Economic meltdown: We need a new, green New Deal!

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“Recession” just doesn’t seem to adequately describe the hits workers are taking today.

In the old days “recession” meant an economic downturn, unemployment and scrimping and cutting back until better days returned.

The current super-recession is putting us through much more hell than most of the “recessions” anyone can remember.

Official figures show that 7,000 folks are losing their homes daily now because of mortgage foreclosure.

The bosses have tossed 500,000 people into the jobless pile since January. Officially, we have almost 3 million more unemployed than when George W. Bush became president.

The consumer price index rose 1.1 percent in June, the biggest jump since 1982. That’s a double-digit annual inflation rate of 13.3 percent.

Energy prices rose 6.6 percent in June. Annualized, that’s an inflation rate of 78.2 percent.

Workers have cut back their demand for oil since last year by 25 percent or more. Yet the price of a barrel of the stuff shows no sign of dipping below $140, which is $50 more than it was a year ago. So much for those who tell us that a market driven by supply and demand will solve all our problems.

General Motors, for long the nation’s biggest industrial corporation, says it’s laying off even more workers because it is $15 billion in the hole.

That statement from GM’s accountants is as laughable as the fact that the company doesn’t have to count the profits it rakes in from overseas as part of its income. GM is opening plants all over the world.

Much worse, however, is the fact that GM is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the ultra-right’s war machine. The billions that GM makes building weapons for the Pentagon and its surrogates far exceed any “losses” it can calculate at U.S. plants. It has $15 billion in contracts to make armored vehicles, most of which it produces through subsidiaries overseas. These include vehicles suitable for biological and chemical warfare, in addition to ones that can launch missiles at targets 300 miles away. GM earns billions as sole supplier to the Pentagon of the Tomahawk missile. With war profits like these, why worry about auto plants or workers in the U.S.? Why not stay in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else for 100 years?

Meanwhile, Wachovia Bank looks like it might soon join IndyMac as the place to line up outside of if you want to get your money before the mortgage scammers swallow it all up.

Is anybody doing a damned thing about all of this?

Well, congressional democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are talking about a “second stimulus package.” It includes provisions the labor movement has pushed for, including job-creating reconstruction of the nation’s roads, airports and bridges.

Barack Obama has called for a second round of rebate checks to help people deal with skyrocketing food and fuel costs. More significantly, though, he has called for establishment of a multi-billion-dollar fund that would create at least 5 million new industrial jobs to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.

Bush has said nothing about an additional stimulus package but he has reminded us that anything we have in the bank, up to $100,000, is insured by the government! Very reassuring.

The Republicans and their standard-bearer McCain have come up with only a half-baked idea they say would solve the problem of oil prices — drill, drill and drill again, here, there and everywhere, even if, as experts say, it won’t come up with an extra drop of oil for the next 10 years.

It’s really not that hard to figure out what has to be done. History has much of the answer. We need a massive program like the one we had in the 1930s — the New Deal program that pulled us out of the Great Depression.

As with the New Deal, we need not just massive public works but strict new regulations to rein in the out-of-control profiteers who created this mess. And this time, we need massive projects aimed at creating a green economy that works for everyone, not just the rich.

Such a green New Deal to rebuild infrastructure and switch to new alternative energy could create many millions of new manufacturing jobs that should be good-paying union jobs. Simultaneously we need to get rid of anti-worker trade agreements and we need to institute national health insurance. The money for such a massive green New Deal could come from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ending all corporate-backed wars for resources.

Today, as it was in the late 1920s, it is the unregulated corporate thieves and capitalists who are to blame. Today, as in the 1920s, there are politicians who work at the beck and call of these thieves. In those days it was the Calvin Coolidges and the Herbert Hoovers. In these days it’s the George Bushes and the John McCains.

Here’s hoping that the voters, this November, give McBush the same treatment his political forefathers got!

jwojcik @pww.org