For those puzzled by the whole federal budget debacle, here’s a simple primer on the steps our so-called leaders in corporate America and Washington, D.C. followed to get us here:
Step 1: Cut revenues by expanding tax giveaways for the wealthy and corporations.
Step 2: Expand the military and launch two wars with borrowed money.
Step 3: Deregulate Wall Street.
Step 4: Bail them out with taxpayer funds when they run the economy into the ground.
Step 5: Stand back and wait for the inevitable budget “crisis.”
Step 6: Demand austerity cuts to public services for millions of people.
Leading up to the sequestration, mainstream media talked about longer lines at the airport, while the Right was holding hostage up to 2.1 million jobs – more than were created in all of 2012. A political movement professing to defend “family values” pushed for cuts to food aid for an estimated 600,000 women and children. This amid revelations that the wealth gap between blacks and whites has nearly tripled between the Reagan and Obama administrations, and a push for immigration reform which could simply erect a bureaucratic dam in place of a broken border wall, let corporations control the floodgates, and still exclude millions of immigrants.
The states aren’t any better. Union members in Michigan are still reeling from their state’s switch to an anti-union right-to-work (for less) law; activists in Georgia struggle against legislation criminalizing free speech activities like picketing; and more state-level anti-abortion legislation was passed in 2011 and 2012 than in any previous two-year period, disproportionately hurting poor, young and rural women.
On every issue beyond LGBTQ rights, we seem to be moving backwards just four months after an emerging progressive coalition rose up to elect President Obama to a second term despite widespread voter suppression. But the election didn’t signal an end to the battle, but rather the opening of a new phase. We held off both the Tea Party Right and Democratic leaders in the White House and Congress who had signaled their willingness to compromise Social Security and Medicare in a December “grand bargain.” As I write this piece, I fear the erosion of those few public programs inspired by social democracy.
Looking forward, I know that if anyone is prepared to meet these challenges it is DSA.
2013 is a convention year for DSA. Coming off a successful Young Democratic Socialists conference, we are mobilizing with new energy to train and empower the next generation of democratic socialists. Our 2013 membership drive, with a goal of recruiting at least 700 new members – to grow our organization by 10 percent – culminates in the October 25-27 convention in Oakland, California. We have a new series of monthly activist webinars available to members; revived commissions; and new campaigns. In addition to our long-standing anti-austerity work, we are committed to concrete immigrant solidarity as central to empowering the entire working class in this country, whether they have papers or not.
2013 is also the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In this issue of Democratic Left, John D’Emilio explores the history of the march and how radicals on the left conceived and brought to fruition a mass action premised upon coalition building and multi-issue organizing. Cornel West explains the central importance of the full employment demand in the first march and why it must be revived this year. Through our 50th Anniversary and Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power (GET UP) projects, DSA amplifies the message.
We are not just against budget cuts and for taxes on the wealthy. We are for social and economic justice. We are for a more responsive, transparent and democratic government. We are for an economic system where human ingenuity, cooperation and technological innovation lead to a better standard of living for all, not private profits and chronic high unemployment. And we know that the neoliberal capitalist economy simply can’t meet the needs of the 99%. That is a message that DSA is well qualified to spread. Let’s get to it!
Maria Svart is the National Director of DSA