2009年7月17日 星期五

A Growing Problem - Race, Class and Obesity Among American Women

Mary Ferguson
Diversity or Division?
Race, Class and America at the Millennium
New York University

The United States is facing a new epidemic. More than half of all Americans are overweight or obese and the percentages are most shocking for women of color.

African-American, American Indian and Hispanic-American women have the highest risk of becoming overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only one minority group, Asian Americans, has a lower rate of obesity than the general population.

In fact, the results of a national study released in 1996 show that more than half of all African-American and Hispanic women in the United States are already above what is considered a healthy body weight.
Related Story: Eating Disorders

Why does weight matter? Because overweight and physical inactivity now account for more than 300,000 premature deaths each year, according to Jeffrey P. Koplan, director of the CDC. "Obesity is an epidemic and it should be taken as seriously as any infectious disease epidemic," he said in a recent press release.

37% of African-American women are obese; 33% of Mexican-American Women are obese; 24% of Caucasian women are obese

The statistics are startling. Sixty-six percent of African-American women are overweight and 37 percent are technically obese, meaning that they are 30 percent above ideal body weight. The figures for Mexican-American women are similar: 66 percent overweight and 33 percent obese. For Caucasian women, the figures are slightly lower with 49 percent considered overweight and 24 percent, obese.

And why the prevalence of obesity among minority women? In the past, researchers have focused on health differences between African Americans and Caucasians using race as the major determinant. But as the rate of obesity has skyrocketed in women of all races, scientists began to realize that they had to look at other factors, such as education and socioeconomic level, to determine the cause and develop intervention plans.

"People don't like to think about the idea that one is identified by social class or social stratification," Dr. Nancy Adler explained. Adler is the director of the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health, which was formed in 1997 to study the connection between health and socioeconomic status.

Recent research shows that social class measured by income and education can be more powerful than genetics in predicting future health problems, including obesity.

"It's tied more to general economic disparities," Dr. James Hill said when asked about the differences in overweight between African-American and Caucasian women. Hill, one of the country's leading authorities on obesity, pointed to the similarity in the obesity rate of African-American and Caucasian men.

While researchers have studied combinations of all of these factors, statistics for the number of lower class, lower educational level white women that are affected by obesity are hard to find. Despite the recent flurry of published articles on obesity, Tim Hensley, a health communications specialist with the CDC, said that not all of the angles have been covered yet. The poor, uneducated white women seem to be an ignored group when it comes to obesity research.

Race, gender and socioeconomic status all play a part in the genetics versus environment debate. It is too complicated to say it is just one cause. The Journal of the American Medical Association devoted its entire Oct. 27 issue to the subject of obesity in the United States. One article stated that heritability studies have shown that 70 percent of body weight can be tied to genetics.
Recent research shows that social class measured by income and education can be more powerful than genetics in predicting future health problems, including obesity.

However, genetics alone cannot account for the 50 percent increase in the percentage of Americans that are obese and the doubling of the number of overweight children in the past two decades.

"Genes don't make us obese. They allow us to be obese," said Hill, who also is director of the Center of Human Nutrition at Colorado Health Sciences University. It is the lifestyle that an individual who is susceptible to obesity chooses that will most affect her propensity to becoming overweight.

Dr. Elissa Epel of the University of California at San Francisco has noticed that scientists are "recognizing the importance of uncoupling race and social class" in their research.

Epel studies the correlation between stress and fat distribution determined by the presence of growth hormone and has found that individuals with the lowest levels of education have the lowest levels of growth hormone making them more likely to gain weight.

"The more growth hormone you have, the less you tend to be obese," she said. While genetics play some part in the amount of growth hormone that one's body produces, Epel has found that stress is a major factor.

"Being of low social status can put someone under chronic stress," she said. "People with less education tend to have jobs with a lot of responsibility and less control." She explained that a head of a company may experience a high level of job related stress but would have more choices and control over the situation and that, in turn, alleviates stress overall. A day laborer, however, has little control over the stress of daily life.

Epel said that the stress of life at low educational and socioeconomic levels is a direct cause of obesity.

Once labeled an epidemic, obesity must be dealt with on an individual as well as a societal level. Education, prevention and methods of controlling body weight must all be targeted to the specific populations involved.

Hill blames the American environment for the alarming rates of obesity. "Everywhere we go, it encourages people to eat," Hill exclaimed disgustedly during a telephone interview. "We are the most sedentary generation ever. We don't get a lot of physical activity. Our physiology isn't set up to maintain a normal weight under these circumstances."

A controlled body weight is a matter of balancing the energy that is taken into the body, food or drink, with the level of energy expended by the body in the form of physical activity or exercise. This seemingly simple equation is complicated by the fact that more than 25 percent of women are not active at all. African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to be physically inactive, and people at a lower socioeconomic level exercise less than wealthier individuals.

More than a third of African-American women report no leisure-time physical activity.

"A lot of minority women can't relate to the word 'leisure-time,'" Dr. Amy Eyler, a researcher at the School of Public Health in St. Louis, Mo., said in an interview with Reuters. "And when you ask them about it they say, 'I don't have any.'"

Eyler found that physical activity was less common among women across the racial lines who live in rural areas, smoked and had lower levels of education.

Some researchers also point a finger at the profitable fast food restaurants that tend to target minority consumers.

"Fast foods can be singled out as a villain because they're an obvious villain. What they're doing is giving us food, which is generally low in energy and high in fat, and they're giving it to us in these huge portions," Hill exclaimed, but he stressed that they were not the only culprits in the fattening of Americans.

The hurdles for minorities and especially the poor are enormous. They are more likely to have limited access to health care and insurance coverage, and often suffer from poor nutrition. Some recent immigrants have the added burden of language barriers that make negotiating the U.S. health system impossible.

In addition, African-American women report less pressure to be thin than their white counterparts and tend to be less self-conscious about how much they weigh.

Koplan of the CDC suggests that the entire community must play a role to help the increasing number of overweight Americans. He recommends that doctors counsel patients at annual exams, workplaces offer healthy meals, companies install on-site gyms, schools improve their physical education classes, and cities create safe public spaces for walking. Also, parents should encourage their children to play outdoors instead of spending time in front of the television or computer.
"We may be too late to do anything about it. The question we need to ask ourselves is can we turn it around before everyone susceptible is obese."

In one effort at obesity prevention, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has selected four centers across the United States to test and develop programs to help African-American girls, ages 8 to 10, to catch them before they form bad food and exercise habits.

Celeste Durant has found a way to reach African-American and Hispanic women in the Denver area. She successfully marketed her idea for a show on health for minorities to a new cable station, Colours- Television for All People. The first half-hour segment of "Being Well" will air in May addressing the connection between nutrition, stress, weight and overall health.

"The purpose is to help our viewers lead a more healthy lifestyle," Durant explained. "We're trying to do another approach that makes it more human."

On the first show a nutritionist will suggest ways to make the traditional African-American diet- heavy in fat and salt- healthier.

"All of us begin to go back to the foods that we were raised with," Durant, who is African-American, said.

Durant has pitched her idea for a health show targeting African Americans for years to networks including BET with no success. Because of the small black population in Denver, she changed the format to include both Hispanics and African Americans. She noted that the two minority groups have a number of the same health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and breast cancer.

Congress provided $5 million in funding to the CDC to research the alarming increases in obesity in 2000. A CDC report released in March confirmed that overall, African Americans and Hispanics, as well as most minority groups, engage in more health-risk behaviors and take fewer preventive health care measures than whites.

The report breaks down health behaviors of racial or ethnic groups by state but not by gender. Interestingly, the figures vary widely within racial groups depending on state of residence, socioeconomic class and education level.

But Hill emphasized that the problem of obesity affects everyone.

"There is such a high prevalence that we have obesity in every group," he said of the numbers that are predicted to keep growing. "This is not something that just affects the poor."

"We may be too late to do anything about it," Hill said. "The question we need to ask ourselves is can we turn it around before everyone susceptible is obese." Unlike the campaigns against smoking, public health campaigns about obesity are much more complicated.

When it comes to changing behaviors, Hill said, "It's easier to do it or not to do it-not to modify it."

Women currently represent 51 percent of the U.S. population. According to the National Women's Health Information Center, they make the majority of the health care decisions and are more likely to provide care for their own families.

There are more than 36 million women of racial or ethnic minority backgrounds in the United States, a number which is expected to increase dramatically by 2050, when racial minorities will account for almost half of the U.S. population.

Obesity, second only to tobacco as the leading cause of premature deaths, disproportionally affects women of color and women of lower socioeconomic classes.

While efforts have begun to prevent obesity and deal with the rapidly increasing cases of obesity-related diseases, the results for this mounting health crisis for women are still a long way off.

"It's late in the game," Hill warned, "and we don't have a game plan."

New report documents "food deserts" in US cities

Christine White
Institute for Food and Development Policy - Food First
July 9, 2009

Food deserts – a term used for communities that have limited access to affordable and nutritious food - are real places and they are affecting the health of millions of Americans. Found in both rural areas and urban clusters, food deserts are defined by their distances from large grocery stores and other supermarkets selling a variety of fresh produce and healthy food options. Deserts primarily form around low-income populations where families live on tight budgets and lack a reliable means of transportation.

In recent years there has been a growing concern over the health and dietary intake within food desert communities. Many studies have shown a strong relationship between access to full-service grocery stores and poor diets. And it’s no secret that obesity and other health-related diseases are on the rise and one of our nation’s most severe public health challenges.

With these concerns and bleak national health statistics in mind, the USDA conducted a one-year study on food deserts, their characteristics, causes and possible policy solutions. Researchers identified the location of supermarkets and grocery stores in the US, examined households without vehicles and specific socio-economic populations (2000 consensus), and reviewed national level data questions of household food adequacy and access. The study was recently published in June 2009 and its findings have sparked some serious conversations about food deserts and their implications on our nation’s health.

Here are a few of the USDA findings from the June 2009 report:

2.3 million (2.2%) of all U.S. households live more than a mile from a supermarket and do not have access to a vehicle
3.4 million (3.2%) of all U.S. households live between .5 to a mile and do not have access to a vehicle
4.4% of households in rural areas live more than 1 mile from the supermarket AND do not have access to a vehicle.
22% - Percent of households in low income urban areas living 1/2 to 1 mile from a supermarket with no access to a vehicle.
2001 survey found that nearly 6 percent of U.S. households did not always have food due to access related problems.

All in all the USDA study was unable to determine a causal relationship between food access and diet - but this should in no way discredit the existence of food deserts – it only changes the discussion. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look at communities and their food environment as a whole. We must not only consider the limited access to healthy food options in these areas, but also their availability to fast food chains and convenience stores. Our nation’s food deserts are overwhelmed by golden arches and the like – and over access to bad food is as much a problem as under-access to healthy options. The dynamics of food deserts are complex, and solutions won’t be easy - but they are achievable solutions and will be a critical step in changing the way America eats.

2009年7月11日 星期六

New Book:The Global Fight for Climate Justice

- Anticapitalist Responses to Global Warming and Environmental Destruction
edited by Ian Angus

As capitalism continues with business as usual, climate change is fast expanding the gap between rich and poor between and within nations, and imposing unparalleled suffering on those least able to protect themselves.

In The Global Fight for Climate Justice, anticapitalist activists from five continents offer radical answers to the most important questions of our time:


Why is capitalism destroying the conditions that make life on Earth possible?

How can we stop the destruction before it is too late?

In 46 essays on topics ranging from the food crisis to carbon trading to perspectives from indigenous peoples, they make a compelling case that saving the world from climate catastrophe will require much more than tinkering with technology or taxes. Only radical social change can prevent irreversible damage to the earth and civilization.

edited by Ian Angus
Ian Angus, who wrote several of the articles in this book and selected the others from a wide range of authors and movements, is one of the world’s best-known ecosocialist activists. He is editor of the online journal Climate and Capitalism, which has been described as "the most reliable single source of information and strategic insights for climate justice."

Ian is also Associate Editor of Socialist Voice, an Advisory Editor of Socialist Resistance, and a founding member of the Ecosocialist International Network. He lives in Ontario, Canada.

Advance Praise
“The most reliable single source of information and strategic insights for climate justice is Climate and Capitalism, the website Ian Angus edits, and it is a tribute to the movement’s development that demand has arisen for this book.”— Patrick Bond, director of Centre for Civil Society, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

“Essential reading for everyone who is serious about confronting the climate emergency.” —Emma Murphy, co-editor, Green Left Weekly

"We need to move beyond capitalism to an ecosocialist system. Creating such a future will demand intense political struggle. This book is an essential tool for that struggle, and I commend it to all who are serious about creating a liveable future for humanity." —Derek Wall, former Principal Male speaker, Green Party of England and Wales

“At last, an absolutely indispensable guide to the debate on climate change, a sourcebook that makes the case for anti-capitalist action as the only effective way to stop global warming. Of course the powers-that-be don’t agree — after all, who else is responsible for the current crisis? But we all need The Global Fight for Climate Justice if we are to fight for a liveable world.” —Joel Kovel, author of The Enemy of Nature and founding member of the Ecosocialist International Network

“A wonderful collection of articles from across the word by climate change activists. From governmental leaders such as Evo Morales to trade unionists like Tony Kearns this book will inform, excite and energise those who see the need to fight both the impact of climate change and the political systems that have produced it.” —Jane Kelly, editor (with Sheila Malone) Ecosocialism or Barbarism

“‘Socialism or Barbarism’ is no longer (if it ever was) an abstract theoretical proposition. This comprehensive collection of essays focused upon the climate and food crises, the responses of capital and socialist alternatives, draws upon both global social movements and leading advocates of an alternative to barbarism to demonstrate that the choice before us is an immediate one, not one to be put off to the future.” —Michael A. Lebowitz, author of Build it Now: Socialism for the 21st Century and Beyond CAPITAL: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class.
About the Authors
Ian Angus, one of the world’s best-known ecosocialist activists, is editor of the online journal Climate and Capitalism.

Hugo Blanco has been a leader of the indigenous peasant movement in Peru since the Land or Death uprising in the 1960s. He publishes the newspaper La Lucha Indígena.

Patrick Bond
is director of the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. His most recent book is Looting Africa: The Economics of Exploitation.

Simon Butler writes for Green Left Weekly and maintains Climate Change Social Change, an ecosocialist blog.

Fidel Castro led the Cuban revolution and was the Cuba’s head of state from 1960 until he retired in 2007.

Nicole Colson writes for Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the US-based International Socialist Organization.

Kamala Emanuel is a climate activist and a member of the Socialist Alliance in Perth, Australia.

John Bellamy Foster is editor of Monthly Review and the author of many books, including Marx’s Ecology (2000) and The Ecological Revolution (2009).

Robb Johnson is a UK-based singer-songwriter.

Tony Kearns is Senior Deputy General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union in the U.K.

Joel Kovel is the author of The Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? and a founding member of the Ecosocialist International Network.

Juan Esteban Lazo Hernandez is Vice-President of Cuba’s Council of State and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Larry Lohmann is the author of Carbon Trading: A Critical Conversation on Climate Change, Privatization and Power.

Michael Löwy, who co-wrote the first Ecosocialist Manifesto in 2001, is a supporter of the Fourth International in France.

José Ramón Machado Ventura, who fought with Fidel Castro in the guerrilla war in the 1950s, is first vice president of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers .

Liam Mac Uaid
is an editor of Socialist Resistance magazine.

Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia, is the first indigenous head of state in Latin America.

Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle are Executive Director and Co-Director/Strategist of Global Justice Ecology Project.

Andrew Simms is the author of Ecological Debt: Global Warming and the Wealth of Nations, and policy director of the UK-based New Economics Foundation.

Kevin Smith is the author of The Carbon Neutral Myth: Offset Indulgences for your Climate Sins.

Sean Thompson is a supporter of Green Left, the anti-capitalist current in the Green Party of England and Wales.

Terry Townsend is a member of Socialist Alliance and Managing Editor of Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

David Travis works with sustainable agriculture, community economics and alternative land tenure systems. He is currently developing a perennial agriculture project in North Carolina, USA.

Daniel Tanuro, a certified agriculturalist and ecosocialist environmentalist, is a supporter of the Fourth International in Belgium.

Derek Wall is a founder of the Ecosocialist International Network and a former principal speaker for the Green Party of England and Wales.

Chris Williams is a physics and chemistry teacher in New York City. He writes for International Socialist Review.

----- ***** -----
Ian Angus

In this book, anticapitalist activists from around the world offer radical answers to two of the most important questions of our time:
  • Why is capitalism destroying the conditions that make life on earth possible?
  • How can we stop the destruction before it is too late?
The authors disagree on many things. Some are Marxists, some are not; some proudly call themselves ecosocialists and others see no need for that label; some are members of political parties and some reject traditional forms of political activity. Even among those who consider themselves Marxists or ecosocialists there are differing views on to build a movement, what social forces can change the world, what technologies and policies should be supported or condemned.

But they all agree that solving the climate crisis of the 21st century, saving the world from climate catastrophe, will require much more than tinkering with technology or economic policy, the solutions promoted by capitalist politicians and most of the green establishment.

As John Bellamy Foster wrote in his recent book, The Ecological Revolution: “We have reached a turning point in the human relation to the earth: all hope for the future of this relationship is now either revolutionary or it is false.”

The climate emergency exposes the present social order’s deepest contradictions: unstoppable thirst for wealth and material growth that can only be obtained by condemning billions of people to poverty, while simultaneously undermining of the very conditions of human existence.

This system, as Karl Marx said, is like a vengeful god that demands human sacrifices before it deigns to bless its worshippers.

And now, when their god has taken us to the edge of global catastrophe, the system’s faithful acolytes insist that only minor repairs are needed, that everything will be all right if we just rejig the tax code, or let corporations trade pollution credits, or have fewer babies.

In contrast, the essays and manifestos in this book argue that the climate crisis involves profound issues of political, economic and social justice, issues that cannot be resolved without equally profound changes in the political, economic and social systems that are causing the crisis. They expose the profound injustice that makes the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people suffer for the crimes of the richest nations and the biggest corporations.

They insist that we must view global warming as an issue of oppression, exploitation and injustice, and that we must focus our fight on winning climate justice — for the global south, for indigenous peoples, for workers and farmers around the world.

Marx famously wrote that philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways but the task is to change it. That statement is often misunderstood. It wasn’t just a call to move from discussion to action — Marx was also saying that we can’t properly understand the world unless we work to change it.

For that reason, it’s important to point out that the authors of this book aren’t ivory tower theorists: every one of them is actively involved in building movements to stop climate change, to change the world. So the articles in this book aren’t abstract meditations: they are products of the authors’ concrete experiences in building movements against global warming and environmental destruction. The authors aren’t passive observers: they are partisans who don’t hesitate to declare their outrage at ecological vandalism and their determination to stop the vandals.

Our task is to change the world. This book is a contribution to that task.

Banks buying back TARP warrants at a discount

Ronald D. Orol
Jul 10, 2009
Ronald D. Orol is a MarketWatch reporter, based in Washington.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- A panel that oversees the $700 billion bank bailout package said Friday that financial institutions buying out warrants they gave the government in exchange for capital injections are now buying back those stakes at well below their fair value.

The Congressional Oversight Panel, which is charged with overseeing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, said in a report that a group of 11 small banks that have repurchased government warrants in exchange for taxpayer-funded assistance, have bought-out the stakes at 66% of their face value.

The oversight panel, which employed three Harvard University valuation experts to conduct the analysis, said taxpayers would have received $10 million more had the warrants been sold back to the banks at their face value.

The report argues that liquidity discounts are a key factor for why the warrants were purchased at such low prices. Should a similar discount be a major factor for warrant repurchases at larger institutions buying out government stakes, the shortfall to taxpayers could be as much as $2.7 billion, the report said.

A group of 32 financial firms, including 10 large financial institutions, paid $70.2 billion to buy out preferred shares Treasury received when they received financial assistance. These buyouts have made the firms eligible to buy back the warrants the government received along with the preferred shares.

Banks that received financial assistance as part of TARP were required to give the government warrants for the future purchase of some of their common shares. Warrants are the right to buy common shares of a company at a set price at some point in the future.

The report said, however, that the Treasury may have other goals with the repurchases that supersede maximizing taxpayer returns.

"Treasury has said that it wants to allow banks to operate again without TARP assistance as soon as they are strong enough to do so," it said.

However, some large financial institutions believe that the government is asking too much, not too little, for the warrants.

Treasury and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!jpm/quotes/nls/jpm (JPM 32.34, -1.28, -3.81%) have been unable to agree on a price for the warrants, prompting J.P. Morgan to take steps to waive its rights to them, according to company spokesman Joe Evangelisti. That process allows the government to auction them in the public markets, said Evangelisti.

"Treasury turned down our price," said Evangelisti. "That enables Treasury to auction the warrants."

J.P. Morgan provided a valuation for the warrants that Treasury rejected as too low, Evangelisti said. "We support the process," Evangelisti said.

The oversight panel's report said the panel is exploring the possibility that Treasury consider selling the TARP warrants in an open, public auction -- an alternative that could possibly give taxpayers a better valuation for the stakes.

"This has the benefit of stopping any speculation about whether Treasury has been too tough or too easy on the banks that want to repurchase their own warrants. It also permits the banks to bid for their own warrants -- in direct competition with outsiders," the report said.

Should TARP be repaid?
The report also raises the question of whether banks should be repaying TARP funds at all at this stage in the economic recovery. The C.O.P.'s next report will examine this question.

"Any exit from the TARP system implicates an important policy question: If the banks give up federal support prematurely, will the economy suffer as a result? The panel has not reached a consensus on whether it is wise policy to release banks from the TARP program at this time, but our June report on the bank stress tests raised key questions about whether we know enough about the banks' overall health," the report said.

Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren chairs the panel, which has five members including AFL-CIO General Council Damon Silvers; Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Tex.; and former GOP senator John Sununu.

The panel also urged the Treasury to make the process for repayments as transparent as possible.

"As always, it is critical that Treasury make the process -- the reason for its decisions, the way it arrives at its figures, and the exit strategy from or future use of the TARP -- absolutely transparent. If it fails to do so, the credibility of the decisions it makes and its stewardship of the TARP will be in jeopardy," the report said.

As of June 30, the Treasury has received roughly $6.7 billion in dividend payments from TARP-funded financial institutions, according to a GAO report Thursday.

The dividend funds have been allocated to pay down the national debt, but legislation under consideration on Capitol Hill would use some of the revenues from those funds to help revitalize neighborhoods and create affordable housing.

The new GM

Joe Kishore
11 July 2009

The “new” General Motors exited bankruptcy court on Friday. With the help of the courts, and under the direction of the Obama administration, the company has shed nearly $130 billion in liabilities and created the framework for a vast increase in the exploitation of its workers.

The speed of the bankruptcy proceedings is remarkable. GM passed through the entire process is less than six weeks. One analyst called it “unprecedented, unbelievable, breathtaking.”

Bankruptcy court Judge Robert Gerber brushed aside a series of objections from retirees who will see their health care eliminated, along with asbestos and accident victims and other unsecured creditors. With the potentially profitable assets sold to the new GM, these obligations, along with a number of unwanted brands, will languish in bankruptcy court as part of the “old” GM.

The whole process was a travesty of legality and due process, demonstrating that when Wall Street wants something done, every institution of the American state snaps into line. The bankruptcy courts are supposedly a mechanism for mediating the different claims of various “stakeholders.” In the event, the court served as a rubber stamp for decisions that had already been made. The wealthy investors and banks will recover 100 percent of their investments in GM debt, while workers and other claimants will end up with nothing.

The new GM is born out of a process of social devastation. The company will shed 27,000 more jobs in the US, bringing its total US workforce to 64,000. Thirty years ago the company employed over 618,000 in the US. At the beginning of last year, it employed 110,000.

An additional 14 plants will be closed, along with some 2,000 dealerships. GM is also shutting plants in Canada, bringing the total workforce there to 7,000, down from 20,000 in 2005.

The “new” company emerges from the rubble of closed factories and dealerships and the impoverishment of working class communities that depended on auto employment to fund schools, hospitals and other basic services, as well as the blighted lives of hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees.

As part of a deal negotiated with the United Auto Workers, workers who retain their jobs will have their wages frozen. A no-strike pledge through 2015 agreed by the UAW will facilitate further job, wage and benefit cuts, without the inconvenience of a contract vote. The company aims to replace all older workers with new-hires making $14 an hour.

In an indication of things to come, CEO Fritz Henderson declared Friday that he would employ the “intensity, decisiveness and speed” of the bankruptcy process and transfer it “to the day-to-day operations of the new company.”

UAW retirees, who have already seen their dental and optical benefits eliminated, will face sharp cuts in health care, enforced by the UAW. The UAW-run health care trust—the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA)—will own 17.5 percent of the new GM. Its assets will be insufficient to cover benefits owed to UAW retirees, but the UAW executives hope to grow rich from the 17.5 percent of stock in the new company they will control.

More than 50,000 retirees who are members of the International Union of Electrical Workers and other non-UAW organizations face the immediate elimination of their health care, as they are not covered by the VEBA.

Vast swaths of the country will be affected. Half the plant shutdowns will take place in the state of Michigan, which already has the country’s highest unemployment rate at over 14 percent. Ohio (with a 10.8 percent jobless rate) will see plants close in Columbus, Parma, and Mansfield. Other communities facing plant closures include Spring Hill, Tennessee; Fredericksburg, Virginia; Jacksonville, Florida; Wilmington Delaware; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Massena, New York.

The downsizing of GM—along with Chrysler, which exited bankruptcy last month—will ripple throughout the auto parts industry and other industries, producing a wave of bankruptcies, plant closures, layoffs and wage cuts.

Smaller towns and cities will be devastated by the closure of 1,900 dealerships, which will mean the elimination of about 100,000 jobs, including dependent businesses.

The restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler is the direct outcome of the policy of the Obama administration, the tool of the most powerful sections of the financial elite. The government conditioned loans to the automaker on securing this result, making explicit its demands for massive concessions from auto workers. Everything has been tailored to the interests of Wall Street, which was determined to transform the former auto giants into much smaller, but highly profitable, enterprises.

The government will now own 60 percent of GM, but the administration has repeatedly made clear that it has no intention of playing any role in the day-to-day management of the company. This will be left to Henderson and the new chairman, Edward Whitacre, former CEO of AT&T, who was handpicked by the Obama administration’s auto task force. The Wall Street Journal quoted Karl Rove, former advisor to George W. Bush, calling Whitacre “very tough”—i.e., very dedicated to the interests of Wall Street.

The administration has said it hopes to quickly sell off its shares to private investors, who are set to make a killing.

The UAW played the critical role in carrying through the plans of Wall Street and the Obama administration. Prior to both the Chrysler and the GM bankruptcies, the UAW agreed to historic concessions, which it pushed through by arguing that the only alternative was the complete liquidation of the companies.

A further illustration of the UAW’s integration into corporate management is its choice for its allotted slot on the new GM board of directors. The UAW selected Stephen Girsky, a former Wall Street analyst for Morgan Stanley and a former advisor to GM’s previous CEO, Rick Wagoner. Girsky will advocate the most ruthless attacks on UAW members in order to boost the company’s stock price and the cut that goes to the UAW executives.

The bankruptcy of General Motors, once the pinnacle of American manufacturing, is a stunning expression of the protracted and precipitous decline of American capitalism. The economic crisis that has overcome world capitalism is rooted in the decay of American capitalism. But the crisis precipitated by the money-mad speculation and fraud of the US financial elite has only increased its domination over the political system and every other official institution in the country.

The banks, utilizing the services of the Obama administration, are exploiting the crisis of their own making to plunder the national treasury and carry through a further dismantling of unprofitable industries, in order to divert even greater resources to the enrichment of the American financial aristocracy.

At the heart of this process is an assault on the living standards of the working class without historical precedent.

To oppose this attack, workers require a new strategy. They must break with the UAW and form independent rank-and-file committees to oppose the united front of the Obama administration, Wall Street, the auto bosses and the UAW, and fight to defend their jobs and living standards.

These committees should work for the unity of all sections of auto workers and the entire working class and prepare actions to demand the reopening of the plants, the restoration of wages and benefits and the ripping up of sellout contracts and government diktats. Plant occupations, strikes and mass demonstrations should be called in cities affected by the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies and the shutdown of parts plants and dealerships.

What is above all necessary is a political response based on a socialist perspective. There can be no resolution to the crisis in auto that defends the basic interests of the working class outside a complete transformation of social relations in the United States and around the world.

The financial dictatorship of the banks must be broken, through their nationalization and transformation into public utilities under the democratic control of the working population. The auto companies themselves must be turned into public entities, run under the democratic control of the working class. Only on this basis can the economy be developed to meet the needs of the people, rather than private profit.

To carry out this program, workers need their own political party. The Socialist Equality Party urges all auto workers throughout the US and internationally to contact the SEP. We make a special appeal to workers in the Midwest to attend a special conference on July 25 to discuss a new political perspective for the working class.

2009年7月3日 星期五

U.S. loses equivalent of every job created in decade

Alia McMullen
Financial Post
July 02, 2009

An unemployed man who lives in a camper van on Venice Beach in Los Angeles on June 19, 2009. The U.S. unemployment rate has risen to 9.5% after more than 400,000 jobs were lost during the month

The U.S. economy has lost the equivalent of every job created in the past nine years.

All job growth since the final year of the dot-com bubble, its recovery from the bust, and the ensuing six years of consumer-driven boom is now gone, leading some economists to fear an outright decline in wages will be next. Others believe the United States is on track for a painful "jobless recovery."

"This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from the previous business cycle, a testament both to the enormity of the current crisis and to the extreme weakness of jobs growth over the business cycle from 2000 to 2007," said Heidi Shierholz, an economist at Washington-based think tank The Economic Policy Institute. "It is apparent that, despite the substantial positive impact of the February recovery package, the economy's dramatic deterioration from November to March was even greater than anticipated."

Non-farm employment fell for the 18th consecutive month in June, dropping by a worse-than-expected 467,000, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures showed Thursday. The decline marked the longest run of job destruction in the post World War II period.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the jobs market has shrunk by 6.5 million positions, pushing the unemployment rate up 4.6 percentage points to 9.5% -- the highest rate since 1981. Nine million part-time workers are in want of full-time jobs, and a record 29% of unemployed have been jobless for more than six months.

Derek Holt, vice-president economics at Scotia Capital said the U.S. unemployment rate would likely eclipse the 10.8% record set during the early 1980s recession.

"This has become, without question, the worst ever post-war pace of job market downsizing in the U.S. economy," Mr. Holt said.

He said unemployment would weigh on an economic recovery by restraining consumer spending. It would also cause further concerns about credit quality and retail bank revenue growth.

A homeless in Los Angels

The employment market's problems do not end at job losses. Earnings are under pressure. Average hourly earnings rose an annualized 0.7% in the past three months -- the smallest gain since records began in 1964. The annual change in hourly earnings slipped to a rise of 2.7% from 3% the previous month.

"Wages will soon be falling outright, a classic deflation signal," said Ian Shepherdson, the chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics.

Compounding problems, average hours worked fell further in June to be down 0.8% to a cyclical low of 33 hours a week. The average workweek has shrunk 8.2% since the start of the recession, placing added pressure on household cash flows. It also means employers will be slow to hire because there is ample room to increase work hours.

Sal Guatieri, an economist at BMO Capital Markets, said the conditions increasingly pointed to what is known as a "jobless recovery," where economic growth returns without a corresponding rise in employment.

He said the decline in work hours could weigh on gross domestic product in the second and third quarters, and could cause GDP to come in worse than predicted. BMO has forecast the U.S. economy to contract by an annualized 2.9% in the second quarter and remain flat in the third quarter.

The dispirited outlook for the United States will have a direct impact on Canadian jobs by keeping business conditions weak. Dale Orr of Dale Orr Economic Insight said Canada's unemployment rate would likely peak near 10% in early 2010, up from 8.4% now. "I do not expect solid reductions in the unemployment rate until 2012," he said.

There was one positive in the U.S. employment report: the pace of job losses in June remained lower than the massive declines of winter, when a record 741,000 jobs were lost in January alone. Even so, it was the first increase in the number of job losses in five months. A large part of the decline in June was due to a 49,000 drop in government employment, mostly due to layoffs of temporary workers hired to prepare the 2010 Census.

But Wednesday's rise in the purchasing managers index, which reflected expansion for a second consecutive month, suggested better employment conditions ahead.

"Historically, firms will wait for production to expand for a few months before they start adding to payrolls," said Stéfane Marion, the chief economist at National Bank Financial. "This development suggests a much better tone to labour markets by this fall."