Stop War Funding
A Time for Serious Thought About the Sources of Violence in Society
On December 14 people across the country were shocked and saddened by yet another violent school shooting, this time at an elementary school. Twenty-eight people were killed, including 20 children aged 5-10 years old, 6 adults at the school, the young man who was the shooter and his mother, a kindergarten teacher. That such young children were killed and so many more were witness to the death and violence has had a deep impact on people. It is a mind-numbing tragedy.
Voice of Revolution extends its condolences to the families and friends of all those killed and all those involved. We join people nationwide in mourning these losses. It is a time for sadness and a time for serious thought and discussion about the sources of violence in society.
The monopoly media and many politicians direct attention to the individual person who carried out the shootings. Every detail of his life is to be examined. Others speak to the need for yet more security at schools, more metal detectors, more locked doors and lockdowns, more armed police in the schools. This answer despite the fact that such measures have already been taken, schools are more like prisons than schools, yet another tragic shooting has occurred. Still others demand a debate for and against gun control and strive to make that the central issue.
President Obama said, “As a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” In listing these examples, Obama is reflecting the fact that there have been violent shootings with multiple deaths almost every month this year, sometimes two in one month. Meaningful action is indeed needed.
But what example is being set by the U.S. government when it comes to use of assassinations and massacres as a means to solve problems? This shooting occurred just a few weeks after massive bombing raids and targeted assassinations in Palestine, which killed many dozens of children. Are we not to mourn them as well and recognize that these horrific crimes have also happened too many times? Instead these massacres were supported by Obama and he talked of ensuring Israel gets yet more weapons of violent destruction.
The U.S. under Obama has increased targeted assassinations, drone massacres, bombings of wedding parties, torture and aggressive wars, where millions of children are being slaughtered. How is it that the individual act of one person in Connecticut is described as “inhuman” and “heinous,” but the violence of the U.S. state is not considered in the same manner? Why is there discussion about gun control for individuals, but there is no discussion of removing weapons from the hands of the U.S. state? Why not lead by example, and call a halt to all violence and killings carried out by the government and its policing agencies, abroad and at home? And why should we think that those who seek instead to justify and authorize these violent acts and massacres abroad are fit to decide what “meaningful action” to take here at home? More criminalizing of youth, more violence by police, turning schools into prisons outright, are not solutions.
It is not useful to look at the individual shooter without looking first at the society that produced him. Brutal violence, assassinations, massacres of children are the norm for the monopolies and their state. They stop at nothing to achieve their world empire, as the ruthless sanctions and aggressive war against Iraq and siege of Gaza have shown. These ongoing and repeated crimes make clear that violence as the weapon of choice is supported and defended by the government. That individuals then act in a similar manner is not a surprise, rather a reflection of the violence of the U.S. state.
The shock of Connecticut is perhaps a reason to look in the mirror and actually see the responsibility of the U.S. state in these situations. Clearly those in power have abandoned political solutions and are using violence as the weapon of choice to avoid providing economic, political, cultural and social problems with solutions that serve the polity. Meaningful action can begin with ending the violence of the U.S. state abroad and at home. Let aggressive war and police violence be ended and those responsible for it punished. Let assassinations and massacres by the state be ended and punished. Let President Obama set an example by ending use of force in resolving conflicts large and small, abroad and at home. This would be a start in the direction needed, for society and its individual members.
As Congress and President Barack Obama continue to debate massive cuts to social programs, conditions continue to show that such budget cuts are not solutions. The people and economy continue to suffer from the last $1 trillion in cuts in 2011 and the more general trend of an economy organized to serve the monopolies. Unemployment, for example continues to remain high, with millions of workers facing longer periods without work. Many have been out of work for so long that they exhaust existing benefits and are no longer even counted in the unemployment statistics.
Federal emergency unemployment insurance, which has been in effect since the summer of 2008, is scheduled to expire at the end of this year. It provides additional weeks of federally funded benefits to unemployed workers who exhaust their 26 weeks (or fewer in some states) of regular state benefits before they find a new job.
The National Employment Law Project estimates that if lawmakers do not renew the program, about 2 million people will abruptly lose their benefits at the beginning of 2013. They also estimate that during the rest of 2013 several million more workers will exhaust their regular benefits before they can find a job — and there will be no federal benefits to help them. Unemployment benefits should be increased and sustained, not cut.
The racism faced by African American workers, from the state and employers is such that their unemployment rates have remained at least twice that of whites since 1972, when the government began tracking the data. Their unemployment rates remain about twice as high as that for whites, officially at 13.2 percent, while that for whites is at about 7 percent.
The racism of the monopolies and their state is such that this double rate of unemployment for African Americans defies educational attainment and occupational endeavor. Black workers with at least a bachelor’s degree had a 7.1 percent jobless rate in 2011, while the white rate was 3.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Similarly, black workers with only a high school education had a jobless rate of 15.5 percent, while similarly educated white workers had an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent.
Black workers in computer and mathematical occupations — which are said to be in demand— had an 8.1 percent jobless rate last year, while for whites the rate was 4.1 percent. Among construction workers, who were hard hit by the housing crisis, the black jobless rate was 30.4 percent, compared with 15.3 percent for whites. Budget cuts will deepen the impact on African American workers.
Unemployment insurance, like other social programs, provides important support to the economy as well as the individual worker and their family. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that extending unemployment insurance for one year would boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by between $0.40 and $1.80 per dollar of budgetary cost, and full-time-equivalent employment by between 2,000 and 10,000 full-time-equivalent years per billion dollars spent (one full-time-equivalent year is 40 hours of employment per week for one year). The lower end of the range is considered much lower than would actually be the case.
Extending benefits is not a cost, but rather returning wealth created by the workers to society in a manner that contributes to the economy. The CBO estimates that $30 billion is needed to reauthorize the current federal emergency unemployment insurance program for another year and “that extending benefits in this way would increase inflation-adjusted GDP by 0.2 percent (by 0.1 percent to 0.5 percent under CBO’s full range of assumptions) and increase full-time-equivalent employment by 0.3 million (with a range from 0.1 million to 0.5 million) in the fourth quarter of 2013.”
And while hysteria about a “fiscal cliff” is currently being used to justify more cuts, in addition to the unemployed, millions of retirees, survivors and the disabled are already being impacted by existing cuts to social programs and the service workers that run them. For example, cuts to the Social Security Administration (SSA) core budget – not benefits but the money that allows federal workers to help recipients – are impacting millions of Americans.
Applications and appeals are backlogged, eligibility reviews are being postponed indefinitely, and offices across the country are being shut down. Americans filing for retirement, survivor, and disability benefits are forced to stretch their savings while sometimes waiting years for their benefits or coverage.
Equally importantly, 9,000 SSA workers will lose their jobs by next summer and tens of thousands more are facing lay offs. This will greatly impact the 10,000 new people eligible for Social Security each day.
In addition to high unemployment, real wages, adjusted for inflation, have declined across most industries and sectors since 2002. And real wages now are only at about the same level as they were in December 2005.
Among immediate demands of workers to contribute to their well-being and that of the economy is raising the minimum wage and increasing and extending unemployment benefits. The economy is not providing for the rights of the people and the government is not taking up its social responsibility to provide funding and resources to guarantee these rights. A new direction for the economy and political affairs is needed, a direction that is pro-social and anti-war.