Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Resolutions for a Safer, Saner World

by Norman Markowitz

2009 starts tomorrow and the Obama administration will begin in a matter of weeks. The U.S. stock market is down 40% from last year (a spectacular decline) and the flow of capital into any kind of capacity, productive or not, is frozen(it is not yet like 1930, when the money had really stopped, but it is not that far away from it). That Barack Obama will take office rather than John McCain is the most hopeful event that the U.S. and for that matter, given the U.S. role in the world economy and in international relations, the people of the world have. Here are ten resolutions for the new administration, "ripped from the headlines" of world events, as the "law and order" crime shows that inundate U.S. television announce.

1. A New York Times story today announces that for the first time a majority of Cuban-Americans favor the lifting of the 48 year old embargo. The story has nothing positive about socialist Cuba, nor does it deal with the pre revolution history of Cuba and the role of successive U.S. governments in holding Cuba as a semi-colony. But it does deal with the personal tragedies of Cuban families in Cuba and the U.S. The Obama administration should end the embargo before it reaches its 49th anniversary. The administration should also restore full and friendly relations with Cuba. Cuba can because of the achievements of its revolution be a real ally and real friend of a progressive America in fostering economic and social development, raising standards of health care and education for example, throughout the hemisphere.

2 The Israeli attacks in Gaza, motivated as some Israeli progressives observe, by political infighting in preparation for new elections, are very bad for the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and the peace process. They are also bad for Jewish people everywhere because they both encourage and help to legitimize political anti-Semites who in recent years have increasingly pointed to Israeli policies as "evidence" to support their anti-Semitic propaganda. The Obama administration must not be afraid to make it clear to the Israelis that it will no longer provide either direct or indirect support for unilateral Israeli military actions. Hamas is an clerical reactionary organization with a history of murderous attacks on Israeli civilians. It has also engaged in a quasi civil war with the Palestine Liberation Organization (although I don't have figures at my fingertips, I would estimate that it has probably killed more Palestinian political enemies than Israelis over the years). The Obama administration should work directly with both the Palestinians and the Israelis in developing an economic development plan for the region, a "Marshall Plan" of sorts to raise Palestinian living standards and foster economic and social integration. Hamas would then be compelled to either go along with that (as would the Israeli right) or oppose and try to sabotage it. If Hamas and the Israeli right took the latter course, which they probably would, this would serve to weaken them politically.

3. The Obama administration should show its commitment to a peace and development policy by connecting its withdrawal from Iraq to policies that bring together the Iraq's diverse communities and focus on raising the living standards of Iraq's Shia Muslim majority. In this regard the administration should reverse the Bush policies of running interference for transnational oil companies in Iraq.

4. The Bush administration should restructure the 700 "bailout" to finance capital, making the protection of jobs and wages the first priority for all endangered businesses, not the protection of owners and investors. In this regard, the administration might entertain (this is purely my idea) a leasing system for bankrupt institutions, rather than selling them off at dirt cheap prices, with buyers having to pay back more over time as the institutions became more profitable, thus rewarding the government and taxpayers for their increased profitability (the exact reverse of the Savings and Loan bailout) If one says that this would be a disincentive for buyers, the answer would be to either nationalize or simply end those institutions which could not be restructured in this way.

5. The Obama administration should act immediately to enact the Employee Free Choice Act and commit itself to the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, a position by the way which was written into the Democratic party platform from 1948 to 1988, although never acted upon. The administration should, like the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s, identify itself clearly with union organizing drives and make a sharp increase in the percentage of unionized workers a very high priority.

6. The Obama administration should reverse Senator Obama's campaign position and endorse HR 646 or a "single payer" health care program of its own, explaining to the American people that such programs are the rule in the developed world, have been successful everywhere, and have resulted in health care which is both much cheaper for the people, much more equal, and much more effective in terms of life expectancy and other major barometers of public health.

7. The Obama administration should begin to disengage from Pakistan, which today is obstructing U.S. military actions against the Taliban forces in Afghanistan and work with India and the new government in Bangladesh on a general South Asian peace and development program, stressing demilitarization and economic and social integration.

8. The Obama administration should call for the repeal of the "Patriot Act" which has trampled upon the civil liberties of American citizens.

9. The Obama administration should close down Guantanamo as a prison camp, repudiate the use of torture, and repudiate also the gobbledygook that the Bush administration used to explain its violations of the Geneva Rules of War.

10. The Obama administration should concentrate its major efforts domestically on economic reconstruction and, to use a post WWII phrase, reconversion in the U.S. to a peacetime economy. This means using much of the 700 billion bailout and much more in other policies to revitalize the public sector, make long-term social investments in infrastructure, health care, education, housing, transportation, and energy, while at the same time sharply and consistently reducing military budgets to wean corporations away from the easy money of military contracts which over time have undermined the national economy.

These are my ten new years resolutions for America and the world.