Aug 24, 2020
The following article was the editorial in SPARK workplace newsletters of August 17.
The headlines proclaimed it: fewer than a million people signed up for unemployment benefits last week. You would have thought the economy was in great shape.
Nothing of the kind. Yes, less than a million people signed up for the first time, because already thirty some million had already signed up. There are tens of millions of people out of work today. Unemployment continues at a level not seen since the Great Depression.
The same government, which was unable to organize the simplest public health measures to prevent a rapid spread of coronavirus, today is unable to organize the simplest measures to make the economy run again.
Government may not be the main cause of the unemployment. But there are many things, basic things, that government could do to overcome it. First of all, government—if it were controlled by the population—would hire workers to staff the public services we desperately need today.
But this government—which is controlled by the capitalist class—continues to cut services. Every government, going back decades, has starved public services for the funds that are needed.
Every one of us is touched by those cuts. The Post Office can’t deliver the mail on time—so we don’t get our medications when we need them and important legal papers don’t arrive in time, if at all. Dams collapse, taking out people’s homes. Water systems are left to rot so our kids are poisoned with lead. Sewage runs untreated into waterways. A whole town is destroyed by fire. Public transit stagnates. Highways left unrepaired take years off our cars’ suspension systems.
Today, we are beset by a spreading coronavirus epidemic because public health departments didn’t have the resources they needed to do basic research and simple testing, as well as provide protection for health care workers.
Behind all these examples, there is the same simple cause. Money that should have gone to public services instead went to big corporations in the form of subsidies, tax breaks and outright gifts. Money that should have gone to public school education for all children went to still more tax breaks to the very wealthiest people in the country. Money that should have gone to the medical needs of the population instead went to the big banks and real estate speculators.
In other words, public money that should have gone to serve the whole population instead went to a tiny capitalist class.
The defunding of public services meant that fewer workers were hired to carry out those services. Government added to the unemployment.
It’s not a question of Trump or Obama, Bush or Clinton, Republican or Democrat. No matter who was running the government, public services were being defunded. Useful jobs were eliminated.
The government of this country long ago outlived any usefulness it might once have had—a century and a half ago. This government—of and for the capitalist class—today is a barrier to prevent the population from organizing to address our problems.
A government like this needs to be tossed aside, gotten rid of, replaced by the self-organization of working people, the only ones who really know how everything essential works.
Working people—collectively putting all our knowledge, experience and abilities together—could organize and run an economy to serve the whole population.
This government—as it exists today, of and for the capitalist class—won’t be replaced in an election.
But it can be replaced by the mobilization and conscious organization of the whole working class.