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United States

Give the Damned Money Back!

By Bonnie Weinstein

A February 17, 2010 Associated Press article that appeared in the New York Times titled, “European Union Sets Deadline for Greece to Make Cuts.” It said: “European finance ministers gave the Greek government on Tuesday just a month to show it is making drastic budget cuts in a bid to calm markets and stop Athen’s debt crisis from spreading to other countries. ‚ĶEuro-zone finance ministers said Monday that they want the Greek government to ready new spending cuts, increase sales and energy taxes and impose new levies on luxury goods, including cars if it cannot by mid-March show that it is making hefty deficit reductions. Greece has promised it will take such extra measures if it has to in order to restore its credibility, shattered by news that it falsified statistics to make its deficit look smaller last year, and that it used complex financial deals to massage figures dating back to 2001.”

In other words, if the Greek Government, after lying and cheating on financial deals doesn’t squeeze more money out of its workers, The European Union ain’t gonna help!

But really, what does that mean?

This is no different than what’s happening here in the U.S. just as it’s happening in capitalist countries around the globe. Through fraud, fakery and debauchery the capitalists around the globe have stolen huge amounts—not just by exploiting workers who create the products that bring in the profits—but by charging over-inflated prices for products that are worth far less.

Of course, the U.S. government can also credit itself with spending tens-of-trillions on wars, occupations and military bases around the world as well as bailouts for the wealthy.

In communities across the country workers are finding out first hand all about over-inflated prices like on housing. All the little “concrete mansions” built recently in “bedroom communities” around the country—originally built as “disposable housing”—are already falling apart. With concrete walls and concrete floors that crack and crumble; and downright faulty appliances that have to be replaced immediately after you move in; these homes were way overpriced from the get-go, and the banks knew it.

For most workers, this meant moving from the city into a suburb that entails an hour or more commute-time and more mileage on your car. Not just to get to jobs. These communities have virtually no public transportation system so workers have to haul their kids around everywhere. Distances in these suburbs are made for driving, not for walking.

Not to mention the role these suburban housing developments played in urban gentrification, i.e. Black and Brown removal and dispersal!

Those homes, now going unsold for $125,000 were sold to anxious-to-buy potential homeowners for $550,000 and up! And they bought them because they could! Because the banks sold it to them knowing they would not be able to afford it in the long run! And because they had nothing to lose, and tens-of-billions of dollars in profits to gain.

Families moved to the suburbs by the droves optimistic that they could maintain their $3500.00 monthly mortgage payments—not including utilities. After all, they did have jobs at the time. And they underestimated the hardship that having no public transportation would have on them.

Banks targeted urban areas that still had relatively large numbers of Black and Brown homeowners, but who were also in debt. The banks bought their homes with high property values, such as in the predominantly Black Bayview/Hunters’ Point district of San Francisco, for a steal—for what would become a down payment on a “new home in the suburbs” for the former San Francisco homeowner—yet with much more owed to the banks once the deal was sealed!

But the bottom line is, the banks knew that those houses in the suburbs were not worth that kind of money. They’re not stupid. Now millions are in foreclosure and many more are barely hanging on waiting for the roof to fall in—literally and figuratively.

How is this not a criminal offence—a swindle, a fraudulent conspiracy between the banks and government? And, if so, why can’t they be forced to give the damned money back to those they stole it from?

Here are some ways workers could get their money back

First and foremost is to end all the wars, close all the U.S. military bases and bring all the troops and mercenary contractors back immediately and turn the Pentagon budget into a human needs budget. All bailouts to the wealthy should immediately be paid back with interest!

All mortgages should be cut to the actual value of the home. If a family purchased a home for $550,000 and it’s only worth $150,000, then their mortgage owed to the bank should drop to $150,000 minus any mortgage payments already made. Workers have been ripped-off long enough.

Tax the rich

All social services including comprehensive healthcare should be provided free of charge to all. It should be paid for by a progressive tax on corporate profits and on individuals with an income over $250,000 per year.

According to FactCheck.org, “Roughly one in 50 households take in more than $250,000 a year.” That’s two percent or less of households that would be affected by this progressive taxation. (Median yearly household income in the U.S. is around $50,000. That means that about half earn under $50,000 and half earn over $50,000.) According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 0.02 percent of households (that’s two-tenths of one percent of households) earn over one million dollars a year. And, according to taxfoundation.org, the people with the top 32 percent of incomes pay no taxes at all! This must be immediately turned around.

The amount of the progressive tax should be scaled to the cost of rebuilding and hiring people for a Public Works government program of rebuilding infrastructure such as hospitals and healthcare, schools, bridges, roads, mass transportation, alternative power sources and even for rebuilding homes in case of a natural disaster. And to pay for the repair of all the damages that U.S. wars and occupations have inflicted around the world.

How to provide enough jobs
for everyone

The progressive tax should also be tied to providing jobs to the unemployed in the form of instituting across-the-board at every workplace, a sliding scale of wages and hours.

That is, in order to employ the unemployed, workers’ hours will be scaled down with no reduction in their pay in order to employ more workers. That, along with massive rebuilding of infrastructure, will make a job available to anyone who needs one.

This will also require a massive growth in education to train qualified people to fulfill these jobs.

All students should be provided an education through university level and beyond and the means to complete it—food, housing, healthcare, etc.—free of charge so they can concentrate on their studies and become the best they can be.

Wage scales

Wages should be scaled to true inflation. It should be tied to how much all the basic necessities of life cost—the milk, food, toothbrushes, clothes, shoes, sheets, towels, transportation, etc.

There should be no taxes on earnings of less than $250,000 per year. And there should be no hidden taxes such as parking meters, tickets, etc., (drunk and dangerous drivers should not be allowed to drive until sober or retrained effectively, of course.)

All utility bills, cable and Internet bills should be free as they have become a part of modern communication and belong to everyone. Again this should be paid for by a progressive tax structure—tax the rich; it’s workers’ money anyway!

Workers must take control of their lives worldwide

In order to maintain these very democratic, progressive, pro-labor (98 percent of working people don’t earn more than $250,000 per year) tax and employment initiatives, workers must become organized on the job independently of their employers.

Workers must assume the right to join or form a union by a majority of signatures of employees on a job. These organizations should be run democratically and no elected union official should earn more than the average pay of the workers they represent. Only in this way will union officials truly understand the needs of their membership.

To make each and every one of these worker’s organization powerful and capable of enforcing these pro-labor initiatives, all worker’s organizations should be united together in a broad, representational, democratically run political organization that would function entirely independently of the employers and with the avowed mission to fight and defend—to withhold their labor in a general strike if necessary—any and all who are a part of their united front of working people anywhere in the world; and whenever working people are under attack, suffering or threatened by the state or the employer.

Workers have been robbed long enough and need payback!

Workers must stand up and fight for what has been stolen from them for centuries. Workers are all colors, all beliefs, and all sexual identities. Workers constitute the overwhelming majority of humanity.

Workers do have the power to enforce these pro-labor initiatives if they can stick together and recognize that it is the system of capitalism, that holds private profit and wealth above all else, that is the cause of all human strife and suffering.

Capitalism stands in the way of humanitarian efforts even in a time of horrific natural disasters like Haiti or Katrina. They have shown this over and over again just this last decade!

Capitalism’s plunder of the environment; its filthy oil spills; massive generation of waste due to such things as excessive packaging; its mountain and forest removal; its poisonous silver and gold mines; its murderous diamond mines; must be handed over to the workers to run safely and fairly.

Lives lost must be compensated for to the family members who have suffered the loss. The massive expense of compensation and clean up must come out of the pockets of big business, not the pockets of working people. Not out of the pockets of the families of those who lost their lives digging diamonds and gold for the wealthy!

Children in poverty also live in war zones. The poor steal from the poor because the rich are protected in their homes and the poor have nowhere else to steal from. (Ask any teenage girl who tried to steal a lipstick from the drugstore. You get caught most of the time and they “prosecute” to the fullest extent of the law these days.)

Workers have been cheated and lied to; propagandized to death; pitted against each other; manipulated; bullied and imprisoned; and now they are watching their children being thrust into abject poverty with no future to look forward to and shorter lives to live.

That’s the nature of capitalism and the purpose it serves—to criminalize masses of people, turn them against one another and collectively hold them responsible for their own poverty.

That’s what inner-turf and so-called gang wars are about because they are unjust. All sides suffer living amidst the violence brought on by poverty.

So, even if they’re lucky enough to dodge a bullet, working-class youth—especially the poorest, non-white, and undocumented youth—are still more likely to land in jail than land a good-paying job or graduate from college.

Workers are experiencing this now on a vastly wider scale. They are watching their children suffer while billionaires are bailed out and the wars are financed by the taxes and fees workers are forced to pay and that are automatically taken from their paychecks by those very same capitalist thieves!

What can we do?

The above points are raised as a few of workers’ common concerns and some practical solutions to the problems they face today. There are many more solutions that can be put forward by working people planning together independently of the capitalists.

The statistics showing the ratio between the wealthy and the poor is irrefutable. The wealthiest ruling elite makes up less than two-tenths of one-percent of the population yet owns and controls 98 percent of the wealth that working people produce.

The solution to the economic crisis that working people face today could be solved simply—the capitalists must be made to pay back the damned money they stole; turn their 28-room mansions into schools and homes for the homeless; then go get a real job like everybody else!