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WHAT WE THINK
Pushing patriotism for profits

October 26, 2001 | Page 3

GEORGE W. BUSH has a message for workers suffering from the recession and the economic impact of the September 11 attacks: Suffer some more.

Consider what the New York Times said about the White House "economic stimulus" plan: "Apart from its economic flaws, the measure is flat-out unfair. Of the $54 billion in accelerated tax cuts, every penny would go to the top 30 percent of taxpayers. Half would go to the top 5 percent. Eighty percent of the benefits from the capital gains tax cuts would go to the top 2 percent of households."

Just $2.3 billion of the $100 billion in the White House's proposal would go to extended benefits for unemployed workers. But Republicans in Congress--who already blocked measures to aid laid-off airline and aerospace workers--have vowed to vote against extra jobless benefits. And just 39 percent of all employees are even eligible to receive unemployment compensation.

So much for "national unity." And with job security disappearing for tens of millions of people, Bush's appeals for patriotic shopping sprees to boost the economy seem obscene.

Bush even had the gall to use last week's summit for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to declare that the U.S. is "committed to opening the doors of trade and opportunity and therefore [improving] the lives of its citizens, versus the terror network, which has a dark view, an oppressive view and no regard for human life."

In other words, Bush is using the war against terrorism to push through a law granting him fast-track trade negotiating authority for more corporate trade deals.

Unions are under pressure to back off their demands. In New York City, SEIU/1199 agreed to a five-month extension on a contract with private hospitals that expired October 31.

But employers have only become more aggressive about pushing their program. Airline bosses have used the threat of bankruptcy to announce mass layoffs and drive through corporate restructuring.

And New York Gov. George Pataki plans to cut 5,000 state jobs through early retirements and to impose a hiring freeze--just when tens of thousands of New Yorkers urgently need employment.

Fortunately, groups of workers--from state employees in Minnesota to tank makers at General Dynamics in Michigan and Ohio--have shown the courage to strike to defend their interests. Asked why United Auto Workers Local 12 was willing to strike a defense plant during a war, Al Logie, a mechanic, told reporters, "They should have thought about that when they gave our benefits away."

By standing up for their demands, workers can send a message to employers that they can't use the war to ram through an anti-labor agenda.

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