Fiscal axe aimed at Social Security

Struggle can still stop austerity cuts

As we write, the new year has begun. Congress has not yet voted on a new budget, but the “fiscal cliff” negotiations have reportedly led to agreement on raising income taxes of those making $400,000 and over by a few percent and raising the tax on their capital gains from a paltry 15 percent to 20 percent.

Even capitalist liberals, however, are admitting that the Obama administration did not get much from the Republican right wing and the billionaires behind them. Tax rates on the wealthy will still be much, much lower in the U.S. than in the other developed capitalist countries.

Raising taxes on the rich by a few percentage points is supposed to be the “sweetener” for what is to come next: the slashing of social programs relied on by the working class, including even funds like Social Security and Medicare that people pay into all their working lives. So far the politicians have agreed to delay imposing these cuts for a couple of months, but there can be no doubt of their intent.

While the final outcome of the much-proclaimed negotiations between the administration and Congress is yet to come, one thing should be crystal clear. The budget deficit blamed for the “cliff” is 100 percent a sham.

Last summer a study by the Tax Justice Network of the U.S. revealed that the billionaires of the world have stashed between $21 trillion and $32 trillion (when calculated in U.S. dollars) in hideaway bank accounts around the world, from Switzerland to Bermuda to the Cayman Islands. That averages out to $7,000 to $8,600 for every person living on the planet, more than most people around the world earn in a year.

This ocean of cash, produced by the global working class, is more than enough to remove the so-called deficit of every nation on the planet and to fund every social program desperately needed by the workers in this deepening capitalist economic crisis.

Of course, the U.S. government has borrowed and spent trillions of dollars on the bloody wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. At the same time, tax rates for the rich were slashed, while taxes for the workers have remained virtually the same.

When corporate and banking speculation triggered a financial collapse five years ago, the peoples’ treasuries of many countries, from Iceland to Greece to Portugal to the U.S. and more, were drained to fill the banks’ coffers.

Now these same banks and their political minions, rather than spend some of the money they have appropriated from hundreds of millions of workers around the world, are brazenly terrorizing workers to squeeze even more wealth by slashing our much-needed social programs like retirement, health and unemployment benefits, college aid programs and much more. Around the globe this is known as the infamous “austerity” program.

Why are they doing this? For the last 20 years advances in technology and vast new armies of low-wage workers have meant billions and billions in profits for the global corporations. At the same time the globalization of the job market has empowered them to slash the wages of workers in the U.S. as well as throw millions out of our jobs and our homes.

So they have hoarded this vast wealth, kept safe by their well-heeled millionaire servants in Congress — 47 percent of Congress are millionaires. (Center for Responsive Politics)

Why aren’t they investing much of it in new production? Because now that they have created this vast global system, it has become clear that they cannot sell all the goods and services the workers can produce — at least, not at prices that would produce the rate of profit the capitalist system demands. So they see the workers as a “burden” and are out to slash every hard-won gain, from pensions and health care and education to the right to unionize.

They must be made to know that these attacks on the workers will create even more resistance. The Occupy movement, with its focus on the immense wealth of the 1%, is already a testament to the rising tide of anger and organized resistance to the capitalist crisis. Mass worker demonstrations at state capitals in Wisconsin and Michigan have shown that a fightback spirit is rising. European workers have already begun continental campaigns of huge demonstrations and general strikes.

In the end, these issues will not be settled in the halls of the legislatures. They will be settled in the streets.