White House Protest Corps

America Can’t Solve Crises Because It’s a Company-Owned Town
June 23, 2010, 5:13 pm
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Published on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 by Black Agenda Report

America Can’t Solve Crises Because It’s a Company-Owned Town

by Glen Ford

The United States can no longer engage effectively in “nation-building” in the one place on Earth it has a right and duty to do so: at home. These are the lessons of the 2010 Gulf oil catastrophe, the 2008 financial meltdown and the 2005 Katrina horror — disasters that history will rightfully conflate as symptomatic of the fundamental crisis of the rule of Capital. The U.S. has become a company town of speculative and extraction enterprises whose social and physical geography the rulers relentlessly appropriate, monetize and despoil – all with obscene abandon.

At the core of the100 or so activists that gathered in New Orleans for an Emergency Summit to Stop the Gulf Oil Catastrophe, last weekend, were veterans of the ravages of Disaster Capitalism following Hurricane Katrina. They had seen up close how Capital and its servants at all levels of government organized themselves as a public-private mob to drive Black and poor people from the city. They were witnesses to the crafting of a corporate consensus that the exiled poor should have no rights that conflicted with the imperatives of Capital — no right to return, no right to reclaim their lives, no rights that cannot be superseded by the claims and ambitions of the oligarchs. They had watched as finance Capital’s urban gentrification agenda was near-instantaneously put on fast-forward in New Orleans to ensure the permanent purging of the poor. A kind of perverse anthem seemed to rise from each corporate celebration of the city’s imminent and profitable rebirth: “Free the land — of Black people!”

Now the land and bayous and sea are made hostile to all life by the depraved indifference of voracious extractors who monetized, securitized and derivitaized the Gulf’s most deeply buried oil deposits years before the accursed Deepwater Horizon rig made its last, fatal thrust. The super-deep reservoirs of the Gulf were sold and their oil futures already leveraged to finance yet more assaults on man and nature, even before President Obama’s flip-flop on off-shore drilling in August, 2008, when he had the Democratic nomination in the bag.

Such world-shaping dealings have nothing to do with you and me, nothing to do with notions of democracy, because democracy does not exist in the United States, where finance capital and its extracting, hoarding, manipulating energy cousin, rule. There is no evidence of democracy anywhere that counts — not in the $14-plus trillion transferred directly to Wall Street, mostly by the quasi-public Federal Reserve, while the real economy in general and Black America in particular were stripped and gutted. No notions of an American social compact could deter the ruling class from acting out its pathologies on its own citizens when Katrina presented the opportunity. And no amount of public disgust at BP has moved Obama to behave as if he is beholden to the majority that elected him — for the simple reason that he is not.

Every element of the American political process is firmly in the hands of the oligarchy. The public only became aware of Barack Obama’s existence after he had been thoroughly vetted by corporate mechanisms of all kinds, including but by no means limited to the corporatist Democratic Leadership Council (see Bruce Dixon, Black Commentator, June 5, 2003). Obama’s informal — but quite binding — “contracts” with the oligarchs were concluded before he set foot in the U.S. Senate. The public was the last to know that the obscure politician Obama had become a “viable” prospect by corporate acclimation in the only “race” that counts — the early, business fund-raising contest. (The corporate consensus included BP, which gave Obama more money than any other candidate, and Wall Street, which was even more generous to the Nation’s First Black President.)

The U.S. government is divorced from the people because it is a creature of Capital. The three recent mega-crises are both the products and the illuminators of that wholly corrupt relationship. It is, therefore, quite logical that the activists of the Emergency Summit to Stop the Gulf Oil Catastrophe appear to direct their demands to both BP and Obama:

1) Stop oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Full compensation, retraining and new employment, including public works, for all affected,

2) The government and entire oil industry must allocate all necessary resources to stop and clean up the spill, prevent oil from hitting shore, protect wildlife, treat injured wildlife, and repair all devastation. Full support, including by compensation, must be given to peoples’ efforts on all these fronts and to save the Gulf.

3) No punishment to those taking independent initiative; no gag orders on people hired, contracted, or who volunteer; those responsible for this crime against the environment and the people should be prosecuted.

4) Full mobilization of scientists and engineers. Release scientific and technical data to the public; no more lying and covering up. Immediately end use of dispersants; full, open scientific evaluation of nature and impact of dispersants. Fund all necessary scientific and medical research.

5) Full compensation for all losing livelihood and income from the disaster.

6) Provide necessary medical services to those suffering health effects of the spill. Protect the health of and provide necessary equipment for everyone involved in clean up operations. Full disclosure of medical and scientific studies about the effects of the oil disaster.

No Nation-Building, Here

We are living in the late stages of overwhelming dominance (hegemony) of finance capital — and, secondarily, the oil and gas money-machines. It is a period characterized by destruction of the domestic manufacturing base and frenzied predation of the public sector. The mission of Capital’s servants in government is, therefore, to assist Wall Street and the energy sector in the fastest possible conversion of natural and social resources to private exploitation.

Those among the public and media that still harbor the illusion that government is there to serve the people, despite seeing so much evidence to the contrary, speak of a national “malaise,” a loss of purpose, a temporary failure or flaw in the national character. What nonsense! What we are witnessing is the destructive behavior of a predatory class that sees its future in trillion-dollar derivative bets; commodification of every conceivable resource (food, water, air?) and manipulation of every commodity market; privatization of every possible state function (schools, safety nets); constant expansion of the “market” in the maintenance of empire; and the “primitive accumulation” of the spoils of war.

For such a class, there is no room, rhyme or reason for anything resembling domestic nation-building, and they will not assign their servants in government to any such project. Worse than simply being on their own, the people face the same oligarchic enemy at the commanding heights of both the public and private sectors: the Democrat and the banks, the Republican and Big Oil, and vice versa – and all of them aligned with the military complex.

The pace of disaster-making is quickening in America, which indicates something very much like “the end is near.”

Maybe these overlapping pyrotechnics of horror — Katrina, the Crash of 2008, the Great Gusher in the Gulf — are necessary to teach Americans the nature of class war, that it is, indeed, hell. At any rate, the oligarchs can be counted on to accelerate the processes of their own demise. It is up to the people to save themselves, through organizing; there are no guarantees.

© 2010 Black Agenda Report
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

15 Myths About the Gulf of Mexico Oil Catastrophe



Since the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig April 20 killed 11 oil rig workers, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continues to claim the lives of wildlife, like birds and sea turtles, and compromise the fishing and tourism industries, and threaten the culture of the Gulf coast. That, and it’s spawned an awful lot of misconceptions. Here’s a look at a few myths that The Daily Green has been watching:

1. Obama Put a Moratorium on Offshore Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico

Myth. President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a moratorium on new oil deepwater drilling permits, and shut down 33 exploratory deepwater wells on May 6. (A similar moratorium on new shallow water drilling lifted three weeks later. “Shallow” in this context means up to 499 feet deep.) Both orders, however, were vague and left 3,600 existing offshore oil wells active in Gulf waters. Since the spill, 17 new offshore oil drilling projects have been permitted. Even the six-month deepwater moratorium was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge June 22, leaving it void if not overturned on appeal or reinstated on different legal grounds. (Nevermind that the judge has invested in Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded, Halliburton, which handled the faulty cementing of the well, and about a dozen other companies involved in offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.) And Obama has always been a supporter of offshore oil, though some of his environmentalist supporters seem to have forgotten that; he made good on a campaign promise shortly before the BP oil spill started and proposed opening additional offshore waters to oil and gas exploration – in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Atlantic coast and off Alaska. (Permits to start drilling in those new waters have been suspended temporarily.)

2. Boycotting BP Gas Stations Boycotts BP

Myth. Lady Gaga is among the leading proponents of a BP boycott, as musicians on summer tours shun the stations, along with Public Citizen and tens of thousands of Facebook fans of a boycott. But while the brand may be offensive and permanently tainted, BP disinvested in its U.S. gasoline chain in 2007, leaving independent owners invested most heavily in local stations. They pay BP a licensing fee and may (or may not) be more likely to carry BP gasoline, but the economics of wholesale oil and gas is such that BP, Britain’s largest company, is unlikely to suffer much from a retail gas boycott, but BP the local station owner could. Anyway, what’s the better alternative? And unfortunately, oil ends up in a lot of products other than gasoline, under a lot of different brands, making it difficult to avoid one company’s product.

3. Offshore Oil Could Make the U.S. Energy Independent

Myth. The U.S. imports 57% of the oil we burn, and two-thirds of those imports come from politically unstable or hostile countries. As a nation, we spend more than $700 million a day on imported oil (the figure was more than $1 billion as recently as 2008, when oil prices were higher). There isn’t enough oil offshore to offset that imbalance. An analysis by the Energy Information Administration, the most credible government voice on energy issues, predicted that new offshore oil drilling would result in a whopping 3-cent difference in the price of gas by 2030. That’s not to say that renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are ready to fill in and plug the gap either, unfortunately. If you’re looking for a better path toward energy independence, conservation is the most lucrative avenue. Three pennies not spent on gas are three pennies earned (and three pennies worth of offshore oil not drilled).

4. The Deepwater Horizon Rig Was Uniquely Vulnerable to Disaster

pacific walrus

Myth. The facts keep piling up showing negligence – or at the very least, bad decision-making – by BP, and many of those decisions and conditions may be unique to BP, which has been criticized before this for a culture that put profits far ahead of safety and environmental protection. But disaster preparedness by other oil companies drilling in the Gulf, and oversight by the government, is virtually identical. For instance, other companies’ disaster response plans in the Gulf seem to include notes about protecting the walrus and other Arctic creatures that don’t live in the Gulf; unfortunately they don’t include plans to respond to underwater plumes of oil, failed blowout preventers or other real-world issues. And the Mineral Management Service, the agency in charge of regulating energy exploration on federal lands and in federal waters (yes, you own those) was outed repeatedly by its own inspector general of cavorting with oil companies, failing to inspect rigs, waiving requirements for environmental review and otherwise failing its public service mission in favor of its royalty-collecting mission. The MMS determined in 2009 that an environmental review of the Deepwater Horizon rig wasn’t warranted because it would have “minimal or non-existent environmental effects.” The story is the same with hundreds of other drilling operations in the Gulf of Mexico – including 49 projects (including two BP projects) exempted from environmental review since the Deepwater Horizon explosion. Clearly, the assumption that these rigs are safe is dead wrong. (Photo: Pacific walrus, by NOAA)

5. Seafood Is Widely Contaminated

Myth. Certainly, oil can make seafood unsafe to eat, and the Gulf of Mexico is the primary source of domestic shrimp and oysters, and a significant source for other popular fish, like red snapper. And roughly one-third of the Gulf has been closed to fishing as the oil spreads. But much of the seafood for sale in the U.S. is imported, and two-thirds of the Gulf remains open to fishing. While fraud can never be fully discounted, there are systems being put in place to inspect Gulf seafood to ensure that it has been caught from clean waters. That said, the story could change as the longterm contamination of the Gulf food chain is studied.

6. The BP Oil Spill Will Lead to a Strong Senate Energy Bill

Myth. The U.S. Senate has been stalled in its efforts to pass an energy and climate bill to match the one passed months ago by the House. A linchpin in the Kerry-Lieberman bill, which would cap carbon emission and invest in clean energy sources, was the expansion of offshore oil drilling. That, along with investment in nuclear power, the shielding of the coal industry from fully owning up to its pollution and other sweeteners were built into the bill to bring Republicans and reluctant Democrats to the table. The catastrophic oil spill will make an energy bill more likely to pass, but without the offshore oil sweetener, a climate bill is not.

7. It’s a “Spill”

Myth. We keep calling it the Gulf oil spill. But it’s a gusher, a geyser, a “four-dimensional catastrophe,” in the words of one fisheries expert: “‘Leak’ is totally wrong. A leak is something you wrap duct tape around and maybe get to next week, next month or next year. The ‘gusher in the Gulf’ sounds way too cute. It’s not exactly a spill: that’s maybe something between your kitchen and your dining room table. ‘Spill’ sounds like a pool. It’s two-dimensional. This is very much a three-dimensional or, rather, a four-dimensional catastrophe,” said Douglas N. Rader, chief ocean scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund. “I think a whole new language is going to have to be developed to discuss accidents – events – environmental catastrophes of this magnitude. Nothing quite like it exists.”

8. The Gulf Coast Will Heal Itself

Myth. While it’s true that natural systems are remarkably regenerative, there’s still evidence of oil spill damage decades after past oil spills of this (or lesser) magnitude. Further, contamination from oil both on the surface and deep underwater could compromise marine ecosystems in surprising ways – leading to tainted seafood, for instance, or degraded wetlands so that coastal communities will be exposed to greater damage from hurricanes and storm surges. Before the spill (even after decades of degradation) the Mississippi Delta provides $47 billion annually in economically valuable “ecological services” – on par with the value of BP. Time will tell how bad and how long the environmental damage will be, but as the oil (hopefully) stops gushing, Gulf of Mexico ecosystems will find a new equilibrium, not return to a previous state.

9. Now We Know How Much Oil Is Spilling

Myth. Just how big is the Gulf oil spill? Recently leaked internal BP documents show that engineers have estimated a worst-case spill rate of 100,000 barrels a day. That’s two-thirds bigger than the worst-case estimate (60,000 barrels) of independent scientists charged by the government with estimating the spill … which was nearly three times the worst-case estimate (25,000 barrels) released by the government in June … which was five times the worst-case estimate (5,000 barrels) released by the government and BP in May … which was itself five times the estimate (1,000 barrels) released by the government and BP in April. The difference between 1,000 barrels and 100,000 barrels is obvious: It’s the difference from being a spill that’s a fraction of the size of the Exxon Valdez spill (previously the worst spill in U.S. history, at 11 million gallons) to a spill that’s many multiples of that infamous spill.

10. The Gulf of Mexico Is Most at Risk from Offshore Oil Spills

Myth. While the Gulf of Mexico holds all of U.S. offshore oil sites currently, President Obama wants to open the Arctic to offshore oil drilling for the first time. Environmental groups are trying to stop the plan, arguing that not only are ecosystems there fragile – think polar bears, seals and, yes, walruses – but a cleanup in icy waters would be even more difficult than in the Gulf of Mexico, and the icy waters themselves would inhibit the (slow, but natural) breakdown of oil. The Interior Department did halt Shell’s plans to start drilling this year, but it’s not a permanent ban. As for which is more vulnerable, it’s a difficult call; the point is that a spill in either place has the potential to devastate entire regions.

11. Shrimp and Pelicans Represent Wildlife at Risk From the Oil Spill

piping plover

Myth. While shrimp and oil-soaked pelicans have become icons of the Gulf oil spill, there is a huge range of wildlife at risk, from the Kemp’s ridley turtle (five of the world’s seven sea turtles spend time in the Gulf, but none more than the Kemp’s ridley, which spawns only there) to the snowy plover (and other shorebirds that stopover in the Gulf on their migration flights) to the bluefin tuna (which spawns in the Gulf and is already at risk from overfishing). Each of these species was endangered before the spill, and dozens of birds, turtles, fish, marine mammals, crustaceans, and other species are at risk from the effects of the spill. (Photo: Piping plover, by Ralph Wright/American Bird Conservancy)

12. There’s Nothing Individuals Can Do

Myth. There’s always volunteering, donating to those cleaning birds or arguing for good energy policy, or writing to Congress directly. But beyond that, there’s federal law. The Clean Water Act empowers citizens to bring suits to stop water pollution and hold polluters accountable. It’s hard to argue that BP’s oil spill isn’t polluting water, and several groups – The Center for Biological Diversity, Gulf Restoration Network, Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and Environment America – have filed suit. The potential fine is great, at $4,300 per barrel.

13. On-Shore Drilling is Safer

Myth. It’s hard to compare the risks from different activities, but two forms of oil and gas extraction gaining steam on land are fraught with risk. Natural gas extraction from shale requires hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”), a process that injects a chemical stew at high pressure deep underground in order to force natural gas out of the rock. Groundwater becomes contaminated with toxic chemicals, threatening drinking water supplies across a wide swath of country where shale formations exist (like the Marcellus shale through New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia). Another controversial new form of oil extraction comes from so-called “tar sands” like those in Alberta, Canada; extracting oil from tar sands involves open pit mining on a grand scale or heating the land at high temperatures to sort-of melt the oil out of the land. What each of these – deepwater drilling, fracking and tar sands mining – has in common is that they are very difficult, expensive and risky. And that they are made necessary by our appetite for oil; the cheap oil that’s easy to get at is being exhausted, leading us to these highly complex, highly controversial and highly risky methods.

14. Republicans are the Politicians Most in the Pocket of Oil Companies

Myth. Republicans may scream “drill, baby, drill” louder, but when it comes to political money being spent to influence government, it’s more or less a tie. Key Democrats are among the top recipients of political money from oil companies, as are Republicans. The money flows to those in oil-rich states, to high-profile candidates and those with the most power in Congress (ie, the chairs of key committees). Here’s a look at the Friends of Earth tally of opensecrets.org data, showing the biggest recipients of money from BP and other oil companies since 2006:


  • John McCain (R-AZ) – $36,649 from BP; $2.43 million total
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA) – $16,200 from BP; $329,100 total
  • Mark Begich (D-AK) – $8,550 from BP; $85,958 total
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – $8,500 from BP; 223,326 total
  • Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – $8,500 from BP; 408,400 total


  • John Culberson (R-TX) – $10,200 from BP; 187,350 total
  • Ron Paul (R-TX) – $7,300 from BP; 134,132 total
  • Charles Rangel (D-NY) – $6,500 from BP; 40,600 total
  • Steny Hoyer (D-MD) – $6,000 from BP; 91,800 total
  • Don Young (R-AK) – $5,500 from BP; $45,500 total

15. It Will All Be Over in August

Through each of BP’s failed attempts to cap its well – from the top hat to the top kill – it has maintained that the worst thing that could happen was that the well would continue to gush into August, when the company would complete its relief well. But there’s no guarantee that the relief well will be fully effective. In a June 15 testimony, BP’s Lamar McKay said that “the design of the relief well is very, very similar to the original well.” In addition, there’s speculation that the oil well leak may have caused the sea floor itself to rupture, meaning the shutting off the well may not stop oil from seeping into the Gulf.

Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/bp-gulf-oil-spill-myths-0622?src=rss#ixzz0rhF9AxQX

Protesters Speak Out Against U.S. Support for Ethiopian Government
June 21, 2010, 8:41 pm
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By Beth Goldberg, June 18, 2010

protestersNearly 200 protesters gathered in front of the White House on the afternoon of June 14 to denounce continued U.S. support for Ethiopia’s incumbent regime. Chanting in native Amharic and rallying around the Ethiopian flag, the crowd members were predominantly from DC’s sizable Ethiopian diaspora.

On May 23, Ethiopia held its fourth national election since transitioning to democracy in 1993. The transition away from dictatorship seems incomplete, however, when all four election have reelected President Meles Zenawi and his monolithic EPRDF party by landslide majorities. This year’s officially reported win margin was 99.6% vote for Zenawi, representing the government’s repression of opposition, use of voter intimidation, and rejection of election monitors. This is a significant regression in democratic governance since the last election Ethiopia held in 2005.

The protesters reacted strongly to this regression, calling on the U.S. to change its foreign policy and aid practices, which currently help prop up Zenawi’s regime. Ethiopia receives the third largest amount of foreign aid from the U.S. after Israel and Egypt, receiving $862 million in foreign assistance in 2009. This inundation of aid and diplomatic silence by the U.S. is projected to be because Ethiopia is such valuable U.S. ally in the volatile horn of Africa and in the War on Terror.

But Ethiopians, both in the Horn of Africa and in the U.S. diaspora, are enraged that the U.S. is prioritizing the stability and anti-terrorism policies of their corrupt despot, Zenawi, over encouraging free and fair elections.

The State Department’s assistant press secretary has remained markedly vague and diplomatic, promising, “We will work diligently with Ethiopia to ensure that strengthened democratic institutions and open political dialogue become a reality for the Ethiopian people.”

NYC June 28th Rally: HONDURAS RESISTS!!!


Click image for English/Español flier, text below jump:

MONDAY, 28th JUNE 2010, 4:00PM to 7:00PM
Rally assembles at: Times Square (42nd St and 7th Ave) – New York, NY
March to and ending rally: 42nd St to 48th St and 1st Ave (Honduran Embassy-UN)

March of the People of Honduras against the coup d’état of June 28th, 2009

  • Stop human rights violations in Honduras
  • Stop political assassinations in Honduras
  • No to impunity for assassinations and violations
  • We demand the release of political prisoners and the repatriation of our political exiles
  • We support the rebuilding of Honduras and the creation of a new Constitutional Assembly

Contacts for more information: 917.841.3643 (celcas2000@gmail.com), 646.924.5621 (avilareed@yahoo.com), 212.633.6646 (TeresaTejana1@gmail.com)

Organized by: Resistencia Honduras NY/NJ, Endorsing Organizations: National IAC, May 1st, Troops Out Now Coalition. Solidarity work donated by community organizers

LUNES, 28 de JUNIO 2010, de 4:00PM a 7:00PMRally Salida: Times Square (42 Calle y Ave. 7th) – New York, NY
Trayecto: Calle 42 hasta la calle 48 y 1ra Ave (Frente Embajada de Honduras)

Marcha del Pueblo Hondureño contra el golpe de estado de Junio 28 del 2009

  • Alto a las violaciones de derechos humanos en Honduras
  • Alto a los asesinatos políticos
  • Alto a la impunidad por violaciones y asesinatos
  • Exigimos la libertad a los presos políticos y la repatriación a los exiliados políticos
  • Apoyamos la refundación de Honduras con una nueva Asamblea Constituyente

Para más información, comuníquese al: 917.841.3643 (celcas2000@gmail.com), 646.924.5621 (avilareed@yahoo.com), 212.633.6646 (TeresaTejana1@gmail.com)

Organizado por: Resistencia Honduras NY/NJ, Organizadores auspiciadoras: National IAC, May 1st, Troops Out Now Coalition. Trabajo de solidaridad donado por organizadores comunitarios

Obama celebrates “jobless recovery”.
June 21, 2010, 9:04 am
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The Obama administration has launched a public relations campaign entitled “summer of recovery,” kicked off by Vice President Joe Biden at the White House Thursday, followed by a presidential appearance Friday at a construction site in Columbus, Ohio.

The purpose of this public relations exercise is to mask the dismal reality of mass unemployment and protracted economic stagnation, and to justify a turn to austerity policies and budget-cutting.

The “recovery” campaign coincides with the decision of the US Senate to block the extension of unemployment benefits for millions of workers, with a faction of Senate Democrats using the claimed “recovery” to justify the termination of extended benefits.

The number of unemployed workers losing benefits because of the Senate inaction will hit 1.2 million by the end of this week. An even more dramatic consequence would be the impact on state governments if the bill is not passed by June 30, the last day of the fiscal year for most of the 50 states. As many as 900,000 state government workers could face layoff under emergency measures that would be taken as a result of failure to enact the $24 billion in aid to state-run Medicaid programs.

According to the Department of Labor, nearly 7 million workers have been unemployed for more than six months. Millions have been out of work continuously for more than two years—a phenomenon virtually without precedent in the United States since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Foreclosures threaten 5.7 million families. Credit card delinquencies have jumped by 60 percent since 2005.

Young people face a future of long-term joblessness punctuated by short periods of low-paid and insecure labor. A survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that only 24.4 of 2010 graduates had secured a job before graduation, up only slightly from the 19.7 percent for the class of 2009. More than 60 percent of college students are graduating without having received a single job offer.

In their claims of “recovery,” Obama and Biden demonstrate that they are as distant from the real conditions of life for working people as their Republican counterparts. They may mock Republican Congressman Joe Barton for his abject apology to BP, but they are no less subservient to corporate America and the profit system as a whole.

Biden cited figures showing smaller monthly job losses compared to January 2009, when he and Obama took office, and an increase in Gross Domestic Product, boasting “this growth is going to be sustained at that 3 percent-plus range for the indefinite future.” Even if this scenario were to play out—highly unlikely amidst growing signs of a renewed downturn—GDP growth of 3 percent is barely sufficient to provide jobs for new entrants to the work force. It condemns the 17 million now unemployed or underemployed to joblessness “for the indefinite future.”

The vice president boasted of the number of construction projects launched under the stimulus bill enacted by Congress 16 months ago. “Last summer, we started improving just shy of 10,000 miles of highway in this country,” he said. “This summer, we’ll start and ultimately improve 30,000 additional miles.”

This is an insignificant figure. According to a report Sunday in the New York Times, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of the major federal agencies created by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, built from scratch or improved 650,000 miles of road—more than 20 times the scale of the present administration’s program, which will expire this fall.

The contrast with the New Deal is even more glaring, given that the WPA and other New Deal agencies like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Public Works Administration created jobs directly, by hiring the unemployed and the putting them to work on projects to build or maintain the public infrastructure of roads, bridges, dams, buildings and parks.

The Obama-Biden program provides money to state governments to pay private contractors, a process that is both slow and cumbersome, and ensures that the lion’s share of the federal stimulus money has gone into the coffers of private business.

Biden frankly admitted that the goal of the stimulus program was to boost business profits, declaring, “the only engine that’s going to bring us back to total health is the free enterprise system and the American—free enterprise system and the business community.”

Obama’s trip to Columbus the next day was typically perfunctory for a president who can scarcely conceal his indifference to the mass suffering generated by more than two years of economic slump. He spent a grand total of 75 minutes on the ground in Ohio, and about the same length of time traveling to and from the state aboard Air Force One.

The president then devoted his Saturday Internet and radio address to the topic of unemployment, blaming Republican opposition in the US Senate for blocking passage of an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed. The bill would also have provided $24 billion in aid to state governments. “If this obstruction continues, unemployed Americans will see their benefits stop,” Obama said. “Teachers and firefighters will lose their jobs.”

Passage was blocked by procedural votes on Wednesday and Thursday, but in both cases a group of conservative Democrats joined with the unanimous Republican opposition to provide the final margin. Obama said nothing about these Democratic senators, 12 on the first vote, two on the second, who helped block the extension of unemployment benefits.

Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri who sided with the Republicans in the first procedural vote, warned that extended benefits might become a new “entitlement,” and thus cut across the administration’s proposals for “entitlement reform”—slashing Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the federal deficit.

The Senate did take action Friday on a six-month extension of increased reimbursements to doctors who treat Medicare payments, which had been part of the larger bill. It passed easily as a separate measure, after the White House agreed to offset the $6.4 billion cost with cuts in other programs.

The legislative maneuvers and finger-pointing between the Democrats and Republicans cannot disguise the fact that neither of the two big business parties has any solution to the social catastrophe of permanent mass unemployment. Both parties agree that the private sector is to be the only source of “job creation.” In other words, the living standards of working people are being held hostage to the profit drive of the capitalist class.

The Socialist Equality Party rejects this perspective and calls on working people and young people to fight for an emergency program to provide full employment, regardless of the profit requirements of the giant corporations and banks. We demand:

* An immediate program of public works to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure and provide jobs for every unemployed worker within six months

* Outlaw plant closures and mass layoffs

* Establish a 30-hour week at 40 hours pay

* The nationalization of the banks and major corporations, under the public ownership and democratic control of the working class

* Provide trillions of dollars to expand education, healthcare and other needed public services.

Such a program can only be carried out through the independent political mobilization of the working class, in opposition to the Democrats and Republicans, and on the basis of socialist program.

Patrick Martin