Last Friday, Governor Schwarzenegger announced his revised budget proposal, which looks a lot like the last several budget proposals. There is a pattern here: California politicians announce that the state did not bring in enough revenue in taxes, and so, they say, the only solution is to slash funding to every social service that we need.
It is no surprise that California has had less revenue for the past several years. California gets its money primarily from state income and sales tax. But as anyone who can do simple addition and subtraction would tell you: if people are losing their jobs, then they are surely going to pay less income tax and sales tax. Without a job, you have no income and you buy less. So, year after year, California is losing money. And the only solution the legislature comes up with, both Democrats and Republicans, is cuts, cuts and more cuts.
The latest proposal by the Governor is to completely eliminate California’s main welfare program, CalWorks. This program affects over 1.4 million people, about one million of whom are children. It provides financial assistance to poor families, day care, and job training programs. Other cuts include: cuts to food stamps, home health services, healthcare for poor children, cuts to prisoner health care, and pay cuts to state workers. All of these cuts are on top of the billions in cuts from the past several budgets.
Democratic politicians have begun posturing as if they are against these cutbacks. This is a total joke because most of them have voted for similar cuts in all of the recent budgets. The only difference is that now we are in an election year and they are trying to win support for the Democratic candidate, Jerry Brown, by pretending to be on the side of working people. But Brown has vowed not to raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy. So, he is promising us more of the same problem: budget deficits solved by budget cuts.
The reality is, no politician has the interests of working people in mind. Their purpose is to figure out how to say the right things and get us to believe that they represent us. And then once they’re in office, reveal bit by bit who they really represent: the big banks and corporations and the super rich.
No matter what the politicians in Sacramento say, this budget crisis is easy to solve. California is the ninth largest economy in the world. It is home to many of the wealthiest corporations and individuals on the planet. A simple two percent tax increase on the wealthiest Californians – the millionaires and billionaires in the state – would be enough to pay for every single cut to education, health care, welfare and transportation. And a mere four percent tax increase on the rich would pay for the entire budget deficit. Raising taxes on corporations would also increase revenue.
We could also make the Federal Government pay more to support public education and social services in the states. Less than one half of one percent of the money given to the banks in bailouts would pay for the entire budget deficit of California. Less than four percent of the bailout money would pay for the budget deficit of every single state in the country. And less than one month of war spending would eliminate all of the cutbacks in California.
There is plenty of money both in the state and at the federal level to not just solve California’s budget deficit, but to meet all of our needs, from education and housing and health care to food and transportation. The politicians simply have different priorities. Both Democrats and Republicans serve the corporations and the super rich, and they have chosen to make working people pay during this economic crisis by laying us off, kicking us out of our homes, and slashing the services we need.
The question is not when will the politicians finally represent us. The question is when will we represent ourselves. When will we draw the line and say enough is enough. Working people are the majority of the population. We do all the work to make this society run. And only organized together can we fight against these cuts. When we’re sick and tired of the crumbs, then it means it’s time to fight for something better.