Between sequestration, with its damaging impact on workers and the economy, and the billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other necessary social programs that President Obama is pushing, it is evident that the economic policies of both major parties are not intended to promote a recovery for working people.
You cannot lift up a nation’s economy while slashing away at its consumers’ pocketbooks. In order to justify their defiance of this elementary law, both Republicans and Democrats start talking the language of “austerity,” that is, the notion that economic policy must be guided by reducing budgetary deficits first and foremost, and that workers exclusively must be made to pay the cost.
Policies associated with austerity include the cutting of public programs, privatizing existing government assets, mass layoffs of public workers and wage freezes for those who remain, union busting in the public sector and the revising of labor laws to further enhance the power of employers at the expense of employees.
Enforcing these policies during a recession prevents a recovery. Economic theory predicts this and history demonstrates it. Why, then, would the politicians promote austerity? Because these policies assure that the 1% will be let off the hook from paying their fair share of taxes that help subsidize the social safety net, and will have vast pools of public capital opened up for their private investment.
Why worry about the overall economy when the real power brokers from the corporations and banks are making out just fine with austerity? The message seems clear: As long as Wall Street is enjoying the “recovery,” no one else gets to. Wall Street has used its vast wealth to lobby politicians for policies that are in its interests. In order for working people to climb out of the recession, they will have to organize in order to create their own power base.
As already noted, austerity is being enforced on a national scale. Below the radar of news headlines, for the most part, the policies of austerity are spreading on a local level as well with even more devastating immediate impact. Along with this, there has been a growing grassroots opposition to austerity starting locally.
This is most visibly the case in Chicago where Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to sacrifice 54 public schools on the alter of austerity and Obama’s “Race to the Top.” Thirty thousand students from primarily low-income black and Latino neighborhoods will