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A Solution for Everyone

6 January 2012

Recently the media has focused extensively on Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford's proposed cuts to the student nutrition programs. At the time of writing, it seems as if Ford has been forced to back off owing to the howl of outrage this proposal produced. A ten per cent cut would mean 58 of its 669 programs would be closed, affecting about fourteen thousand children.

The city is considering cutting $380 000 from its annul $3.8 million contribution to nutrition programs which cost a total of $12 million to run, the rest coming from the province and donations. To put it bluntly, kids will go hungry and hungry children can't learn effectively. It has been clearly shown that breakfast programs in low-income areas result in 50% lower suspension rate, and scores in math, science, and reading have risen by nine to fifteen per cent.

Ford has run into such stiff opposition on the council on this matter that they are looking at other ways to get the city out of debt. Ford's 2012 budget proposed $88 million worth of cuts, including closing some swimming pools, eliminating recreation programs, programs for the arts, HIV prevention programs, reducing arena hours, allowing ambulance wait times to get longer, shutting three homeless shelters, and halting mechanical leaf collecting and sidewalk snow shoveling for many suburban residents.

When elected, Ford said there was no need for any lay-offs of municipal staff, and that people leaving would not be replaced. Now the plan is to cut 2 338 positions that will require lay-offs. Obviously, Ford wants to cut the city's wage bill. Union contracts expire January 1, 2012 that will almost certainly mean a showdown. At the time of writing one cannot accurately predict what will happen but with management's attitude and the present climate, it doesn't bode well for the workers. A long strike seems to be the more likely scenario.

Ford, naturally, wants to get the City of Toronto out of its financial mess. The city employees want security of employment and to maintain their present living standards. Homeowners don't want their taxes increased but want the current services to remain. The students and their parents want the present food services maintained. The homeless want their shelters to stay. Is it possible to please everyone? Of course not. To get the city in the black would require slashing wages and services for years. Is there a solution to be found in present-day society? No, because our present society is organized on the basis of the capitalist mode of production. That means the small minority who own the means of producing wealth get to distribute it, too. And they feel they are entitled to the lion's share. That means that money for the benefit of society in general is scarce. The more money that goes to society, the less goes to the owners.

This does not mean that there is no solution. There is one, and that is to establish a system of common ownership of the means of producing wealth and free access for all to the goods that are produced. This will mean that society as a whole, not a tiny minority, decides where the wealth goes. "But it can't be done" many will say, 'society needs a means of exchange.' Wrong. Capitalist production needs it, a sane society doesn't. Some may be surprised to learn that for 97% off the time mankind has inhabited the earth, he lived without it, and it has only been in the last two hundred years that monetary exchange has dominated.

Some will ask, 'Who will go to work if they are not getting paid?' The answer is that millions do now, as volunteers, time and labour freely given for something they enjoy and/or believe in. In a socialist society all would contribute to the common wealth by performing tasks they enjoy or think are important. In the unlikely event there were tasks that nobody wanted to do, automation could do so. In a socialist society, the problems besetting the City of Toronto would not exist because they would be irrelevant. With no money, and hence no problems relating to it, public services could be maintained and improved, including, and especially, those relating to the health and well-being of the citizens. Homeless shelters would not exist because there will be no homeless. Fear of unemployment will not exist because there will be no employment in the accepted sense. All will contribute freely according to their abilities and partake from the common store of wealth according to their needs. The City of Toronto's problems are the natural consequence of the operation of the capitalist mode of production. We need to change that.

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