A New Declaration of Independence: 10 Ideas for Taking America Back from the 1%
This story originally appeared at Salon.
Here’s where we are in the course of human events right now: 14 million Americans are jobless and millions more are underemployed. Those still working have seen wages fall after 30 years of stagnation. The 1 Percent of top wage earners could buy and sell the rest of us without so much as a low balance warning on their checking account apps. The tenth-of-1 Percent earns millions more every year in barely taxed capital gains and derivatives while everyone else struggles to pay down trillions of dollars of debt. Massive, growing income inequality is now belatedly acknowledged by political and media elites, but many of them seem befuddled as to its cause and importance.
It is our belief that many of the problems facing Americans today can be directly connected to the unchecked power and complete unaccountability of the 1 Percent, a group that benefits from every unequal boom of the modern era and escapes each disastrous bust unscathed. The 1 Percent is insulated from the negative effects of its disastrous policies by its paid representatives in government. The elite 1 Percent ensures the slavish loyalty of its political handmaidens by flooding their campaign coffers with money squeezed from the 99 Percent as deposits, fees and interest.
What unites the outraged 99 Percent is that we have all “played by the rules,” only to learn belatedly that the game was rigged. Having been promised modest rewards for working within the system, by taking on debt or voting the party line, we find ourselves, bluntly, shit out of luck. Let the facts be submitted to a candid world:
For the young, higher education was said to be a ticket to class mobility, or at least a secure career. Instead, middle-class students have taken on billions of dollars of inescapable debt during a prolonged jobs crisis. Lower-income students are blatantly ripped off by usurious scam artists working for educationally dubious for-profit schools. Even those seeking to join the professional class, through medical school or law school, find themselves with mountains of debt and dwindling job prospects. The rapidly rising cost of higher education pushes bright students into lucrative but socially destructive fields, like finance. Prestigious universities are still largely the finishing schools of the elite, with the most common and pernicious form of affirmative action being that given to the children of the 1 Percent most likely to write schools the biggest checks.
For progressives, years of working within the political system to elect Democrats led to a congressional majority that was still more responsive to major corporate donors and powerful industry lobbies than to grass-roots liberal activists — or even organized labor, once the party’s most powerful and respected ally. The crimes of the Bush administration remain uninvestigated, the national security state remains unchecked in scope and size, the military-industrial complex ensures that Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient speech remains relevant 60 years later, and the useless tactics of triangulation and one-way bipartisanship remain inexplicably popular among the Democratic Party establishment.
For millions of middle-class and striving blue-collar American families, the promise of homeownership as the world’s safest investment became another money-making bubble for Wall Street that remains Main Street’s intractable mess. Those members of the middle class unfortunate enough to do as an industry of wise men counseled them and invest in the stock market and real estate have seen the fruits of a lifetime’s worth of labor evaporate in multiple busts and crashes that the wise men always escape from economically intact. The mere specter of limited relief for underwater homeowners inspired 1 Percenter rage so all-consuming that they bankrolled a “populist” movement to channel it. Minority homeowners defrauded by unscrupulous lenders are blamed for an international recession sparked by the venal and simply foolish behavior of megabanks.