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Capitalism's Crisis: Elites Play with Class War

Capitalism's Crisis: Elites Play with Class War

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Published by: bowssen on May 22, 2010
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07/02/2010

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Capitalism's Crisis: Elites Play with Class War
By Chris SpannosSunday, December 14, 2008
Capitalism's current crisis is not the same as the crisis called capitalism. The former was caused by elite efforts to free themselves fromconstraints on profit making, which not only worsened material conditions for millions of people, but jeopardized their own wealth.The latter is an institutionalized class war waged by elites on the rest of us and is characterized by extreme disparities in materialwealth and decision making power. The two combined could prove a detonator for class conflict in the U.S. and some have alreadybegun to fight back.Conditions for the bottom 80 percent of the U.S. population continue to worsen. Home foreclosures are forecast to be roughly 2.25million for this year alone, over double the annual rate before today's housing crisis. The month of November saw the loss of overhalf-a-million jobs bringing total losses to almost 2 million since the start of recession in late 2007. Two-thirds of these losses occurredsince last September and there are forecasts for more. The auto industry is undergoing almost certain restructuring withhundreds-of-thousands more jobs and connected businesses in jeopardy. Republican opposition to the auto bailout plan demanded a 50percent wage cut for workers implemented over the next few months. Now Washington is considering tapping into part of the $700billion bailout plan under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). However, Republican opposition to the auto bailout has furtherantagonized class relations in an already volatile economic environment and uncertain future.Among those who have fought back---and won---are the 240 workers in the Chicago Republic Windows and Doors factory. Theygained international attention on December 5th by occupying their workplace using Depression-era tactics. The detonator to theirstruggle was also related to class antagonisms in the U.S. Weeks after taking $25 billion in TARP bailout money Bank of America cutoff its line of credit to the factory causing the company to halt operations and terminate its workers with only three days notice andwithout severance. Their struggle and victory earned them a settlement totaling $1.75 million covering eight weeks of pay, two monthsof continued health coverage, and pay for all accrued and unused vacation. United Electrical Director of Organization Bob Kingsleydescribed the outcome as "a victory for workers everywhere,"..."an historic victory for America's labor movement," and "a win for allworking men and women who face uncertainty, unfairness and job loss in a troubled economy." And this is just the beginning of another struggle for the Republic workers who have created a new foundation they have named the "Window of Opportunity Fund,"dedicated to reopening the plant.Victory also occurred last October when Jocelyne Voltaire was scheduled to lose her home in Queens Village where she had lived for20 years, and where she raised her four children. She was unable to keep up with skyrocketing mortgage payments. A donation callwent out and within two hours $15 thousand poured in stopping the auction and saving her home. People came together and succeededwhere the state and market have failed.However these victories exist in a past and present sea of rising economic failures. Many analysts see today's crisis as an accumulationof poor policy choices, bad practices, and ideological decision making, which certainly made conditions worse, but overlooks the hugedisparities in wealth and power that existed prior to the current crisis and add to today's class antagonisms.In 2005 we saw the largest growth in share of national income for the top one percent of Americans since 1928. In that same year thetop 300 thousand Americans collectively enjoyed almost as much income as the bottom 150 million. The top ten percent reached alevel of income share not seen since before the Great Depression.Just last year and amid worsening economic conditions, U.S. CEOs were paid 344 times the pay of a typical worker. The top 50 hedgeand private equity fund managers earned more than 19 thousand times as much as the average U.S. worker.Additionally, the myth of class mobility is nearly bankrupt. Most people stay in the class they are born into and their economic fatesare pre-determined. In
The State of Working America
2006/2007 (Economic Policy Institute, 2007), while looking at intergenerationalclass mobility, its authors ask "To what extent are children's economic fates tied to their parent's income or wealth? Do most familiesend up about where they started on the income scale?" and "Is the United States' less-regulated economy characterized by greatereconomic mobility?" The authors' research found that income, wealth, and opportunity are "significantly" correlated acrossgenerations. A daughter of a low-income mother has only a small chance of achieving very high earnings in her adulthood. "Almosttwo-thirds of children of low wealth parents (those in the bottom 20 percent of wealth scale) will themselves have wealth levels that
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