MP EXPENSES LIST FAR FROM 'FULL DISCLOSURE'


While the media were quick to pounce on Sir Roger Douglas for spending some $65,000 ($44,000 air travel) on travel - basically holidays for him and his wife at the taxpayer's expense - the media were also quick to accept the list of MP expenses as a full and accurate account.

TVNZ's Francesca Mold even opined that all the expenses were justified because the MP's were all 'working for us'.

Mold has perhaps spent too much time in the company of 'our' parliamentary 'representatives' because she - and Guyon Espiner - are not in possession of all the facts to make such a supportive judgement call.

The list of MP expenses actually hides more than it reveals.

It is of some concern, for example, that no actual details are provided of the MP's travel expenses. Prior to 1998 the Parliamentary Service would provide a useful breakdown of the spending in categories such as taxi use, domestic flights, etc, but this proved too embarrassing to MP's and so is no longer done.

Political Science lecturer Bryce Edwards has written about MP's expense claims at some length on his blog Liberation.

He has, among other things, raised questions about the 'out of Wellington' accommodation expenses. While such expenses are supposed to be related to a MP's parliamentary activity Edwards observes that it is often used for party political purposes rather than parliamentary activities.

One MP that Edwards has raised questions about is Green co-leader Russel Norman.

During the Mt Albert by-election campaign the Wellington-based MP was in Auckland for much of the time. Was any of his travel and accommodation expenses related to his political campaigning in Mt Albert?

We just don't know. All we do know is that he spent nearly $40,000 on travel and for accomodation outside Wellington.

Why pick on Norman and the Green Party? Norman, in particular, has made great play of MP's expenses and political funding generally.

Edwards observes that Norman, 'the stone thrower':

..needs to show that he doesn't also live in a glass house. Therefore Norman should declare whether he has used any taxpayer funds on his campaign, including travel expenses and accommodation claims for his many, many trips to Mt Albert since Helen Clark announced her departure from Parliament. Anything less than this would make his various campaigns against ‘corruption’ seem rather hollow.

Despite the questions surrounding Norman's use of MP expenses, this hasn't stopped the Green Party from, once again, claiming the moral high ground when it comes to financial matters.

In a press release (30 July) Green co-leader Metiria Turei says:

"The Green Party is pleased to have inspired the Parliament's move to make MP's travel and accommodation expenses public,'

She goes on to comment:

'It is great to see that the other political parties have agreed to follow the Greens' lead and introduced regular disclosure of MP's expenses.'

But what has been released to the public is far from a 'full disclosure' of MP's expenses.

It is also worth noting that MP's are entitled to $15,000 of 'miscellaneous spending'. This category has been left off the MP expenses list entirely.

While Roger Douglas was an easy target , its unfortunate that the likes of Russel Norman have not been asked some searching questions by the media.

A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING


Having been struck down with the flu for the last couple of days, I've been watching a little of the proceedings in Parliament - although my tolerance for what passes for democracy these days is limited.

Question Time can often be entertaining though and I was interested to see how the Minister of Social Development and Employment - such a grand and misleading job description - would respond to questions about her privacy-busting behaviour.

She fielded questions,I think, from Labour's Annette King, Charles Chauvel, Trevor Mallard and Phil Goff and from the Green's Sue Bradford - who I thought displayed some of the old passion that has been sorely lacking from her of late.

Bennett's responses were staggeringly inept. Words came out of mouth but, at times, her answers bordered on incoherency.

Time and again, Labour and the Green's demanded that Bennett actually answer the question. Speaker Lockwood Smith merely responded that, well, she had 'addressed' the question.

If 'addressing' the question means standing up and saying something entirely meaningless then Smith is right.

But it seemed that Ms Bennett, who prides herself on her no-nonsense forthright approach, suddenly found that evasiveness was a much more preferable strategy.

The whole affair is a mess for the Government but Bennett seems intent on brazening it out. She's not going to apologise for her actions and, not surprisingly , the beneficiary bashing brigade have wheeled in behind her. They spend most of their time ringing up talkback radio - don't any of them work?

Bennett is still attempting to portray herself as a 'understanding friend' of beneficiaries. She often refers to her own time on the Domestic Purposes Benefit - although she won't reveal how much she received - as if it was a badge of honour. 'Look, I'm one of you,' she is saying to beneficiaries. 'I know what life is like on a benefit.'

The problem is that Bennett the 'working class battler' has done nothing for the people she claims to identify with. Her words don't match her deeds.

Beneficiaries got done over by Labour and Bennett is continuing in that tradition.

Earlier this month she flicked the disabilities portfolio to Taraina Turia in order, she said, to concentrate on getting people into jobs. She then informed us that we were out to lunch if we thought unemployment was not going to rise.

Given that the recession is cutting deep into the economy and the unemployment numbers are rising alarmingly, has Bennett actually done anything at all to ease the financial burden?

Nope.

Bennett could, for example, relax the criteria around people receiving the Temporary Additional Support grant from Work and Income. For people struggling to meet the rent and buy groceries, the TAP is often their last option. Bennett though has refused to make it easier for beneficiaries to receive the TAP because, apparently, now is not the time to tinker with the rules.

A friend of mine has not been able to find work for some time but because his partner is working he cannot receive the unemployment benefit.

He told me that the disinterested woman on the reception counter at his local WINZ office told him that there was not much that WINZ could do to help him except register him as a job seeker. But she also added that she felt that, since he had a university qualification, he was unlikely to find any suitable jobs through WINZ.

'We don't have a lot of jobs at the moment anyway,' she said helpfully.

He is out of work, needs financial assistance, but can't get it. Bennett though will not countenance changing the rules for people like my friend whose partner is in paid employment.

So, despite Bennett's claims to be the 'understanding friend' of beneficiaries her 'sympathy' doesn't extend as far as any concrete action. Words are cheap, Minister.

It's just the same with the two solo mothers who had their personal financial details aired in public by Bennett.

They spoke out and challenged the government cuts to the Training Incentive Allowance . Despite the cut, Bennett still waxes lyrically about 'helping' people into training.

In Parliament yesterday Bennett claimed that she encouraged debate and even applauded the two women for speaking out.

Of course, after they spoke out Bennett went to their personal WINZ files - and released confidential information to the media. This is the action of a Minister trying to shut down debate - not encourage it.

Paula Bennett says one thing and does another. For beneficiaries she is proving to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.

BENNETT BASHES BENEFICIARIES


In another truly inept interview Close Up's Mark Sainsbury managed to avoid asking the Minister of Social Development and Employment the crucial questions: Had she breached the Privacy Act by releasing confidential information about two solo mothers? If she hadn't, could she point to the legislation that allowed her to disclose personal information to the media?

Fortunately, these were the first questions that TV3's John Campbell asked tonight. Paula Bennett attempted to sidestep the questions but eventually she said that she had found 'something' on the website of the Privacy Commissioner that backed her actions.

Campbell also asked her if she had consulted her officials before she released the information. She said she did.

This directly contradicted what she said in Parliament this afternoon. She said that she did not seek any official advice before releasing personal details about the benefits received by the two solo mothers, Jennifer Johnstone and Natasha Fuller.

But, as has been pointed out on other blogs, there is nothing on the website that comes close to giving Bennett the authority to release confidential personal information held by Work and Income.

The appropriate section says that if the Minister feels that a individual has misrepresented the facts on which the Department's actions were based and 'the Minister could say that there are some undisclosed facts which give a somewhat different picture and, if the individual would authorise release of further details from the Department's files, the Minister would be happy to oblige.'

Bennett did not seek that permission from either Fuller or Johnstone.

So as the unemployment figures continue to rise and spending cuts begin to bite, Bennett is clearly seeking to intimidate beneficiaries into silence. Her attempt to portray herself as a understanding and helpful friend becomes more unconvincing by the day.

BENNETT MUST RESIGN - OR BE SACKED


The Minister for Social Development has certainly put her foot in it this time.

After two solo mothers criticised cutbacks to a training allowance, Bennett made public details of the benefits being received by the two women, Jennifer Johnston and Natasha Fuller.

In what can only be seen as a blatant attempt to gag two critics of government policy, she has released confidential Work and Income information about them.

This is nothing more than intimidation. It is indefensible.

She has breached the Privacy Act and has done so knowingly.

It also raises questions about her own advisors and the role of WINZ. Did they know what Bennett was going to do? If they did, why didn't they protest?

Bennett has brought into disrepute her own department.

Where does it end? Is the next bolshie beneficiary that Bennett takes an exception to going to find their WINZ files on the front page of the New Zealand Herald?

Bennett must either resign or be sacked by the Prime Minister.

JIM KILLS THE JIM PARTY


Jim Anderton is insulting our intelligience when he says that Progressive Party members - how many are there, anyway? - can now also join the Labour Party if they so wish.

The Progressive Party was always a Clayton's Labour Party - the Labour Party you're a member of when you're not a member of the Labour Party - and Anderton is taking the final step of merging the Jim Party with Labour.

Did Anderton have a meeting with himself when the decision was made to wind up the party? Was there a formal vote? Was the membership consulted?

His comment that Progressive Party members don't have to join Labour if they don't want to is just Anderton up to his old tricks again.

Since the Progressive Party won't be standing in any further general elections the party effectively no longer exists. Progressive members who don't want to join the neoliberal Labour Party have been left high and dry by Anderton.

Of course this is familiar tale with Anderton who has let down a good many people on his journey to the right of the political spectrum - eventually making his peace with Labour's monetary economic policies.

The Progressive Party was just a convenient staging post along the way - but that didn't stop Anderton calling for donations to fund his personal 'comfort stop'.

That's the thing with Anderton. He expects people to do the 'donkey work' then abandons them when he no longer has any more use for them, when they have nothing more to contribute to 'Project Jim'.

Anderton's comment that the Progressive Party's policies are compatible with Labour's just about sums up the his bankrupt politics.

It's sensible for the Alliance Party to encourage disillusioned Progressive members to join the party.

Says co-leader Kay Murray : ''It would make much more sense to join a party that believes in the same things as you do, rather than, as Mr Anderton suggests, join the Labour Party and try to persuade them to adopt your ideas. Labour hasn’t listened in the past so why would you expect them to listen in the future?'

THE PARTY NEVER ENDS ON WALL STREET...


After sucking up billions from the US taxpayer, the fat cats on Wall Street look like they are returning to the lavish lifestyles they are accustomed to.

Having royally screwed up the US economy - and the global economy - the financial geniuses are,staggeringly, set to pay themselves more bonuses then ever before.

So far this year, the top six US banks have set aside $74 billion to pay their employees, up from $60 billion in the corresponding period last year.

All six banks have received federal bailout money from the $700 billion rescue package adopted by Congress last year

With unemployment continuing to rise rapidly, the shameless self-interest of Wall Street has raised the ire of Congress. Congressional leaders have denounced Wall Street for returning to its old ways and legislation to curtail executives is being talked about - but only talked about.

Goldman Sach have, unbelievably, have set aside a record $6.6 billion for 'compensation expenses' in the most recent quarter, bringing the total for the first six months of the year to $11.4 billion.

According to the Washington Post if that pace continues for the rest of the year, Goldman's employees will earn an average of about $773,000, more than double the figure last year and even exceeding the $700,000 paid in 2007.

Barack Obama, under pressure to deliver tangible policy benefits to ordinary Americans, was questioned about the behaviour of Wall Street this week.

"With respect to compensation, I'd like to think that people would feel a little remorse and feel embarrassed and would not get million-dollar or multimillion-dollar bonuses," he said.

He said that he was not happy that the culture of Wall Street had not changed.

He was probably unhappy with the comments of some bank executives that it should come as 'no surprise that set-asides for compensation would rise as performance recovered.'

But having bent over backwards to help the American capitalism, Obama has offered little to the US working class.

There has been much media hype about Obama but, in the end, he remains a politician of the system.

Beyond Wall Street, the innocent victims of the capitalist meltdown are doing it tough.

Noted American journalist Barbara Eihenerich writes:

The recession of the '80s transformed the working class into the working poor, as manufacturing jobs fled to the third world, forcing American workers into the low-paying service and retail sector. The current recession is knocking the working poor down another notch - from low-wage employment and inadequate housing toward erratic employment and no housing at all. Comfortable people have long imagined that American poverty is far more luxurious than the third world variety, but the difference is rapidly narrowing.

The misery just keeps piling up. While the Wall Street clowns get money thrown at them by the Obama Administration, ordinary American gets nothing but more bad news.

THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD


There is an underlying assumption in the world of New Zealand mainstream politics that there is no alternative to neoliberal economics. You can either have National's neoliberal policies or you can have Labour's neoliberal policies. Or perhaps you might like the Green Party's neoliberal policies with a slight green hue.

But you can't have anything really different. You can't have anything new.

Are we living in some Twilight Zone, where the real world barely intrudes?

Despite the fact that neoliberalism has completely failed, sparking the biggest meltdown of global capitalism since the 1930s, that fact hasn't got through to our parliamentary politicians.

Right now, we have shifted from the 'Twilight Zone' to the 'Night of the Living Dead'. How else can we explain the return of neoliberal zealot Don Brash to economic prominence?

But as long as Labour remains locked into the neoliberal orthodoxy it is incapable of offering any real economic alternative - and it is reduced to sniping on the sidelines.

The appointment of the conservative Goff as Labour leader was never going to restore Labour fortunes. He told National Radio's Focus on Politics last week (an excellent interview by Brent Edwards) that "..a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy'

Goff just doesn't get it. This economic 'recession' is not just a 'blip' on capitalism's radar. He just doesn't comprehend that the 'economic boom' of the Clark government was an illusion based on inflated house values against which thousands of New Zealanders borrowed large amounts on credit cards. And now the chickens have come to roost.

But Goff's complacency and his inability to grasp the true nature of this economic crisis, is mirrored by his ideological cheerleaders in the trade union bureaucracy and on blogs like The Standard - which is largely written by Labour Party employees and activists and trade union officials and functionaries.

What's The Standard's big economic alternative? Well, 'Eddie' (July 21) wants to see the expansion of the home insulation scheme to rental accommodation and more money spent on public transport.

This is merely tinkering while the economy burns. If 'Eddie' wasn't so enthralled with the free market she would be calling for the nationalisation of the banking sector - and that would be just for starters.

The level of economic debate is mindnumbingly superficial, the solutions offered no solutions at all, the lack of any real alternative vision for New Zealand sorely apparent.

I heard Goff talking the other day about restoring 'confidence' to the New Zealand economy. It's one of those cliches that politicians roll out on a regular basis but, disturbingly, Goff actually believes it.

He is not alone in his idiocy however. One of the reasons that our economic commentators seize on any bit of economic good news, however small or temporary, is that they think that 'business confidence' is fundamental to any economic recovery.

It is mumbo jumbo. The economic collapse sparked the collapse of confidence - not the other way round. But Goff peddles this nonsense just like John Key.

All the economic figures show that global economy shows no signs at all of pulling out its tailspin. The rate of descent might of slowed a little but that's all.

Prime Minister Key informed us yesterday that the worst of the recession is over but then proceeded to say that unemployment would continue to rise well into 2010. Does this make any sense to you? Me neither.

What we do face is, at best, is a very long period of stagnation, growing unemployment, falling living standards and pressure for more spending cuts and a further round of privatisation.

Its not good enough for Goff and fellow Labour MP's - and the Green MP's as well- to simply pick holes in National's economic policies while, at the same time, sharing National's assumption that there is no alternative to neoliberalism.

We need a new radical economic agenda that puts people first - but it won't come from Labour, we know that.

Nor will it come from the trade union bureaucracy which continues to refuse to fight and presents the smallest of employer concessions as if it was some major industrial victory. The National Distribution Union's disgraceful failure to mount any industrial action at clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin is a good example of this bureaucratic passivity.

What we are seeing in New Zealand and the west generally is the last death throes of historical social democracy that emerged from the split in the world workers movement after the Russian Revolution. This does not of course mean that we shall see the early demise of parties like Labour that originated in social democracy, but the project – originally socialism via successive reforms which then became pro-working class reforms within the framework of capitalism - is all but dead.

Labour will stumble on for now - it is indeed the night of the living dead.

The new task must be to build a new and united left both at the electoral level and in all the social struggles. This is a difficult and complex task but not impossible.

WORKERS BESEIGED BY RIOT POLICE


The two biggest stories in the New Zealand media of late have been the death of a celebrity (Michael Jackson) and a lurid murder case (Clayton Weatherston). Neither story tells us anything about ourselves but they do tell us a lot about the priorities of the mainstream media.

Another story that won't make TV1,TV3 or the NZ Herald because it involves neither a dead celebrity or a lurid murder, is an industrial struggle presently happening on the Isle Of Wight.

This is what a recent press story says;

Workers staging a sit-in at the soon-to-close Vestas wind turbine plant on the Isle of Wight are being starved out by police.

The police, many inside the factory and dressed in riot gear, have denied food to the workers who took over the factory offices last night, to protest about the closure of their factory. The police, operating with highly questionable legal authority, have surrounded the offices, preventing supporters from joining the sit-in, and preventing food from being brought to the protestors.

Around 20 workers at the Vestas Plant in Newport, on the Isle of Wight, occupied the top floor of offices in their factory to protest against its closure which will result in over 500 job losses.

Acting without an injunction, on private property, the police have repeatedly tried to break into the office where the protesting workers have barricaded themselves, and have threatened the workers with arrest for aggravated trespass, despite the fact that no damage has been done to the property where the protest is taking place. Police have also forcibly removed people from private property, another action that is of very questionable legality in the absence of a formal injunction.


If you want to read more go to this blog Save Vistas.

CHRIS TROTTER: GOFF'S GOT TO GO


Although I didn't hear it myself on Saturday - I've listened to it since - Labour leader Phil Goff had some interesting things to say on National Radio's Focus on Politics.

One angry person who was listening on Saturday was commentator and Labour Party supporter Chris Trotter.

Trotter was incensed by what Goff had to say. In fact he's so incensed he wants Phil removed as Labour leader.

The reason for Trotter's chagrin is Goff's rejection of Labour’s founding objective – 'the socialisation of the means of production, distribution and exchange" as 'nineteenth century history'.

That's a charge, ironically, that Trotter as thrown at us socialists - we apparently subscribe to an anachronistic nineteenth century political ideology too.

Goff told interviewer Brent Edwards that his 'modern' Labour Party believed in the free market. In Goff's words Labour believes that "..a well-functioning market system is the most effective and efficient way of organising an economy"

That Goff could say this against the backdrop of global capitalism in meltdown is breathtakingly daft but he goes on to say that the job of Labour was '"how you make a modern capitalist system work more effectively, and work in favour of all of the citizens of a country – and not just the chosen few, the elite at the top."

If this is indeed the case, it makes you wonder what the Clark government was doing for nine years.

For Trotter, who retains a touching but sincere faith in traditional social democratic principles that have been discarded by the western social democratic parties themselves, it is all just too much. He points, somewhat forlornly I think, to various references in the Labour Party constitution:

The dropping of the socialisation clause did not, however, mean that the Labour Party constitution was purged of any and all references to its socialist beliefs and objectives. Even today, the Party’s constitution declares, as one of its foundation principles: "Co-operation, rather than competition, should be the main governing factor in economic relations, in order that a just distribution of wealth can be ensured." And among its objectives one can still read of Labour’s determination: "To ensure the just distribution of the production and services of the nation for the benefit of all the people.", and "To educate the public in the principles and objectives of democratic socialism and economic and social co-operation.

Of course this stuff have been in the constitution since Labour began its march down the neoliberal road to nowhere. In Labour's case, 'democratic socialism' is anything it wants it to be.

Trotter, perhaps more out of sentimentality then logic, remains attached to the notion that Labour can challenge capitalism - despite the fact that it has been the chief promoter of neoliberalism over the past twenty years or so.

He knows this too because he feels he has to justify his continued support for Labour. He does that by setting up a straw man and then knocking it down.

I've made my views known about social democratic reformism before in reference to Trotter's politics, but its disappointing that he still can't resist being economical with the truth about socialist politics. He suggests that socialists want to impose their views on the populace. That's the top-down elitist approach to politics that Helen Clark favoured - but it is not one that socialists adhere to. Socialists start at the grassroots.

While Trotter might be washing his hands of Goff, his only alternative seems to be replacing the low rating Labour leader with someone else. A few weeks ago though he justified his support for Goff on the basis that there was no one to replace him, that there was no-one better waiting in the wings.

Who does he have in mind as a possible replacement? Annette King? Trevor Mallard? David Cunliffe?

The unpalatable truth for Trotter is that Goff is not an exception to the rule. His views are typical of the parliamentary Labour Party.

A few weeks ago, I said that the Labour Party was 'scared of its social democratic past'. I was being too kind - Labour has actually dismissed its past as irrelevant to the modern neoliberal Labour Party that we have come to loathe.

Chris Trotter might be calling for a new leader but this will make no difference to a Labour Party that is 'Labour' in name only.

HENRY AND THE JUDGE


New Zealand likes putting people in prison. In fact we're pretty good at it. According to Statistics NZ more than three-quarters of OECD countries have prison population rates below 140 per 100,000 population. New Zealand’s rate of 155 places it seventh-highest in the OECD, just below Mexico.

With our enthusiasm for locking people up, it is no surprise that the prison system is overcrowded.

So Chief Justice Sian Elias has come up with a very sensible suggestion. Why don't we just stop locking so many people up?

She is suggesting giving some prisoners an amnesty as a way of relieving prison overcrowding and has pointed out that the system works in other countries.

'If not we will have to keep building prisons and diverting resources into incapacitation. . .,'Elias warned yesterday.

Predictably, the government has rejected the sensible suggestion of the Chief Justice. It would rather waste more money locking people up in converted shipping containers.

A prominent media cheerleader has backed the government's reactionary position.

Failed National Party candidate Paul Henry was at it again this morning on Breakfast.

Echoing the comments of the Justice Minster Simon Powers, Henry criticised Elias for having an intelligent opinion - perhaps he's jealous.

According to Henry , who is never slow in voicing his own dreary right wing opinions, Elias should just keep her mouth shut and just enforce government policy.

He is not the impartial observer he is pretending to be and - surprise - Garth McVicar of the very right wing Sensible Sentencing Trust appeared yet again on Breakfast.

McVicar, who lives in the Land That Time Forgot, was all 'outraged' and he lambasted the good judge.

McVicar though has no new solutions to offer himself. He just wants to keep on locking people up despite all the evidence that this does nothing at all to reduce crime rates.

Paul Henry though supports Sensible Sentencing.

Garth McVicar was on Breakfast last Christmas and this is what Henry said:

Now, he’s a good man that Garth. Are you still there Garth? Happy Christmas to you by the way. You’ve had, I think, a very successful year for the Sensible Sentencing Trust too, and he works so very hard for it. So have a good Christmas and New Year Garth.

What really offends Henry is not that Sean Elias has public expressed her opinions - he just doesn't like what she has got to say.

NOTHING NEW FROM GOFF

The Hurrah-For-Labour! blog, which goes by the alias The Standard, was hyping up a Phil Goff video the other day.

According to The Standard it's evidence that Labour do have an economic vision that's different from the National-led government. Of course any resemblance of critical thinking goes out the window when The Standard starts talking about Labour, so I had a look at it on You Tube.

As I expected, The Standard is talking drivel again. The low-rating Goff waffles a bit about Labour's priorities and suggests that New Zealand economy can be saved via apprenticeship schemes and 'properly directed' tax cuts, but there is absolutely nothing in what Goff says that suggests that Labour has seen the error of its ways and has abandoned neoliberalism

Indeed Goff is peddling the same discredited neoliberal policies that sparked the collapse of the global economy. There's nothing new or innovative here.

We need radical economic policies to protect the great majority of the population who have no responsibility for the economic crisis they now confront - not more of the same neoliberal dross that Goff favours.

Labour has also been distributing a leaflet . I got one last week. It was contained in a mock one page newspaper put out by Labour MP Brendon Burns which also contained a lot of the low-rating Goff.

Bryce Edwards has pointed out that Labour used taxpayer funded parliamentary resources to fund this party propaganda. He writes:

'With leader Phil Goff doing so poorly in opinion polls, the party is dipping its hand into the public purse to try and improve his profile.'

Edwards goes on to say that the leaflet '..promotes 'Brand Goff', which is incidentally rather bland - there's not a lot in the leaflet that couldn't also appear in a National "Brand Key" leaflet. His advertising slogan is: "Hard work. Inspiration. And a fierce belief in New Zealand.' I'm sure that just about any politician could sign up to such a slogan.'

FRENCH WORKERS THREATEN TO BLOW UP FACTORY


From The Guardian (July 13):

First there was boss-napping, now angry workers at a factory in France have come up with a new tactic in their battle against mass redundancy.

Staff at bankrupt car parts maker New Fabris are threatening to blow up the plant if they do not receive compensation from the companies that provided most of the firm's business.

The 336 workers at the factory at Châtellerault, near Poitiers in central France, want Renault SA and PSA Peugeot Citroen to pay €30,000 (£25,850) to each of them, or some €10m in total, in return for the company's remaining stocks of equipment and machinery. The workers, who are currently occupying the factory, have given Renault and Peugeot Citroen until 31 July to come up with the money.

Guy Eyermann, a CGT trades union official, told France Info radio: "The bottles of gas have already been placed at various parts of the factory and are connected with each other. If Renault and PSA refuse to give us that money it could blow up before the end of the month."

A delegation of workers will meet officials from Renault on Thursday. Both Renault and the police declined to comment.

New Fabris went into liquidation in April, which means the workers are unlikely to get any redundancy money.

The industrial unrest is the latest in a series of radical responses to the financial crisis. Earlier this year, staff from at least eight companies took their managers hostage in return for demands such as proper jobs, better pay and fewer redundancies.

France has a history of boss-nappings dating back to May 1968 and the 1970s, when executives were held hostage in the struggle for rights.

FORMER LWR WORKERS SOLD OUT BY THE NDU


The news that clothing manufacturer Lane Walker Rudkin owes Westpac Bank some $111 million is more bad news for the 186 former LWR workers.

They have not received any of the redundancy and holiday money they are legally due and it looks increasingly unlikely they ever will.

The majority of workers have not found new jobs.

"It's been nine weeks this Friday. People are struggling," Jack Taylor, a former LWR worker told TV3 News.

The ineffectual president of the National Distribution Union didn't have much to offer the sacked workers today.

"How Westpac could lend the company that much money and now be in debt, and there's no asset backing for that, is beyond belief," Robert Reid complained today - but only after the media came looking for him. Most of the time he's the invisible man.

Also beyond belief is the National Distribution Union's complete failure to organise any meaningful resistance to the redundancies.

It's only response was to organise a few cake stalls to raise a 'fighting fund'. This was initiated by Laila Harre, the outgoing national secretary of the NDU. This mostly involved her setting up a page on Facebook.

Ms Harre, of course, has more pressing matters on her mind - namely her career. She is heading off to the Auckland Transitional Authority where she will overseeing the redundancies at the various Auckland councils.

The failure of the NDU officialdom to organise any industrial resistance has been disgraceful. The former LWR workers have been hung out to dry by a limp and ineffectual union leadership that won't fight back.

And with the ineffectual Reid taking over from the hopeless Harre in August, there is no immediate prospect that the NDU will do anything differently in the future.

And that's bad news for workers who expect the NDU to be in their corner when the chips are down.

FAT CAPITALISM


We're fat!

That's what a new OECD report tells us in very stark terms

The Health Care Data 2009 report says that we are the third fattest country in the developed world. Only the United States (the World HQ of Fatties) and Mexico are fattest. I don't think the corporate media will be going nuts over this particular 'achievement'.

While the All Blacks may never be able to win the Rugby World Cup we'd be one of the favourites for the Fatty World Cup - especially since the report says that we getting even bigger.

Chef Gordon Ramsay might make television shows called The F Word but for us folk sitting on our couches, its all about 'The O Word' - Obesity.

The executive director of the Obesity Action Coalition, Leigh Sturgiss, had this to say yesterday.

"We're eating far too much of the wrong food. It's accessible, it's cheap, we see it advertised on TV, we're busy, sometimes the choice isn't there. There are parents trying to operate on reduced incomes because they've lost jobs or sometimes these parents are working two jobs each and are unable to monitor what their kids are eating during the day.

And we are going to make even more of the 'wrong food' even more accessible with McDonald's set to open thirty new outlets in the next five years. Clearly Ronald McDonald thinks he's on to a good thing here in New Zealand.

What's more the Government is going to use the new outlets to try and 'mop up' some of the burgeoning unemployed. It won't work given that McDonald's has a high staff turnover anyway, but it does show that the fast food corporate has become a integral part of the New Zealand economy, a important provider of low paid jobs.

The colonisation of New Zealand by McDonald's tells us much about the state of our country.

One of the fundamental changes in the McDonald's operations is that they are open more often and for longer - in some cases they are 24/7 operations.

In the United States nearly fifty percent of McDonald's never close. We're not at this stage here, and are unlikely to ever be, but McDonald's opening hours have expanded considerably.

This is to tap into an economy where people are working longer hours just to make ends meet.

These days McDonald's devotes a significant share of its massive advertising budget to promoting it breakfast menu. This is revealing indication of a country that used to be called 'Godzone' but where people are now working longer and harder.

So it’s not just that more and more Kiwi workers don’t have time to eat at home, many have to eat while travelling to and from or during their work. Or between first and second part-time jobs. And parents, preoccupied with the demands of work, simply don't have the time to prepare meals for their children.

I don't imagine many parents will say this is a acceptable situation but when the boss is on you're back..well, what choice do you really have?

And it's not just McDonald's. Competitors like Burger King and KFC are also churning out the fast food.

Up against such powerful economic - and political forces - such things as public awareness campaigns and banning fast food television advertising is always going to have a marginal impact. Of course the National Government has made the situation even worse by cutting funding to several anti-obesity campaigns, including Labour's curbing of fatty foods in school tuckshops. These cuts have largely been driven by the deep 'recession' New Zealand has sunk into.

You don't have to be a socialist (but it helps) to know that capitalism seeks to increase its profits by expanding the hours of work, to expanding the hours that workers are available to extract surplus value from.

While the neoliberal politicians in the parliamentary parties talk about the 'innovation' and 'creativity' of 'the market' for workers it just means working longer hours and not having much to show for it. It means less time to spend with family and friends. It means less time to cook meals. It means less time to pursue interests.

In his work the Grundrisse (1858) Karl Marx wrote: 'The measure of wealth is then not any longer, in any way, labour time, but rather disposable time'.

To be really rich means being rich in disposable time. Few of us can say that we have a lot of free time to dispose of.

HISTORY OF A REVOLUTION


Well worth watching on Stratos TV (Sky 89) is the six part documentary series PLO: History of a Revolution

Filmmaker Omar al-Issawi spent six years making his documentary on the history of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

In that time, he conducted 150 hours of interviews on four continents - including the last 'historical' interview with Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, and the first interviews with key operatives from the Black September Organisation.

Al Jazeera broadcast the original Arabic version, all 13 one-hour parts of it, last year.

But the English-language version has been trimmeed back to six half hour programmes, without detracting from the content.

The first episode screens on Stratos TV tonight at 5.30pm.

WILLE JACKSON TALKS NONSENSE


I don't have much time for the politics of Willie Jackson.

Anyone who has heard him on his Radio Live show will know he peddles the reactionary views of the Maori Party and invariably dismisses contrary views as 'anti-Maori'.

Professor Elizabeth Rata - why do her views never get any prominence in the media? - has identified what is essentially a new Maori capitalism - what she refers to as a 'neotribal capitalist regime of accumulation.'

She writes:

'Under neotribal capitalism, this access to what paltry resources have been returned to Maori is effectively exclusively controlled by the new tribal capitalist elite.'

Jackson is a member of that new Maori elite and it comes as no surprise that he has gravitated to the party that represents that elite -the Maori Party.

While Maori like Jackson have done well out of the new Maori capitalism, working class iwi have been much less fortunate.

Jackson though does his bit to obscure this exploitative relationship by encouraging the Maori working class to identify with its culture and community above all else.

Listen to Jackson and you will hear him talking about 'Maori' as if they were all one homogenous social strata. Like the Maori Party, Jackson rarely talks about economic class.

So after TVNZ announced it was axing his interview show Eye To Eye last week he was predictably quick to claim that there was 'no room for opinionated Maori' at TVNZ - despite the fact that his show had been on air for some six years. Kim Hill's show, I think, only got two years or so.

Jackson hasn't been shut out of TVNZ because he is an 'opinionated Maori' - he is simply another casualty of a media organisation that is a public broadcaster in name only.

Eye To Eye was wholly funded by taxpayer money, through TVNZ's charter cash. However that charter money is now contestable and the Key Government has given control over to NZ On Air. It's focus is the prime time schedules and it demands that TVNZ also contributes to the funding of shows.

That means shows have to deliver ratings and the crucial advertising revenue.

Instead of bleating nonsense that he was shown the door because he is an 'opinionated Maori' Jackson should be calling for the transformation of TVNZ, and especially Television One, into a non-commercial public service broadcaster.

That way, programmes like Eye To Eye would still get airtime.

I'd also like to think that a public broadcaster would also give airtime to political opinions other than the reactionary Maori nationalism of Willie Jackson. The New Zealand left has been shut out of state television for more years than I care to remember - we have more reason to feel aggrieved than Mr Jackson.

A STRANGE SILENCE FALLS ON THE BLOGOSPHERE...


The appointment of Laila Harre to the Auckland Transitional Authority has been met with a strange silence by the Labour-leaning blogs. Usually with lots of things to say about other 'safer' things - like John Key - Harre appears to be off-limits.

Other than 'Eddie', who apparently thinks its just peachy that Harre will be overseeing the sacking of hundreds of workers from the various Auckland councils, no-one has had anything to say at all.

What make's it even more strange is that these very same bloggers have been very vocal in their opposition to the supercity project.

Could it be they are embarrassed that Harre has sold out to the National/ACT/Business axis? Or do they still consider Harre to be 'one of their own' - as The Standard's 'Eddie'' so quaintly termed it.

How long will these courageous bloggers be able to just ignore the Laila Harre issue?

Over the new few days we'll be keeping tabs on the The Standard to see how long it can go without mentioning her.

'EDDIE' CHANGES HER TUNE


Here's 'Eddie' - aka Jenny Michie, Labour Party communications officer - writing about the Auckland 'supercity' on May 15:

Why is the National government delaying its announcement of the Supercity transitional agency? The Rankin Effect. That’s the flinch you get when your rampant arrogance becomes a bit too obvious.

But despite the Rankin Effect, it looks like most of Rodney Hide’s picks for the new board will pass Key’s test. Who wants to take a punt on how long it’ll be before these oligarch cronies turn their cold values into something Aucklanders just don’t want?


Now we learn that one of the 'picks' who passed John Key's tests is the outgoing national secretary for the National Distribution Union. Yes, its Laila Harre travelling to the right of the political spectrum at some speed.

But the politically flexible 'Eddie' has now suddenly changed her tune. She's pleased that it will be Harre who will be the one sacking the unfortunate council workers!

'There’s a lot of redundancies and upheaval tipped in that area so I’m glad it’s someone from our side of the fence handling it,' she wrote on The Standard when the Harre appointment was announced on Monday.

Apparently Laila Harre is not one of those 'oligarch cronies turning their cold values into something Aucklanders don't want.'

But the question is this: Having consistently attacked the 'supercity' project, how does 'Eddie' reconcile this with her support for Laila Harre - the woman who will be overseeing the considerable number of redundancies that will result from the business-driven council 'reforms'?

What excuses will she come up with? How will she explain her support for a woman about to add a few more hundred workers to the dole queue while at the same time castigating the government for not doing enough about the growing unemployment figures?

'Eddie', like the political party she works for, has serious credibilty problems.

JOHN MINTO: HARRE SELLS OUT TO BIG BUSINESS


John Minto has written an excellent column on Laila Harre's appointment to a human resources role at the Auckland Transition Agency.The ATA is managing the transition to the new 'supercity'.

Minto writes that Harre will provide excellent political cover for the business-driven 'reform' process.

Minto points out that Aucklanders are deeply suspicious about the supercity project 'and there is an intangible underlying feeling that people across the region are being shafted and that big business interests are driving the process.'

He writes:

'Harre's decision to join the process of corporatising and de-democratising Auckland governance will help ease Aucklanders' fears.

It was an inspired move to approach her and those involved will be overjoyed she accepted. Not because she will do a good job for them, which she will, but because she will provide the type of broad political cover for the agency which money can't buy. The agency gets the added bonus that she will be the public face of the mass redundancies which will follow.

It's a win-win-win for Act/National/business.'

Those of us who have noted her recent 'business-friendly' activities as a trade union 'leader', are not surprised by Harre's acceptance of this new position. Her 'left wing' credentials are now in tatters.

A CHANGING OF THE GUARDS AT THE NDU


There's been a changing of the guards at the National Distribution Union.

Laila Harre is leaving the post as national general secretary in August and will be replaced by president Robert Reid.

Harre has ensured that the NDU, like the wider trade union 'leadership', have continued to enforce the neoliberal agenda and kept their membership in line.

Harre was one of the union leaders invited to attend the 'Job summit' in February, which was basically an exercise in ensuring that the burden of the economic crisis was dumped on the shoulders of the working class.

Harre has played her part with her enthusiastic promotion of the 'nine day fortnight' which has allowed participating businesses to cut shifts and hours - with the government providing a temporary six month public subsidy.

There is no guarantee that workers will not be made redundant once the subsidy runs out. The 'nine day fortnight' is simply a temporary reprieve.

Harre's desire to collaborate with business has meant that she has failed to organise any resistance to the growing number of job losses.

Her response to the massive redundancies at Lane Walker Rudkin was simply appalling. When real union leadership was required to fight the nearly 200 job losses, Harre organised a few cake stalls to raise a so-called 'fighting fund'.

Even this inept 'cake campaign' lasted no more than a few weeks.

The sacked LWR workers have been treated appallingly. Not only have they not received the holiday and redundancy money they are legally entitled to, they have been hung out to dry by Laila Harre and her NDU officials.

Unfortunately Robert Reid does not represent a much needed 'wind of change' blowing through the NDU offices. Very much in the Harre mould, it'll be business as usual at the NDU and more failures to provide strong union leadership.

When 87 workers lost their jobs at the Pacific Brands clothing manufacturer in March this year, Reid's response was to shrug his shoulders and cry a few crocodile tears.

The NDU press release was headed "Another day, another closure: Pacific Brand's NZ workers get the bad news.'

No campaign was mounted to defend the threatened jobs. Reid's only concern was that "Pacific Brands workers redundancy payments are safe if closure and redundancy is the final decision".

Reid's failure to defend threatened jobs was also evident recently when the Line 7 clothing manufacturer announced it was going into receivership.

Despite the fact that more than a 100 workers faced the prospect of redundancy at a time when the job market is severely contracting, Reid had nothing more to offer than the facile comment that he was 'worried for the future of Line 7 workers'.

Once again no campaign was mounted to defend the threatened jobs.

The appointment of the lacklustre Reid has, not surprisingly, been approved by the Labour Party Head Office.

On the Labour-aligned blog The Standard 'Eddie' writes:

'Robert Reid’s a solid unionist with more than thirty-five years in the movement. The transition should be pretty seamless, Reid’s had a very hands-on leadership role in the union over the last couple of years and he’s highly regarded in the movement. A natural choice for the position really.'

As I mentioned in a previous post ''Eddie'' is Jenny Michie. Michie is an organiser and the communications officer at Labour Party HQ.

And what of Laila Harre?

She is apparently heading off to a new job at the Auckland Transition Agency. This is the new bureaucracy that will be overseeing the integration of the various Auckland city councils into the new 'supercity'.

There will be a lot of redundancies and Harre's role will be to ensure that the workers get the boot with a minimum of fuss.

The comment by 'Eddie' on Harre's new job is astonishing.

'There’s a lot of redundancies and upheaval tipped in that area so I’m glad it’s someone from our side of the fence handling it,' she says.

Yes, I'm sure the unfortunate workers will be 'glad' they are being sacked by Harre rather than by someone else. Perhaps she'll organise a cake stall or two for them.

CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS?


There has been a consistent pattern by mainstream commentators for most of this year to imply that the worst of the economic downturn is over and they invariably grasp at some vaguely positive economic indicator to back this ideologically-loaded assertion.

Last week there was the suggestion that the housing market has stabilised and that house pries are not dropping as they fast as they previously were.

Economic commentator Bernard Hickey, who predicted that house prices would fall by thirty percent by the end of the 2010, now says he thinks the drop will 'only' be fifteen percent.

But all these frenzied searches for evidence - any evidence - that the New Zealand free market economy isn't totally stuffed is happening against the backdrop of a global economy still in a steep nosedive.

In two previous posts I mentioned the outstanding work of economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O’ Rourke who concluded that 'the world economy is now plummeting in a Great-Depression-like manner. Indeed, production, trade, and stock markets are diving faster now than during 1929-30."

The two economists updated their work in June and there has been basically no change in the dire economic situation.

I also noted in a post last week that unemployment in the crucial United States economy has now reached a twenty six year high - and will continue to rise further.

Liberal US economists, who have every ideological incentive to support Barack Obama’s policies and so claim to see light at the end of the tunnel, are strikingly unanimous in their belief that the crisis is nowhere near over, and that Obama is doing little to change that.

Last week Vice President Joe Biden said that 'everyone had guessed wrong' about the impact of Obama's bailout of US capitalism.

“No one realized how bad the economy was,” Biden said.

Of course not 'everyone' guessed wrong about the impact of Obama's economic package. We socialists certainly didn't. Nor did The prize-winning Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz. He warned that the stimulus package was too small and the day after Obama signed it into law he predicted how its shortcomings would quickly make themselves apparent.

Now there is talk of a second 'stimulus package'.

Here in New Zealand the government admits that around 1000 jobs are being shed every week, although the real figure is likely to be double that.

An economy that is supposedly over the worst of the economic 'downturn' does not shed jobs at this alarming rate.

A week or so ago the conservative economists at the National Bank said that the New Zealand economy was still contracting - but at a slower rate.

So, in a nutshell, the only 'positive' thing that mainstream economists and commentators can really say is that is that there are scattered signs that things are getting worse more slowly.

Ordinary New Zealanders are paying the price for this economic crisis - and they have been abandoned to the corporate wolves by a bankrupt Labour Party and, in particular, a trade union leadership that refuses to fight.

RADIO BOUNCING CHEQUE


I came across an interesting website a few weeks ago.

It's called For The Love of Mike: The Maybury Story and its devoted to a New Zealand show business family - Jack Maybury, John Maybury and his son John Jnr.

No, I'm not writing a showbiz column.

What's interesting about this website is that the Maybury's have a story to tell about our 'struggling' property developer and libertarian nutter, Dave Henderson.

In the 1990s Hendo funded a radio station called Radio Liberty.

Writes Maybury Jnr :

The money (!) was coming from Christchurch entrepreneur and businessman, David Henderson with the programming and station direction from TV news anchor and interviewing guru, Lindsay Perigo. Along with his mate Deborah Coddington, they were self-proclaimed Libertarians and the station took its stance following the beliefs and writings of Ayn Rand.

John Maybury Snr writes that he jumped at the opportunity to do a radio show with his son - 'Sporting Life With the Maybury's.

Hendo followers will know what's coming next.

Writes Maybury Snr:

Apparently the venture (Radio Liberty) was in jeopardy with many staffers not being paid, top people like Max Cryer, Eion Scarrow, the gardening guru, and Grahame Thorne in Sport. Don’t know how manager Lindsay Perigo or Deborah Coddington at the editorial level fared but the whole business did the belly-up bit little by little. I’d have worked without pay for as long as it took to make headway but all CEO David Henderson could offer was a chance to sell my own airtime over what was a pre-Xmas period. Now that was one hell of a task given you had no ratings chart to show prospective clients coupled with a radio station spiraling downwards at a rate of knots. So what had seemed a golden chance turned into a fiasco and the David Henderson cheque became the only rubber one in my entire career.

Radio Liberty closed with debts totalling some $3 million.

'EDDIE' EXPOSED


'Eddie' is a regular blogger on the Labour-aligned blog The Standard.

'Eddie' is always attacking John Key and his National-led government.

But, at the same time, 'Eddie' has nothing to say about the very real deficiencies of the Labour Party and its abject failure to offer a political and economic alternative to neoliberalism.

Despite the fact that more than a thousand people a week are losing their jobs the trade union hierarchy have not organised any resistance to the wave of redundancies. Eddie, who regularly castigates the government about the unemployment crisis, also has nothing to say about the cowardice of the CTU and its affiliates.

Why is the Labour Party and the trade union top brass immune from criticism?

This is because 'Eddie' is, in fact, Jenny Michie. She is the organiser and communication officer at Labour Party HQ.

She recently played a central organising role during the Mt Albert by-election campaign - new Labour MP David Shearer is one of her Twitter contacts.

I note that Ms Michie's cover has also been blown on some other blogs so it is seems to be entirely pointless that she hides behind an alias and pretends to be an 'independent' commentator.

It's also misleading and manipulative bordering on deceitful.

You can check out Michie's Grassroots Labour page here.

OPINION OVERLOAD


I tuned into the debut of Bomber's Blog (Stratos TV, Sky 89 9.15pm) last night to see what it was all about.

Basically its Martyn 'Bomber' Bradbury doing what he does on the Tumeke! blog most days - giving his opinion on whatever is on his mind at the time.

In a short fifteen minute show Bradbury ran through a series of topics. These included Iran, John Key, the French President Sarkozy and his opposition to Muslim women wearing burkhas, Clayton Weatherston (the academic turned, allegedly, psychotic killer) and something about the US military bombing a funeral in Pakistan. I think singer Michael Jackson was mentioned somewhere in there as well.

I'm writing this review a few hours later on Saturday morning but I'd be hard pressed to recount all the details of Bradbury's monologue.

I think part of the problem was that he tried to stuff too many topics and too many opinions into a short show.

Perhaps it would of been better to concentrate on one topic or a common theme. Too often I was left waiting for Bradbury to elaborate on a issue, to draw out a new perspective, but he had already sped off to a new unrelated topic.

And I don't think his style helped either. It was basically a torrent of words with Bradbury barely pausing for breath as he ran through his script.

You can get way with that 'in your face' technique on blogs but I don't think it works well on television. Too often Bradbury seemed like he was straining for effect rather than conveying information. I'm still not sure what point he was trying to make about Iran.

If Bradbury is going to talk straight to camera for fifteen minutes or so he's got to be a little bit more clever about it.

I'm a regular viewer of The Daily Show. Jon Stewart make his points economically; short. digestible comments, subtle references, considered pauses, the occasional ad-lib, the clever understating of issues. The guy is a master at what he does.

Bradbury should take a close look at how Stewart manages his show.

This review has been more abut style than content. That's because if you read Bradbury on Tumeke! then you know what he's about.

He's a Labour Party supporter so you get soft social liberalism. Despite his bombastic approach, his 'subversiveness' only runs as far as attacking John Key and the National-led Government.

It's not my cup of tea.

Still, its good to see Bradbury on television - he's definitely preferable to the right wing politics of Paul Henry and the sheer nonsense of Wendy Petrie.

I'll keep watching.

CNN BACKS MILITARY COUP IN HONDURAS


People who are interested in following what is happening in Honduras may like to check out Eva Golinger's blog Postcards From the Revolution.

Golinger is the author of the 2006 book The Chavez Code, which exposed the role of the US in the 2002 coup that briefly overthrew the democratically elected Venezuelan government of Hugo Chavez.

Golinger is blogging everyday on the constantly changing situation in Honduras. She is currently living in Caracas in Venezuela.

On June 28, the elected President Manuel Zelaya was kidnapped by the military at gun point, beaten and then exiled to Costa Rica. Supported by the Supreme Court, the Congress has appointed Congress president Roberto Micheletti

Zelaya has overwhelming support from the poor, trade unions and social movements. However the elite, which control the military, Supreme Court and Congress, oppose his push for economic and political change in one of Latin America's poorest nations.

In a recent post Golinger writes that the American television network CNN is supporting the coup:

CNN has shown about 90% coverage favorable of the coup government in Honduras, conducting interviews with Micheletti as well as those in his "cabinet". The "analysts" and "experts" providing insight and commentary on the coup in Honduras have all been either conservative U.S. voices of those on the Latin America right, like Alvaro Vargas Llosa. CNN has done little or no reporting on the mass protests on the streets in Honduras against the coup government, nor has it covered or reported on the detention of several Telesur and Associated Press journalists by military forces in Honduras this past Tuesday. CNN is also not providing much coverage of the major media blackout still in place in Honduras or the repressive measures taken by the coup government to impose states of emergency, suspend civil and human rights and mandate a national curfew through the weekend. And CNN is obsessed with making this whole thing to be about Chávez, and not about the internal class struggles in Honduras.

UNEMPLOYMENT SOARS IN THE UNITED STATES


There has been further confirmation that the United States economy is in deep trouble.

Despite the billions of taxpayer dollars injected into a gravely sick economy, the unemployment rate soared to a 26 year old high in June.

The US Department of Labour said 467,000 jobs were lost in June. That means that officially, 14.7 million Americans are without jobs.

However even this grim figure does not accurately reflect the depth of the crisis.

When the underemployed (people who cannot get sufficient working hours) and those who want jobs but have given up looking are counted the American unemployment rate stands at a massive 16.8 percent or 25 million people. And even this figure excludes first time job seekers who have never been able to find work.

It is also significant that the economic crisis has wiped out the jobs that emerged during the so-called 'prosperous' years. The US economy now has fewer jobs than it did in 2000 - yet an additional 12.5 million people have entered the workforce.

'This is the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all jobs growth from the previous business cycle,” said economist Heidi Shierholz. 'This is a devastating benchmark for the workers of this country and a testament to both the enormity of the current crisis and to the extreme weakness of job growth from 2000-2007.”

June was the eighteenth straight month of job losses, with 6.5 million jobs lost since the start of the economic meltdown in December 2007.

But it is likely to get worse for ordinary Americans.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke wants the Obama administration to implement a austerity programme which would see severe cuts in social spending, including health and welfare.

'Maintaining the confidence of the financial markets,' Bernanke said in prepared remarks to a Congress Budget committee recently, “requires that we, as a nation, begin planning now for the restoration of fiscal balance.”

The phrase 'confidence of the financial markets' is code for protecting the interests of Wall Street and major international banks and investors - the very same organisations that were responsible for the economic meltdown in the first place.

Bernanke is the same man who opposes opposes caps on executive pay in companies receiving bailouts from the federal government.

Unfortunately for working people, Bernake's thinking is entirely in keeping with Barack Obama's economic strategy. Obama has pledged to slash the budget deficit by half by the end of his term, placing a reduction in health care costs and entitlement 'reform' at the centre of his fiscal policy.

'EDDIE' THE WINDBAG


Over on The Standard 'Eddie', who still thinks Labour is a social democratic party, was all outraged today.

He was outraged because the Department of Labour 'told its employees they were not allowed attend the pay equity rally at Parliament yesterday'.

'You have a right to protest', thundered 'Eddie'.

'If you want to protest you bloody well should and you shouldn't’ ask permission.'

Gosh. What a firebrand our 'Eddie' is.

Er, no. It's all smoke and mirrors.

'Eddie', who is probably a trade union official or a Labour Party member or both, has had remarkably little to say about the lack of protest from the trade union officialdom. The redundancies have mounted but the trade union top brass have sat on their hands and done nothing.

As the economic crisis has deepened there has been a complete absence of protest action from the CTU and its affiliates - unless you count cake stalls as a 'protest action'. 'Eddie' probably does. He's that kind of guy.

'Eddie' though, like the rest of the limp lot who write for The Standard, has kept his mouth well and truly shut.

He reserves his criticisms for the usual 'Labour-approved' targets.

Is 'Eddie' a spineless hypocrite? Yes, he is.

The old adage 'people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones' certainly applies to this particular windbag.

Share

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More