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A New Declaration of Independence: 10 Ideas for Taking America Back from the 1%

The weight of the 1 Percent has become intolerable. How can we take our country back? Here's a fresh draft.

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The 1 Percent aims to exploit a fiscal crisis caused by its own reckless behavior by wiping out pensions earned (and paid into) by public employees and tearing up fairly negotiated union contracts. Meanwhile, they use their media outlets, political foundations and lobbying shops to foment resentment of unionized workers whose crime is benefiting from a system that corporations and conservatives worked to completely dismantle for private employees a generation ago.

The threat that our modest social welfare system for the elderly will be sacrificed to the gods of austerity has already led significant numbers of young people to assume that there will be no Social Security in place by the time they reach what used to be referred to as their retirement years. And that belief is tacitly encouraged by the “moderate” members of the austerity club, who seek to maintain a system of low taxation of the 1 Percent in the face of declining income for the 99 Percent by gradually phasing out the services government provides for the majority. The austerity sages are considered the most serious and wise in all of the nation by our corporate press, which defines “the center” of every national political debate as “whatever the elites want.”

The weight of the 1 Percent upon us has become unbearable and intolerable. We at Salon therefore respectfully submit our own Demands.

In Liberty Plaza in Lower Manhattan, in Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza, and at other parks and public squares across the nation (and the world), Occupiers are daily creating the more perfect democracy they’d like to see. As part of that process, groups and individuals and intellectuals and pundits have put forth proposed “demands,” to address the myriad problems laid out above. From Occupy Wall Street’s principles of solidarity to the General Assembly’s proposed  New New Deal to Robert Reich’s list of essential  progressive reforms to the Working Group of the 99 Percent’s  Petition of Grievences, we’ve read the proposals and humbly offer our own, for ways to begin to make the richest nation on the planet fair for those of us who can’t afford a congressman.

Our list is meant to be the beginning of a conversation, not a final product.

1. Debt relief

Total household debt in America is $13.3 trillion — 114 percent of after-tax income. That millions of working Americans owe every penny they make to hugely profitable financial institutions is absurd and grotesque.

We demand immediate relief for the 99 Percent, particularly the poor and young students and college graduates. The Debt Jubilee is an ancient idea, and an attractive one in an era of growing economic feudalism, as the poor increasingly devote all their labor to repaying the rich. It is not in the national interest to force the impoverished to become wage slaves to pay off insurmountable debts owned to payday lenders and hugely profitable bankers.

Every other rich nation on earth heavily subsidizes higher education. We force mere kids to mortgage their futures, then ensure that the debt follows them the rest of their lives, regardless of their living circumstances. Student loan debt hurts not just the graduate but everyone else in society, too: The cost of healthcare would surely decrease, and the availability of primary care for disadvantaged populations increase, if new doctors were not regularly graduating school  $200,000 in the red.

And real and widespread relief for homeowners in crisis is urgent. Even millions of homeowners who “did everything right” find themselves underwater, or illegally foreclosed upon by banks running roughshod over the rights of homeowners by robo-signing fraudulent foreclosure documents by the thousands. Banks servicing mortgages are (rightfully) more worried about getting sued by the owners of securities made up of Americans’ debt than they are about getting in any sort of trouble for bullying or illegally seizing the homes of regular people. Everyone should get a shot at a renegotiation of their mortgage, at fair rates, and with support from the government.

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