In Our Opinion


Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2023 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 71, printed March 22. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter/Spring 2023 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For other issues dating back to 2012, see the Full Issues page.

The last few years have been difficult ones for many folks. The pandemic cost a lot of people their jobs and most of the temporary government support has ended.

The last pandemic supplemental SNAP benefits were issued in February. Pandemic Medicaid expansion is ending March 31. Food prices are up drastically from a year ago. There’s the escalating eviction crisis.

In Richmond, residential property taxes, the highest in the region, are staying the same, but assessments are still going up, meaning higher taxes for homeowners and raised rent for renters.

Richmond Mayor Stoney’s budget proposal for the 2023-2024 fiscal year included rate increases for natural gas, water, wastewater and stormwater costs. Those are regressive taxes that hit poor people the hardest.

Nationally, many people have exhausted their savings, Credit card debt is at an all-time high.

Despite multiple rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, inflation is still rising. The Fed blames low unemployment. If jobs are plentiful, workers don’t have to compete with each other for jobs, and that leads to higher wages as bosses compete for workers. So the Fed’s goal is to “slow” the economy, which means the economy falls on us like a ton of bricks. That’s capitalism for you.

So all the objective problems caused by the pandemic – supply chain hold-ups, sickness, the deaths of one million people here – are being exacerbated by the government cutting programs and forcing us into a recession.

Add to that the banking crisis that has the world economy on the brink of disaster and the latest dire predictions about global warming, and what we get is a rising sense of impending doom.

All this has produced real emotional and mental health problems: increases in depression, anxiety, suicides, drug overdoses, street violence.

And this is happening as we head into the November General Assembly elections, and then the 2024 presidential elections. Will voters blame the Democrats and open the way to right-wing populism? Will they re-elect Democrats and then get angry when they don’t deliver?

We’re probably sounding like a broken record, because we always come back to the same solution: building the mass movement.

We don’t only mean marching in the streets, although we need more of that. We mean breaking out of the suffocating nonprofit-industrial complex that has trapped so many good activists. We mean real “intersectionality,” where we aren’t afraid to take on more than one area of struggle. We especially mean understanding the organic relationship between the wars against us here at home and the wars against our sisters and brothers in other countries.

The Defenders are currently working in three areas: Prison Justice, the ongoing campaign to properly memorialize Shockoe Bottom and antiwar work. We could do more if we had more people.

If you’re already doing good work, keep it up. If you want to get involved, let us know.

Times won’t get any better if we don’t fight to make it so.

Categories: In Our Opinion

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