On June 12th, filmmaker Jerrol LeBaron will be marching on Congress and hand delivering a petition to congress, as well as a copy of his documentary “Fools on the Hill" for good measure. Each member of Congress will know how many constituents in their district signed the petition so that they can see these are issues everyone wants resolved. We are pleased to partner with Jerrol and invite the Coffee Party communities to sign the petition, and also order his film “Fools on the Hill.”
To make an impact on Congress, we needs millions of signatures. Please help by forwarding this to all your friends.
There are five parts to this petition, as shown below. When you sign one, you will be signing all five parts.
PART 1: We Want to See the Final Version of the Bill Well Before the Vote.
NO MORE adding hundreds of pages to a bill in the middle of the night and passing it the next morning!
NO MORE “deals” made behind closed doors just before the vote!
NO MORE special interests influencing our laws at the last possible minute!
Change does not usually come on the strength of one or two votes in Congress. It is public opinion and attitudes solidifying into customs and social values, and then into votes.
Women’s right to vote and the Civil Rights Act are perfect examples. Politicians didn’t pass these laws because they were the right thing to do. If this were they case, they would have fixed these injustices a long time earlier. They did it because we as a people united and demanded it.
Lawrence Lessig was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night, and you have just got to see it!
Lessig, a Harvard Law Professor and author of A Republic Lost (Coffee Party Book Club's current selection), is also the founder Rootstrikers which is now teaming up with Josh Silver's United Republic (listen to Annabel Park's recent interview with Josh) to fight the domination of Big Money over the political process. Dylan Rattigan is also part of this impressive coalition.
In the television broadcast portion of the interview, Lessig and Stewart talk about how only 0.05 percent of the electorate contributing the maximum amount to political campaigns, and only .26 percent giving more than $200, Congress is beholden to less than 1% of the public (the Occupy Movement has it wrong).
1% crusader Karl Rove has taken millions in Wall Street money to create and propagate a political advertisement connecting Massachusetts Senate challenger Elizabeth Warren to the least popular villain in America today. And the villain they choose to connect her to is ... drum roll please ... Wall Street.
Annabel Park interviews Josh Silver, CEO of United Republic and co-founder and former CEO of Free Press. The focus will be on the strategic vision behind United Republic, "a new organization fighting the corrupting influence of well-financed special interests over American politics and government." It recently joined forces with Larry Lessig's Rootstrikers and Dylan Ratigan's Get Money Out campaign.
The Citizens Intervention series will focus on the urgent need for an effective political strategy to achieve reform in campaign finance, Wall St regulation and the tax code.
Despite popular fascination with the rich and famous, most working people have little understanding of the finances of the wealthy. And the rich use that unfamiliarity to their advantage as they wield their outsized influence over public policy.
Take the competing tax proposals of this year's most celebrated Republican presidential candidates. Going almost unmentioned amid all the discussion of the 9-percent federal sales tax in Herman Cain's "9-9-9" plan, or the surviving deductions in Rick Perry's 20-percent flat tax, is that under both plans capital gains wouldn't be taxed at all. Perry would also not tax dividends, and the other GOP hopefuls would largely exempt from taxation both of these kinds of passive income as well.
Now, if you're a middle-class wage earner for whom dividends and capital gains are, at most, modest entries on your annual mutual fund statement, their exemption from taxation is a minor consideration when examining the merits of a tax plan. But if you're among the independently wealthy who live almost entirely on dividends and capital gains, such a provision holds great appeal. It means you would pay no federal income tax at all. Nothing. Nada. Zero.
Of course, all the candidates would also eliminate the estate tax, meaning that rich people would never be taxed on their inherited assets or income. As in pre-revolutionary France, taxes would be left entirely to the middle-class and poor.
I'm quite familiar with these permanent passive-income tax holidays promised by the GOP presidential hopefuls, because I'm one of those independently wealthy people who would benefit so handsomely. I'm no Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, but I do have enough money that the money I makefrom having money is enough for me to live on. I mostly volunteer my time to worthy causes, and though I occasionally pull down a paycheck or charge a client fee, the bulk of my income comes from interest, dividends, and capital gains.
Why should I pay no taxes while someone who gets up and goes to work every day does? The reason usually offered for taxing passive income at a lower rate than wages, salaries, and small-business income is that such preferential treatment encourages investment and job creation. And that may be true of entrepreneurs who start businesses, seek investors, and then sell off their creations and start all over again.
But I don't do any of those things, and there are millions of rich people like me who don't either. Like a lot of them, I inherited stock in big companies like IBM and General Electric. I support myself primarily by going to my mailbox, picking up dividend checks, and depositing them. Occasionally I sell some shares at a profit. And conservative tax reformers believe I should be rewarded for this great exertion by exempting me entirely from taxation.
This is neither fair nor logical at a time of rising federal debt and severe budget cuts. True "job creators" could be encouraged without benefiting those like me who don't need any more economic breaks. The preferential treatment already accorded capital gains and dividends from startup companies could be increased. Those who make a majority of their money from working could be encouraged to save and invest by taxing their investment income at lower rates than those of the already independently wealthy.
A recent essay by renowned economist and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich provides us with the good news and the bad news about the historic turning point facing America today. The bad news is that our economic struggles, and the social unrest that comes with them, are not ending any time soon. But the good news is that the extreme level of partisanship, corruption, and obstructionism we are seeing in Congress today very well could be. He writes: "Rather than ushering in an era of political paralysis, the Great Depression of the 1930s changed American politics altogether — realigning the major parties, creating new coalitions, and yielding new solutions. Prolonged economic distress of a decade or more could have the same effect this time around."
Before reading the essay, here are two short videos (each just over 2 minutes) in which Reich explains the economic, political, and social context for the incredible changes America is going through. The first was shot before the Occupy Wall Street movement transformed our national conversation and created a name for America's role in this global democracy movement. The second video was recorded a few days ago.
Most political analysis of America’s awful economy focuses on whether it will doom President Obama’s reelection or cause Congress to turn toward one party or the other. These are important questions, but we should really be looking at the deeper problems with which whoever wins in 2012 will have to deal.
Not to depress you, but our economic troubles are likely to continue for many years — a decade or more. At the current rate of job growth (averaging 90,000 new jobs per month over the last six months), 14 million Americans will remain permanently unemployed. The consensus estimate is that at least 90,000 new jobs are needed just to keep up with the growth of the labor force. Even if we get back to a normal rate of 200,000 new jobs per month, unemployment will stay high for at least ten years. Years of high unemployment will likely result in a vicious cycle, as relatively lower spending by the middle-class further slows job growth.
This, in turn, could make political compromise even more elusive than it is now, as remarkable as that may seem. In past years, politics has been greased by the expectation of better times to come – not only more personal consumption but also upward mobility through good schools, access to college, better jobs, improved infrastructure. It’s been a virtuous cycle: When the economy grows, the wealthy more easily accept a smaller share of the gains because they still came out ahead of where they were before. And everyone more willingly pays taxes to finance public provision because they share in the overall economic gains.
Now the grease is gone. Fully two-thirds of Americans recently polled by the Wall Street Journal say they aren’t confident life for their children’s generation will be better than it’s been for them. The last time our hopes for a better life were dashed so profoundly was during the Great Depression.
But here’s what might be considered the good news. Rather than ushering in an era of political paralysis, the Great Depression of the 1930s changed American politics altogether — realigning the major parties, creating new coalitions, and yielding new solutions. Prolonged economic distress of a decade or more could have the same effect this time around.
What might the new politics look like? The nation is polarizing in three distinct ways, and any or all of could generate new political alignments.
A vast gulf separates Tea Party Republicans from the inchoate Wall Street Occupiers. The former disdain government; the latter hate Wall Street and big corporations. The Tea Party is well organized and generously financed; Occupiers are relentlessly disorganized and underfunded. And if the events of the last two weeks are any guide, Occupiers probably won’t be able to literally occupy public areas indefinitely; they’ll have to move from occupying locations to organizing around issues.
But the two overlap in an important way that provides a clue to the first characteristic of the new politics. Both movements are doggedly anti-establishment — distrusting politically powerful and privileged elites and the institutions those elites inhabit.
Some of you may know me from my videos parodying the notion of a “Corporate Person American.” In them, I turn to music and to comedy to express the indignation I feel about our nation’s irrational, immoral upward redistribution of wealth. One reason I’m so familiar with our dysfunctional economic system is that I’m one of those who have gained (at least materially) from it. Though I’m not really a “Corporate Person American,” I am an American who benefits from corporate-influenced policies. The following essay — which has been syndicated in about a dozen newspapers — is my attempt to address this same issue I take on in my videos, but from another, more personal angle.
It’s said that personal finances are the last taboo; if so, I and scores of others broke it by posting messages to the website “We Stand With the 99 Percent” in which we announced ourselves as wealthy supporters of the Occupy movement. Each message ended with the statement: “I am the 1 percent. I stand with the 99 percent.”
This was in response to the claims of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other critics that the Wall Street protestors’ advocacy of the economic interest of 99 percent of the American public was somehow pitting one group of Americans against another.
The messages on the website offer a fascinating glimpse into the emotional role money plays in all our lives, and now in the raw politics of recession. The posts vary widely: some are from trust fund babies, some from Internet millionaires, some from the simply comfortably middle class. But all argue that it makes no sense for any Americans to suffer privation when so many have so much.
This may be another big, welcome change that comes out of the Occupy movement. Just as cancer and other diseases are now discussed openly, much to the benefit of personal health and public education, even though they were at one time kept strictly private; so another central element of our lives—money—may finally become a fit subject for general discussion.
It may be a hard transition for some rich people to make. Many of those posting on the “1 Percent” website completely or partially obscure their faces, like criminals on a perp walk or protestors afraid of police surveillance.
Among the independently wealthy, such training starts early. Many of us are told not to talk about money when we’re young, presumably for fear of kidnappers and moochers. Plus, wealth—ironically, like poverty—is a marker of unwelcome distinction among kids just wanting to be like everyone else.
As we grow older, the rules are internalized: we become vague and furtive when issues of personal finance arise; cover stories are carefully constructed; make-believe or lightly-compensated jobs are attended to; tight-lipped nods of sympathy are offered to the economic tales of woe offered by our friends.
For some, the secrecy comes not only from a desire to fit in but from deep sense of guilt. Many of the 1 Percent posters agonizingly admit to ancestors growing rich from slavery, colonization and child labor. These are not easy ethical issues to resolve.
Former Bush 43 speech-writer David Frum is one of the most respected thinkers in America. He is a free-market, limited-government, low-taxes conservative who has, in a single paragraph of his recent essay in New York Magazine, encapsulated the first 10 years of the 21st century more cogently than any writer to date:
In the aughts, Republicans held more power for longer than at any time since the twenties, yet the result was the weakest and least broadly shared economic expansion since World War II, followed by an economic crash and prolonged slump. Along the way, the GOP suffered two severe election defeats in 2006 and 2008. Imagine yourself a rank-and-file Republican in 2009: If you have not lost your job or your home, your savings have been sliced and your children cannot find work. Your retirement prospects have dimmed. Most of all, your neighbors blame you for all that has gone wrong in the country. There’s one thing you know for sure: None of this is your fault! And when the new president fails to deliver rapid recovery, he can be designated the target for everyone’s accumulated disappointment and rage. In the midst of economic wreckage, what relief to thrust all blame upon Barack Obama as the wrecker-in-chief.
In When Did the GOP Lose Touch with Reality, a penetratingly candid and immeasurably important essay published on Nov. 20, Frum says he is haunted by his time in the Bush administration although his role was not large, and, the real decision-makers seem to sleep well at night.
I appreciate Frum's writing because he criticizes the GOP, not with ridicule or disdain, but with deep concern — concern, because he identifies as a Republican, and he knows that there are many good people in the Republican party who recognize that it has lost its way. Frum writes about America with the same type of concern, and indeed as he explains at the end of the piece, he is committed to bringing about a course corrections within the GOP because the future of our nation as a whole (the 99 percent) depends on it.
He offers a devastating critique of Fox News and Republican radio, more powerful than any of the recriminations offered from the left:
Extremism and conflict make for bad politics but great TV. Over the past two decades, conservatism has evolved from a political philosophy into a market segment. An industry has grown up to serve that segment—and its stars have become the true thought leaders of the conservative world. The business model of the conservative media is built on two elements: provoking the audience into a fever of indignation (to keep them watching) and fomenting mistrust of all other information sources (so that they never change the channel). As a commercial proposition, this model has worked brilliantly in the Obama era. As journalism, not so much. As a tool of political mobilization, it backfires, by inciting followers to the point at which they force leaders into confrontations where everybody loses, like the summertime showdown over the debt ceiling.
I was busy volunteering all day yesterday, and didn't have time to monitor all the spin.
I spent the morning of election day trying to write a non-partisan GOTV email. It took longer than I thought. Have you ever tried it? It's hard. Here's what I came up with:
By helping to increase voter turnout today, we can send a message to our elected leaders: DO NOT count us out. The alienating and misleading political ads paid for by special interest groups can only have impact if too few of us vote. Our elected officials understand this equation, and they will make policy accordingly.
Before leaving the local cafe in Gainesville, VA, I had sent emails to members of the Coffee Party community in several states with the subject head: "Why America Needs (Your State) to Vote today." (My sincere apologies to my friends in Pennsylvania for the mix up, I know you do not live in New Jersey!). Then, I voted. Then, I drove 45 minutes across Prince William County, VA to volunteer for a friend who is also the most courageous member of my County Board of Supervisors, Frank Principi. His district in Woodbridge, VA is one of the most diverse communities in the Commonwealth, and he has stood up for the rights of immigrants and people who appear to be immigrants even during the days when it seemed almost dangerous to do so.
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