It takes a fight to win

On Labor Day 2003, a specter is haunting America. It is called unemployment.

In July, the official unemployment level rose to 6.2 percent. This figure hides hundreds of thousands who have given up looking for jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics only counts those who are “actively looking for work.” Three million jobs, largely in manufacturing, have been lost since George W. Bush seized office.

Large manufacturing layoffs continue even as the White House and big business pundits declare, “the worst is over.” Take the case of Pillowtex in North Carolina. Last month the company shut down 16 factories, throwing nearly 5,000 workers into the streets. A recent survey of laid-off Pillowtex workers reveals a striking picture of the devastation: 47.7 percent have dependent children, 22.3 percent have three or more, 42.5 percent are behind in their rent or house payments, 10.6 percent have already received notice of eviction or foreclosure, 92.7 percent cannot afford or get health care. Many report using up to half of their unemployment checks to pay for prescriptions.

A rise in the stock market and increased corporate profits do not make a recovery. While the yardsticks that capitalists use to measure economic progress may be improving, several signs point to more hard times for workers. Capital investment in factories and machinery remains stagnant. Capital flight continues to mean the export of jobs overseas to low-wage, high exploitation areas.

There are no easy solutions to this crisis. But there are solutions.

An estimated $60 billion a year is being spent on the occupation of Iraq. Sixty billion a year invested in repairing our crumbling infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and electric grid, would put millions back to work. A shorter workweek, with no cut in pay, would create new jobs. And requiring companies to invest $5 at home for every $1 they invest abroad would promote the kind of fair trade that creates jobs.

It takes a fight to win.

Bush is beatable

On May 1, George W. Bush dressed up like a “top gun” naval aviator and landed on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln. Before a huge banner reading “Mission Accomplished” Bush bragged that “major combat is at an end” in Iraq. Public approval of his handling of the presidency had reached 71 percent. His position seemed unassailable and his re-election certain a year-and-a-half before the polls open in November 2004.

What a difference a couple of months makes! Since his boast, some 150 U.S. soldiers and an unknown number of Iraqis have died and the occupation is becoming a costly quagmire. A just released Newsweek poll showed that only 53 percent approve of Bush’s job performance. The same poll showed that the people reject sending more troops by an emphatic 55 percent to 40 percent. Ominously for Bush, the poll showed that 48 percent believe U.S. troops should be brought home from Iraq now while only 47 percent support the occupation.

The Washington Post carried an op-ed piece warning that even Republican advisers pondering the “unthinkable,” that Bush’s pose as a wartime president defending national security could turn into a “vulnerability.” Already, the Democratic contenders are hammering him on his lies and deceptions in tricking the nation into war.

Add to it Bush’s “reverse Robin Hood” economic and tax policies. Yes, they fattened the coffers of his rich cronies, but the economy remains in the pits and state and local governments are awash in red ink. Consider other burning issues: the repressive Patriot Act, his attack on affirmative action, his drive to strip women of their reproductive rights, his prescription drug scam, and his phony “No Child Left Behind” legislation.

Surely these too are “vulnerabilities.” The point is, that on this Labor Day as we look ahead, Bush looks more and more beatable. We must expose his corporate ultra-right agenda relentlessly. We must start now to mobilize the voters to turn him out of office in November 2004.