USA: Time to mobilise and fight back

Bush’s approval ratings reach all-time low:

Time to mobilise and fight back

LAST NOVEMBER, George Bush won re-election by distracting a section
of voters with the ‘war on terrorism’ and appeals to
"traditional values". But the underlying reality of the class
divide in the US continues to undermine support for Bush and his
right-wing, big business policies.

Tony Wilsdon, Socialist Alternative (CWI), US

Tens of millions of workers can see Bush’s flagship proposal, ‘Social
Security reform’, for what it really is – an attempt to hand over part
of Social Security [pensions] income to Wall Street investors. A recent
Newsweek poll showed that only 33% of the public now supports Bush’s
plan. An NPR poll showed that the more familiar people were with Bush’s
Social Security plan, the more likely they were to oppose it.

Opposition to Bush’s privatisation of Social Security is an
expression of opposition to Bush on a range of policies. His approval
rating on Iraq is now down to just 39% in a recent Gallup poll – his
worst Iraq Gallop rating ever! By 70% to 27%, people consider the number
of US casualties unacceptable. And, by 54% to 43%, the public thinks the
US is bogged down in Iraq.

Recent polls by Newsweek and Zogby show Bush at his lowest ratings
ever on a number of domestic issues, with only 37% approving of his
performance on jobs/economy, 37% on education, and 32% on the
environment. These statistics show that Bush lacks a mandate for his
policies, despite all the claims to the contrary.

Underlying this opposition to Bush is the growing gap between rich
and poor, and growing economic insecurity for workers. Consumer and
credit card debt are at record levels, increasing by 11% in 2004 alone.

In her book The Two-Income Trap, Elizabeth Warren found that
the typical American household in the early 1970s spent about 54% of its
income on big fixed expenses —home mortgage, health insurance, car,
child care — with the rest left over for discretionary spending. By
the early part of this decade, however, the typical family was spending
75% of its income on these large fixed costs. The author wrote:
"They’re spending much more of their income on things that can’t
be cut back quickly."

With the current weak economic upturn now starting to falter, it is
likely that the Bush administration will be hit by a new, and possibly
quite deep, recession, and will have no one to blame but its own
policies. This will further weaken Bush. Bush already has the lowest
level of support for a second-term president since records began.

Democrats no alternative

IF BUSH’S policies are so unpopular, how come Bush is going ahead
with them without any open opposition? The main reason is the role
played by the Democratic Party in pretending to be an opposition party,
yet failing to expose Bush’s policies and seriously organise to defeat

This was most sharply shown in the last election, with the Democratic
Party leadership pushing forward billionaire John Kerry as their
candidate, who was almost indistinguishable from Bush on his policies.

The Democrats are not a political party that represents the interests
of working people. However, the Democrats rely for their votes on
getting support from the main progressive organisations in society —
including labor unions, women’s organisations, the anti-war movement,
and environmental organisations — by arguing that they are better than
the Republicans.

But since the Democrats are controlled by big business, which funds
their campaigns, they will not fundamentally challenge the corporate
agenda pushed by Republicans. By failing to promise any policies
fundamentally different from the Republicans, they fail to offer any
serious political alternatives to working-class voters, leaving the
Republicans’ corporate agenda unchallenged.

The dangerous role played by the Democrats can be seen in that,
despite the widespread opposition and anger of workers at Bush’s
Social Security proposals, these policies are not yet dead. That’s
because the Democrats want to ensure that their corporate sponsors don’t
have to pay for any potential future shortfalls in the programme. Key
Democrats could still step in to provide political cover by supporting
‘Bush-lite’ Social Security cuts, just like they helped pass the
[anti-democratic rights] Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act*, and
his tax cuts for the rich.

Then who is going to demonstrate that Bush has no mandate? The
responsibility for doing that lies with the leadership of the labor,
women’s, anti-war, environmental and other progressive movements.
Unfortunately, the leaders of these movements have been paralysed by the
belief that Bush has a mandate. They see the defeat of billionaire Kerry’s
pro-corporate election campaign as "proof" that workers
support Bush. In reality, voters were disgusted with both parties, and
almost half failed to even vote in the last election.

Bush is in a very weak position on Social Security, and his overall
support is seriously falling. This is a major opportunity to launch a
struggle to definitively defeat his Social Security plans, and to weaken
Bush’s entire agenda.

Now is the time for the unions, anti-war groups, women’s groups,
and civil rights groups to go on the offensive against Bush. The first
step would be to call, and seriously mobilise, for protests in cities
across the country to build up to a national march on Washington, DC
against Bush’s privatisation of Social Security and his entire
anti-worker agenda, demanding "money for jobs and education, not
war" and to defend women’s rights.

Rather than relying on lobbying corporate politicians, the anti-war,
labor, and women’s movements need to build a serious struggle from
below, to break with the Democrats, and to put their resources into
building a new political party with a radical working-class programme.

Bush’s massive attacks will increasingly place the need for such a
struggle on the agenda, and underline the need for a fundamental system
change – to end this anarchistic, exploitative, destructive system of