With the shutdown of the US government nearing, budget protests continue across the country. Four hundred people came to rally in Olympia to oppose state service cuts and to demand an end to state tax exemptions for things like plastic surgery, non-organic fertilizers and shoppers from out of state. To do anything else, the protesters say, would be to side with corporations instead of the people.
And speaking of unscrupulous corporate practices, US Uncut sent me a new flyer the group has been circulating to drive home the problem of tax dodging, particularly the evading practices of major corporations like GE, Bank of America, Verizon and Citigroup. US Uncut says this uncollected tax revenue could have gone toward things like job creation, early childhood programs, training for teachers and after-school programs.
Thousands of people converged on Texas’s Capitol yesterday to protest statewide cuts. In Texas, the hot-button issue of the moment is funding for public schools. Since the House budget failed to raise taxes, schools are now nearly $8 billion short of what state law requires (Medicaid is also underfunded by more than $4 billion). Some of the protesters included Catholic bishops from across the state who delivered the message that even though the state is short in revenue, “protecting human life is the most sacred responsibility lawmakers have.”
A group of Vassar and SUNY students travelled to the State Capitol in Albany yesterday to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget cuts to education and healthcare. The plan calls for a $1.2 billion reduction in state aid to local school districts and a $2.8 billion cut in Medicaid.
The protesters filled the Capitol and loudly chanted “Tax the rich, not the poor!” Though Vassar is not directly affected by the budget cuts, the students came out in solidarity for students who will suffer under the brunt of austerity. For example, SUNY lost $289 million from its operating budget, in addition to a prior loss of $1.4 billion in state aid accumulated over the past four years.
“When we were there we really realized that as Vassar kids we were not being affected by the budget cuts, but at the same time we came out of solidarity for other students” said Nicholas Korody ’13, one of the trip’s main organizers. “While the cuts don’t directly affect our lives, they affect society, and we belong to that society.”
Governor Scott’s decision to cut $170 million from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities brought out hundreds of protesters in St. Petersburg yesterday. Scott has also proposed $2 billion in tax breaks for—surprise—corporations and property owners.
Meanwhile, a majority of Americans prefer cutting defense spending to reduce the deficit rather than stealing retirees’ funds or axing health programs. Another poll conducted by 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair shows that 61 percent of Americans want taxes for the wealthy increased as a first step to addressing the deficit. The next most popular strategy is cutting defense spending.
Major networks like CNN are adhering to the tradition of false equivalency where the “fringe players” (those opposing all cuts to the poor and those demanding a complete shutdown of the government in lieu of more cuts) are presented as having equal power in Washington. That simply isn’t true. While Congress is implementing deep, radical cuts to the budget—Democrats have already agreed to $10 billion in “reductions” in addition to having “identified” about $13 billion more—no one is seriously talking about cutting defense or taxing the wealthy, despite the fact that a majority of Americans see that as a priority.