Coming labor strikes vs. Washington fraud

As Oakland CA teachers and workers at Marriott Hotels prepare to strike, along with workers at Kaiser Permanente Hospital chain, the fraud in Washington – also known as the Kavanaugh hearings – winds on.

One Republican senator after another offers Kavanaugh soft ball questions and one Democratic senator after another asks “tough” ones. But none of them simply denounces the hearings for the charade that it is. Kavanaugh simply refuses to answer any serious question by saying that’s a “hypothetical”. But then he turns around and refuses to answer any question about actual cases, claiming that he can’t discuss anything that might come before him.

It’s all a farce designed to pretend that the supposed “rule of law” and the “separation of powers” is anything more than just protection for the owners of capital – the same owners of capital who are moving full speed ahead in grabbing an ever increasing share of economic production in the form of profits. As Marxist economist Michael Roberts points out, corporate profits are grabbing

Living standards are falling while profits are shooting through the roof.

an increased share of total production. (See graph.) And that’s what politics under capitalism is really all about in the end – how much of what gets produced goes to the producers and how much goes to the owners of capital, the capitalist class.

In fact, living standards have dropped a lot more than this graph shows. That’s because as we explained in our Labor Day article, the way inflation is measured was changed under President Bill Clinton to strongly underestimate it. The actual decline in real wages – what workers can buy with their pay – is 34% over the last eleven years. Much of that drop is concentrated in younger workers, because the cost of housing – especially buying a house – is one of the costs that has escalated the most. But many older workers bought homes before housing prices increased so much, so this doesn’t affect them as dramatically. For younger workers – the “millenials” – the dream of owning their home is exactly that, a dream which never will be realized.

Here in California, a big hullabaloo is being raised about a ballot measure to repeal the Costa-Hawkins law. That is a law that prohibits cities from enacting rent control. When it was passed, it exempted cities like Oakland that already had rent control laws on the books. And what’s happened in Oakland is illustrative. As the graph shows, the average two bedroom apartment in Oakland rents for over $3,000 per month. Housing costs are supposed to be no more than 1/3 of total income, meaning that for that rent to be affordable, the average family with one child would need to make $9,000 per month or $108,000 per year. However, the median family income in Oakland is just $60,472 or $5,039 per month. That means that after paying the rent, a family with one child (who would need a two bedroom apartment) would have slightly over $1800 per month left for all other expenses.

Average rents in Oakland

So, while repealing Costa Hawkins should be supported, it really won’t make any difference in cities like Oakland which already have rent control laws. And as Oakland shows, these laws hardly stop rents from shooting sky-high. The “free market” cannot resolve the housing problem any more than it can the issue of health care. What’s needed is a crash public housing program.

The charade in Washington, AKA the Kavanaugh hearings, is a set up. Everybody already knows that Kavanaugh will be confirmed. The Democrats are making a uproar over the fact that he will establish a hard right majority on the Supreme Court. But how about the other four judges? Kavanaugh is just one of them. And the entire judiciary system is designed to protect the system under which workers are falling further and further behind.

Trump, Kavanaugh and their party – the Republicans – are enabling this process by encouraging racism, sexism, chauvinism and any other form of bigotry they can use. Meanwhile, the Democrats are pretending that such reforms as the Costa-Hawkins repeal will make a serious dent in the process. It won’t.

“On Strike” the next battle front?
So far under Trump, the major fight backs have been against white supremacy/racism, against attacks on immigrants and against sexism. None of these struggles really slowed Trump down. Now, a new battle front seems to be developing: labor strikes. As we saw on Labor Day in Oakland, though, the question is whether these struggles will be led by a union leadership that is even half as determined as the leadership of the opposition – the owners of capital, AKA the capitalist class. Based on the record up until now, that doesn’t seem likely. That’s why rank and file activists should start organizing now to make their unions into the fighting organizations that can start to lead a real fightback against the owners of capital.

Living standards are falling while profits are shooting through the roof.

Categories: Oakland, United States

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