Picket Line & Barricades: ‘Don’t Worry,’ they Tell Us!


Have you lost your job? Laid off? The company collapsed? Not to worry, your friends say. They just read in the paper/saw on TV that the economy had “bottomed out” and was surely going to swing up.

And look at the stock market! Climbing back up! Maybe you can get out of that dot-com tech stock (if they didn’t go out of business) and almost break even!

But then you go looking for a comparable job to the one you used to have. Tough. Not even “sorry, no openings” but notices that the firms you are checking with are closing operations. Maybe there will be a $6 (part-time) job offered. Too bad you can’t buy food or pay the rent or drive your car on $6 an hour.

So what’s really going on? The U.S. economy is teetering between two enormous forces. The first is the planet-wide financial downturn (recession or depression, depending or whether you lost your job or the person next to you got the pink slip). Japan is in the dumps; has been for a long time. Europe is settling lower and lower; unemployment up, budget cutbacks, production easing.

Then there is the ultimate powerhouse-the United States. Time was that the U.S. only exported a small portion of its Gross National Product, and it wasn’t affected much by economies elsewhere. For example, Europe had been in a depression for years before the October 1929 stockmarket crash in this nation.

But that is no longer the case. As a result of American imperialist power, more and more of our national product goes abroad. Unfortunately, the countries we ship to, both advanced capitalist and former colonial ones, are feeling the pinch. Their citizens, once upwardly mobile strivers, are now downwardly unemployed-and can no longer afford to buy our products.

This process is opposed by the open money faucets of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board and the end of the “balanced” federal budget. It’s not cheap to run wars, even against the poorest nations and using a minimal number of U.S. troops.

Furthermore, the “coalition” of U.S. allies must be kept in line with billions paid to them or forgiven in debts. However, with continued vast spending for armaments (as well as tax breaks for billionaires on the premise that they’ll reopen the factories) the value of the U.S. dollar will steadily erode.

Will the owners of production restart the production lines because they’ve been given cash and cheap loans? Don’t believe it! The rule is that they only spend money to make money-and in a worldwide free fall, the factories stay closed.

The enormous tax cuts to the rich provided by President Bush (Senior) proved that. They took the money and put it in their accounts, with or without a thank you.

Regarding the stock market, the brokers think (hope) that the release of all that cash leads to U.S. renewal. It leads instead to gigantic national debt as people take advantage of no downpayment on cars or computers or low interest-rate refinancing of homes. But that has not made a dent in unemployment, and production of manufactured goods continues to move off-shore to Mexico or the Far East.

So batten down the hatches! We don’t need wars! The workers don’t need downsizing! The people don’t need depression or inflation! We need socialism! Join Socialist Action!

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[Editor’s note: We reprint this article by the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM). In 1989, the Bastille Appeal was launched, inviting popular movements throughout the world to unite in demanding the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the debt of the so-called developing countries. This crushing debt, along with neo-liberal macro-economic reforms imposed on the global South, has led to an explosion of worldwide inequality, mass poverty, flagrant injustice and the destruction of the environment.