Thursday, February 19, 2015

Money for wars but not for jobs. Don't give them free labor.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

The image to the left says it all.  Some readers of this blog might be aware that I live in the East Bay (San Francisco).  We are very lucky in that there are few Metropolitan areas where there is so much open public space.  We have miles and miles of trails, some Redwood groves and many little creeks that were probably rivers many years ago.  We can see Deer, Coyotes, Foxes and if you are lucky a Bobcat, or even luckier, a Mountain Lion.  We have Eagles, Turkey Vultures, hawks, particularly the populous Red Tail that the Crows harass daily. Collectively, the area is known as the East Bay Hills or the East Bay Regional Park.

There is a shrub called French Broom that is extremely invasive and it is culled on and off.  The sign is advertising for volunteers to help reduce the French Broom population and the strangle hold it has on native flora and I assume other plants that increase the chance of a fire.

I am opposed to this volunteer work.  Who can work for free?  I’ll tell you who can, people who are retired with a retirement they can live on and are physically able which is not many working class folks (I could as I have a decent retirement). Other than that it is people with money. When I see them up there the first thing that comes to my mind is the unemployed.  Why would the East Bay Regional Park District hire anyone if people volunteer to work for nothing?

I have had discussions with some of the people that do this. On more than one occasion I was told that it helps them personally in their retirement.  They are out in the natural world, doing physical work, alleviating boredom. Well go get a job then. I have to admit I was overly aggressive on the issue with one well off woman who is a well-known local TV personality and subsequently apologized. I could see the look on her face next time she saw me coming, “Oh, no! Not him again.I did not want her to dread coming up there, my idea was not to act as a one person picket line.  She is well intentioned and as I found, nice person and making her feel bad won’t force the parks district to hire.

The reason they rely on volunteers is that there is no money.  There is no money for education, no money for transportation, no money for training youth or to create well paying public sector jobs that would put people to work providing social services useful to society as a whole. The present is never the right time when it comes to the bosses or the labor hierarchy who passes their arguments on to their members as justification for cuts and concessionary contracts.

But this graphic on the right shares one small, and I stress small, example of where money can be found. The super rich don’t pay taxes or certainly don’t pay their fair share.  I was not aware that the NFL is a non profit, and like all religious organizations are tax exempt.  We need to put a stop to that. The speculators, moneylenders, hedge fund managers and these social wasters gamble with our collective wealth, a destructive social activity.  And the perpetual war for perpetual peace to coin Gore Vidal’s phrase subtitled the War Against Terror costs the US tax payer trillions and creates hatred toward America and Americans throughout the world.

Any measures that curb these excesses should be supported, but it is important to keep alive in our own minds the realization that as long as capitalists have the right to own the major sectors of the economy including the banks etc. they will always put profit and their riches first.  Taking collective control and management of the wealth we create the means we use to create it and the allocation of this resource in society as a whole, will derail the bosses agenda which has volunteering and at best poverty wages as number one and two on their to do list.  Meanwhile, don't volunteer to work for no wages.

Here's another source of money that could be put to good use, hire people, build social infrastructure, increase services etc.

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