Time to Create the Economy We Want

By Kevin Zeese

The rage over the bailout of Wall Street is still boiling. In fact, the boil is just beginning. Last week the bailed out massive insurance giant AIG had a party for their executives – the bill $440,000 – this, after an $84 billion tax payer bailout. After the party the Federal Reserve gave them $38 billion more!

It is good the population is angry because we are at the beginning of this financial crisis not at the end. And, if the people get angry enough and organized enough this crisis will become the opportunity for a paradigm shift to a democratized economy built on new, clean energy sources.

During the bailout debate 50,000 letters were sent to Congress and the media through my organization’s site, the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics (www.FreshAirCleanPolitics.net). And, we were one among many. This is just the beginning of our effort. We are now in the process of thinking through our economic agenda and seeking input from people on that topic. You can support these efforts by responding to a brief survey and donating to our efforts.

The passage of the bailout legislation is not going to solve the economic crisis the United States is facing. Even the day the legislation passed Members of Congress were expressing concern it would not be enough and already there is talk in DC about Congress coming back to pass an economic stimulus package.

Since passage of the bailout concerns have grown. The stock market has been in decline for seven days since approval of the bailout. The Dow has lost 5,585 points, or 39 percent, since closing at 14,198 a year ago. The U.S. has lost $2.5 trillion in wealth measured on the stock market over the last seven trading sessions, and $8.4 trillion since its peak only one year ago.

But, the Dow is only one measure and not the best measure of how the economy is doing:

– Last week we saw the biggest reductions in payrolls in five years with unemployment rising and no net job growth in the private sector for almost a year.

-Inflation is at its highest level in 17 years and likely to get worse as more money is pumped into the economy.

– More than 800 federally insured finance institutions failed in the last three years and up to 100 more bank failures are predicted in the next year.

– The national debt has increased by more than 65 percent, to $10 trillion in the last eight years (not counting the debts of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae which the government is responsible for).

– The U.S. is fighting two long (and unwinnable) war quagmires at once, the price tag of Iraq alone will exceed $3 trillion. The Congress just approved $700 billion in defense spending for next year.

The U.S. is on the verge of a revolutionary paradigm shift as not only is the finance system faltering but the old energy economy of fossil fuels has become too expensive and dangerous due to primarily to its carbon emissions. The wealth divide where the wealthiest 400 people have as much wealth of the bottom 195 million Americans has become obscene and apparent to all. The infrastructure has been long neglected and demands multi-trillions of investment. Industrial production has left America for cheaper labor and the stock market has transformed from an investor in production to a casino betting on derivatives and other wealth instruments. Further, people have lost faith in the major institutions in America – the presidency and Congress are very unpopular, as are the Democrats and Republicans. The corporations and media are no longer trusted.

While this is a dismal list it is also a time of great opportunity. Change that has been resisted for decades is going to be forced upon elected officials and if the people show the type of commitment we saw during the bailout – we will be able to create an economy that serves us, rather than just the wealthiest. Some of the changes we intend to advocate for include:

– Democratizing the economy. This means more employee-owned businesses and real shareholder rights in setting the direction and profiting from the companies they invest in.

– Equity stake rather than corporate welfare. Each year the government provides more than $100 billion in corporate welfare that could be turned into an investment by the people. Every taxpayer should share ownership and profits of corporations that accept tax dollars, tax breaks and other giveaways.

A new clean energy economy that is fossil fuel and nuclear free. The new energy economy’s foundation will be distributed energy, i.e. produced at the local level where businesses, homes, cars and communities create energy and use it efficiently. It will provide an opportunity to share the wealth created by energy. The green economy will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

– A rebuilt infrastructure that is consistent with a new energy economy. This will need to include an end to subsidizing sprawl by encouraging development around new mass transit centers rather than new roads. The infrastructure will be built to move wind energy across the U.S. and put in place large solar installations, geothermal $2.5 trillion over the last seven trading sessions, and $8.4 trillion since hitting an all-time high one year ago Thursday. and ocean energy sources. These are just a few among many infrastructure upgrades that will be essential and create jobs that cannot be sent overseas.

– A re-ordered tax structure that reduces the tax burden on working Americans while putting in place taxes on the purchase of stocks, bonds and derivatives, as well as increased taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

The issue is not whether these changes are technically feasible or whether the funds are available (as we saw with the bailout, if funds are needed they are found) – the roadblock is political will. On this front, Americans are more engaged than ever in taking action on the economy. During the battle of the bailout, Congress was forced to shut down their email system because it was overwhelmed with letters of opposition. People are finding uncommon allies as concerns cross partisan lines and the political spectrum. People now know they can make a difference.

We need your help to chart the next steps in this effort. I hope you will respond to a brief survey so we have your thoughts. It includes room for you to send broad comments on where you think economic advocacy should be moving.

If you took action to stop and improve the bailout, thank you for doing so. Together, we did make a difference. I hope you support our efforts by making a contribution of $5 or more today. We need rev up our advocacy and organizing efforts so as the multi-pronged crisis America faces evolves the people can push elected officials to act in our interests rather than the interests of multi-nation mega business.

-Kevin Zeese is the executive director of the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics (www.FreshAirCleanPolitics.net).

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