Austerity vs. A People’s Budget

It’s no secret that most cities, counties, states and school districts in the U.S. are facing big deficits. What is less understood is the extent to which austerity cuts have become politicians’ bi-partisan response to the situation. The dramatic measures being implemented in Portland, Oregon are no exception.

By “austerity” is meant a bag of policies intent on “reforming,” that is, reducing spending by cutting jobs and public services, tearing up social contracts that workers have benefited from, and, in general, making workers and the poor do all the sacrificing to close budgetary imbalances. These austerity measures range from potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare to cuts on a local level that go after our schools, social services, parks, and infrastructure.

While this “sacrificing” is imposed on the vast majority of citizens, obscenely low tax rates for big business and the wealthy are being left in place as their profits swell and their dominance over the political system increases. To appreciate the scope of this trend, one need merely note The New York Times report that there are “nearly $1.1 trillion in annual deductions, credits and other tax breaks that flow disproportionately to the highest income Americans and that cost more, each year, than Medicare and Medicaid combined.”…


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