On December 30, our neighbor Robert Ham submitted a letter to the editor calling for “common sense” in tax policy for Connecticut. This piece called, essentially, for lowering taxes on the wealthy, and was in response to an article by Keith Phaneuf which pointed to increasing taxes on the wealthy as a way to make up the state’s $4.3 billion budget deficit. The unfortunate fact of the matter though is that the problems of the state, the country, and the world cannot be fixed by anything short of fundamental changes to our economy.
Connecticut faces a deadly threat from climate change, the local results of a global capitalist crisis, and an epidemic of inequality made worse by racial oppression. Common sense balks at these kinds of issues! The means exist to solve these problems and build a better world, but not within the capitalist system.
To beat climate change or fix any of the other large problems facing our state we need to change the way that our economy functions. Under capitalism, goods and services are provided based on the profit motive: investment is made by the banks where they will make a profit. If it is not profitable to do, then they won’t invest in it.
Capitalism puts workers into motion to build huge factories, run vast logistics networks, and staff massive stores; in the process, though, every opportunity is taken to cut wages and reduce staffing to increase profits. This slowly grinds away people’s purchasing power and quickly increases companies’ earnings. Debt piles up as a result, and shocks like the pandemic inevitably bring down the economic house of cards. The immense economy now lies dormant until another upswing, and the workers who ran it are forced to be idle and suffer the effects of poverty.
But why? We have apartments to repair, tidal barriers to erect, and people to feed, even if the landlords, construction companies and restaurateurs aren’t up to the task.
Socialism means democratic control over the economy if it means anything at all. From the CEO on down, it is workers who make the economy tick, and the shareholders and board members who reap the rewards. We are already running things. The Fortune 500 Companies, with 13 Connecticut members, make up two-thirds of U.S. GDP and made $1.1 trillion in profits in 2019. If we were to nationalize these companies, many of which are already administered “publicly,” and run them democratically for people rather than profit, we would be well equipped to start fixing four centuries of racial injustice and face a hostile century.
The bankers will make all sorts of objections, but their system speaks for itself. Workers are already running things, we just need to control them.
To get from here to there, though, we need a new party. Working conditions and living standards go down while healthcare costs and profits go up no matter who sits in the statehouse, causing many to check out of politics altogether. Why does our multi-millionaire governor share a party with the labor unions when they have such contrary agendas? Much ado is made about “progressive” Democrats, “labor” Democrats, and “Democratic Socialist” Democrats, but why should they be part of a party where the key decisions are made by big donors and bureaucrats behind closed doors?
We need a really “democratic” party that is free from corporate money and not afraid to fight capitalist property. Not to mince words, we need a revolutionary party. The Bernie Sanders presidential campaigns and the George Floyd uprising blew the lid off of American politics and showed anyone who can see that the workers and youth have massive untapped political energy. The unions have the resources and community links to get such a party off the ground and reverse a 50-year decline in the process. The path in front of Connecticut is clear: either we let our problems continue to fester in the old political and economic system or we make a break with the status quo for a better world!
Eric Goodman is a resident Hamden.