Small groups are meeting all over North Dallas (and probably everywhere) to try to defend themselves against budget cuts. In Dallas, I've found one group so far that has the potential to bring them together. The Fair Budget Campaign has been meeting each Tuesday at 6 :30 PM in the Martin Luther King Center, 3100 MLK Blvd.
Pictured are activists Ernest McMillan, Diane Ragsdale, and Cresanda Allen. Email Cresanda to get on their mailing list
They oppose all the cuts and propose a modest property tax increase to pay for it. At the same time, activists are investigating the possibilities of investigating the fairness or unfairness of present tax rates and evaluations. They are open to suggestions for revenue-raising ideas that would not fall hardest on the poorest, as sales and property taxes do. National Jobs with Justice has given us some ideas for solutions that would be more fair.
Activists in Portland were able to get a statewide ballot initiative passed to raise revenues without hurting poor people. They raised the property tax on properties worth more than $250,000, and they raised the state's corporate tax significantly. Check it out on their web site! Proposed city campaigns are also listed by a Jobs with Justice ally, Cities for Progress.
Through complicated "default swap" arrangements, the government has allowed banks to collect regular interest rates from local governments while paying very little or zero interest rates to the federal lenders. National Jobs with Justice projects campaigns to demand that the banks cut the interest rates on outstanding city bonds and other debts.
In 107 degree temperatures, the children of Dallas have already lost their swimming pools! The new budget calls for drastic layoffs of city workers, both civilian and uniformed, and cuts in services. Half the library workers are slated for layoffs! Fees, which hit the poorest hardest, will be increased. The Fair Budget Campaign is calling for activists to attend all the city's neighborhood budget meetings. They are listed on the WFAA page.
On the bright side, it is wonderful that different groups, such as the city employees' union, are meeting and are talking seriously about the economic crisis that is sucking us down. The downside, though, is that groups are largely working against each other. When one group of economic victims says, “Don’t cut us!” they are implicitly saying, “It’s OK to cut somebody else!” It’s the bosses’ game when we fight one another.
At the national level, some excellent programs exist. In one way or another, all of them call for increasing government revenues by taxing the rich. Our progressive income taxes have been flattened, capital gains taxes were slashed, inheritance taxes were diminished, and luxury sales taxes have disappeared. The most regressive taxes, sales and property taxes, have increased along with hard-to-define local government “fees” that hit the poorest hardest.
Now, after thirty years of tax abatements, government handouts, and corporate welfare, major organizations are asking that we return to progressive taxation and let everybody pay their fair share. The problem is that these national programs do not translate easily into local programs where people are just beginning the necessary dialogue that will, eventually, lead to a mass movement that might make real solutions possible. Concerted national action may be nearer than we think, because the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Jobs with Justice, and dozens of other organizations have joined together for a March on Washington October 2nd. Watch this space as information becomes available!
We'll be discussing these problems and solutions at the regular 2nd Wednesday Jobs with Justice meeting