The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

State of the Working Class

Apr 8, 2024

The following are excerpts from speeches given at The SPARK dinner in Detroit on March 17. Videos of the speeches will be available on The SPARK website.

Andrea Kirby: The Economic State of the Working Class

The cost of living has always been a problem for the working class, but every day now, our dollar is worth less and less. And the cost of basic necessities is growing at astronomical rates. Grocery prices have risen 25% in four years. Some families are spending up to 30% of their income just on food. A report by Groundwork Collaborative studied the U.S. Department of Commerce data and looked at price increases in food and household goods between April and September 2023. By analyzing corporate costs, the prices they charged, and the profits they made, the Groundwork Collaborative showed that corporate profits accounted for 53% of price inflation! Over half!

And it was not Covid that caused these price increases. If we compare the 40-year period before Covid, corporate profits drove price increases by only 11%. These increases are no accident, they are deliberate and intentional.

Medical costs are so high, people are making the choice every day to NOT seek needed medical care or medication. Journalists at Kaiser Health News and National Public Radio found that 41% of adults, a whopping 100 million people, are suffering under the weight of medical debt. And two thirds, or 66 million people, are holding off on medical care they or a family member needs because of cost.

We are not just talking about those without insurance. A lot of those carrying this debt have insurance, but there are high deductibles, copays, pharmacy costs, and basic premiums.

Healthcare should be a human right—free of charge, of excellent quality, and performed by well-paid healthcare workers. In the richest country in the world, it is the bare minimum of what should be provided!

Gouged at Every Level

Another thing that should be the bare minimum in the richest country in the world is free, quality education. We are gouged at every level of the education system, starting in daycare. Weekly child daycare costs an average of $284 a week, according to the Cost of Care report. Then, once they are able to go to formative school, there is a latchkey, school bus fee, after-school activity fee, 6th-grade dues, 9th-grade, and senior dues. Then college, if you choose that route.

As of the end of 2023, nearly 44 million people in the U.S. “owed” about 1.77 trillion dollars on student loans. One out of every five households in this country is paying student loans. The average borrower has over $37,000 in loans for attending a public university and over $11,000 for attending a community college.

This, too, is deliberate and intentional. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 1970–71 academic year, the average in-state tuition and fees for one year at a public non-profit university was 394 dollars. By the 2020–21 academic year, that amount jumped to 10,560 dollars, an increase of 2,580%. Student loans are the only avenue for so many of us in the working class to get an advanced education. From the beginning, the government, through the Department of Education, contracted with loan servicing agencies that make money off of servicing federal loans. The government turned higher education into just another avenue for profit. Loan servicing agencies are paid. Banks are paid. And hedge funds can buy up student loan debt.

Taxes Go, Not for School, but War

The taxes collected from the working class should be used to care for these needs and so many others, because the money is there. But lawmakers are using our tax dollars to spend on war. War in Gaza. War in Ukraine. And war in other places that we may not be aware of yet. The U.S. military budget for 2023 was a record-breaking 858 billion dollars. That is 80 billion more than in 2022 and 118 billion more than in 2021.

It’s nearly 300 billion dollars more than the budgets for the 10 largest cabinet agencies all put together—including Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, State Transportation—that is, budgets that directly affect everything from schools to health care, to housing, to roads.

And these 858 billion dollars doesn’t even include all the spending justified in the name of national security, including the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and Homeland Security; nor does it include the cost of veterans’ benefits.

858 billion dollars is larger than the military spending of the next 9 largest military powers in the world, combined: that is, China, India, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea.

Diversion of Funds from Social Programs

The increases in the military budgets and diversion of funds from social programs is also deliberate and intentional. They are preparing for future wars. The robbing of the wealth generated by the working class is lowering our standard of living. It is preparing the next generation to have less. Less money, less education, less quality of health. Just, less.

And this did not just occur overnight. It took decades and many different presidents, Democrats and Republicans, to get to these absurd military budgets and blatant showing out of greed.

Kathy: Electoral State of the Working Class

We are in a Presidential election year. Biden for the Democrats and Trump for the Republicans have both clinched their party nominations for the November 5 election already. These guys may have CLINCHED their nominations, but our teeth are CLENCHED!

A January Reuters poll showed that 67% of U.S. adults are “tired of seeing the same candidates in presidential elections and want someone new.” THIS political system, controlled by the wealthy, offers candidates that two-thirds of adults do NOT want. How is THAT Democracy?!

What both Trump and Biden “offer” to workers is a president who will protect our enemies—the wealthiest one percent of people—the capitalist class.

At Biden’s State of the Union address, his team of people made him seem at the peak of his powers. Biden SAID he will tax the rich. Why wait? He is the President right now. And he has been President for the last 4 years. In the first 2 years, the Democrats controlled all three branches of government. Taxing the rich was NEVER accomplished. In reality, the rich and the bosses tell Biden what to do, not the other way around!

Biden Hands Billions to the Rich

One thing Biden HAS achieved—for big business—is that U.S. oil production has hit RECORD LEVELS. At the same time, global temperatures have hit RECORD LEVELS. Biden claimed in his State of the Union that he is “taking the most significant ACTION ever on climate in the history of the world.”

Let’s look at the word “action.” Biden’s action? He handed billions of dollars to the wealthiest in the world—physical money—to corporations in auto and energy. Another action? The physical money handed to U.S. corporations manufacturing weapons of war and destruction.

For workers, we get promises. Promises of maybe constructing a few new affordable homes.

Do you see the pattern? CASH money for them, PROMISES for us!

Trump Will Do the Same

Of course, if Trump is elected, it will be a disaster. He is a natural born divide-and-conquer capitalist. He and his party are attacking immigrants. But when Trump went to the Texas border, he waved at migrants across the river. He had a look on his face, the way a predator smiles when it looks at prey.

Trump is a bigot, a crook, a liar, a woman hater, and a worker blamer. Every time Trump blames workers, we can be sure the wealthy are the real ones to blame! Trump covers for—and deflects blame off of—capitalists!

In this election year, the Democratic Party wants to tell people that the economy is great. The Republican Party wants to tell people the economy is horrible—because of the Democrats and immigrants, and NEVER because of corporations!

The only thing Trump did for the economy was pass a big tax cut for the rich. In 2020, people voted Trump out because they were not satisfied with the economy! This two-party system is just a back-and-forth game—for them!

Both the Democrats and the Republicans know some of what the population needs, and they refuse to provide it. Why do I say this? They showed us!

A Small Handout During Covid

Back when the wealthy were worried about Covid, they gave ordinary people a TINY safety net. (It was like a butterfly net!) Yes, they threw out crumbs to workers as cover for the TRILLIONS they were giving to big business. But they KNEW which crumbs to throw.

Legislation, passed in March 2020, gave unemployment insurance the biggest increase in U.S. history. Many more people were eligible. Getting more than 600 dollars a week for unemployment helped! There was more federal assistance money for rent. There were bans on evictions. Food stamps paid at their highest levels. You could NOT lose your Medicaid health insurance. There was money for families with children.

This government that serves the wealthy did NOT do this out of the goodness of their hearts. When Covid hit, the economy shut down. THEY were worried about the reaction of the population. Since then, the Capitalists and their politicians took it ALL away!

Quickly Taken Away!

Neither of these candidates nor their parties fight for the interests of the working class.

Workers need our own party, a party ready to take on the bosses and politicians and NOT just at election time but EVERY DAY! This year, the Working Class Party will run candidates for office. This is just a small step toward a future MASS working-class party that still needs to be built.

Elections don’t change things. But we can vote to say how we feel. We can stand for the idea that workers need a party to back up the fights of workers—right now, so workers are battling these vicious companies with our whole class behind us.