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Obama's SOTU: Military Mayhem & 3d-Wrld US Job/Wage Bullshit


Barry Grey of wsws has the grimmest but most reality-based analysis of Obama’s Tuesday night State of the Union message.


The speech was actually one of the most reactionary State of the Union addresses ever delivered. Obama placed his “blueprint” for the US economy within the framework of a chilling celebration of the American military and its criminal activities around the world. Among the achievements he cited were the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing of Libya and murder of Gaddafi. He spoke with particular pride of the extra-legal drone assassinations in Africa and the Middle East and concluded with a paean to the Navy SEALs who murdered Osama bin Laden.

These comments were interlaced with threats of economic war against China, diplomatic and political war against Syria, and military war against Iran.

Obama suggested that the American people would have to accept the militarization of social and political life in order to revive the economy and bring jobs back to the US. “Imagine what we could accomplish,” he said, “if we followed [the American Armed Forces’] example.”

The heart of his economic message was the claim that “the American auto industry is back.” He touted the rebound of profits for America’s Big Three auto makers as a model for the revival of US manufacturing as a whole, highlighted by the return of industrial jobs to the US and an expansion of American manufacturing exports.

What he did not say—but what every auto worker and everyone who has followed Obama’s “restructuring” of the industry knows—is that the return of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to profitability and the recouping of a fraction of the jobs that had been wiped out is based entirely on the abolition of decent wages and benefits. The basic wage scale is being cut in half and benefits such as pensions and health care are being gutted for the new generation of auto workers.

Grey was not only justifiably scalding to the President but took on labor leaders:

The American trade union leadership can be counted on to resort to demagogy and lies in pursuit of its narrow self-interest. In its response to Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Obama, the union brass did not disappoint.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and United Auto Workers (UAW) President Bob King hailed the speech as a boon to workers and a rebuke to big business. They gave their enthusiastic support to Obama’s “economy built to last,” which, the president claimed, was based on the revival of American manufacturing.

In a statement issued Wednesday, King said, “The president has demonstrated his commitment to creating an economy ‘built to last’ by restructuring the US auto industry for the 21st century…” King went on to boast, “All three domestic auto makers are bringing jobs back to the United States from other countries.”

Trumka declared that Obama “made clear that the era of the 1 percent getting rich by looting the economy, rather than creating jobs, is over…” Trumka particularly praised Obama’s trade war rhetoric: “President Obama spoke to the confidence of working people that… we can revitalize ‘Made in the USA.’ That commitment to American manufacturing, made possible in part by enhanced enforcement of trade laws being violated by China, is welcome news…”


Wage-cutting on an unprecedented scale, the reduction of industrial workers to poverty—this is the key to Obama’s “economy built to last.” The plaudits for the speech by Trumka and King—who said nothing of wage-cutting—underscores a fact that must be grasped by workers fighting to resist this attempt to hurl them back to the slave-labor conditions that prevailed a century ago.

The support of the UAW and AFL-CIO (as well as the rival Change to Win union federation) for savage wage-cutting in the 2009 bailout of GM and Chrysler was not an aberration. The official trade unions fully support the destruction of the wages of their own members and the working class as a whole, and are determined to work with the corporations and the government to achieve that goal.

At one point Grey refers to the labor organizations as “corporatist labor syndicates.”  He also discloses that Mr. Trumka took home $294,000 last year as AFL-CIO president (which Grey declares is ten times the pay of a newly hired Big Three auto-worker and Mr. King as UAW president got $153,000 last year (five times the pay of his new Big Three members), speculating on what personal profit-making these individuals will continue to enjoy in supplying industry with a pathetically low-wage American workforce.  Mr. Grey:

Those who control these organizations and derive six- and even seven-figure compensation packages from their activities have personal and financial as well as social and political interests diametrically opposed to those of the workers. Trumka, King and the like see their role in helping to impoverish and speed up American workers as essential to convincing the corporations to bring jobs back to the US from cheap-labor countries such as China and Mexico. This is critical, from their standpoint, to halting and even reversing the decline in union membership rolls and the dues payments upon which their bank accounts depend.

For the same reason, the union leadership is wedded to the promotion of “America first” economic nationalism, trade war and imperialist aggression around the world. It ceaselessly lobbies the capitalist state to intervene against the international rivals of US corporations in order to protect its own selfish interests. In so doing, it works to block any unified struggle of American workers with their class brothers and sisters internationally and subordinate US workers to “their” employers.

Yes, manufacturing is coming back to the United States along with third world wages.  The corporatists shipped our jobs overseas but now if we say pretty please and work for God-awful wages we might get some of them back. We can enter into a low-ball bidding war for work against Asians and Mexicans and whomever. As Grey points out, the US and global one percent gets to stick it to the global 99 percent by dividing up and conquering us.
Once again Barack Obama and a betraying corporate-cronied Congress take another gigantic step backwards into history.  Deconstructing hard-won progress. So many union heroes and labor advocates in the past put so much on the line to protect and support the American worker.  John Lewis, Mother Jones, Samuel Gompers, Cesar Chavez, RFK just off the top of my head. As well as the not so famous but noble and brave souls who risked livelihoods and even lives to bring the justice of a “living wage" to the American working class.  They all must be spinning in their graves this week as Obama’s getting kudos for celebrating murderous globalization and the promise of job and wage CRUMBS to the American citizenry.  All this, as the 2012 bureaucratized, cowardly union leadership gushes its gratitude.
The one percent wins another big one.  Yet the media and Obama bubble people are making SOTU "happy talk." 


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Submitted by Alcuin on

Granted, I haven't been on Corrente very long, but I hadn't seen this side of you before, LL. Good for you!! I wish more people would be willing to call out the unions for what they've done to the working class. I got roasted on Alternet one time for doing that - I was called a troll, a Republican, and all kinds of nasty names. The truth hurts. The unions started selling out in the mid-1940s. I imagine Joe Hill would be saying, "with friends like these, who needs enemies?"

Submitted by libbyliberal on

maybe will do a JH blog, Alcuin.

i find wsws gives great attention to the details of union stuff, etc! love their writers sensibility. my own socialism i guess responding.