Wed Market Highlights Week 1

Hi all.My one volunteer effort in this election cycle is to person the table at the Wed Market from 12-1 each week.
I have modest goals but a big vision.  How do we turn a red state blue?  Or more accurately, how do we grow local progressives? This has been on my mind since 2004.

Here is a brief summary I posted on FB on the UCDC’s Facebook page.

During my hour and a quarter at Wed Market:

Roughly 10-12 visitors. No one said unregistered. All said they know about photo ID.

One Mifflinburg supporter asked me “Do you believe in the NEw World Order?” “The Bildenburg Group?” “Have you seen Jesse Ventura’s video about the six FEMA camps?”

When I didn’t jump on her conspiracy theory bandwagon she said “You’ll probably laugh at me.” I told her I would not. I pointed out that FEMA probably makes camps to help people for disasters.

I tried to say that the powerful are rigging the system, but they don’t need to meet in secret club and smoke cigars to do it.

Then a couple tried to do a drive-by insult fest. “Are you better off now than four years ago?” “We have to get rid of BHO!”

I crossed the ten feet and tried to engage them in discussion. “What is BHO?”(I thought it was a government agency).

The pair, mostly the man continued on about how their small business is being crushed, how we should be ashamed for supporting Obama, how we should be doubly ashamed since we were next to the prayer tent (not sure what that meant and I apologized to the nice prayer folks after), how ACA will cost $2,200 per person, how the economy is in the tank. They left with a final “Baby killers!” insult.

I tried to engage the man saying “Let’s talk about policy, about issues.”

Barbara said “You will never convince people like that.” I know. But my point is how did it look to the watchers? TO the people around there? I have no idea if it will work, but if we can use the Wed Market to find ways to talk progressive values in local speak, we will do more to make America a freer place than we may know.


Grand Bargains, Friedman, and the Problem with Moderates

Thomas Friedman, I suppose, thinks of himself as a moderate.  Maybe like Matt Miller from KCRW’s Left,Right, and Center who advocates for “radcial centricism” (or something like that).  This species of thinking imagines that the “left” and “right” can only be correct up to a point.  Hence, the one good path towards progress must, by definition, be some thing “in between.”  Friedman, especially, excels at taking what seem like irreconcilable differences and with his wise words, turn them into new consensuses that if only the irrationally passionate partisans of left and right would accept would lead us into a shiny tomorrow.

Friedman’s recent op-ed in the New York Times is a classic.  He argues that the great debate of our times is over “which capitalism?” instead of “which -ism?” Fair enough.  In this context, he defines “American Capitalism” as- that’s right- the perfectly moderate mix of opposites, of public and private.  I suppose that European “safety-net” socialism is unbalanced by inference from his argument.

To regain our American mojo we need to rebalance public and private. Hence, he calls for a series of “grand compromises.”  Between cutting the federal budget and raising taxes.  Between paying  for “nursery schools and nursing homes.” (Nice line).  Between labor and management.  Between environmentalists and extractive industries.  And so on.  Between Dogs and Cats.  Yankees and Red Sox.  No, not the last two.

I find this seductive.  Yes, let us come together and find common ground.  What a story: can we not have politicians who can use language, influence, guile, and all their dark arts to bring these differing parties to Friedman’s round table of Grand Compromises?  I want to be in that story!

But I am afraid it is a fairy tale.  Continue reading

Fair and Free Economy- Draft of Message and Policies

Note: This is a draft of a policy paper for a PA Progressive House candidate.  I want to capture the ideas of a fairer economy in language that resonates with American values of hard work, fair play, and compassion.  The policy ideas are negotiable…

The economy should work for everyone who works.

We have lived through an upside-down economy where Wall Street prospers on Main Street’s misery.  Just as millions of hard-working home owners found themselves upside-down in their homes- paying for a mortgage worth more than the house- all of us have been in an upside-down economy.  We are paying for the idea of an economy, one that favors wealth over work, one favors a quick buck over an earned dollar, one that favors glitz over grit, when the real economy is loosing real value.

The real economy is where stuff is made, relationships matter, value is clear, and a handshake instead of a stock option starts a deal.  The real economy needs the strengths and talents of all of us.  It also needs the infrastructures to connect people and companies.  It also needs rules of the road that we all agree to.

We can fix the economy.   We can give it what it needs: better people, better infrastructures, and better rules of the road.

Better People Ideas:

1) Healthy People: decouple health insurance from employment
2) Prepared People: invest in worker re-training
3) Child care systems so that working parents can work

Better Infrastructure Ideas:

1) Invest in transportation networks
2) Invest in healthy ecosystems
3) Invest in people through daycare, schooling, community college, state 4 year
4) More access to the Internet for people, towns, and entrepreneurs

Better Rules of The Road Ideas:

1) Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Be- re-instate Glass-Steagal separation of retail from investment banking and also cross-ownership of financial institutions.
2) Reward Work and Wealth- change taxes so that wealth (retained interest, capital gains) does not get a huge tax break compared to work; encourage better alignment of compensation to long term wealth
3) End Foreclosure Abuse by Banks and Mortgage Holders
4) Allow workers to represent themselves
5) Tie minimum wage to economic indicators like inflation
6) Require all free trade agreements to integrate wage, safety, and environmental minimums so it is far trade and not a race to the bottom

I am the Spokesperson for #OWS and These are Our Demands

The general assemblies of New York, Oakland, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas and 350 communities across the United States have appointed me spokesperson for the Occupy Wall St. movement.  I am hereby empowered to submit the following demands:

1. We demand free and fair elections based upon open discussion and debate and support of the majority.  To this end we demand that all elections be publicly financed, that candidates qualify for public financing by collecting signatures supporting their campaign, and that television stations be required to devote a percentage of prime-time viewing to candidates for the purposes of promoting their positions.  Elections will be run by instant run-off, permitting multiple candidates to express divergent views on economic and social policies.

2. In order to ensure public discourse is not co-opted by the corporate press, we demand that media companies be owned and managed by their staff – that no outside financial interest be permitted to own or influence the content of the news so that journalists can perform their democratic duty of informing citizens on the events of the day.   Citizens will receive a tax reduction of up to $200 to permit them to support media outlets with editorial views they support.

3. We demand citizen boards be empowered to decide on the regulation of large corporations.  These citizen boards, acting like juries, will hear testimony of the industry experts along with testimony of those affected by the enterprises’ activities.  These boards will make democratic decisions concerning what regulations are needed and how they are to be enforced, in order to prevent the types of abuses we see in the finance, energy, defense and pharmaceutical industries.

4. We demand the immediate expropriation of the health insurance industry, which holds American working people hostage to a system that systematically deprives a significant portion of the population access to vital health care services when they  need them.

5. We demand the immediate review of our constitutional rights and the emergency powers adopted under the Patriot Act and enforced by the Department of Homeland Security in order to protect the civil rights of all.

6. We demand the immediate institution of publicly funded zero-interest student loans and the gradual implementation of a publicly funded pre- and post-secondary education system in order to provide equal opportunity to education across lines of race, gender and class and to end the systematic debt peonage of young people.

7. We demand the restoration of the social safety net including eldercare, childcare, and parental leave so that we fully support the elderly, the young, the infirm and their caretakers and so that those suffering from mental illness and the men and women reeling from the post-traumatic effects of war need not live on the streets of our country to our collective shame.

8. We demand an end to imperialist wars that inflict untold damage on working people at home and abroad, that reinforce a cycle of violence that ends up making all of us less safe and that severs the bonds of international cooperation on which our survival as a species now depends.

9. We demand that private corporations producing goods and services be required to create an employee ownership plan that contributes a percentage of corporate profits into a fund to purchase shares in the corporations to be held by workers.  Over a 10 -12 year period this fund would become a majority stake in the company at which point elected representatives of the workforce will replace the managers and board of directors and any existing outside ownership of the enterprise will be purchased at fair market value by the workers.

10. We demand an immediate public investigation of the financial industry, with the purpose of punishing those responsible for willfully profiting by committing fraud on American homeowners and disabling small businesses by denying credit.  We demand that these financial industries be immediately broken up and replaced by institutions that are publicly-owned, worker managed and devoted to providing access to credit to home-owners and businesses, not to the maximization of profit for shareholders.

11.  In short, we demand an economy and political system that works for the 99%, that respects and incorporates the values of direct and representative democracy – the idea that people have a right to a say in decisions that directly affect them and the right to a government of, by and for the people.

So there they are, the demands of the Occupy Wall St. movement.  How do we best proceed?

Do we hand them over to the radical right, the Limbaughs and the Becks and the Koch brother lackeys, who can’t wait for the chance to ridicule and demean them?  Can’t wait because they know they control the bully-pulpit of the commercial media, that any sensible set of demands, demands that really get at the dark heart of the shameful domination of ordinary American’s by the corporate elite, indeed any demands Occupy Wall St. makes, can be painted pink, jeered at, confounded and distorted.

Isn’t that the function of the right-wing media – to take off the table any set of ideas that actually represent the will of the people, to keep the debate well to the right of what working American’s believe and value; to keep the moneyed interests of their wealthy funders safe from scrutiny; and to keep reasoned, well-intentioned, and compassionate voices from informing our public policy?

Please don’t imagine that the so-called ‘liberal media,’ the New York Times and NPR, are the answer.  The truth is that our commercial media system is a pale reflection of what a democracy requires of its press.  On the issues that count, issues central to our working and civic lives, these media outlets fail ordinary working Americans, again and again, by giving a pass to the corporate interests who have disemboweled our democracy, made off with our collective wealth, and left the middle class and working class in tatters.

Part of our work is to re-imagine our media system, to take it out of the hands of the 1%, and to begin to build a real, lasting and inclusive democracy that extends beyond the ballot box into the places where we sweat and toil to provide for ourselves and for our families.  Until we do that, no set of demands can be honestly considered.

But no, these are not the official demands of Occupy Wall St. and I am not its official spokesperson.  But these are real proposals, embodying the values of our democratic tradition, which have been imagined, fought for, and, in many cases, implemented in an ongoing attempt to reign in the reckless gluttony of high finance and the corporate elite.

Demand #1, for free and fair elections, has been partially implemented in Maine where it is now possible for an elected representative to actually legislate on behalf of those who elected her, rather than on behalf of her corporate supporters.

Demand #2 is based on the struggle that occurred in the 1930’s and that eventually resulted in the institution of public media, here and abroad.  It is based on efforts to return our public media to its proper place, as an independent source of investigative journalism and not a corporate-sponsored and therefore toothless imitation.

Demand #3 is based on developments in regulatory reform in Belgium intended to ensure that industry insiders do not capture regulatory boards, a solution which is sorely needed here in the U.S. in this era of regulatory capture.

Demand #4 is widely practiced in the area of health insurance in all other industrialized economies whose citizens widely support the view that private interests should not be permitted to profit by denying health care to those who need it.

Demand #5 is based upon broad-based support for reviewing the powers granted to the government by the Patriot Act and for protecting the civil liberties enshrined in our constitution and bill of rights.

Demand #6 has been widely practiced in most industrial countries in the post-war WWII era in order to provide equal access to education as a condition for meaningful participation in a representative democracy; in order to provide a basis for equal opportunity for positions of authority in the economy and in politics, and in order to prevent those most vulnerable in our society from experiencing poverty and destitution.

Demand #7 is prevalent in many industrialized countries and reflects the belief that those most vulnerable should not be pushed to the margins of our society and that the work of caring for others, be they young, old, infirm or otherwise dependent ought to be recognized and valued.  It reflects the belief that our veterans, young and working class, do not receive the treatment and care they deserve when they are ruined by war.

Demand #8 inspired ten million to take to the streets across the globe to protest the “shock and awe” bombing of innocent civilians in Iraq.  Ending these wasteful and immoral wars is a necessary precondition for building international solidarity to respond effectively and immediately to the threat of global warming.

Demand #9 is based on the Meidner plan, that came close to being implemented in Sweden in the 1970’s until it was derailed by corporate interests.  It is based on the belief that democratic participation ought to be extended to decisions affecting the work lives of individuals; that the corporate capitalist system disenfranchises workers who have a right to participate in decisions concerning the value they create.

Demand #10 is a response to the continued arrogance and hubris of an industry that has not demonstrated the ability to contribute to economic wellbeing, has arguably done more harm to the fortunes of American working families than any foreign threat, and that does not deserve the immunity from crime that has be granted it by the Obama Administration, this Congress or the Securities and Exchange Commission who’s mission is to uphold and enforce the law as it pertains to Wall St brokers, the banks and hedge funds who have made off with our national wealth.

Demand #11 is a summary statement of the purpose of Occupy Wall St. – to open a space, literal and figurative for the discussion of the ideas that the media have pushed to the margins, and that the corporate elites in this country, those who own and control the means by which we obtain our livelihoods, are afraid to acknowledge because they are afraid to openly debate and discuss the moral legitimacy of plutocracy.

What happens when the elites in a country are afraid to permit discussion of the underlying justification of the economy and political institutions?

That’s easy; the citizens take to the streets, rise up and demand to be included.  After all, when you are excluded from participating in meaningful public debate, excluding from decisions about how corporations are owned, operated, regulated and held accountable, excluded from discussions of whether and how real reforms might be undertaken; when you have no hope of intervening in a political system in which free speech has all been bought and paid for, what do you do?

You occupy.

That’s what’s happening now, and that’s why the corporate media keeps asking who is the spokesperson and what are the demands.

They don’t actually want to hear the demands; they just want us all to go away.

Let’s disappoint them, shall we?

OWS – Dissent is Patriotic

submitted by Ann Keeler-Evans
I appreciate the hard work it must have taken Dr. Knapp to pursue his degrees and to rise to the responsible position he holds today. His dedication to his school district is obvious and welcome. His refusal to accept a raise at a time when the school district is struggling is admirable.
Nonetheless, I was disappointed in his editorial on Monday. We all believe in working hard. However, if it were ever true that hard work always led to success without a lot of other variables, it is true no longer. Sweat does not level the road to success. The impact of race, gender and class differences may be changing ever so slightly, but any or all of them can offset sweat equity. And, however hard we work, sweat means little without the support of good teachers and mentors. Bill Gates, who many like to tout as a bootstraps guy, succeeded in large part due to some happy historical events as well as encouraging mentors.
I would also challenge Dr. Knapp’s reading of the OccupyWallStreet participants. A movement of and by the people to protest unregulated greed is similar to the rise of patriotism that led to the Boston Tea Party, a movement that gave birth to this nation. To disparage everyone in that crowd as uneducated, unintelligent and incapable is wrong-headed and classist. Plenty of people not on Wall Street, teachers among them, work long hours. They deserve a living wage.  Many of the people in that  crowd are teens and young adults who cannot find a job. Many are folks over 50. Some have jobs. Some had jobs with pensions that were lost or given away. Some are soldiers back from the wars in which we are still engaged. Some are people unable to get healthcare for themselves or their families because of laws that favor corporations over citizens.
What more could we ask of our citizens that they, when faced with a broken system, sit down and reason their way forward together? The wealth inequality in our country is destabilizing to our nation, and those protesting have not yet made demands;  rather they are resolving to be part of the solution. People need jobs. They need homes. They need healthcare. OWS participants are taking time to be good citizens. History is being made by these ardent Patriots. I would want students to understand the history unfolding before them. Liberty and democracy are not easily obtained. But the people OccupyingUSA are working hard to bring this country into alignment with our American values and virtues, calling attention to the vast disparities in privilege that  have been growing since the 1980s. May the sweat of the 99 percent lead to our success as a nation equally responsive to 100 percent of its population.

Occupy Lewisburg?

This Saturday, October 15th from 1 – 2 pm, citizens of Lewisburg are gathering at the Post Office to support Occupy Wall St.

Occupy Wall St. represents a response to a serious question: What ought we to do, we the citizens of a democratic republic, when our elected representatives from the only two major parties are no longer responsive to the will of the people? Occupy Wall St. is an effort to gather the energy of those who believe that we need to restore integrity to our democracy, of those who believe we need to harness that energy in an ongoing grassroots effort to create real and lasting change.

Unlike the Tea Party, Occupy Wall St. doesn’t identify big government as the problem. Rather, the problem is that government has been hijacked by the wealthy and is being run, not in the interests of the people, but to preserve the wealth and power of the few. One of the most telling outcomes of this take-over of political power is the burgeoning inequality in our country. When 1% of the population owns and controls over half the country’s business wealth, when CEO’s are paid three hundred times as much as average workers, when wealth investors like Warren Buffet pay lower tax rates that their administrative assistants, when tax breaks for billionaire are routinely extended but funding for real social needs goes wanting, we undermine the basis for a vibrant democracy and a viable economy.

It would be one thing if the inequality resulted in prosperity for all, but the opposite is true. Splendor at Saks on 5th Avenue has been achieved at the expense of punishing destitution for much of working American. In spite of the fact that the American workforce is almost twice as productive we are taking home no more than we did in 1985. Corporations continue to offshore jobs; banks are foreclosing on record numbers of mortgages; the government stands idly by. The 1% continue to cop out of paying their fair share of taxes, and we are being asked to close schools, lay off city workers, cut badly needed services. And, of course, we are asked to put in longer hours on the job when millions are without work.

This economic crisis did not drop from the sky – it is the direct result of allowing corporations to seek the maximum profit with limited oversight from regulators and little scrutiny by the corporate press. The solution to the crisis in not to restore conditions for further economic growth, if economic growth means a continued exploitation of American and foreign workers, continued plundering of our common resources and continued release of carbon emissions that threaten the integrity of the planet’s ecosystems. What we need instead is a thorough and fearless rethinking of how we organize our economy, what behavior we reward, and who controls our common wealth.

It’s easy to write off this type of movement. But before doing so, ask yourself this question: what do you recommend we, as concerned citizens committed to democracy, do instead? Is it really possible to effect real change from within a political system when the ballot box is stuffed with money? Is it really viable to sit back and just hope things change for the better? If we are going to resuscitate our democracy, we need to begin by gathering, in public spaces and listening to each other, we need to make proposals, discuss, debate, compromise and then move forward. That is what we will do Saturday, in Lewisburg.

We will not be alone. Right now, all over the world, more than 1600 communities large and small, are organizing Occupy Wall St. actions to begin to take back our democracy. On this Saturday, October 15th, over 650 cities and towns are holding actions. Come see what this is all about and find out for yourself whether real change is possible and how it feels to be part of the solution.

This Article will appear in the Daily Item (Sunbury, PA) on October 15th, 2011

Schneider Letter to DI

Here is the link and text of Geoff Schneider’s letter critiquing their coverage of Marino.



Daily Item

On Aug. 9, The Daily Item featured yet another lengthy story on Congressman Tom Marino on the front page. You reported his statements as if they were facts, and you did not ask for other opinions or assessments of his views. Let me offer the following points to provide some balance: Congressman Marino supports tax cuts for the super rich and cuts in programs that benefit working people. He continues to argue that tax increases hurt the economy in a recession while spending cuts do not. The reality is that both tax increases and spending cuts hurt the economy in a recession. Finally, it is quite clear from statements by Standard and Poor’s and Wall Street analysts that the unwillingness of Congressman Marino and other extremists to compromise on budget matters is a major factor driving the financial losses that global markets experienced in the last week. This panic will damage the economy and cause job losses. Congressman Marino should be ashamed of the role he has played in damaging the economy.

Geoff Schneider,