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Congress Looks Abroad to Distract from Wall Street Protests


At a time when the country is demanding that Wall Street pay up, Democrats and Republicans are insisting that China be punished instead. In a rare case of bi-partisan unity, the Senate voted 79 to 19 in favor of opening discussion on a punitive trade bill that would shut out Chinese products coming into the U.S. Another highly provocative incident showcased U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Admiral Mike Mullen, accusing the Pakistan intelligence service, the ISI, of giving official support to the Haqqni terrorist network. This would make Pakistan an official state sponsor of terrorism, opening it up to a possible military invasion. After reading all the patriotic chest thumping in the mainstream media, it would be possible to forget that there are large anti-Wall Street protests emerging all over the nation. This is precisely the point.  

Of course most Americans are completely bored with terrorist talk. They simply do not care who is currently leading Al-Queda, and are especially uninterested who their number 2 and number 3 are; many people doubt the very existence of these groups, or at least think that their power is incredibly exaggerated. Nevertheless, the U.S. government will continue to obsess about terrorists while assassinating anyone who earns the label, minus any evidence or trial. Why? Terrorism is the new communism, i.e., a reason to justify the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya; a reason for U.S. military power to expand further yet; a reason to give this nation — both working people and the incredibly rich — a banner to unite under instead of fighting each other.   

As the economy enters a double dip recession, be certain that the U.S. government will try to use the military as a way to compensate for an  economy in decline. The military is excellent at opening new economic opportunities for U.S. corporations; to exploit additional new oil resources and the new foreign consumers that will be compelled to buy U.S. corporate goods. Also, U.S. military hardware remains one of the strongest U.S. industries, thanks to the enormous sums of taxpayers money that the U.S. government funnels to the major defense contractors.  

When it comes to threatening China with economic sanctions the motives are the same. The poor U.S. economy is forcing corporations to their knees, and the U.S. government is eagerly responding. Increasing exports is an excellent way to boost corporate profits, but the options are limited. Mass unemployment is forcing down wages, making U.S. products cheaper on the world market, but demanding that China lower the value of its currency is another tactic. Keeping Chinese products out of the U.S. market is viewed by China as an act of economic warfare, and it is. China will likely retaliate, leading to the possibility of a trade war.  

Instead of supporting protests against Wall Street, liberals like economist Paul Krugman are demanding that action be taken against China. In an article called Holding China to Account, Krugman recently wrote:  

"…the reality of the [U.S.] unemployment disaster is also my answer to those who warn that getting tough with China might unleash a trade war or damage world commercial diplomacy. Those are real risks, although I think they’re exaggerated. But they need to be set against the fact — not the mere possibility — that high unemployment is inflicting tremendous cumulative damage as we speak." (October 3, 2011).

The fact is that there was a trade deficit before Wall Street ruined the economy, causing massive unemployment in the process. Wrongly blaming China for this unites Republicans and Democrats, and sadly, some labor leaders with a poor understanding of politics. These people are challenging China because they are not interested in challenging U.S. corporate power in the streets.  

Therefore, it is up to the labor movement in general to join the Wall Street protests and mobilize their members in massive demonstrations and marches to point to the real perpetrators of our destroyed economy. This issue will become all the more urgent as the economy continues its downward trend. Politicians will be extra eager to blame foreign threats and foreign economic competitors for the sour U.S. economy, increasing the possibility of trade and military wars as a consequence.  

Working people must demand that the attention stay fixed on domestic issues, and that domestic corporate criminals be brought to justice. Taxing the top 1 percent at a 90 percent rate is a sure fire way to disarm the rich, preventing them from inflicting further damage on the economy and on working people. Making concrete demands against the top 1 percent will help keep the blame where it should be; organizing massive mobilizations while shouting these demands will eliminate the politician's attempt at foreign distractions. 

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for Workers Action (www.workerscompass.org).   

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