crisis right away, and may even disintegrate under pressure from the troika, but they provide an example of organizing successfully for power.

The United States has shown glimmers of such radical potential. The surge of youth politicization embodied by Occupy injected class into our public debate back in 2011 and formed connections with antiausterity movements across the world, especially with the Spanish Indignados. More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement for racial justice has forced the whole country to confront not only the violence that oppresses black people in America but also the recession that black America has suffered since 2001. Parts of the movement are putting forward economic programs. Like Occupy, Black Lives Matter eschews centralized leadership in favor of a more horizontal structure that privileges local autonomy. On December 13, 2014, some 30,000 people marched through New York City in honor of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and other black victims of police brutality, creating a new normal in the public’s response: Today, police shootings, which are no more prevalent than before, regularly make headline news and inspire mass protests. One of President Barack Obama’s last acts in office will be limiting military equipment for police departments; his reform barely scratches the surface of the problems with American policing, but is one of the first tangible results of the movement at the federal level. No change would be on the agenda without pressure from the new organization.

Young activists in the United States are embedded in other rising leftist forces as well. Fight for 15 is a low-wage workers’ movement that started with promising victories for fast-food workers and has most recently achieved a previously unthinkable $15 minimum wage for all of Los Angeles. The domestic workers’ movement, almost entirely run by and representing immigrant women of color, has organized to achieve a domestic workers’ bills of rights—which includes the right to overtime, days off, and legal protection from sexual harassment—in New York, California, Massachusetts, and Hawaii. The debt-abolition movement, which emerged from Occupy, has recently been the undoing of Corinthian Colleges, a shady for-profit education company that ripped off thousands of students, a few of whom, in an act of economic disobedience, are now refusing to pay their student debts in protest. The immigrants’ rights movement has been tremendously brave, with many young people taking leadership roles and exposing themselves to potential deportation. All of these organizations have enormous challenges ahead of them, especially because most are reliant on centralized labor union and foundation funding and are not self-sustaining through dues or other traditional labor methods. They also represent a tiny fraction of citizens, even as they point to creative ways forward.

So where does that leave us? Some across left-of-center American politics have stepped forward to condemn the new activism. If the reaction to Occupy was “What are your demands?”—shorthand for “show us your reasonable think tank–approved white papers”—then the reaction to Black Lives Matter has not been far off. Establishment liberals such as Al Sharpton have condemned the movement for lacking leaders and have demanded a focus on voter registration and mobilization. Black voter registration did surge in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown’s killing by police officer Darren Wilson, but in the poignant words of one activist and scholar, “Voting would not have saved Michael Brown.” Certainly, voting for Obama has produced little change, either in the treatment of black people by the police and the criminal-justice system, or for students and their chronic state of debt, or for the falling incomes of ordinary workers.

The unimaginative stance of established politicos demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of grassroots politics. Protests don’t write policy in their first months, but rather shift conversations and tell everyone suffering through American capitalism that they are not alone. More important, all of these movements for change ultimately have one focus: on redistribution—of wealth, power, and justice. Their decentralized structures pose challenges, and are sometimes liabilities, but they indicate a real hunger for democracy, one that may manifest itself differently in the future.

In fact, according to a 2011 Pew poll, a higher percentage of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 have a more favorable opinion of socialism than of capitalism. This points to a tremendous churn of radical potential, and while we should not get too utopian about its imminent triumph, it is crucial that we, like the rising European parties, articulate the sort of world we would like to see, the world that no leading candidates have promised. This is a world that could only be born with the force of social movements at its back.

It is time, in other words, for ideas big enough to be worthy of the global discontent that put them on the agenda. The ideas in this volume draw on a rich tradition of socialist proposals, long a force in American politics, only recently quashed into obscurity. It’s easy to forget that socialist presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs won almost a million votes, twice. Or that hundreds of mayors and local officials were socialists in the first half of the 20th century, and that Milwaukee elected three “sewer socialist” mayors, the last as late as 1956. Even today, the Senate boasts a self-described democratic socialist, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. This is not a strain alien to American soil—despite the neo-McCarthyite language of the Republican Party. The modern GOP accuses every Democrat of being a socialist (we wish!) and slurs progressive taxation, universal healthcare, and a host of other decent policies as “foreign” and “European” in order to cast suspicion on anyone left of center.

We propose an alternative vision—both reformist and revolutionary, utopian and pragmatic. Leftists have often shied away from suggesting blueprints, thinking them undemocratic. But proposing a course isn’t the same thing as imposing one. If the movements we’ve embraced in the past couple of years are worth taking seriously, it’s because they can form the political basis for social plans. People want to know that there is another way.

The openness of young people to socialism may indicate two things: They are fed up with being repeatedly let down by capitalism; and people who came to political consciousness after 1989 do not have a vision of socialism heavily influenced by the Cold War. When the economic crisis hit, there was a resurgence of casual interest in Marx, with headlines like “Why Marxism Is on the Rise Again” and “A Generation of Intellectuals Shaped by 2008 Crash Rescues Marx From History’s Dustbin.” Some Black Lives Matter activists have taken up the mantle of the Black Panthers, whose vision of socialism confronted centuries of racist exploitation. Newfound engagement resulted from attempts to describe what was happening to us, and Marxism—which describes a system designed to produce expropriation at the bottom and growing windfalls at the top—suddenly seemed more convincing than liberal fumbling to explain how Democratic policies generated by people such as former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers could have contributed to the disastrous crash.

The socialism we envision, and toward which we take some first steps toward describing, is one that prizes democracy, striving always for the sort of mass redistribution that makes individual human flourishing possible. Our goal is an economic democracy that produces more freedom than we could ever hope for under our current system.

Sarah Leonard is a senior editor at The Nation and co-editor of “The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for a New Century”. She is a contributing editor to Dissent and The New Inquiry.

Bhaskar Sunkara is the editor of Jacobin.

See:http://www.alternet.org/why-our-generations-best-chance-socialism?akid=13972.123424.wi7mbf&rd=1&src=newsletter1050646&t=10

The 6 Biggest Lies About the U.S. Debt

As Congress nears a vote on the various debt ceiling deals, let’s look at the lies and misinformation that got us into this mess.

From Alternet, by Arun Gupta

“There is one simple truth about the discussion of the looming U.S. debt crisis: it is largely a compendium of half-truths, distortions, myths and outright lies.”

“For example, is it true that the U.S. debt is unsustainable, which is spurring the budget-cutting fever? Far from it. While U.S. debt is at one of its highest levels ever in terms of gross domestic product, the interest payments in 2011 on the  $14.3 trillion public debt will be a mere $386 billion. This is barely more than the $364 billion paid way back in 1998. In real terms, the U.S. economy has grown nearly 30 percent since then. Rock-bottom interest rates on U.S. government debt account for the low payments today, but the practical effect is that servicing the debt as a percentage of GDP is the lowest it’s been in decades.

Or what about hysterical headlines like “U.S. Debt Default Looms” (courtesy of NPR) unless Democrats and Republicans agree to raise the debt ceiling? They are completely untrue. Richard Wolff, professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, says, if there is no agreement by Aug. 2 to allow the U.S. Treasury to borrow more funds, then “the government instead would choose among cutbacks on various expenditures such as state and local aid, medical aid, for war, for infrastructure. It would extraordinarily unusual for a government in such a situation to attack its creditors.”

If no deal on the debt ceiling is reached this sucks for the rest of us, such as the millions depending on their portion of the $23 billion in Social Security payments scheduled for Aug. 3. A short delay would do no serious harm, but a longer delay, perhaps just a week or two, would be devastating.

For one, removing income support payments would have a major ripple effect in our consumer-based economy. Spending would drop precipitously on items like food, medicine, transportation, clothing and household goods. Peter Bratsis, a professor of Political Theory at the University of Salaford in England and a Greek-American, says his home country is a cautionary tale. Speaking from Greece, Bratsis said since the debt crisis hit last summer many people’s income have dropped up to 25 percent as wages, pensions and social welfare have been sacrificed to please the banks. As a result “Greece is in an economic depression. In Athens, on every block, you have shuttered bakeries, cafes, shoe stores, plumbers and other small businesses that are closed because either people don’t have the money to spend or are afraid to spend.”

Second, says Wolff, “The U.S. Government is one of the largest buyers, if not the largest purchaser of commodities in the world of oil, of computers, of weapons. In an already shaky global economy, the biggest buyer of goods would be making cutbacks. This would be stupefyingly dumb.” He adds that by playing chicken with the national debt, Washington has already irreparably wounded the economy. “The world depends on the U.S. economy running smoothly. A default would lead governments and companies to rethink their relation to the United States, and this has already happened.”

The point is while the dangers are rife in a delay in raising the debt ceiling the doomsday scenario of a government default on debt is not going to occur. The creditors will be kept happy and there will be no default because that is how government works in a capitalist economy. And even if the impasse dragged on, the Fed could dip into its $550 billion in reserves, including more than $400 billion in gold at current prices, to keep making debt payments.

One blatant lie is that Republicans and Democrats, the Congress and the White House are serious about reining in budget deficits to reduce the long-term debt. They are not. The Congressional Budget Office calculates that the deficit from 2011 to 2013 will be $3.5 trillion. Over the decade it will be $8.5 trillion. Now, lots of numbers are being thrown about on spending cuts over a 10-year period, but they keep dropping – the Senate Democrats are proposing $2.2 trillion in cuts and costs savings while the Republicans weigh in at $915 billion.

Cutting one or two hundred billion dollars a year is meaningless. Wolff says, “Even if you cut the debt $300 billion, you are left with an enormous annual deficit that adds hugely to the national debt they all claim to care so much about. It gives lie to the idea that the Republicans and Democrats are interested in trying to cut the national debt.”

If you really believe shrinking the debt is an imperative, then there are easier ways to do it then stealing grandma’s meds. The Bush wars and tax cuts – which are still going – cost $3.3 trillion from 2002 to 2009. Cutting the trillion-dollar war budget in half, ending the Bush tax cuts (which Obama could have done with no sweat when he was bursting with political capital in early 2009 or by calling the GOP bluff before or after the 2010 midterm elections) and raising tax rates on corporations would pretty much wipe out the deficit over the next decade. In the case of corporate taxes, during the last decade it averaged only 10.7 percent of federal revenues – and since 2008 it’s shrunk to barely 5 percent – versus 29.8 percent in the 1950s.

Of course, the stand-off is based on another lie: that Congress and Obama administration can enforce cuts over a 10-year period. The budget process is an annual exercise. There is no provision whatsoever to make cuts permanent because they can always be undone by Congress, and taxes can always be lowered or costly new wars started, both of which always seem to happen, widening the deficit once more.

There is no end to the falsehoods and fantasies from the chattering classes. “We are in recovery.” So says Ben Bernanke – since 2009 no less. Obama has been saying the same since 2010, while hedging that it is “painfully slow.” Really? Tell that to the 25 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or have dropped out of the labor force. This amounts to an unemployment rate of16.2 percent, but the real rate is probably closer to 20 percent after factoring in youth unable to enter the workforce or those who have taken early retirement. Or try telling the 100 million Americans who are effectively caught in poverty (using far more realistic measures than the government does) or the 6.5 million households with mortgages that are delinquent or in foreclosure that we are in recovery.

The notion we are in recovery is based on believing the downturn was “the Great Recession,” a distortion the New York Times helped spread. Paul Krugman is one of the few mainstream commentators saying that not only is there no end in sight to the four-year-long slump, let’s give it a more accurate label such as, “the Lesser Depression.” Suppose the corporate media had been saying “Depression” for the last few years. It would have bolstered support for extraordinary measures to dig out of an extraordinary crisis, such as policies that did work during the last depression: jobs programs, infrastructure, social welfare, stronger labor rights and aid to local governments. But this would mean redistribution of wealth downwards instead of upwards. Therefore, saying recession makes it sound part of the normal boom-and-bust cycle, one we will overcome through the magic of the market as we have so many times before.

We can then move on to the recovery phase, which means getting our economic house in order by reducing the debt, a lie told by Serious People whether pundits, politicians or experts. We are being led to think the wisest course is repeating the major mistake of the Great Depression – enforcing austerity in a deep economic funk. When the New York Times backs huge cuts to social spending, you can be sure the rest of the media assumes squeezing the poor and middle class harder is the tonic for economic health. Sure, the Times may sniffle that Obama’s stunning offer to hack $650 billion from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security was “overly generous” to Republicans but that is just code for “we in the liberal penthouse support it with mild reservations.” On the other side of the media aisle, the Wall Street Journal endorsed the Republican sadism, saying that none of the critics on the right offer “anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan.”

This is what passes for the range of opinion in the two most esteemed newspapers in the country. That’s because we are still in thrall of the biggest lie of all – market fundamentalism. An eternity ago, in 2009, Newsweek declared, “We Are All Socialists Now.” They were right, but only in the way America has always been socialists: we socialize the rich when they lose money, and then we socialize their ability to profit. (The esteemed economic historian Karl Polanyi argued “laissez-faire was planned.” By that, he meant profit-making depends on government regulation of land, labor, finance and the environment. On top of that, there are outright transfers of wealth that occur during wars, infrastructure building and as part of social reforms, such as the railways, the Cold War, Medicare, the internet, and the bank bailouts.)

Thus, the debate is about differing Democratic and Republican visions on which parts of the welfare state should be sent to the glue factory. “We all must sacrifice,” is the mantra. Never mind that the effect on the national debt will be laughably small. Slashing $650 billion from entitlements – Obama’s burnt offering – will nick a miniscule 3 percent off the national debt by 2020, while the suffering will be enormous. But we must do it to appease the markets.

Pleasing the markets means pleasing the credit rating agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch – an example of cult-like devotion in which the elite command us to drink the Kool-Aid. Like a death watch, the media turn anxiously to the rating agencies to ask the condition of U.S. government debt. Are they going to downgrade it, which would mean higher interest rates and an even bigger debt problem? This is one more big lie as Japan’s huge debt – more than twice the size of U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP – was downgraded in January and “there was no negative impact at all,” according to one analyst.

But first let’s go to the tape and review how the big three credit rating agencies inflated the mortgage bubble. The bubble was driven by the banking industry’s insatiable appetite for debt, the repackaging of dicey mortgages into profitable securities. The agencies, especially Moody’s and S&P, gave investment-grade ratings to almost any sack of residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO) that passed across their desks. By law, banks, pension funds, insurance companies and other institutional investors need investment-grade ratings on these securities to hold them. Since the rating agencies were paid by the issuers, they were raking in the cash by gold-plating shit. Moody’s revenue on these securities quadrupled from over $61 million in 2002 to over $260 million by 2006. For S&P, it went from $64 million to $265 million for CDOs in the same four years and from $184 million in 2002 to $561 million in 2007 for RMBSs.

Don’t think they didn’t know exactly what they were doing. At S&P, one manager emailed a co-worker in December 2006, “Let’s hope we are all retired and wealthy before this house of cards falters.” Then, according to a U.S. Senate report, the ratings firm triggered the financial collapse by downgrading huge amounts of these securities from AAA to junk. In one day, on Jan. 30, 2008, S&P downgraded an astonishing 6,300 ratings. In 18 months the two firms downgraded more securities than they had done in their entire 90-year histories. Once the securities turned to junk, the big players could no longer hold them, which burst the bubble as they were sold in a panic and losses began mounting on the bank’s balance sheets.

We know the rest of the story – the financial collapse, the trillions in bailouts and credit lines, the lack of punishment for executives at any of these firms, the return to obscene profits a year later, the de-fanging of any credible reform. But now, we are being told, the rating agencies word on debt is the word of God.

This time, S&P is not so much looking for a fast buck as nakedly pushing an agenda. In a blatant lie, S&P President Deven Sharma, who was summoned to testify before a House subcommittee on financial oversight on July 27, said his firm was “misquoted” in demanding $4 trillion in cuts and unctuously preached that ratings should be free of politics.

What happened is two weeks earlier, on July 14, S&P issued a detailed statement, explaining that it was placing both long-term and short-term U.S. debt “on CreditWatch with negative implications.” It explained that “there is an increasing risk of a substantial policy stalemate enduring beyond any near-term agreement to raise the debt ceiling.”

It did offer a safe passage. S&P said that if “an agreement would be enacted and maintained throughout the decade” to realize “budget savings of $4 trillion,” then “other things unchanged” it could affirm the stellar ratings on both short- and long-term U.S. debt. But, it warned, any “credible” agreement “would require support from leaders of both political parties.”

S&P knew exactly what it was saying. The only budget number it mentioned (three times) was $4 trillion. By saying both parties needed to sign on to an agreement to be credible, it knew the Republican agenda of strangling the last of social welfare would triumph. And by issuing the statement in the heat of negotiations, it threw its lot in with the Tea Party mob.

S&P was telling Capitol Hill to drive a stake through the heart of the welfare state. To let us peasants know we must till the corporate fields until the day we die. Otherwise, the credit rating deities will rain downgrades upon our heads, blighting the land for future generations.

We must pay now and forever. That is the truth, a truth so crude and cartoonish it seems comical. Which is why we need so many lies.

Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper. He is writing a book on the decline of American Empire for Haymarket Books.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/151827/the_6_biggest_lies_about_the_u.s._debt?akid=7335.123424.kt7uO7&rd=1&t=2

Reviving the Middle Class

The biggest victim of the wealth redistribution that has been occurring since 1980 is the middle class.

Robert Borosage in HuffPost: ”

We can’t go back to the old economy. That economy — marked by booms and busts, Gilded Age inequality, declining wages, growing household debts, and unsustainable trade deficits — didn’t work very well for most Americans. President Obama is faced with the difficult task of creating the structure for the new economy even as he works to lift us out of the collapse of the old.

That’s why his stunning budget calls for health care reform, ending our addiction to oil and investing in education as both a way out of the mess and a down payment on the future. His pace is as unrelenting as the crisis. Next up: reviving America’s middle class, insuring that once growth returns, its blessings are widely shared. And the centerpiece of that is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

EFCA helps revive the right of workers to organize in this country. Over the last decades, that basic right has been shredded, as companies waged open warfare on union organizing, and administrations often failed to enforce the laws protecting that right. The tactics were bare knuckle: fire the organizers; hold closed door meetings to threaten the workers. And if workers did vote for a union, one-third of employers simply refused to negotiate a contract with them.

The campaigns have been brutally successful. Today, over a majority of workers say that they would join a union if given a choice, but only about 7.5% of the private workforce is organized.”

The median income of Americans homes – in current dollars – is less than it was 3o years ago.  In his widely read work: “The Affluent Society”, economist John Kenneth Galbraith gives credit to strong unions for negotiating wages which built the middle class.  (That was published in 1958 – in case one has a disconnect with the title and the current state of our bushconomy…)

see; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-l-borosage/obamas-next-gauntlet-revi_b_171610.html