The Spark

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

Editorial:
Class warfare
– cuts in services plus higher taxes on working people

Feb 16, 2004

Working people all over the country are being hit by a blizzard of higher taxes and fees on the state and local level.

We are paying much more for sewage, water and garbage collection in our homes or through our rent. When we drive a car, we pay more to licence the car, as well as more in taxes for gasoline and more in tolls. When we talk on the phone, we pay higher taxes, especially for cellular phones. If we take a walk in a state park, we pay a higher entry fee, and a much higher fee if we go camping. If we stick a fishing line in a lake, the fishing license is higher. If we need copies of our birth or death certificate or marriage license, we will pay more. And then, for those who smoke or drink, there are the outrageously high excise taxes, that are raised periodically, as if higher government taxes are more acceptable when they are called "sin taxes."

Sometimes these tax increases are hidden, such as when public schools, which are starved for money, try to get parents to pay extra for certain programs – extra-curricular or even academic.

State and local politicians pretend they are not raising taxes. It's a complete lie. What are all these fees but another tax?

The kinds of taxes and fees they push through are the most regressive, that is, they place the main burden on the working class and poor. A millionaire and an unemployed worker pay the same higher bridge toll, and the same amount of tax on gasoline and the same fee for garbage collection. But these taxes and fees eat up a considerably bigger share of the worker's income than that of the wealthy.

State and local officials say they have no choice because of cutbacks in federal revenue-sharing programs or unfunded federal mandates. But in fact, the state and local governments are only doing what the federal government does: they are putting their own taxpayer base at the disposal of their own local capitalists. While the federal government uses the military budget to funnel huge amounts of wealth to the military contractors, states and cities use the taxes they collect from us to help underwrite the latest shopping center, multiplex movie theater, factory, corporate headquarters, housing development, sports stadium (complete with luxury corporate skyboxes). State and local governments and school boards pay out huge sums of money to local capitalists to build or repair roads and schools, or to pay for text books, medical services, etc. And the companies make fat profits in the bargain.

Just as the federal government has slashed the taxes for the wealthy by trillions of dollars in the last years, state and local governments did the same thing. In fact, in the 1990s, when state and local governments began to run surpluses, the first thing they did was to drastically cut corporate income taxes, as well as income taxes for people in the upper brackets, making the tax system ever more regressive. They made the working and middle classes, not to speak of the poor, pay the lion's share of the taxes.

Of course, once the last recession hit, and state and local budgets began to run record-sized deficits, the politicians did not take back the most recent tax cuts for the wealthy nor, for that matter, all their subsidies and grants to the corporations. On the contrary, they proposed enormous cuts in social programs, starting with those that serve the children from working class and poor families, including huge cuts in public education, children's health care, childcare, child nutrition programs, etc. And they continue to cut funding for the basic infrastructure, so that we are left with sewage and water systems that are often over a century old and are falling apart.

In other words, working people are paying more for a government that provides less and less in basic services, a government that is more and more simply a conduit of workers' money going into the pockets of the capitalists.

The politicians have been doing this now for so long they think they can keep on doing it forever. Not true. Let workers mobilize, let us pour out into the streets making our demands, and watch these rats scurry back into their holes.