Finally, Election Day is over and we can return to what we need to do: build an independent, nonviolent, transformative movement to shift power from the concentrated wealth of corporate power to the people.
Every four years Americans hold their nose and vote for who they believe is the ‘lesser evil’ or risk being called a ‘spoiler’ by voting for a third party candidate who shares their views. Yet, for decades now, whether Republican or Democratic government, the country continues down the path of greater power for corporations, an expanding military, restricted civil liberties, a ballooning wealth divide, decaying physical and social infrastructure and privatization of our public institutions.
If we haven’t already reached the tipping point when it comes to climate change, we are close to it and certainly suffering the effects. Yet, thanks to the oil and gas industries, the government not only doesn’t take the necessary steps, but interferes with climate change conventions to prevent effective agreements from being reached.
Over the past forty years, our country has undergone a corporate coup. It started in part with the Powell Memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in August, 1971 which laid out a long-term strategy. And now corporate control of the political system has become obvious. The 2012 election cost more than $6 billion and only 100 individuals accounted for almost three-quarters of all Super PAC money. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, appointed by President Obama to be the heads of the National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, have formed a council of over 80 CEOs to take over where Congress has failed and “fix the debt,” working to put in place austerity for social programs.
More people see that the current political system is broken and merely electing people into that system is not the answer. We must end the rule of money. And it is up to us, not elected leaders, to create the changes we require. We must break from the short-sightedness of the election cycle and focus our efforts on the long term struggle.
If the people were the ones deciding on policies, we would see effective solutions being put in place to address our many crises. Polling data shows consistently that supermajorities of people in the United States support taxing the rich, ending corporate welfare, switching to a green energy economy, strengthening social security, improving and expanding Medicare to all, closing military bases and bringing the troops home, establishing greater worker rights and getting money out of politics. Yet, Congress and the White House are moving in the opposite direction on all of these issues.
Change will have to come from people getting organized and building power. This was beginning to happen even before the 2012 election as we saw with Occupy and protests against mountain top removal, closing of schools, climate change, foreclosures, banking abuse, attacks on unions and so many other issues. Our task of building power requires us to focus that energy, come together and recognize that all of our issues are connected and all are blocked by concentrated wealth controlling all levels of government through corporate power.
There are many crises that are critical to mobilize around. Here are three immediate issues that can bring us together, build a stronger movement and that, if we succeed, will shift the power structure:
- Stop The Keystone XL Pipeline: The resistance against the pipeline by the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas is inspiring. If people from across the country joined the effort we can stop this pipeline. The potential coalition is massive, not just environmentalists, climate change and green energy advocates, which is already a good sized group, but ranchers, farmers, indigenous peoples, people opposed to eminent domain (especially for foreign corporations taking the land of Americans) and people concerned about the U.S. water supply. See Join the Keystone Blockade, especially watch the video which shows the kind of incredible coalition that could be developed.
- Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership: The TPP, the largest trade agreement in history, will be very unpopular if exposed, which is why Obama is trying to negotiate it in secret. This global corporate coup will change the nature of trade as well as regulation of finance, the internet, labor laws, environmental laws, consumer protection, worker protection, health law and virtually everything that matters. It will result in massive outsourcing of U.S. jobs and continue the race to the bottom in wages. The law is being negotiated between the U.S. with its close empire-ally, Australia, and poor Pacific Rim countries like Peru and Vietnam. Obama has 600 corporate advisers commenting on drafts in live time while the media, congress and the public are kept in the dark (except for leaks that tell us what is going on). The TPP has an unusual “docking provision” that lets other nations join but only after the agreement is fully negotiated. One example from what has been leaked: the TPP will create trade tribunals which will give corporations more power than governments and will create a new legal system that will override legislation, regulations and court decisions. See flushthetpp.org for more.
- Say No to Austerity: Austerity is coming quickly to the United States. This is what has caused the revolt in Europe to expand rapidly. Austerity will seek to cut popular programs including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while military spending rises. Significant tax increases on the wealthy as well as a tiny financial transactions tax, the Robin Hood Tax, are unlikely. More on these upcoming cuts is available at itsoureconomy.us and an alternative to austerity, “The 99 percent’s Deficit Proposal: How to create jobs, reduce the wealth divide and control spending.” Get involved with Solidarity Against Austerity.
There are other key issues on which to build our transformative movement. An issue that connects every American continues to be health care. The Obama reform will only minimally decrease the number of uninsured but will greatly increase the number of people without adequate insurance. The under-insured will lead to increased bankruptcy and decreased use of needed health care because of out-of-pocket expenses. Building a broad movement to end Wall Street health care will have impacts beyond improving health because it will end a profit center of concentrated wealth. Join us at It’s Our Economy in building this movement, linked to other social and economic justice issues.
And an issue that should ignite and anger the nation’s youth is crushing student debt of $1 trillion while graduates are entering a job market in which 50% are under employed or unable to find a job. There are campaigns and organizations around the country challenging student debt. Rises in tuition caused a massive revolt in Montreal bringing hundreds of thousands into the streets. Now the Quebec Student Movement organizers are calling for monthly marches around the world, “VIA 22,” which calls for a march on the 22nd of each month followed by a community discussion. Student debt is part of a bigger problem of debt which is leading to calls for a global debt strike under the slogan “You are not a loan, you are not alone.”
The crushing weight of American Empire with its massive spending on war and weapons, as well as creating an empire economy that sucks jobs out of the U.S. so transnational corporations and oligarchs around the world profit can be brought to an end. It is self-destructing of its own weight and expense but we need to organize at home to replace the empire economy with a democratized economy where people have greater control over their own economic lives as well as more influence over the direction of the economy. Democratized economic systems are being built around the country and the world. We can expand them.
No matter which issues we work on to build power, we must do two things simultaneously (1) protest what we do not like, and (2) build what we do like. Or, as we say, stop the machine and create a new world. Our strategies must be designed to draw people to the mass movement required to win and divide the power structure by weakening the pillars of power that hold the status quo in place.
Americans are awakening to the realities of the unfair economy and dysfunctional government. Now it is time to educate, organize and mobilize around a strategy that will build the power of people and put in place the kind of sustainable economy and participatory government we urgently need.