It’s a new year, and with presidential elections coming in November, the politicians of both parties have already started to come out with their promises and slogans. It’s no question that people will be looking to see if there is a real change being offered, and for good reason because we need a change. But what is being offered to us?
Last year we saw budget cuts to social services, schools, health care and the neediest in society. Unemployment and home foreclosures reached record levels and people were left out in the cold. We saw major attacks on unions, in states like Wisconsin and Ohio. We saw an escalation in the war on the people of Afghanistan, and the extension of that war into Pakistan. Meanwhile banks and corporations recorded record profits.
What solutions do the politicians offer? The Republicans are the center of national news. Each promises to cut taxes and regulations for corporations, and attack unions. In the debates, Republicans are engaged in a competition of who can seem more ready to wage war on Iran. The only difference is the degree the candidates also want to limit the rights of gay people and women based on a religious intolerance. They offer no solution.
What can the Democrats offer us? We already know because we’ve seen it for the last four years. At every step, Obama’s administration has served the corporations and banks. Obama’s health care bill was written with the help of the big pharmaceutical and health insurance companies to ensure their profits. The so-called troop withdrawal from Iraq has simply replaced the U.S. military occupation with an occupation by private contractors armed and paid for with American taxes. And Obama’s answer to the economic problems faced by American workers? A payroll tax cut – taking from Medicare and Medicaid to give people just a small amount of relief. He won’t really touch the profits of the rich. A second term for Obama means more of the same.
The Democrats are no different on the state level. Governor Jerry Brown just announced a new budget, filling the deficit with drastic cuts to education, child welfare, and health services. This Democratic governor, who many hoped would stop the budget cuts imposed by Schwarzenegger, has nothing to offer but the same attacks.
The politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, have no solution because they don’t represent us. They represent the corporations and banks who fund them, who employ them, and who use them to rule for their own benefit. We can’t look to these people for solutions to our problems.
But we don’t have to rely on the politicians. Last year we saw the beginnings of another option – actions taken by ordinary people who began to rely on themselves. In the Middle East, an uprising against the brutal regimes of the region set the the world on fire. This major wave of revolt changed the world, inspiring people in their own struggles even in the United States. In the Spring we saw people in Wisconsin launch protests and occupy the state capitol to protest an attack on workers’ unions. And this fall we saw the Occupy movement sweep across the US. People everywhere started to say “We are the 99%”, and rather than suffer our problems alone, people started to gather in protest, condemning the banks and corporations who benefit while the rest of us suffer.
This year, in 2012, we can begin to stand up for ourselves, and say we won’t pay for their crisis. We don’t agree with layoffs and unemployment. We don’t agree with cutting education. We don’t agree that the sick and elderly should be the first to be cut from the budget. And we don’t support war against the people of the Middle East.
It will take much more than what we saw people do in 2011 to really make a change. We need to rally our forces against this system which benefits the wealthy banks and corporations. This means organizing ourselves in our workplaces and our communities. We need to make 2012 the year we really fight back.