“This election marks the victory of a new politics in America, an emerging populism that is neither left nor right, Republican nor Democrat, but is fiercely pro-worker, pro-community, pro-opportunity and pro-American dream.
It all started when the disillusioned right and the disillusioned left came together. Tuesday night, they tied the knot.”
In a discussion with the affable Neil Cavuto, I explain why the bruhaha over the government spending and debt is nothing more than a fig leaf for those who have long sought any excuse to attack government and undercut programs that help the poor and working class.
No comments on the makeup, people.
What’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about budget deficits or government spending or even public employee benefits. It’s class war, wherein the big business, conservative Right tries to pit working class Americans against one another so that the super-rich can continue to pilfer our private and public coffers for their own boundless gain. Here are the facts you need to know — and spread:
1. 60% of Wisconsin’s largest corporations pay ZERO taxes
According to the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, in 2007 60% of corporations in Wisconsin with over $100 million in annual revenues paid zero taxes. None. Zip. Zilch.
2. Raising corporate taxes in Wisconsin to the national average would generate $1 BILLION in revenue
By comparison, Gov. Walker’s union busting bill will “save” a measly $350 million (that is, if you consider lowering the income and security of a core group of tax-paying workers “saving” money…).
3. Cutting taxes on corporations and the rich created state budget crises.
States do not have a spending problem. They have a revenue problem. The recession caused all tax receipts to be lower, but government revenue was artificially suppressed long-before by tax cuts for the big business and the rich pushed through at both the federal and state levels. But with Wall Street tycoons still raking in big bonuses while the rest of us stagger and suffer, anger against big business might reach a boiling point… unless private sector workers can be pitted against public sector workers in a “blame government” charade to diffuse anger from the rightful target.
4. Gov. Walker and the attack on unions are paid for by anti-government Koch brothers
David and Charles Koch, scions of the second largest private corporation in the United States, know how to get a good deal for their dollar. Do you really think the brothers who fund the anti-government, pro-big business Tea Party really give a damn about Wisconsin’s deficit? They are using Wisconsin in their larger play to destroy all unions, further strip all workers of benefits and decent wages, and increase power and profit for a very few, very large corporations like their own. The Koch brothers are among Gov. Walker’s top political contributors.
When the economy is strong, conservatives want to cut taxes for the rich. When the economy is weak, conservatives want to cut taxes for the rich. When a mentally insane man with easy access to guns tries to assassinate a sitting Member of Congress, conservatives twist all logic to argue for even easier access to guns — while cutting taxes.
Sometimes it takes a cartoon to show how silly real life is.
Watch and share:
This piece originally appeared on FoxNews.com
Recently, during an appearance on Fox News, I was asked to defend my belief that rich people are not rich simply because they are inherently more talented than nor work harder than everyone else. This belief is the essence of the progressive worldview — the notion that, yes, each of us is different and uniquely talented, but our situations in life are as much defined by our individual effort as by the structures and social conditions of the world around us.
Let’s look at just one slice of just one life: mine. I do pretty well financially and that could be attributed to lots of things, but my education is certainly a big part. I learned to write and think critically attending great public schools in my childhood, paid for by my community’s property taxes.
When I got to a high school that, because of conservative efforts to starve public schools in the early 1990s, was overcrowded and underfunded, my parents were well off enough to send me to private school.
And when it came time for college, there was no question I was going. My parents, who were both college educated professionals, helped me figure out the ropes and could also afford to pay for whatever school I could get into.
Later, I went to graduate school, for which I took out loans that were underwritten and subsidized by the government.
Given all of that, I would be crazy to think that I am where I am in life solely because of my own effort. It wasn’t even my parents’ encouragement that made the difference. They started me on a higher educational and economic footing than many other kids who come from a poorer background, and I was blessed by the helping hand of government at important points along the way. “My success” is actually a blend of individual effort plus social and economic context.
I know that the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” narrative of cowboy individualism sounds nice, but the truth is it’s largely a myth. Everyone needs help learning to tie their shoelaces in the first place — from a mix of family and government and the community around them. (And that’s if you’re lucky enough to be born with boots.)
At the other end of the spectrum from my own life, one in five children in the United States lives below the poverty line. One in five. Over 44 million adults in the United States, or one in seven, live in poverty — the highest rate in 15 years. It is not only wrong but immoral to suggest because of ideological convictions that these staggering numbers of our fellow human beings are simply the result of not trying hard enough or being culturally addicted to being poor.
Sure, a few folks may indeed not be trying their hardest but exceptions don’t make the rule. One in five kids is lazy? One in seven adults like being poor and won’t try harder? Get real. The fact is that, just as it was easier for someone like me who started life ahead to get further ahead, it’s that much harder for someone who starts life poor to finish life as anything other than poor.
That’s not just liberal hype. Back in 2004, no more libertarian authority than the Economist wrote the following:
“A growing body of evidence suggests that the meritocratic ideal is in trouble in America. Income inequality is growing to levels not seen since the Gilded Age, around the 1880s. But social mobility is not increasing at anything like the same pace: would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap. The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.”
And that was written before the economy crashed and things got even worse.
Now The Wall Street Journal reports CEO salaries are continuing to rise while high levels of unemployment persist.
The fact is that while CEOs make 1,000 times more than the people who clean their bathrooms, they’re not working 1,000 times harder. Yet the CEOs’ kids disproportionately benefit and are more likely to be rich when they grow up than the kids of the maids, no matter how hard either works. That’s not a land of opportunity. It’s a land of ossified oligarchy.
Which is why we have taxes — to oil the gears of opportunity. Taxes are not punishment for the rich; they’re the way the privileged give back to society that has disproportionately given them so much opportunity. And for the rest of us, taxes fund the ladders of opportunity — from public schools to technological innovation to social programs — that make economic mobility in America more than just a dream.
In arguing for higher taxes on the richest of the rich, Bill Gates, Sr., once wrote, “How much wealth would exist without America’s unique property rights protections, public infrastructure, and academic institutions?”
Mr. Gates, Sr., argues that taxes are how the privileged “recycle opportunity” that public infrastructure created for them.
It’s not surprising since, while we think of Gates’ son, Bill Gates III as creating Microsoft through his own effort and ingenuity, he had a lot of help. Bill Gates started Microsoft with a $1 million trust fund he inherited and learned programming on computers at the public University of Washington, a government-funded institution with systems connected to the government-created Internet. Without that help, all the hard work in the world would not have added up to as much.
Sometimes the truth is so plain, even a two-year-old knows it. In this video, my daughter, Willa Hansen-Kohn, explains why the Bush-era tax breaks for the rich should be allowed to expire. As they say, from the mouths of babes….
Spread it around!
As many of you who read this site know, since the Movement Vision Lab and I left the Center for Community Change in January 2010, I’ve been contemplating the most strategic role that I can play to advance social change in America.
I believe that significant, transformational social change only happens through significant, transformational mass social movements — the kind we’ve had in American history but don’t have today.
And what’s clear is that, among many movement elements missing in the progressive field today, every major social movement in the history of America or anywhere else in the globe has had a robust program of consciousness raising. Whether it was the 40,000+ paid political educators who traveled the Midwest during the Populist Movement to explain why the economy was failing small farmers. Or the Brookwood Labor College the radicalized workers leading to the union movement in the early 1900s and inspired Civil Rights leaders to create the Highlander Center which played a similar role in that movement. Or the feminist consciousness raising groups organized in living rooms across America in the 1970s.
Progressive social movements by their very nature struggle against the dominant ideology and philosophy of the status quo. In order to build an informed and active mass movement, we not only need alternative ideas and analysis — but alternative ideas and analysis that are delivered in a compelling, accessible and popular way.
With this in mind, I present for your feedback a working concept paper on the Movement Vision Lab’s “Center for Popular Popular Education.” Read it. Share it. And then fill this page with comments — your constructive thoughts on the movement analysis within this proposal and the sets of activities proposed as a response. In the Freirian tradition, popular education (let alone a proposal to do popular education) can’t just be a one-way street!
I’ve posted the entire proposal, including the proposed budget, to be as transparent and participatory as possible in developing this plan. In addition to seeking feedback on the concept, I am currently soliciting funding — so if you’re reading this and have feedback you want to share privately OR would like to provide funding (at any level) please contact me.
A final thanks to the organizations that have already endorsed the Center for Popular Popular Education and expressed enthusiasm to work with us going forward. There’s a great field of groups that already do political education in some form and a great field of groups who want to do more. We’re excited to join the mix!
The One Nation Working Together march did not draw as many people to the Washington Mall as Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally a few weeks prior. And that is a good thing.
Glenn Beck and the Tea Party represent a very vocal minority, so worked up about the direction of our nation that they’ll pour into Washington by the hundreds of thousands to worship at the feet of a religious revivalism rooted in nostalgia for a white-washed version of America that never was. We already know, from poll after poll, that the Tea Party are whiter, wealthier and more male than the average American. And, despite all of their populist blustering, the Tea Party agenda is merely new clothes for the old wolf agenda of the pro-big business, elitist Right. The Tea Party is motivated to be hyper-vocal and hyper-visible precisely because they represent such an an incredibly small and fringe set of interests and ideas in our nation, with a very small following.
The hundreds of national and grassroots organizations behind the One Nation march represent the vast majority of Americans — literally, through their millions and millions of members, but also spiritually, morally. Organizations like the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, Green for All, the Sierra Club, the Children’s Defense Fund and SEIU stand for the core, shared values of our nation — that we once forged and now continue to forge a union knowing that each of our prosperity is dependent on the common good.
There are hundreds of millions of Americans frustrated that while Wall Street strong-armed big bank bailouts as profits and CEO salaries continue to rise, foreclosures are increasing, job opportunities are stalling and real wages for most of us continue to decline. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who understand that the way our economy works isn’t working for white people in Ohio, black folks in South Carolina or undocumented immigrants in Arizona. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who don’t care about the deficit remotely as much as they care about creating new jobs, reinvesting in our schools and our environmental future and redistributing real opportunity to all who work for it.
Unfortunately, these hundreds of millions of Americans are also incredibly disappointed. These are the Americans who believed in the hope and promise of Obama the Candidate and feel let down by Obama the President, in part because of an ossified political system in which the status quo is deeply entrenched on both sides of the aisle, but in part because Obama failed to chip away at or at least vigorously rail against that ossification (until fairly recently). These hundreds of millions of Americans want change. Their anger is not at the boldness of Obama’s agenda. Their anger is that more of it has not been achieved and, given the political system, seems increasingly and sadly unachievable.
These are the hundreds of millions of Americans the One Nation coalition represents. And unfortunately, these are the very people who are sitting at home popping Prozac rather than taking to the streets in protest. They were visible and vocal in 2008. Been there, done that, and look where it got us. Yes, we have historic and critical health care reform, the stimulus investment that staunched the bleeding recession, financial reform that will put Wall Street in check and more. But we still have jaw-dropping financial control of Washington by corporate interests. We still have the filibuster. And, despite every sign that it has failed us wildly, we still have the persistent dominance of Regan-era pro-corporate, trickle-down, neo-liberal economic ideology.
The Tea Party activists are disproportionately vocal and visible in comparison to their actual percentage of the population in part because they believe victory is within their grasp. The fact that, titular Democratic power of the moment notwithstanding, Right wing economic and social ideology continues to undergird much of the political establishment and discourse, is, for them, encouraging. It’s ironic when the Tea Party talks of “reclaiming America” since, ideologically, they very much already control the norm — from anti-government skepticism to deficit hawkishness, from a constant state of anti-terrorism warfare to widespread hatred of new immigrants. Meanwhile, the millions of Americans who want change, who see a positive role for government in creating an economy and a nation that truly works for all of us — they took a chance against the status quo and, despite all inclinations toward cynicism, believed in 2008 that change is possible. Two years and not enough change later, they’re feeling disheartened.
The real issue with the One Nation march on Washington this past Saturday versus the Glenn Beck rally or any other Tea Party gathering isn’t literally how many people show up but how many millions and millions of other people they actually represent. The good news is the One Nation organizations and their values and vision for our country represent far more Americans than the extremist, elitist Tea Party. The bad news is that, as the mid-term elections near, that Tea Party fringe is way more fired up and active.
This is a clip from the Fox News Strategy Room on September 29, 2010, with me debating 2008 Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Candidate Wayne Allyn Root. We’re talking about the role of government in building prosperity and opportunity in America.
I found the entire conversation rousing, but without a doubt, my favorite moment comes at the 8:24 mark, when I break down and say to Root, “There’s just so many problems with what you’re saying.” Nothing like blunt honesty.
The nice thing about people like Root is they expose the truly sinister anti-government, America-for-elites only vision that festers beneath the thin veneer of the Tea Party. The Root agenda (pun intended) will not help ordinary Americans (including most Tea Party adherents) but undermine our nation and the common good values that we stand for — and always have.
Share this video around, especially if you have friends or family who watch Fox News — and encourage them to sign up for the Movement Vision Lab list.
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