Jim Miller teaches English at San Diego City College and is the author of several books. His next novel, Flash, is forthcoming on AK Press. He also serves as the vice president of political action for the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. These are his views, not mine, so if you have comments, questions or counterarguments, please post them directly to the blog. — EMILY ALPERT
“There is something about a march that is very powerful. It’s a powerful weapon, a powerful organizing tool, and it has a powerful impact on those who participate.” Cesar Chavez
On March 5, the California Federation of Teachers is launching the March for California’s Future, which will take seven weeks to go from Los Angeles to Sacramento in order to raise public awareness about three central ideas:
*Restore the promise of public education
*A government and economy that works for all Californians
*Fair taxes to fund California’s future
I am doing this march because we are witnessing the destruction of the California Dream. Our state ranks 47th in the country in per-pupil spending on education for K-12 and 45th for community college spending. Our California State University and University of California systems, once affordable ladders to opportunity for the working and middle classes, are now increasingly unaffordable. We are on the verge of gutting vital social services such as health care for children and home care for the elderly and disabled in a way that should shame any civilized people.
I am marching because we are pondering closing a host of our beautiful state parks and seriously considering privatizing our prisons. We are slamming shut the doors of opportunity and gutting our infrastructure. All of this is being done in the service of protecting the interests of the most fortunate individuals and large corporations at the expense of the greater good. This is not a just future for California. We cannot let it stand.
I am marching to reframe how we address California’s budget deficit. We can do this by returning the top tax brackets ($250,000, $500,000 annually and up) to what they were during the Pete Wilson years, enacting an oil severance tax like the one in Texas, closing the corporate loophole in Proposition 13 that treats big businesses the same as individual home owners, and rolling back other loopholes and pay-offs that the top 1 percent of earners and corporate power brokers have received while nearly doubling their share of income over the last 20 years.
What’s happened to the rest of us during that period? We’ve paid our taxes and watched the middle class decline and the gap between the rich and the poor grow. We’ve seen our services decline while those at the top have gotten tax breaks.
I am marching to broadcast how completely dysfunctional our political system has become. California is the only state in the union that requires a supermajority to both pass a budget and raise revenue. This outmoded rule makes it nearly impossible for the legislature to govern during tough times. We are, in effect, living under minority rule. Nothing will change for the better as long as a determined minority can block any solution to the state budget crisis that demands assistance from the most affluent.
On a personal note, I march for my son, a kindergartener at McKinley Elementary School in San Diego. I don’t want his class size to get even bigger and his education to suffer as a result. I don’t think the families of children in public schools should have to pay out of pocket for arts, music, languages, library materials, sports and other essential parts of their children’s education.
I want to be able to afford to put my son through college without destroying my retirement, and I want the same for my neighbors. I want my students at City College to succeed and not have to worry about dropping out of school for economic reasons. I want the kids of the farmworkers in the towns I’ll be marching through in the Central Valley (where the median annual income is $5,000 in some places) to have a better future.
I want our state to spend more on education than prisons but I don’t want to drill offshore and destroy the environment or outsource the bloated prison-industrial complex to pay for it. I reject the governor’s cynical budget, which pits worker against worker, children against the elderly, parks against libraries, immigrant against long-time resident, and on and on.
We need to get serious and ask ourselves what kind of future we want for our children. If, to borrow a line from Martin Luther King Jr., our futures are inextricably bound to the future of our neighbors, then it’s time to realize that if we don’t invest in the future of ALL Californians, we will all suffer. That is why I am marching to Sacramento, to make a case for a future California that works for all of us.
— JIM MILLER