Who’s supposed to pay for the $26.6 billion California budget deficit? According to the Democrats it will be poor families, children, disabled, and elderly people. On Thursday, Democrats on the California budget conference committee voted to accept many of Governor Jerry Brown’s proposals to pay some of California’s $26.6 billion deficit through massive cuts to the state’s social services. Brown’s entire budget package is expected to go to the state’s legislature next week for a vote. The victims of this shameful budget will be those who are the most in need and the least able to voice their opposition.
Democrats voted to slash more than $486 million from In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS). This program ensures that disabled and elderly people get medical attention and in-home assistance, such as getting groceries or doing laundry. Most cuts to IHSS will come through a requirement that says anyone receiving IHSS assistance show proof from a doctor that they need it. When the budget goes into effect, thousands of people who rely on in-home care will be forced to fend for themselves.
Democrats also voted to cut millions from CalWORKs, which provides cash assistance to families living in poverty. CalWORKS recipients will see their checks reduced by eight percent and will only be allowed to stay on the program for a total of four years, as opposed to the current five years. These cuts to CalWORKs come at a time when more people than ever rely on cash assistance to feed themselves and their families. Three out of four CalWORKs recipients are children – more than 1.4 million. The Democrats have decided that these children’s needs aren’t a priority this year.
On the other hand, the California Chamber of Commerce – voice of California’s wealthiest corporations – said that they agreed with the Democrat’s budget and the Chamber of Commerce would give it their full support. And who could blame them for being happy? Making sure California’s corporations are taken care of is nothing new for Democrats. In the 2008 and 2009 budgets, the Democrats stood alongside Republicans and approved changes in California’s tax laws that now allow the state’s corporations to keep tens of millions of extra dollars each year that they would have otherwise had to pay in taxes. One of these changes allows corporations to simply decide how much of their profits they want taxed. As a result of these changes in the tax law, the state receives $2 billion less per-year from corporations. Like all of the state budgets approved in the past few years, this year’s budget ensures that the profits of California’s corporations will not be harmed.
The Democrats tell us to vote for them because they will protect our interests. They tell us that they will protect our schools, that they will give us jobs, that they will protect the environment, that they will end war, that they won’t take away our health care. In 2008 Barack Obama promised us hope and change after eight years of Republican rule. Just a few months ago Jerry Brown promised to save us from Schwarzenneger’s California. Soon we’ll hear the same promises in next year’s election.
Reality shows us that these are all lies. The Democrats, just like the Republicans, are the party of corporations and banks. Their solution to the budget crisis is to make the rest of us pay for it. Their promises are a lot of hot air but their cuts are all too real.
There is another option. In Wisconsin, rather than wait for some Democrat politician to come and save them from Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill, the workers and young people organized themselves to occupy the capital and demand that the governor back down. The Wisconsin Democrats went along with people’s protests, even leaving the state to prevent a vote on the anti-union bill. But without the mobilization of thousands of workers and students the bill would have passed into law.
Our agenda, our lives, won’t be represented by politicians sitting on a budget committee or making deals behind closed doors. As the workers and young people in Wisconsin have showed us in the last few weeks, the only thing we can depend on to protect our interests, to guarantee our future, is us.