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Rev. Jesse Jackson Discusses the Current Political Landscape (Part 1)

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And if that is allowed to happen, it is going to pull down cities and states. Right now, cities are under siege. We are cutting public transportation and laying off transit workers. And reducing services and raising fares – it affects mostly poor people, because people on welfare can’t own a car. And then you can’t have welfare-to-work if you don’t have access to transportation.

You know, transit workers are your green jobs, by the way. Green jobs did not start with a windmill, which is significant, or with solar, which is significant. It starts with transit drivers – 54 on the bus, rather than 54 cars on the road. Transit driver is a green job.

Newt Gingrich got a bill passed in 1998. Cities with populations over 200,000, get zero urban transit subsidies for their workers and transit “operations.” The result is all these urban mass transit systems are laying off green jobs, and the strong state lobbyists are fighting for more highways and more bridges — more cars, more oil, more gas, more foreign dependency, and more traffic and long lines of congestion… when, in fact, we need – what? To be able to make more steel in Gary, Pittsburgh, and Birmingham. We can make the steel and lay the rail. Americans can make the trains and make the buses and be more energy efficient in transportation.

You can connect Chattanooga and Atlanta through mass transportation.

If you cut public transportation, you are cutting green jobs. And you cut public education because you lost your tax base, and you lay off teachers. The Harkin Bill, which would save 300,000 teachers, is in trouble. Public education, public transportation, public housing, public recreation and lack of access to healthcare – that means there is a sinking feeling. That requires a plan for jobs and reindustrialization — a plan! While the Harkin bill failed, [we made the commitment] for more for Afghanistan.

It’s not just war that we are fighting, but we are also engaging in economic development.

We are building for Baghdad and Kabul.

We need that sense of a plan coming with security for these pockets of poverty, whether Appalachia or urban America and all over the country.

Kathleen Wells: Yeah, but we are not getting it.

Rev. Jackson: To me, that is the unfinished business – that vision of a great society, a war on poverty, housing and urban development of model cities. That vision must be revived. That was Dr. King’s last mission. He said “If we have public accommodations, that’s a great victory. If we have the right to vote, that’s a great victory. And politicians like Lyndon Johnson and Kennedy, those are great victories.”

He said, “But if we are spending more and more money on military and weaponry and the rich are getting more and more, getting richer faster rather than slower, and the poor are exasperated, we are looking forward to spiritual bankruptcy.” That was his last mission.

To me, that remains the unfinished business for us as a nation to grapple with.

Kathleen Wells: But we are not moving in the right direction, when the Senate last week passed legislation that didn’t break up the too-big-to-fail banks – didn’t change the structure...

Rev. Jackson: And in the same sense, they will not allow judges the power to negotiate home mortgages in bankruptcy settlements. We think of financial hedge funders on Wall Street, but political hedge funders may be just as dangerous – i.e., politicians hedge by either raising money on Wall Street to win, and if they lose, they seek jobs as a lobbyist for Wall Street. So, they hedge. If I run and win, I get money off of Wall Street, and if I run and lose, I become a lobbyist for Wall Street. That’s political hedging.

Kathleen Wells: Well, the integrity of the game has been destroyed, if we have the Senate not changing the structure of Wall Street.

Rev. Jackson: Well, of course that’s true. That’s the immoral pit we are in today.

Kathleen Wells: So, offer solutions.

Rev. Jackson: Well, the first thing we have to do is to at least cry out. If you are in a burning building, you may not have the water, but at least you have the observation to cry fire and not to adjust to it. And the Civil Rights – historically, we didn’t have any political, economic or military power. At least, we had the power of conscience and the power to cry out. Crying out wakes up somebody, touches something, and you struggle for that nerve, for that cord to be touched. That is the flame of conscience that kind of drives us forward.

That’s all Dr. King had in Montgomery, a voice. We didn’t’ have the right to vote. We didn’t have any guns. We didn’t have any money.

So we all are going to just have to use our sole power.

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Kathleen Wells, J.D., is a political correspondent for Race-Talk. Kathleen is a native of Los Angeles and has degrees in political science and law, from UCLA and UC Berkeley, respectively. She writes/blogs on law and politics. Kathleen is on Facebook