TAX THE RICH! A Strategy to Defend Public Education

We believe that full funding of public education is in the interests of the people of California. Many studies have been conducted that prove a direct correlation between a well-educated population and a robust economy. The New York Times (August 5, 2004) noted, for example: “[T]he data on the benefits of higher education in the United States are overwhelmingly convincing. The spread of education is the best way to address the nation’s economic problems.”

In our battle to win quality, accessible, public higher education, a crucial, strategic component of the struggle must be to raise the demand to tax the rich and tax the corporations. Both have seen their taxes drop precipitously in the past several decades, and both can afford to pay more, as evidenced by the following statistics:

“Tax sheltering has cost states more than a third of their revenue from taxes on corporate profits, a new study showed yesterday, adding to the severe strain on state finances across the country.” (The New York Times, July 16, 2003)

“There is something wrong with a system where some of the largest and most profitable companies contribute a pittance to the TreasuryŠ The [Obama] administration noted that in 2004, the latest year for which data were available, American multinational corporations paid about $16 billion on $700 billion in foreign earnings, an effective tax rate of about 2.3 percent.” (Editorial, The New York Times, May 4, 2009)

“There are effectively two tax systems in America: one for the very rich and one for the rest of us. Income from stock dividends and capital gains, which makes up a disproportionate amount of the earnings of the very rich, is taxed at 15 percent. But the bulk of what the rest of us earn — wages and interest from savings accounts — is taxed at up to 35 percent.” (The New York Times, March 8, 2009)

Already, the labor movement has begun to embrace the demand for progressive taxation. The San Francisco Labor Council, for example, passed a resolution (September 28, 2009) that included the observation that “this transfer of wealth upwards, and the robbing of the public and public employees, calls for dramatic and multi-faceted political and social responses.” The resolution concluded, among other things: “Therefore be it Resolved that the San Francisco Labor Council, as a high priority, actively participate in building a broad based movement for (1) fair and progressive taxation in California, (2) majority rule and the end to the 2/3 vote requirement for taxes and (3) adequate funding for public services.”

If we do not increase state revenues, then we will fight among ourselves for the crumbs. The University of California system (UC) will compete with the California State University system (CSU), and both will compete with the Community Colleges (CC) for state funds. Higher public education in general will then compete with K-12 for adequate funding. Finally, public education will compete with state social services for funds.
There can be little doubt that if we are divided, we will be defeated one by one.
However, by insisting that the rich and the corporations pay their fair share in taxes, we can join with one another, create an alliance among students, faculty and staff at UC, CSU, CC and K-12, and struggle shoulder to shoulder to ensure that all the necessary funding be provided to preserve and expand all public educational institutions and social services.

In unity there is strength. We have the potential to build a powerful coalition, starting with public higher education, that can reach out to other state workers and their unions in order to win the support of the majority of people in California and alter state budgetary decisions in our favor.

In the short term, however, we demand that any reserve funds, whether in the UC system or in any of the other sectors of public education, be immediately released in order to fund jobs and programs. We also call on the Obama administration to bail out public education and social services — not Wall Street and the corporations — and fund education and social services, not war.

Such a coalition must be democratically run — otherwise it will fail to attract people — and aimed at staging massive demonstrations and strikes that leave no doubt that we represent the majority of people in this state. Then, we will be in a much stronger position to demand that the state of California operate in the interests of the majority of its citizens by taxing the rich, NOT working people, and thereby fund the entire public educational system and all social services. Together, we can win!

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