By Peter Brown
The California budget crisis, like the national budget crisis, is
spoken of as though it were an Act of God, something that we can do
nothing about. The only choice we’re offered is to either be taxed or
We need to tax corporations. As our state and local governments
languish and even go bankrupt, gigantic global corporations are reaping
astounding profits in our state and many others in our same position.
Yet this is never pursued! Two excuses are given: the law which
requires a 2/3 majority of the Legislature to increase taxes, and which
makes it “too difficult” to get such a bill passed; and the constant
threat that corporations would just pass the costs on to consumers, or
worse yet leave the state and do business elsewhere.
Even though a majority of Californians want the 2/3 law changed,
nothing happens. Politicians claim to offer leadership, but what would
real leaders do? They would represent our needs; organize neighborhood
campaigns, Internet campaigns, facilitate people organizing themselves,
to build an irresistible force to change the 2/3 rule. Politicians who
won’t do this much are just blowing smoke.
And what about those pesky corporations passing costs on to us, or
moving whenever it gets a little less profitable? They already do that!
Real leaders would organize with other states to force corporations to
stay put and give up profits, to give back to the workers who make them
This is class warfare being waged against us. We are prostrate at the
feet of these corporations, because they hold the political power that
puts the steering wheel of our country in their hands. This is what
makes them the ruling class. We suffer to support their profits and
their fantastic lifestyles. We’re told we must give up healthcare,
education, pay, jobs, homes, the very fabric of our families, because
we cannot challenge corporate power and wealth.
Yet, if they’re not doing us any good, what good are they? What
is the purpose of any part of society if it only benefits a tiny few at
the expense of almost all? What use is a government or system if
it can’t make use of our work, our intelligence, our energy, our
creativity, our desire to contribute and participate with the people
The corporate world has shown over and over that it’s incapable of
running either finance or industry or healthcare in a way that benefits
anyone but the most wealthy and powerful. Our government has
already had to step in to prevent wholesale, permanent collapse. Isn’t
it time, since we’re already part owners of some of these derelict
giants, that they be nationalized, and run openly and transparently for
the benefit of all in our society? Corporations are worried they
won’t be able to compete with well-run, public owned financial,
manufacturing, and healthcare options. If they can’t, why should
we hold them up?
We must squarely face the facts, or we will suffer mightily.
There will be no recovery. There is no basis for it; too much of
what we make is made by automated factories, there aren’t enough people
earning enough money to keep the system going. It’s not the
machines, it’s the system; if we can’t buy what we make, the capitalist
system no longer works. The corporate powers know this; they’re
working to control us as we respond to our growing suffering. They can
only control us if we’re divided and confused.
It’s time for us to challenge corporate power. This will require
us to think in new ways; we can no longer rely on attempts to influence
political leaders who will not represent us. We must become our
own leaders. We must organize a new kind of political force to
fulfill the needs of all of us who must work to earn a living, yet are
increasingly denied that opportunity. No matter what church,
union, school, PTA, club or group we are in, we must begin to build
this within them.
When we do this we will begin to feel strength and unity we haven’t had
for generations, and we will begin to win. Once we begin to win,
we will not stop until we’ve made those corporations public, swept away
the world of petty greed and its violence, and built a new level of
democracy that releases the true capabilities of the human race.
Peter Brown is a community college teacher in Oakland, California.