Remove Dr. Death

Despite the Republicans’ highly touted jobless recovery and last month’s pathetically small uptick in employment figures, this holiday season 15 million unemployed and underemployed Americans are preoccupied with sending out resumes, not Christmas cards. They’re poring over the newspaper want ads instead of toy sales, and they’re sitting down with pen and notepad not for optimistic New Year’s resolutions, but to draw up plans to scrape by – filing for bankruptcy, selling off homes and cars, pulling kids out of college, and putting off urgent medical treatment.

To normal people the phrase “jobless recovery” may seem like an oxymoron, but to big business economists “recovery” refers only to rising spending and productivity, and fattened profits, while jobs for workers are barely a footnote.

In fact, in 2003, the “recovery” and surge of corporate profits was actually based on a host of Bush-sponsored job-killing initiatives – everything from “free trade” agreements that facilitate the export of manufacturing and service jobs, to the severe curtailment of overtime pay which provides big incentives to employers to overwork their present employees instead of hiring new ones.

This administration’s “jobless recovery” brings to mind the bitter joke: “The operation was a success. Unfortunately the patient died.” If the operation is saving jobs, and the patient is the U.S. working class, then George Bush is the personification of Dr. Death.

Starting Dec. 21, about 90,000 workers a week will lose unemployment benefits. The first order of business for Congress when it returns after the holidays is to address this human emergency by at least putting in place a 26-week extension of unemployment benefits.

And for working families, the best recovery we can hope for in 2004 is to put this job-killing Dr. Death out of business.

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Grassroots power and the 2004 elections

The emergence of a powerful peace sentiment against war in Iraq has left its mark on all the Democratic Party presidential candidates. The 2004 elections are a major battle ground for the peace, labor, civil rights and all people’s movements. Defeating Bush and his far-right corporate apologists can only be accomplished by a highly organized, grassroots movement that keeps the pressure on all the candidates in the Democratic primary to stay focused on people’s needs and concerns. Grassroots organizing, mobilizing and education are all necessary tools to make it so.

The recent endorsements of Howard Dean by two major unions – AFSCME and SEIU – and by former Vice President Al Gore and Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) are a reflection of the way many at the grassroots see this upcoming, titanic battle against the multi-millionaire forces of the fanatical far right. In order to beat George W. Bush, a winning candidate needs to inspire peopleand take a fighting stance, not an accommodating one.

What is driving the sentiment at the grass roots? People are worried about the economy, health care, and how the Bushites are destabilizing the country and the world. Dean, in the midst of the war drive, took a public stand against it. And he has been skillful in tapping grassroots energy.

People want someone to stand up and fight for what’s right. But to beat George W. Bush it’s going to take a coalition even bigger than the forces now lining up behind Dean. It’s going to take a big tent approach and attitude. Important, key forces have chosen other candidates, or have yet to choose any candidate at all.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio got it right when he said at the recent presidential debate, “To begin this kind of forum with a question about an endorsement, no matter by who, I think actually trivializes the issues that are before us.”

The key to victory is combining grassroots voter education and registration with mass mobilization on the issues.