Clarion Masthead

Letters to the Editor

The Real Threat Is Austerity, Not Deficits

According to popular rumors, the ancient Mayan calendar says that the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012. Meanwhile, the media tells us that our government could go over a “fiscal cliff” on January 1, 2013.

In 2011, Republican legislative blackmail over an increase in the debt ceiling, previously treated as a routine accounting matter, led to the Budget Control Act, which requires savage spending cuts this January 2013 if Congress has not adopted a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.

At a time of stubborn unemployment and impoverishment of millions, Washington’s obsession with deficits is alarming. Slashing Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other necessary social programs will only sink us into a deeper recession. Instead, we need more economic stimulus – yes, we need more deficit spending. This would increase consumer purchasing power and allow us to maintain and enhance the safety net – growing the economy and expanding our tax base as a result, and allowing deficit reduction in the longer run. But economic reality has been turned on its head with this constant bipartisan drumbeat for deficit reduction.

The long-term federal budget deficit does not threaten our economic stability. Calls for austerity and cuts to our social safety net, on the other hand, pose a threat that is very real, and could plunge us into a deeper recession.

Many Congressional Democrats have said they would be willing to cut social safety net programs in return for increased tax rates on higher incomes. But such cuts are not only unnecessary, they would be profoundly harmful – to seniors, the poor, the middle class and to our economy as a whole. Union members must mobilize to defeat these “Grand Bargain” proposals.

Joel Berger,
together with other members of the PSC Social Safety Net Working Group

Editor’s note: To help oppose cuts to the social safety net, contact PSC Social Safety Net Working Group co-chairs,John Hyland (lagsoc@aol.com) or Steve Leberstein (sleberstein@pscmail.org).


Coca-Cola at CUNY: A Bad Deal

Sarah Jaffe’s article, “CUNY beverage deal: Activists insist that ‘Coke is not it’,” highlights many reasons why CUNY should not agree to an exclusive beverage contract with The Coca-Cola Company. Coke’s labor and human rights abuses and racial discrimination are all good reasons to reject such a contract.

These abuses, including murders of union leaders, have been well-documented in recent books such as Michael Blanding’s The Coke Machine, Mark Thomas’s Belching Out the Devil, documentary films such as the National Film Board of Canada’s The Coca-Cola Case and Mark Thomas on Coca-Cola by the UK’s Channel 4, and websites such as KillerCoke.org and StopCokeDiscrimination.org.

Another reason to oppose any further contracts with Coke is the high prices it charges on the CUNY campuses where it currently has vending machines At Brooklyn College, for example, Dasani water or unhealthy Coca-Cola cost $1.75 in Coke’s vending machines, while these beverages can be purchased off-campus for a dollar or less. These excessive costs serve as a tax on CUNY students, many of whom are low-income.

Too much of the money CUNY might receive from Coca-Cola would come out of overcharges to our students, faculty and staff. A contract with Coke would also make a mockery of CUNY’s Campaign Against Diabetes.

The Coca-Cola Company is not a “responsive and responsible offeror” and should not be allowed to participate in the bidding process.

Nancy Romer,
Brooklyn College