A plethora of articles have advised that the solution to the crisis in the “Big Three” automakers and U.S. industry in general, is for the U.S. government to “bail out” failing industry and fund its retooling to produce “greener” products. They want the government to pay for these costs by providing single-payer healthcare to all workers and thereby reducing the costs of labor for industry.
But these articles ignore two important facts. First, the auto industry has had ample time to develop “green transportation,” and already knows how to do it. The second is that capitalism is incapable of making changes such as providing healthcare, or producing greener products without billing the working class for the total cost of the job. One way or the other, under capitalism, workers are going to pay so as not to cut into the bosses’ profits.
Saving the boss at all costs!
Management and government say there must be a “partnership” between the workers and the bosses to save industries and jobs. Of course, what they mean by partnership is that workers must foot the bill by agreeing to “voluntary” pay and benefit cuts (including healthcare and pensions) or some kind of job buyout offer (giving up their jobs forever for cash) to “reduce labor costs” so that the company can “stay in business.” But it was a partnership between big oil and the U.S. automakers that not only failed to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles when the knowledge was there, but in fact led to the production of the most fuel-inefficient vehicles ever built!
In other words, we workers must not only agree to drastic cuts in our living standards and social services, etc., and sacrifice our own jobs at the altar of Capitalist Big Business, but we must give up healthcare—or what’s left of it—and, instead, with hat in hand, beg the government to charge us for single-payer healthcare in the pitiful hope of saving our jobs. The rallying cry from Wall Street to the Labor Faker union leaders is “Save the boss at all costs!”
The mass media, politicians, and labor bosses all blame “extravagant labor costs” for the economic crisis that capitalist big business is currently facing. No one in government or the labor bureaucracy is questioning the profit-taking, swindling, and extravagant CEO salaries and bonuses equaling one-hundred-times their yearly salaries, being pocketed by the bosses of industry.
Decent pay that keeps up with inflation and comprehensive healthcare should be an equal right for all people. And these so-called costs are not the cause of the general crisis of capitalism or the particular crisis faced by the Big Three today.
Workers have always paid
The workers themselves have always paid for all their own labor costs. Even if contracts do provide healthcare and other benefits and don’t take employee deductions—or if the employer “matches” employee deductions—these costs are always figured into the bosses’ bottom line of labor expenses, plain and simple. The profits and bonuses come off the top and everything else is “expenses.”
None of it is paid for by the boss; it’s paid for by the value produced for the boss, in the form of a product produced for sale, or service-rendered, by the workers alone. And it’s valued to sell well above the cost of the labor to produce it—benefits included. Simply put, workers pay for both their own labor and benefit costs, as well as producing the profits accumulated over and above those costs by the employer. It’s a pretty good deal if you’re a capitalist.
Shrinking jobs, shrinking pay
The bureaucratic leadership of the United Auto Workers (UAW) has bought into this hook, line, and sinker—marching their own membership up to the sacrificial altar. The disastrous state of the auto industry today is testament to the resounding failure of their “program” of plant closures, layoffs, and job buyouts designed to “save” the industry. The Labor Fakers’ most recent sell-out offer, as outlined in an article by Nick Bunkley in the December 4, 2008, issue of The New York Times, “U.A.W. Says It Would Consider Modifying Contract,” stated that:
The United Automobile Workers union will suspend its jobs bank, which requires carmakers to keep paying laid-off employees, and consider changes to its labor contracts as a way to help the Detroit companies avoid a collapse, the union’s president, Ron Gettelfinger, said Wednesday.
The union also has agreed, Mr. Gettelfinger said, to delay the payments that the automakers must make to a new retiree health care fund called a Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA.
At a news conference, Mr. Gettelfinger said that the U.A.W. would be open to modifying the four-year contracts that it signed in 2007 but not to completely restarting negotiations. Changes could include cuts to wages, healthcare or other benefits, though he did not give details, and would require approval from union members, but the jobs bank suspension does not.
The VEBA, in the first place, was a big sellout for autoworkers in 2007. In an effort to “partner” with employers, the UAW agreed to form a VEBA for their workers (current and retired) at the Big Three. Part of the agreement was that the employers were supposed to make payments to that fund, now paid for by the workers themselves. But with this new agreement, payments by employers to this fund are, in effect, canceled; leaving workers high and dry as far as healthcare is concerned. And as for the bailout itself, the same article goes on to point out:
G.M. said it needed $4 billion this month merely to survive into 2009 and another $14 billion after that. The company plan calls for more plant closures and job cuts, along with the sale or elimination of four brands.
According to another article in The Times dated December 8, 2008, “Major Issue in Big 3 Aid Is Final Cost,” by Bill Vlasic:
A comprehensive bailout for General Motors, the Ford Motor Company and Chrysler could cost as much as $125 billion, and even the companies themselves are hard pressed to dispute that figure.
It seems there is no limit to what this bailout will ultimately cost; it gets more costly by the moment. And just what are the workers getting from this deal?
The bailout scheme recalls the days of kings, not so long ago, rounding up peasant children and sacrificing them at the altar to ensure a healthier crop for the year; but really so the children would not have to be fed and their parents would be broken of any resistance left in them. Clearly this is a bailout for the bosses of all big business, courtesy of the required sacrifice of workers and their families across the board.
What about single-payer healthcare?
Many people have faith in single-payer healthcare. The most popular version of this is H.R. 6761 put forward February 2, 2005, by Congressmen John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McDermott, and others. It promises to provide comprehensive health insurance coverage for all U.S. residents based on a sliding scale. It even promises to partially fund the program by raising personal income taxes on the top five percent of income earners, and by instituting a small tax on stock and bond transactions—tokens to “progressive taxation.”
In the section entitled “Eligibility and Registration” H.R. 676 guarantees that all individuals residing in the United States (including any territory of the United States) are covered under the U.S. National Health Insurance (USNHI) Program, supposedly entitling them to a universal, best-quality standard of care. Its benefits are pretty comprehensive and include primary care and prevention; inpatient, outpatient, emergency, and long-term care; prescription drugs; medical equipment; mental-health service; dental service (other than cosmetic); substance-abuse treatment; chiropractic service; and basic vision care and correction (other than cosmetic). Benefits are available through any licensed healthcare clinician anywhere in the United States, and there are no deductibles, co-payments, coinsurance, or other cost-sharing.
The plan does away with private insurance companies. Providers of healthcare must be public or nonprofit. Investor-owned providers of care opting to participate are required to convert to not-for-profit status, and the owners of such investor-owned providers will be compensated at the appraised value of converted care facilities. The bill would authorize the Treasury to compensate investor-owned providers and would allow the conversion to a not-for-profit healthcare system to take place over a 15-year period.
There are many advantages to this bill compared with no healthcare at all, or to the “Massachusetts Plan,” which maintains private insurance companies and fines workers for not buying the insurance the government tells them they can afford. But the bottom line is: workers are gonna pay!
And certainly history has proven that these costs will constantly rise and the benefits will constantly be reduced as the economy weakens—as it is destined to do.
But will this help save jobs?
First of all, H.R. 676 has been in the works for a very long time and it hasn’t passed yet. Obama himself is in favor of a Massachusetts-type plan. So, it doesn’t look like it will pass.
And no one is suggesting that the private insurance companies and drug manufacturing companies—earning trillions of dollars in profits off those fortunate enough to have healthcare coverage—should have to come up with a dime!
Certainly the government should develop a “healthcare for all” system, but it should be paid for by a progressive income tax, i.e., the more you earn, the more you pay. Those earning less than, say, $100,000 a year (and that figure should be determined democratically by working people themselves and revised as needed) should pay nothing at all.
But this has nothing to do with the current economic crisis. While even free, universal healthcare (and to a much more limited extent, “single-payer” healthcare) would tremendously alleviate the pain and suffering of those who have no healthcare coverage at all, it will do nothing to preserve jobs or create new ones with pay scales that can actually support human life.
Capitalism, a systems failure extraordinaire!
The bottom line is that capitalists can increase their profits in only three ways: by expanding markets for their products and services, by cutting labor costs, or by murdering a large portion of humanity they find “redundant” as they have done in the past through warfare—both military and economic.
What we have today is a glut of products on the market and an accelerating reduction in the number of consumers who can afford to buy those products. And capitalism can’t do anything about that because the problem is endemic to the capitalist system itself. It is, in computer terms, a systems failure extraordinaire.
The capitalist mode of production is based upon the need for a constantly increasing accumulation of private profits by any means necessary. Hence, we are not only thrust into a massive world-war cloaked in a never-ending “War on Terror” to preserve U.S. investments, but we are currently embroiled in an even more pervasive war on working people and the poor—across the globe and right here at home. The ruling class is slashing human services in our communities and slashing benefits, conditions, pay, and jobs across the board.
To simply call for the capitalists to retool their factories and provide some sort of healthcare is to mask what workers are really being asked to do. Workers are being asked to accept starvation, poverty, homelessness, and unemployment—even to sacrifice the welfare of their children through the adoption of two-, three-, many-tiered labor contracts—to “save industry” and, ultimately, to save capitalism!
Of course, the obvious solution is to nationalize U.S. industry—and industry the world over—put it into the hands of workers themselves, and run it democratically, for the satisfaction of human needs and wants, instead of private profit. But that is something capitalism can’t do! The capitalist economic system stands directly opposed to any such thing, and its commanders are willing to destroy the world rather than acquiesce to such a solution.
Now, there are many demands that we workers can raise that can expose this truth—that capitalism is based upon the private-profit motive and therefore must and will act in diametric opposition to the interests of the masses of workers in this world. To the bosses profit comes before human life—before progress, before the fulfillment of human needs and wants, and before the salvation of our planet.
An injury to one is an injury to all
But there is one great difference between the capitalist class and the working class. The capitalist class is a tiny, tiny minority of humanity and the working class makes up the vast majority. Included in this mass are workers, farmers, and our allies whose interests are in line with ours—and any capitalist who is willing to cross the class line and stand on the side of the majority of humanity, for a system based upon production for universal human need and want, and not profit.
This is important. The interests of capitalists as human beings are the same as anyone’s: to live happy and productive lives and reach their fullest potential. But their interest as members of the capitalist class is to secure their own happiness through private profit, at the expense of the rest of us—even at the expense of the planet itself. It is the system capitalists adhere to that must go.
Workers can expose this basic class division between the interests of the ruling capitalist class and the diametrically opposed interests of the working class by demanding a progressive tax structure to pay for all human needs, services, and infrastructure.
But we must also demand that the corporate books be opened, that the profits be traced and found, and that the cost of retooling industry and providing things like healthcare—all social services—come out of those funds and not out of the pockets of workers and out of the mouths of our children!
Stop the wars and close the bases! Bring all the troops home now!
And there is an elephant in the room: the entire Pentagon budget; the cost of the war on Iraq and Afghanistan; U.S. funding of Israel’s war on Palestine; the U.S. war on terror that crosses all borders, and costs trillions of dollars, just to keep U.S. capital’s stronghold over the world, its resources and its people.
Ending these wars and turning the Pentagon budget (greater than all the world’s military budgets combined) into a worldwide human-needs budget could end all human suffering and the reasons for war in the first place!
These are demands the capitalist system cannot live with. What it can live with is what is suggested by a “partnership” between labor and management to keep the company going, i.e., “Us workers are gonna be made to pay because that’s the capitalist way!”
But free, universal healthcare, the funding of social services, progressive taxation, opening the corporate books, reclaiming stolen profits and using them for the benefit of all are reasonable demands that are in the interests of the vast majority of all humanity.
Production for need and want instead of profits is in the best collective interests of all. This would mean retooling industry to run cleaner and produce more efficient products; investing in clean and efficient mass transportation; rebuilding our infrastructure, schools, homes, and hospitals; expanding human services; and ending war and destruction, for a start.
Capitalism is unhealthy for children and other living things
We could live with capitalism if it could afford these basic human rights and values and satisfy human needs on an equal basis. But it just can’t do that, and that’s all there is to it.
So what we have to do is to unite in our own defense, recognizing that, ultimately, only a socialist revolution that does away with the system of the private ownership of the means of production, and production based on profit, and replaces it with a system based on production for human needs, will we be able to realize our human rights and win basic human equality for all.
Socialism is a system that is owned and controlled by the working class and run in our own collective interests. Its ultimate goal is the development of each individual to his or her fullest. It is a system that can run in the most efficient manner, retooling to reduce labor and improve performance, so that work-hours for all can be progressively reduced—and this is key—without any reduction of reward for work performed!
In fact, under socialism, eventually there is a withering away of any connection between a person’s contributions to society, i.e., his or her work, and the reward for work performed. That’s what Marx meant by the phrase, “from each according to ability and to each according to need.” In this simple phrase, the connection between human labor and material reward is severed forever. It is a profound emancipation of all humanity!
What we workers need to realize is that this world is at our fingertips if we just reach for it in unity and solidarity with each other. If we fight for our collective common interests and goals, through unified, democratic and well-organized opposition to the despotic system of capitalism, its wars, its pollution, its racism and inequality—we can overthrow it and finally bring an end to the domination of the wealthy over the poor.
1 HR 676
To provide for comprehensive health insurance coverage for all United States residents, and for other purposes: