Here’s a little secret that no one mentions as Democrats and Republicans joust over what to do about the federal budget: Every penny that the government spends, whether it’s on war and repression or on “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare, comes from the sweat and strain of the workers.
Where else could it come from? Money, after all, is just a token we use to buy goods and services. When we work, we get money that we can exchange for the fruit of other people’s labor.
How do the bosses get their money? By withholding from us much of the value that we produce when we work. And what gives them this right? The system of capitalism, which is based on those who have capital exploiting those who have nothing to sell but their ability to work. The bosses don’t have to work — unless you consider bullying, cheating and conniving to grow their fortunes working. But that doesn’t produce anything of value, it just makes them richer.
The main function of government in capitalist society is to protect the ruling class and keep the process of exploiting labor moving along as smoothly as possible. However, capitalism is so efficient at making the rich ever richer — at the expense of the working class — that it is inherently unstable and vulnerable to mass rebellion. So part of what modern capitalist governments do is try to keep rebellions from happening not only with the stick but with the carrot.
These carrots — public education, Social Security, Medicare, libraries, parks and other services — weren’t just handed to us, however. They came only after huge struggles. Most of the “entitlements” people today may have taken for granted came after big strikes, sit-downs and demonstrations carried out at great sacrifice by workers and unemployed during the Great Depression.
No one can take them for granted any more. Both Republicans and Democrats have been discussing for months how to cut the federal budget, especially the part that deals with services — schools, post offices, environmental protection, public health and so on. Moreover, as Sen. John Kerry, a member of the appointed bipartisan “super committee” tasked with cutting the budget deficit, admitted on ABC’s Meet the Press on Nov. 20, the Democrats were willing to put everything on the table, including cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
As of Nov. 21, no deal had been reached. An across-the-board cut to every agency will automatically take place if there is no last-minute deal. But wait. There is already talk by politicians in both parties that our “national security” cannot be compromised by expecting the poor Pentagon to share in these cuts. After all, some exceptions have to be made — but not ones to keep people from starving or committing suicide because they’ve lost their incomes, their homes and their health care. No, what can’t be compromised is the security of the transnational banks and corporations as they go around the world paying starvation wages and sucking raw materials out of oppressed countries — many of which have been invaded by U.S. troops at one time or another.
The Democratic senators on the super committee are saying that no deal on the budget was reached because the Republicans wouldn’t allow the Bush tax cuts for the rich to expire. But what if the Republicans had agreed to that? Would the deal have been good for the workers?
No deal is really good that cuts basic services that people need to function in today’s world and at the same time lays off millions of workers — all in the name of balancing the budget.
The Institute for Policy Studies has just come up with a budget that it says would cut the deficit by $824 billion a year by raising taxes on the rich, reducing money for war and ending government subsidies to polluting industries.
There’s no chance the U.S. capitalist government will do these things, but the IPS study makes it clear that the budget “crisis” is not one of shrinking resources. It is really a crisis imposed on the workers by the two parties of big business.
The real crisis is this: Capitalism has hit a wall and is unable to function without massive infusions of money. Financial institutions have taken trillions of dollars from the government since 2008 without it making a dent in unemployment. When people aren’t working, no new value is being produced. No matter how you cut it, this crisis won’t be over until capitalism is dead and buried.
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