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Movement to politicians: Step up or step aside!

from the Editors  |  Issue: August 2021

This article was published in the People’s Tribune July 2021 issue.

protest by youth and other Albany Park groups
A protest by youth and other Albany Park groups in Chicago are demanding that medical clinics reopen and that funds be designated for non-police responses to the mental health crisis.
Photo / Sarah-Ji Rhee

We, the people need help right now, and only the government can supply the help we need. Biden has been in the White House for a little over six months, and the Democrats in theory control Congress. For those fighting for a democracy that takes care of its people, some things have improved, but much more remains to be done. Biden is backpedaling or dragging his feet on some important issues, such as voting rights legislation, ending the filibuster, the treatment of migrants and refugees, environmental issues like pipelines and climate change, and universal health care.

Meanwhile, the progressives in Congress are far outnumbered by the corporate Democrats and are fighting under difficult conditions.

In particular, President Biden’s proposed “American Jobs Plan” and “American Families Plan,” which could pump trillions more in federal spending into the economy over the next decade to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and expand the social safety net, have sparked criticism from the left as being not generous enough for the working class and too generous to the billionaires and corporations whose pockets will get lined.

El Machete Illustrated cartoon

The plans will lift some people out of poverty, but not all; only 50% of children will be lifted from poverty. And while Biden says the plan would largely be funded by raising taxes on corporations and high earners, many are skeptical. Pro Publica reported that the nation’s 25 wealthiest people, who are billionaires making tens of millions a year, were taxed at a lower rate in 2018 (15.8%) than a worker who made $45,000 that year (19%). What’s more, those 25 billionaires saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018, but they paid only 3.4% of that amount in taxes. For most of us, the cost of everything we must pay for, from rent to gasoline to food to health care, keeps going up, while good jobs are scarce and wages are stagnant.

Some have compared Biden’s economic plan to Roosevelt’s New Deal, which evolved out of the Great Depression. The New Deal helped many people, but was ultimately designed to blunt the movement for change and preserve the rule of the billionaires. Today the corporations have almost completely taken over government.

Nonetheless, we can rely on the power of the growing movement to keep the pressure on the government to fully serve the needs of the people, and that life-or-death fight is well on its way. Just to cite a recent example: the Sunrise movement on June 21 completed a 400-mile march from New Orleans to Houston, ending with a demonstration on Ted Cruz’s lawn, to send a message to Biden to represent the youth and to be the promised climate president. Indigenous youth marched outside the U.S. capitol in April to demand Biden stop DAPL, the Lines 3 and 5 pipelines, and all pipelines.

India Walton, a socialist, has won the Democratic primary in the mayor’s race in Buffalo, NY, effectively making her the next mayor. She will be the first Black woman to be Buffalo’s mayor, and the first self-described socialist to be the mayor of a major American city since 1960. She told a reporter. “We are strong enough to overcome the entrenched Democratic Party that is keeping us from the progress that we all know we really need. There is a wave of progressive candidates moving across the state, across the country.”

There are many other examples of those in struggle putting their demands to the government: the fight for the people at the local level to decide how the $350 billion in federal Covid relief money going to states and cities will be spent; the victory against the Keystone XL pipeline; the upcoming march for Medicare for All July 24 nationwide; the ongoing fights against racism, against a police state, and for voting rights; the struggle of the homeless and those facing eviction from housing; the fight for water; the fight for equal access to care and vaccinations in relation to Covid-19; the struggle for migrant and refugee rights; and many more.

Our daily fight and visions for a better world is along the path of revolutionary transformation, and pursuing it helps move us forward along that path. The key thing now is to build and consolidate the movement, and push harder.

As one speaker said at the Sunrise demonstration in Washington, DC, June 28, their message to the politicians is “step up, or step aside!”

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