Jan. 8 — In the middle of a partial shutdown of the government which has already hurt millions of workers and shaken the economy, the U.S. president is scheduled to commandeer the airwaves this evening to talk about a “crisis.”
Trump’s invented crisis? The one about “hordes of criminal immigrants” trying to enter the U.S., for which he is demanding more than $5 billion to build a wall along the border with Mexico? The shutdown is because Congress so far won’t vote him the funds for his wall.
Seeing the tragedy of migrant children dying in custody after being brutally separated from their parents, most people in the U.S. seem to realize by now that the “immigration crisis” is phony — although Trump’s demagogy will still appeal to the hopelessly racist and xenophobic elements in his right-wing base.
But what needs to be said, loud and clear in answer to Trump is that YES, workers in the U.S. ARE facing a crisis. Will the Democratic Party leaders who take to the airwaves to answer him tonight talk about the real crisis?
A deep crisis exists that has nothing to do with immigration. In the early decades of the 20th century, the percentage of new immigrants in this country was much higher than now. That didn’t stop the economy from surging ahead during that period of capitalist expansion. But things are different now, and will only grow worse as long as the capitalist system, in its dying monopoly stage, prevents rational economic development.
Crisis for workers
Now, even as the fortunes of the super-rich have skyrocketed, and even as the official figures report a low unemployment rate, conditions for a large section of the working class are critical. This includes those with jobs.
Recently, after much struggle, a number of states and cities have raised the minimum wage to as much as $15 per hour. But the federal minimum remains at $7.25 per hour. Here’s what economists wrote about the minimum wage just last summer:
“The minimum wage does not provide a living wage for most [U.S.] American families. A typical family of four (two working adults, two children) needs to work nearly four full-time minimum-wage jobs (a 76-hour work week per working adult) to earn a living wage. Single-parent families need to work almost twice as hard as families with two working adults to earn the living wage. A single mother with two children earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour needs to work 138 hours per week, nearly the equivalent of working 24 hours per day for 6 days, to earn a living wage.” (Bare Facts About the Living Wage in America 2017-2018 by Carey Anne Nadeau and Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier, Aug. 30)
Is it any wonder that millions of people need some form of welfare or food supplements just to survive? Is it any wonder that millions will hustle and/or fall into despair, addiction and other attempts to dull their pain?
But consciousness is changing.
After years with fewer and fewer strikes, the number of workers on strike spiked last year. Many who withheld their labor had to break existing anti-labor laws to fight for better pay and working conditions. From teachers to nurses to airline and fast-food workers, they knew they couldn’t just hope things would get better. They had to organize, unite and act.
This comes even as the U.S. economy is poised on the brink of another downturn. While the stock market has its ups and downs, long-term predictions are far from rosy.
Crude oil prices hover around $50 a barrel, after predictions just a few months ago that it could climb to more than $100. The demand for oil is a basic index of economic growth in today’s fossil-fuel-driven capitalist world. Generally, oil prices go up after competitors are driven out of the market (think Iran and Venezuela) or when OPEC, dominated by Saudi Arabia, agrees to cut production. But that didn’t happen. Instead, as Markets Insider wrote on Dec. 20: “The oil market is yet another signal in a long line of indicators that global growth is slowing.”
Global trade is slowing, as seen in the sagging profits of Moller-Maersk, the world’s biggest operator of container ships. Trump’s trade war against China is an attempt to bend that socialist country to Wall Street’s demands. But, said one Wall Street voice, Business Insider: “Trade tariffs may end up stifling global container shipping by as much as 2 percent in the next two years.”
If Trump’s trade war against China also bites the capitalists here in the ass, workers have to be warned that their necks will be on the chopping block, and no electoral wand can wave that away.