Capitalism and Economy en Stocks and other financial markets in sharp decline <p>San José, CA - On Tuesday, November 20, stocks and other financial markets staged a broad retreat. Stocks tumbled for a second day in a row, wiping out virtually the gains for 2018. The broad S&amp;P 500 index of 500 large corporate stocks fell 1.8% and is now down 10% from its record high set in October. But the downturn went far beyond the stock market. Oil prices fell more than 6%, while corporate bonds also fell, pushing up interest rates. Bitcoin prices took another hit, falling to $4200, almost 80% down from its high less than a year ago.</p> <p>Despite record corporate profits boosted by the Trump and Republicans’ corporate tax cut, the markets are looking at a perfect storm of economic problems. The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, is raising interest rates, pushing down corporate bond prices. This is turning off the tap of cheap credit that fueled corporate profits. The housing market is showing growing signs of weakness as rising prices and mortgage interest rates make homes more and more unaffordable. Big corporations such as Apple, General Electric and Target are reporting disappointing sales after years of strong growth.</p> <p>It was not just the U.S. stock market, as stocks lost ground from Asia to Europe to Latin America. Economic weakness is showing in both Japan and Germany, the second and third largest capitalist economies, which both contracted in the third quarter (July to September) of this year. There is increasing concern over the Trump administration’s escalating trade war with China, which is throwing a wrench into the increasingly globalized economy.</p> <p>There are growing worries that the weaknesses across many financial market may be signaling an economic slowdown next year. There are also other signs, such as growing debt problems among U.S. households that may signal fewer purchases in the future.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy stock market Wed, 21 Nov 2018 14:35:49 +0000 Fight Back 7096 at Stock market falls again as GDP report shows economic weakness <p>San José, CA - On Friday, October 26, the U.S. stock market fell again. The broadest measure of U.S. stocks, the S&amp;P 500, which measures the prices of 500 of the largest corporations in the United States, fell 1.7%, ending the day below where it started the year in January. One of the hardest hit stocks was Amazon, which fell almost 8% on Friday, down nearly 20% since it hit a high in September, giving the corporation a market value of $1 trillion.</p> <p>On Friday morning the Department of Commerce released its latest report on Gross Domestic Product or GDP for the July through September period. While President Trump hailed the headline figure of 3.5% growth in GDP, there were serious signs of weakness in the quarterly report. Most the of the growth (2.1% of the 3.5%) actually came from a buildup of inventories of goods on shelves and in warehouses, not from actually selling more goods and services. GDP measures the production of goods and services, but products that are not sold can pull down future production as businesses try to reduce their stocks of inventories.</p> <p>The latest GDP report also showed that investment spending on business plant and equipment and residential structures (homes, townhomes, condos, and apartments) actually fell from July through September. While the fall was small (less than one-tenth of one percent), it is the first drop in three years. For investment to fall at a time when the economy is booming and corporations are flush with cash from the big corporate tax cuts that went into effect this year is a sign that businesses don’t think that the good times will continue. While the stock market itself is a poor indicator of the future of the economy, almost every recession since World War II (when the government began collecting more economic data) has been led by a fall in business spending on structures and equipment or in housing construction.</p> <p>The biggest fall was in the construction of new residences, which has been hard hit by rising interest rates and increases in home prices that have raced ahead of smaller gains in wages. Investment spending in new residences has now fallen for three quarters (nine months) in a row and the decline seems to be picking up. The decline in business structures (factories, offices and other commercial buildings) was even bigger but offset by an increase in spending on computer software. </p> <p>The weaknesses in the GDP report just add to the list of worries about the economy. The number of corporations beating their sales estimates has been falling, adding another concern to the stock market. Trump’s trade war with China is set to escalate in January, when tariffs on about half of all imports from China jump from 10% to 25%. Worries about debt are on the rise, from countries like Argentina and Turkey, which borrowed big-time in U.S. dollars to the ballooning market for so-called ‘leveraged loans,’ made by non-banks to corporations and now estimated at more than $1.6 trillion.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy GDP s&p 500 stock market Sat, 27 Oct 2018 20:26:23 +0000 Fight Back 7037 at Budget deficit soars as the Republican corporate tax cut takes hold <p>San Jose, CA - On October 15, the U.S. Treasury department said that the federal government budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2018 soared 17% from the previous year, to $779 billion. This was equal to 3.9% of the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, the official measure of total production of goods in services in the United States in a year.</p> <p>The growing deficit was driven by the December 2017 corporate tax cut, as corporate income tax revenues fell 31% despite booming profits. In contrast, individual income tax revenues actually rose 1%, showing again that the December 2017 tax cut was all about cutting taxes for big business, not for workers.</p> <p>U.S. government spending also rose, with the most important being interest on the debt and more military spending. Interest payments went up $65 billion, 14% more than the year before as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates. Military spending went up $32 billion, 6% more than the year before as the U.S. strains to prepare for wars in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and even Europe to defend the U.S. empire.</p> <p>What is most striking about the growing federal government budget deficit is that it is happening in a time where the official unemployment rate is below 4%. The last time that this happened in 2000, under President Clinton, the federal budget was in a surplus equal to 2.3% of GDP. Adjusted for inflation and economic growth, this is equivalent to tax revenues exceeding spending by $450 billion! Before that, in 1969, the federal government budget surplus was smaller, at only 0.3% of GDP or $60 billion today. But this was during Vietnam War, which was much more expensive than all the wars that the U.S. has going today.</p> <p>Tax cuts for corporations and the rich have been done before by the Republicans. Under Reagan, the Republicans promised that lower taxes would increase tax revenues. Instead the budget deficit soared and the Republicans used this to try to take a knife to carve away at social programs. Last year Trump and the Republicans cut taxes for corporations and the rich promising the same. Now the deficit has ballooned, and Trump has proposed to take an axe to social programs such as student loan forgiveness, food stamps, welfare and disability benefits. After failing to take down the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) Republican House leader Paul Ryan has used the growing deficit to call for cuts in the two largest health care programs: Medicare (for seniors and the disabled) and Medicaid (for low income families and individuals). If the Republicans can keep control of the House and Senate in the upcoming November midterm election, their agenda is clear.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy budget deficit Wed, 17 Oct 2018 20:30:30 +0000 Fight Back 7013 at Stock market slump raises concerns about the economy <p>San José, CA - On Wednesday and Thursday, October 10 and 11, U.S. stock markets slumped, with the widely followed Dow Jones Industrial Average or Dow down over 800 points on Wednesday and another 500 points on Thursday. While the market did recover a bit at the of trading week on Friday, with the Dow up about 250 points, uncertainty about the bull market in stocks and the ongoing economic expansion are back.</p> <p>The U.S. stock market has been on a rise, or in a bull market, for more than nine years, making it the longest since World War II. This rise has been fed by the long economic expansion and rising corporate profits, which has also gone on for more than nine years, the second longest period of U.S. economic growth in history. The other important factor has been the low interest rates of the last nine years, as the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, or Fed, printed trillions of dollars to save the financial system and push interest rates to close to zero. These low interest rates pushed down bond yields, leaving stocks a much more profitable place to invest. This has pushed the ratio of stock prices to corporate earnings to the second highest point in history, behind online the 2001 speculative boom in internet stocks.</p> <p>But the Fed has been raising interest rates for more than three years now. At first this was at a very slow rate, with a quarter of a percent increase in December of 2015, and the next increase not until a year later, with another quarter point rise in December of 2016. The Fed picked up its pace in 2017, with three interest rate increases, all a quarter of a percentage point. There have been already three such interest rate increases this year, and a fourth is widely expected.</p> <p>While short-term interest rates are still somewhat low at a little over 2%, the Fed rate increases have pushed up other interest rates too. The yield on the benchmark ten-year U.S. government bond has jumped to 3.2%, and for the last year has been higher than the average dividends paid by stocks, making bonds more attractive for investors looking at income. The interest rate on the standard 30-year mortgage has also been rising, reaching 4.9% last week, the highest rate since 2011. Rising mortgage interest rates have been holding back the housing market, with existing home sales falling for the last five months in a row.</p> <p>But the housing market is not the only one showing signs of slowing. Auto sales are down 5.5% from year ago levels, as higher prices and rising interest rates take their toll. 0% financing on car loans has dropped by almost two-thirds from two years ago, as rising interest rates make this sales booster too expensive for more and more car makers. One confirmation that the auto market is slowing significantly is that Ford has announce major layoffs.</p> <p>Ford blamed the layoffs on Trump’s tariffs on aluminum and steel as well as a range of goods imported from China. But while these tariffs are starting to bite manufacturing companies in the United States, the biggest factor has been the fall in car sales, which has hurt Ford particularly hard. It is common for large U.S. corporations to blame government policies when in fact it is the ups and downs of a capitalist economy that are really the cause.</p> <p>But U.S. tariffs, and even more, the prospect that the United States is setting course for a new Cold War with China, are also causing economic jitters. Unlike the original cold war or competition between the United States and the Soviet Union where the USSR had limited economic ties except to its socialist allies (for example in 1959 almost half of China’s trade was with the USSR), socialist China today has extensive ties with the rest of the world. Not only is China a major trading partner with the United States, but it has also displaced the United States as Africa’s largest trade partner. While the United States remains first in trade for both Latin America and Europe, China is now number two and is quickly expanding both trade and investment ties.</p> <p>There is also growing competition between the Unites States and China in many fields. China has more high-speed rail than the rest of the world while the United States has none. The same for manned rockets, where the United States must rely on Russian boosters. China is the world’s largest ship builder; the United States makes very little outside of military craft. While the United States and Europe dominate commercial jetliners, China is in the final stages of its own plane. China produces the most cars in the world and is going all out to develop the electric car industry. China is leading in renewable energy installation in terms of solar and wind. Most worrying to the United States is China’s push into high technology such at the next generation (5G) cell phones and artificial intelligence.</p> <p>Rising U.S. interest rates also are having an impact on much of the Third World. Many countries with developing economies have seen their businesses borrow in U.S. dollars at much lower interest rates than they could do domestically in their own currency. But the increase in U.S. interest rates have led to a rise in the U.S dollar. The U.S. dollar has been the most expensive since the 1990s technology boom led to large inflows of capital boosting the dollar. But now more and more companies who borrowed in U.S. dollars are having a harder time to repay them with profits made in their own currencies.</p> <p>Argentina is taking a $50 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund or IMF, the largest loan in IMF history. This loan comes with the traditional IMF requirements the Argentine government raise taxes and cut spending, deepening the recession in Argentina. Turkey’s central bank raised its interest rates to 24% to try to stop the fall in the Turkish lira, which is down 40% compared to the U.S. dollar this year. Turkey also faces more than a $100 billion in debts due in the coming year, but the higher interest rates will be a drag on the economy.</p> <p>Neither Argentina, Turkey or Pakistan, another country talking with the IMF, are big enough to drag down the U.S. economy. But there is a brewing debt crisis in Italy, one of the world’s major economies. Italy’s economy is number nine in the world and number three in the Eurozone, after Germany and France. Italy has the second largest government debt (after Japan) of all the world’s large economies, and a debt crisis there would have a much bigger impact than the Greek crisis, as Italy’s economy is ten times the size of Greece’s. Italy’s government is a coalition of a right-wing, anti-immigrant party and a centrist anti-corruption party, both of which are more skeptical of the Euro than other European governments. Another crisis in the Eurozone is likely to spill over to U.S. economy.</p> <p>The stock market is not a great predictor of what is going on in the overall economy, as day-to-day financial flows and investor emotion matter the most. But even if the stock market recovers and even if it hits new highs, rising interest rates, slowing housing and car sales, higher tariffs and trade war with China, and economic instability in the rest of the world are not going away.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy stock market Sat, 13 Oct 2018 23:40:14 +0000 Fight Back 7010 at No to the new NAFTA <p>On, Sept. 30, Canada agreed to changes in NAFTA pushed by the Trump administration following an earlier agreement by Mexico. The New NAFTA still needs to be approved by the legislators of all three countries, and a vote is not expected in the U.S. Congress until early next year. Wall Street seemed satisfied with the agreement, with most U.S. stock market indices going up the next day.</p> <p>The Trump administration has been bragging about how the New NAFTA, officially called the United States Canada Mexico Agreement or USCMA, will bring more jobs to the United States. The New NAFTA does raise the North American content for car parts rule and requires 40% of the labor in making the cars be paid $16 an hour, which is well above the wages paid to Mexican auto workers. But cars that don’t meet these new standards will only have to pay a 2.5% tariff, which is what all cars coming from Europe, Japan and South Korea already pay.</p> <p>But even if the New NAFTA does boost auto manufacturing in the United States, it likely won’t help U.S. auto workers. Just look at what happened following the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel. U.S. steel prices rose 33%, U.S. steel companies’ profits soared, and U.S. steel workers got…nothing. In fact, the unionized steel workers at ArcelorMittel, the world’s biggest steel producer have authorized a strike against the company’s proposed contracts that would increase the cost of health care for its workers.</p> <p>Less talked about, but important, are other changes made to the old NAFTA. Two changes refer to so-called “intellectual property” or the ability of corporations to make even more profits off of new ideas. The New NAFTA extends copyrights from 50 to 70 years beyond the death of the author. It also extends the patent period for new drugs to ten years, which will raise drug prices in Canada, where prices are often half that of the United States.</p> <p>The New NAFTA also makes it harder for Canada and Mexico to restrict the use of GMOs (genetically modified organism) produced by large agribusinesses like Monsanto. The New NAFTA also paves the way for the use of new synthetic or man-made pesticides. Many of these synthetic pesticides have ended up being banned because of their effects on both animals and human beings, the most famous of which was DDT.</p> <p>The New NAFTA is also an attempt to bind the Mexican and Canadian economies closer to the United States. One the changes is meant to prevent either country from signing a free trade agreement with China.</p> <p>The Trump administration used a major threat of putting 25% tariffs on cars made in Mexico and Canada to extract some concessions for U.S. dairy farmers from Canada in the New NAFTA and then declared a great victory. Trump hopes to use the same method on the European Union and China. But both are much larger economies than either Canada or Mexico and are much less entwined with the U.S. economy. Both the EU and China have said that they are not going to be bullied by the Trump administration and retaliated to earlier Trump tariffs on European steel and aluminum and tariffs on almost half the goods that China exports to the United States.</p> <p>The New NAFTA is good for big corporations, and bad for workers in U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It should be opposed and rejected.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Donald Trump economy NAFTA Trade Trump U.S. Mon, 08 Oct 2018 01:54:29 +0000 Fight Back 6998 at Steelworkers, U.S. Steel far apart in negotiations <p>Washington, DC - Contract negotiations between United Steelworkers (USW) and U.S. Steel have failed to make headway after an overwhelmingly successful strike authorization vote took place earlier this month. In what has been described by the negotiating committee as a “frustrating series of negotiations,” the company continues to offer the same concessionary proposals by shifting around wages, benefits and bonuses. </p> <p>Additionally, U.S. Steel is attacking retirees and new employees by refusing to fund pension plans and pushing a two-tier system. USW continues to reject these concessions and remains committed to winning a decent contract.</p> <p>The company is proposing that employees’ health care coverage be switched to a plan which would double deductibles, coinsurance and out-of-pocket expenses. For an industry as dangerous as steel manufacturing, this is nothing short of an attack on workers’ health and livelihood. U.S. Steel is also demanding the ability to use money from the retiree health care and life insurance fund to pay for active employees’ health care costs.</p> Capitalism and Economy strike Strikes U.S. Steel United Steelworkers usw Wed, 19 Sep 2018 23:02:03 +0000 Fight Back 6962 at Janus, fallos anti-obreros no pueden detener un movimiento obrero en lucha <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;" dir="ltr"><span style="background-color: transparent; font-family: Calibri; font-size: 11pt; white-space: pre-wrap;">Por la Organización Socialista Camino a la Libertad</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">El fallo de la Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos en el caso Janus V. AFCSME es un asalto directo por la clase dominante en contra del movimiento sindicalista dentro los EEUU. Es un ataque liderado por las corporaciones y fundaciones derechistas, como la Fundación Nacional para el Derecho al Trabajo y la Fundación Bradley, que está completamente apoyado por la administración de Trump. Aunque este asalto en particular, la decisión Janus, está enfocado en los sindicatos del sector público, no hay que equivocarse, los efectos se sentirán a través del movimiento sindicalista y toda la clase obrera.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">El sector publico esta sindicalizado a un índice cinco veces más grande que el sector privado. Los índices altos de sindicalización en el sector público y sus sindicatos más fuertes han ayudado a sostener a los sindicatos del sector privado y han ayudado a los obreros a establecer estándares mas altos en la materia de salario, beneficios, y condiciones de trabajo.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">También se debe notar el papel que los sindicatos de sector público tienen en las políticas. Desde el tiempo de la administración del presidente Reagan, el mundo empresarial estadounidense ha estado librando una guerra en contra de nuestros sindicatos y, hasta un grado, el dinero gastado en mellar unos de los peores ataques derechistas ha sido dinero bien gastado. Dicho eso, hay un problema: los dos partidos políticos mayores representan los intereses de los grandes negocios, y muchos políticos están mucho más interesados en gastar nuestras cuotas sindicales que en proseguir una agenda pro-sindicalista. Pero eso es una discusión que los trabajadores necesitamos tener dentro de nuestros sindicatos – y rechazamos la idea de que el gobierno o los jefes deberían decidirlo por nosotros.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 700; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Aumento de líderes sindicalistas jóvenes</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Aun con los retrasos, debemos reconocer y celebrar nuestras victorias. El número de miembros sindicalistas en los Estados Unidos subió en el 2017. Tres cuartos de los nuevos miembros sindicalistas han cumplido menos de 34 años de edad. Los jóvenes de 18 a 29 años de edad son los más probables en tener una vista positiva de los sindicatos que cualquier otro grupo de edad. Ellos están tomando papeles de liderazgo sindicalista con mas ideas radicales sobre el fortalecimiento del movimiento sindicalista. Este cambio generacional se debe a las condiciones económicas afrontadas por los trabajadores jóvenes. Eso muestra una apertura a ideas mas audaces y radicales, porque el statu quo ha fallado a los trabajadores jóvenes.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">El fallo Janus significara el incremento de la discriminación racial y la desigualdad para las mujeres.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Muchos sindicatos del sector público fueron ganados atreves de las luchas libradas por los trabajadores Afroamericanos durante el movimiento por los derechos civiles. Hoy, las nacionalidades oprimidas y las mujeres todavía se encuentran fuertemente representados en el sector público. Sin duda este ataque es uno que será particularmente sentido por las mujeres y los trabajadores de nacionalidades oprimidas. Porque los sindicatos del sector público también lideraron el camino en defender y abogar por los servicios como la educación pública y los programas de salud y nutrición publica, la calidad de vida para esos recibiendo estos servicios se disminuiría debido a los ataques derechistas continuos. Estos servicios están en la mira de las corporaciones que quieren hacer lucro por medio de la privatización. Sin sindicatos del sector público en el camino, la privatización será más fácil en lograr.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 700; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Construir el movimiento sindicalista</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: justify;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">El movimiento sindicalista ha afrontado condiciones más difíciles en el pasado. Hemos vencido barreras organizando obreros aun cuando hacerlo era ilegal. Hemos resistido a los jefes entablando la lucha militante a pesar de la represión violenta en parte de la clase dominante. Podemos aprender de los triunfos pasados de nuestro movimiento. Debemos seguir el ejemplo de los maestros que recientemente obtuvieron conquistas materiales aun sin el apoyo del liderazgo de sus sindicatos y aun con sus paros de trabajo siendo ilegales.</span></p> <p><strong></strong></p> <p></p> <p style="line-height: 1.2; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;" dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 11pt; font-family: Calibri; color: #000000; background-color: transparent; font-weight: 400; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; text-decoration: none; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Al fin, el pueblo obrero no debería esperar para que los políticos cambien las leyes; debemos reconocer que simplemente votar por demócratas no es suficiente. Necesitamos votar en contra de los esbirros de Trump en las elecciones venideras. Obreros también deben reconocer que el sindicalismo empresarial o de modelo de servicio no es el camino hacia adelante – ese modelo es moribundo. La manera en que la clase obrera construye el poder político es organizando un movimiento sindicalista militante de lucha de clases. Nuestros sindicatos deben convertirse en sindicatos luchadores. La gente se unirá a sindicatos militantes y organizara no solo por principios morales, pero por que sindicatos fuertes materialmente mejoran las condiciones económicas de la clase obrera. Los sindicatos necesitan guiar a sus miembros a tomar acciones audaces en el ámbito de su trabajo para sobrevivir y florecer bajo Janus. La Organización Socialista Camino a la Libertad clama por la construcción de alianzas estratégicas para la creación de un nuevo movimiento social y para la transformación de los sindicatos en centros de la lucha de clases.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> Capitalism and Economy Janus Por la Organización Socialista Camino a la Libertad Public Sector Unions Trump Wed, 19 Sep 2018 22:56:30 +0000 Fight Back 6961 at Trump announces all-out trade war with China <p>San José, CA – On Sept. 17, President Trump announced that tariffs of 10% will be slapped on $200 billion of Chinese goods starting Sept. 24. These tariffs will rise to 25% at the beginning of 2019. Trump also said that he would put tariffs on another $267 billion dollars of imports from China if China responds to his tariffs. Along with the tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports already in place, this would mean steep tariffs on virtually all of the $500 billion in goods that the United States buys from China.</p> <p>China has all along replied to Trump’s tariffs with tit-for-tat tariffs, while calling for negotiations. While it cannot match the United States, as it imports much less than the United States in terms of tariffs, U.S. businesses do have much more extensive business in China that could be restricted. China’s currency has also been falling in value, offsetting part of the price increases that Trump’s tariffs would bring.</p> <p>The main goal of the Trump administration is to slow or stop China’s modernization drive, which seeks to put China on an equal footing with Western nations and Japan in terms of high technology. This goal of blocking China has wide backing among the big capitalists and both their political parties (the Republicans and the Democrats), even though many disagree with his tactic of a unilateral trade war. This goal, along with Trump’s desire to restore basic manufacturing in the United States at the expense of China, would leave China in the position like many former colonial countries of having an economy based on low-wage labor such as textiles and exporting raw materials.</p> <p>China’s socialist modernization, along with opening up to world trade, has led to one of the greatest reductions in poverty in world history. China is currently trying to make sure that it is not caught in what is called the “middle-income trap,” where poorer countries make some economic progress but are not able to close the gap with high incomes in the United States, Western Europe and Japan. The Trump administration’s desire to roll back China’s economic progress will never be accepted by China’s government or people.</p> <p>Many of Trump’s advisors and Wall Street pundits argue that China’s economy is hurting because its stock market is in bear market territory, down over 20% this year, while the U.S. stock market is near record highs. But they don’t understand the basic difference between the two economies. In the United States, with its capitalist economy, the stock market is seen as a key barometer of corporate profits, which drive the U.S. economy. The Chinese stock market plays a secondary role in what is still a largely socialist economy dominated by state-owned banks and businesses.</p> <p>Ultimately, the impact of price increases for imported consumer goods will fall most heavily on poor and low-income working-class Americans. At the same time the trade war could push Chinese businesses to put even more effort in developing their own higher-technology goods, the very thing that Trump is claiming to oppose.</p> People's Struggles Capitalism and Economy Capitalism China economy International Trump China Tue, 18 Sep 2018 17:38:39 +0000 Fight Back 6956 at Hurricane Florence: Capitalism, climate change, and manmade disasters <p><strong>Hurricane Florence set to hit Carolinas</strong></p> <p>Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall on the Carolina coast. The storm is a monster, at 500 miles across, with sustained tropical storm winds extending out 200 miles. Florence is forecast to stall offshore near Wilmington, North Carolina early Thursday and roll slowly south before coming on shore Saturday, Sept. 15, near Charleston, South Carolina. Up to 40 inches of rain in a 24-hour period are possible, with flash and river flooding extremely likely. The storm surge at high tide will be of six to thirteen feet.</p> <p><strong>Hurricanes in a warming climate</strong></p> <p>A few years back, Senator Jim Inhofe brought a snowball to the Senate floor. As much as the Oklahoma senator wanted it to – the snowball didn’t disprove climate change any more than Florence proves it. Hurricanes in themselves, are not new and no particular weather event can be definitively linked to global climate change and the overall warming of the earth. Scientists are seeing changes in the behavior of individual hurricanes that are linked to climate change. Florence is exhibiting some of those characteristics.</p> <p>Hurricanes forming as far north as Florence often do not make U.S. landfall, as dominating weather patterns cause them to turn northeast and back into the Atlantic. Record warming of sea water at the poles is linked with an abnormal collapse of the polar vortex, causing that weather pattern to instead steer Florence into the mainland. This same warming at the poles reduces the winds that drive hurricanes forward. Florence will be an enormous rain event, because it is drawing moisture from waters that are three to four degrees warmer than average and because it will move very slowly. These characteristics make it similar to Hurricane Harvey that devastated Houston in 2017.</p> <p>At this point no one who is serious about science doubts that climate can change is real, and that human activity is driving that change. Specifically, capitalism is a system that is all about the highest rate of profit. Corporations have the lion’s share of the responsibility for the greenhouse gases that are fueling climate and making ‘extreme’ weather events more common place.</p> <p><strong>Mother Nature hates trailer parks? Not really</strong></p> <p>Climate change is just one portion of the manmade disaster. Wealth inequality and the poverty imposed by the capitalist class is the most direct and pressing thing turning natural disasters to manmade ones. In storms like Florence, most people die from a lack of electricity and flooding. Poor people die from being without insulin and medications or from running out of oxygen or by being without the transportation to evacuate and nowhere to go during the evacuation. Flash flooding wipes out poorly-fortified housing and those homes don’t get bailed out by federal flood insurance, while the beach homes of the wealthy get bailouts.</p> <p>Cuba, a country with great expertise in keeping people safe in a hurricane, sends transportation to pick up people and belongings and take them to evacuation sites. Additionally, they send out community work teams to trim branches that might knock out power lines and assist with the board-up of homes.</p> <p>During Hurricanes Harvey and Rita prisoners were subjected to cruel and unusual conditions, including being trapped in cells flooded with sewage, no climate control, little clean water and food. In South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster is setting up a very similar situation, by refusing to evacuate MacDougall prison. MacDougall is in the evacuation zone near Charleston.</p> <p><strong>Trump says: 3000 deaths an “incredible unsung success”</strong></p> <p>During a White House briefing on hurricane Florence, Donald Trump touted his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as “an incredible, unsung success.” The official death toll of Hurricane Maria was formally raised to 2975 people.</p> <p>Since that is what is termed a ‘success,’ anyone who is not a Hilton Head real estate mogul can expect to see no meaningful assistance beyond a few rolls of paper towels.</p> Capitalism and Economy Climate Change Environmental Justice Hurricane Florence Thu, 13 Sep 2018 17:06:41 +0000 Fight Back 6948 at FRSO on the current state of the economy <p><em>Fight Back News Service is circulating the following resolution on the economy, that was adopted at the 8th Congress of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). </em></p> <p>FRSO Eighth Congress, 2018</p> <p>Resolution on the U.S. Economy</p> <p><strong>The Current Economic Expansion </strong></p> <p>In June of 2009 the worst economic downturn in the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s officially ended. For the last nine years the U.S. economy grew, albeit at a slow pace. This makes the current expansion the fourth longest in U.S. history. [1]</p> <p>But the current economic expansion is a recovery for the capitalists, not for the majority of the working class. Stock prices, as measured by the S&amp;P 500, are more than 60% higher than the previous peak in 2007. Corporate profits are up 30% from their pre-crisis high. These gains have been enough to raise the income of a typical U.S. household to a new high in 2016, for the first time since 1999. [2]</p> <p>On the other hand, most working class households still earn less than in 1999. Most of the jobs added in the current expansion are in the most well-to-do neighborhoods, while the poorest neighborhoods have seen no net job growth at all. Millions of long-term unemployed have given up looking for work. This has caused a drop in the “labor force participation rate” from its peak of 66.4% in 2007 to a low of 62.4% in 2015. This means that there are about 6 million people who would have been working or looking for work in 2007 that are no longer. This represents a big expansion of what Marx referred to as the “reserve army of unemployed” and a factor in the slow rate of wage growth in this last period of economic growth. [3]</p> <p>Other factors holding down workers’ wages include the capitalists’ restructuring of the labor market to increase the number of part-time, temporary, and contract workers. This is taken to the extreme with the rise of the so-called “sharing” economy with on-demand workers such as those in Uber. With wages rising 2.2% after inflation, while workers’ productivity (value of their output) rising at an 11% annual rate, capitalists’ profits have swelled. [4]</p> <p>At the state and local level, attacks on government workers have intensified, led by Republicans who want to break the power of public-sector workers' unions, but also joined by Democrats who are intent on cutting the pensions for government workers. These attacks and cuts are part of ongoing national oppression and gender inequality, as they fall the hardest on women and oppressed nationalities, who are much more likely to be public sector workers, especially those with lower and middle incomes (excluding police, fire, and professional workers).</p> <p>One important gain for the working class and oppressed nationalities has been the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The number of workers and lower-stratum of the petty-bourgeoisie without health insurance has fallen by almost one-half. Millions of people were able to join the Federal Medicaid program for lower-income Americans. Millions more were able to get health insurance from their jobs because of the employer mandate in the ACA. This represents the biggest expansion of health insurance in the United States since the 1960s. While a step in the right direction, the ACA does not guarantee healthcare for all, as it is NOT single-payer health insurance. President Trump has already launched attacks on the program, showing the unstable nature of healthcare reform under a capitalist system. [5]</p> <p><strong>The Most Recent Crisis of Monopoly Capitalism </strong></p> <p>One of the features of capitalism noted by Marx was that each resolution of a crisis laid the groundwork for an even greater crisis. After the dot-com bust in 2000-2001, speculative capital flowed into the mortgage market, fed by historically low interest rates set by the Federal Reserve. The boom and then bust in the housing market led to both a recession, and then a financial crisis, the scale of which had not been seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.</p> <p>The main features of the last economic crisis were first, the increased exploitation of the working class, cuts in government services, and schools, and generally lower standards of living as the capitalists try to shift the burden of the crisis on to the working class and oppressed nationalities. A vicious cycle developed where jobless workers fall behind on their debt payments, and then are denied jobs because of their bad credit! More and more people were losing health insurance as businesses cut benefits and individual plans become too expensive. Homelessness grew and mothers and children were thrown off of TANF and into the streets due to 5-year limits.</p> <p>One of the functions of economic crisis is that it is an opportunity for the capitalists to restructure the economy to increase their profits over the long term. The most recent crisis sped up the loss of unionized, middle-strata working-class jobs. At the same time there are more and more part-time and temporary jobs. More and more businesses do not even give their workers regular schedules, but change them week to week and even day to day, to reduce their labor costs and increase profits, and at the same time playing havoc with their workers’ lives.</p> <p>The crisis accelerated a fundamental tendency of capitalism to eliminate jobs and increase the reserve army of labor by substituting machinery and equipment for labor. This tendency, which is what Marx called increasing the organic composition of capital, is responsible for most of the losses of well-paying auto and steel jobs, not imports. For example, the United States is producing about the same number of cars as it did 20 years ago, but with 25% fewer workers. [6]</p> <p>The crisis also increased economic inequality along national lines. The income of a typical Black household was only 59% of white households in 2011. While the income gap is large, the wealth gap is huge. In 2009 the typical white household's wealth was TWENTY times as large as the typical Black household and EIGHTEEN times larger than the typical Latino household. During the crisis the wealth gap between whites and oppressed nationalities, which was very wide to start with, became even greater, as the typical white household lost 16% of their wealth, the typical Black household 53%, the typical Asian household 54%, and the typical Latino household lost 66% of their wealth! [7]</p> <p>Secondly, the crisis destroyed means of production. Plants closed down, never to reopen. Stores and even entire shopping malls were boarded up. Some banks went as far as tearing down foreclosed homes to try to prop up prices for remaining houses. The Obama administration's "rescue" of U.S. auto makers actually led to more and faster closings of plants and dealers than GM and Chrysler had been doing on their own. The crisis of unemployment worsened, with the official unemployment rate rising to more than 25% in the hardest hit city of Detroit. [8]</p> <p>Third, the concentration and centralization of capital accelerated as smaller and weaker firms folded and the bigger and strong ones snapped them up or even preyed on each other. This can be seen in the U.S. banking industry, where four giant banks (Bank of America, Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo) have emerged with over half the bank assets in the United States. [9]</p> <p><strong>The U.S. Economy and the World</strong></p> <p>The recent crisis also sped up the relative economic decline of the United States. There is growing criticism of the free-market economics pushed by the United States to further its own economic interests. Other countries are beginning to questioning the large debt of the United States to the rest of the world, and the role of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency. [10]</p> <p>In our judgement, the high tide of imperialist globalization has passed. From the end of World War II to the last recession of 2007 to 2009, the U.S. monopoly capitalist class held a bipartisan consensus in favor of “free trade” which favored the export of capital. However, the tide began to shift with the most recent economic crisis, with some reports showing the United States to have enacted more protectionist measures than any other country. The election of Donald Trump to President 2016 marked a major break in the free trade consensus among the U.S. elite. [11]</p> <p>One of Trump’s first acts was to cancel the U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, effectively killing the agreement. His administration is also carrying out more protectionist policies by putting tariffs on Chinese solar panels. However, Trump and other Republicans have had to walk back a number of their campaign promises and proposals. Trump has gone from cancelling NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, to “renegotiating” the treaty. Republicans in Congress have dropped their proposal for a “Border Adjustment Tax” that would have acted as a tariff, or tax on imports, under pressure from many big businesses.</p> <p>The relative stability of the world capitalist economy over the last few years in no way has overcome the law of uneven development under monopoly capitalism or imperialism. While there is a high degree of globalization in manufacturing (witness the ubiquitous iPhone), there are increasing barriers and competition to U.S. corporate domination. China and Brazil led a revolt of developing countries in the World Trade Organization that has effectively blocked U.S. plans to dominate intellectual property and undermine even more state sovereignty through the WTO. The growing size of the Chinese economy has moved it into more and more of a leading role in industries such as solar panels and electric cars. [12]</p> <p>Contradictions among the capitalist countries continue to break out into conflict. The Trump administration has slapped tariffs on Canadian lumber and is trying to put tariffs on Canadian jet planes made in Europe. The Brexit is major blow to the capitalist unity project known as the European Union and also to U.S. influence in the E.U. which was largely channeled through Great Britain.</p> <p><strong>National Oppression and the Economics of Racism in the Era of Trump</strong></p> <p>The foundations of the U.S. economy were built on Native American lands and the genocide of native peoples as well as the chattel slavery of Africans. In periods of economic crisis, Black Americans, Chicanos and Latinos, Asian Americans and other oppressed nationalities and indigenous peoples are the first to suffer and the last to recover. For example, the increase in wages in 2016 finally lifted the average household income in the U.S. back to the level they were in 1999. However, this wasn’t true for Black households whose income has not recovered.</p> <p>Since the election of a bare-faced racist to the White House, there is an increasing awareness about white supremacy, police crimes, as well as acts of hate and other examples of virulent racism in the country. These are features of the superstructure of monopoly capitalism in the U.S. which are based on underlying profits that result from seizure of land, underpaid labor, inflated living costs, and the denial of government services. One of Trump’s first actions was to sign an executive order to clear the way for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).</p> <p>National oppression has always been driven by super-profits gained from lower-paid labor, or unpaid labor as in the chattel slavery of the U.S. South for 250 years. Latino households make $18,000 a year less than white households, and Black households make $25,000 a year less. This wage differential is an important source of super-profits. While the unemployment rates for all nationalities have dropped from the double-digits during the last economic crisis, the gap between Blacks and whites continues, with African American rates still twice that of whites.</p> <p>The thirst for profits is also driving the free market policies that look for private profits from what used to be government services, such as the public schools. If a capitalist can’t make profit from them, then they are shuttered, or replaced by charter schools. Black and Latino communities are disproportionately hit by these attacks. The closing of factories is followed by closing of schools, and then real estate plans to flip and gentrify poor neighborhoods.</p> <p>This is one of the fundamental contradictions of monopoly capitalism: that the economic boom in certain areas actually makes many oppressed nationalities worse off. The gentrification of poor and inner-city neighborhoods has a disproportionate impact on oppressed nationalities, who are driven out of their homes. Homelessness is on the rise.</p> <p><strong>Government Economic Policy Under Trump</strong></p> <p>Despite his pledge to support Social Security and Medicare, Trump has joined with Republicans in Congress to undermine these programs and slash spending on Medicaid. Already millions of people have been left out of getting health insurance through the ACA as Republican state governments have blocked the Medicaid expansion in almost half of all states. Trump and Republican in the House also voted to undo the ACA, that would have taken health insurance from more than 20 million people.</p> <p>After a burst of Keynesian tax cuts and spending increases in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the U.S. government swung to austerity, with $900 billion in spending cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act and $600 billion in tax increases in the 2012 Taxpayer Relief Act. The most recent Trump budget proposal slashes domestic spending to pay for tax cuts for the rich and an even faster military build-up.</p> <p>Trump and the Republican Congress also have plans for tax “reform” that would cut taxes on the rich and large corporations (this was one of the main reasons that they tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act). Right after being elected, Trump proposed to slash the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 15%. He wants to end the estate tax and AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax which forces some high income individuals, like Trump, to pay taxes by disallowing some tax breaks), and reduce the tax rate on the highest incomes. In fact, a quarter of the tax breaks would go to the top ONE-TENTH of 1%, and another quarter to the other 9/10 of the top 1%. Trump’s tax plan would have raised taxes on single-parent working families and those with larger numbers of children. [13]</p> <p>Trump’s announcement that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement was part of his campaign to blame regulation for loss of jobs in coal mining areas. But the decline of Eastern and unionized coal mining jobs is mainly due to the low price of natural gas (because of increased use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which Trump supports), and greater coal production in non-union, more mechanized Western coal sites. [14]</p> <p>Trump and the Republicans plan to “reshore” manufacturing jobs mainly consists of keeping wages low and spending billions of dollars to subsidize big corporations to set up shop in the United States. With the federal minimum wage at the same level as 2009, and at the lowest level, adjusted for inflation since 1950, it is barely above the minimum wage in South Korea. Republican Governor Walker is proposing $3 billion dollars in subsidies to bring Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer, to Wisconsin. But like many other new manufacturing plants, it will be highly automated with relatively few workers. [15]</p> <p><strong>The Peoples' Struggle and Socialism </strong></p> <p>As of the time of this draft (October 2017), it is clear that the world economy is in a temporary period of relative stability. The U.S. economy has been growing for more than eight years while the economic crisis in the Eurozone in Europe has calmed down for now. Even the Japanese economy, which has been stagnant for more than twenty-five years, is growing again.</p> <p>But it is only a matter of time before another economic crisis overtakes the United States. This crisis could emerge within the U.S. economy, where there are some early signs of weakness in the expansion. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates, even though inflation is well below their target. Or it could emerge in Europe or even Asia, and spread to the United States through an increasingly globalized capitalist economy. There is also a small, but not insignificant chance that a misstep by the Trump administration and/or Republican Congress, could trigger a crisis. [16]</p> <p>But no matter what the monopoly capitalists do and say, the last economic crisis shook confidence in the capitalist system. Opportunities for educating people about the true nature of monopoly capitalism are growing. However, the right-wing, reactionary section of the monopoly capitalists have been promoting white chauvinism to claim that oppressed nationalities at home and other countries abroad are at the root of economic problems of the (white) working class. It is important at this time to point to the need for socialism, a system based not on the profit of privately owned corporations, but one based on serving the needs of the working people through government and collective ownership and control of businesses and natural resources.</p> <p><strong>Endnotes: </strong></p> <p>[1] Business Cycle: National Bureau for Economic Research, U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions. Note that in January, 2018, the current expansion will become the third longest, following only the 1991-2001 and 1981-1990 expansions.</p> <p>[2] S&amp;P 500 data from &lt;<a href="" target="_blank"></a>&gt;. Corporate profits from Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP and National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) database at &lt;<a href="" target="_self"></a>&gt;.&nbsp;Median income: Ben Leubsdorf, “New Record for Household Income,” Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2017, page A2.</p> <p>[3] Excluding the top 20% of households, which is most likely to include members of the middle and upper stratum petty bourgeoisie and capitalist classes, households in the lower 40% of the income distribution are still below their income in 1999, adjusted for inflation. Job distribution from Jordan Yadoo, “The Rich are Getting Richer in the U.S. Recovery,” Bloomberg News, September 25, 2017. Labor Force Participation Rates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The official U.S. unemployment rate only counts those who are not working for pay AND are looking for work. Mainstream bourgeois economists use the employment number (number of jobs), not the unemployment rate, to define turns in the business cycle such as the start of a recession. (National Bureau for Economic Research, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)</p> <p>[4] see Fightback! News: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> <p>[5] Census Bureau, “Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2016”, September 2017.</p> <p>[6] Bureau of Labor Statistics, “All Employees, Motor Vehicles and Parts, Seasonally Adjusted” database.</p> <p>[7] "Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics," by Rakesh Kochnhar, Richard Fry, and Paul Taylor, Pew Research Center: July 26, 2011. <a href="." target="_blank"></a></p> <p>[8] The official unemployment rate for Detroit in January 2010 was 25.3%, more than twice times the national unemployment rate of 10.6% (both rates are NOT seasonally adjusted). The official unemployment rate understates the economic pain to workers by not counting people without jobs who want to work but did not look in the previous month (discouraged and marginally attached workers), and those who are working part-time but cannot find full-time work due to the economy. In January 2010 the alternative unemployment rate including these other workers was 18% (not seasonally adjusted). Bureau of Labor Statistics.</p> <p>[9] "Breaking up the Financial Industrial Complex," by David Weidner, Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2010.</p> <p>[10] The United States is net debtor nation, that is, foreign-owned U.S. assets are greater than U.S.-owned foreign assets by $4.9 trillion. One advantage that the U.S. has in borrowing from abroad is that the U.S. dollar is the reserve currency used to do international trade in, so that other countries need to hold dollars to finance trade. Federal Reserve: Flow of Funds Accounts of the United States, Flows and Outstandings, First Quarter, 2017, Table L.106, page 70.</p> <p>[11] Business Insider, “The country that imposes the most restrictions on trade might surprise you” by Linda Shen, September 30, 2015. The shift towards protectionism is also a characteristic of empires in decline. For example the British empire shifted from a free trade policy to a more protectionist one after World War I.</p> <p>[12] “China’s Leap in Electric Cars,” by Trefor Moss, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 3, 2017, page 1.</p> <p>[13] see Fightback! News: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> <p>[14] see US Energy Information Administration (EIA), June 16, 2017: <a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> <p>[15] As of January 1, 2018, the minimum wage in South Korea will rise to 7,530 Won per hour. With an exchange rate of 1,225 won per dollar at the time of writing, this is about 6.70 U.S. dollars as compared to the Federal minimum of $7.25. Also see editorial in Bloomberg business news,&lt;<a href="" target="_blank"></a>&gt;</p> <p>[16] As of August, 2017, there are signs of weakness in household income, consumer spending, car sales, and rising credit card repayment problems. New housing construction never recovered from the last boom and bust. But so far, business spending on capital goods has maintained. Usually the first sign of a definite crisis ahead are declines in business investment in structures and equipment.</p> Capitalism and Economy Socialism 8th congress economy Freedom Road Socialist Organization International Marxism-Leninism U.S. Fri, 10 Aug 2018 22:12:54 +0000 Fight Back 6900 at