Saturday, December 23, 2017

On Net Neutrality

Last Thursday (December 14th), the Federal Communications Commission, under the leadership of a former Verizon corporate lawyer, voted to end net neutrality regulations that protect the open Internet. These regulations prevented Internet service providers from treating data differently. If you wanted to stream video, read news, or check social media, your ISP could not block or slow down access to those sites.

Now, however, your ISP will be able to throttle and block access to sites. For example, Verizon, which owns Yahoo and the streaming service go90, might throttle speeds to Google and Youtube. Users of Google Fiber might find themselves in a similar situation. Another potential development is that popular sites may be grouped into packages, much like with cable television. If you want high-speed access to Facebook and Instagram, for example, you might need to purchase a 'social media package' in addition to your regular Internet service fees. Meanwhile, Comcast has promised that it will not discriminate against competitors to its media property NBCUniversal. Without net neutrality, all we can do is trust a company that already charges fees to Netflix for high-quality streams and is legendary for its abysmal customer service.

Advocates of the free market would tell you that net neutrality regulations prevent competition and stifle innovation. Anyone else can tell you about this 'competition', where most locations have only one or two ISPs to choose from, and where Americans pay considerably more for Internet access than users from other advanced countries. Ending net neutrality will simply exacerbate this situation. It is nothing other than a gift from the FCC Chairman to his former bosses.

What, then, might a socialist Internet look like? The Socialist Party stands for the right of ordinary people to express opinions and communicate freely by vastly expanding the public sector of all forms of mass media.  To that end:
·         We oppose private ownership of the Internet backbone.
·         We call for direct public ownership of at least 50 percent of the total bandwidth.
·         We call for democratic ownership and control of the Internet domain naming system.

Public ownership of the Internet backbone would physically remove the ability of ISPs to discriminate against competitors. Public ownership would also mean that revenues could be used to improve the network, ensure universal access, or fund any other project that the public chooses to support, rather than being given to shareholders. We can see how a public Internet backbone could work by looking at Chattanooga, Tennessee. This city of 176,000 offers one gigabit speed Internet access for 70 dollars a month on its publicly-owned fiber optic network. For 300 dollars a month, residents can get ten gigabit speeds.

Contrast this with the situation in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the country, home to several research universities, NASA, and dozens of major corporations. Comcast offers me a 55 megabit speed connection over its privately-owned copper wire network for 50 dollars a month. For 70 dollars a month, I can get a 200 megabit connection, one-fifth the speed that anyone in Chattanooga could get. The only other provider for me is AT&T, who offer a 10 megabit connection for 40 dollars a month. That’s not a typo – that’s ten megabit speeds, or one one-hundredth of Chattanooga speeds.

By maintaining public ownership of at least 50 percent of the bandwidth, we can ensure that social objectives are able to be pursued. These objectives would include providing space for individuals and groups to express opinions and thoughts that are not profitable, or allow artists to create without having to worry about needing corporate sponsorship.

The Domain Name System is similar to a phone book for the Internet; it resolves human-readable website addresses to the alphanumeric strings that the Internet needs to connect. It is currently controlled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This body is not accountable to any outside group, yet it controls this vital lynch pin of modern life. Public control of the Domain Name System would assure that we could properly oversee this critical component.

The Internet is a massive technological structure that connects people from all across the world. By its very nature, there can only really be one Internet. Private control of the Internet allows and encourages the consolidation of wealth into increasingly fewer hands. Public control, in contrast, would ensure fair and equitable access for all.

---James Wheat

An Endorsement For Governor

Hello All—

I’ve been a member of the Socialist Party for over 40 years.  I am a Socialist Party member because I realize that the two-party monopoly we have in this country are both controlled by the same corporate money bags.

Even while I acknowledge that if voting could change the system it would be illegal, I have always voted socialist when I could, voted progressive as a necessity, and voted against the total assholes when I had too.

So, in the 2018 Texas Governor’s race, I will again be voting for a socialist.  I will be voting for Tom Wakely in the Democratic Party primary.  Tom is the only socialist in the Governor’s race.

I will not be voting in the Democratic Primary because I am a member of the Democratic Party, but I will be voting in the Democratic Party primary because I will be voting for a socialist—I will be voting for something I want, for my own world view of politics. I will be voting for my beliefs and my friend.

Tom Wakely is not a fair-weather socialist.  I’ve known Tom for over 40 years and I have known him to be a socialist for that length of time.  He is a socialist that puts his belief into action—everything from running an alternative leftist newspaper to running for Congress; from being a labor organizer to an organizer for community-based non-profit banking.  He has built low income housing and built community organizations.  He advocates issues which are  the issues the working people of this state face.  He is a card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America.

If we are socialists, let us support our socialist candidates, as few and far between as they are. Let us support Tom Wakely for Governor of Texas in 2018.

Steve Rossignol

“I would rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don’t want and get it”—Eugene V. Debs

(The above is a personal endorsement and does not reflect the official position of the Socialist Party of Texas nor of the Socialist Party USA.)

Friday, December 8, 2017


With the tax bill now up for reconciliation between the Houses of Congress, it is clear that the capitalist parties intend to give vast sums of money to the already wealthy. We must look at what a socialist tax program would look like, one that would serve to help create a society free from domination and exploitation. To this end, the Socialist Party USA makes five major points in our platform.

·         First, we call for a steeply graduated income tax, and a steeply graduated estate tax.

·         Second, we call for the restoration of the capital gains tax and luxury tax on a progressive, graduated scale.

·         Third, we oppose regressive taxes such as payroll tax, sales tax, and property taxes.

·         Fourth, we support tax benefits for renters equal to those for homeowners.

·         Fifth, we call for the elimination of subsidies and tax breaks that benefit corporations and all other forms of corporate welfare.

In the first three points we can see a recurring theme: that taxation would be progressive. Put simply, this means that tax rates would increase as incomes increase. Furthermore, income and estate taxes would be steeply graduated --  significantly higher for high incomes than for low incomes.

As socialists, we recognize that the source of all value is in the labor of the working class. By keeping wages lower than the value that labor creates, owners, landlords, billionaires and other members of the capitalist class extract their incomes. Progressive taxation on incomes, estates, capital gains and luxuries will be powerful tools to rectify this exploitation of the working class.

In addition, socialists recognize that sales taxes, payroll taxes and similar taxes are inherently regressive, in that these taxes place a greater burden on lower income households than on higher income households. For example, a family with the median Houston income of $47,000 must spend most of their income paying bills, buying household supplies and clothing, and paying for services. As a result, most of their income is subject to sales tax. In contrast, for a one-percent family with an income of $400,000, who spend perhaps $100,000 making sales purchases, only one quarter of their income is subject to sales tax. Thus, the burden of these taxes falls more heavily on low incomes.

Lower income families are also more likely to rent their housing, while higher income families are more likely to own their homes. Since housing tax benefits apply only to owned homes, these disproportionately accrue to higher income families. By ensuring that equal tax benefits are available to renters, we can ensure that all members of society benefit.

Finally, we socialists are opposed to all tax breaks and subsidies for corporations. By lowering the corporate tax rate, capitalists argue that these corporations would have more income to pass on to workers by increasing wages or by hiring more workers. This argument is the same trickle-down economics that the parties of capital have been preaching since Reagan and Thatcher. In the decades since, corporate profits have soared, top level incomes have increased enormously, and the stock market is at an all-time high. Yet median incomes have not increased and private debt has grown immensely. After all these decades, it should be clear that trickle down economics is nothing but a sugar-coated lie to excuse the massive accumulation of wealth by capitalists.

In the current economic system, workers toil to produce, while capitalists exploit them and produce nothing. Make no mistake, this is nothing less than warfare between the working class and the capitalist class. Class war is an inherent characteristic of capitalist economics, and will continue as long as capitalism exists. The tax bill in Congress is simply a continuation of a capitalist front in the this war. To create a more just society, we need a tax plan that supports the working class. 

---James Wheat