Glenn Beck Targets Private Citizen Stephen Lerner but Ignores the Real Economic Terrorists of Wall Street
You may have caught the right's latest fevered conspiracy theory revolving around former union organizer Stephen Lerner, whom the wingnuts have decided to portray as some kind of all-powerful super-villain bent on destroying capitalism or something.
Over at the American Prospect,Sally Kohn, who knows Lerner, weighs in on the brouhaha:
The former SEIU executive, one of the brightest organizing minds in America today, spends every waking minute thinking about what he and the rest of us can do to help working-class and poor people in America. And no, as Glenn Beck now correctly points out, Lerner's conclusion is not that we need to help Wall Street...
Kohn quotes Glenn Beck's vanity site, The Blaze, detailing the supposed horrors of organizing janitors and farm workers based on a "bottom-up protest model." She then continues...
Lerner helped workers who were literally being subjected to slave-like treatment for poverty wages fight for justice. What a horrible thing to do!
Glenn Beck and his allies attack the protest tactics that working people and organizers like Lerner resort to rather than attack the goals directly---because the vast majority of Americans support social and economic justice. For instance, 92 percent of Americans believe wealth in the United States should be far more evenly distributed than it is now. The thing is, in our consumer-driven mass-media consuming culture, we're anesthetized to the fact that speaking up for justice often isn't enough. Sometimes, to get justice for the struggling majority we have to disrupt the powerful minority. So it was in Egypt. So it was in Wisconsin. And so it is on Wall Street.
Earlier this week, the Washington Post's Ezra Klein also looked at Lerner's supposed perfidy and found that the activist, while somewhat "radical," made quite a bit of sense:
Union types are always looking for “leverage.” Leverage is what I have that gives me power over you. And Lerner thinks he’s identified the point of leverage that workers and homeowners and students have over the financial system. “What does the other side fear most?” Lerner asked. “They fear disruption, they fear uncertainty. Every article about Europe says a riot in Greece, the markets went down. The folks that control this country care about one thing: how the stock market does; how the bond market does; and what their bonus is. So I think we weed out a very simple strategy: how do we bring down the stock market, how do we bring down their bonuses, how do we interfere with their ability to, to be rich.” To do so, he wants to see a campaign of disruption and strategic default led by community-activist groups and aimed at J.P. Morgan Chase.
As Lerner sees it, once there’s leverage, once the banks are scared, there can be a settlement. What sort of settlement? Lerner gives a couple of examples in his talk. “You” — meaning banks in general, and J.P. Morgan Chase in particular — “reduce the price of our interest, since your interest rate is down; and second, you rewrite the mortgages for everybody in the community so they can stay in their homes. We could make them do that.”
I think there’s much to fear in Lerner’s plan, and also a fair amount to like. It’s true that the banks got off too easy, and that a lot of mortgages should be renegotiated. It’s also true that economic disruption is, by its very nature, difficult to control. You might think you’re engaged in a targeted action against J.P. Morgan Chase only to end up somewhere very different. But for better or worse, it’s unlikely that the union movement would actually adopt Lerner’s plans, or that they’d even have the power to make good on them if they wanted to adopt them.