In the U.S., the contest for President has begun again, once again coming down to a choice between two candidates who both represent the interests of the bourgeoisie – Barack Obama, from the Democratic party, and Mitt Romney, from the Republican party. So far, this election is playing out like most other elections. Both candidates are raising record amounts of money as they try to carry out their strategy of saying whatever they think will win them the greatest number of votes.
Elections During A Backdrop of Attacks on the Working Class
This is the first U.S. Presidential election since the latest global economic crisis and the severe attacks it has led to on the working class by the bourgeoisie. Since 2007 about 25 million jobs have been lost – with no signs of improvement. For those with jobs, workers are doing more work than at anytime since 1929. Businesses are scaling back production in the U.S. as they chase cheaper wages in poorer countries. And for the jobs that remain in the U.S., there are on average fewer workers doing more work, as they are getting wage cuts, health care coverage cuts, and pension cuts.
All of these cuts have meant record profits for corporations. The 500 largest corporations in the U.S. on average have the highest profits since 1929, along with record amounts of what is called “cash on hand” (money in accounts that is not invested in any sort of capital). And the average profit made from each worker, has never been higher. So for the bourgeoisie in the U.S. this crisis has given them the opportunity to speed up the workforce, the chance for the biggest corporations to either buyout the smaller companies or push them out of the markets, and ultimately, to come out of the first stage of this crisis in their best situation in decades.
At the same time, after around $12 trillion has been given to banks as either hand outs or zero interest loans, and after over a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. federal budget has the largest deficit ever – something close to $15 trillion. So, this deficit, imposed by the bourgeoisie, has been used as the excuse to cut spending at the federal level on all sorts of social services. The same strategy is happening across the U.S. in individual states – where the state governments have cut taxes for the corporations and the super rich, and paid for it with massive budget cuts throughout the states to education, health care, poverty assistance, transportation and more.
On the whole, banks, corporations and the super rich have never been wealthier in the U.S. Currently, there is the greatest gap in wealth than at any time in U.S. history. On average, the richest 1 percent controls more than 38 percent of the wealth in the U.S. The 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans put together. And at the same time, the bottom 99% of Americans have had their incomes drop an average of 17% since 2007.
Candidates Hand Picked By the Corporations
As in every other election, the candidates are pre-selected by the bourgeoisie. In the vast majority of elections in the U.S., the candidate with the most money raised becomes the president. And this year, this election is likely to be the most expensive election in U.S. history. It is the first presidential election since the passing of a new law called “Citizens United” in January 2010. This was a law backed by most of the largest corporations and banks in the U.S. to remove any limits to campaign financing. With the passing of this law, the amount of financing for campaigns has increased enormously, over 338% since 2006. So, for this election, the amount money being poured into each candidate is at levels never seen before. For example, Mitt Romney, the presumed nominee for the Republican Party, raised 3 and 4 times as much as the other candidates during the Republican primaries. It was no surprise when he came out the winner.
Nothing But Political Theater
Amidst the backdrop of continuous attacks on the working class, both candidates have to play the game of pretending to be on the side of working people while clearly carrying out and representing policies that support the bourgeoisie.
For Obama, despite all his promises of hope and change in his first bid for the presidency, after nearly four years of bailing out the banks, the corporations, and the rich, after continuing to slash funding for health care, education and social services while increasing funding for wars, after all of that and much worse – this time he promises he will really represent working people.
Obama’s current sales pitch for working people is that he can promise jobs to workers. He points to his so-called successful bailout and subsequent recovery of the auto industry. He says that his policies saved the auto companies and can be used throughout the country to help the economy recover. What he leaves out is that the only thing the auto companies have recovered are their profits.
This auto bailout was more than a bailout – it was an attack on workers. It forced the auto workers to make huge sacrifices. The Obama administration imposed wage cuts, health care cuts, pension cuts, and massive layoffs on auto workers. All newly hired auto workers now make 50 percent less than the older workers working side-by-side doing the same work. And a year later, auto companies made record profits because they pushed more work onto fewer workers and paid them less to do it. If this policy were carried out across the country it would not be a solution for working people – it’s would be a nightmare.
Ever since the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations last fall, Obama has been under pressure to at least pay lip service to the growing wealth inequality in the country. It seems the angrier people are at the amount of money flowing into the pockets of the super rich, the more Obama has to pretend to suddenly transform into a champion for working people. Lately in his campaigning he has been promising to raise taxes on the richest Americans, who are among the wealthiest people in the world. He says they should pay the same tax rate as working people. In fact, this is an insult. The richest people in the world should pay way more than working people. But even if this proposal was ever passed – which is highly unlikely because the majority in Congress opposes it – there are so many tax tricks and loopholes that the super rich would continue to get out of paying more money. Even now, through loopholes, they regularly get away with paying less than their official rate. But that doesn’t matter because at the same time Obama is proposing to lower the taxes of corporations from 35 percent to 28 percent. So as working people are doing more work than ever recorded in U.S. history, and as U.S. corporations are making the most money ever recorded – Obama promises to lower the taxes of corporations.
Romney, on the other hand, isn’t even able to pretend to be on the side of workers. He is a long-time investment banker with a personal fortune of over $250 million. He made over $20 million dollars for the last two years in a row. The last corporation he headed, Bain Capital, was notorious for its takeovers of struggling corporations. Bain capital would lend failing companies money, reorganize the workforce, impose layoffs and cutbacks, and takeover the company if it succeeded, and bankrupt it if it failed. Either way, the companies would have to pay back the loan to Bain capital.
In his campaigning, Romney’s strategy can be reduced to just being against Obama. He is trying exploit the feelings od dissatisfaction with Obama in the population. In the majority of his speeches he simply reminds his audience of the false promises of Obama’s past campaign and makes the blanket promise that he will make it all better. One difference for Romney is that as Obama feels compelled to speak against the growing wealth inequality, Romney sympathizes with the rich. He argues that even greater tax cuts for the super rich is what is needed to increase jobs in the U.S. So, he has promised he will not increase taxes on the super rich but plans on lowering them. And when it comes to banks and corporations, Romney says he will cut their tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent (three percent greater cut than Obama’s proposal).
No Choice For The Working Class
In this election, the working class is looking for a way out of this crisis – but neither candidate has even been able to pretend to offer this. Despite this overwhelming disappointment, and without any chance to vote for an alternative, workers will most likely show up to vote in their usual way. Even as workers acknowledge that both candidates represent the same corporate interests, still, the workers who usually vote for the Democrats will vote for the Democrats and those that vote for the Republicans will vote for the Republicans because they don’t see any other options.