In today’s On the News segment: Austerity measures are a death sentence for those they impact; low wage workers will stage the largest strike in fast food history; billionaires’ grip on the nation will get stronger; investing in our nation’s infrastructure would be a great economic stimulus; and more.
You need to know this. Austerity measures aren’t just a bad idea for our economy… it turns out that drastic cuts are also a death sentence for many of the people they impact. According to a recent article on TruthOut.org, a slew of academic reports have found that people are literally dying in nations that have imposed these harsh budget cuts. In Greece, for example, suicide rates have increased 45 percent since 2007, and the infection rates for diseases like HIV and tuberculosis have more than doubled just since 2012. The extreme slashing of municipal budgets reduced mosquito-spraying programs, and malaria has re-appeared in Greece for the first time in over 40 years. Austerity measures have slashed unemployment benefits and medical coverage in that country so badly, that even prenatal health services are no longer available to many woman. Since 2008, stillbirths have increased by more than 20 percent, and the infant mortality rate has jumped by 43 percent. These numbers show that the problems with austerity go far beyond economics. Cutting budgets on the backs of those who have the least to spare has sent many to an early grave. Austerity has done so much damage that a well-known Greek economist said that any savings that result from budget cuts are built on “blood money.” That pretty much sums it up. Austerity is already killing people in Greece, and it will do the same in our nation if we don’t reverse extreme budget cuts. No nation, in the history of the world, has ever cut its way to prosperity. People all around the world understand that, and they are refusing to accept this economic death sentence. We must do the same here at home before it’s too late.
This Thursday, low-wage workers will stage the largest fast food strike in history. According to Josh Eidelson of Salon.com, people in 150 cities will demand higher wages and the right to form a union. Some of the participating cities have seen fast food strikes before, like New York, Chicago, and Detroit. However, many new locations are joining this protest, including cities in 30 different countries on six continents. The fight for higher pay and better working conditions at fast food restaurants kicked off in New York back in 2012. Two hundred low-wage workers who decided to demand more have inspired a massive movement that has now spread throughout the world. And, fast food workers are inspiring people in other industries too. The Fight for Fifteen is already a powerful movement, and it’s only going to grow stronger. Workers are realizing that they have power by standing together, and starting a modern labor movement that could improve wages and work conditions for all. This is how change happens, and these workers can be an inspiration to everyone who wants to be a part of that change.
Billionaires already have enormous influence in our nation, but soon, their power may be second best. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the world may have its first trillionaire in just 25 years. That means that at least one person on our planet will have a million million dollars, and an unbelievable amount of power. Meanwhile, wages for average workers have been stagnant for the last three decades, and a recent study said that the super-rich already control our entire country. The wealth gap in the United States is wider than at any other time since the Gilded Age, and our current economic system will only cause that gap to grow wider. Current contenders for our world’s first trillionaire include Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim. There’s no question that people like Bill Gates have made huge contributions to our world, but is there any one person that should ever be worth a trillion dollars?? The Sydney Morning Herald made it seem that a trillionaire is a simple fact about our future. But, it doesn’t have to be. We can take back our economy and make sure some of that wealth flows to the workers who actually create it.
Speaking of fixing our economy… investing in our nation’s infrastructure would be a great place to start. According to a new report from Standard & Poors, investing $1.3 billion dollars in our crumbing roads and bridges would create at least 29,000 jobs and add $2 billion dollars in growth to our economy. That job estimate only counts the construction sector, so that one investment could provide work for people in other industries too. And, according to S&P, “almost nine out of 10 of those jobs would be defined as middle-class.” These are the benefits of only $1 billion dollars of investment, so we imagine how much we would gain if we really put a dent in the $3 trillion dollars of repairs that our infrastructure requires. Fixing our roads and bridges is important to keep business flowing, and giving thousands of people a job is a great way to stimulate our economy. This isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense. Hopefully our lawmakers can see that.
And finally… Since Kshama Sawant got elected as Seattle’s first Socialist City Council member, she’s gotten to work on raising wages and doing The People’s business. In addition to making life better for the workers in her city, she could have a big impact on the people of Chicago too. After her inspirational victory, the Chicago Socialist Campaign announced that they’ll have a candidate on the 2015 ballot for alderman of the 25th ward. Jorge Mujica is a long-time immigrant rights and labor organizer, and he has a strong background in fighting for the workers of The Windy City. Like Kshama Sawant, Mujica supports a $15 minimum wage, and he wants to stand up for residents who are being displaced by gentrification. Even if he wins the 2015 race, there will only be a handful of self-proclaimed socialists in office. He hopes that his race, and Kshama’s victory, inspire more candidates to give it a shot. He said, “Sawant originated the spark in Seattle, and we hope to ignite a fire.”
And that’s the way it is – for the week of May 12, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.