EDITORIAL: Reclaiming our country

The United States now stands at one of the most significant crossroads in our history. The choice before voters on Nov. 4 is crystal clear: Continue the catastrophic slide of the last eight years into the abyss of economic disintegration, growing human misery at home and costly, deadly adventurism abroad. Or, continue instead to build the broad labor-led coalition which can help a new administration and Congress chart a path to peaceful, cooperative international relations and an economy where people earn decent wages for producing needed goods and services and are assured quality affordable health care and other human needs, while protecting our environment.

Such a new administration and Congress will have much to overcome. On the heels of two decades of Reaganomics and provocative military skirmishing, the eight Bush years have seen the burgeoning of the military-industrial complex and the further hollowing-out of the economy under the impact of parasitic and rapacious finance capital.

In the Bush years, Americans have lost jobs, pensions, health care and homes, and have become ensnared in the lenders’ web as they struggled to meet their families’ needs. Infrastructure has decayed, education has deteriorated, human services and safety nets have been shredded, and racism and chauvinism have been cultivated under the banner of national security. The Supreme Court has been pushed farther to the right, the foreign incursions of the late 20th century have morphed into disastrous and devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the environment has been strip-mined, and the gap between the incomes of the top 1 percent and the majority of people has become a yawning gulf.

Finally, even the powerful financial industry has overreached itself, and cries out for help at the expense of the very taxpayers who have borne the brunt of its excesses.

But enough of that legacy. Ordinary Americans know it well. What’s ahead? A very broad coalition of labor, environment and community organizations is bringing forward shorter- and longer-term programs to resolve the present financial crisis and build a stable and expanding economy meeting the needs of the vast majority of Americans.

Under the auspices of the Campaign for America’s Future, over 30 national organizations including the AFL-CIO and SEIU have issued a “common sense” program to overcome the immediate financial crisis. Included are public oversight of “bailout” measures with participation of workers and consumers, re-regulation of the finance industry, major public investment in new energy and infrastructure projects, extending and expanding unemployment insurance and food stamps, measures to keep threatened homeowners in their homes and help to states so they can avoid catastrophic cuts in human services.

The Communications Workers of America’s long-range economic recovery program focuses on quality jobs and worker bargaining rights, emphasizing passage of the Employee Free Choice Act to level the playing field for organizing unions and building a world-class health care system funded by a broad-based tax.

The Apollo Alliance, uniting labor, environmental, community and business, projects a program for national energy efficiency, renewable energy, infrastructure and public transit and rebuilding American manufacturing based on a clean energy future.

Peace organizations are demanding an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the return home of all troops and contractors, elimination of nuclear weapons and development of a foreign policy based on cooperation and peace.

Racial justice and immigrant rights organizations are demanding a new push to end injustice and move toward equality in all areas of life, from jobs and workers’ rights to housing, education and health care.

What all these programs have in common is ending actions that devastate people and the environment, and rebuilding a productive economy and society to meet the needs of workers and their families through producing needed goods and services, assuring sufficient income for a decent living standard, upholding labor and human rights and protecting the environment.

Putting them forward are the same forces that have come together to elect a president and Congress with a new, positive approach to the functioning of the United States in the 21st century. That president and that Congress will need guidance, help and —yes — pressure from this broad coalition if the changes so urgently needed are to be won.