The People Need Decision Making Power
Government shutdown — which Trump said was a present to him — marks the anniversary of his one year in office. When Trump was elected, it was said that since Republicans controlled the House and Senate and presidency, Trump would have no difficulty imposing his dictate. Instead, the year has been marked by the increasing dysfunction of Congress, including the inability to pass major legislation such as that on immigration and healthcare. The dysfunction stems in part from the fact that the Democrats and Republicans no longer exist as political parties, addressing political interests. Instead the vying factions among the rulers operate as cartels, contending and colluding to protect private interests. They are using violence against the peoples abroad and at home while also threatening open violence against each other. Alliances shift, with various forces included or excluded in the office of the presidency, which is the main prize as it is where power is concentrated.
What stands out is the public good, public interests are not part of the equation. It is partly for this reason that the various headlines read that the public will not be impacted by the shutdown, even though hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be forced to work, or be laid off — without pay. This includes the various health and safety and first responders working over the weekend. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — that is the most vulnerable — will all be impacted. The effort is to dismiss the public interests and focus attention on the cartels.
Great pressure is being exerted to draw people into a false debate as to whether Republicans or Democrats are to blame, followed by calls to elect one or the other in 2018. Everyone is to ignore the reality that the current system of representative democracy no longer functions. As the past year indicates, with open contention within and between the military, presidency and intelligence agencies, it cannot resolve the conflicts among the rulers, and it cannot provide legitimacy in the eyes of the people. The dysfunctional congress, elimination of political parties and efforts to eliminate politics more generally, the great power concentrated in the presidency with a government of police powers instituted, all indicate that the current set up can solve no problem. It is finished and new institutions must be brought into being.
A democracy that empowers the people to govern and decide, that puts guaranteeing the rights of all at the center is needed. This is where discussion must go. The upcoming 2018 elections are an opportunity not to join in reinforcing the old, dysfunctional system, but instead to raise this necessity for the new and discuss and debate advancing the struggle to bring it about.
Trump's Threats to Use Nuclear Weapons
Trump campaigned against war, yet the anniversary is marked by the open and repeated threat to use nuclear weapons against Korea, an open-ended military presence in Syria, where the U.S. now has about 2,000 troops, huge increases in the use of Special Forces in Africa and continued war against Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. The drone warfare broadly increased by Obama has been further intensified by Trump involving far more bombings in many more countries.
The wars being waged are not for political purposes, but rather for destruction of human productive powers. And because they are wars of destruction, the politics of negotiating peace treaties are absent. For the U.S., whatever cannot be controlled is to be destroyed. Indeed, nuclear weapons are solely for that purpose.
It is said that Trump's threats to use nuclear weapons are different than those of past presidents. In fact this threat and use of nuclear blackmail have been used by U.S. presidents since nuclear weapons were developed. Truman not only used nuclear weapons against Japan and as a means to terrorize the world, he had additional plans for their use. When he was asked at a press conference in November 1950, during the U.S. war against Korea, if nuclear weapons would be used, he said all weapons were on the table. This is the phrase repeated by presidents ever since, including Bush, Obama and now Trump.
The Pentagon has repeatedly developed plans to use nuclear weapons, against Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, etc. The main difference now is that Trump is open about these plans. Coupled with this is the fact that in the war games against Korea, it is made public that attacks using nuclear weapons are practiced, which means the U.S. can no longer deny these plans.
In the current situation, the U.S. is striving to make Korea the aggressor. While it is the U.S. that has a massive nuclear arsenal, plans to use them and a history of aggression, it is said the DPRK is the problem. The monopoly media consistently leave out their stand and long practice, which is that they do not engage in aggression and will not use nuclear weapons unless attacked. Faced with this, Trump has repeatedly tried to provoke the DPRK into taking action first, so as to justify U.S. aggression. It is a dangerous game of brinkmanship, one widely opposed by Koreans and the peoples of the world.
Stepping up opposition to the growing danger of war is a concern of many. It is the peoples, of the U.S. and the world, that are decisive in blocking war and securing the peace. A recent conference to strengthen united efforts, here and abroad, to close all U.S. foreign bases and bring troops home is indicative of the reality that people of the U.S. stand as one with the peoples of the world against U.S. aggression and wars. The call for a new direction for the country, for an anti-war government and peace economy, is being heard.
Many actions are taking place across the country to raise the just demands of the people against war and for rights, abroad and at home. These include demonstrations where tens of thousands are expected to participate in New York City, Chicago, Los Angles and many other cities.
On January 19, the Senate failed in efforts to provide funds to keep government operating. The government shutdown begins at 12:01am Saturday, January 20. It immediately impacts federal government workers, such as healthcare and first responders, who will be forced to work without pay over the weekend. If it persists, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be laid off or forced to work without pay. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will all be impacted as will all the various federal agencies, some worse than others.
Government shutdown is a serious concern among the people, but considered a “present,” by President Trump. He, like others, including New York Senator Schumer, a main player in negotiations, see the shutdown as a bargaining chip, a means to secure particular private interests. Schumer claims he is defending the undocumented youth brought here as children. But he is the one who has pushed for immigration legislation that includes biometric ID for all workers requiring an FBI and Homeland Security background check. It is a means to further control and regiment the workforce, giving some ID and others not, forcing them potentially into slave labor camps. He is striving to position himself as a champion of immigrants in part so he can further such legislation. Careful attention is needed as these various forces do not favor the people.
As well, while all the contending factions claim to be concerned about the public, the readiness of all to use the shutdown indicates that the public interest and public good are expendable. The federal workers, those reliant on federal services, are expendable as the factions contend for their own private interests, be it funding for border wall construction, or biometric ID’s, or more weaponry and detention centers.
Contention among the various forces is such that Trump has intervened saying he was both for and against the same proposals. It appears that his main aim was to secure the shutdown, this “present” as he calls it, to further discredit Congress, while positioning himself to have greater leverage. It remains to be seen if that will be the case, as for many across the country, all of government is discredited and dysfunctional — sharply posing the need for new arrangements, a new set up that favors the people.
This concern about dysfunction has been underlined by the fact that there have already been three “stopgap” measures. Congress has been unable to pass a budget, one of its most important responsibilities, for fiscal year 2018, which began in October 2017. The stopgap measures provide funds for a very limited period of time. This current one, which had passed in the House and provided funding for another month, failed in the Senate. The Senate requires 60 votes to end debate, and these could not be secured.
More time is not the problem. Even if yet another stopgap measure is passed over the weekend, it will not overcome the dysfunction. The dysfunctional government reflects the fact that politics are being eliminated and the two parties of the rich no longer function as political parties but as cartels, like gangsters, contending and colluding. Trump is head of a government of police powers, which acts with impunity against the people and without concern for legitimacy. It is a government where rule of law has been eliminated and thus bodies that legislate law, like Congress, largely reduced to a consultative body with little power.. The budget is one key issue that remains, so having Congress unable to pass a budget further supports the notion that the president alone should rule.
The “blame game” now underway is a means to divert from the reality of a government of police powers, with great power concentrated in the presidency. It is a means to involve those concerned about the rights of the people abroad and at home in the contention among the cartels. Instead, given that existing institutions no longer function, attention must be given to the development of new institutions that do serve the people and guarantee their rights. A new electoral set-up, a new constitution, new forms of governance are the order of the day.