Another Side of Our National Emergency – The Economic Crisis

October 6, 2001

September 25—The US economy was already suffering
record job loss before the terrible events of September 11. In August
the AFL-CIO estimated that 800,000 manufacturing jobs had been lost
in the current economic downturn for the working class that was already
a deep recession.

When the terrorists slammed planes into the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, murdering thousands, they also drove thousands
of families into deep economic crisis. While some had substantial life
insurance or union negotiated death benefit packages, many had nothing
or next to nothing.

The explosions also had a devastating impact on an already
shaky economy. Within days, major airlines and Boeing announced over
a hundred thousand job cuts. The ripple effect into the hotel, car rental,
tourist and travel industries will be substantial. Between September
11 and September 20, companies announced in excess of 120,750 jobs gone.
Just before the tragedy from August 1 up to September 11, approximately
158,552 job cuts had already been announced.

As the months go on, and the economic impact ripples
throughout the economy, more and more working Americans will fall into
a deeper economic crisis, including those who’s incomes were destroyed
by the terrorist acts.

Those who were laid-off in the beginning of this current
economic downturn are already running out of benefits. This is in addition
to the hundreds of thousands who never took part in the boom times,
especially in racially and nationally oppressed communities. It includes
those thrown into even deeper poverty by so-called welfare reform, especially
women and children.

The American people have poured out their hearts and
pocketbooks in immediate support for the victims families. Working people
from around the world have donated every imaginable kind of aid, money,
blood, material and labor, to help the rescue effort and comfort the
families. This is humanity at its best, even while mourning, fighting
for the living.

Yet, this immediate response from ordinary people can
only go so far.

Now Congress and the Bush administration have to follow
suit. In the aftermath of the terrible events of September 11, they
showed just how fast the government can act when they must. They approved
a billion emergency aid package for New York, Washington and Pennsylvania,
including new funds for the military.

The terrorists who took such a dreadful toll on the
American people must be brought to justice. But our country’s security
also rests on the economic and social well-being of our people. We cannot
forget the economic crisis side of this national emergency. Already
there are those voices of home-grown extremism who want to use the national
emergency to cover their own narrow economic interests.

Some in Congress want to take advantage of the situation
to ram through Fast Track trade negotiation powers that will kill any
democratic discussion or control over the Bush administration’s trade
policies. This would allow quick passage of the Free Trade Agreement
of the Americas. Some have described it as "NAFTA on steroids."
NAFTA has been very much a factor in the destruction of so many good
paying manufacturing jobs FTAA would be worse.

Under cover of this crisis other extremists are calling
for even more disastrous tax cuts for the rich and the corporations.
The Republican tax cut has been a disaster and done nothing for economic
recovery. Indeed, a new capital gains tax cut would only deepen the
economic crisis by taking funds needed for people-helping programs,
like a prescription drug benefit plan.

Congress, at the urging of the Bush administration has
passed a bail-out for the airline industry. The question is how will
the billion be used? Will the people have a say in making sure that
the money will be used to restore jobs and support those laid-off, or
will it be used to prop up the profits of the airline industry? The
bail-out must include re-regulation to protect the service levels and
security of airline passengers, and the jobs and livelihood of airline
workers. Further, in light of the critical, central role the aircraft
and airline industries play in our economy, it should be nationalized
for the public good. This is the only real way to stabilize and protect
this valuable national asset.

We cannot forget in this crisis that the same old bunch
of anti-labor, anti-people Republicans in the White House and the Congress
are running the government. The economic security of this country cannot
be left in the hands of those who represent the corporations’ interests.
Defending freedom and democracy means involving the people including
the vital mass organizations of our country, the unions, the churches,
the civil rights organizations, the environmental, the youth, the women
and the seniors’ movements.

The working people, who are the overwhelming majority
of the American people, must be heard in this discussion of our national
emergency. Here are some ideas for an emergency response we need for
working families:

  1. Guarantee adequate income and benefit levels including
    health care for ALL families of those killed or injured.
  2. Emergency legislation to extend unemployment compensation
    for the duration of the crisis. This must include greatly expanding
    eligibility and covering first time job seekers as well.
  3. A massive federal rebuilding project, not only to
    rebuild New York and Washington, but to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure
    of this country. This would be the best economic stimulus for vital
    industries like steel and related production. This could put millions
    back to work. It must include affirmative action and union apprenticeship
    programs so that communities hardest hit can also see some recovery.
  4. A massive rural and farm relief package. This must
    include special aid to family farmers, aid to small businesses and
    rural communities to preserve and protect small town life.
  5. Suspend the Federal tax cuts to top income brackets
    for the duration of the crisis to fund human needs during the crisis.
    The military budget can do without StarWars and other expensive giveaways
    to the defense contractors that would have done nothing to protect
    us from this terrorist attack. Any new legitimate military expenditures
    like air patrols or air marshals can be easily paid for out of existing
  6. No Fast Track and no FTAA.
  7. Any bail outs must come with regulation to ensure
    the public interests.
  8. All new jobs created, both in public safety and in
    infrastructure rebuilding must guarantee full union protection and

The widespread support for helping the victims of the
attack puts the spotlight on the need to provide for ALL Americans.
The support for national funding to rebuild New York, enhance security
services, and aid the airlines highlights the need for widespread rebuilding
of the infrastructure. We need schools, housing, transportation, and
environmental protection. We need to provide education, child care,
health and other services in our changing economy.

As we provide for the victims of terrorism, let us provide
for all the victims of the economic crisis, let us provide for all American
workers. Let this be our answer to terrorism.

We urge the fullest possible debate on this bare bones
emergency relief package. We are facing powerful capitalist interests
that want this crisis to be resolved by increasing corporate profits
and power. This national emergency can only truly be resolved with the
full participation of all the people. Our security depends on the security
and well being of working families in the first place. We do the work,
we pay the bills.


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