Every day we hear the same story from the politicians and the news media. The economy is in crisis and we are all suffering. With the election coming, it’s the same story from both the Republican Party and the Democrats – we need to fix the economy, and we need to make the necessary sacrifices to get the country back on track. But who are they asking to sacrifice?
We’ve already made lots of sacrifices. Today American workers are working harder than ever before. Since 2008, over half of American workers have taken on extra jobs or are working more hours at their current jobs. But less than ten percent of those workers are getting paid more than they were before the crisis. Workers everywhere are being forced to pay more for their health care, work longer hours, or speed up on the job.
Many more people are losing their jobs and struggling to feed themselves and their families. The number of Americans living below the poverty line is the highest it has been in 15 years. Official unemployment is at eight percent, but in reality it may be as high as 20 percent counting all the people who have stopped looking for work, or who are working part time and temporary jobs.
People are also losing their homes. The real estate crisis has hit our communities hard. There have been over twelve million foreclosures in the U.S. since 2008, and California has suffered the largest amount of foreclosures of any state.
Our children have been forced to sacrifice their future. Public schools in the K-12 system have been cut by 18 billion dollars in the last four years. Just look at Oakland where five elementary schools have recently been closed.
And for young people who want to go to college, that is becoming less of an option. College tuition has doubled. State Universities have lost 39 percent of their funding since 2007, and the U.C. System has lost 20 percent of its funding. At the Community Colleges, courses have been cut by 15 percent in the last four years. Everywhere you look the opportunities are being taken away.
But not everyone is being asked to sacrifice. The ten largest corporations in California, including Chevron, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Oracle all made record profits this year – a combined total of $125 billion. This is a twelve percent increase from last years profits. Any one of these corporations could pay for all of the spending cuts to education and social services and barely feel it. While the rest of us are sacrificing our jobs, our homes, and our children’s futures, the rich are actually getting richer.
There is no reason we need to accept the sacrifices that are being forced on us. Why should anyone be unemployed in this society? Instead of working harder, why don’t we reduce the number of hours we have to work and hire more people? Why should we give up our homes just because the banks need to balance their books? For every homeless person in the United States there are six vacant housing units available. And why should our children sacrifice their futures? There’s no reason education shouldn’t be free to any person who wants to pursue it.
What’s stopping us? Only the profits of the wealthy. But where did they get all of that money? They got it from the hard work, sweat, and suffering of all of us who do the work of this society. What right do they have to increase their profits and make the rest of us sacrifice? It’s about time we started to ask the question – Whose society is this anyway?