Sunday, July 31, 2016

The hypocrisy of the so-called debate on immigration

Donald Trump has received considerable publicity for his so-called position on immigration.  He argues that he wants to “build a wall” to keep immigrants out of this country.  He also argues that he wants to place Moslems under government surveillance.  This would be a clear violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution that says we are supposed to have freedom of religion.

Why have people voted for Trump in spite of these ideas?  Working people throughout this country have been devastated by a deteriorating standard of living.  When I graduated from high school college tuition was about $200 per semester.  Today college tuition at the same university is $10,000 per semester.

In the 1970’s I took a day off from work looking for a job.  I was offered six jobs in one day.  Today, many employers will not even talk to you without a computerized application and many workers have given up looking for work.

So, when Donald Trump argues that he will “Make America great again,” this appears to be a complete fantasy.  Clearly the news media isn’t interested in reporting the facts that place Trump’s vicious arguments in perspective.

The United States of America was never a “great” nation.  Yes, the American Revolution and the Civil War won independence and an abolition of slavery.  However, this is a class divided nation that has a long history of repression.  From the times of slavery, to the genocide against Indians, to the horrendous conditions imposed on working people, to the mass incarceration today, there clearly never was a time when this country was “great.”

We can do a quick Google search for the question of: How many immigrants have been deported under President Obama’s Administration?  The answer is that Obama has deported more immigrants than any other President and there has been stiff competition on that issue.  My estimation is, there have been about 1,000 deportations for every day Obama has been in office.  I should also mention that today there is a wall in place separating the United States from Mexico.

So, I believe that we need to take a look at the full history that surrounds the issue of immigration.

500 Nations

The first people to live in this part of the world are known as Native Americans or Indians.  There were about 500 Indian nations living in what is now the United States when the Europeans arrived.  These people have lived here for thousands of years.  The Europeans had a problem with the millions of people who lived here. 

Many nations shared everything and didn’t believe in private property.  Women had real equal rights to men.  The other difference was that Indians didn’t know what the word dishonesty meant.  The word of the Indians was their bond.

Clearly, these were not utopian communities.  There was inter-tribal warfare, periodic scarcities, and Indians usually died at an early age.  However, the communal nature of Indian life was totally incompatible with the emerging capitalist European economic system. 

The result of this European invasion was that about 90% of the Native Americans died because of diseases imported by settlers.  Settlers of European decent engaged in open warfare against Indians for hundreds of years.  The United States government violated about 400 treaties with Indians.  After all of this history, the U.S. government sent Indian children to schools where so-called teachers punished Indian children when they spoke their native language. 

So, when we listen to politicians talk about ridding this country of immigrants, we might talk about how governments throughout the Americas treated the first people who lived in this part of the world.

Most of the so-called immigrants who come to this country today are from Mexico.  Many immigrant rights activists argue that the southwest of this country used to belong to Mexico.  While this is true, the facts are that the Mexican people are overwhelmingly of Indian decent.  In other words, most of the people who are deported from this country can trace their heritage to this land for literally thousands of years.

The government forced people to come here against their will

We also should mention that for literally hundreds of years European colonists, as well as the United States government, actually forced Africans to come to this part of the world against their will.  I’m talking about every single imaginable crime settlers perpetrated in order to enslave human beings for profit. 

The nation that became Haiti was the first to outlaw this criminal practice.  The Haitian revolution terrified slave-owners like President Thomas Jefferson.  They understood that if a slave uprising erupted in this country, like the one in Haiti, they would literally loose everything.  For this reason, the U.S. didn’t establish formal relations with Haiti until after the Civil War.  The very idea of negotiating with a Black person as an equal was incomprehensible to the slave-owners.

During the period of slavery, the Fugitive Slave Act made escaped slaves criminals under the law.  This meant that they needed to leave the United States in order to avoid the threat of returning to slavery.  Thousands of freed Black people left this country for Haiti so they could live in a nation with a Black government.

The divisions between the slave owners and the capitalists in the northern states became irreconcilable.  This was the cause of the Civil War.  350,000 Union soldiers died to remove slave owners from power in this country. 

After the war, reconstruction governments came into being and instituted some real democratic reforms.  Black and caucasian residents learned to read for the first time in the former slave states.  However, by 1877 the federal government betrayed these governments and withdrew federal troops from the former Confederate states.  The Ku Klux Klan took advantage of this situation and militarily overthrew the reconstruction governments.  This military action, as well as the Supreme Court decision of Plessey vs. Fergusson, stripped Black people of citizenship rights in this country.  Jim Crow segregation became the law.

Labor engages in open rebellion against employers

Also in the year 1877 there was a national rail strike.  The government ordered federal troops defeat the workers using military force. 

We might think about the fact that before unions developed some strength in this country, workers frequently lived in one-room cold-water flats.  The workday ranged from twelve to sixteen hours per day.  Wages were so pathetic that families needed to send their children to work in factories.

Most of the strikes until the 1930s ended in defeats for the workers.  Then, after the economic crash of 1929, workers started to win real concessions that included union representation.  We might keep in mind that this strike-wave erupted after the Russian Revolution. 

Faced with an economic depression, and worker militancy, employers were terrified of the idea that they might loose everything if a political revolution erupted.  These were some of the reasons why workers won concessions during those years.  Millions of workers joined unions as a result.

The Second World War was about what capitalist power would control the world.  If we read histories of the war in Northern Africa, we discover that neither the Nazis or the Allied Powers had any interest in advancing the cause of the native Arabic people.  No doubt, there were few soldiers on either side that even spoke Arabic.

Yet corporations reaped super-profits because of the war.  After the war, people from all over the world carried out another war to gain their liberation.  Algerians lost over one million people in their revolution against French colonialism.    Koreans and Vietnamese also lost millions of lives in their revolutions to free themselves from colonialism.

In the United States, workers engaged in open rebellion in a strike-wave against employers.  Hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike shutting down entire industries.  The government countered this rebellion by going on a red-bating campaign against anyone who supported the idea of communism. 

At that time members of the Communist Party were officials in many unions.  The CP had supported the United States in WWII and played a largely conservative role in the labor movement.  They refused to mount a defense campaign to oppose these victimizations.  As a result, many unionists were driven out of their jobs.  In spite of these setbacks, union workers made significant gains and the standard of living improved significantly.

The civil rights movement

Under these conditions, Black people also wanted an improved standard of living, as well as citizenship rights.  Black union activists like E.D. Nixon helped to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  This was the beginning of another rebellion that erupted demanding full rights for Black people.  Although many leaders of this rebellion argued for non-violence, some people died, and many were arrested or brutalized in the struggle to overturn the Jim Crow laws.

However, many Blacks had already migrated away from the Jim Crow states.  Although there were somewhat better conditions outside the south, institutionalized discrimination was a fact of life.  So, after Jim Crow was outlawed, police brutality, as well as widespread discrimination, were facts of life.  Malcolm X once said: “Stop talking about the South.  If you’re south of Canada you’re in the south.”

These conditions led to rebellions by the Black community in hundreds of cities and towns across the United States.  We should keep in mind that these rebellions came after the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

Clearly corporations didn’t like the fact that many cities in this country erupted in open rebellion.  So, they dealt with this problem by advocating for affirmative action programs that gave opportunities to some people in the Black community.

The capitalist obsession to cut costs

Clearly, the advances of the labor movement and the civil rights movement were positive developments.  However, we live in a capitalist system where corporations do not have this point of view.

Under capitalism the number one priority is always profits.  A problem is that the percentage of profits on investments tends to decline.  So, in 1929 there were sufficient materials as well as workers to make vast improvements in the standard of living.  However, there were more commodities on the market than people were buying.  We should consider that working people only receive a small percentage of what our labor is worth.

So, because of this over production of commodities, employers created an economy where there was about 30% unemployment.  Savings accounts of workers vanished.  Employed workers received pay cuts.  This was the atmosphere that led to the strike wave of the 1930s.

So, employers had a problem that they clearly did not share with workers.  Corporations needed to cut costs while the standard of living was improving for working people. 

Corporations and banks dealt with this problem by making massive investments in nations where workers are paid about two dollars per day or less.  Factories in this country closed, while new factories opened up all over the world.

Many people argue that corporations engaged in this move because of greed.  They feel that the affluent can reap more money in profits from workers who are paid two dollars per day. 

The facts are that if these corporations did not move to other countries, they simply would go bankrupt.  The depression didn’t merely happen because the super-rich were greedy.  No, depressions are not in their interest.  Depressions erupt because this is an inevitable result of capitalist development.

These investments in other nations have enlarged affluent minorities all over the world.  This has also created new markets for corporations to sell their commodities.  Today, China has become a huge market for the auto industry.  All of this has postponed the eruption of another depression.  However, an all out depression is exactly where we are heading.


Understanding this history, we can now gain an appreciation of why people immigrate to this country.  Is there anyone in this world who wants to work hard every day for a wage of two dollars?  No, people risk life and limb to escape to a country where they might be paid more.

The facts are that the low wages in the world are a big reason why the capitalist system has avoided depression.  In other words, people come to this country to escape from an environment created so the affluent might continue to live in opulence.

We might consider the conditions workers who experience wages of about two dollars per day.  These conditions are similar to the working conditions in this country before there were unions, when children worked long hours in factories.

We might consider that escaping from these conditions is similar to slaves who escaped from slavery.  We might also consider the Great Migration of Black people who escaped Jim Crow segregation and moved to a place where they might have a better life.

We might consider that the Jim Crow laws of legal discrimination have been pushed aside.  However, legal discrimination against twelve million immigrant workers continues to this day.  I’ve heard of stories where immigrant women who have been raped will not report this crime to the police.  They feel that any contact with the police might expose them to deportation.

Many people in this country have followed the First Family, Barrack and Michelle Obama and their two daughters.  This appears to be a happy family with the daughters who went to a private school that costs about $40,000 per year.

When we look at this family, most people don’t think about the immigrants who have children born in this country.  President Obama’s Administration has deported thousands of these immigrants.  Because the children were born here, they are placed in foster care while their parents are deported.  Is there a more horrendous crime than forcing parents to be separated from their children?

With the astronomical costs of education in this country, many students are motivated to make as much money as they can.  This has led students to major in finance or business administration.  Clearly, the universities in this country aren’t interested in teaching students about the horrendous consequences of corporate “success.”  

This has meant that there is a need for workers with a highly specialized technical background.  Many of these workers are trained in other countries to aid the emerging industries all over the world.  Some of these technical workers come to this country and work in various technical fields, oftentimes at relatively low pay.

So, immigrants came to this country to work in all kinds of fields.  They are not taking jobs away from workers.  They, in most cases, do the work that people in this country prefer not to do.

If Donald Trump is so concerned about immigrant labor taking jobs, there is an easy solution.  He can line up for work in the mornings during the summer and pick fruits and vegetables in any of the farms all over this country. 

The state of Alabama has restrictive laws against immigration.  These laws have had a clear effect.  Now, fruits and vegetables grown in Alabama rot on the vines because immigrant workers are not there to process them.   

The owners of corporations would like us to think of ourselves as citizens of the United States.  They want us to believe that we have different interests from workers who live in other countries.

In fact, workers from all over the world have the same interests.  We would all like to have decent jobs where we have the resources to provide for our families.  When we begin to understand that we all live under the same moon, and we all deserve to be treated with respect, we can organize a movement that can transform the world.      

Thursday, July 21, 2016

21st Century Mythology

One of the highlights of the current Republican Convention was the accusation that Melania Trump’s speech plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention.  One part of the Melania Trump’s speech that was exactly the same as Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech were the words: “you work hard for what you want in life.”  Who hasn’t listened to these or similar words many times during the course of our lives?

Clearly, there are people who work hard and are able to attain some of the things what we want in life.  However, in order to look at this issue, I believe we also need to look at the question of: How is wealth created today?

Money and the creation of wealth

We can begin by stating clearly that money is only a means of exchange to be used to purchase commodities.  Therefore, commodities are the things that have value.  Armed with this knowledge, we can say that workers are the ones who produce commodities that represent the real wealth of the world.  So, garment workers, autoworkers, construction workers, farm workers, transport workers etc. are the ones who produce the wealth of the world.

Now comes the part that the media doesn’t like to talk about.  The facts are that working people work very hard, so a tiny minority of the population can have obscene amounts of wealth.  This tiny minority of the population didn’t gain their enormous wealth because they worked hard.  No, in most cases, they attained their wealth by sitting in a lawyer’s office and listening to the reading of a will.

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton had fathers that were affluent businessmen.  In other words, the fathers of Clinton and Trump made a living by profiting off of the labor of others.  Both Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump had advantages in life because their parents profited off of the labor of workers.  None of this happened because the Rodhams or the Trumps worked hard.

How have workers improved our standard of living?

There was a time when working people routinely lived in one-room cold-water flats.  A common working day at that time might have been between eleven and fourteen hours per day.  Child labor was common.  Health care and an advanced education were things unknown to many workers.  Clearly working people in those days felt they deserved a better life.

From the year 1877 to the year 1934 there were numerous strikes by the labor movement, but most ended in defeat.  Then, in 1934 labor battles against employers began to win real victories and millions joined unions.  After the Second World War working people began to understand that they needed to go to war again.  This time it would be against their employers.  These strike waves forced employers to make real concessions to workers and this was the root cause of the improved standard of living in this country.

However, up until the 1960s Black people were denied basic citizenship rights because of the Jim Crow laws.  So, after the labor battles of the 1950s Black people organized because they felt they also deserved to be treated with dignity.

However, after the government adopted the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, Black people still faced institutionalized discrimination as well as police brutality.  This state of affairs sparked rebellions in hundreds of cities and towns across the United States.  These actions effectively forced corporations to implement affirmative action programs that gave many Black people opportunities they never had before.

We can also look at the conquests of the Cuban Revolution.  Before that revolution Cuba had a standard of living that most nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have today.  500,000 sugar cane workers only had work for about three months of the year.  Because of these conditions many women resorted to prostitution.  Education and health care were not a part of many Cuban’s lives.  The United States corporations made sure that Cuba remained dependent on foreign investments.

After the revolution the Cuban government nationalized about $800,000,000 of U.S. investments on the island.  Child nutrition became a right for every child.  Today Cuba has one of the best educational and health care systems in the world.  So, the standard of living improved in Cuba, not just because of working hard, but by making an anti-capitalist anti-imperialist revolution.

What do we want in life?

Michelle Obama and Melania Trump also raised the question: What do we want in life?  Before I attempt to answer this question, perhaps it might be useful to look at some of the things we have.  These might include increasing poverty, war, discrimination, destruction of the environment, as well as alienation.  Perhaps we can agree that these are not things we want.

However, when we look at the vast resources and the capacity of working people, we can think about a completely different vision.  We might think about eliminating poverty, and doing our best to work in harmony with the environment.  When we think of the work that actually needs to be done, we might imagine a world where we work fewer hours and have more leisure time.  In fact, we might have a government that has a goal of making work less alienating.

People who have power argue that this kind of world would be a utopia and totally unrealistic.  However, the economic crisis of 2008 exposed the enormous crisis capitalism is in today.  So, I repeat the question: What do we want?  Personally speaking, I want a government that represents in interests of workers and farmers and makes human needs an absolute priority over profits.   

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Serena Williams story the media isn’t interested in

Serena Williams, perhaps the best woman to ever play the game of tennis has just won her seventh Wimbledon title.  If you read or listen to the commentaries on Serena’s victory, they have focused on this being her twenty-second major tournament win.  This ties her with Steffi Graf who also had twenty-two major championships.  Margaret Court had twenty-four major victories, but that was at a time when women’s tennis was much less competitive.

While winning the singles championships at all the major tournaments is an outstanding accomplishment, we might consider that Serena and her sister Venus also won the Wimbledon doubles championship this year.  In fact, Serena and Venus won fourteen major doubles championships to Steffi Graf’s one doubles championship.

While these have been extraordinary accomplishments, for me, this is not the most interesting story concerning Serena Williams’ career.  In order to appreciate this story, we need to look at an important part of the history of this country. 

Raised as a Black child during Jim Crow segregation

Initially, most of the income of the United States came from slave labor.  After the so-called outlawing of slavery, Black people worked at the worst jobs that were essential to industrial development.  So, when we think of the enormous wealth that exists in this country, that wealth has its roots in the labor of Black women and men.

The grandmother of Serena and Venus Williams was Julia Metcalf Williams.  Julia Williams barely made a living picking cotton and cleaning laundry in Shreveport, Louisiana.  In order to give birth to her son Richard she needed to ride a wagon pulled by a mule in a rainstorm.  She could only be treated at the one hospital in Shreveport that cared for people who had a dark skin color.

Growing up was not easy for Richard.  He learned to run fast so he could escape racist mobs.  Three of his friends were murdered or lynched because of the racist atmosphere of those days.  All of this was documented in Richard Williams’ autobiography: Black and White – The way I see it, that he co-wrote with Bart Davis.  This is a link to my review of that book.

Richard Williams was well aware of the discrimination he faced in Shreveport.  This is how he explained it.  In his later life Williams was asked how it felt to be a millionaire.  Williams answered that he was a millionaire when he was sixteen.  He said, “Hell, I made more than a million.  I know this because I worked for white people who kept buying big plantation homes, big fields, big cars.  Matter of fact, they bought the whole damn city.  Sure, I made millions.  They just kept my share.”

After leaving Shreveport, Williams faced discrimination and police abuse.  He eventually started his own business.  However, he had a hunger to achieve what had been denied him because of the racial discrimination in this country.

The idea of raising champions

One day, Richard Williams was watching television and he accidentally viewed a woman winning a tennis tournament and receiving an award of $40,000.  Immediately he started thinking about the possibilities of professional tennis for young women.  Before Venus and Serena were born, at a time when Richard knew little about tennis, he wrote a 78 page proposal arguing that he would raise two daughters to become tennis champions.

Thinking about this idea, I believe Williams thought about the example of his mother.  She needed to have tremendous physical strength as well as tenacity in order to do the work employers expected of her.  He thought about how his mother managed to raise him in the atmosphere of Jim Crow segregation, where he needed to think creatively to survive.  With this in mind he decided to raise his daughters in an atmosphere where they would have the confidence to do anything.

Richard Williams needed to battle street gangs in Compton, California for two years just so his daughters could play tennis on the local courts.  Williams likened these battles to the battles he waged with the segregationists in Shreveport.  However, in Compton he established a live and let live attitude with gang members.  He never was able to establish this kind of attitude with the segregationists.     

So, when we look at the accomplishments of the Williams sisters and their background, we are looking at the history of this country.  This is the story of how people managed to persevere in spite of unimaginable hardships.  This is the story of how, when given a chance, humanity is capable of achieving real excellence in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Clearly everyone isn’t going to be a professional tennis champion.  However, in today’s world employers require working people to generate profits for the super wealthy.  When working people relieve ourselves of this burden, there will be no limit to our potential.  This is the story the news media isn’t interested in today.           


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Are they rich because they’re smart? – Class privilege and learning under capitalism

By Jack Barnes
Pathfinder Press, 2016

A review

Jack Barnes’ new book, Are they rich because they’re smart – Class, privilege, and learning under capitalism, gives a refreshing way of looking at politics.  From the time we were young, our parents and teachers drummed a central idea into our heads.  Stay in school.  Work hard to get good grades.  This is the basic formula for success in life. 

Before I look at Barnes’ book, I want to cite some observations from Ferdinand Lundberg’s 1968 book, The Rich and the Super Rich – Who really owns America? How do they keep their wealth and power?  In this book Lundberg reported on dozen’s of the individuals who own the lion’s share of wealth in this country.  Jack Barnes reports that today the people who own this vast amount of wealth numbers in the hundreds, not thousands.

Lundberg argued that only a tiny percentage of these people gained their wealth because of real scientific innovation.  Many gained their wealth through one form of speculation or another.  In other words, one of the main ways to gain enormous wealth comes from old-fashioned luck.  Another necessary aspect to the path to wealth has to do with a willingness to profit off of the workers who provide the goods and services we all need and want.
However, Lundberg argues that this was not the way most of the super rich gained their fortunes.  He argued that the most important way to gain obscene amounts of wealth has to do with sitting in a lawyer’s office and listening to the reading of a will.  Little has changed in this regard from Lundberg’s 1968 book.

The Bell Curve

Jack Barnes begins his book Are they rich because they’re smart? by looking at a book by Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein titled The Bell Curve.  Murray and Herrnstein argued that there is only a small percentage of the population that has very high scores on IQ tests.  They use this information to imply that funding for education doesn’t need to be a priority because the majority of the population, in their opinion, just isn’t very smart. 

Many Black people have labeled The Bell Curve racist because it attempts to justify the discriminatory funding of schools that Black children attend.  However, Barnes points out that Murray and Herrnstein aren’t just talking about Black people.  The Bell Curve argues that most people, Black as well as Caucasian, just aren’t very smart.

When we look at the conclusions of Lundberg’s The Rich and the Super Rich, it becomes clear that in most cases studying hard and having a high IQ has very little to do with becoming obscenely wealthy.

The so-called meritocracy

Then, Barnes wrote about a section of the middle class that considers itself to be a meritocracy.  These people would include: university professors, attorneys, politicians, managers, media editors, as well as those who work in the so-called think tanks.  These people might number in the millions in this country.

This self-designated meritocracy believes that the work they do actually benefits all of society.  Although many in this class receive obscene salaries, there are others who work in the so-called non-profit or non-government organizations.  Many of those who work at these jobs argue that they don’t take the higher paid corporate jobs because they want to be of service to humanity.

Barnes and Steve Clark, who wrote the introduction, argue that there is no classless we.  The two primary classes in the capitalist world are the working class and the capitalist class.  These classes have interests that are antagonistic.  This explains why corporate funded non-profit organizations never contribute to unions when the workers go on strike.  These strikes are aimed at advancing the interests of workers at the expense of the owners of corporations.

Barnes argues that this so-called meritocracy overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama for President.  Many in this class also felt that President William Clinton was the first Black President.  The basis for this argument had nothing to do with advancing the interests of Black people in this country. 

Clinton signed a so-called crime bill that vastly increased the number of Black people who live in prison.  The basis for this absurd argument is that Clinton had to do with the fact that his administration gave numerous jobs to Black people.  So, the so-called meritocracy has no problem with some Black people becoming a part of their class.

One of President Obama’s closest advisors is Valerie Jarrett.  Both Obama and Jarrett lived in other countries in their youth and have similar attitudes towards politics.  Barnes wrote about how this so-called meritocracy identifies with individuals of their class in other countries.  Clearly they have a stronger attachment to those individuals than to the working class of this country.

In the old days, government officials bathed themselves in patriotism and missed no opportunity profess their loyalty to this country.  This change in attitude reflects a change in the capitalist system.  However, this attitude in no way means that politicians are becoming smarter.

The United States used to be the industrial center of the world.  This development sparked workers to demand a better standard of living and unions grew accordingly.  Then, Black people demanded their rights in the civil rights movement and in rebellions in hundreds of the cities throughout this country.

Because of the nature of the capitalist system, corporate officers are routinely driven to cut costs.  So, when working people in this country improved their standard of living, corporations invested huge amounts of money into moving their factories, to nations where workers are paid about two dollars per day.  When the government outlawed the legal discrimination against Black people, known as Jim Crow segregation, corporations advanced a course of legal discrimination against immigrant workers.

We can see how this change has effected industrial workers who continue to produce the commodities we all need and want.  We might think about the farm workers who pick fruits and vegetables in the hot sun.  Or the garment workers who make our clothes under horrendous conditions for miserable pay.  Or the autoworkers who work as fast as they can under deteriorating conditions. 

Members of the so-called meritocracy argue that these workers should be thankful to corporations for offering them jobs.  What they fail to grasp is that corporations would have virtually no assets without the labor of workers from all over the world. 

So, what does it mean when this so-called meritocracy argues that it’s members are smart?  The answer to this question has to do with the fact that this class is efficient at advancing a course that is repressive to workers and farmers all over the world.

Jack Barnes has a chart in his book that measured the increase in worker productivity.  The chart compared this to the buying power of the minimum wage, minus inflation, from 1970 to today.  This chart showed that if workers received wage increases that were commensurate with our increase in productivity, the minimum wage would be $18.42 per hour.  The reality is that while productivity has greatly increased, when we account for inflation, the minimum wage has effectively decreased during these same years.

However, President Obama argues that: “Anybody who says that we are not absolutely better off today than when we were just seven years ago, they’re just not leveling with you.”  What universe is Obama talking about when he makes this statement?

President Obama argues that unemployment has gone down during his presidency.  Barnes gives the facts showing how this statement is a bold-faced lie.  Obama defines unemployment by the number of people who are collecting unemployment compensation.  Barnes shows how the percentage of unemployed workers who are not receiving benefits has increased from 15% in 2009 to 28% today.  This explains why the “labor force participation rate” has dropped from 67% in 2000 to 63% today.  This statistic measures the percentage of workers who are working.

One statistic Barnes didn’t mention is the number of jobs that have been eliminated since the 1970’s.  This number is difficult to find, but it may be in the range of hundreds of millions of eliminated jobs.  Up until 2008 corporations have replaced these jobs with other jobs.  However, most replacement jobs have effectively lower wages and fewer benefits.  When we look at this picture it is clear that the standard of living for all workers has been deteriorating for decades.     

Another of the arguments of this so-called meritocracy has to do with their misguided idea that they are trying to improve education.  We can see the fallacy of this argument in Dale Russakoff’s book The Prize – Who’s in charge of America’s schools?

Russakoff was a so-called journalist for the Washington Post for many years and has the basic perspective of the so-called meritocracy.  However, in spite of this limitation, her book gives facts showing how education will not be improved in the capitalist system.

The Prize & the State of Black America

The Prize was a so-called award of $100 million to improve the Newark, New Jersey schools system.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was the one who gave the money.  Russakoff gave the facts as to how this massive contribution did nothing to improve education in Newark.

However, this contribution did have an effect.  The Newark teachers union fought for many gains for teachers over the years.  Of the $100 million, $30 million went to the teachers to sign what is known as a sweetheart contract.  The teachers received a lump sum payment reflecting the raises they had been denied over two years.  Then, the teachers discovered to their dismay that this contract also required them to work an additional two hours every day at a wage of little more than ten dollars per hour.  Russakoff quoted Zuckerberg in arguing that his contribution was also about weakening the teachers union.

The Urban League issues an annual report on, The State of Black America.  Newark is a largely Black city and the title of the Urban League’s 2016 report demonstrates that things are not getting better for Black people in this country.  The title of that report is: Locked Out of Education, Jobs, and Justice.

Jack Barnes cited statistics that underscore the Urban League’s argument.  Household family income for Blacks is, on average, 60% of the income of Caucasian families.  When we look at the accumulated wealth of Black vs. Caucasian families, Black family accumulated wealth in a mere 6% of that amount for Caucasians.

This state of affairs explains why millions of workers want a change from the status quo.  We see this sentiment expressed in the large turnouts to listen to the Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.   

Today, Donald Trump appears to be the Republican nominee for President of the United States.  Trump openly argues that he wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of this country and to deport the twelve million immigrants without papers who live here.  He wants to place all Muslims living in this country under surveillance in clear violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.  He feels that these policies will, “Make America great again.”

People who are opposed to the institutionalized discrimination in this country see these comments by Trump to be repugnant and reprehensible.  However, the facts are that President Obama has already made Donald Trump’s arguments into his routine policies.
·      Muslims as well as many working people are already under surveillance.  President Obama has ordered the military to murder thousands of Muslims in his wars against the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, and in his support of the Israeli government’s routine genocide against Palestinians.

·      President Obama has already built a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  He has deported more immigrants than any other President in history.  These deportations have totaled over 1,000 every day.  Many of these deportations were of parents who have children born in this country.  When these parents are deported the children are sent to foster homes where there is no attempt to reunite them with their parents.

The one criticism I would make of Jack Barnes book is his criticism of W.E.B. DuBois.  Although DuBois admired people who were communists in his day, he never developed a communist perspective.  However, he clearly was one of the most important leaders of working people in his day.
DuBois argued that there was a “talented tenth” of the Black community that would provide leadership.  Barnes argued that this view is similar to the view of the so-called meritocracy.  When we look at this statement be DuBois, I believe we should also look at the context in which it was made.
DuBois was arguing against the politics of Booker T. Washington.  Washington ran the Andrew Carnegie funded Tuskegee Institute.  He argued that Black people needed to learn skills in the manual trades because those were the jobs open to Black people at that time.  DuBois countered that Black people deserved all the rights everyone had in this country.  This would include and education in whatever field they might choose.
I can recall two statements by DuBois that I believe Barnes would agree with.  He argued that: Education is not about teaching men to become carpenters, but to teach carpenters to become men.
He also argued that: The idea that Black people can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, without dealing with the question of discrimination, is the cruelest hoax.
I will conclude with a quotation from Jack Barnes.  Learning as a lifetime experience—what better reason to make a socialist revolution? .  .  . Explaining that is part of preparing the working class for the battle to throw off the self-image the rulers teach us, and to recognize we’re capable of taking power and reorganizing society.