Thursday, October 25, 2012

Discussing an Agenda for a Democratized Economy So it is the People’s Economy

By Gary Berg-Cross

Saturday, Nov 3rd, from (2-4 p.m.) the MDC chapter of WASH will have a talk Margaret Flowers & Kevin Zeese (co-directors of Its Our Economy) entitled: "Shifting Economic and Political Power to the People. ”  This will be at the Wheaton regional library 11701 Georgia Avenue  Wheaton, MD 20902.

As attorney Kevin Zeese notes the Roman philosopher/statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero defined “Freedom” as “participation in power.” By that standard most of we Americans are not free since do not participate in real power and decision making. Yes, we get to vote every now and then, but this seems a distant form of influence now.  Real power resides in organizations like the Bank of America which has spent millions lobbying the US Congress to pass laws that benefit then directly or indirectly by deregulating industry. One example cited is their spending millions to oppose bills like the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights &  the Foreclosure Prevention Act, Helping Families Save their Homes Act, Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act, all of which would have directly benefited consumers and hence the Public. 

Self advancement and deregulation explains in part why our system could not avoid a Bush-era economic/financial system collapse in 2008.  This followed the longer, contextual 30 year decline of basically stagnant and minimized worker wages. The result has been to produce a numbing, record household, personal and educational debt. 

An article on the Its Our Economy site described the scene this way:
At the same time working Americans saw jobs disappearing, hours reduced, salaries shrinking and more under-employment.  They also saw their retirement savings disappear, 5 million foreclosures, record bankruptcies, record poverty and shrinking housing values.  The cost of everything from health care, to food to energy kept rising while incomes fell. And, the social safety net, limited as it was compared to other developed countries, was shredded, a process continuing as austerity budgets take hold across the United States.

Why doesn’t the economy work better for most Americans? 

One particular chicken and egg problem seems to be the growing wealth gap caused in part by stagnant wages and debt. This inequality creates an imbalance of actual intertwined economic & political power. Eggs that hatch from such confluence craft economic and political policies that seemed designed to extract wealth from the economy and direct it at a favored few. The result is a form of structural poverty leading to struggle on many fronts (education, health care, home ownership, saving etc.). 

Margaret & Kevin will describe a 20 point:“ strategy and tactics to shift economic power, and thereby political power, to the people.

As time permits they may cover parts of their 20 point agenda to stabilizes the economy in the short term & turn things around from misguided policy to a more sustainable democratic economy. The outlined action evolved from a Prosperity Agenda (www.ProsperityAgenda.US) written in 2009 to provide for a democratized economy that combines policies that have proven to be effective along with innovative new solutions.  Here are highlights of the proposal.
*  *  *
New, Efficient, Clean Energy Economy
1. The foundation for a new economy is a carbon-free/nuclear-free energy economy; that distributes energy production down to individual homes and businesses and uses energy efficiently.  
2. The U.S. automobile industry, recovering from near collapse, is caught in the web of long-term costs for its retired and current employees, especially the uncontrollable cost of health care and rapidly changing transit needs.  Further, the auto industry has to move toward the new green economy, instead continuing to build SUV’s rather than hybrids and electric cars.
3. Infrastructure in the United States is literally falling apart and not keeping up with the needs for a sustainable carbon-free/nuclear-free energy economy. Long term investment is needed for new infrastructure. 
4. The U.S. and world need to dramatically reduce carbon emissions. A critical step is to tax carbon emissions at the source as they enter the economy, i.e. tax coal, oil and gas for their emissions

5. Develop local economies to reduce use of fossil fuel in transport and allow local businesses and communities to flourish. 
Creating Jobs, Providing Housing, Health Care and Building Local Economies
6. Individuals as well as state and local governments are in fragile financial positions and thus in need of an economic and social safety net.
7. Another tool for developing local economies, particularly around housing and land use. This is a nonprofit corporation which acquires and manages land on behalf of the residents of a community.
8. To address housing we must stop the mortgage crisis by requiring mortgage holders to reconfigure mortgages to allow homeowners to stay in their homes and not lose them to foreclosure. 
9. Face up to the health care crisis which is approaching 20% of U.S. GDP.  The United States has the most cost-inefficient health care system in the world.

End the Wars and Reduce the Military Budget
10. End the Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libyan wars and reduce military spending.  The United States needs to end a foreign policy based on empire and militarism

Re-making Finance, Shared Prosperity
11. Transform corporate welfare into taxpayer investment. Even before the current bailout, the U.S. government provided hundreds of billions of dollars annually to big business interests in loans, tax breaks, under-valued access to federal lands and a host of other mechanisms. 
12. Democratize access to financing by re-making the Federal Reserve and re-forming the nation’s money system. The Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors leadership is the exact opposite of democracy; it is control of the money system by the wealthy few, plutocracy.
13. Democratize corporate power by increasing shareholder rights, expanding the rights of shareholders to choose directors of corporations and submit resolutions to set the direction and priorities of the corporation they invest in and of which they are part owners. End corporate personhood, so that corporations do not have the rights of human beings. 
Financing the Government: Taxes and Deficits
14. Reconsider the tax structure to make it more equitable. 
15. Be mindful of the deficit and debt at all levels of government but also recognize there times when government must spend to rebuild the economy. 
Workers Rights
16. Democratize the workplace by encouraging employee-owned businesses
17. Reduce the work week with no reduction in pay. Before the economic collapse, 7% of the U.S. GDP was based on consumer buying.  Since the early 1970s wages have been flat in the U.S. and the consumer economy has continued because of two-income families, increasing personal debt and cheap goods from abroad.  This is unsustainable
18. Establish a national guaranteed income for all Americans based on the model proposed by Richard Nixon in 1969.
International Trade and Finance
19. End World Bank and IMF dominance (which means ending U.S. and European dominance) of the world financial markets.  These entities need competition and regional banks in Latin America, Asia, Africa and other regions should encouraged as should stabilization funds to assure currency stabilization.  These organizations need to be democratized, made more transparent and include appropriate representation and decision-making by developing nations.
20. Remake international trade from corporate trade to people’s trade.  The current rhetoric calls trade agreements “Free Trade” but in reality they are trade agreements that favor corporations over the interests of labor, the environment and consumers.  Trade agreements need to be redesigned so they serve the interests of people and the planet rather than the interests of corporations. 

Kevin Zeese, co-director of Its Our Economy, is an attorney who has been a political activist since graduating from George Washington Law School in 1980.  He works on peace, economic justice, criminal law reform and reviving American democracy.

Margaret Flowers, co-director of Its Our Economy, is a Maryland pediatrician. After graduation from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1990 and completion of pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Flowers worked first as a hospitalist and then in private practice. She left practice in 2007 to advocate full-time for a single payer health care system at both the state and national levels.


No comments: