Oakland faces a budget deficit of $31 million. The city has less money from property taxes and sales taxes, and is proposing to make significant cuts to police and fire departments, schools and other city workers, and also raise fees for residents.
The budget problems of Oakland are not unique in any way. Many cities and most states across the country are facing similar budget deficits. And everywhere, the solutions politicians come up with are the same – cut whatever they think they can.
There is a reason this is happening all across the country. When the banks are foreclosing on people’s homes, the banks don’t pay any property taxes. And when workers are fired from their jobs, or when they bring home less money, obviously, they spend less. So, cities and states bring in less money, and then come up with reasons to make all sorts of cuts.
So as workers are being hit by the banks, which are taking away their homes, and as workers are being fired by their bosses or forced to take pay cuts, city, state, and federal governments are taking away more and more services too. In other words, working people are being forced to pay for this crisis over and over again, at every level.
The truth is, workers didn’t cause this crisis and workers shouldn’t have to pay for it. In Oakland, just like in most major cities across the country, there’s always a crisis going on because there’s never been any money to pay for things most people need. Where’s the money been to provide people with jobs? Where’s the money to provide people with affordable housing? Where’s the money to build more schools and more medical centers and more parks? Where’s the money to provide young people with a future, with a path out of the dead ends of poverty and crime? There’s never any money for what most people need.
Is it that there’s not enough work to be done? Is it that there aren’t enough people to do the work, to build new schools and hospitals or housing or parks? Is it that there aren’t enough people to teach in the schools or train new workers to do all the work that needs to be done? Of course not!
We’re always told there is some kind of budget crisis, or spending problem, or a city facing bankruptcy. Who is bankrupt? Are the workers of Oakland bankrupt? Are the bus drivers or the construction workers or the hospital workers or the teachers or the city workers – are the people who do the work to make the city run, are they bankrupt? Are the young people who want to see a future for themselves, are they bankrupt?
We’re told that Oakland is a failing city. It’s not the city or the people that are failing. It’s true that the elected officials have proven themselves to be complete failures. Not because they can’t balance a budget, but because they have failed to stand up for the interests of working people.
In Oakland, and all across the country, from local governments to state governments to federal governments, the priorities of the politicians are not the priorities of working people. Politicians serve the so-called important interests, the interests of banks, of oil companies, energy companies, weapons producers, auto companies – the profits of the corporations.
What’s failing is not a city, or a budget, but this kind of a system. This system is failing to meet the needs of most people. This system is designed to fail and will always fail to meet our needs.
We don’t need a new budget, we don’t need a new city, and we don’t need new people. We need a new system, one that serves the needs of the majority of the population, not the banks and the corporations. The only thing we’ve failed to do so far is get rid of this one.