Big business' interest is not the well being of U.S. workers, or even the U.S. economy, he said. "Businesses will only invest if they are guaranteed a high rate of return - profit - on their investment. They won't hire new workers and put money in people's hands without that guarantee."
This is the main dynamic of capitalism, which has become more and more apparent to millions as plants close, wages stagnate, and whole regions collapse economically, Webb said.
Even as the country experienced economic upticks like the stock market "exuberance" of the 1990s and the housing "bubble" of the past several years, greater and greater wealth went into fewer and fewer hands.
A growing problem, Webb said, is the role of "finance capital" - banks and financial institutions. Instead of spurring the economy, they invested in nonproductive sectors like currency speculation, "where enormous money was made" along with enormous crises felt around the world.
Corporate America and the super-rich, ever in quest of maximum profits, will not invest their ballooning wealth when and where our society needs it, Webb said.
Therefore, as in the 1930s, the federal government must act to create useful, good paying public sector jobs and get immediate relief into the people's hands, he said. That is what's needed to stimulate the economy.
"There are long-term unmet needs in the U.S.," Webb noted. "Bridges, schools and water systems are collapsing. Many people realize that in both urban and rural settings infrastructure is long overdue for repair."
He cited an Environmental Protection Agency estimate that 75,000 sanitary systems nationally have overflowed with raw sewage, flooding houses and polluting drinking water and natural habitats.
The labor-backed Economic Policy Institute has proposed a $140 billion stimulus package that calls for federal spending to repair and build schools and bridges, creating more than 1 million jobs.
Webb added that the elections provide an opportunity to create new political terrain to fight against economic crisis in the near and longer term.
"It's going to take a broad coalition of labor, African Americans, Latinos, all people of color, women, young people - all people - coming together and demanding this kind of economic program," Webb said.
"Struggle. That's what it will take to move the country along on a different track and put a working-class imprint on it."
Terrie Albano is editor of the People's Weekly World, www.pww.org.
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