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Every election term, I learn more about how this country really works.

I grew up believing that voting made me an engaged citizen. Remember Bush v. Gore? I didn’t know, until then, that elections were decided before all the votes from came in from Americans living abroad, including Americans in the military. If the election results that year weren’t so close, I wouldn’t have heard about that detail.

In 2008, President Obama got less votes than Hillary Clinton, but he won more delegates. I didn’t quite get the impact at the time. (Now I understand why Clinton supporters were so enraged.) As Hillary battled Bernie, and as the Stop Trump! movement tried to derail his candidacy, the importance of delegates sunk in.

I learned that delegates are a Party (Democrat or Republican) invention. A news reporter went to a Republican caucus and interviewed a party member. He asked whether or not it was fair for Republican delegates to deny Mr. Trump the nomination. I would summarize and paraphrase her response as, “It is fair because everyone has the same chance to come to party meetings and be a part of the decision-making process. If people are not involved, they get what they get.”

Whoa.

Voting comes at the end of a long decision–making and action–taking process. Engaged citizenship means being a part of the process from beginning to end. Voting is literally the least we can do.

The next NYS election will be on September 13. The registration deadline is August 19.

Rhonda Harrison completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

Elected officials make a lot of decisions that affect students, so we should vote.  We get 4 chances to vote in 2016.  Here’s a little summary of what’s happening.

April 19: New Yorkers will vote in their party primaries for president.  Some of the different parties are Democrat, Republican, Working Families Party, Green Party, Conservative Party, etc..  When people register to vote, they get to select the party they want to be a part of.  Some people do not pick a party.  The registration deadline is March 25th.

June 28: Primary day for all 27 New York members of the United States House of Representatives, including New York State Senator Schumer.  The registration deadline is June 3rd.

September 13: Primaries for all 63 seats of the State Senate and all 150 seats of the State Assembly.  The registration deadline is August 19th.

November 8: President and Vice President of the United States.  The registration deadline is October 14th.

The only way to vote is to be registered.

Find out how to get a job as a poll-worker.

You can get more information by checking out CUNY’s Voice Your Choice website.

Rhonda Harrison has just completed her studies at CUNY SPS to earn her post-graduate certificate in Adult Learning & Program Design. She is a social worker with a background in workforce development and currently works as an Advisor at a community college.

All across the country, states are facing budget crises and are looking to fix the situation. However, the focus of many of the “fixes” is to attack public sector unions and erode labor rights in general. The justification is that public sector workers supposedly have inflated benefit packages, and they must finally “pay their fair share.”  In reality, this is hogwash. It is nothing more than an excuse to bust unions, rollback social safety nets, all while giving tax cuts to the rich. On the Rachel Maddow Show, Naomi Klein brilliantly describes what is really going on. The recent massive demonstrations in Wisconsin, and the threat of a general strike by some labor leaders, show that this time workers aren’t necessarily going to sit back and take the beating.

Most of the ant-union bills are happening under Republican governors. But working people are under attack, under the pretext of addressing a fiscal crisis, even under the reign Democratic local governments. In Providence, RI, for example, a labor-backed mayor recently handed all of the public school teachers pink slips. This was to prepare for firings and school closings that are said to be imminent and necessary to address the deficit. I just wrote something on the situation.

I propose one “fix” that would both help solve some of these economic woes and be fair. It focuses on going after those who bask in great wealth even during the economic crisis that they caused. We need to raise taxes on corporations and the rich. We need to collect the taxes that they owe and close the loopholes that allow them to shield money from taxes. The reality is that many corporations pay little to no taxes, and the rich pay taxes almost a third lower than they did in the 1950s—a time of great economic growth.

Yes, taxes need to be cut. We need to extend the tax cuts for the bottom 80% of the population–I would even settle for extending them for the bottom 95%. However, the top percentiles’ taxes need to be increased, so here are a few reasons why we should raise (and collect!) taxes on the rich, not cut them.

First, history shows that they can handle it. In the golden age of capitalism–a time where GDP growth rates vastly outpaced those of the last 30 years–the top tax brackets paid taxes as high as 94% of their income. High rates lasted up until as late as the early 1970s, with them paying 70%.

Second, it is good for the economy and the budget. It provides government income that can be used to provided vital services to the working class–like unemployment benefits, subsidized housing and healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, etc.–as well as be a source of funding for infrastructure spending–which we need badly, especially in addressing the ecological crisis. Both of these things stimulate the economy and provide jobs. Providing the social services reducing inequality and decreases the chances of economic meltdown. It also puts more dispensable income in the hands of people who will spend it, increasing demand and stimulating the economy. Infrastructure spending will directly create jobs–that’s an easy one.

Third, tax cuts for the wealthy do not create jobs at the level we need, if any at all. Wealthy people do not put their money into the economy the same way that working class and middle income people do. They are more likely to save it or sit on it to wait for more profitable times in the market. For example, reports came out recently stating that non-financial companies are sitting on over a TRILLION DOLLARS. Yet, they are not hiring people. This is because they don’t have confidence in the market. They don’t think they’ll make the profits the want. Here’s the link to the article.

What we need is a high road, wage-led growth, not low road, profit-led growth. The latter is what we’ve had since the 70s–the neoliberal era. This can be done in the short term by providing adequate fiscal stimulus–much, much, larger than has already been provided–and taxing the wealthy and cutting wasteful spending can pay for it (a few wars come to mind). Also, the government needs to have a more active role in creating jobs through infrastructure spending, etc. Trickle-down economics just doesn’t work.

But here’s the catch. It is going to be difficult to for anything to happen on the federal level in the next two years. We couldn’t get meaningful economic legislation passed under a Democratic majority, never mind under a Republican controlled house. We need to consolidate our forces on the ground and build so we can pressure for change from below now, as well as get some people elected in 2012. This does not, however, suggest extending tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting spending on social programs becomes the only option. That will only exacerbate the crisis even more. We need to buckle down and make sure that they DON”T get extended, that labor rights are not taken away, that teachers don’t get fired, and defend all of the other programs that are good–like social security. Also, there is room for us to wage battles on the state level. If we show our power in the streets, as they have done in Wisconsin, we can make them listen to us. A state-wide or nation-wide general strike certainly would shift some power to our hands.

The first step is to break away from the narrative that says solving the economic crisis “will require shared sacrifice across our community,” to quote Providence, RI’s Mayor Taveras. Working people are always sacrificing. It’s time for those who caused the current crisis—and for those who benefit from the perpetual crisis working people face laboring under an oppressive system like capitalism—to pay. Let’s draw a line in the sand and pick sides. Which side will you choose?

John Cronan Jr is a restaurant worker, organizer, and a masters student at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.  Currently, he is a volunteer organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY). John is also an avid Boston sports fan.