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Vision: 8 Ways We're Making America a Better Place -- in Spite of the Disasters Coming out of Washington

We can have the kind of economy, government, environment, and country we want, if we keep pushing, organizing, building, and otherwise doing the work of democracy.

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After all, we tax Las Vegas' casinos, why not Wall Street's? This is nothing new--for 50 years, up until 1966, the US had a transaction tax in place, and it was doubled in 1932 to help recovery efforts in the Great Depression. Also, England has a very successful one working for it today.

Such groups as the AFL-CIO and SEIU are mounting a major organizing campaign behind the FST. Called 'Make Wall Street Pay,' the effort already has congressional backing, and is gaining strength. As usual, the media isn't covering this, but a growing number of activist groups are joining the call for this policy of common sense fairness. For more information and action suggestions, check out the 'Action Center' at

3. Elizabeth Warren.

Grassroots clout has already produced one bright spot in Washington's dim response to Wall Street greed. The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection survived a ferocious onslaught of banker lobbying to be included in the otherwise lukewarm reform bill.

This idea came from a levelheaded, plainspoken, populist-minded bankruptcy expert, Elizabeth Warren. A Harvard professor of law, Warren also is a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks, having seen her own hardscrabble Oklahoma family endure bankruptcy. "I learned early on what debt means, how vulnerable it makes people."

By rallying outsider progressive forces to the cause, Warren became a major inside player, pushing relentlessly to get this important consumer position included in the final law. Having the position is nice, but who would fill it? Bankers wanted one of their own, but consumer and community groups had sprung into action even before the bill passed, organizing tens of thousands of regular folks to demand that Obama name Warren herself to head the agency. Despite furious pressure from bank lobbyists, the people were clear: the President had to give us this one. Warren accepted, but--showing the savvy she'll need to be effective--she agreed to be named special adviser to the President in charge of overseeing the new agency. This avoided the long, brutal, and iffy confirmation fight that the financial giants would've mounted to kill an outright nomination. As a result, she'll probably have a shorter tenure, but she starts right away, allowing her (and us) to fend off the lobbyists and give the fledgling bureau a strong, consumer-oriented beginning.

4. Move Your Money.

For your own private rebellion against the financial finaglers and manipulators, withdraw your money from them--and tell them why you're doing it. Viable options for stashing and investing your funds abound, including credit unions, community banks, and socially responsible credit card and investment firms. is a spreading movement that literally helps you move, allowing you to escape the tainted tentacles of Wall Street. In addition to your personal funds, look into shifting the accounts of your business, union, church, co-op, neighborhood association, and other organizations into financial institutions closer to home... and much closer to your values. After all, it's your money --why let the bastards have it? Talk it up with friends and family, write letters to the editor, send emails, post blogs, and find other ways to expand the movement.

5. Dog Poop.

It's worth recalling that even the smallest dog can lift its leg on the tallest building. Indeed, when trying to change the world, even small steps can make a big difference, so turn your creative impulses loose.

Take the 'Park Spark,' built by Matthew Mazzotta, an artist in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At his local dog park, he thought about all that canine excrement being bagged and tossed into trashcans. A bulb lit in Mazzotta's head: why not convert the waste into poop power?

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