Labor Advocate Online
KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, October 31, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org
Count Every Vote
Voting is a right hard won in a series of struggles, spanning nearly two centuries, as suffrage was extended from white male property owners only to eventually include all citizens eighteen or older. While our present ballot options may seem worthless the right to vote is precious and must be defended for all.
Of course vote fraud has been around as long as voting. It used to be common for political machines to stuff ballot boxes and physically intimidate those expected to vote the wrong way. Many credit Kennedyís razor thin margin over Nixon in 1960 to just such shenanigans in Chicago and Kansas City.
Such blatant corruption is rare today. But no one has forgotten the crisis that delayed the certification of the outcome of the last presidential election. Ultimately the second-place finisher in the national popular vote took occupancy of the White House. While Al Gore eventually dropped his challenges a lot of people remain convinced that election was stolen.
The powers that be donít like such scandals. Being a tiny minority, it is important to them that those of us in the great working class majority accept elections as fair and binding. But the "ins" and the "outs" competing to serve our masters are so closely matched itís hard for them to resist the temptation to stick a thumb in the eye here and there.
Efforts were mandated to improve the technology of voting, to avoid embarrassing squabbles over things like hanging chads. But new electronic touch screens seem to have raised even more suspicion and anxiety.
Vote manipulation persists on a more sophisticated level than ever. Particularly dangerous is the targeting of Black and Chicano voters for harassment by Bush supporters. Both major parties will have thousands of lawyers in the field to deal with challenged votes. If the vote is as close as polls currently indicate there are sure to be unpleasant confrontations once more. For more information about the danger Tuesday click here.
Fraud and intimidation are illegal. But there are other quite legal aspects of American voting that are highly undemocratic. The electoral college in presidential selection is an anachronism that can skew peopleís votesĖas we saw in 2000. Plurality-takes-all, which prevails in all but a couple of states, compounds the problems of the electoral college and also awards unearned lop-sided domination by one party in congress. And it is extremely difficult for candidates outside the two establishment parties to even get on the ballot. Ralph Naderís supporters in fifteen states will be denied their right to vote. Of course, in addition to those institutionalized limits on our democratic rights there are the questions of campaign financing, and control of the mass media, that play a giant role in keeping unwelcome challengers out of the contest.
But we wonít make any progress in improving the process if we let slip what we have already won. Count every vote!
Some Iraqis Who Were Better Off With
There was a major news story about the Iraq war this week that neither presidential candidate would touch with a ten-foot pole. The medical journal Lancet published a study by the Bloomberg School of Public Health, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, that concluded the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has been responsible for 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. The majority of those fatalities were women and children.
Wage Share Down; Profits, Benefit
The Center On Budget and Policy Priorities showed some disturbing, if not surprising trends in the latest quarterly figures on Americaís Gross Domestic Product. Using the first quarter of 2001 as a benchmark, the wage share of the economy declined 4.1 percentĖthe biggest drop over a 14 quarter period since such statistics have been compiled--while the profit share rose 2.3 percent. The cost of insurance and pensions also climbed 1.2 percent.
Still Looking For the Last Drop
It seems that getting an even bigger slice of the pie we bake for them has only whetted the bosses appetite for more. The bankers think they have found a way to squeeze another drop or two out of our life blood with Check 21. This new banking law has the effect of instantly scarfing up checks through electronic postings while keeping the old rules delaying crediting of deposits. For many of Americaís poorest workers living paycheck to paycheck this will inevitably mean more bounced checks--and fees for the banks.
Repetitive Commotion Syndrome?
I try to pay attention to constructive criticism. One complaint Iíve heard is repetition of a number of basic arguments. For example, Iíve spent a lot of time over the past several months counterposing the need for independent working class politics to the Anybody But Bush frenzy that consumes so many good people.
I could, and do say that there is no more important question for American workers. Still, recycling the same points differently worded doesnít necessarily enhance the answers to this question.
Part of the problem is this: while some of you have been following this site for more than four years there are always new people coming around. Just in the last week ten new folks signed up for the KC Labor mailing list and one dropped off. Itís a challenge to introduce new readers to the basic ideas this site promotes without boring the old-timers who have heard a lot of this before.
At least we will catch a break from ABB after Tuesdayís election. And, I will continue to try to regularly mix in some fresh tunes along with the golden oldies.
That's all for this week.
Regards to all