“Fight the rich, not their wars.” – Paul Street
It doesn’t escape my attention that all the “structural adjustment programs” for the developing countries of the 1980s and 1990s and now all of the “austerity measures” proposed by the Washington Consensus – the US government, the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO – amount to nothing but class warfare. Over twenty years ago, Noam Chomsky said in an interview that “we have a very class-conscious business class. Labor has been basically destroyed—it never really existed. It tried, but it was crushed. But business is very class conscious, in fact very Marxist. If you read the business journals they sound like vulgar Marxism.” Amen!
Some libertard’s attack “spending.” They tell us all kinds of nonsense about not having the money and blah blah blah. Other than their complete failure to understand how vindicated Keynesianism is in this respect there is another issue that bothers me because there is a bit of truth to what they are saying. We shouldn’t spend more than we have. That is pretty sound. But that is really beside the point… at this point.
Imagine you just had a heart attack.
You, the lazy obese American who eats junk food and doesn’t exercise or take care of your heart.
You’re lying on the floor grasping your chest and thinking, “Holy fuck, this is it! I didn’t tell my kids I loved them this morning and now I won’t get a chance to!”
The paramedics arrive and this is their prescription: "Change your diet. You need to eat healthier and exercise more."
They walk off.
This doesn’t help you.
True, you are a lazy fatass American who didn’t take care of your heart but what you need right now is a defibrillator. You need medical-fucking-attention, not a lecture on what you should have done to avoid this problem.
And that’s the thing with the anti-spending crowd in a nutshell. They confuse how not to get into a mess with how to get out of one.
Well we are in a mess and we need to get out of it. Here are some Workingperson’s Austerity Measures we should push our government for:
- Cut the military budget. We are 5% of the world yet we account for nearly half of global “defense” spending. If we cut it by a factor of ten we would still have the highest expenditure per capita and still be spending more than ten times that of Iran. Of course such a radical cut in spending would require us to end our foreign wars, scale back the size of our navy and air force, close our foreign bases and on top of it we would also radically improve our carbon footprint since the Pentagon is the world’s biggest polluter (excluding whole countries).
- Put the income tax rate for the rich back to 91% like it was during the so-called Golden Age of Capitalism. The rich now pay 35%. This is a big part of why our government doesn’t have any money. It should also be noted that our productivity since the height of the Golden Age has increased by more than 350%. This means we could work 3.5x less per week and still be just as productive. All the gains that have accrued from our increased productivity have been sucked up by a class who are paying nearly 60% less in taxes than they were!
- Tax investment income as earned income. Right now depending on a number of things the tax rate is between 15% and 40%. And since most investment income is owned by the richest among us this usually means they are paying considerably less than if they were under existing income tax rates.
- Tax the $600 trillion financial market bubble. While the $13 trillion housing bubble still may pull the global economy under it is the existing derivative market bubble that is over $600 trillion that will surely be the end of our existing economy and like always the poor and working class are the most vulnerable. We need to bring these trades out in an open exchange and tax them. This will not only increase government revenue but it will be an incentive for financial entities to think twice about their risk taking. Unfortunately, Obama has opposed a plan by Blanche Lincoln, Senator from Arkansas, and the Democrats have been pressuring her to squash her bill. In April the New York Times reported her as saying, "The people of Arkansas never again want to have to foot the bill for what happens on Wall Street. If banks want to be in that kind of risky business, they should have to separate it off in a way that lowers the systemic risk." The Democrats, who rely heavily on corporate funding from financial institutions, don’t want to rain on their parade.
- Don’t let the “death tax” disappear and in fact we should increase it. I am in favor of 100%. I don’t think anyone should get income they didn’t earn. The inheritance of wealth is another factor in creating our income inequality and which allows a select few people to struggle less (their idea of struggling is whether they should buy a bigger yacht or a summer house in Martha’s Vineyard) while everyone else who isn’t so lucky has to climb a steep fucking hill just to live day to day.
- Remove the cap on Social Security for individuals and big businesses. Warren Buffett will see less than half of one percent of his annual income taxed for the program while a single-mom working double shifts at IHOP will see 100% of her income taxed for the same program. Despite the fact that minor adjustments similar to those made in the 50s, 60s and 80s would secure the program beyond the end of the century (what other government program can be said to be as solid?) doing away with the cap entirely would allow benefits to actually to be increased to levels that would probably sustain the disabled and elderly who rely it on as either their main or sole source of income.
- Fix the healthcare system. I know many delusional liberals would like to think we have done so but they would be dead wrong. We have fixed nothing. Just last week Obama said, “As I said when I met with the insurance executives, it’s not meant to punish insurance companies. […] once this reform is fully implemented a few years from now, America’s private insurance companies have the opportunity to prosper from the opportunity to compete for tens of millions of new customers.” From day one President Obama met in secret with health insurance companies and drug companies, not doctors or single payer advocates, to ensure the private system that is the root of our crisis remains in tact so they can "prosper." The high premiums and copay’s and ER visits will remain. The bankruptcies will remain. We need a national health care plan that will allow us to spend twice as less, cover everyone and improve our overall quality of health like it is done in the rest of the developed world where healthcare is a human right.
- Sign an international cap and trade treaty that has no grandfathering clauses and auctions off 100% of permits. The revenue generated from this should be progressively distributed so that those who are less fortunate will get some help paying their energy bills. There are a lot of criticisms of cap and trade, some legit and some not. We should be trying to strengthen the Kyoto Protocols in certain ways since it is already in place and has a foundation for improvement. A global tax would unfairly punish the developing world that is still developing (because the developed world, via imperialism and colonialism, has stunted their development). We need a system that is fair and that will achieve the underlying goal: reduce the amount of co2 we pump into the atmosphere.
- Fix our transportation system. Our leaders are constantly talking about getting off our "addiction to foreign oil," but they say nothing about our addiction to the private transportation system that is a big factor in the other addiction and climate change. President Obama allocated $13 billion of our tax money to build a rail system in Spain. This is unbelievable. Detroit – Motor City – is being destroyed. The skilled autoworkers are losing their jobs and we are giving billions to Spain for a project we should be building here for ourselves!
No doubt we could probably go on but these kinds of “austerity measures” would go a long way in improving our economy. Rather than keeping the exploitation (of the poor and by the rich) in place and shifting the burden to the poor and working class so as not to disrupt the Lords of Capital we should put an end to their tyranny and put in place fair and sound economic policies that lessen inequality, increase employment, take care of our disabled and retirees, preserve our planet, and strike back against the imperialism and colonialism that still plagues us.