News Item: “The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities predicts the combined budget shortfall for all 50 states could total upwards of $350 billion over the next 2.5 years .”
In almost every one of the 50 states and in county and municipal governments across the nation, the recession and resulting fall in tax revenues are seen as an opportunity by elected officials to make slashing cuts in programs and in public workers’ living standards.
In many states and cities, it is the Democratic Party that is leading this charge to make workers pay for the crisis, with the sharpest blows falling on the same public employees whose unions have been the Democrats’ most loyal devotees.
Organized labor has dismally failed to defend us against these attacks. Convinced that there is no alternative to this crisis-ridden system of capitalism, the leaders of organized labor have tried to negotiate an orderly retreat for their members while insisting on undying support for the Democrats as the “lesser of two evils.
The failure of the union leaders to mount a serious opposition has been a catastrophe. In some cases, some major demonstrations have been held to oppose the cuts, for example in New York where over 50,000 came out March 5. But in most places, campaigns are limited to legal actions or to lobbying the same Democratic Party politicians who are voting for the cuts.
Instead, public-employee unions need to campaign around demands that can mobilize the entire labor movement and wider working class to defend jobs, wages, and public services without making any concessions as to pay, benefits, or working conditions.
We need to demand:
- An end to the bail-out of Wall Street. The Obama Administration should instead launch a massive federal spending initiative to support our needs.
- A Wealth Tax. Fortunes above $1 million should be subject to progressive taxation – in effect, a property tax on all forms of wealth (not just real estate).
- Increased income taxes on households with incomes over $250,000, ramping steeply up as incomes go up to impose super-taxes on the super-rich, the top 1% and 0.1%
- A tax on financial transactions such as the purchase of stocks, shares, bonds, futures, and other commodities on the stock and commodities exchanges.
Above all, the union leaders need to start challenging the city and state politicians of the Democrats and Republicans and run independent candidates that will defend the interests of the working class and the poor.