In his newest book, Rebuild the Dream, green economy pioneer Van Jones reflects on his journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider, shares intimate details of his time in government, and provides a blueprint to reinvent the American Dream. Along the way, he contrasts the structure and rhetoric of the 2008 Obama campaign, the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street. Below are his thoughts on cheap patriots versus deep patriots, and the way forward to reclaim, reinvent, and renew the American Dream.
CHEAP PATRIOTS VERSUS DEEP PATRIOTS
The time has come to turn things right side up again and declare that America’s honest, hard-working middle class is too big to fail. The aspirations of our low-income, struggling, and marginalized communities are too big and important to fail. The hopes of our children are too big to fail. The American Dream itself is too big to fail.
And we are not going to let these things fail.
Of course, it will not be easy to stop the dream killers. Tax policy that burdens working families and gives the biggest breaks to the super-rich has helped to keep more and more of our national wealth locked in the private safes of the top 1 percent. This alarming economic polarization, combined with the constant flow of good-paying jobs overseas, threatens to end our status as a middleclass nation. Too many of our big banks and largest corporations are behaving in a manner that is both irresponsible and unpatriotic. Their conduct makes it that much worse for the many patriotic and responsible businesses—especially small businesses—that follow the rules and provide good jobs to their employees.
Additionally, many well-intentioned people have been recruited into a powerful crusade—the Tea Party movement—that promises the American people economic relief by slashing taxes and taking a wrecking ball to America’s government. The impact of the Tea Party’s reckless policies would be to financially decimate our government, further dismantle America’s middle class, and strengthen the chokehold that the top 1 percent has on the economy. Nonetheless, the Tea Partiers effectively seized the public narrative in 2009 and congressional power in 2010, quelling the wave of hope generated by the 2008 election. They have succeeded at painting their agenda “red, white, and blue.” If we are to have an economy that works for the remaining 99 percent, this kind of “cheap patriotism” must be sidelined in favor of a “deep patriotism”—one that honors the accomplishments of our parents and grandparents. After all, they used the tools of both free enterprise and democratic government to build a society that sets the global standard.
Photo: Center for American Progress
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