Question 4 is Our Chance to Send a Message to Washington
These days it seems as though every politician in Washington is talking about “budget deficits” and what cuts they want us to accept. However, when voters had the opportunity to submit questions at the second Presidential debate, not a single person brought up the deficit. People were concerned about jobs, not budget cuts.
On Election Day November 6 voters in Massachusetts have a chance to weigh in for themselves.
Question 4 on the ballot in Boston (and with varying numbers in another 90 cities and towns) allows us to send a message to our lawmakers about very different solutions to the choices we face:
- No cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans’ benefits, housing, food, or unemployment assistance.
- Create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services.
- Fund these programs by ending tax breaks on corporations and on very high incomes.
- Redirect military spending for nation-building at home; end the Afghanistan war.
These points are anything but pie in the sky. They are based on the principles of a “Deal for All” budget plan supported by 90 members of Congress, including the majority of the Massachusetts delegation, and backed up by solid economic data. Unfortunately, amid the manufactured deficit panic and elite voices promoting “austerity” these proposals have received little attention in the national media.
The reality is that the budget deficits we have seen in recent years are mainly the result of factors put in place by the Bush administration and rammed through the Republican controlled Congress after 2000: Tax cuts heavily tilted to the wealthy and large corporations; a severe economic crisis triggered by irresponsible and under-regulated big banks and Wall Street speculators; trillions of dollars wasted on unpopular and disastrous wars, together with a bloated Pentagon budget that has little relationship to our actual security needs.
Instead of addressing the real problems we are facing, politicians speak vaguely of “entitlement reform” and “Medicare modernization” as though those are changes that will only affect a few people – and sometime in the distant future. The fact is that Social Security is fundamentally sound and has not contributed one dime to our budget deficits. Medicare spending is a long-term problem, but that is no fault of the public medical insurance program; rather it is a reflection of the exploding costs and inefficiencies of our private healthcare delivery system.
Budget deals already made or proposed in Washington will mean severe cuts to government spending on many things we depend on. Not just Social Security and Medicare, but education, medical research, transportation, food safety, energy – and, importantly, Federal aid to cities and state governments.
Previous cutbacks have already strained state budgets and led to layoffs of as many as 1 million public workers across the country – teachers, firefighters, police and others. This has dealt a significant blow to our struggling economy that will only get worse.
Here in Massachusetts, for example, we are facing a severe crisis in financing for the MBTA and a dozen other regional transportation authorities – shortfalls which will otherwise have to be made up by more fare increases on top of the hikes we have already seen. Bridges and roads are crumbling in the face of neglected maintenance that we can’t afford without Federal funds. Many schools are struggling. There is another way, and this ballot question gives us a chance to say so.
We don’t need more cuts. Instead, creating jobs and putting people to work will boost the economy while investing in our future. Closing loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations will increase government revenues from those who have benefitted from an economy that has left the rest of us barely holding our own. And making sensible reductions to the annual $1 trillion of military spending will free up funds without compromising our security.
At least four Massachusetts Congressmen and dozens of local officials are urging a YES vote on the Budget Question. Massachusetts voters will have the opportunity to send this message when they cast their ballots on November 6.
NOTE: It’s Question 4 in Boston and other numbers in communities around the state. You can find out if it’s on your local ballot and what question number at http://budget4allmass.org/question
Jeff Klein is a retired local union president and a member of Dorchester People for Peace (info [at] dotpeace [dot] org).