A Point on Finances

It is fair to ask: How will we pay for our proposals? They seem very expensive.

We make reference several times to three main funding sources. The first is a full audit of all of City government and all of its contracts. The budget of the City and County of San Francisco is more than $9 billion—more than 13 U.S. states and 99 countries around the world, and it serves a far smaller population in a far smaller geographical area. $9 billon should be enough to guarantee a very high level of service to everyone in San Francisco. We want to know why we don’t have this.

We suspect (by which we mean that we are 99.9% certain) that it is because a lot of this money is squandered through mismanagement, patronage, and corruption. In any case, we want to know how much of this money goes missing and to where and to whom it goes missing. We want to staunch the leaks, recover as much of the lost money as we can, and use it to pay for services. Those of you wondering if this is a waste of time should bear in mind that even if only 1% of the City budget is going down the tubes this way, 1% of $9 billion is $90 million—probably more than you and everyone you know will make in your entire life. Put another way, it is enough to triple the budget of the Golden Gate Regional Center, one of the largest non-profit service providers to adults with disabilities in SF. And we think it is probably much more than that. We want to take this money and use it as start-up funds for a publically owned, democratically controlled Municipal Bank of San Francisco. This way we can administer our money ourselves transparently and in a way that serves the needs of workers and poor people rather than the ultra-rich.

The second funding source we propose is the divestment from SFPD and Sheriff’s Department and investment in social services. Much has been said against our proposal to dismantle the police and Sheriffs’ departments, and many have suggested that these can be reformed into institutions that actually “serve and protect” our community. However, if you look at history, recent and old, you will see dozens if not hundreds of promises of reforms, of which not one has ever worked in a comprehensive way. As we write this three police chiefs in the Bay Area have been forced to resign for different criminal activities. The widespread racist criminal rampage continues unabated. Police unions are just a gimmick covering for criminal activity and political bribery. Meanwhile, the combined budget of these two institutions in San Francisco alone is nearly $750m/year. This is enough to pay more than 9,000 full-time salaries at $40/hour. In other words, it is more than enough to revolutionize mental health services, gang intervention services, and can go a long way towards addressing the root causes of petty crime in the City. We are convinced that this is what we should do. It just makes sense.

The third main funding source we propose is progressive taxation of Downtown and big businesses. This would also include a tax on large properties and real estate transactions, as well as a tax on the import and export of capital and other goods through San Francisco on its way to and from countries located on the Pacific Rim. The monetary market value of all goods and services produced in San Francisco is officially estimated to be $411 billion. That is a staggeringly huge number—enough to pay every single resident of San Francisco $513,750/year. And yet the median salary in San Francisco is only $84,000, Blacks and Latinos live on around half of that, and people on fixed incomes, like seniors,

live on much less. Meanwhile, the City is operating on a very small percentage of the funds generated in the City. The government maintains the infrastructure that supports this awesome economic engine for less than 3% of what it brings in. Small wonder it is falling apart. Our workers and poor people clearly deserve much better, especially since essential services like MUNI are largely funded through fare dollars—what people pay for them. More than enough money comes through San Francisco to provide these services at a high level of quality free to consumers, and we think it is high time we did this.

The material basis for all of this wealth is the land, its location, and the development of the infrastructure that is on it, much of which was developed with public support. Based on this, we think it appropriate that a significant share of the profits of the big corporations go to restoring some of what has been lost through exploitation and unpaid wages to the workers and oppressed in SF through services.

There are a number of problems with this financing plan, though. We can expect strong resistance to the full audit of City services we propose from all of the City departments, to be sure, but even more from the contractors, both for- and non-profit who derive part or all of their economic power from the patronage of the political machine that we want to fully dismantle. The Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department have the strong support of many in the City who fear that these organizations are all that stand between the nice lives they imagine they enjoy now and the hordes of people of color that can’t wait to come and take all of their precious belongings, to say nothing of the armed paramilitary organizations that Police and Sheriffs themselves comprise, and they are unlikely to just hand over their weapons and their budget just because a majority of the Board of Supervisors votes for it, if they would, and the Mayor signs it into law, which he almost certainly wouldn’t. In addition to the support of the police and the Sheriffs who they pay to protect their position of extreme economic privilege, the downtown big businesses, the real estate companies, the banks, the tech companies, and the huge law firms all have a number of financial instruments available to them to make their money disappear into various state, national, and international accounts and investments to where it simply isn’t that easy to access. No one is going to give us anything. We must be prepared to fight for it.

Furthermore, there are deeper ethical and moral considerations. Most of the profits of these big companies represent the exploitation of cheap international markets in goods and labor, often at gunpoint. In a very real sense, we are talking about blood money that should be restored to its rightful owners. Rather than expropriate these funds for ourselves, we as fellow workers, poor, and oppressed people have the responsibility to create the basis to correct the grave wrongs that our local ruling class has perpetrated all over the world.

The point of all of this has been to propose a vision for what we deserve and to demonstrate that the resources exist to bring this vision to life. It will require a protracted struggle at the local, state, national, and international level. If we are to win, we need to organize ourselves. If we do this, there is no reason to set any limits in advance on what we can achieve.

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