Reader’s Forum-Who Stole the American Dream?

Today we kick off a series of posts about our current selection written by P4P members.

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Steve Richardson

Who Stole the American Dream?  According to Hedrick Smith, the author, it’s big business owners who decided offense was their best defense against increasing regulation and taxation by the federal government.  A few radical moves by Nixon in the early ‘70s provoked the backlash that created armies of lobbyists in Washington and a relentless push to unburden businesses – at the expense of workers.  It would be decades before the key outcomes – income inequality, partisan gridlock, and dangerous levels of public debt – would become evident.

The timing of our discussion could not be better.  Smith’s book was published four years ago, when the chronic economic and political concerns were hidden by the Great Recession.  Americans are just now coming to the realization we are dealing with systemic challenges.  It is encouraging that voters are looking beyond the political party establishment for solutions.  I would like to think that behind the campaign circus is an awakening – that voters know more than they have been given credit for and they’re exercising the only obvious options.  In that case, there is hope for voters who have basically slept through the burglary of their dream.  As Smith puts it, “Americans will have to come off the sidelines and reengage in direct citizen action in order to reestablish ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’”

This syncs with our independent voter message.  He – and we – have many ideas of what could or should be done, but none of them matter until and unless our fellow citizens are ready to take matters into their own hands.  By focusing on specific actors and actions, Smith has made a valuable contribution toward motivating the victims to fight back.  Millions of Americans can relate to the loss of jobs, home equity, and retirement benefits, and Smith builds a strong case that these were not natural “free market” consequences; rather, our economy has been plundered by capitalists who managed to turn Washington into a profit center.

Clearly, we need to get the money out of politics – not by regulating campaign contributions but by closer scrutiny of public policies.  It is remarkable how long we bought the “trickle down” economic theory that what was good for business would be good for workers.  It is now incumbent upon the 99 percent to determine what is good for us.  But we’ve outsourced democracy to two parties that have violated our trust, so the first step is to take back control of our government by changing the way representatives are elected.  Mr. Smith deserves credit for including election reforms in his 10-step plan to “reclaim the dream” (#9 Rebuild the Political Center and #10 Mobilize the Middle Class), but I would have placed them first and second.

Steve Richardson is a founding member of the Virginia Independent Voters Association and serves on IndependentVoting.org’s national Election Reform Committee.

 

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Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#

Can We Heal Our Great Divide?

Our current selection is Who Stole the American Dream? by Hedrick Smith.  I know we are going to learn a lot from the book and have much to discuss with the author on our conference call on Sunday, June 19th at 7 pm EST.

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While you are getting started with the book, I was eager to share the TEDxOrcasIsland talk that Hedrick gave last year, entitled “Can We Heal Our Great Divide?” In his talk he lays out his economic theory of what has gone wrong and what we can do about it.  He speaks abuot how we have seen a “revolt of the bosses, a revolt from the top down.” He links rebuilding the American economy to reclaiming our democracy and talks about the need to end gerrymandering, expose dark money and the value of Top Two primaries.  And that it is up to the American people, from the bottom up to do this. Hedrick reminds us that American history shows us that we can make transformative change happen…look at the revolutionary war, the women’s movement, the 60’s.  He goes on to speak about the power of the civil rights movement.  He shares:

I remember when Martin Luther King put on his coveralls–he didn’t just give that speech at the Lincoln Memorial–he put on his coveralls, went out and got arrested. And they denounced him as an outside agitator. That was meant as a diss, an epithet, a denunciation…. Yes, he said, I am an agitator. Look in your washing machine, there’s an agitator in the center and it’s agitating the water and the soap to knock the dirt out of your clothes.  And I’m here to agitate the dirt out of our society–racism, discrimination, segregation.”

Hedrick goes on to say,

I think we need a new spirit of agitation in America.  We need a new generation of agitators, and I don’t mean just the young generation. I mean all of us generations together.  We can do it.”

I hope you will give his talk a listen.

If you cannot view the video, you can see it here.

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Reminder: Politics for the People

Conference Call With Hedrick Smith

Sunday, June 19th @ 7 pm EST

(641) 715-3605   Code 767775#

Before the Scales, Tomorrow

We will leave our celebration of National Poetry Month with a final poem on May Day.  An appropriate poem to end on.  It is a poem sent to us by Juliana Francisco, an Independence activist from Brooklyn and a member of the IndependentVoting Phone Outreach team.

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Juliana Francisco, April 14th. City Hall Steps.  Denouncing NY’s Closed Presidential Primary and the lock out of 3.2 million independents.

“Otto René Castillo was a poet and revolutionary from Guatemala. I first learned about him at the All Stars where his amazing poem Apolitical Intellectuals is on display. That poem is riveting and compelled me to learn more about Castillo. Before the Scales, Tomorrow is a painful for me to read considering how his life ended but ultimately I find this poem very comforting and inspiring. Being politically aware and active at a young age often makes me feel pessimistic and depressed. However, it is important to press forward for what’s right, not only for future generations – I’m learning now that creating a world in the present that you believe in and is nurturing and just is something to be proud of and happy about.

“But it’s beautiful to love the world with eyes that have not yet been born” is one of my favorite quotes ever.

 

BEFORE THE SCALES, TOMORROW

By Otto Rene Castillo

And when the enthusiastic
story of our time
is told,
for those
who are yet to be born
but announce themselves
with more generous face,
we will come out ahead
—those who have suffered most from it.

And that
being ahead of your time
means suffering much from it.
But it’s beautiful to love the world
with eyes
that have not yet
been born.

And splendid
to know yourself victorious
when all around you
it’s all still so cold,
so dark.

If you enjoyed Juliana’s pick and live in NYC, you might enjoy seeing a performance of Castillo’s poetry coming later this month.

The Castillo Theater, named after Otto Rene Castillo, is hosting the American premier of Even Under Bitterness, a multi-media performance piece featuring twelve of Castillo’s warmly political and always moving poems.

Performance dates: May 6 – 15, 2016.    Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 PM.  Sunday, May 8 at 2 PM. Sunday, May 15 at 4:30 PM.

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Independents are Here to Stay

We have had a wonderful celebration of poetry throughout April, both chosen and written by P4P members.  Our poetry celebration continues with an original poem written by NH Independent Voters’ leader, Peter White.

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INDEPENDENT VOTERS ARE HERE TO STAY!

Hello everyone we’ve come to say

Independent Voters are here to stay!

Get up off your couches and join our way

And together for our Nation we will save the day!

 

We’re sick of the baloney the two Parties feed us

While their bosses on Wall Street are stealing with no fuss!

Our government is corrupt and a real mess

It is putting our democracy to the test.

 

We the People must rise up and start to lead

To demand what is right and what we really need:

Representatives that work for us instead of corporate greed

Who refuse PAC money, have integrity, and know how to read!

 

The US Constitution is what they should know

And the Bill of Rights is what makes our Country glow.

Open primaries are needed so our movement will grow

Until the PEOPLE SHALL RULE instead of the dough!

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