The Spark

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

L.A.:
A tax increase to improve medical care will go to improve profit

Nov 11, 2002

In Los Angeles County, voters passed Measure B, the first hike in property taxes since 1978, with 73.2% of the vote. Local politicians had been threatening that the county could close two hospital trauma centers without the tax. Over the last 15 years, the number of trauma centers in L.A. County had already been slashed from 23 to 13, even while the population continued to increase. There are big sectors of this sprawling and densely populated county (the largest in both area and population in the country) that no longer have a trauma center.

Every trauma center closed puts people at greater risk whose injuries from accidents or sudden serious illnesses require fast response time.

The politicians say their budget is out of control because the poor and the indigent are taking advantage of the relatively cheap medical care that the public health care system provides.

Certainly the demand for public health care has increased over the years – because fewer and fewer employers are paying health benefits anymore. Currently there are over two million residents with no health insurance. And private hospitals closed 10 trauma centers since 1985 to maximize their profits.

But instead of increasing spending on public health care to meet this crisis, the county has repeatedly slashed its budget. In 1984, almost 20% of the county's budget went to fund public health. Today health care funding is only six% of the entire budget.

Instead of funding medical care and other social services, the county has engaged in a gigantic giveaway to the corporations. Every construction project – like the stunted mass transit system, for example – is mired in stupendous cost overruns, corruption and outright graft: huge amounts of money that enrich the capitalist class.

Measure B does not specify how much the politicians have to pay for health care. It only gives them new tax money. Thus the increased tax revenues paid by the working class and poor will allow the politicians to shift funding currently slated for public health care to the corporations. It won't improve public health care – only the health of corporate bank accounts.

Measure B was strongly supported by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 660, which represents the county hospital workers. The SEIU provided three-fourths of the two million dollars spent to promote the Measure B tax increase. It also provided the people to walk door to door and work in a phone bank, talking the measure up.

In other words, the union officials did the dirty work for the bosses and the politicians, channeling the health care workers' energy and resources to support a tax increase that will cost all workers more money with no guarantee that this will keep any trauma centers or save any jobs at all

Working people need to do exactly the opposite. Instead of collaborating with the politicians and bosses who are cutting jobs and closing down vital health care services, workers have to organize together to carry out a real fight and confront them.

The workers should not aim to give the politicians more money: our goal should be to make them use the money they today control to pay for services the population needs.