Three commentaries by Workers’ Center Steering Committee member Dawn Stanger on the state budget crisis. An Op-ed from the Burlington Free Press, a “That’s the Way I See It” commentary from WNCS, and a statement from a February 28, 2002 rally against State Budget Cuts. All February 2002.
Op-ed in the Burlington Free Press
I just read about this ‘new’ proposal to avoid state service cuts by taxing the rich more than the rest of us. Every time someone raises the idea of progressive taxes, the argument is immediately countered with, “the government’s doesn’t have the right to ask more from the rich.” I gotta ask, What kind of patriotism is it, that the rich don’t feel an obligation to pay more? Weren’t they raised right? Us workers were asked to spend like crazy after 9/11 (even as we were getting laid off with the highest-ever level of personal debt). And this government is our government; it has whatever rights we give it, at least in theory. Listen, is it unfair to tax childless people for schools? Many think so, but not me, though I have no kids. All of us benefit when we have smart kids in our communities. I’m willing to pay because it keeps crime down, invigorates life in my town, and, it’s just….well….ethical. I was raised to do my part to better society. Often, Vermonters who use state services don’t get paid enough at work or have healthcare coverage. What the state gives them is really a subsidy of sorts for their employers who won’t pay livable wages. I heard Bernie Sanders’ talk at the AFL-CIO’s C.O.P.E. Conference last Sunday, and he urged all union members to be more active, and to bring into our discussions the question of just what our country’s economic ‘values’ really should be. CEO pay is 531 times the average worker’s pay. Hourly wages have dropped for decades. Most of us realize corporations have manipulated our government by lobbying, but we don’t know the half of it. Bernie said there are 600 lobbyists in Washington to cover 535 reps. ENRON didn’t pay a cent in taxes, and somehow still received refunds. 40% of Bush’s tax cuts will go to the top 1%, those of us lucky enough to earn more than $350,000 a year. I think everybody better take a long, hard look our democracy lately. It’s a damned auction. I want government to curb the excesses of big money. The state should tax capital gains at a higher rate than earned income. After all, how many hours do you have to work a week to earn interest. Does the work ethic only apply to welfare recipients?
Look, I make $20,000 a year loading trucks, and when ENRON pays less tax than me the system is messed up. And ENRON’S nasty policies were not just theirs, there’s cut-throat atmospheres in many businesses. It’s encouraged. Dog eat dog capitalism. I was disgusted to see a flag draped across ENRON’s headquarters on t.v. Corporations have sneakily shifted their share of our country’s taxes to us over the last few decades. 1% of Americans now have more wealth than the other 90% of us. And the top dogs run the show. There’s money all over our politicians, buying “access”, favorable legislation, privatization, deregulation. And you know, Argentina was following our free market policies when her citizens decided they could no longer ‘go along’ with the system crushing them and rose up. In the 1890’s, the excesses of robber barons energized U.S. citizens to reign in excessive wealth. Then, with fairer policies, our country rose up together, rich and poor both gaining. But recently, we lost our way again. We need the government’s help more than ever now, since the new wealth is multi-national. I say, tax the hell out of the rich. Rescind the budget cuts. Raise the level of services for the recession and the layoffs. We allow these monied interests to drape themselves in our flag. Tell me again there’s no class war. Time for the rich to pony up. Workers want bread, but we want roses too.
Well, we’ll see how this goes…
“That’s the Way I See It”
Is it a new idea to tax the rich more than other Vermonters? No. But…. isn’t it a good idea?
The President wanted us to shop like crazy after 9/11, while workers were getting laid off with the highest-ever level of personal debt. Now Vermont is cutting state services because of the recession. Why can’t we seem to understand that capitalism is cyclical, and save for downturns? After all, who benefited from that boom? Not us workers. Just what are Vermont’s economic ‘values’?
The idea of cutting state services when they’re most needed is just plain stupid. Vermonters often don’t get paid enough or have health insurance from their jobs. The state really subsidizes employers who won’t pay livable wages. Over the last decades, corporations have shifted their tax burden to us. 1% of Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 40%. CEOs make, on average, 531 times what workers make. 40% of Bush’s tax cuts go to those who earn more than $350,000 a year.
I think we all better take a long, hard look at our democracy. We need our government to control these wealthy interests, not to pander to them.
Listen, I load trucks for a living. When ENRON pays less tax than me, something’s rotten. Cutthroat, dog-eat-dog practices have become part of our business culture, not just at Enron, but worldwide. Rich people just buy favorable legislation now- privatization, deregulation, all those “ations” that screw the rest of us. We’ve seen “trickle down” scams before and we’re just not gonna buy it again.
Listen; is it fair to tax childless Vermonters for schools? I believe it is, though I don’t have any kids. Education lessens crime, kids invigorate my town, and, it’s just, well… ethical. It’s a public good. What kind of patriotism is it, that the rich don’t feel an obligation to pay more? I say tax capital gains at a higher rate than earned income, not lower. After all, how many hours do you work to earn interest? Does the work ethic only apply to welfare recipients?
You can tell me again and again there’s no class war in the U.S….. I’ll still say it’s time for the rich to pony up. You know, Argentina was following U.S. economic policies when her citizens decided they could no longer ‘go along’ with the economic system crushing them. I say tax the rich, rescind any budget cuts, and raise the level of services during hard times. We must all rise together. Workers want bread, but we still want roses too.
I’m Dawn Stanger with the Vermont Worker’s Center, and that’s the way I see it.
Statement by Dawn Stanger
Spokesperson, Vermont Workers’ Center
At Rally Against State Budget Cuts, February 28, 2002
The state is talking about cutting health care programs, education, and assistance for disabled Vermonters. We already under-fund things like childcare, adult education, and employment training.
Let’s be clear: cutting state services when they’re most needed is just plain stupid. Vermonters often don’t get paid enough or have health insurance from their jobs as it is. And the state wants to make things worse?!!!
The state budget cuts are an attack on the majority of Vermonters. They are an attack on working Vermonters. Over the last decade, the rich have profited from tax cuts while regular Vermonters have seen their real wages go down. How did the state respond to this situation?
Instead of planning for harder times, the State gave away its surplus to the rich in two separate tax cuts. I think we all better take a long, hard look at our democracy. We need a government which serves the majority, not the rich.
Listen, I load trucks for a living. When ENRON pays less tax than me, something’s rotten.
The solution to our budget problems is NOT laying off state employees. It is NOT more short staffing for state workers. It is NOT wage cuts for state employees.
Instead, we need to use rainy day funds. We need to reverse the state income tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. We need to have a more progressive income tax. We need to tax stocks and bonds the same we way we tax paychecks.
You can tell me again and again there’s no class war in Vermont….. but there is. It’s a war by the rich and state government on working people. I say tax the rich, take back the budget cuts, and keep our badly needed public services during hard times. We must all rise together.