December 28, 2012
2012 was a year of protests and fight-backs. Working women and men stood up and spoke out – from Chicago teachers going on strike to students in Tucson battling for Ethnic Studies, from massive demonstrations over the racist murder of Trayvon Martin to the outcry demanding Susan G. Komen for the Cure continue funding Planned Parenthood.
This coming year looks to be just as full of opportunities to make our voices heard, as debates over the "fiscal cliff" show. Behind closed doors, politicians exchange budget proposals aimed at avoiding a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to go into effect January 1. They debate whether it's better to slash Social Security or Medicaid and argue over what is a "fair" tax on billionaires.
A look at the money trail shows the richest 400 Americans already have more wealth than half the country combined. And, as Senator Bernie Sanders wrote, corporate profits are soaring, yet about one in four major profitable corporations pays nothing in federal income taxes. The taxes on the wealthy that are under discussion are pocket change for the super-rich. They should pay much more. Meanwhile, there is a deafening silence about cuts looming over desperately needed social programs.
Some of President Obama's proposals include $2.50 in cuts for every $1 in revenue. Programs in danger are ones women and their families depend on, like Head Start, childcare assistance, unemployment benefits, food stamps, children's healthcare, reproductive health services, senior nutrition programs, school breakfast and lunch programs, and federal work-study programs. Already over 47% of families headed by single African American, Latina and Native American mothers live in poverty and 60% of women over 65 cannot cover basic living expenses. It's women and children first over the fiscal cliff.
The Republican schemes are worse. They oppose any tax increases on the wealthy. Speaker Boehner's attempt to tax those making over $1 million failed because of opposition within his party. They argue Obama is not cutting enough and proposed eliminating an additional $300 billion in discretionary spending, which includes social programs like food stamps. They've suggested raising the Medicare eligibility age. And last week they won Obama's agreement to slash cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries. This move will dramatically increase senior poverty in coming years.
The Democratic Party pretends to be on the people's side while continuing to decimate an already shredded social safety net and asking for peanuts from the wealthy. Meanwhile, neither party is talking about the fact that over half of federal spending goes to the bloated military and ugly imperial wars. What an indictment of capitalism that this is all it has to offer!
In 2013 feminists can move our goals beyond what establishment political pundits consider reasonable and fight for what we know is necessary for women, children, the poor and the vulnerable to thrive. It's not complicated. We can start from the premise that the state's obligation is to help people survive, not boost private profits. The richest country in the world can provide things like money to buy food and clothes; programs like public works jobs that employ people at union wages; and services like childcare, education and housing.
A combination of bold ideas, tenacity, street heat, and confidence in our collective working-class power to change things is what the times demand. We can even raise the issue of the socialist solution to the dead end road we're on while we fight for what we need. Let's do it together! Connect with Radical Women – email RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com or call me at 206-722-6057 and let's strategize.
PS – read A year of brave revolt, but one with no resolution in the Freedom Socialist newspaper for a fabulous view of mobilizations around the world in 2012.