Thursday, February 3, 2011

THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES

Harry Targ

I'm not big on lengthy e-mail debates (I prefer Blog pontification). While I am a long-time Marxist, when I joined The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) I realized perhaps for the first time that we needed to be cognizant of our resources and the possibilities for change. Socialist visions need to be connected to proximate possibilities.This means to me being aware of and working in the electoral arena, working to build coalitions with organized labor, progressive religious groups, and working in mutual solidarity with single issue groups around gender, race, peace, and environmental issues.

I also realized that there were no quick fixes for us, even though capitalism is in crisis. And as a Marxist, I came to see social change as an historical process, frought with victories and defeats. In my view, we must continue the struggle as best we can using our available resources as effectively as we can. Also, it means to me reaching out to others with like minds and interests and particularly organizing, including organizing and building CCDS.

This is what CCDS has been haltingly pursuing since its formation in 1992. Along with our efforts to revive the socialist vision and dialogue (see our statement of principles for example), we have worked in the streets, the halls of congress, and in educational arenas to advocate both short term and long term solutions to the problems of the working class. (Some of us are privileged in that we have good paying jobs and are from time to time invited to articulate our views , which is to the good).

At this point in time I support the CCDS jobs, employment, government as employer of last resort, green jobs agenda. I feel we can best articulate our vision of a full employment economy by using the Conyers Bill (see below) to mobilize around. And, since most Americans see "politics" as involving elections and legislation, that is where progressives need to be.

I would also throw in the stew support for efforts by Congressmen Barney Frank and Ron Paul to cut the military budget. We might not win this one either, and if we do, the victory would be only very partial, but the struggle reshapes the dialogue. And, if we can link jobs for all and cutting wasteful and violence-serving military spending all the better.

While in a different context I can't help but remember Joe Hill: "Don't Mourn! Organize!"


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“The 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act” HR 5204

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS, JR.

Background

The Full-Employment and Balanced Growth Act was signed into law by President Carter in 1978. The law was the nation’s first attempt at officially establishing a national full-employment policy for the United States. Although Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota and Representative Augustus Hawkins of California were the primary sponsors of the bill, the legislation was also supported by civil rights and labor organizations who saw the bill as a way to mitigate the economic hardships being felt by low-income Americans.

The sponsors of the legislation intended that the Act would create a full-employment society brought about by direct hiring policies. If the private sector was unable to create a full-employment society through gradual economic growth after 10 years, the Act would obligate the government to step in and create “last resort jobs” to fill the employment gap.

Unfortunately, the intent of the Act’s sponsors was frustrated when the bill reached the United States Senate, where a coalition of Republicans and pro-business Democrats were able to successfully weaken the bill.

Summary

Representative Conyers has introduced legislation that is tailored to fit our current economic realities, but which also embodies the spirit of the original Humphrey-Hawkins legislation: the “21st Century Full Employment and Training Act.” The Act aims to create a full employment society over the next decade.

The bill establishes targets for unemployment:

9 percent unemployment after 6 months; 8 percent unemployment after 2 years; 6 percent unemployment after 5 years 5 percent unemployment after 8 years 4 percent unemployment (full employment) after 10 years. The Act establishes of a Full Employment and Training Trust Fund” with two separate accounts. These two accounts will direct funding to job creation and training programs.

If these unemployment benchmarks are not met, 90 percent of the funds in each account will be automatically disbursed.

67 percent of all revenues deposited into the trust fund will accrue in the job creation grant program account 33 percent of the total funds will accrue in the job training trust account.

Dual Job Creation Focus: Direct Jobs Grants and WIA Training Programs

The first trust fund account will direct funds to a new innovative direct jobs program. Funds will be distributed by formula through the Department of Labor to larger cities, and to states to be passed through to smaller localities and rural areas.

The program would allocate funds based on the CDBG formula modified to consider unemployment data. Local elected officials who are closest to our communities and needs on the ground would work with community groups and labor leaders to identify critical projects and connect workers to projects right away.

Jobs could be located in the public sector, community-based not-for-profit organizations, and small businesses that provide community benefits.

The Program will adopt a two stage approach to ensure immediate job creation and allow for a longer term planning process that involves community input and a focus on education and career development.

The program will be open to individuals who are either: Unemployed for at least 26 weeks; or Unemployed for at least 30 days and low-income. Positions will be for up to 30 hours per week, for up to 12 months. They will pay comparable or prevailing wages, averaging $12-15 per hour, as well as benefits. Appropriate safeguards and strong anti-displacement protections will help to prevent substitution and ensure that workers are placed in new positions. The second trust fund will distribute funds to job training programs covered under the Workforce Investment Act.

These funds will fund innovative job training initiatives including 1-Stop Job Training Programs and the Job Corps.

Revenue: Taxing Wall Street Speculation to Pay for Main Street Jobs

Revenue for the trust fund will be raised through a tax on Wall Street financial speculation, i.e. on stock and bond transactions. The tax will cover:

Stock transactions (tax rate will be 1/4 of 1 percent--0.25%), Futures contracts to buy or sell a specified commodity of standardized quality at a certain date in the future, at a market determined price (tax rate will be 0.02%),

Swaps between two firms on certain benefits of one party's financial instrument for those of the other party's financial instrument (tax rate will be 0.02%),

Credit default swaps where a contract is swapped through a series of payments in exchange for a payoff if a credit instrument (typically a bond or loan) goes into default (fails to pay) (tax rate will be 0.02%),

And options, which are contracts between a buyer and a seller that gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy or to sell a particular asset on or before the option's expiration time, at an agreed price (at the rate of the underlying asset).