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School protest in San Fernando Valley, California.

By Steven Miller

On May 19, California voters rejected  four of  five Constitutional Amendments that Gov. Schwarzenegger placed on the ballot to fix the state’s so called $15 Billion “budget crisis.” If passed, the measures would have raided money for children and mental health. Each measure failed by over 60%. A fifth proposition to limit pay increases for elected state officials when there is a budget deficit won by 75%.The failure throws California into a $24.2 billion dollar deficit, or so claims the governor’s office. Proposition 1B would have restored the $9 Billion that Schwarzenegger illegally appropriated from the state’s public schools, already at the bottom nationally. This failed by over 60%.

In the aftermath, things are moving fast, with the “Gobernator” claiming that voters gave him the support to decimate the state’s social services.

Here we want to focus on the role of the leadership of the California Teachers Association (CTA). This craven bunch campaigned to support all the propositions. They claimed that Schwarzenegger’s initial $5 Billion cut to public schools was a victory for the people! They proclaimed this after a month of secret dealings with the governor’s office, and without putting one teacher in the streets in protest.

There are a number of lessons here:

1)  Conciliation is not compromise. The CTA could have argued that teachers and the people of California had no power to do better, given the situation. Thus a compromise would be necessary. The “budget crisis” is actually a manufactured crisis to protect and further the state’s incredibly friendly corporate taxation. This the CTA ignores. Thus backroom capitulation is declared a victory. This is simply conceding without a fight.

2)  This thinking is the end result of decades of a strategy based on “supporting our friends in the Democratic Party.” This approach allowed the CTA to claim that the meager gains granted in exchange for mobilizing teachers to vote Democratic twice a year were significant victories.

Those days are over. At every level, government is proclaiming the need to get out of the business of helping people. Social services are privatized and farmed out to corporations that  reduce them to make a profit. Meanwhile, corporate rights are consecrated in the,budget.

In this context, the CTA leaders are being the last dinosaur, trying to succeed in a failed evolutionary trend. When the environment changes, the organism must change or die. They desperately need a new strategy, but they are locked into the politics of conciliation, defeat, passivity and the politics of begging.

They can no longer lead.

So is there really a “budget crisis”? Sure there is! That is, if you accept the corporate domination of the budget process, including all the tax subsidies and tax breaks.
Schwarzenegger’s budget scheme increased taxes solely by regressive taxes on working people (Oakland Tribune, April 2, 2009). It was full of “corporate tax breaks and credits, including ones for the film industry and a change in the tax formula that will save businesses hundreds of millions of dollars,” the Tribune said.

 There’s plenty of revenue to be raised. Higher consumer costs for water are a hidden tax subsidy for corporate water. What about a water excise tax for corporations, since they consume about 65% of California’s water? What about taxing them at the same rates as consumers? What about ending the state’s multi-billion dollar Criminal-Industrial Complex, that profits from jailing millions essentially for misdemeanors?

 The French Revolution was precipitated by a budget and tax crisis. Every class, including the king, was in favor of taxation, but nobody could figure how to raise taxes without trampling on the hallowed privileges of each estate. The months of stasis lead to increasing suffering, until women demonstrating at Versailles just decided to kidnap the king. Then things jumped off. Suddenly the people decided to resolve the political crisis their way.


This article originated in the People's Tribune
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