Wednesday, June 15, 2016

You can't save the environment by voting to tax yourself.

Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I recently voted against a measure here in California that will impose a regressive parcel tax of $12 a year for 20 years throughout nine counties. Apparently, it will raise $25 million a year so that’s half a billion dollars, about .5% of Bill Gates’ net worth and about .4% of the net worth of that kid with the tee shirts, Mark Zuckerberg.*

I can afford $12 a year but I am opposed to taxing myself, the working class in general or community businesses for what is nothing but a political gesture, a nod to the liberal environmentalists who think somehow a looming environmental catastrophe will be averted in this way; it will not. Working class people should not vote for these measures but we can’t do nothing, as environmental degradation will continue and eventually reach a tipping point. Already, huge swathes of this planet are uninhabitable. With the BP spill, what we call the “Dead Zone” that extends in to the Gulf of Mexico 150 mile and has no life has, as far as I understand it, been extended.

As former politician and judge Quenten Kopp pointed out in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Under Measure AA, therefore, every homeowner would pay the same tax as corporate property owners such as Chevron, AT&T, Salesforce, Facebook, Genentech, Oracle and Google.”

This is no different than these parcel taxes that are touted as saviors of public education that is being savaged by Democratic and Republican administrations alike. President Obama’s friend and former Israeli Defense Force member Rahm Emanuel has orchestrated on e of their “Shock and Awe” operations on the public schools in Chicago.

The best we can say about these phony efforts at social or public improvement is that they are band aids, they put off for an hour or two the day of reckoning for whichever problem they are claiming to solve, It’s not that I’m opposed to taxes. But it is important to oppose these measures not just for the fact that they do not work but because they encourage passivity. They encourage the illusion that we can actually solve the environmental crisis, and any other important social issues simply through electoral means. All we have to do is pop down to the voting booth and stick a piece of paper in the ballot box. The reality is that capitalism, it’s political parties and representatives, cannot solve any of them.

This method is sort of like the farmer three or four bends down the river from the factory who goes out every morning with a crew of workers and with nets and shovels clears the waste out of the bend round his property. He can do this for a lifetime because the problem is the factory. This is what we must address.

In order to address them we have to build a direct action movement that can get this money from those who have it. Two of them are named above.  A political movement must flow from this movement but we must be able to stop economic activity if we are going to make any headway at all. The power in society will not allow us to change society for the better at the ballot box, not in any serious or permanent way. They will not tax their profits or themselves out of existence. In a nutshell, they will always make the working class pay for their crisis.

And it’s not just the stolen wealth in the hands of people like Zuckerberg, Gates or Warren Buffet and speculators like him.  It the collective wealth of the workers of society those who create it, yet have no real say in how it’s allocated or created. How can we? We don’t own it.  The trillions in weapons and wars aimed at protecting further trillions stolen by corporations as they plunder the world’s resources means there is no shortage of capital both money and human.

They will always do this.
But how can we build such a movement by campaigning for a parcel tax to save public education for example?  We read every day about how strapped people are. We know many people are working three jobs to get by.  And senior citizens without school age children, why would they be motivated to support such taxes. It’s hard to get people involved in a campaign around a slogan of “Join our movement we want to raise your taxes.”  

Through their two political parties that constitute a dictatorship of capital over our political lives, the 1% will always offer us only one alternative and that is to rob Peter to pay Paul, Give women pay increases at the expense of men, blacks jobs at the expense of whites.  There is nothing more absurd than the idea that undocumented immigrants are a threat to our material wellbeing. But it’s a good way to divert attention away from the folks with their hands in the till, their snouts in the public trough.  They will always, especially in times of heightened class conflict play the race card, the nationalist card, the gender card; the divide and rule game. We all eat. We all work. We all get housing. We all get good health care and we all get the best education. We all participate in governing society. We produce for social needs not profits.

There is nothing wrong with a struggle for immediate gains as long as we realize that anything we win will not be permanent.  Reforms must be waged with the intent of building a movement that can change society, that can take control of what we produce, how we produce it and how it will affect the natural world in which we live.

We can’t continue to take what we think is the easy way out to the same disastrous terminal and that includes voting to cut our incomes further with no real gain. Things will not get better if left to those who presently control economic and political life. At some point we have to go after them and their operation.

Don’t support taxes on workers or community businesses. There’s plenty of money.

*This is a ball park figure

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