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President Obama has often spoken of the influence his mother had in shaping his life. Stanley Ann Dunham was smart, worldly, independent and free-spirited. The president has said he “learned about empathy” from her. He also learned to relate to the struggles of families trying to make the most of their lives with few financial resources to do so. He has cited her healthcare struggles — specifically as a woman claimed by two forms of gender specific cancer — as being fundamental in lending direction to his political moral compass. Therefore when I heard the news that the president is very close to caving on one of the most important healthcare issues facing women, for the purposes of political expediency, I couldn’t help but think that were his mother alive today she would tell him that his compass is off, and he is in grave danger of losing his way. Just a few months ago I wrote that it was through women’s health issues that President Obama could end up leaving his greatest legacy. I stand by that statement today. It’s just that when I first wrote it I assumed the president’s legacy on these issues would be positive. That now seems less likely. A non-partisan panel convened by the Institute of Medicine recommended that insurance companies be required to cover birth control for free as a form of preventative care under the new healthcare law. I can’t think of any medication that more accurately fits the definition of “preventative” than one whose sole purpose is to prevent something, in this case, pregnancy. As I noted at the time of my last piece on this subject, “If the government follows the panel’s recommendations, this could end up being not just one of the most important moments in the reproductive rights movement since Roe v. Wade, but the most important moment ever.” (Click here to see a list of the most important reproductive rights cases besides Roe v. Wade. Click here to see a list of ancient forms of birth control.) Though contraception access seems like one of those no-brainer issues that people of all political stripes who agree on little else, should be able to agree on, of course in politics today nothing is that simple. Despite the White House already publicly agreeing to exemptions for religious institutions, some religious leaders are arguing that the language doesn’t go far enough. According to the New York Times, “after protests by Roman Catholic bishops, charities, schools and universities, the White House is considering a change that would grant a broad exemption to health plans sponsored by employers who object to such coverage for moral and religious reasons. Churches may already qualify for an exemption. The proposal being weighed by the White House would expand the exemption to many universities, hospitals, clinics and other entities associated with religious organizations.” In other words, the changes being considered by the White House would essentially render the medical panel’s recommendation null and void, allowing any employer to claim religious reservations and thereby deny covering contraception as preventative care. As I have written before, I am one of the few people who can find gray area in just about any political issue, from capital punishment, to affirmative action, and yes, abortion. The lone exception for me is really birth control accessibility because it directly affects so many other issues, which is why opposition to its availability leaves me perplexed, not to mention angry. To the consternation of some readers I do use words like “personal responsibility” in my writing and stand by doing so. People shouldn’t knowingly make personal choices that they expect other people to pay for. But just as you can’t expect people to pull themselves up by their boot straps if you hide all of the boots from them, you can’t place obstacle after obstacle in someone’s way, and then criticize them for taking too long to get to the finish line, or for giving up and quitting the race altogether. That’s precisely what obstacles to birth control do to poor women and families — and increasingly to middle class families as well. If fiscal conservatives want to spend less on government programs like welfare, then why not make it easier for families not to have children they cannot afford to raise? And if religious conservatives are so opposed to abortion and consider it a crime against humanity, then why not make it easier for fewer women to find themselves in the position of seeking one? But another concern in all of this is the slippery slope it puts us on when we start practicing religion in the examining room. What happens when an institution wants to claim religious exemptions for covering treatment for an AIDS patient who contracted the HIV virus in a manner they consider morally questionable? Those of us who are tired of this political posturing should remember that the real culprits in the political standoff over contraception are not conservatives. At least they are fighting for something that they believe. The White House appears not to be fighting at all and this fact makes it seem as though the president and those around him no longer know what they actually believe in, or what they stand for. If we can’t get the president to fight for something as simple as birth control — something studies show 99% of sexually active women in this country have used and something polls show the overwhelming majority of Americans believe should be administered without insurance co-pays — then how can we expect him to have the courage and conviction to fight on the issues that are less clear cut? Studies show that the average American woman aspires to a family comprised of two children in her lifetime, a family much like the president’s own. Not only does he have two daughters, his mother, an only child, also had two. This seems to indicate that the phenomenal women that have shaped the president’s life understand the value of family planning in a way that he, and the men he surrounds himself with in senior positions within his administration, do not. If President Obama is not man enough for the fight for women and families, perhaps he should hand the reins over to someone who is. I can think of a few good women who could handle the job. He happens to be married to one of them. Keli Goff is the author of “The GQ Candidate” and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this piece originally appeared. www.keligoff.com
The big buzz on cable news this week is that the Super Committee failed when it couldn’t come to a compromise on how to cut the federal budget by $1.5 trillion. But the truth is that the American people won. And now, we must keep on winning. We won when Democrats on the Super Committee held their ground on the expiring Bush tax cuts on the wealthy. Instead of focusing like a laser on job creation, conservative Republicans in Congress held our nation’s finances hostage in July. To appease the hostage-takers, Congress created a closed-door committee to force through major cuts this fall. Thankfully, enough Democrats held together on the Super Committee to stop severe cuts from going through. Many proposed to seek revenue from small tax increases for the wealthy and a tiny “Wall Street Tax” on risky stock trades. But those cries from the 99% fell on the deaf ears of conservatives on the Super Committee. Progressives don’t often battle the concentrated forces of corporations and their armies of lobbyists to a stalemate. For that reason, we can stop, reflect on a job well done, and thank the congressmen and women who stopped the worst from getting through. But we’re not out of the woods yet. The so-called economic recovery hasn’t reached the vast majority of jobseekers and homeowners who have been battered by the financial collapse and its aftermath. And the bill that created the Super Committee mandated massive cuts to education, health care, environmental regulation, and job creation in 2013. So we still have some work to do. In fact, the fights coming up are likely to be brutal. The Super Committee trigger does not identify where the domestic cuts are coming from. And conservatives are already trying to roll back the trigger’s cuts to the defense budget and replace them with deeper cuts to domestic programs. So we need to keep fighting if we want to protect the EPA, science, energy research and development, home weatherization, and other vital programs. We also need to prepare for the fact that the deficit reduction battle will continue to rage in different forms, between now and the end of 2012. Throughout the election season, the same battle about extending Bush tax cuts for the rich (and maybe all the Bush tax cuts), cutting social programs and cutting defense will continue. There is the possibility for a good outcome. Democrats have a tremendous amount of leverage, because the Bush tax cuts will automatically expire at the end of next year and $600 billion of cuts in defense will go into effect automatically [which would be truly historic] in January 2013 if Congress does nothing. They can do it — if they show the courage that we saw in the past few weeks by the Occupy The Highway marchers. A handful of activists this week walked more than 200 miles to D.C. from Occupy Wall Street’s “Liberty Park.” They did so to make sure that Washington heard the cries of the 99% for fair treatment. They pointed out that many students have already mortgaged their future for their education, only to graduate off a cliff into the worst job climate since the Great Depression. Seniors and veterans have already given much to this country and deserve fair treatment in return. These groups did not cause our fiscal and financial calamities. The culprits are Bush’s tax giveaways for the rich, lax oversight of Wall Street and endless wars. Any sacrifices to solve the problem should come primarily from those who enjoyed the tax breaks, bonuses and bailouts, not those who suffered. Coming off this victory, people of conscience in Congress should follow the example of these marchers — and go the extra distance to find real solutions for our country.
If you wanted one word to sum up this year, it’s “noisy.” From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park, people who have gotten tired of the old politics have started grabbing the microphone away from the authorities and speaking themselves. And not just speaking; chanting, drumming, singing-conjuring up a new future. As 2011 draws to a close, diplomats from almost every country will be gathering in Durban, South Africa to talk about global warming. After the warmest year on record, and endless flood and drought, you’d think they’d be digging in for real change. But, alas, they seem likely to just go on spinning their wheels, unwilling to challenge the power of the fossil fuel industry. Leaders of the world’s major economies are privately admitting that they’re unlikely to reach a global deal until 2016 at the earliest. So here too people will need to raise their voices. But since climate change is the first truly global problem, those people have to figure out how to raise a common message, one that crosses the boundaries of language. The best method — proven in countless social movements — may be music. Earlier this week, the global climate campaign 350.org launched ” Radiowave .” It’s designed to take a single powerful song, and use it as the focus of a campaign that will sweep down Africa, one country at time, for the next few weeks, finally landing in South Africa just as the UN’s climate conference begins. “People Power” (radio version) by 350RadioWaves . Uploaded with Gobbler The song is written and performed by a who’s who of African musicians, from Angelique Kidjo to Maria Daulne and Ahmed Soultan. Hip Hop star Talib Kweli performs the opening verse. It’s in English and French, but also Berber, Arabic, Xhosa, Zulu, Setswana, and Fon. But it’s not just the beat that crosses borders; the sentiment, once translated, will make sense to anyone suffering the early effects of climate change. As the South African hip hop star Jabulani Tsambo puts it: “The weather is crazy Our leaders are lazy Their attitude doesn’t amaze me” In almost every country, the refrain is the same: people desperate for jobs, but governments unwilling to unleash the green energy future in any substantial way. As the song’s chorus puts it, our nations are “Drilling for energy, like you cannot see the Sun This earth belongs to everyone Mining for energy, like you’ve never felt the wind Time to change so we can live.” But it’s not just the musicians who will be sending this Radiowave crashing across a continent. In every city and province, volunteers have been trained to use the tune as a way get discussion going. They’ll be on radio stations night after night, informing people why climate change is important enough that some of the continent’s biggest stars are singing about it. In this country, radio is too often the province of xenophobes — but in most of the developing world it’s the way everyone communicates about what matters. Environmentalists in particular have too often appealed mainly to the left side of the brain, the part that likes bar graphs and pie charts. But we’re learning — more and more, music and art are part of the fight — because, of course, they’re part of the human experience we want to preserve. No one can predict what 2012 will bring. But around the world lots of us are committed to keeping it as noisy as we possibly can. We’ll sing more or less in tune — but mostly we’ll sing loud. We’re tired of not being heard. Van Jones is the president of Rebuild the Dream .
Every campaign a candidate says something that he or she ends up regretting, usually because an opponent or critic manages to prove the statement wrong in some factual or philosophical way. But rarely does a candidate prove one of his own statements wrong in the extraordinary manner that Herman Cain has managed to do in recent weeks. Six weeks ago Cain said , “I don’t believe racism in this country today holds anybody back in a big way.” In the last month he’s learned firsthand just how laughable that statement really is. To those who have decided that based on the previous sentence, this blog post is laughable — I ask you to first consider two questions. Question number 1: If Cain’s Libya gaffe — and without a doubt it was a doozy — renders him unqualified and unelectable for the presidency, then how do we explain the election of George W. Bush? His foreign affairs pop quiz failure during the 2000 presidential campaign makes Cain’s mishap look mild and yet somehow he didn’t become campaign roadkill. (Click here to see a list of some of the most embarrassing campaign flubs.) Question number 2: What if Cain’s sexual harassment accusers were black? (Let the eye rolls, hate mail and angry comments commence.) As I mentioned on MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show , shortly after the Herman Cain harassment story broke, the first question I asked a fellow writer is, “Do we know the race of the accusers?” I asked not because I care, but because I knew that some voters would — namely many of the voters Mr. Cain needed to win a GOP primary. How do we know that some of them care? A 2010 Pew Research poll found that while nearly 85% of millenials of all races support interracial marriage, only 52% of white Baby Boomers do and only 36% of whites over age 65 do. Pew data also shows the average age of registered Republicans rising to 48 and the party’s greatest bloc of support remaining overwhelmingly white and in the South. This means that the voters least likely to approve of sexual contact between members of different races are the very voters Cain’s political survival has depended on. Therefore it was a given that his survival would become tougher if the number of attractive white women accusing him of not so attractive behavior increased. What’s ironic is that despite his earlier declaration that racism doesn’t hold any of us back in any meaningful way, Cain later asserted that being a black conservative played a role in the allegations against him — specifically making him an attractive target of both liberals and the media. He was at least partially right. The fact that Cain is black and his accusers (so far) are reasonably attractive blondes did impact coverage of this story regardless of whether we in the media wish to acknowledge it. Though we don’t like to admit it there are countless factors that determine which stories we cover and how we cover them, including factors that should not, such as race. The disproportionate coverage media outlets extend to cases of attractive white women who go missing in comparison to the coverage extended to missing minorities, is so well documented that it enjoys a permanent catchphrase among media critics: “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” (Fingers crossed I don’t go missing anytime soon because the odds are not in my favor in terms of coverage.) When it comes to allegations of sexual impropriety the same calculations that lead some reporters, producers, and editors to determine that a missing poor, overweight African-American woman may not be as newsworthy as a missing attractive, wealthy white woman can also come into play. So what does this mean for Herman Cain? For starters, as long as his accusers were white, reasonably attractive and not completely incoherent, they were going to be extended a measure of coverage — and credibility — they may not otherwise. As such, they, unfairly or not, saddled Cain with the very albatross he has tried desperately to avoid. Herman Cain spent a lifetime defying racial stereotypes, both professionally and politically. Now he has cartoonishly morphed into the embodiment of one of America’s most unflattering, yet enduring, racial stereotypes: that of the black man that despite seeming to have it all, still sexually wants a white woman more than anything. Though his supporters were quick to hearken back to Clarence Thomas as a model for how a black conservative could survive similar allegations, they seemed to forget one key fact: Anita Hill, Thomas’s accuser, is black. This fact still matters, even 20 years later, and if you are a black man running in a GOP primary the race of your accuser matters even more. Don’t get me wrong. When it’s all said and done Cain’s candidacy will ultimately have been done in by his own hand; his poor early response to the harassment crisis that engulfed his campaign, his bumbling response to the question on Libya. But that doesn’t change the fact that the bar has always been set higher for African-Americans (apologies Mr. Cain. I know you hate that term) seeking to break barriers, with less room for errors. There is not a black person on the planet that believes President Obama could survive an impeachment scandal like President Clinton did. Just as we all accept the fact that no black candidate as inarticulate as President George W. Bush would have ever been considered a viable contender. At the end of the day I guess Mr. Cain and I don’t disagree all that much. He believes that race may have played some role in his demise, as do I. I guess the only real difference between us, is I always knew it was a possibility that his race could hold him back in some meaningful way. But it took a losing campaign, and abandonment by his fellow conservatives to teach Mr. Cain that lesson. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this piece originally appeared. Check out her website here .
The Supreme Court’s recent decision to listen and eventually rule on the President’s health care bill cannot and should not be viewed in a vacuum. After conflicting rulings in lower courts over whether or not the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, the highest legal body in the nation will now hear oral arguments next March on the issue, and is expected to reach a decision sometime in June. Though the Supreme Court may have the ultimate say-so in our legal processes, it’s important to remember that it too must adhere to certain principles. And when SCOTUS Judge Clarence Thomas’ wife is directly connected to an anti-health care lobbying group, and both he and Judge Antonin Scalia attend conservative fundraisers, they have no option but to recuse themselves. Last week, Scalia and Thomas were invited guests to the Federalist Society’s 2011 Annual Dinner. A highly conservative organization whose sole purpose appears to be to regress our nation, the Federalist Society not only asked the two Supreme Court judges to attend, but placed their names on publicity materials and gave them speaking opportunities as well. Sitting at different tables, Scalia and Thomas were only separated by the table of Paul Clement – the attorney who will likely argue the case against the health care bill in front of the Supreme Court, and the man who got his start clerking for Scalia himself. If this isn’t the most outrageous conflict of interest, then I don’t know what is. Earlier this year, Judge Thomas finally released the details of his wife’s income while working with the organization Liberty Central. A conservative political advocacy group, Liberty Central pushes for smaller government and other right-wing ideas – including a move to reverse the Affordable Care Act. Serving as President and CEO of Liberty Central, Thomas’ wife, Virginia, received a salary of $150,000, and less than $15,000 from another anti-health care lobbying firm she started according to published reports of these financial disclosures. When this self-proclaimed ‘ambassador to the Tea Party movement’ is the wife of a sitting judge on the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule on the very issue she championed against, how can the American people not object? Our judicial system was designed to serve as a forum whereby legal challenges and disputes could be resolved in a fair and just manner. And in order to maintain a certain level of equality, higher courts were established as a check on lower courts in an effort to provide impartiality on the day’s pressing issues. As the most powerful court in the land, the Supreme Court is the final word on legal conflicts and as such, its judges are held to the highest of standards. Not only do they possess this immense responsibility and authority, but the Supreme Court also sets precedent for how lower courts may behave in the future. Throughout history, judges in various courts have often times recused themselves when there was an apparent conflict of interest in a case. You don’t need a juris doctorate to realize that Thomas and Scalia should do the same now. As one of the first moves of his Presidency, Barack Obama immediately began advocating for a change to our health care system. After significant, seemingly endless pushback from conservatives, he compromised in several areas and presented the public with a health care act that still provided comprehensive reform. No longer could insurance companies discriminate against children with pre-existing conditions, kids could remain on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26 and many other benefits would go into effect within the next few years. As White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer highlighted on Monday, one million more young Americans now have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventative services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of people’s premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. But let’s remember that this isn’t about the President or about partisan politics. With at least 50 million Americans suffering without adequate health care in the most powerful nation, the Affordable Care Act was the initial step towards creating a more humane and honest system. I am not discussing this issue as a Democrat, but as someone who is concerned about the tens of millions – many of them children and the elderly – suffering without the ability to see a doctor. As I said before, this isn’t about Obama; it’s about our mama. Judges are sworn to uphold the law and to do so in an unbiased manner. But when you have two individuals who openly support right-wing causes and attend conservative fundraising events, we open ourselves to a clear frontal partisan attack in our judicial process. After the health care legislation was passed, there were those that objected and some that lobbied and took their battles to court. One of those individuals lobbying was Virginia Thomas. And now the court with the final word must decide if it will allow judges with such a blatant conflict of interest to rule on this vital issue. Judge Clarence Thomas and Judge Antonin Scalia must remove themselves from hearing these cases. It is the only way we can have a fair, objective ruling on perhaps the most pertinent legislation of our time.
After attending Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne concert I remarked on Facebook that I enjoyed the show — the feminist in me notwithstanding. Between the two of them there are plenty of lyrics that would make any self-respecting feminist cringe, but there is one song that some feminists may expect me to find offensive, yet I don’t: the Kanye West hit “Gold Digger.” Let me clarify. It’s not that I don’t find the song offensive. It’s just that I’m not nearly as offended by the lyrics as I am by the women that inspired them. Before my fellow feminists in cyberspace grab their pitchforks, let me start by saying I know not every woman is a gold digger. I just wish so many women out there would stop perpetuating the stereotype that most of us are. I was reminded of this when the media became obsessed with the latest celebrity babymama drama , this time starring teen heartthrob Justin Bieber. (Click here to see a list of the most high profile celebrity paternity cases.) For starters, as I’m sure has already been stated by others, part of what’s troubling about the case is that if the gender roles were reversed and a nineteen-year-old man had impregnated a sixteen-year-old girl I don’t think everyone would have initially treated the matter as a boys-will-be-boys like joke. But the equally disturbing issue is that Bieber’s accuser follows a long line of women who not only use their sexuality to get ahead, but their wombs. The act of becoming pregnant on purpose with the goal of landing financial security has become viewed as such a common practice that it is regularly joked about whenever stories like this become public. Bloggers, commenters and commentators use language like “just became pregnant with eighteen years of security” or “she just hit the lotto” to describe women announced to be carrying the children of rich men, particularly men they were not in serious relationships with but will now be linked to, both personally and financially, for life. From Mick Jagger, to Hugh Grant and countless professional athletes, the notion these women (and the men involved), help perpetuate is that there is another option besides appearing on a reality show for those who don’t want to work for a living. (And yes I consider parenting, at least being a good parent, the hardest job in the world, but you get my meaning.) What’s disconcerting is the message that the high profile stories of Bieber and other celebrities, combined with the success of programs like Basketball Wives , (which features few wives, but many women whose lives of luxury are bankrolled by the wealthy athletes they’ve had multiple children out of wedlock with) sends to girls everywhere: Why bother spending money on a college degree, when if you play your cards right and don’t use a condom — or poke holes in one — you can be financially set for life. (Yes you read that right. As recounted to me by multiple aides, staffers and ex-girlfriends of professional athletes there are women who go to elaborate lengths to become pregnant by them. Poking holes in condoms is just the tip of the iceberg, no pun intended.) As I made clear on The Dylan Ratigan Show , I’m not letting the men off the hook when it comes to their responsibility in situations like these. If a man truly doesn’t want to be a father, he should take the precautions necessary not to become one. If he doesn’t, then he’s a fool. Any man who creates a baby has a responsibility to that child. But a woman will always have more responsibility — at least in the beginning. Why? Because ultimately it will always be our choice, as women (at least here in America) whether or not a baby ends up in this world. Any woman who disagrees with that statement is in essence disagreeing with the very premise of a woman’s right to choose. After all, we fought long and hard to defend the mantra, “My body, my choice,” something I will believe in and defend until the day I die. But if we are going to demand that men respect the mantra “My body, my choice,” and if it is ultimately our choice and we want to protect the legal right to keep it ours and ours alone, then we can’t turn around and blame someone else for the irresponsible choices we make with our bodies. We also can’t get mad when someone calls us out for such choices. We simply can’t have it both ways ladies. I do believe feminism is about a woman’s right to choose, but I also believe feminism is about taking responsibility for the choices that we make. Having unprotected sex with a wealthy stranger whom you then conveniently sue for a lot of money afterwards is not a brand of feminism in my book. Furthermore, women who make the choice to use their bodies to create children primarily for the purpose of financial gain, not only go against everything feminism stands for, but they go against the very idea of responsible parenting. Kids should not be created to be anyone’s retirement package, whether your last name is Lohan, Jackson or Yeater (of Bieber fame.) And as long as women are afraid to confront and challenge other women who embody the negative gender stereotypes we battle every day, they will continue to prevent the rest of us from achieving the progress and equality we desire and deserve. So the next time you hear the song “Gold Digger,” ladies try to reserve your outrage for the individual who actually deserves it. Not Kanye West, but whatever woman, or women, that inspired the song. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared. www.keligoff.com
Yesterday evening, something historic happened in the homes, campuses, and community centers of America. From Biloxi, Mississippi to Monrovia, California, more than 4,000 people attended 375 teach-ins — all volunteer-driven — to learn “How the 1% Crashed the Economy, and What We Can Do About It.” The Occupy Wall Street movement has struck a chord with millions of Americans. It has given direction to our outrage and inspired curiosity about certain fundamental questions. How could the richest country in the history of the world find itself in such a grave economic crisis? How could the wealthiest in our society score record-breaking profits, while millions of Americans struggle? People are searching for both answers and solutions. So Rebuild The Dream Innovation Fund (an organization I co-founded) and our partners created a special curriculum — a teach-in toolkit to help people make sense of what’s happening in America. The teach-ins are based on an evocative slide presentation that describes the state of our economy, how we got here, and what we as progressives must do to restore the economy and reclaim our democracy. November 9th was just a start. The materials and information are available online for anyone to host a teach-in, tailored to our own communities. In addition to powerful facts, the presentation weaves a powerful story. Ryan Senser, who created the story and the presentation, breaks down the narrative as follows: “We all have dreams, and freedom means being able to pursue them. But right now, the vast majority of people can’t move forward because we’re hitting a wall. It’s a wall of extreme inequality, of debt, of joblessness, of social division. It’s the largest barrier to opportunity we’ve seen since the 1920s, and it’s holding our country back. We know who built this wall – Wall Street. Wall Street big corporations and the 1% built it, paid off our politicians to help them do it. And these are Wall Street’s results: extreme inequality, which always leads to economic disaster for rest of us. We must elect politicians who will help us pave the path to shared prosperity, and not build walls that keep us from it.” Another major contributor to the teach-in curriculum was Heather McGhee, an economic policy expert at progressive think tank Demos , which works to create a more robust democracy and fair economy. Heather explained why the precursors of our crisis are key to understanding how we move forward as a nation. “The economy is not like the weather,” she said. “It’s not something that goes up and goes down and that we have no control over as human beings. It’s actually a very human-made structure in our political system that is guided by the decisions we make together as a people in a well-functioning democracy.” Our society today, which grants everything to the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, puts greed over common good, justice for some over justice for all, and next quarter over next generation. This is not an accident. As Heather said, “The personal, individual problems that keep us up at night — student debt, foreclosures, mortgages, credit cards, why rent is up and housing prices are down, why work isn’t paying how it used to, why both parents have to work and there’s no support for child care — all of these private questions are part of our story. And the story says there are public causes and public solutions that have evolved over the last 3 decades.” In the 1930s, America emerged from the Great Depression with a vengeance. Ordinary American wrested the unjust concentration of political and economic power from the hands of the 1% to build the first and biggest middle class the world had ever seen. Our great-grandparents and grandparents deliberately paved a road to shared prosperity. But starting in the 1970s, the 1% again began to tear away at the accomplishments of our predecessors and they built the wall again. We overcame once and we will overcome again. The Occupy movement has set off a wave of energy and enthusiasm that is determined to tear down the wall built by the 1% and create an economy that works for all. November 17th will be a day of mass action for the 99% to begin tearing down that wall. And possible solutions have already been outlined in the Contract for the American Dream created by 131,000 Americans and signed by over 300,000. We will continue taking to the streets, starting with the mass mobilization on November 17th . Across the country, there will be hundreds of events at the very places that can put America back to work: our crumbling bridges, understaffed schools, and other sites that represent a failed economy. And next year we will occupy voting booths and ballots all over the country. We must continue growing the extraordinary momentum of the 99%. The story we weave about ourselves, our economy, and the political power we hold will shape how we move forward from this unprecedented moment. We will tear down this wall.
If there’s one thing we can take from yesterday’s elections, it’s the simple fact that power truly rests with the people. Despite tremendous money pouring in from conservative groups, individuals and think tanks, the American citizenry spoke out in volumes when they defeated Ohio’s anti-labor measure, silenced Mississippi’s attempts at restricting women’s rights and restored Maine’s election-day registration status. It was a decisive victory for progressives and proof still that the majority cannot be duped into believing that this nation desires to be on a conservative trajectory. Yesterday was clear evidence that a movement that has been bubbling on the ground can and will take their power to the polls. After championing a bill designed to strip away collective bargaining rights, Gov. Kasich of Ohio had no choice but to recognize defeat and the tremendous pushback this legislation received yesterday after it was repealed by a decisive majority vote. Following election results, he stated ‘It’s time to pause, the people have spoken clearly’. And indeed they have. Voicing their discontent over Republican measures to deter voters by ending same-day registration in Maine, that state’s citizenry voted to restore the practice on Tuesday. And in Mississippi, GOP lawmakers tried to push through a ballot initiative declaring ‘life begins at fertilization’ in an attempt to eventually challenge Roe vs. Wade, but again, the voters responded with a resounding ‘no’. All across the country, teachers, police officers, construction workers, laborers, firefighters, EMS workers, nurses, caretakers, civil service employees, mothers, fathers and those concerned about the state of our future said repressive and regressive measures will no longer be tolerated. Yesterday morning, I joined community and labor leaders on the steps of New York’s City Hall to announce plans to launch a Dec. 10th rally in front of the UN designed to address the need for global jobs and justice for all. We at National Action Network (NAN) have also been actively fighting against concerted efforts to further disenfranchise Black, Latino and poor voters by attempts to enforce new voter ID laws across the country. Organizing a 25-city nationwide rally, NAN will tackle the greatest modern threat to voting rights head on. When this sort of egregious legislation is being passed, we simply cannot sit silently and watch our collective progress be stripped away. It was labor and civil rights organizations that brought about progress in this nation decades ago. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself was fighting for the liberties of sanitation workers at the very moment his life was taken. In states like Ohio, labor, civil rights organizations like NAN and the NAACP joined forces yet again to increase civic participation and deliver a more accurate portrayal of what voters want for themselves and for the next generation. On October 15th, we led a march and rally for jobs and justice in Washington, D.C. where tens of thousands participated in order to demand employment opportunities and a more equalized playing field. And all across this country we see the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations not only continuing their push for bridging the tremendous wealth gap in society, but simultaneously gaining momentous traction and supporters as it continues to expand. Everywhere you look, there’s a movement afloat. Whether it’s in the civil rights community or within organized labor, or among everyday citizens, there is something in the air, something on the ground and now something in the voting booth. To those that want to keep pretending we’re a center-right country, I say again, nice try. Just look at yesterday’s election results — the proof is in the pudding. And for those that think voting doesn’t matter, all you have to do is observe what took place on Election Day 2011. There are some in positions of authority that can — and will — do anything to have us believe that we do not have power, but just remember that we are the majority and we will not tolerate attempts from the right-wing to destroy all of the progress we have achieved. Let the movement begin.
In the first major election since Occupy Wall Street swept the nation, Ohioans have a chance on Tuesday to repeal draconian restrictions on labor rights. A victory for the ” No on 2 ” forces would mark the first sign that the new upsurge in progressive energy is capable of impacting electoral outcomes. If you are in Ohio or can get there today or tomorrow, the good folks fighting for repeal could really use your help on the ground right now. Extreme right-wing Gov. John Kasich and conservatives in the Ohio legislature passed an anti-labor bill in the spring which destroyed collective bargaining rights for the state’s public workers. It would jeopardize the pay, benefits and even jobs of thousands of Ohioans. Together with Kasich’s budget, the offensive legislation would cut 51,000 jobs in the state. Instead of finding ways to help Ohioans in hard times, the Kasich crew is finding new ways to cut jobs. Left intact, the anti-worker legislation puts everyone at risk. Police and firefighters wouldn’t be able to come together to demand better equipment to protect Ohioans. Nurses wouldn’t be able to ask for the proper number of caregivers to handle all the incoming patients in our hospitals. Teachers wouldn’t be able to push for the best teaching methods or student-teacher ratios to optimally educate our kids. Victory is essential. It would demonstrate that progressives and labor can repudiate and punish Tea Party overreach – in an electorally important swing state. It would show that the partially successful recalls in Wisconsin were a part of a general move away from GOP extremism. And it would offer proof that newly-energized progressives are willing to occupy public parks – and ballot booths, too. We know that our opponents are sweating bullets about this race. At the last minute, shadowy corporate forces have stepped in to dump in millions of dollars to pass. It’s no secret why. They’ve delivered body blows to labor rights and restrictions on Wall Street over the last generation. Their wealth has risen exponentially over the last decade, while at the same time, middle class incomes have shrunk. They need to win in this key battleground state to keep the ball rolling. But the gig is up. Millions of Americans have seen the awful outcome of policies that benefit the top 1 percent, at the expense of the rest of us. Now we want to return to our grandparents’ wisdom: in the wake of the Great Depression, they passed major labor reforms that allowed men and women to collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions. Our forebears also passed major financial reforms to keep speculators and big Wall Street firms from ripping off average investors and entrepreneurs. Those two reforms helped American build the greatest middle class that the world has ever seen. If Ohio repeals Senate Bill 5 by voting ” No on Issue 2 ” on Tuesday, the victory will validate the thousands who rallied at the state capitol in Wisconsin in February, the hundreds of thousands who rallied against austerity in every congressional district over the summer, and the inspirational crowds who gather every day at Zuccotti Park and Occupy sites around the country. More importantly, we take a step toward recovering our grandparents’ wisdom – and rebuilding the American Dream.
Just this week, Rebuild the Dream (an organization that I helped to found) launched a Move Your Money website , where people are pledging to close their accounts at Wall Street banks in protest of their outrageous behavior before, during, and after our nation’s financial crash. I am stunned to report that as of this morning at 9am Pacific, people have pledged to close 69,127 accounts at big banks, and the number keeps climbing. Tomorrow is a big day. Saturday, November 5 is a huge ” Move Your Money ” day. Tens of thousands of people all over the country will leave the big banks and move their money to community banks and credit unions — where people remember things like customer service and loyalty. For the past decade, our economy has been hijacked by Wall Street banks. Banks that knowingly made bad loans to homeowners and sold them as “can’t miss” investments. Banks that took our tax money to bail themselves out, while handing out billions in bonuses to their executives. Banks that have so far escaped accountability for their role in our nation’s economic crash. If you use a big bank, like so many of us, now’s the time to make a change. We need to stop feeding what we are fighting. Let’s fund banks that will fund our American dreams, not our American nightmares. Within our own wallets, we have the power to hold Wall Street banks accountable. We can move our money to community banks and credit unions, institutions that are responsive and accountable. to the communities we live in. Community banks know that they depend on the well-being of local residents and the local economy. Credit unions know that they thrive only if their account holders thrive. In other words, they put people before profit. Wall Street banks have it backward, sacrificing people’s life savings and homes just so they can prop up their stock price. We already know that the big banks are paying attention. Just this week, after public outcry over proposed monthly debit card fees, the big banks backed off. This is good news. Now let’s make sure they know they need to do a lot more than just give us back our $5. Already, tens of thousands have pledged to move their money this weekend. I’m proud to count myself among that number — I’m in the process of moving our family’s money out of a zombie mega-bank and into a community bank. The more people that join in the exodus from Wall Street banks, the louder the message that the banks will pay for the damage they’ve caused to our economy. Does it sound hard to switch banks? It’s true, it’s not always simple. Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started. Here are some resources to make it easier. – To find a local bank to switch to, you can search for a community bank or credit union in your area here . – Read a complete guide to closing your account from our friends at the New Bottom Line . – When you decide to Move Your Money, don’t forget to tell the world . Stand up and be counted! – And if you’re inspired and want to do more, the New Bottom Line is organizing people nationwide to start campaigns to get institutions like churches, municipal governments, and universities to move their money out of the big Wall Street banks. You can find out more and get involved locally here .