|Written by Juan Diaz, Workers Voice/La Voz|
|Wednesday, 12 June 2013 20:57|
The Social Safety net offensive
On April 10, 2013, Obama made it clear of what the ruling class’ next main targets will be in the coming austerity wave: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety net programs that working peoples rely on. This planned austerity wave is coming in light of the continued bulldozing of the American people’s services since Obama’s re-election. And we must also remind the reader that this period’s anti-worker and austerity offensive by the Democratic Party and their corporate allies extends all the way back to the bank bailouts since the economic crisis in 2008/2009, when the Obama administration gave trillions of dollars to save big corporations from the consequences of the economic crisis (by imposing them on the workers and masses of poor people).
Since then, we’ve been facing increasing budget cuts, layoffs and attacks against workers´ rights in the name of “Austerity”. Now, he proposes substantial cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Is this fair? We know it is not. It´s necessary for workers, youth and oppressed peoples to unite and organize against these attacks and to defend our rights. We need to stand against Obama and his Administration’s latest maneuver that seeks to cut what’s left of the social safety net that the working class won in the past century through struggle. We need to stand against layoffs and pay cuts in the private sectors. And just as important, we need to fight for democratic and independent unions that will not accept concessionary contracts like most of the passive and collaborationist union leaderships of the AFL-CIO, Change to Win and the National Education Association unions have.
Obama’s latest political maneuvers of “Sequestration”(which went into effect in March and are already devastating working peoples) and the chained CPI index changes (i.e. cuts to Social Security) have as their goal the gutting of the last remnants of public services (i.e. public education, healthcare, etc.); they are part of his tried and true policy of continued austerity. The sequester cuts include cuts to government programs like Head Start, food aid, low income housing, child care, AIDS drugs, healthcare for the indigenous, and unemployment insurance. This also includes layoffs and furloughs in the federal government, including to air traffic control, food and health inspection, and pollution cleanup workers.
According to the United Press International’s analysison Obama’s April’s proposed cuts, Obama’s changes to the chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) means cuts to the benefits the retired elderly will be getting from their Social Security payments. Also, it would “cut benefits to veterans, low-income people with disabilities, and many others who rely on government programs”. These changes will have a disproportionate impact on the elderly, most of all on working class women and people of color. Though it’s estimated that the change would reduce the debt and deficit by $390 billion over 10 years, Obama’s latest “shared sacrifice” maneuver comes again at the price of reducing benefits for tens of millions of working people!
How does Austerity serve the Ruling Class’ strategy?
Furthermore, Obama still has been successful in selling the illusion that he’s been forced to make the working class pay and that he’s just an innocent messenger. This has helped keep working people’s faith and trust him still largely intact and the AFL-CIO and Trumkaare still happy being on the sideline criticizing him but not mobilizing it’s membership for a mass demonstration against the austerity measures- like the European and Arab working peoples have done in the past couple of years.
On the economics of austerity, sequestration and the proposed cuts to the Social Safety nets are just the latest phase of the ruling class’s attempt to come out of the economic and social crisis that started in 2008. Try as hard as they might, the ruling multinationals and finance elites are in a bind. This is due to the economy’s anemic behavior – there have been short recoveries that have kept ending in a relapse. Thus, the ruling class is becoming more aware (even if they deny it in the mass media) that we are still not out of the crisis, and thus they are trying to figure out more of the same mechanisms, like the current austerity packages, sequester budget cuts, and now proposed cuts to the Social Safety nets, to keep their profits steady and high, even at the cost of the working class and American peoples.
Austerity hurts the Working Class & Oppressed the most!
This crime’s ramifications are amplified when we bring into the picture that Obama’s government is doing this while Wall Street and many major US corporations are registering huge profits. This is going on while the productive sectors of the economy & it’s working people and their living conditions are continuing to worsen. Millions are still out of work, and the ones employed have terrible working conditions (low wages, reduced or no benefits, non secure employment, increase of part-time). Consequently, most bourgeois or “mainstream” sources agree that the management of the crisis by the Obama administration has represented a “golden age” for corporate profits.
The current dynamic creates a hopeless situation for the 14 million unemployed (more than 9% of the workforce, according to official figures), the more than 10 million underemployed and the over 40 million people who depend on state subsidies. Furthermore, the Black, Latino, women and other oppressed working class and poor communities are the ones hurting the most from the recession and austerity.
We should also bring into account that austerity’s attacks on social services also have physical and mental effects on the working class and oppressed. These effects are seen today through the increased suicides in the US and the World (especially Europe and Asia), deteriorating health due to cuts in medical and health programs, and emotional damage due to cuts to preventive mental health and the stress caused by unemployment, precariousness of work, overwork, rising food and other basic necessities, among others.
In sum, the reality is that the US government and the American multinationals are going to continue to look for shortcuts for profit, and to increase the one they have found: the overexploitation and dispossession of working people, but this will not provide any economic or political stability in the long term. Though the working class was not the cause for this recession, the ruling class’ strategy of austerity in the next period will include cutting things like Social Security and massively reduced spending on lots of social programs.
Against the politics of austerity, we need to build an independent movement!
We must keep in mind that many of todays movements, like the labor movement and immigrant rights movement, are divided or in crisis due to their illusions in Obama and his continued strategy of “double-edged sword” policies, respectively, the sequester and recent immigration reform bill. His “double-edged sword” policies occur when he puts forward reforms and/or changes policies and gives one thing to one sector at the expense of another. This also helps add to the effect as if he’s changing things, but in essence he keeps things the same.
Nonetheless, we must continue to contest the concept of “shared sacrifice” that Obama and his allies have been relying on and has been successful & we cannot let folks settle for the status quo of cuts and austerity that divides us and prevents broad unity. Likewise, we must counter the discourse of the liberal and bourgeois media, specifically its attacks on unions, workers, immigrants, people of color, LGBT, and other oppressed sectors. We must continue to expose the contradictions of what Obama and the DP says it will do and what it does in reality. Likewise, we must champion the resistance of the workers from their traitorous labor leadership and to push for fighting, democratic and class independent unions. In sum, the attack on organized labor, the working class and oppressed is part of an attack on their consciousness in order to keep our class demobilized.
With the 2012 elections long over in people’s minds, now is the moment for the working class and social movements to begin regrouping to face the attacks of the government and the bosses. The Obama administration’s latest push of austerity package (1 $trillion in one decade) may increase workers and oppressed peoples experience and disillusionment in the government and the parties of austerity. Therefore, our main strategy for the next period is to overcome the three aforementioned obstacles that face us: 1) illusions in Obama’s government & 2) the lack of a working-class movement that is independent of the DP.
Our tactics must be flexible in overcoming these obstacles & we will need clear demands and slogans to mobilize our class. To this end, we need a party for our class to break with the Democrats and Republicans on a class basis with a true program for the workers, a party that is democratic, independent and built in the class struggle, but we need to have a political force in the movement pushing for this project consciously, join Workers Voice/ La Voz, so we can do it together!
Protect and Expand Earned Benefits—No Cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Other Safety Net Social Programs.
For a democratic, combative and independent working-class labor movement!
No confidence in Obama´s government! It is a government of the 1%, of the multinationals and corporations!
The Sequester (a.k.a. “the Grand Bargain”) was a bill that was originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), better known as the debt ceiling compromise. It was intended to serve as incentive for the “Super-committee” to come to a deal to cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years. Sequester cuts being planned “from 2014 to 2021…will cut $87 to $92 billion from the discretionary budget every year and $109 billion total”. Of course “defense discretionary spending” (weapons purchases, base operations, construction work) cuts were minimal compared to the others).
More information here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-02/five-years-after-crisis-no-normal-recovery.html