What Next In The Fight Over Who Our Economy Is For?

Who is our economy for, anyway? In the United States We, the People are supposedly in charge and our country and economy are supposed to be managed for the public good. But that isn’t how things have been working out, is it?
Let’s take a quick look at America over the last few decades.
We used to have a social contract. We invested in top-notch infrastructure (like the interstate highway system) and education (the best universities and research), and then tax the resulting gains at very high rates, to recirculate those gains for the benefit of all of us.
Broken Social Contract
Then the contract was broken. Starting in the 1970s a cabal of wealthy businessmen and conservative ideologues organized and funded an attack on We, the People government, manipulating public opinion and our political system, gutting the regulations and trade rules that protected us and our way of life, privatizing — selling off things We, the People own — and killing the tax-and-invest cycle so they could keep the gains from all of that prior investment for themselves.
Blanket Of Propaganda
To provide cover for the operation these agents of the 1% spread a thick blanket of propaganda, using every technique in the modern marketing book. They divided us by race, religion, gender, sexual preference, even pitting people who like quiche and lattes against those who like beer and sausage. To cripple potential opposition they infiltrated and fractured key institutions, and turned the public against the news media. They developed a professional career-path system that rewards those who play along with the corruption and destruction and punishes those who do not. To cripple dissent they used ridicule, shame and intimidation.
Destructive Choices Come Home To Roost
Since then things have steadily fallen apart. The infrastructure is crumbling. Unemployment is extreme. The country has very high debt. The trade deficit is extreme. Half of us are poor or nearly poor. Inequality is at the highest levels.
Bailouts For The 1%, Sell-Outs For The 99%
When things hit the fan it became clear that our country is no longer run for the good of We, the People. When it came down to it, a few got special treatment, the rest of us got … uh, less-than-special-treatment. (And weren’t even kissed.)
When the financial crisis occurred Congress was told they literally had only hours to come up with hundreds of billions to bail out the too-big-to-fail banks, and they did – with almost no conditions. We know now that the Federal Reserve also stepped up, providing trillions to the big banks, even hundreds of millions to bankers’ spouses! State and local governments, institutions and smaller businesses? The unemployed and millions facing foreclosure? Not so much.
Plutocracy Not Democracy
They provided assistance for the giant financial institutions of the 1%. Instead of providing assistance to the 99& — We, the People — our government instead cut the things We, the People do for each other. It was made clear that this country is now a plutocracy, not a democracy.
System Of Control Breaking Down
It is clear where we are. But it is also clear that the system of control is breaking down. The elections of 2006 and 2008 shook the foundations. Democracy tried to reassert control. The behind-the-scenes system of lobbyists writing legislation that passes under cover of “studies” from corporate-front think tanks, telling us this is for our own good, propelled by a flurry of corporate-funded op-eds, stopped working. After the bailouts for banks / sell out for the rest of us, people started figuring things out. In response the 5-4 Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision, flooding the system with corporate money.
Instead of stealth takeover masked by propaganda we now see blatant grabs of wealth and raw power poorly disguised. Now the control is in our faces every day. Even constant filibusters of acts that might help We, the People were no longer enough to keep a lid on. So now it is shutdowns, hostage-taking, refusal to follow laws, refusal to prosecute, threats to take down the government and/or the economy. Now more visible methods of suppression are in use — batons, tasers and pepper spray.
Waking Up
Everyone has been frustrated, discouraged, betrayed, scared and angry but without a focus for action. Then came the Occupy movement, people actually showing up and showing how! It resonated. People responded, and the conversation of the country was pulled out of the propaganda fog, at least for a while.
Stephen Lerner, interviewed by Sarah Jaffe for AlterNet, discusses where we go from here, saying, “[I]t’s an exciting feeling to see something a lot of people spent a lifetime hoping for –this kind of dramatic increase in activity that targets financial capital, those who really control the country.” On Occupy Wall Street, Lerner says,

Everybody knows they’re getting zapped by banks, and what’s so good about Occupy is that it’s put that front and center. The fact that they were in Wall Street, I think everybody forgets. It was not Occupy a park somewhere, it was the fact that it was in the middle of the financial district. And I think on an intuitive level, people all over the political spectrum understand that those guys are at the center of how the economy is organized in a way that doesn’t work for most people.

On Wall Street’s position in our economy,

I don’t think people are mad at somebody who invented a product or founded a company. It’s that people see that Wall Street is not productive. Their wealth and their riches, they do not come through any normal means — they come through cheating and gambling and ripping us off, which I think troubles us in a different kind of way.

On today,

I don’t think anybody should view a sort of holiday or winter lull in activity as a sign of anything. As people have said, movements ebb and flow, and whenever we look back, spring is the time that things take off again. It’s really important that people not say “Oh, everything was front page news and now it’s not.” People instead should be stepping back, saying, “In three months we did more than anybody imagined we could do, now it’s time to step back and figure out the next stage.”

What Next?
Now comes the long slog of organizing people into focused action to take back our country from the 1%. Van Jones has been laying the groundwork, joining with MoveOn.org and other organizations to organize the Rebuild the Dream movement, and its Contract for the American Dream. Please visit and get involved.
Here is Van Jones at Netroots Nation, talking about the American Dream movement:

Organized labor is fighting, too, with new tactics and getting more people involved. They are focusing on labor’s role in creating a middle class in America. The recent Take Back the Capitol demonstrations are a case in point. In conjunction with many local and national organizations SEIU brought unemployed people to the DC to occupy the offices of 99 legislators, asking for jobs programs and extensions of unemployment benefits. They also marched on “K Street” – the symbolic center of lobbying activity.
Here is AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, Take Back the American Dream conference in October, calling for “a massive, militant movement”:

Trumka told the audience that the right wing is “banking on an upside-down America for its path to political power.” Trumka said that now is the time for “a mighty movement for jobs and a just economy,” adding, “We won’t stop fighting, shoving and kicking until everyone is back at work.”
Here is Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, talking about labor support for Occupy Wall street, and holding Wall Street accountable:

Here is Communication Workers of America President Larry Cohen discussing the fight for the middle class on The Ed Show.

See the pics in this post, showing labor’s involvement at the November 2 Occupy Oakland actions:

Up To Us
What happens next is up to us. Don’t be discouraged. “The people, united, will never be defeated.”
THIS is what democracy looks like. Here are Wisconsin protesters chanting: “Tell me what democracy looks like. THIS is what democracy looks like!”

For those of us who can’t get enough, here is 13 minutes of THIS is what democracy looks like!

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Watch Out For Wikipedia

Try this: start or edit a Wikipedia article that includes information that might be unfavorable to conservative corporate interests, perhaps in the area of tort reform (incl medical malpractice, etc) or trade/protectionism, etc. Try adding citations to studies that show that tort reform is a corporate-funded effort to keep people from being able to sue companies that harm them… I tried it and it was removed in a few minutes.
Or try to edit the entry on Protectionism, perhaps adding something like the words “unfair competition” as in protecting America jobs from unfair competition from countries that exploit workers. Someone did this the other day and the edit lasted a few minutes before it was removed because it changed the “long accepted definition of protectionism.” In other words, the idea that our standard of living should be protected from competition using exploited workers is unfair goes against the corporate-interest meaning of the term.
Try editing entries covering other issues around trade, economics or corporate issues. See how long it takes before a pro-corporate viewpoint is returned to the article. Or add an article about a progressive organization. I added an article about the Commonweal Institute, and it was immediately removed, so I put another up and it was immediately flagged for removal. (I am working to save it…) An article about me – put up and edited by others – was also removed twice. The circumstances involved a professional “leading tort-reform advocate” — while I’m the person who wrote this report about how the tort reform movement is involved with the corporate/conservative movement. Go figure.
This is a problem at Wikipedia. It is quite possible that there are people who are paid to show up and push Wikipedia to reflect a conservative, pro-corporate viewpoint. And why wouldn’t this be the case as it is in so many other areas where corporate interests are affected? (I know of one corporate-funded conservative movement insider who spends much of the normal workday and evenings editing Wikipedia.) So it seems the Wikipedia organization may be unable to sufficiently police the site to keep this from happening, and to keep new people from having unpleasant experiences and being shouted down and driven away. There are so many areas of political life where conservatives shout down or intimidate everyone else until they give up and go away. Wikipedia is fast becoming one more.
This has real-world implications. Wikipedia shows up at the top of many if not most Google searches, and people tend to believe this means it is a reliable source. This positioning implies a public-interest responsibility for accuracy and objective presentation of material. On non-controversial topics Wikipedia is a very reliable and possibly the best source for information because over time the “wisdom of crowds” effect brings increased expertise to bear.
But like so many things today, in areas where corporate resources can be focused, the subject matter increasingly reflects the viewpoint that serves the interests of the few at the top. Wikipedia’s prominence is the likely reason this conservative information-purging occurs. It is also the reason Wikipedia has a responsibility to do something about it.
(Edited a bit for clarity, focus.)
PS also see this about article deletions.

Why Don’t Democrats Have “Courage?”

Why does it seem that so many Democrats are “spineless” and rarely have the courage to “do the right thing?” Why does it seem they always “cave” to the right?
When I hear people talking about “the Democrats” and “the Republicans” I think what they really are seeing is the political effect of a supporting movement-oriented infrastructure that the right has and we do not. The right has a well-funded infrastructure and ecosystem that sets up a supportive public environment, rewarding their politicians for staying in line with the right’s agenda, and punishing the ones who do not. Progressives just don’t have that.
Face it, it is very easy for Republicans to be wingnuts. It doesn’t take brains or courage or commitment – they just ride a wave that their movement apparatus sets up. Their candidates ride that wave into office and their policies ride that wave into law.

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m4s0n501

Authoritarians

I’ve been thinking that the problem we are dealing with in this country is not an ideological left/right battle at all, but rather the rise of the authoritarian personality-type in our politics. Authoritarians have seized the label of “conservative” but this crowd is not at all conservative – not even anything like traditional Republicans. I have always had the sense that the current crop of “conservative movement” wingnuts would attach themselves to any ideology if it helped them achieve power.
Maybe what the country needs is a personality test before someone can run for office – sort of like the Strategic Air Command tests given to people before they’re allowed to handle nuclear missile launch keys…
What do you think?

What Does “The Democrats” Mean?

Reading a great post at The Sideshow triggered something I have been brewing over. From the post,

“…afterwards we’ll have hand-wringing about how the Democrats failed to do this and that and the other thing.”

Let’s think about what is meant here by the term “The Democrats?”
“The Republicans” sure are good at jumping on things, taking advantage, making noise, persuading people, and getting their way. But when we say “The Republicans” who and what do we mean? Are we talking about the Republican Party? Republican elected officials?
When the Republicans “jump on” an event and do such a good job of getting their persuasion-message out to the public, what are the details of how this is accomplished? Who does what? Who formulates the message? Who conducts the polling and focus groups? Who pays the people who organize the writing of op-eds for newspapers? Who calls the editors to place the op-eds? Who arranges for all the Ann Coulters to appear on all the conservative media shows? How is it all organized and coordinated? How is it all funded? Who pays all the Ann Coulters and all the “little people” working behind the scenes?

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Abramoff and the Conservative Think Tank Racket

Bill Berkowitz, writing at Media Transparency, has a piece titled Paying to play, expanding on why the Abramoff investigation should trigger a look into the “conservative movement” think tanks that Abramoff was working with.

Revelations that Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bought op-ed pieces from fellows at right wing think tanks should unleash an investigation into two decades of so-called research paid for by conservative philanthropies

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Abramoff Indictment Hides Connection to RWNM

In a sign that the Bush Justice Department is working to minimize damage to the “conservative movement” stemming from the Abramoff scandal, the indictment and plea agreement ignore his misuse of the Capital Athletic Foundation. According to philanthropic watchdog National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy the indictment reveals “the debilitated condition of government oversight of nonprofits and foundations.”

The indictments and resulting plea agreement acknowledge the dubious if not illegal grantmaking of Abramoff’s Capitol Athletic Foundation (CAF) in more than one instance, but fail to penalize Abramoff on his abuse of the CAF as a personal cash reserve.
… For the past two years, alone among national philanthropic nonprofits, NCRP has detailed and denounced a variety of Abramoff’s misuses of philanthropy and called for IRS investigations, to no avail.

You see, the entire “conservative movement” operation depends on tax-free donations to so-called “charitable” organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and hundreds of other national and state organizations that are supposed to be non-partisan but in reality operate almost entirely to the benefit of the Republican Party. So any kind of crackdown on the misuse of tax-free charitable donations would threaten the continued existence of the right-wing noise machine itself.

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