Word on the Street: Fighting for a responsible budget

Catherine Balsamo — Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

  • Attempts to privatize education with the public’s money.
  • The elimination of accessible healthcare programs for low-income folks.
  • Efforts to sell off one of the key resources keeping our budget afloat and providing our state with good, family-sustaining jobs: our wine and spirit stores.
  • The proposed choking of state funding for all types of education, from Head Start to higher ed., kindergarten to high school, state colleges to community colleges.
  • The planned slashing of funding for programs assisting seniors and folks with disabilities, as well as folks who are at risk of losing their homes.

Many of these losses, which would be outrageous and painful to anyone who isn’t a millionaire (or who has children, family or friends who aren’t millionaires), would be done in Pennsylvania to finance $1.8 billion dollars worth of tax loopholes and tax breaks for corporations in Pennsylvania… or to give corporations even more of our state’s wealth.

Since corporations are currently making record profits by laying off employees and overworking the ones who are left, does giving Pennsylvania taxpayers’ money to corporations make any sense, especially when we would have to sacrifice educational quality and public services to afford to do so?

Working Americans know that this is crazy: that this makes no economic sense, and could be devastating to our state, economy, communities, families, and future. And Working Americans are more than willing to take action to preserve their public education, quality jobs, access to healthcare, and ability to retire securely.
Working Americans also demand, loud and clear, that corporate accountability finally replace corporate welfare.

The Rally for a Responsible Budget in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, May 3rd clearly illustrated the will, ethics, work ethic, strength, and sound judgment of folks across the state, as thousands of Pennsylvanians woke up in the wee hours of the morning to bus across the state and demonstrate to our elected officials that we must have a budget that encourages quality public education and family-sustaining jobs, instead of one that decimates these essentials to finance corporate gimmes.

Despite the overbearing sacrifices that working Americans are being asked to make to finance the richest of the rich, we hear this plan referred to as “shared sacrifice.” One Working America member from the Pittsburgh area noted, “The little guy keeps being asked to do more and more,” while corporations are getting breaks! Another member, a resident of Johnstown, recently pointed out that “you’ve got to work 3x harder to support your family” these days. Considering that, should our state budget ask the little guy to finance corporate tax breaks? This doesn’t sound too much like “shared sacrifice.”

At the Rally for a Responsible Budget, Working America organizers and eager rally attendees teamed up to demonstrate – simply, clearly, with a dash of humor – what this “shared sacrifice” request is truly asking for.

Harrisburg budget rally

Above is a photo illustrating what Pennsylvania’s proposed “shared sacrifice” plan involves.
Obviously, the guy grinning and cuddling up with moneybags as big bills pop out of his hat is the person in the photo who really needs a tax break. And, clearly, the woman standing next to him should be the one financing it by sacrificing her education, wages, public services, and/or job.

This photo is just one of many like it, with rally attendees eager to highlight the juxtaposition they’re experiencing between their sacrifices and corporate “sacrifices.”

Rally for a Responsible Budget

Accompanying these illuminating depictions of an out-of-whack budget plan, Working America members and rally attendees contributed in innumerable other ways to preserve and enhance our public education and family-sustaining jobs, instead of allowing them to be squashed by the corporate agenda. Three Working America members and a Working America member coordinator took the time to speak with the staff of a state representative: thanking them for standing with their constituents by demanding a responsible budget, expressing the value of our public wine and spirit stores and contributions these stores make to our economy and state budget, and urging the representative to support public education by preventing devastating defunding from a potential taxpayer-funded school voucher program. Members shared their insight, which grabbed the attention of the representative’s staff and clearly provoked genuine thought.
Working America members continued to contribute throughout the day by providing “I AM WORKING AMERICA” signs for fellow attendees, by providing energy and enthusiasm that uplifts the movement, by (literally) waving the Working America flag (see the photo above), and even by fixing the Working America camera.

It is so clear how meaningful a fair economy for working families is to the members who attended: despite the 13-hour day, time in the hot sun, and two extensive bus rides, everyone consistently contributed, and everyone was genuinely friendly, helpful, dedicated, and glad to be there.

“It’s an educated, healthy workforce that makes the country work,” a long-time Working America member-activist noted a few days before the rally. Members participating in the Pennsylvania budget rally furthered Working America’s contributions to ensuring Pennsylvania has an educated and healthy workforce. And by continuing to act, Working America members will get our state, and our country, back to working for working families.