Georgia: Something is Rotten in the Peach State

We have finally seen some well appreciated warmth here in Georgia. After a biting winter that felt more like an epoch than a season, people can now go outside without having to wear thick coats and layers of socks. As a dialectical materialist, I want to say this is due to a natural change in seasons. However, I can't help but to notice the correlation between the warmer weather and the heating up of class tensions.

Governments around the world are struggling to salvage themselves and the capitalist system. As the capitalist crisis rages on, the capitalist class is transferring the destructive effects to the working class. Be it through cuts in education, welfare, unemployment benefits - our living standards are attacked so they can protect their own. No amount of reforms will stop the capitalist system's self induced afflictions, which are not caused by “greed” and bad people, but in the gears of the system itself.

The situation is no different in the state of Georgia. As the heart of the “New South”, the state government does everything in its power to accommodate the local, national and international bourgeoisie, for the purpose of bringing Georgia “into the 21st century.” The legislature is considering bills whose content can best be described as the products of the shameless emissions from a capitalist's wet dream.

Punishing You For Our Sins

Senate bill 159 will no longer allow meetings or records of meetings between government officials and private business for the purpose of “economic development” to be closed to the public. It mandates it. Only after the deal is done will anything become transparent. This not only applies to the state level, but to the local level as well. Now that's what we call Southern hospitality!

The bourgeoisie never tires of scapegoating migrant workers in times of crisis. House bill 87 is Georgia's version of Arizona's racist immigration law. It will require all Georgians to carry identification at all times, and permits law enforcement officers to inquire into the residency status of anyone whom they have a “reasonable suspicion” are in the country “illegally.” Of course, none of this even begins to do the claimed goal of “limiting illegal immigration”, instead it sanctions racial harassment by the state for political and economic gain. It further divides workers, between “native” and “foreign”, and also allows for greater exploitation through extortion by intensifying the penalties of being an “illegal”.

Another racist immigration bill is HB 57, which would prevent students without proper residency documents from attending university or any other type of post-secondary education. People without “proper documentation” does not necessarily apply to immigrants, or to people who are in the country “illegally”, but supporters have been using racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric in support of the bill. The usual charge made by the bourgeoisie during their racist attacks is that immigrants are a drain on state revenue, because they “take out” more than they “put in” through taxes. Not only is that incorrect nationally (undocumented workers pay more in taxes than they receive in social services), but in this case it doesn't apply at all. People without proper residency documentation have to pay up to three to four times in tuition than in state residents. No excuse can be made except for racial chicanery.

Grooming the Next Generation

Major cuts in the state sponsored scholarship program, HOPE, have already passed the legislature and are awaiting the signature of governor Nathan Deal. The HOPE scholarship pays the tuition of a Georgia resident in full, depending if the resident graduates high school with a B average or maintains one in college. The scholarship is funded by the state lottery, which makes its money through lottery ticket sales which are largely purchased by the poor and the working class. This has had the effect of the state's poor subsidizing the education of upper class Georgians, who have better access to state and private education. Even though it has operated regressively, many low income and working class students have benefited from the HOPE scholarship, allowing them to have an opportunity that used to be unavailable.

This posed a mini-crisis for the state bourgeoisie - how do we make cuts to HOPE that will be felt by those who will be most negatively affected (the working class), while maintaining and increasing its regressive character? This was done in two ways. First, by reducing the amount paid out by HOPE from 100% to 90% (the state is also expected to increase the tuition rate) for all of those graduating and maintaining a B average. Second, by paying out 100% to students who graduate high school with an A average, score a 1200 on the Math/Reading section of the SAT (a standardized test required for admission into college in the United States), and have taken “rigorous coursework” (such as “AP classes” that are college level classes that students can take in high school). Given that public schools that cater to upper class students receives more state funding than rural or inner city public schools (which sometimes totally lack AP courses), not to mention private schools, the regressive benefits of the HOPE scholarship are retained and expanded.

Eat the Poor, Feed the Rich


“Tax reform” legislation in consideration (HB 385) would shift the tax burden onto the working class in an unprecedented manner, while awarding monumental tax breaks and exemptions to business. The corporate tax rate, already one of the lowest in the country standing at 6%, will be reduced to 4% by the year 2013. Mother Theresa would consider that to be of proper egalitarian spirit when compared to the incredible tax hike imposed on consumers. Services, which were previously exempt from a sales tax, are now open game. Worst of all, the tax exemption status for the sale of groceries is now revoked (this includes school lunches).

However, not all is lost. Consumable supplies, energy, equipment, fixtures, industrial equipment, and machinery are now exempt from the state sales tax, only on the condition that the sale of these products go towards manufacturing and industry.

The state appropriations bill has not been released to the public, even though it has passed the state House. From what has been reported in the media, the new budget increases health insurance premiums for state employees by over 20%, cuts in Medicaid reimbursements, and cuts in primary education.

The Heart of the Matter

When the bourgeoisie starts to feel the pinch, they do everything in their power to make sure it is felt by the working class. The austerity measures in Georgia and Wisconsin are not the result of the bad ideas of two arch-conservative governors, rather they have the same roots that are forcing our rulers from conservative politicians in America to social democrats in Europe to pull the “cuts” alarm : the capitalist crisis and its global rampage.