Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Workers World Editorial: Obama Evades the Crisis in "State of the Union" Address


Obama evades the crisis

Published Jan 26, 2011 5:12 PM

The 25 million to 30 million unemployed and underemployed workers in the U.S. who might have listened to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address could not have found a single word in it to relieve them of their plight. The same can be said for the millions facing foreclosure as well as the 47 million people officially living in poverty.

What they did hear was a call for lowering the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years. Obama also proposed a five-year freeze on domestic spending in order to make “painful cuts.” He alluded to cuts in Medicaid and Medicare to solve the deficit problem. He glorified the Race to the Top program, which is a blueprint for privatizing the educational system and undermining teachers’ unions.

Obama dangled visions of future jobs based upon future plans to develop high-speed railways, high-speed Internet, biomedical technology, and more research and development, but there was not one word about a concrete jobs program or any other form of relief for the masses whose suffering is growing.

The president conjured up the era after 1957, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the world’s first space satellite. The Eisenhower administration, the Pentagon and the ruling class went into a complete panic over the prospect of falling behind the socialist USSR in technology. What followed was a massive investment in U.S. education, especially in the sciences and math. It was subsidized by the government and led to the beginning of the scientific-technological revolution.

Obama cited the present situation, pointing to China, which now has the world’s longest high-speed rail network and the world’s most powerful computer, and other countries that have also adapted to the new technological era, to the detriment of the U.S. He basically blamed China, India and other countries for the jobs crisis here. He called this “our Sputnik moment” and put forward visions of a new scientific-technological revolution to meet the challenge to U.S. business and to create jobs. He wants to “make America the best place on Earth to do business.”

But early in his speech he inadvertently contradicted his fundamental argument. He reminded the audience that once upon a time workers here could get good jobs with good benefits for life. Then he brutally reminded the workers that “the rules have changed.” Technology has transformed the situation. “Steel mills that once needed 1,000 workers can now do the same work with 100.”

In other words, the scientific-technological revolution of the past has led to a vast speedup in productivity and a similar reduction in the needs of capital for labor. This is what is behind the present jobless recovery, the massive unemployment and the economic crisis of capitalism.

Obama’s plans to invest in high-speed rail, high-speed Internet, green energy, etc., are all technology-intensive industries that cannot put the tens of millions back to work. The advance of technology is what is leading capitalism toward an impasse and further crises.

The bosses are still sitting on $2 trillion in cash because of capitalist overproduction, money they refuse to invest in production because they can’t make profit without a market for their goods. Neither Obama nor the ruling class has any answer to this fundamental contradiction. Only the struggle of the working class to get rid of capitalism can overcome this long-term crisis for the workers.
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