Electoral roulette: The 1 percent can’t lose

While Mitt Romney and Barack Obama joust for the White House, the U.S. economy limps along, teetering between “recovery” and another downturn.

With competition for global markets and resources at a white heat, CEOs are watching the 2012 election impatiently. As Fortune magazine’s Sept. 3 cover blared, “Hey, Washington: Enough already!” The authors say neither candidate is talking about needed “hard choices” — like “fixing” Medicare by restricting end-of-life care and levying surcharges on “smokers and the ultra-fat.”

So each contender is working hard to convince Corporate America that he is the turnaround guy, while using fear to appeal to ordinary voters. For Romney, it’s fear of those who are poor and need society’s help; for Obama, fear of Romney; for both, fear of foreign threats.

The Standard and Poor’s 500 are hedging their bets, throwing money to both parties, as they usually do — and for good reason. Bipartisanship delivers the goods for the ruling class.

For example, by the time George W. Bush left office, he had signed 460 laws passed by a Democratic Congress, including the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. In 2009, when Obama took over, he defended the bailout against public furor and extended Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Busy saving capitalism, his promises to labor withered on the vine, including the Employee Free Choice Act to reduce management sabotage of union drives.

With either Romney or Obama, the basic agenda of the bosses is safe. And what they are after this time around is austerity on steroids.

What bosses want. Four years of wage cuts, bank bailouts, and stimulus funding have transferred millions in wealth from the working class to the already rich. But as the Great Recession lingers, the 1 percent can’t stop now.

Everything working people have won is fair game, though methods of attack vary. To take one case, Republican Paul Ryan is a fan of privatizing Medicare by forcing it to compete in a health insurance “marketplace.” Democrat Obama’s preference, to starve Medicare through “efficiencies” of $716 billion, would lead less directly to a similar result. Funding cuts would force service cutbacks and fee hikes, opening the door for private industry to profit by filling gaps in care.

Mail delivery, schools, mass transit, garbage pickup: privatizers want it all.

Other goals are outlined by the Business Roundtable, a kind of Fortune 500 executive committee. Its policy aims include more free trade, rollback of government regulations for everything from clean water to consumer safety, and energy development — drilling on public lands and fracking. To keep world markets open to U.S. businesses, they push for more carrot (foreign aid) and more stick (war spending). They want foreign “guest workers” and a U.S. labor force with lower wages, fewer benefits, and scarcer pensions.

From Wall Street, pressure is mounting to balance the federal budget. The chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi, is one of many who warn of a “catastrophic fiscal crisis” if action isn’t taken.

The blueprint for reducing the deficit and freeing up tax dollars for lucrative contracts and debt interest payments is provided by Obama’s bipartisan Simpson-Bowles committee. Cuts of $4 trillion in 10 years would be achieved primarily by slashing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Other proposals would raise the retirement age, hike Medicare premiums, and shrink the federal labor force by 10 percent.

In 2011, a firestorm of protest forced Congress to blink, and the Simpson-Bowles plans went on hold. But, as Obama pal, teachers’ union foe, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says, the two parties will “work it out because they have to.” The bosses see only one way to save their bottom lines: empty the pockets of the masses.

Implementing super-austerity will require political carnage as well — stripping away more civil liberties and attempting to make unions a historical footnote.

Spending money to make money. To advance this anti-working-class program, the corporate elite pays for the electoral shell game, ensuring that their interests are covered no matter which of the two parties wins.

This election, as of July, Obama led in contributions from individuals, with $348 million, mostly from large donors. Romney had taken in $192 million. The big contributors include Boeing, which wants lucrative Pentagon and Homeland Security contracts, and American Crystal Sugar, which has locked out its unionized workforce since May.

Walmart, Exxon, and Goldman Sachs favor Republicans and their shameless defense of Big Oil, union-busters, and banksters. Microsoft likes Obama’s ability to open new markets in Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. Labor-hater William Koch loves Romney. Tax-evader George Kaiser is betting on Obama.

But neither party has the working class sewn up. And so Super PACs, bankrolled by crooks like Dick Cheney, are flooding the airwaves with propaganda. TV ads and media talking heads are working overtime to persuade unconvinced voters that deficit reduction is the burning issue and that shredding the safety net is the only solution. The PACs are a pre-emptive strike aimed at the bosses’ worst nightmare — a militant mass movement challenging their rule. Heaven help the ruling class should Wisconsin meet Occupy and birth a movement that fights for anti-capitalist solutions to the economic crisis.

What bosses fear. The wild card is not who wins at the ballot box, but whether a radical movement develops in the streets and workplaces. This is what Greece has taught the world.

Glimmerings of such a movement are surfacing more often, from Chicago, where teachers struck to defend public education, to Washington state, where longshore workers threatened to blockade scab ships in a fight against a union-busting grain consortium.

As attacks on workers and the poor intensify, so will resistance. What’s urgent is the cultivation of leaders and organizations to give direction to protest and sustain it. And that’s what the Durham-López write-in campaign is all about: raising working-class solutions in the sprint for the White House while helping to develop working-class muscles in the marathon for fundamental change.

Contact Linda Averill at AvLinda587@gmail.com.

By Linda Averill
Freedom Socialist, October-November 2012, Volume 33, No. 5