Apr 14, 2003
Michigan's new governor has put the following choice to every state worker: give back $4100 a year in wage and benefit concessions or face the possibility that thousands more jobs will be cut.
In other words – your money or your life.
Other states across the country are doing exactly the same thing, although they are often less open about their demands. They announce cutbacks in funding for education, for social programs and for public services – which can only mean severe job cuts or cuts in wages and benefits or both. The state of Maryland announced that scheduled wage increases were eliminated – for the third year in a row. In the real world, this is a wage cut – since frozen wages don't buy what they did three years ago. The state of Maryland also has imposed a hiring "freeze" in most offices – meaning that jobs are being cut, since people retire, quit, get sick, etc.
All the states tell us we must accept fewer public services, less aid through social services, enormous cuts in public schools that are already dilapidated and overcrowded.
The politicians heading the states say they have no choice. They tell us that state law forbids them from running up a deficit. They have no choice – or so they say – but to reduce spending on the programs that serve us and on their workforce in order to cover large budget "shortfalls."
No choice? Of course, they have a choice. They could stop handing out large tax breaks to every corporation around. The state of Michigan itself brags that it is currently giving out 15 billion dollars in tax breaks to corporations – while its projected budget deficit is around only two billion. Obviously, the politicians heading the state of Michigan have a choice. So do those who sit at the head of every other state and city. They could force the big corporations to pay taxes they avoid. The state leaders could stop awarding enormously bloated contracts to corporations that use them to skim off billions of dollars in unseen profits. They could stop using their state or city treasury as a trough at which wealthy pigs line up to gorge themselves.
It's not just government which plays this "no choice"game. Airlines tell us they must have enormous wage and benefit concessions from their workforce – otherwise they will go bankrupt. They have no choice – or so they say – because of September 11 and now the war on Iraq. Steel companies say that foreign competition left them no choice but to declare bankruptcy – and dump their pension plans.
Nonsense! Of course they all have a choice. They are simply using bankruptcy to take back wages and benefits we once had so they can go on doing what they have been doing all along – buying and selling other companies, setting up profit-making subsidiaries, handing out multimillion dollar bonuses and salaries to executives, shifting money over to their bankers, who are among the biggest moneyed interests in the country.
All this talk about "choice" is just a smokescreen to cover up what the capitalists and their government are really doing: declaring a war on us here at home.
It may not be fought with guns, but it's a deadly war. Nonetheless, it's linked to the war that Bush chose to carry out against the people of Iraq. Both wars – the one against Iraq and the one here at home – are part and parcel of the policy U.S. capitalism is carrying out today – to make workers here and people in the whole world pay to puff up the profits of U.S. corporations.
No choice, they want to tell us? A system that gives us no choice is a system that deserves to be tossed aside – along with its wars and the sacrifices it demands.
No choice, they want to tell us? Maybe not for them, who set up profit as their only rule and guide. But we do have choices. Working people can decide to oppose their wars against other people. Workers can decide to defend their standard of living. The working class can choose to fight for a society worth living in.