It’s actually pretty revealing which parts of the government were allowed to shut down and which departments were left unscathed. The government shutdown included the Department of Labor, Commerce, Education, Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development, NASA, Women Infant and Children (WIC) program and the National Institute of Health. In other words: these are departments and programs which provide protections and aid to working-class Americans at a time when the economy is in it’s fifth year of financial crisis.
However, the FBI, CIA, NSA, Department of Homeland Security, the uniformed military, and all other faucets of wars, spying, and state repression against workers at home and abroad remain fully operational. Couple this with the fact that nearly 800,000 government workers (and additional government-contracted workers) are facing layoffs and furloughs as a result of the shutdown, yet the very members of congress that are responsible are still being paid!! This is an indictment not only of the deeply corrupted political system in the United States, but also of the class nature of the state itself.
As for the political system, the Republican and Democratic Parties are carrying out an unprecedented assault on the living standards of workers. The Republicans in congress have moved so far to the political right that they are now unapologetic proto-fascists. Their agenda is very clear. They work tirelessly to impose as much misery and suffering as possible on the international working-class in order to maximize profits for transnational corporations and Wall Street oligarchs. They could care less if workers are able to find employment, affordable health care, shelter, or even food. This has been evident from their relentless austerity measures on the state and federal level. Just last month, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a bill that slashed billions of dollars from the federal food stamp program, while approving billion-dollar subsidies to corporate farmers that have no need for an ounce of taxpayer assistance. This is an economic policy that represents a historic transfer of wealth from the bottom 99% of taxpayers and laborers to the top 1% of financial capitalists.
The Democratic Party has offered no serious opposition to any of these policies. In fact, they have continued to carry out similar austerity measures of their own. President Obama himself enacted a three-year wage freeze for federal employees in late 2010, despite his administration spending billions on the military occupation of Afghanistan and the vast expansion of the predator drone program operating in 5 different countries. Democrats have also cut vital government services for the poor on a state level. In California, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown slashed more than $20 billion in welfare, pensions, mental health services, and public school funding. In Chicago, Democratic Mayor Rahm Emmanuel has closed over 60 public schools in favor of privatized charter schools. As for the Democrats currently in congress, their fiscal policy has demonstrated a clear dedication to the class agenda of the bourgeoisie. In fact, 28 Democratic senators voted “YES” on last month’s farm subsidy bill that cut billions from food stamps, and in the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, Obama negotiated a deal with Republicans that slashed cost-of-living increases for those receiving Social Security benefits. Also included in the 2011 deal was raising of the eligibility age for those on Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees.
The government shutdown of October 1st is just the latest in a series of squabbles over funding that has produced disastrous consequences for the working class. Republicans in congress have refused to allow Obama’s health care law, The Affordable Care Act, to be implemented as scheduled, and have decided to hold government services hostage until the law is repealed. The Affordable Care Act was passed over 3 years ago and even survived a Supreme Court ruling. For the Republicans to continue to grandstand on the issue demonstrates their opposition is not really meant to repeal the health care law itself, but to use it as a pretext to impose more austerity.
What is becoming more and more apparent to working people in the United States is that their interests are not represented in Washington DC. It’s amazing that in a supposed “democracy”, just over 500 people can make decisions that effect millions. The federal employees that have been laid off as a result of this shutdown had no voice in the debate, they were not allowed a vote on where funding should go, they were not even allowed to decide what parts of the government should shut down if a shutdown were to occur! This brings into perspective the class nature of the state. The state presents itself as a legitimate institution with the mirage that the politicians represent interests of people in a particular region, when in reality, they represent the interests of a particular class. There is clearly a bipartisan agenda to enrich the capitalist class by any means necessary during this financial crisis. Unless you sit in the boardroom of JP Morgan Chase or Goldman Sachs, you can forget about making decisions in this system.
Capitalism produces intense class divisions, and those class divisions are made apparent by the state. The programs that benefit the rich and powerful would never be allowed to shut down, even in the worst of circumstances. In fact, despite running a budget deficit at the time, the government made certain that the banks would not fail just 5 years ago with a massive bailout package. The same institutions responsible for criminal practices that led to the crash were rewarded to the tune of $700 billion by the federal government! This was also a bipartisan agreement. The majority of Democrats and Republicans understood that in order to preserve the interests of the ruling-class and the capitalist system itself, this policy was a necessity. Yet no bailout for workers, the poor, the uninsured, the homeless, or the jobless.
The state is an illegitimate institution. It’s entire function is to prop up a tiny elite class and preserve their wealth and privilege by harming the rest of society. Every decision that comes from Washington DC is dictated by the financial leeches on Wall Street. This mechanism of systematic class warfare is not something to be reformed, but replaced. Democracy is a must. That is, true democracy, and not the bourgeois charade of democracy we are currently presented with. The struggle against these horrid attacks on workers should be a class struggle against the capitalist system itself. There is no need to place our livelihood and well-being at the mercy of politicians who represent the interests of capital. We can run our communities and workplaces without them. Labor is the core of society! It’s time to reward workers. The profit motive only provides the incentive for profits to come before people. This must end.
Organize. Smash capitalism. Smash the state. A new world IS possible.