Each New Year people take stock of their lives and make resolutions hoping to change some aspect of life for the better. It may be to spend less money, to eat healthy food, to exercise more or to try and have a better relationship with loved ones. These resolutions and the self-reflection they stem from are an important part of growth for us as individuals, but are they enough?
Over the last year we have seen millions of people thrown out of their houses, forced to live on the streets or off the charity of others. All of this happened while the banks that were forcing them from their homes got billions of our tax dollars to guarantee their profits. Over the last year we have seen unemployment rise across the country to levels not seen since the Great Depression. While the official rate is 9.3% this number doesn’t include the millions who have been unemployed too long to be counted by the government.
For those of us fortunate enough to have a job, we have been under attack the entire year. As corporate profits rise, workers are told it is time to tighten the belt. If we have health insurance we are expected to pay more. We are told that there is no money for raises and pushed to take pay cuts, while doing the job of two or three people.
While we are struggling at home, the government is busy spending billions of our dollars on wars on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. The combined cost of the two wars is over 12 billion dollars each month. 12 billion for wars and yet in the last year our educational spending was reduced by 10 percent or more in almost every state – more than 50 billion dollars. In the state of California here was a 1.5 billion dollar cut to K-12th grade. This means larger class sizes with fewer teachers, meaning a poorer quality education for our kids.
And what does the New Year hold for working families? The number of people on the verge of losing their home is enormous. And without help they will be added to the number of people homeless or living on charity. While trillions of dollars are given to the banks, no significant plan has been proposed to keep people in their homes. How about the unemployed? Does the New Year look any better for them? Not if their hope is finding a job. Every major financial firm is predicting that unemployment will rise in the New Year, somewhere between 1-5 percent.
As for the wars and education? The Obama administration has no plan to end the wars in either Iraq or Afghanistan so we can expect to waste at least another 150 billion dollars. And Jerry Brown has said that he plans to further cut back on programs which provide some support for the poorest of the poor in California. He announced huge cuts to welfare ($1.5 billion) which will plunge more children and their families into deeper poverty. The $1.7 billion cut from Medi-Cal will mean an end to health care access for increasing numbers of people without health care. The $750 million cut from services to the developmentally disabled will leave them with what? The $400 million from the community colleges and fee increase to $36 a unit for students will mean tens of thousands of students will be turned away. And the $1 billion in cuts to the UCs and CSUs will slam the door on any hopes for higher education for a generation of young people.
Brown claims that “every sector” will sacrifice. But like all the politicians he has overlooked the 83 billionaires who call California home along with the 49 corporations that take advantage of the resources of this state and put them among the 500 largest corporations in the US? How about taxing them?
We could face another year of watching the rich get richer while seeing cuts in everything that matters most in our lives. This is the New Year that we will get if we resolve ourselves to thinking and acting individually. But that’s the catch, we can have a different New Year’s resolution. We can actually decide to have the only resolution that matters – to organize ourselves to fight back. So lose weight, shop less and spend more time with your kids while we organize to build the kind of world we deserve.