For most working people, we are living in what is the worst economic crisis of our lifetime. But for the banks and corporations and the super rich – times have never been better. Last year there was the highest profits of any financial quarter ever recorded in U.S. history. Bank profits last year were the most since 2007. The top one percent of the wealthiest people in the country have never been wealthier. Currently, they have over 40 percent of all the wealth in the country. Today there is the largest gap ever recorded in the U.S. between the richest one percent and the rest of the population
For most banks, their increase in wealth is just part of the benefits of the trillions of our tax dollars handed to them in bailouts. For most corporations, they are using the crisis to pay lower wages, layoff workers, and push more work onto fewer workers. All of this is happening while politicians at the state and federal levels pass massive tax breaks for banks, corporations and the super wealthy.
This means that most of the wealth of working people, whether in the tax money we pay or in wages we should have earned, is being handed over to the super rich and the banks and corporations. And as a result, nearly every state in the country, and the federal government too, are running into budget deficits. These deficits are then used as the excuse to make budget cuts that further take away funding to the working class. We’re facing cuts to education, social services, healthcare, and public employees, in nearly every state. At the same time the federal government is about to cut as much as one trillion dollars in funds over the next ten years.
On top of these cuts, many states are now using this climate of manufactured budget deficits to carry out major attacks on public workers. In California, Jerry Brown has threatened the jobs of over 52,000 teachers and staff in K-12 schools through massive budget cuts. And now Governor Brown is coming up with a final plan to cut workers’ pensions by a minimum of $700 million dollars per year.
In Wisconsin, in addition to huge cuts to education and social services, Governor Scott Walker has passed a bill that strips state workers of their union rights. The bill takes away workers’ rights to collectively bargain for a contract. For most workers it limits collective bargaining only to wages, not healthcare or pensions or workplace conditions or safety. It gives power to the Governor to fire employees during a budget deficit. It’s a massive attack on Wisconsin public workers.
Across the country, many states have already passed similar bills or are trying to do so right now. In Michigan, a bill was just passed that gives the governor the authority to declare cities financially bankrupt and hand them over to a handpicked body of corporate mangers with the power to cancel union contracts, fire elected officials, fire workers, and take over control of the entire city.
In Ohio, Governor John Kasich, a former executive at Lehman Brothers, just passed a bill that restricts collective bargaining rights for 350,000 public workers. It allows unions to negotiate wages and certain working conditions but not health care, sick time or pension benefits. It gets rid of pay increases and replaces them with merit pay. And this bill makes all strikes illegal for public workers.
Similar attacks are already underway in Indiana, Tennessee, Iowa, Florida and other states as well.
Considered together, the layoffs, foreclosures, wage cuts, budget cuts, and attacks on unions, it’s hard to deny what this is – class war. The ruling class of bosses, bankers, the super rich and their politicians are carrying out their solution to the crisis – which is to take as much money away from working people and put it into the bank accounts of the top one percent. And they are succeeding.
But day by day, the reality of class war is becoming more difficult to deny. Workers in Wisconsin have already started to organize, when last month 100,000 workers, teachers, and students poured into Madison and occupied the state capitol for several days. And now it’s time for workers in Michigan, in Ohio, in Florida, in California and everywhere to begin to do the same. The only answer to all of the attacks is to mobilize our own forces and fight on our side in this war.