The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1037 — July 17 - 31, 2017

Capitalist Health Care:
Your Money or Your Life

Jul 17, 2017

The Republicans made the repeal of what they call “Obamacare” a main theme of their electoral campaign – for seven years they promised to get rid of it. Trump himself declared he would replace it with the best medical care anyone had ever seen and it would cover everyone.

So far, it hasn’t worked, even though Trump, the spoiled billionaire, is throwing his usual political tantrum, threatening to leave parts of the health care system to crash and burn, and telling the Republicans to practically blow apart the health care system.

If anything shows just how rotten the Republicans are, it is their plan to carry out massive cuts to health care spending, depriving tens of millions of people of vital health care, in order to turn that money over to the very wealthiest parts of the population and the big companies.

And if anything shows just how inhumane and cynical the Republicans are, it is how ready they are to play politics with the entire health care system, on which much of the population depends.

This puts the Democrats in a position to denounce and expose Republican maneuvers. But the Democrats certainly haven’t offered real medical care reform to working people.

Under Obama, the Democrats did pass a big health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which they promised would greatly extend health insurance to much of the uninsured, and improve health care to those who already had insurance. They extended Medicaid and set up health insurance exchanges run by the government.

But the 10 million working poor who got Medicaid coverage found that Medicaid coverage was severely limited. They had no access to doctors and hospitals they wanted to see or treatment they needed. As for the 10 million who went into the exchanges, they found that the system was so complicated and convoluted at every level, it was hard to get care, especially care that they could afford. And many resented the new government mandate that if they didn’t buy private insurance, the government would fine them.

The ACA didn’t come close to fulfilling all those promises that the Democrats made to the uninsured. This was not surprising, since the Democrats’ plan was written by the health insurance companies and big hospital groups as a way to assure them more paying customers and greater profits – while the costs that they imposed on the population skyrocketed. The ACA was simply built on top of the same, rotten profit-driven health care system.

And that’s the problem – profit.

That’s what’s really driving the skyrocketing cost of medical care: insurance company profits, pharmaceutical profits, doctor group profits, hospital company profits, various facility profits, etc. This is a system in which insurance companies take 25 or 30 cents of every dollar that people spend on health care, and then put up all kinds of barriers for people to actually get the treatment they need. In this system, drug companies often charge hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for a life saving treatment, and if someone can’t afford it, they can very easily be left to die. It is one more way the capitalist class holds the working population hostage. In medical care, it truly is: “your money or your life.”

Every single person in this country could have decent access to good medical care: good doctors, competent technicians, hospitals whose concern is the patient, etc. Remove profit from the system, and we would be a big step along the way to getting that.

This country spends two or three times as much on health care per person than does any other country, but we have much worse medical outcomes than any other developed country. Much worse.

Get rid of profit – it really is a case of “money or your life.” Their money – our lives.

Pages 2-3

Hand-in-Our-Pockets Hotel

Jul 17, 2017

Baltimore’s downtown Hilton Hotel has lost more than five million dollars this year – just as it has lost money every year since it opened in 2008. Three city administrations ago, Baltimore officials agreed to a deal with Hilton for its name to be on this hotel. City officials agreed to build the hotel with 300 million dollars in bonds. The bonds were supposed to be paid back out of revenues from the hotel.

But Hilton has never admitted that the hotel is making a profit. So the city pays the “deficit.” That means Baltimore taxpayers pay the “deficit.” Just as they pay for another part of the deal – a rebate of 93 % for the hotel’s four-million-dollars-a-year in property taxes. And Hilton also gets three million dollars a year for “managing” the hotel.

Hilton and the city may not call all this money a “profit” – but whatever they call it, it’s another way to dig into the pockets of Baltimore’s population to benefit Hilton Hotels.

An Expensive Drink of Water

Jul 17, 2017

Once again, water rates are rising for Baltimore, after a period in which what people paid had already increased 300%. And the cost, which also includes sewage rates, puts at least a thousand homeowners per year at risk of losing homes over unpaid water bills.

For decades homeowners and renters in Baltimore paid a “minimum” no matter how much water they actually used. In other words, small households subsidized the entire system. But that money was not used to maintain a system of water and sewage pipes put in 100 years ago.

So now, the new billing system forces everyone to pay a monthly fee of $27.40 for repairing the infrastructure. This fee alone is MORE than what a small household would pay for monthly water usage. No matter how little people wash or clean or flush, the fees are a large part of the water bill.

What have city officials done to the water system to “improve it”? First they charged everyone to switch to a new digital meter system and a new monthly billing system. Next they didn’t collect millions of dollars each year from some businesses. Best example: Bethlehem Steel went out of business leaving city residents stuck for seven million dollars in unpaid water bills. Nor did the city collect from subsequent steel owners using the old Bethlehem mills and equipment.

The city housing department cannot say whether there are 20,000 or 40,000 vacant homes, nor can they state how many are vacant. But a housing blogger estimates that HALF the empty properties in Baltimore are owned by real estate speculators, holding a property in hopes of making money when the area improves to allow building more expensive homes in the future. The city estimates it will lose two million dollars a year on these vacant properties getting a lower water rate.

And it is homeowners and renters who are left paying the bills.

More Michigan Pension Cuts

Jul 17, 2017

The latest rifle-volley against public education comes in the form of the “Public School Employees Retirement Act” signed into law by Governor Snyder in Michigan on July 13, 2017. This retiree plan is filled with complicated “hybrid” options for newly hired public school employees, dressed up to appear as if they have more retirement package “choices.” But its essential goal is to get rid of guaranteed pensions altogether.

And before the ink was dry on this attack on teacher pensions, legislators said they intend to try to extend these “changes” to other public employees, including police officers and firefighters as well as other city employees.

Like everywhere in the country, in Michigan, legislators had insisted that public school pension funds have become too expensive, and that they needed to address billions of dollars in unfunded liability in the teacher retirement system. But it’s these same politicians who have played roulette with the money that public school employees have paid into the state pension system. They took the money and ran to the stock market. They have used public school funds to fund charter schools, that don’t pay into the state-wide public school pension system. They continue to give tax breaks to corporations and real estate moguls, and then cry that public school employees and city workers are to blame for the financial “liabilities” in the state budget.

So while today it is public school employees under attack, other public employees’ guaranteed pensions are also in the bulls-eye. This new law is the shot over the bow. It’s a beginning of a new round of attacks that will only continue until teachers and firefighters and any other group of workers who come under attack find the way to defend themselves in this class battle.

Waiting For Jobs, and Hurting

Jul 17, 2017

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, recently acknowledged that the opioid epidemic is so serious that it is affecting the U.S. labor market.

This epidemic follows a major increase in painkiller prescriptions in the 1990s, followed by addiction to drugs like heroin and fentanyl – which is often deadly. Last year, about four times as many people died of overdoses as were killed in all homicides in the U.S.

While Yellen did not say that the crisis was caused by unemployment, she did link it directly to job opportunity decline. For a government official, that was as close as she would or could get. But we don’t need a U.S. bank official to explain that the two are connected.

In fact, in 2000, 219.4 million people had at least some work per week. In June 2017, only 204.7 million have any work at all — even just one hour a week! Nearly 15 million jobs have completely vanished, with others disintegrating into part-time. We are short 22 million full-time jobs.

The unemployment crisis hit a long time before the opioid crisis. It hurts to be out of work, without a paycheck for your family. No wonder that so many try to block out the pain, while they wait for something to happen.

Pages 4-5

Detroit 1967:
The Festival of the Oppressed

Jul 17, 2017

When Floyd McKissick, head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), compiled a list of the 12 cities where riots could break out in 1967, Detroit wasn’t on that list. Harlem and Philadelphia had exploded in 1964, Watts in 1965, Cleveland in 1966 – and along with them, dozens of other communities in Northern cities.

But Detroit was supposed to be different: a “model city,” a good place for black people to live. It had a liberal mayor, Jerry Cavanagh, who marched up Woodward Avenue with Dr. Martin Luther King and 125,000 other people in the 1963 Detroit March to Freedom. It had a union, the UAW, which was supposed to be leading the fight against racism in labor. And it had a “reform” police commissioner, who was supposed to be overhauling a 95% white police department that had been known for its brutality, especially against black people.

In 1965, after Watts, Cavanagh would blindly declare: “That kind of thing can’t happen here.”

Can’t happen in Detroit? Well, of course, it could. And did. Before it was over, the Detroit rebellion of 1967 would become the largest, most destructive and deadliest of any uprising in 20th century America. At least 43 people were killed, and 347 injured. These were official figures, undoubtedly understated. Over 1300 buildings were destroyed, and 2700 businesses sacked. Property loss was estimated to be half a billion dollars – more than 12 times the loss in Watts. These are the numbers, but they don’t tell the human and social story of the Detroit insurrection of 1967.

“Model City”? No, Model Powder Keg

Unemployment was rampant in Detroit’s black neighborhoods, low wages endemic. The police were an every-day occupying army. The UAW, whose head marched in civil rights demonstrations, steadily ignored the fact that black workers were confined to the dirtiest, hardest jobs in industry – in the forge, foundry and labor pools – IF they were hired. They were, for all practical purposes, excluded from the skilled trades.

They were directly ruled by a white political structure, controlled by white police, and “represented” by a white-run union.

But the issue went far beyond what Detroiters confronted in their own city in 1967. Families remembered great grandparents who were enslaved and grandparents who worked themselves to the bone as sharecroppers. Their parents came North to get jobs during the world wars – only to find themselves tossed aside when the war was over. They were sent off to die in wars for a “democracy” that had no intention of granting them simple, basic democratic rights.

An enormous powder keg of grievances had accumulated. On Saturday, July 22, 1967, it took only an “ordinary” incident of police brutality to set it off.

The Fire This Time

Police raided an after-hours bar on 12th Street and Clairmont, where 82 people were celebrating the safe return of two soldiers from Viet Nam. All of them – including the soldiers – were man-handled into police vehicles.

People had seen it all before, again and again. But this time, several thousand people gathered on 12th Street.

A police commando unit swept down the street in a large wedge, pushing people off the street. The crowd parted – only to form up right behind the cops, gathering in more people.

The police began to cede ground, first giving up a 16-square block area, waiting for the passions of the crowd to die out on an early Sunday morning. That’s what the police had done in 1966 after an incident of police brutality on Kercheval, over on the East Side. In 1966, people blew off steam and went home.

But the crowds grew larger in ‘67. Cops, vastly outnumbered, stood by the stores as people walked in, right past them. People needed and wanted things, and they grabbed them up. Other streets came alive: Linwood, Dexter, Grand River. Time Magazine talked about the “carnival spirit” that overtook the growing crowds. People were laughing, joking, dancing a few steps, calling on friends and neighbors to come on down.

Black politicians, black educators, black police officials were called on to “talk sense” to the crowds. Sam Johnson, in his book, A Fighter All My Life, described what happened:

“Congressman John Conyers was up there on 12th Street telling people, ‘We got to bring this to a halt. We got to stop this’....

“The young people that were there, most of them teenagers, yelled at him: ‘Uncle Tom, where was you when we needed you? We don’t need you now.’ Boom. They started throwing rocks and bottles. The car he was in, his chauffeur took off.”

Groups of young people moved down the streets, setting fire to many of the stores that had been emptied. Sometimes, they even rushed ahead of people trying to get in. Others had to tell them, “Wait, people need these things.”

“They’re setting fire to their own neighborhood” – so said the radio and TV commentators, scorn filling their voices.

No, it wasn’t their neighborhood they were setting fire to. They were torching the little groceries that charged them outrageously high prices for spoiled food, and the check-cashing places that took a big chunk out of their paycheck. Their resentments flared up at a fire department that came too late when their homes were burning. They were attacking a police department that had made no effort to prosecute four young white men who beat a black Viet Nam vet to death in front of his pregnant wife – the same police department that took its pleasure in rousting out black people celebrating a soldier’s return.

By the end of the first day the police had been forced to withdraw from a 10-square mile area on the West Side. By the end of the second day, 14 square miles had been scoured by fire.

Before the insurrection ran its course five days later, it would stretch almost up to the Northland shopping center, outside of Detroit’s northern border on the west side. It would hop-skip-and-jump across Grand Boulevard down into an area where white people, facing many of the same issues caused by poverty, joined in. It flooded across four miles of Woodward, the street that divides the city east from west. It ran up Hamilton Avenue in Highland Park and touched Hamtramck, two “suburbs” entirely within the borders of Detroit. Jumping into the lower east side area, which had been “cooled down” in 1966, it reached over to Gratiot Avenue.

Factories and offices were closed starting on the second day. For the rest of the week, downtown was empty, freeways deserted. The capitalist owners of big industry, along with their servants in government, woke up to the realization they were powerless to deal with masses of people in revolt.

If people retreated to their homes after five days, it was because they saw nothing else to do – NOT because the cops, state police, sheriffs, National Guard and the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had battered them into submission.

They maintained for a whole period a feeling of their strength, a feeling that would exhibit itself over and over in the factories, other workplaces and in the neighborhoods.

They had lived through what Lenin, under other circumstances, had called “the festival of the oppressed.”

They Will Be Heard

Five years before the Detroit uprising, James Baldwin had written two essays, published as a book, The Fire Next Time. Among other things, he said: “The brutality with which Negroes are treated in this country simply cannot be overstated, however unwilling white men may be to hear it.”

The uprising of 1967 was a declaration that people would be heard.

The capitalist class certainly heard – and moved to appease and divert that anger. The auto companies set up hiring halls on 12th Street – which was quickly renamed Rosa Parks Boulevard. Within nine months, 28,000 people had been hired by the three auto companies, and Michigan Bell, Detroit Edison and Hudson’s Department Store. Almost as many got jobs with the city, county and state.

The federal government’s housing agency, HUD, opened the spigot on mortgage money, letting people buy the house they were renting. Medical care was extended through Medicare and Medicaid.

By 1970, the gaps between black and white unemployment, between black and white wages began to narrow.

The capitalist class also sought out a new layer of black politicians – mostly Democrats – to mediate with the black masses.

Capitalism’s Twins: Racism, Exploitation

By the next recessions – 1974-75, and 1979-81 – American capitalism was mired in a crisis it couldn’t get out of.

And with the receding of the movement, all the old functioning reappeared. “Last-hired-first-fired” meant black workers were out on the street again. The HUD mortgages didn’t mean much if you didn’t have a job and wages to pay off the note.

Black men and women had been hired as cops, but this did not change their basic function: to contain any revolt of the poor. And to mark that, cops who had openly committed crimes during the five days in 1967 were completely exonerated. The three car loads of cops who broke into and destroyed Ed Vaughn’s bookstore during the curfew weren’t even charged. The deputies and security guards who had held five young black men hostage, before murdering three of them in the Algiers Motel, weren’t charged. The streets were thrown wide open for heroin, with cops at the very least turning a blind eye on the traffic, when not being an integral part of it themselves.

The black Democrats, who took over just when budgets were being cut, were put in charge to ease the cuts through.

As one recession followed another, as plants closed in the city, only to open in the suburbs, the situation of the black population grew measurably worse. Median income of black Detroiters went from 74% of white income in 1970 to only 56% today (2014). The level of black poverty doubled, going from 20% to 41%.

Of course, the Detroit area isn’t what it was. Many black people in the middle class found their way into the suburbs, as did a certain number of black workers. The poorest were left in the city, only to see the city being rebuilt in some areas – for young middle class people who flood in to take advantage of this “new Detroit.”

The decades-long destruction of Detroit is not the result of the insurrection – a charge always thrown against the people who revolted. It has been caused by the normal functioning of capitalism, in a period of crisis.

The concessions granted to the black population of Detroit in the late 1960s and early 1970s were a temporary expedient, aimed at letting the American capitalist class get beyond the challenge once posed to its control by the urban uprisings.

The concessions that were taken back were simply proof that capitalist exploitation still exists – in a society where racism has always been inextricably linked with exploitation.

Few of those who went out into the street in revolt in the 1960s saw the link between the functioning of capitalism and racism. But they understood that power concedes nothing unless it is forced to. And they saw power concede to them. They did feel their own strength for a while – the strength that masses of people can have when joined in a common struggle.

That is the real meaning of Detroit, 1967. And it’s on that, the future can be built. The next time, however, it is necessary not only to shake the capitalist class and their system. It’s necessary to uproot them, throw them out, when the mass of the people once again gain the upper hand in the streets.

Pages 6-7

Struggle Pays Off in French Guiana

Jul 17, 2017

After ten weeks, the workers at the André-Rosemond hospital in Cayenne won their strike.

During the general strike in French Guiana, they were also on strike, but they continued the strike after the other strikers went back to work because their demands were not sufficiently met. They were financially supported by the main union in the country, the UTG (Union of Workers of Guiana), against an absolutely untenable situation. The hospital was so short of material and workers that it was not functional.

On June 6, French President Macron sent a group of Human Resources experts to Cayenne. Negotiations started soon after, and on June 9, the strikers signed a deal to end the conflict with the regional health agency and the emissaries of the government. The strikers won the hiring of 110 new workers. They also got 400 temp workers made permanent, at the rate of 75 per year starting now. The strikers gained 200 new workers immediately, after management had proposed adding just 36!

The agreement also included the creation of a hospital at Saint-Georges de l’Oyapock, a town on the border with Brazil, and another at Maripasoula in the Haut-Maroni, at the border with Surinam, and the advance of a project to create a major university hospital in Cayenne. The 20 million euros promised in total by the agreement at the end of the general strike were immediately disbursed.

The long struggle of the hospital workers has certainly paid off. It must be said that in the days before the agreement, a demonstration in support of the strikers took place in the streets of Cayenne. On June 6, demonstrators blocked the tax center in Cayenne. Many were arrested by the police and held for six hours. At the time, the UTG threatened the authorities with the call for a new general strike.

The tenacity of the hospital workers inspired the solidarity growing in the population. The threat of a new social explosion scared the government into realizing that it had to give in, and fast! This is the only language that these type of people understand.

The Banana Workers Have Won!

Jul 17, 2017

This article is translated from the July 7 issue of Lutte Ouvrière, the paper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

After 42 days on strike, the banana workers of Guadeloupe have made the bosses give in. Wednesday, June 28, they agreed to pay the workers what they owed them for holiday pay, overtime, and other things.

The strike committee already made sure that a calculation was made for each worker for what was owed for the last three years. For some, this came to a few thousand euros. The bosses also agreed to pay for the days of strike and they made a first payment of 700 euros to the workers on Monday, July 3.

They also agreed on some first steps to improve the terrible conditions of work in the banana plantations. These were not totally won in the agreement, but it’s certain that nothing will be like it was before the strike.

This is a real victory for the workers and their strike committee, supported by the CGTG (a union federation).

If the banana bosses finally gave in, it was because the strike really hit them where it hurts: in their wallets. Bananas were not being exported in high enough numbers. They were rotting on the ground or in the containers that couldn’t leave. Twenty plantations were on strike and there weren’t enough non-strikers to cut, move, and export the bananas. The bosses who pretended at first that there was no strike finally recognized all this officially.

The strikers won because of the tactic of the “marching strike.” Every morning between 150 and 250 of the strikers met at 5 to go to the plantations and talk to the non-strikers and, every time, some of these joined them. One of the most fruitful actions was when they hit the boss of the bosses: the president of “Synproban” (the union of banana producers), Francis Lignières. The marching strike went to his plantation and made many stops, pulling workers out on strike with them. They camped at least two nights in that area. His plantation was blocked. This was the decisive action.

The third and fourth day of negotiations, almost 400 workers went to support their delegation. On their return and at the reading of the agreement, there was an enormous amount of enthusiasm and the workers lifted our comrade, Jean-Marie Nomertin, on their shoulders. On Thursday, June 29 in the evening, a meeting of strikers enthusiastically marched to Capesterre-Belle-Eau.

The determination of the strikers paid off. But all are aware that they must remain alert to make sure the agreement is actually carried out. The day after the strike many dozens of workers went to certain plantations where the bosses had threatened to fire some workers. They made the bosses take back these threats.

Monday, July 3, the majority of bosses paid the 700 euros or a first part of it. One of the most repressive bosses refused to pay. But the workers think he won’t have a choice and they are confident that if they reinforce their watchfulness, he will pay under pressure.

New meetings will happen in the coming days to control the application of the agreement.

Russian Revolution:
The July Days

Jul 17, 2017

This article continues our series on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, taken from the words of participants.

As Trotsky writes, “The demonstration of June 18th had revealed to everybody that the government was without support. ‘Why don’t they get busy up there?’ the soldiers and workers would ask, having in mind not only the compromise leaders but also the governing bodies of the Bolsheviks.” However, the Bolsheviks thought that an insurrection of the proletariat would be premature. Outside of Petrograd and Moscow, the masses had not become entirely conscious of the stalemate to which the opportunist policy of the SRs and Mensheviks had led. Therefore, the Bolsheviks struggled to contain Petrograd's impatience.

“On the morning of July 3rd, several thousand machine-gunners, after breaking up a meeting of the company and regimental committees of their regiment, elected a chairman of their own and demanded immediate consideration of the question of an armed manifestation.” A worker from the Renault factory recounts: “After dinner, a number of machine gun men came running with the request that we give them some motor trucks. … They promptly loaded the trucks with ‘Maxims’ (machine guns) and drove down the Nevsky. At this point we could no longer restrain our workers.” At the Putilov Factory, “to shouts of encouragement, the machine-gunners told how they had received an order to go to the front on the 4th of July, but they had decided ‘to go not to the German front, against the German proletariat, but against their own capitalist ministers.’”

The Bolshevik worker Shliapnikov also reports: “Workers converged from all sides on the Bolshoi Sampsonievsky Prospekt, forming a crowd of demonstrators over ten thousand strong. Revolutionary songs began, red banners and kerchiefs were waved. The police locked themselves up in their station. Speakers got up appealing for armed struggle and the overthrow of czarism. Trams in the Vyborg district were halted and for over an hour workers moved through the streets to the sound of revolutionary songs.”

Repeated clashes with the police and the cossacks did not discourage the demonstrators. Trotsky writes: “By seven o’clock, the industrial life of the capital was at a complete standstill. Factory after factory came out, lined up and armed its detachment of the Red Guard.”

For their part, the Bolsheviks decided not to simply allow the repression to pour down on the workers and soldiers, but to take the head of the demonstrations that would take place the following day, which strengthened the confidence of all.

The Role of the Bolshevik Party

On July 4th, a half-million people took part in an armed demonstration: “The ‘mutinous’ troops came out of the barracks in companies and battalions, taking possession of the streets and squares,” Trotsky writes. “Today’s movement was more impressive and organized than yesterday’s: the guiding hand of the party was evident. But the feeling too was hotter today. The soldiers and workers were out for a solution of the crisis.”

It wasn't long before provocations began to break out. “Merchants furiously attacked the workers in those parts of the town where they felt strong, and ruthlessly beat them up.” Machine gun shots fired from windows fell on the procession. Cossacks charged the crowd. Among the Kronstadt sailors, the Bolshevik Raskolnikov recounts: “The soldiers seized their rifles. Disorderly firing began in all directions. Several were killed and wounded. … The procession again moved forward with music, but not a trace was left of its holiday spirit.” Trotsky adds: “Rifles no longer rested peacefully on the left shoulder, but were held ready for action.”

However, the demonstrators soon realized that they were in an impossible situation. Trotsky writes: “The masses ebbed back into the suburbs, and they cherished no intention of renewing the struggle on the following day. They felt that the problem of ‘Power to the Soviets’ was considerably more complicated than had appeared. … Many still cherished the illusion that everything could be obtained by words and demonstrations – that by frightening the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries you could get them to carry out a common policy with the Bolsheviks.”

The Proletariat Lost a Battle But Was Not Defeated

On July 5th, the troops ransacked the editorial office of Pravda, the Bolshevik newspaper. On the morning of the 6th, while work was gradually resuming, “A young worker, Voinov, who was distributing the Pravda Leaflet, published in place of the destroyed Bolshevik paper, was killed in the streets …. The elements of the reaction, the Black Hundreds, were acquiring a taste for the putting down of revolts. Plundering, violence, and in some places shooting continued in different parts of the city.”

Nevertheless, the Bolshevik Party, by taking the head of the Petrograd proletariat, was able to avoid the worst. The proletariat had lost a battle, but its forces were for the most part intact. Trotsky concludes: “The value of a close-knit vanguard was first fully manifested in the July Days, when the party – at great cost – defended the proletariat from defeat, and safeguarded its own future revolution.”

For the bourgeoisie, the July Days were supposed to be the prelude to crushing the revolutionary proletariat. For the proletariat, they were to be the prelude to its seizure of power four months later, in October.

Page 8

Illinois Budget Makes Workers Pay

Jul 17, 2017

After more than two years, Illinois finally has a budget. The Democrats who control the state house aided by a few “moderate” Republicans passed it over the veto of the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner.

This new budget will be paid for by a big tax hike on ordinary people: The state income tax rate is going up from 3.75% to 4.95%. For a single adult making $40,000 a year, this will cost an extra 454 dollars. They also made a big show of raising the corporate tax rate – but in reality, about 70 percent of businesses that filed a state income tax return in Illinois paid NO corporate income tax.

The state has already used the budget crisis to shred services. Illinois owes 15 billion dollars to hospitals and service providers. Many non-profit organizations like Meals on Wheels, domestic violence shelters and children’s nutrition programs have closed up shop or dramatically reduced services because they weren’t getting paid.

Education in Illinois has also been rocked, especially in working class and poor areas that rely more heavily on state help. And while the more prestigious colleges like the University of Illinois have been hurt, the community colleges and universities that mostly serve working class people have been pushed to the brink.

Because of the lack of state money, towns and cities have also had to slash services for all kinds of things like 911 emergency services, or raise taxes, or do both.

The new budget doesn’t solve these problems, it just makes official many of the cuts that have already taken place. The state still doesn’t have the money to pay off all its unpaid bills. State colleges and universities face a ten percent budget cut which means college will be even less affordable for working class people. And the new budget doesn’t even resolve how the state will fund k-12 schools next year!

Both parties agree that the state budget is still a mess – so they warn us to get ready for more cuts, and more tax hikes too.

Republican Rauner is blaming the tax-hike on the Democrats. The Democrats are bragging that they “protected” workers and the poor in Illinois from even more draconian cuts. In reality, both parties have used the budget crisis to attack working people. They created this crisis by handing over the state’s money to the big corporations and the wealthy. And then they make us pay for it in cuts to vital services AND with higher taxes.

Prejudiced Teacher Hiring in Northern Virginia

Jul 17, 2017

Black teachers applying for public school teaching jobs in Fairfax County, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., were less than half as likely to be offered a job as white teachers were, according to a recent study of a year’s hiring.

Black applicants were 13 percent of the nearly 12,000 people who applied, but got only six percent of the job offers. White applicants were 70 percent of the people applying, but got 77 percent of the offers. It didn’t matter that the black applicants on average had two years more teaching experience than the white applicants and were more likely to have a master’s or doctor’s degree. The researchers looked at many factors like where the applicants had studied, taught, and lived. But they found that what mattered most was the color of the applicants’ skin. The white applicants were twice as likely to be offered a job.

This racial bias explains how in a state like Virginia, where almost one-quarter of the students are black, only one-tenth of the teachers are black. And around the country, 16 percent of students are black, but fewer than seven percent of teachers are black.

Keeping teaching jobs out of reach for qualified people -- another poisonous side of racism.

Big News Eats Little News

Jul 17, 2017

Management of the Baltimore Sunpapers claims they have been planning to shut down the local City Paper that they bought three years ago. They claim the paper is not a good investment any longer.

But is it a complete coincidence that news of this shut-down came to the staff at the very moment they told management they were joining a union for journalists?

The City Paper has entertained Baltimoreans with local news and local cartoonists, culture reviews and listings, restaurant reviews, Best of Baltimore selections and some reporting that could be called “thumb in the eye” of the city politicians and business owners. Or as one sad reader put it, “ … it’s an honest rag with honest to goodness reporting rather than regurgitated press releases” – which is a description of what has happened to the daily paper as more and more journalists left or were laid off.

L.A. Country Clubs Pay No Property Taxes

Jul 17, 2017

Los Angeles has much less park land than other U.S. cities. When you fly over Los Angeles, the only green spaces you see belong to cemeteries and huge private golf clubs like the Los Angeles Country Club, the Bel-Air Country Club and the Brentwood Country Club. There are nine luxury country clubs in the city of Los Angeles. One of them, the Brentwood Country Club, covers 5.6 million square feet of green land and is easily visible from space.

Since the 1960s, politicians at the state and local levels have passed laws and ordinances that have allowed these country clubs to escape paying property taxes, despite how valuable their land is. The Los Angeles Country Club, for example, pays only $200,000 per year in property taxes, when it should pay $90 million per year – a tax savings of more than 99 per cent!

Membership to one of these exclusive clubs costs $250,000 per year. So, no workers need apply.

No green areas for the public – just playgrounds for the super rich. Workers even foot the bill for rich people's entertainment and socializing!