The Spark

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

A Small Drop in a Big Bucket

May 10, 2021

Joe Biden laid out his economic plan that calls for more money for infrastructure and social programs. It’s not clear how much of this program will actually be passed by Congress. Biden has said that he is willing to discuss with Republicans who are against spending as much money as he proposed. But even if Biden’s whole program passed as it is, what does it really amount to?

Certainly it does not come remotely close to restoring all of the massive cuts in public spending that have taken place over the last several decades. For years now, the federal and state governments, led by both Republicans and Democrats, have been cutting social spending. Money for education, infrastructure, public health care and social services has been reduced, year after year.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities keeps track of what they call “Non-Defense Discretionary Programs,” basically all government spending on social programs. (Social Security and Medicare are funded separately.) Their statistics show that spending on infrastructure and social programs has been steadily reduced since the late 1970s and reached its lowest recorded level in 2019.

But for most of the population, especially the working class, we didn’t have to see these statistics to know the truth. We have suffered, first-hand, the effects of these cuts in social spending. Schools in working class areas have gotten steadily worse. Roads, bridges, sewer and water systems are failing. The cuts to public health care meant that this system was not prepared and able to deal with the Covid virus, leading to the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Does Biden’s program address these problems? There is no big amount of money to restore public health care programs or fix the public schools. The money Biden proposes for infrastructure is about 600 billion dollars. The American Society for Civil Engineers says that the amount really needed is over 3 trillion dollars, which is 5 times what Biden proposes! Biden’s plan for public spending is a very small drop into a very big bucket.

The money that is really needed is there. For decades, politicians from both parties have drained the money from public services in order to give it to the corporations, the banks and the wealthy in the form of tax cuts, tax breaks, subsidies, grants and giveaways. To get the money that is needed for public services will mean taking it back from the 1%. The politicians who helped them take that money in the first place certainly will not be the ones who do that.

But the working class has the reason to take back that money. And when we use all of our forces, the working class has the power to make the kind of fight that is needed.