George Bush II announced his plan to “reform” Social Security in his State of the Union address this week. In true Orwellian speak the campaing is called Securing Our Future. Of course the plan is not to increase funding for Social Security but to allow for the privatization of social security and consequently a reduction in benefits. He would do well to look east to
The attack on workers pensions and on social security is now another front in the agenda of global free trade and the privatization of the State. It is occurring world wide in the majority of G8 and G20 industrialized countries workers are seeing attacks on both social security and on their workplace pensions.
“Pension reform is at the forefront of the global mind. The
Politicians, the business lobby and their right wing think tanks ( Cato Institute Social Security Reform) are now doing their best imitations of Chicken Little running around crying the sky is falling over pensions and social security. Following their success of foisting the so called debt and deficit crisis, during the Reagan, Thatcher, Mulroney era of the early 1990’s, on the public to get us to take wage cuts, and to lay off public sector workers in order to privatize the State they are now focusing on privatizing other social benefits.
How quickly they changed their tune when it comes to debt and deficit, when it affects corporate debt, which has increased, personal debt or state debt now that the
What they wanted to end of course was the Welfare State, and having done it through outsourcing, reducing unemployment insurance, (Chile Leads The Way With Individual Unemployment Accounts) work for welfare, privatization of public services, reducing public health services, now they cast their eyes on the goose and its golden egg; social security and pension funds.
The push to gut Social Security as well as private pension plans is just the latest item in the agenda of pernicious capitalists to get their hands on liquid capital to invest with. In order to counteract the falling rate of profit, more money needs to be circulating in the marketplace. This coincides with the
The formula, money-commodities-money (MCM), now dominates this period of late (decadent) capitalism. It no longer requires manufacturing of goods, or land rent, to expand, it requires a liquidity of capital circulating in the market. But even this will only be a temporary skid on the falling rate of profit, as shown in the articles below. That is because capitalism world wide has hit a wall of overproduction and overcapacity.
“The Chilean experience provides a powerful lesson for free traders around the world. Trade liberalization does not take place in a vacuum; the proper overall economic and cultural climate is essential. Choice as implemented in
This then is the true face of Free Trade. The industrialized countries open up their borders for the free flow of capital, as productive labour is outsourced to the newly industrialized areas of the world. Underdeveloped economic zones are seen as investment and production opportunities while factories and manufacturing are reduced in North America, Europe,
In those countries workers are laid off, outsourced, or privatized. This frees the capitalist from having to pay benefits or wages. The capitalist state now models the market place, there is no civil society only the preptual market place. The state has benefited by outsourcing services, freeing itself from unions, wage increases and benefits including unemployment insurance, health care and pensions.
“T&N Workers Face Pension Crisis Turner & Newall's pension scheme has been frozen since July. About 40,000 current and former workers at Turner & Newall face losing part of their pension amid reports that its parent firm will not fund the scheme. It had been hoped that Federal-Mogul would continue to finance the scheme, which has a deficit of nearly £900m.However, discussions between the
Corporations are free to declare bankruptcy and throw their workers out onto the street, while stealing their pension funds in order to refinance their amazing resurrections. WorldCom may have collapsed but through the magic of the marketplace, it has reappeared again as it once was as; MCI.
Private sector pension funds have regularly been underfunded by corporations in order to invest on the stockmarket, usually purchasing back their own shares, and in excessive salaries and stock options to their executives. A case in point with Air Canada, who demanded workers give up salaries and pensions, while rewarding its executive with enormous payouts while in bankruptcy. While creditors and banks collect on their monies from the bankrupt corporation, its workers are left broke and out in the cold. The NDP 's“Worker’s First Bill” (C-281), is a social democratic attempt to address this problem in
“The collapse of Enron has cast revealing light not just on the venality of business leaders, auditors and politicians but on the contours of deregulated ‘Anglo-Saxon’ capitalism as it has emerged from the stock-market bubble. It has highlighted, too, the vulnerability of the broad layers whose pensions are tied up in the savings regime so integral to the neoliberal economy. The debacle has affected not only Enron’s employees but tens of millions of holders of 401(k) and defined-benefit retirement schemes. The greed of the Houston-based directors, and their willingness to cash in huge stock options as the company went down, was matched by many senior executives elsewhere—perfectly illustrating that the capital which they and other major shareholders dispose of possesses different rights and qualities to the savings of their employees. The impotence of Enron’s workers, and of all those whose pensions were tied up in the company’s shares and bonds, was part of the normal working of today’s savings regime.” (Blackburn)
No wonder Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the
The current crisis in private benefit plans and pensions being underfunded as well as underfunding of state social security plans is a crisis of captialism, one that supposedly doesn't exist in the so called 'boom economy". The crisis is not of lack of funds, but of capitalists who see cash sitting idle, wanting to get their hands on it to have it circulating in the economy for their benefit. They have used their liquidity to invest in the boom and bust stockmarket, and in most cases the returns have been a bust, according to a survey by Deloitte Touche (see appendix).
"The wonderment of Rip Van Winkle, awakening after his sleep of 20 years to a changed world, would pale in comparison to that felt by one of his descendants in the banking or financial services industry falling asleep (presumably at his desk) in 1970 and waking two decades later. So rapid has been the pace of innovation in financial instruments and institutions over the last 20 years that nothing could have prepared him to understand such now commonplace notions as swaps and swaptions, index futures, program trading, butterfly spreads, puttable bonds, Eurobonds, collateralized-mortgage bonds, zero-coupon bonds, portfolio insurance, or synthetic cash -- to name just a few of the more exotic ones. No 20-year period has witnessed such a burst of innovative activity." Corporate Governance At A Crossroads
In Canada while social security is stable due to increased payroll taxes introduced in the nineties, the Government is still talking about ending "forced retirement" ala the Chile model. Allowing workers to work longer is a campaign now ongoing in the media pushed by the new Liberal government. Working past 65 might be ok if you are a shipping tycoon like our current PM, but if you work in a physically demanding job, early retirement means you may actually to live long enough to enjoy it.
The Free Trade agenda is to privatize all state benefit plans, to force us to work for ourselves and to pay for our own health care, extended care, pensions and even unemployment insurance, in order to have money circulating in the system as widely as possible. It will benefit the banks and their insurance companies, who will provide us our private benefits. Civil society ceases to be what it once was as we all become indentured servants not only to our employers but to financial monopolies for our benefits.
GE investments which owns NBC and a variety of conglomerates had a profit because of its investments not because of sales. GM only reported a profit because of its GMCredit business, not because of car sales. With access to more liquity from pension funds financial institutions will continue to merge with each other and with manufacturing and industrial sectors at an increasing rate.
Capital has been invested much more efficiently in the United States than in Germany or Japan. More detailed analysis indicates that there is much over-investment in Germany and Japan and, hence, unutilized capacity. In particular, Germany has witnessed much "gold-plating" of capital investment, that is, the installation of equipment that is much better -- and more expensive -- than is required.3 Moreover, there has been no offsetting improvement in labor productivity. Consequently, despite heavy investment, living standards have not improved significantly in Germany or Japan relative to those in the United States.
Why is there inefficient investment in Germany and Japan? It is not caused by lack of investment tools because managers in both countries have access to the same tools that U.S. managers use to identify productive investments and to [*pg 88] operate them efficiently. The over-investment must be caused by German and Japanese managers' decisions leading to excessive investment relative to the standards of economic efficiency. This article suggests that there is inefficiency by design, induced by the goals and systems of corporate governance in these countries.
Bradley et al. categorize corporate governance systems as either "contractarian" or "communitarian." At the risk of oversimplification, a contractarian system encourages firms to focus on shareholder value. A communitarian system, in contrast, responds to all "stakeholders:" creditors, employees, customers, and communities where corporate operations are located and, finally, stockholders. The concern for a much broader constituency may lead to over-investment, often to the detriment of shareholders. Over-investment helps creditors, particularly when firms diversify because of co-insurance effects, and it helps employees because diversifying investment creates jobs and improves job security. Furthermore, it aids customers by creating more consumer choice, and it helps the community by broadening the tax base.
Anatomy Of A Governance Transformation: The Case Of Daimler-Benz
The Big Lie fed to workers is that RRSPs (in Canada), IRA and 401k in the US, or any other private pension fund, is that they are more effective in saving you money for your retirement than a defined pension plan at work or social security. Acctuarial accounting proves they are not.
"For years, privatizers - including Mr. Bush - have claimed that people would do better with private accounts than with traditional Social Security even if they played it safe and invested in U.S. government bonds (which yield 3 percent after inflation). But the official at the briefing made it clear that his boss was fibbing: if you invested your private account in government bonds, you would face benefit cuts equal in value to your investment, so you would be no better off than under the current system". PAUL KRUGMAN NYT. February 4, 2005
A report issued in 1999 by the accutarial accounting firm William Mercer comparing RRSP investments and the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) to RRSP's showed that for a retired couple living on a combined CPP and Old Age Security annual pension of $25,000 it would take over $300,000 in RRSP investments to earn enough interest to match that. This puts the issue in a whole new light. Even with the so called secret of compound interest, what average worker can save that much. Especially when the average worker in Canada does not have an RRSP even now. Those that have RRSP's which are a tax break until cashed in, are all in the higher income brackets.
The Free Trade agreements are one small aspect of the shift of capitalism from production to (financial) services. We now face the continual threat that the world we now live in will soon look like that one our parents lived in prior to World War II. And of course those who lived through those times of capitalist depression are almost all gone now. Capitalism is counting on the social amnesia produced by its media fixation with the here and now for us to forget that the Welfare State was not something given to us, but a reform created to avoid a social revolution after WWII.
Every struggle to hold onto wages and benefits cuts into the profits of capitalism, profits that it needs like a junkie needs heroin. Every struggle to make the bosses pay out of the surplus value we create, is a battle in the class war. And the capitalists understand this better than anyone. The right wing declare the least resistance to their plans as 'class war' while the social democrats and trade union leaders will do their utmost to assure them it isn't so.
Class struggle is more than petitions and bills in parliment, it is the refusal to accept the way things are. It is the seizure of factories that stand abandoned in Quebec, Argentina, or Lesotho. It is a global general strike, when capital tries to close a factory in one country to ship jobs elsewhere. It is the refusal to accept empty office spaces when people go homeless. It is the global rent strike against landlords and profiteers.
It is our "morality" against the "morality of the marketplace". Free trade is the privatization of all aspects of civil society. The global business agenda has been declared, no national state can defeat it, no single campaign or mass protest can halt it. It is the machine logic of everyday life in a capitalist society, go to work, pay your debts, pay more and more just to survive, only to be told you are better off than someone else so shut up and accept it.
Today, the public expects businesses, regardless of the form in which they conduct their affairs, to be sensitive to the hazards their conduct may pose to the public. However, management cannot always accede to community sentiment, which will often be selfishly protective of parochial interests. Thus, while the prevailing "ethical" conviction in a community may be that a corporation should provide generous severance pay for people whose employment ends when a plant is shut down, rarely will management be as generous as the community would wish. Going further, in such a situation, the prevailing "marketplace morality" might suggest the plant should remain open, even though it was incurring potentially ruinous losses. Cited: 62 Law & Contemp. Probs. 159 (Summer 1999)
It is the perputal war of those who have against those who have not, it is barbarism with a happy face. It is the phony reality of reality TV, while millions starve out of sight of the cable network cameras. Capitalism, like the vampire it is, will never stop squeezing even more profit out of each of us while assuring us its for our own good, telling us we should feel 'empowered', that we are stakeholders/shareholders in our own exploitation.
"For Capitalism to survive it needs blood to suck" - Malcolm X
Workers world wide now face the same common enemy, the same assault everywhere Workers of the World Unite was never more meaningful. To stop capitalism we must refuse to produce the surplus value it so direly needs, we must organize a global social revolution to stake it firmly in its black heart. To do that we need to realize our class conciousness, not as consumers, or citizens but as proletarians, as the creators of capital. There is no capitalist who can exist without our labour, we are not cogs in the machine, we are the very machinery of capitalism, without us the machine will halt.
Top central bankers play down threat of global economic crisis
Canada Pension Plan Board Puts $470 Million In European Infrastructure Funds -CP
BMO Reveals Cost Of Top Pensions -Globe and Mail
Canadians Spared Pension Debate Under Way In U.S. -Globe and Mail
Will U.S. Reform Spark Stock Gains? -Globe and Mail
Social Security, the Stock Market, and the Elections- Monthly Review Editorial
Pension Crisis Prompting Companies To Change Their Plans - Deloitte and Touche
Privatizing Social Security Who Wins When We Lose? - Nomi Prins, Against the Current
The Enron Debacle And The Pension Crisis - Robert Blackburn, New Left Review (NLR)
The New Economy And After - Doug Henwood, Left Business Observer (LBO)
Can The U.S. Economy Escape The Law Of Gravity? - Gary A. Dymski
Robert Brenner On The Crisis In The U.S. Economy
Social Benefit Reform Poll -FOM
Russia On The Verge Of A Breakdown -Moscow News
Can Russia Defuse Its Pension Time Bomb? -Business Week
FOM Poll 2003 Pension Reform
Macroeconomic Consequences Of The Russian Mortality Crisis -David E. Bloom & Pia N. Malaney
The Consequences Of Pension Failure: The Russian Case -Robert T. Jensen
A Chilean Model For Russia
Empowering Workers The Privatization Of Social Security In Chile
Free Trade Agreements And Social Security Choice
WWW.Pensionreform.Org- Caroline Nolan
UK, FRANCE & EUROPE
ICC (International Communist Current)
Pension Reform: Stealing Humanity's Future
We Have No Choice But To Fight Capitalism's Attacks
The Dismantling Of Social Security