Stop Paying the Rich and Increase Funding for Social Programs

The electoral programs of the Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) and the United Conservative Party (UCP) both call for cuts to spending on social programs and public services. These anti-social programs are said to be necessary to eliminate the existing annual deficit in the provincial budget, bring expenditures and revenue into balance and reduce the provincial debt. This talk of balancing the budget is all the rage across the country with Alberta and Ontario leading the charge. It is a farce. A person can balance or not balance anything when the person controls what is being balanced. What does this balancing of provincial revenue and expenditures have to do with solving the problem of guaranteeing health care and education as a right for all? Nothing! It is medieval obscurantism of the worst kind, a trick to throw the working class into confusion and have it give up fighting for its rights.

At the end of the four years of the proposed NDP and UCP budgets, what problem will they have solved? Certainly not the problem of guaranteeing health care and education for all as a right. Even their budgets remain unbalanced with the NDP deficit only slightly greater than that of the UCP and the overall provincial debt not much different. The UCP cuts revenue by decreasing corporate taxation while at the same time more severely cutting expenditures for social programs and public services. The NDP cuts expenditures on social programs and public services as well but with not much change in revenue. The end result for the two cartel parties in terms of their balancing act is a saw-off, while problems in the health care and education sectors remain unresolved.[1]

Increased funding for social programs and public services is a pro-social response to solve a problem. By doing so, a program is undertaken to bring social and public services into the twenty-first century in conformity with the socialized productive forces generally. This opens the door to solving the problem of guaranteeing the right of all to education and health care.

The productive forces need healthy and educated working people. The value educated and healthy workers bring to the productive forces in all sectors spurs them forward to produce greater value and raise up the entire society. Private ownership with the motive of making enterprise and interest profit robs the health care and education systems of much needed resources and revenue to expand and humanize them. The problem of private ownership taking value out of the sector and even the economy altogether is compounded with the refusal of other sectors to realize (pay for) the full social value they consume when buying the capacity to work of working people.

Science and technology have made enormous advances making it possible for people to live longer and healthier lives. Fifty years ago treatment for a heart attack was very crude with one in three people dying compared with one in 20 today. Hip replacement surgery was rare until the late 1980s, with little alternative to pain and disability.

Increased funding for health care and education reflects these and many more profound changes to the quality of people's lives and to longevity. To see this advance as a drain on society is the most inhuman, anti-social outlook possible. To increase funding for social programs and public services is a positive direction for the economy.

Funding of Health Care and Education

How should health care and education be funded? Solutions to this problem are restricted to those available within the neo-liberal agenda and what it considers acceptable for discussion. Those that declare funding of social programs a problem of a lack of general tax revenue suggest that working people should be willing to pay higher taxes to have better social programs, and to pay carbon taxes if they are concerned about climate change. Another suggestion is that Alberta should institute a sales tax, a regressive tax that hits the working class and poor the hardest.

Other neo-liberal solutions are the suggestion that government spending on social programs is too much and should be cut back. With layoffs and cutbacks more public money can go directly into the hands of the rich, which they say will then trickle down to the working people when in fact all that trickles down is the blood, sweat and tears of working people.

The ruling elite deem that the forms of taxation that came into being in the twentieth century such as income tax both personal and corporate, property taxes and user fees for public services are all necessary and beyond question or even discussion. In contrast, many working people consider general taxation to fund social programs a fraud to obscure the refusal of company oligarchs to pay for the public value they receive from social programs and public services.

The problem is not lack of money to invest in social programs and public services but the lack of realization by other sectors of the economy of the value those programs produce and the return of that value to those public institutions that produced it. In the modern, interconnected economy of industrial mass production, the different parts of the economy must realize the value they consume from other sectors including the value from social programs and public services. The refusal of the ruling elite in control to recognize and realize the full value their companies consume from social programs and public services greatly weakens the economy.

The refusal to pay the full social value of the capacity to work of healthy and educated workers over their lifetime is a glaring example. This extends to the refusal of the big companies to pay for the value they receive from public transit, roads, highways, bridges, airports, research carried out at public institutions and all else that is necessary for a modern society and its integrated economy of industrial mass production.

The oligopolies demand that the state provide them with healthy educated workers, public infrastructure and services they require without realizing the full social value. Never mind that many oligopolies do not even pay taxes or what they pay is far below the posted rate because of tax breaks of various kinds. Never mind the billions they receive in pay-the-rich schemes and in infrastructure and services that have become normal practice for big business. The end result is recurring economic crises and insecurity for working people.

The block to increasing investments in social programs and public services is not a problem of lack of money but of the social, economic and political power and control the financial oligarchy exerts over the economy to make it serve its private interests, and the absence of social responsibility in their aim. This is countered by the striving of the people for empowerment so that they can control the decisions which affect their lives. It is their struggles in defence of the rights of all which make the difference, not the election promises or policy objectives of the cartel parties vying to form the next government.


1. "At the end of the four-year budget period, the projected deficits are $3.2 billion for the 2018 NDP budget plan and $1.4 billion for the UCP plan [...] [T]he UCP's fiscal strategy is not to address the deficit or debt, since the UCP's stated debt load after four years of $86 billion is not far off from the NDP projection of $95 billion." -- From: The Employment Impact of Election Promises: Analysis of budgetary scenarios of UCP and NDP platforms, prepared for the Alberta Federation of Labour (April 2019).

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 13 - April 13, 2019

Article Link:
Stop Paying the Rich and Increase Funding for Social Programs


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