Illinois budget battle, growing mass poverty, paycheckless millions

Let’s cut right through the fog around the Illinois budget battle and get right to the heart of the matter:

CaptureIllPovertyThe super-rich, or more precisely, the capitalist system of profit first and the people last is to blame for rampant poverty and inequality in Illinois. When the rich get rich, they get rich off the rest of society. Poverty and low wage work are the result of an unequal distribution of wealth that is absolutely fundamental to capitalism.

In a developed capitalist system like the United States, intense and “Big” government intervention is necessary in order to avert catastrophe for the system. The government must spend great quantities of money—along with huge sums in military spending to enforce its global dominance and periodic trillions to bailout the irrational financial system—to manage the unemployed, impoverished and idle parts of the population.

In the United States managing the growing paycheck-less and poor parts of the population has taken the form of militarized racist police forces, the largest prison system in history and massive aid and social programs. These aid programs, however, do not meet the great needs created by developed capitalism—not even close.

Let me be plain: when state governments cuts budgets—like most have been doing over the last couple of decades—suffering increases. Jobs and living wage jobs will not be created, the economy will not get better for working and poor people, if Illinois “gets its house in order” by cutting more money from health care, social programs for the poor, higher education and more. The only real budget solution for the majority of people in the state is to greatly expand social spending. In order to do this, we need to fight. In order to do this, we must be able to substantially tap into or control the wealth we create as a society in order to meet the needs of all. The basic role of Springfield is to collect and spend money to uphold the system, not to save or aid the people.

The 2015 economic realities for workers and the poor

Did you know that half of the population in Illinois is not working—that only 65 percent of the working age population is receiving a paycheck (that’s down 5 percent from 2000)? Only 60 percent of working age people in the Black community are working. Those rates are very unlikely to improve. Ongoing scientific and technological improvements that boost productivity mean that the long-term trend is a reduction of the labor force under capitalism.

Did you also know that in the capitalist United States 24 percent of the population that is working makes less than $10,000 a year and 53 percent of the working population makes less than $30,000 year?

Applying labor participation rates and income levels to the population means that roughly 10 million out of the 13 million people that live in Illinois live a life of basic economic insecurity and marginalization.

Did you know that in Illinois the poverty rate has increased 4 percent to 15 percent in the last 15 years—that the income of the bottom 20 percent has decreased by 15 percent while income for the top 5 percent has increased by 23?

In Illinois, 25 percent of children under the age of 5 live in poverty (living in a family of four that makes less than $23,000 a year). Thirty-three percent of the population lives in households in which paycheck earners make less than roughly $23,000 a year. 760,000 people live in extreme poverty (living in a family of four making under $12,000 a year).

Take from the poor and then take some more

Did you know that in Illinois, if you are on the bottom 20 percent, you pay 13 percent of your income in personal taxes (income, sales, property). If you are in the top 1 percent, you pay only 4.5 percent of your income in personal taxes. Despite a flat corporate tax rate, two-thirds of corporations pay no tax to the state.

According to the best figures I could find, there are 270,414 millionaires and 17 billionaires in Illinois. To get a nowhere near exact but rough idea of how much they get to keep in their pockets, let’s just say 270,414 people make a million dollars and 17 make a billion dollars. If we increased their personal tax rate to 13 percent to make them equal with the poorest among us, we get around $24 billion they don’t have to pay in taxes. $24 billion! If we took that money from them in the form of higher taxes, they would not suffer.

The Republicans and Democrats are threatening to shut down Illinois, one of the wealthiest states in the world, because they cannot decide on a 2016 general fund budget that will come in around $31 to $34 billion. Did you know that is around a paltry 5 percent of GDP? The Illinois GDP is $750 billion a year, larger than all but 19 nations on the planet.

The state of Illinois pays around $1.5 billion in interest on loans every year. And who is it that gets these interest payments? The wealthy—the very same people who pay astronomically less in taxes than the poor. And where does the state get the money to make the interest payments? From taxes on the poor! That, in a nutshell, is the criminality of the system.

There is no truthful theory that can be developed to explain away such wide scale economic piracy, no theory that can be advanced that the masses of people living on the fringes of the economy desire or deserve their marginalization other than that is the nature of the capitalist system, absence rebellion and resistance, to increase poverty and misery for the many while the few try to keep as much of society’s wealth in their hands as possible.

To make things equal Illinois should spend at least $97 billion on people’s needs

Hear is what I say: If the bottom 20 percent have to pay 13 percent to the state, then the state should provide at least that much. At 13 percent of GDP, the Illinois general fund budget would be approximately $97 billion. It wouldn’t injure the rich a bit and would provide a real “American Dream” to every single citizen. Without this type of spending the current order can make no real argument we live in a nation of equality. At the very, very least the idea of cutting budgets or decreasing wages or reducing the public workforce or weakening union rights while increasing money for prisons should be seen for what it really is—a war on workers and the poor: workers and the poor should start organizing like we are being waged war on.

Yes, but $97 billion, that’s crazy, bad for the economy and we just do not have that much money, right?

$97 billion is not crazy at all. What’s crazy is 25 percent of children under 5 living in poverty midst such great wealth. What’s crazy is giving all our wealth to a handful of people who profit of our misery while the prospect of economic, social and racial equality could be made possible for everyone, in a short matter of time, with the riches we produce together.

What’s damaging to our economic potential is having such widespread need while so many millions of workers are idle or paid poverty wages in the richest country in the history of the world.

We have the wealth and the potential wealth to spend more than $97 billion on the needs of the people. The capitalists claim that social spending needs to be reduced—that it leads to inefficiency, corruption and laziness, etc. But the simple fact is that it is the system itself that has created the need for “Big” government and has created massive social need. It is the capitalist system that has been proven, without a doubt, to be insufficient at meeting the needs of the population. It is capitalism, which expects politicians to protect and serve the rich, that creates the playing field for an entirely corrupted political establishment. Just look at the democrats and republicans in Springfield right now who are threatening the lives of people with a government shutdown over a tiny fraction of the state’s wealth.

I support every single penny that we can wrench out of Springfield for the needs of workers and the poor. But even more than that: the vast majority of people would greatly benefit from uprooting the status quo. We must rebel against the system, take over the economy and use our great productive power to eradicate poverty and inequality, once and for all.

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