PSLweb/Liberation takes a look at the anti-worker offensive taking place across the country in the form of budget cuts.

Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley recently proposed budget cuts that would slash public programs throughout the city, including public health clinics and waste disposal.

Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley
Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley
is using the budget to launch an
assault against the working class.

Daley wants workers to pick up the tab for the $469 million budget deficit, which is growing by the minute as the economic crisis drives down the city’s tax revenue. Daley’s plan includes laying off 929 city workers and scrapping more than 1,300 vacant positions in programs that are currently understaffed. Some of the jobs have been vacant for more than three years. The proposed budget would increase library fines, ambulance fees and parking taxes/fines, among others, to make up for the shortfall.

But the assault on health care is perhaps the most egregious aspect of Daley’s plan. If passed, the budget will slash $7.7 million in funding for the Department of Public Health, Cook County Board budget cut funding for nearly 30 public health care facilities and called for more than 1,500 layoffs. Under the plan, health clinics in African American and Latino communities like Englewood, Roseland, and Pilsen would lose up to 40 percent of their staffs.

Sick patients currently wait between 30 to 60 days for their appointments at public clinics. Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31, explained: “They show up in the morning and just sit there, sometimes all day. If they don’t get to see a doctor, they end up at Cook County Hospital much sicker than they were. … Instead of laying people off, they need to fill the positions they’re going to eliminate.”

The state of Illinois has not done much better in preventing illness and caring for the sick. Governor Blagojevich recently slashed over $70 million in funding for the Division of Mental Health and the Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. Treatment facilities are turning people away for “lack of funding” and sending them to Cook County Hospital, where they are prescribed drugs and returned to the streets.

But city workers and Chicago residents who would be affected by the proposed cuts have not sat silently before the mayor’s offensive. In a wave of protest, working-class people are fighting back against the budget cuts. Congregating at the State of Illinois building downtown, demonstrators have demanded that funding for services be restored.

With employers slashing payrolls and prices soaring, workers are already bearing a heavy burden due to Wall Street’s excesses. The Party for Socialism and Liberation joins Illinois residents to demand that health care, housing, jobs and education be protected rights. Let the rich pay for their crisis!