T.O. 81: Record U.S. War Budget – Biden’s Promised 30,000 Visas – Right to Strike – Brazil Attempted Coup and Heightened Expectations
Record U.S. War Budget Fuels U.S. Wars at Home and War Abroad
On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed into law the $1.7 trillion Omnibus Appropriations Bill of 2023. More than half of this amount is allocated to the war budget, which is a record $858 billion (up 10% from last year). To this amount must be added $44.9 billion in “aid” to Ukraine and NATO countries, which brings the total military spending to more than $900 billion.
And it doesn’t end there. The New York Times noted on December 18 that “a far bigger tranche of military aid for Kyiv is expected to pass through Congress later this year.”
The war budget means huge profits for the U.S. military-industrial complex. “The increased spending creates a new boom for arms manufacturers,” reported the New York Times. “Lockheed Martin, the largest U.S. arms company, has secured more than $950 million worth of orders for missiles to replenish stocks used in Ukraine. The Army awarded Raytheon Technologies more than $2 billion in contracts to deliver missiles to Ukraine.” (Ibid.)
War “at home” and “war abroad”
More funding for the war machine means less funding for the U.S. working class and the poor.
While domestic spending is increased by 6 percent over the previous year, given that the U.S. inflation rate is 7 percent, the 6 percent rise in domestic spending is a cut in real terms, meaning fewer real resources for health care, education, housing, mass transportation and what remains of social benefit programs like food stamps and home heating assistance. It means, in particular, less funding for millions of children who during the pandemic have been entitled to Medicaid, a federal-state healthcare program for the poor, and who beginning April 1 will be removed from Medicaid assistance.
Funding that is earmarked “domestic spending,” moreover, will be allocated for surveillance, repression, and operations in support of the military and U.S. foreign policy. This includes $61 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (up 5 percent), $152 billion for “Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs” (up 20 percent), $60 billion for the State Department (up 6 percent), and $39 billion for the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI and other federal police operations.
Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said he was pleased with the record “defense” budget as “the allocation to the Pentagon gives our military the resources needed to take on China, Russia and other looming threats.”
Indeed, far more than Russia is targeted: “China is omnipresent in the Pentagon’s 2023 budget,” notes The China Project (December 23). It allocates “$11.5 billion in funding for Pacific Ocean Deterrence Initiative goals” and “authorizes up to $10 billion for Taiwan over five years in military grants and loans.”
Bernie Sanders votes in favor of the Omnibus bill
The Omnibus legislation was supported largely by Republican members of Congress. In the Senate, all Democrats voted for the bill. This included Bernie Sanders, who though nominally an independent, is the representative of the “left wing” of the Democratic Party. Two weeks earlier, on December 15, Sanders and 10 other Senators voted against H.R. 2617, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). “It is unconscionable to spend that amount on defense when millions across the U.S. are struggling to survive,” Sanders said.
“Look,” Sanders continued, “we have 85 million Americans who have no health insurance. We have 600,000 people who are homeless. We have a dysfunctional health-care system, dysfunctional child-care system where working parents are paying $15,000 a year on average for childcare. We have got to start protecting the needs of working families.”
All these words are true. But the actual disbursement of funds takes place under the Omnibus bill. A vote for this bill is a vote in favor of the $858 billion in war funding. It’s a vote to promote U.S. wars and interventions the world over.
Forging a ruling-class consensus
Senator Bernie Sanders justified his vote for the Omnibus bill in the name of political expediency. “The defense spending is outrageous , much too high,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I don’t want to see the government shut down, and there are some very important provisions in it.”
Clearly, consolidating the Omnibus bill as a package deal is one more bipartisan, capitalist institution (along with the filibuster, the electoral college, and so many others) aimed at forging a ruling-class consensus in support of war and exploitation.
In the House of Representatives, out of four members of the Democratic Party’s “left wing” only Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted against the Omnibus bill. This, however, did not alter her statements of allegiance to the major war party in the United States: Biden’s Democratic Party.
No “national unity” with the warmongers!
The leadership of the AFL-CIO, traditionally subservient to the Democrats, supported the Biden budget, stating on January 3 that “while the Omnibus bill does not include all the priorities we had hoped for, it does include an increase in critical investments in Medicaid, education, children’s health and worker protections.”
In contrast to these acts of allegiance, U.S. workers have a right to demand that their organizations break with Biden and his anti-worker war budget. The time is now to lay the foundation of a mass working class party – a Labor Party. The time is now for the labor movement to break with the Democrats!
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The Promise of 30,000 Visas: Is This a Trojan Horse?
By Kim Ives
(excerpted from the January 11, 2023 issue of the weekly Haiti Liberté newspaper)
“The well-fed man says ‘the mango is rotten,’” goes one Haitian proverb. “The hungry man says ‘let me see.’” This wisdom came to mind this week as Washington dangled a tiny carrot while grabbing a much bigger stick in an effort to stem the growing tide of Haitians fleeing poverty and violence in their nation.
Thousands of Haitians began calling their friends and family members in the U.S., hoping to find a sponsor for the new “CHNV Parole Program,” which would allow them to live and work in the U.S. for a mere two years. On Jan. 5, the Biden administration announced that the U.S. would extend the parole program (previously offered only to migrants from Venezuela) to “up to” 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti each month.
Nobody who entered Mexico, Panama, or the U.S. unlawfully after Jan. 9, 2023 is eligible. At the same time, the Biden administration doubled down on its commitment to continue enforcing Title 42, a CDC-mandated anti-COVID policy it invokes to expel and block tens of thousands of asylum seekers annually on the grounds that they represent a “public health risk.”
On Dec. 27, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow the Trump-era law to remain in effect. Title 42 expulsions will now increase, with Mexico agreeing to accept expelled Haitians, as well as Cubans and Nicaraguans. Previously, the Mexican government had only accepted the return of its own nationals and migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Now the U.S. will begin expelling monthly up to 30,000 migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela, and Nicaragua back to Mexico, while allowing 30,000 from those countries to apply to live and work in the U.S. for two years.
Approved asylum claims are currently the only exception to Title 42. Under the parole program, migrants must have a legal sponsor within the U.S. and undergo a vigorous “background check.” It also requires migrants to schedule a time to enter the U.S. via a legal port of entry through the CBP One app.
A tidal wave of applicants has kept the website connected to the app almost perpetually crashed. Sponsors can be those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), parole, deferred action, asylum or refugee status, permanent residency, or U.S. citizenship, and they can be any relative, friend, pastor, or group of people, like several relatives or friends or colleagues, or a business or a religious or other organization which can prove that they can financially support the beneficiaries during the two-year parole period.
People who have been granted asylum can be sponsors, but people who are asylum seekers with pending cases cannot. People cannot be sponsors if they have not yet been granted initial TPS. The new policy is an ingenious creation of the “laboratory,” as President Jean-Bertrand Aristide used to call Washington’s neocolony-management machinery. …
Questions abound. Are the parolees sent back to Haiti after two years? Are they eligible for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)? For residency? For political asylum? How long must one wait for an answer after applying? How long before traveling to the U.S.? Can one apply more than once with different sponsors? What are the parameters and depth of the background checks on applicants and sponsors? Does it involve political review? What obligations do the sponsors of parolees have during and especially after two years?
The fiery Father Réginald Jean-Mary of Notre Dame d’Haïti Catholic Church in Miami summed it up in a stirring Jan. 8 sermon:
“Today they are insulting us. They are offering a visa which is making all Haitians, all families, go crazy. It’s a ploy. Tell the President (Biden) I said ‘This is wrong. This is not right. That’s not the way you treat a nation.’ We need security in our country. We need peace. We don’t need that visa. …
“Everybody in Haiti has it in their heads that they are now coming to the U.S. And we know, this is a lie. Today, everyone is going crazy. A bunch of charlatans on Facebook say ‘come to me, come to me, I will apply for you.’ You will pay $500. If he gets 1,000 people at $500, he makes half a million dollars off of poor people like himself. …
“That’s not what we need from the United States. Just so they can prevent us from sailing to Key West, they try to calm us, saying they will give us a visa. All Haitians are running after Santa Claus, running after visas… How many people will get that visa? Stop being a fool in this world.” …
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Western Mass. Labor Federation AFL-CIO Announces Resolution Supporting Rail Workers and Defending the Right to Strike
PRESS RELEASE: JANUARY 10, 2023
The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation (AFL-CIO) voted unanimously at their January  membership meeting last night to condemn in the strongest possible terms the Biden Administration’s conduct of December 2, 2022. In the resolution, the WMALF states that the administration violated fundamental workers’ rights by forcing an agreement on rail workers that interfered with their right to strike and failed to insure the basic workplace protection of paid sick leave time for employees.
Furthermore, the WMALF made clear its unequivocal commitment to the inalienable right of working people to withhold their labor in the form of a strike: “The right to strike is a fundamental human right. Any legislation that denies workers’ right to strike, whether the bill that Biden signed on December 2, 2022, the Railway Labor Act of 1926, or Section 9A(a) of the Massachusetts Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law – serves the interests of the bosses over the interests of the working class and should be deemed illegitimate.”
“When the government intervenes in union disputes on the side of the billionaire owners, worker across the country take notice, and will not forget,” said Ian Rhodewalt, one of the drafters of the resolution. “The most ‘pro-union’ president since FDR has shown his true colors, and where his allegiances lie.”
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BRAZIL: Workers Want to Put an End Not Only to Bolsonaro’s Term in Office, But Also to All His Policies
Lula presidential inauguration
By Anísio Garcez Homem
Presentation: On January 8, hordes of supporters of extreme right-wing ex-president Jair Bolsonaro stormed the Congress, the Federal Supreme Court, and the Presidential Palace in Brasilia. They did this with complicity of top officials in the police department and the country’s political institutions,
Vandals and fanatical fascists, as Lula called them, storm the Presidential Palace.
The demonstrators eventually dispersed, with several hundred arrested. Calling them “vandals and fanatical fascists,” newly elected President Luis Inacio “Lula” da Silva said that the “institutions must be respected.” For their part, since January 9, tens of thousands of workers have responded to the call by workers’, popular and Black organizations and they are demanding, “No amnesty for the coup plotters!” Our correspondent in Brazil, in an article written on January 7, the day before the riot, looks back at what is at stake today in the aftermath of Lula’s inauguration. See below.– The Editors
Red tide in Brasilia
On January 1 in Brasilia, 300,000 demonstrators from all over the country attended Lula’s inauguration. It was a real red tide, like the one that swept down Paulista Avenue in São Paulo on the day of his electoral victory over Bolsonaro, on October 30, 2022. The 300,000 activists, workers and young people represented the 60 million workers’ votes that went to Lula, the Workers Party (PT) candidate, in October.
In his inaugural speech to Congress, Lula took the Bolsonaro government to task. He also denounced those who dictated and profited from his devastating policies: “The country’s resources,” he said, “have been plundered to satisfy the stupidity of rentiers and private shareholders of public companies.” What Lula calls “the stupidity of the rentiers” is in fact nothing more than the monopolization of profits by the capitalists and banks. In recent years, interest payments on the foreign debt have diverted about 50 percent of the federal budget’s resources to the pockets of bankers.
In his speech, Lula promised the workers to “rebuild the health budget, rebuild the education budget, and invest in more universities, technical education, and Internet access, making it available for all.” But how can all this happen when Lula also pledges to “show fiscal, tax, and monetary realism.” Such “realism” is tantamount to submitting to the same mechanisms for repaying the foreign debt.
Lula himself never tires of repeating that during his two terms in office (2003-2011), bankers and businessmen never had it so good. Though hunger decreased during the 13 years of the PT government, neither social inequality nor poverty, nor exploitation disappeared. Today, the overall situation has worsened with Bolsonaro. There is an economic crisis and the march to world war is just around the corner.
Here is the alternative: Either fulfill the mandate of 60 million workers, or form a “broad front” with the bankers, bosses and landowners?
In his speech to the 300,000 demonstrators, Lula denounced the social divide in the country: “It is unacceptable that the richest 5% of this country have the same share of income as the other 95%. … It is unacceptable that six Brazilian billionaires have wealth equivalent to the assets of the country’s poorest 100 million.” Unacceptable, Lula is right.
Yet, one is surprised by the conclusion that Lula draws: “It is urgent and necessary to form a broad front against inequality, involving all of society: workers, entrepreneurs, artists, intellectuals, governors, mayors, deputies, senators, unions, social movements, class associations, civil servants, professionals, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens.”
But if inequality is the result of the capitalist exploitation imposed on Brazilian workers and people by businessmen, bankers and their political representatives, how can we form a “broad front against inequality” with them? Such a front could only serve to deflect the demands of the workers, and discredit the unions, parties and movements that support them. It could only further aggravate inequalities.
The composition of the Lula government is a first illustration of this “broad front.” Out of 37 cabinet ministers, 11 are from the PT, one from the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), one from the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), and 13 from the right wing… including no less than 11 who supported the coup d’état leading to the impeachment of the then president, Dilma Rousseff (PT)*, not to mention those who until only recently claimed to be Bolsonarists!
No amnesty for the coup plotters!
All it took was for Lula to sign a decree removing eight public companies (including the Post Office and Petrobras) from the list of companies to be privatized for the stock market to collapse. Things got worse when the Minister of Social Security, Carlos Lupi (from the PDT, a PT ally), declared that there was, in fact, no deficit and that he would review Bolsonaro’s pension and social security counter-reform.
Minister Rui Costa of the PT, responsible for the government’s administration, immediately stepped forward to contradict Carlos Lupi and “reassure” the financial markets!
The workers voted for Lula because they want the counter-reforms to be repealed. Democracy demands that this mandate be implemented. It is the duty of the CUT trade union federation and the unions to ensure that this mandate is respected and to organize mobilizations for this purpose.
Lula’s motto is “De-colonize” the government. This is absolutely correct. But this cannot be reduced to chasing Bolsonaro from office; the entire set of social, economic and political policies implemented under Bolsonaro must be thrown out, too!
When Lula denounced Bolsonaro’s crimes on January 1, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered to chant: “No amnesty! No amnesty!”
A government acting in the interests of the workers would not grant amnesty to either Bolsonaro or his sponsors: the shareholders, speculators, and big owners who have plundered the country’s resources. Meeting the demands of the workers is incompatible with the interests of the bankers, the bosses and the landowners.
— From our correspondent in Brazil, Anísio Garcez Homem (January 7)
* President Dilma Rousseff (PT) (2011-2016), who succeeded Lula, was deposed in a “legal” coup d’état fomented by the corrupt Congress. These are the same corrupt institutions inherited from the military dictatorship and never dismantled (including under PT governments), such as the Federal Supreme Court, which had thrown Lula in prison from April 2018 to November 2019 to prevent the PT from presenting him in the presidential election of October 2018, narrowly won by Bolsonaro.
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