Lincoln City Council Primary Candidate: Joe Swanson
Twelve candidates, including three incumbents, are running for the three Lincoln City Council at-large seats. Voters will cast a ballot for three candidates in the April 6 primary election and six candidates will advance to the General Election on May 4. 10/11 NOW sent a questionnaire to all candidates and we did not edit responses. View other candidate profiles here.
- Name: Joseph (Joe) Swanson
- Occupation: Retired railroad conductor, meatpacking worker, other industrial work
Why are you running for a seat on the city council?
To give working people a voice and using the office as a stage for building solidarity with workers’ struggles and social protest to organize and defend themselves. On this course, we can build and use union power on our own behalf, and for all those suffering blows by the employers and their government. On this course that includes support for small shop proprietors as we need broad, disciplined, and sustained protests of unionists and other working people, including working farmers, churches, and students to win this fight.
What are your key issues in this election and why are they important to address?
Working people need a government-financed public works program to put the thousands in Lincoln and millions nationwide to work at union-scale wages building hospitals, schools, housing, mass transportation and much more that workers need. We oppose “Work sharing” which increases competition among working people. Working people need to fight for a sliding scale of hours and wages to stop layoffs and the effects of runaway prices. Cut the workweek with no cut in pay! For cost-of-living clauses in every contract that raise pay and retirement benefits to offset every rise in prices! Demand immediate national government unemployment benefits at union scale for all those thrown out of work as long as they need it.
Higher property tax valuations continue to lead to higher property tax payments in the city of Lincoln. Does this concern you? Why or why not?
All taxes discriminate against the income of working people. I oppose all taxation of working people including property tax on their housing. Workers are weighed down by regressive payroll taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, cigarette and liquor taxes, homeowners’ taxes, as well as fees for driver’s licenses, schools, marriages, birth and death certificates, and numerous other taxes.
The Socialist Workers Party has no tax program. And we do not tell workers that taxing the rich will solve our problems although the workers movement has historically posed a steeply graduated income tax on the wealthy and corporations to replace all taxation on working people. So long as the ruling capitalist families hold power, so long as working people live under the increasingly crisis-ridden capitalist system, working people will continue to face higher taxes and layoffs and cuts to social services.
Do you support a recent effort by the Lincoln City Council to keep an emergency declaration in place for Lincoln during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am opposed to government mandates for any reason. None of this means workers must be unmindful to covid and other diseases. What is needed is being conscious of our behavior, knowing what we do can cause harm to others, always working on solidarity and unity is key to any class question. Keeping a safe distance or wearing a mask if needed is not the same thing as government-imposed mandates and social isolation through lockdowns.
Protection of workers and communities in the workplaces of industries can never be left to the capitalist employers and their government. Workers and our unions need to fight for control of all aspects of production. Why every workplace needs a union to collectively carry out the right to employment which the only serious right left to the worker in a society based upon exploitation and oppression.
Our labor produces more than enough wealth to provide treatment for anyone affected with coronavirus or any other health issue as well as the speedy mass production and distribution of a vaccine. But under capitalism, health care is a commodity for profit for the owners of the hospitals, nursing homes, insurance, pharmaceutical and related health-industry outfits. Capitalist politicians cannot and will not solve this problem. It falls to the working class. Like education and retirement, health care is a social question that must be fought for by the working class and our unions.
Would you do anything differently in terms of the city’s response to the pandemic?
Medicine in the U.S. including in Lincoln is a capitalist business, not for health care.
From the beginning of the pandemic, working people needed to organize to force the government to construct emergency hospitals, provide beds and expand the production of medical equipment and supplies. Increase the training of workers to treat those infected and massively expand testing for the virus. Instead, what we faced was a pure product of the profit-driven bosses and capitalist governments that serve them.
One of the excuses given by the capitalist rulers for their shutdown of production is the need to use their resources to fight COVID-19. But the social crisis working people face today reveals that there is no such thing as “health care” for the working class and other exploited layers of the population under capitalism.
For the owners of hospitals, insurance, and drug companies all aspects of so-called health care are run to maximize profit. Their starting point is cutthroat competition to corner the market in the most lucrative operations, not to use advances in medicine to provide preventive and hands-on health care for all.
The globalization question needs to be explained to working people, once you have supply line around world and of a sudden close because of pandemic, it only got worse for working people. The capitalists own everything, and they are responsible for all the chokepoints that make it virtually impossible to deal with a rapidly evolving catastrophe. Capitalists were not prepared for the massive spread of the coronavirus or any other crisis. Capitalists do not put aside reserves of equipment, medicine, and so on, to deal with any kind of emergency. They do not maintain adequate capacity and personnel in hospitals to accommodate a surge of patients. Tens of thousands of hospital beds have been “lost” in the past decade as the result of cutbacks and closures of unprofitable hospitals. The owners view reserves as dead capital they cannot turn over, which is why they will never have reserves. It is a waste of money for them.
The pace of hospital closures in rural areas and in working-class neighborhoods in many larger cities has reached record highs in recent years. The bosses say too many people pay with Medicare or Medicaid, and they cannot get the big bucks they need to make profits.
Some hospital systems promote its services to well-off patients with luxury amenities such as hotel-like suites with fluffy bathrobes, private dining rooms and access to chef-cooked meals.”
Care for elderly workers in nursing homes is the opposite. They are built to keep residents in tight proximity, to cram in as many as possible, with insufficient staff to provide care maximizing profits for the owners. Well before the current pandemic, an estimated 380,000 residents of nursing homes nationwide died from infectious diseases every year.
Under these conditions New York governor Andrew Cuomo ordered nursing home bosses to admit patients diagnosed with COVID-19, with no time or space to establish quarantine. The measure fueled the spread of the disease and ensured the deaths of thousands.
Cuba’s revolutionary leadership did not wait until the victory in 1959 to begin taking control over health care. The result is that today doctors live in the working-class neighborhoods are the heart of Cuban heath care as they practice in and organize to visit people regularly. This is not because they have a “better health care system,” but because of different social relations that could only arise from making a socialist revolution. In the U.S., one doctor for every 300 people, in Cuba, one doctor for every 150 people.
Only collaboration between scientists and workers can put an end to oppressive poverty and disease. Only through collective struggle that workers get to practice the solidarity that ties our class together and acquire the values that make the working class what it is, a class that out of necessity must combine and fight steadfastly to ensure the survival of ourselves and of all culture.
Did you support a recent effort to recall Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and four city council members?
No, not because I am opposed to recalls of elected officials, but the recall effort was organized by those opposed to wearing masks and social distancing for protection and there was no alternative in place in the interest of working people.
What working people need is to establish our own party, a labor party that helps us organize and fight politically for what working people need to advance their interest based in fighting unions. A labor party can evolve into a revolutionary party that speaks, and above all, acts, for all working people year around.
Does Lincoln have an affordable housing shortage? If so, what do you think should be done to fix it.
Access to inexpensive and quality housing is a right. But under capitalism it is a commodity produced to make a profit, not to provide shelter. Just as health care, education, and other social needs are turned into commodities instead of rights guaranteed to all. The only way to guarantee working people affordable, quality housing is to nationalize land and housing so no landlord can evict them, and no bank can foreclose on them. This would also prevent working farmers from losing their land.
The most recent budget in Lincoln came with $12 million gap filled by fee increases in 15 different areas, as well as department budget cuts. Do you support the effort made by the council? Would you have proposed other changes?
This question is like higher property tax valuations question. I reject the position of the capitalists’ class, their apologist meritocracy, and their pundit’s fake trade-off between workers’ jobs, social needs, and higher taxes. I think it is useful to point to the fact that workers in the United States paid no income tax until 1943. That is when the Democratic administration of Franklin Roosevelt first imposed one on workers, because the U.S. rulers needed to pay for their drive to dominate the world capitalist order during the slaughter of World War II.
I support an increase of social services such as street repair, but not from the capitalist class point of view of issuing bonds as the mayor proposed borrowing $25 million in bonds backed by gas tax money. The owners of banking, industrial, and other capital do face a genuine problem with the federal, state and cities budget deficit and the growing national, state and city debts. But what is of interest to workers is how they try to solve it.
One of the biggest causes of the growing deficit is interest payments to the holders of federal, state, and city government bonds. Bond-holders payments have a higher percentage than government spending on education, transportation, housing, and other social needs that are always under attack. But the payments to the wealthy bondholders are not being cut and get paid first out of any budget. In times of economic crisis, the government uses the “budget deficit” argument to justify slashing social services and city and state jobs but not bond-holders’ payments.
Bonds, are designed primarily to enrich the super wealthy, taking a little more of the surplus value that workers produce. Municipal governments run on deficit budgets and float bonds, which serve as loans, to make up for the shortfall. The overwhelming majority of these coupons are bought up by multimillionaire and billionaire families who have enough money capital to purchase coupons and skim off interest until the principal is paid back in many years later. As a bonus, it is usually all tax-free.
There are plenty of resources available to provide all social services working people need. Workers and working farmers produce all the immense wealth of society, which is pocketed directly by the multi- millionaire and billionaire families. These are the trillions of dollars capitalists already have that could be used not just to provide the social services working people need but also raise the social wage and living standards of working people, the profits they squeeze from the fruits of our labor.
In addition, a government-financed public works programs that are needed would put thousands in Lincoln and millions to work nationally and that wealth would be circulated throughout society.
If elected as council, how will you apply your experience to address future budget negotiations?
I have been a 39-year member and one of the many leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. I am now a retired worker, still active in the rail union, a member of Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation-Transportation Division Alumni Association Local 1732 and have been an active union member for over 60 years in rail, meatpacking, and other industries. I have joined and helped to organize marches, protests and strikes demanding higher wages and safe working conditions for workers, joined with working farmers opposing the bankers taking their land, opposing US wars, fighting to end the death penalty, championing the liberation of African Americans, supporting amnesty for all undocumented immigrants, supporting a woman’s right to choose abortion, and speaking out against Jew-hatred.
My party will give working people a voice and an alternative to the policies of the Democrats and Republican. Working people need their own party, independent of the capitalist parties. Working people are facing housing evictions, rising joblessness, assaults on wages and working conditions, working people need to defend political rights so we can fight together for a public-works program, to protect ourselves from the capitalist crisis, combat police brutality and attacks on women’s rights.
Is there anything else you’d like to include?
The biggest illusion working people must break from is that there is an electoral road to make the essential changes for the economic, political, and social needs of working people. Many political people promote an electoral road for the interest of working people, meaning what is needed is government reform.
Regardless, if I am elected or not to the city council, the Socialist Workers Party will continue building solidarity with workers’ struggles and social protest to organize and defend themselves. On this course, we can build and use union power on our own behalf, and for all those suffering blows by the employers and their government including small shop proprietors. On this course we support broad, disciplined, and sustained protests of unionists, our allies among working farmers, churches, and students to win the fights today and the fights in the future on the line of march of the working class to take political power out of the hands of capitalist class and their meritocracy and use that power in the interest of those that labor.
Copyright 2021 KOLN. All rights reserved.