There’s something sick about a politics that tells children to give up their lunch money so that billionaire speculators can avoid paying taxes. And that sickness will only be cured by a new politics.
That new politics begins this week in Chicago.
The proponents of austerity—from Madison to Washington to Berlin to Athens—would have us believe that nations, states and communities must sacrifice public education, public services and healthcare in order to balance budgets. Yet the same politicians who preach that there is no money for vaccinations and school lunches can always find the money for corporate tax breaks, payouts to defense contractors and wars of whim.
Politicians in both parties tell austerity lies.
But the people are pushing back.
There’s an uprising brewing, not just in Europe but in American states such as Wisconsin and Ohio. There’s a dawning recognition that it is neither morally nor fiscally prudent to sacrifice human needs in order to pay for wars—or to redistribute more of the wealth upward. We do not need “shared sacrifice” and the lie of austerity. We need new priorities.
That’s the message behind the May 18 “Heal the World” rally in Chicago, where I’ll join National Nurses United executive director Rose Ann DeMoro, musician Tom Morello and others in advocating for a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculation.
NNU is rallying in Chicago because that’s where the G-8 Summit was supposed to be held, before the leaders of the planet’s wealthiest nations decided to avoid the “street heat” that was being generated in support of a financial transactions tax. Now, they’ll gather at Camp David—where security will be tighter. But the Robin Hood Tax, which takes a small chunk of change on each transaction by rich speculators and gives to programs that serve the great mass of people, will stll be mentioned at Camp David. Newly elected French President François Hollande is likely to bring it the increasingly popular proposal, as may German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In Chicago, the battle cry against austerity will be raised his weekend, along with criticisms of the broken priorities that have turned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into a vehicle for maintaining the occupation of Afghanistan.
Many of the activists who will rally with the NNU will also rally Sunday in protest of NATO policies. The causes are related, as they both address the question of budget priorities. Indeed, one of the key backers of the protests, Progressive Democrats of America, has mounted a “Health Care Not Warfare” campaign that brings the messages together.
There is a new politics afoot in America, a politics that challenges the lie of austerity and the lie that says unlimited military spending is necessary. As Americans and their allies from around the world rally, march and vote to put human needs ahead of corporate greed and the military-industrial complex about which President Eisenhower warned, it is no surprise that activist unions such as NNU and their allies in groups such as PDA will be in the thick of it.
These are groups that understand that the next politics requires an inside-outside strategy that challenges the lie of austerity and the lies that lead to wars of whim. Those challenges must play out inside existing political parties, and outside them; in the corridors of power and in the streets. That next politics will be on display in Chicago on May 18. But it won’t stop there.
The uprising has begun, and it’s spreading.