Last year was the worst recession since the 1930s. But the bosses and bankers have recovered quickly, thanks to huge transfusions of wealth from our tax dollars. While auto workers lost their jobs and saw their wages and benefits slashed, the auto companies were given billions to “recover” their profits. While millions of people fell behind in their payments or lost their homes, the mortgage bankers were given billions to keep them from failing. And there is plenty of money to make war – to pay for 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan at a cost of one million dollars per soldier.
So now, as the stock market goes back up, as the Wall Street brokers, corporate executives and bankers get big bonuses, we are told that the economy is in recovery. But there is not much sign of a recovery from where we sit. Unemployment nationwide is officially at ten percent and over twelve percent in California. This doesn’t count those who have ended up working part time, or have given up looking for work altogether. For those who still have jobs there is a speed up and added work. Wages, pensions, health care and all benefits are under attack. The Obama administration held a summit on jobs but almost no money has gone to creating jobs. The way they look at it, we are small enough to be allowed to “fail”. This is what they are calling a “jobless recovery” – a recovery of profits at our expense.
Education from kindergarten through the universities has seen cuts with staff and teacher layoffs, elimination of programs, increased tuition and fees, fewer classes and fewer students accepted to get in. So when people are losing their jobs, when veterans are coming home from war, when people need education and training more than ever, there is less than ever to go around. All social services are being cut just when people need them the most.
Most people have hoped that the crisis wouldn’t directly affect them. But many are afraid because we all know someone at work, in our neighborhood or family who has been affected. Many people hoped that with Obama and the Democrats in Washington, there would be a change for the better. But hoping that the Democrats will fix things has proved false over and over again. And as far as putting hopes in the union officials, all we hear from most of them is arguments for why we have to accept sacrifices. For them, making a fight is going to court with their lawyers.
So where does that leave us? What can we do? We can continue to hope that things will get better somehow, that an economic recovery will come sometime. We can continue to keep our heads down, fearful that if we stand up for ourselves, for our families and our community, then something will happen to us. Well, something is happening to us. Our lives are in jeopardy. The future of an entire younger generation is in jeopardy.
We are not alone in this. There are millions of workers across the state, working in factories, health care services, transportation, education, and in state and county offices. And all of us have been under some kind of attack. The only way that we are going to beat back the effects of this crisis is if we stand up and fight back together. We are the majority and if we use our power we certainly have the muscle to stop the bosses, bankers and politicians from asking us to continue to pay for their crisis.
This might seem impossible – like a dream that people will pull together. But what choice do we have? If no one steps forward first, no one else can follow. No movement starts off big and powerful. All movements start when a few determined and decided people take a first step. This is how the big struggles of the working class began in the 1930s. This is how the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1960s. And this is how it can begin today. We have a pretty good idea what will happen this coming year if we do not fight back. Isn’t it worth finding out if something different can happen if we do?