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Bringing the Fight to the Billionaires

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At a moment when political minds are fixed anxiously on Washington, it's useful to remember where the real power resides.In this election, wealthy corporations & individuals have shown yet again how they can purchase politicians & pervert the democratic

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JL A (281)
Monday November 5, 2012, 6:41 am

The Nation
Published on The Nation (

Bringing the Fight to the Billionaires
The Editors | October 30, 2012

At a moment when political minds are fixed anxiously on Washington, it’s useful to remember where the real power resides. In this election, wealthy corporations and individuals have shown yet again how they can purchase politicians and pervert the democratic process. Progressives have no choice but to try to counter these forces through massive ground operations at election time, but that doesn’t always work—and even when it does, the rigged game always begins anew the day after, with corporate lobbyists working their magic on many of the same officials progressives just knocked themselves out to elect. So why not take the fight to the businesses and billionaires who are pulling the strings?

That was, after all, Occupy Wall Street’s stroke of brilliance: frustrated by the government’s failure to rein in the financial sector, it targeted the industry itself with nonviolent protests. While Occupy’s forces have dispersed, the lesson has not been lost; in fact, it has been absorbed by several ongoing campaigns.

The spreading movement of “home defenders” is one example. As Mitt Romney and Barack Obama faced off in three debates that barely touched on the national crisis of foreclosures, union and community activists in Los Angeles rallied around Ana Casas Wilson, a disabled 50-year-old with breast cancer facing eviction because of late payments on the mortgage for her tiny house. Wilson claims she repeatedly tried to get the bank to renegotiate the loan—serviced by Wells Fargo, one of the biggest foreclosing banks in the country—but it refused. So the community activists who took up her cause put a face on her problem, that of Wells Fargo CFO Tim Sloan, by protesting last spring outside his $5 million San Marino mansion. Wells Fargo has said Wilson’s eviction will proceed, but the movement she inspired is just getting warmed up.

The activists’ decision to target Sloan was no accident. It’s part of a strategic effort by a coalition of groups—spanning the Occupy, labor, immigrant and environmental movements—to identify and pressure the top one-tenth of 1 percent who increasingly dominate American political and economic life. The idea, according to veteran labor organizer Stephen Lerner, is to force this tiny elite to “bargain directly with the people impacted by their decisions and policies.” Also in this coalition’s sights would be Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, who happens to sit on the board of Chevron, one of the world’s biggest polluters. What’s more, Wells Fargo backs the Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, private prison firms that profit from the mass detention of immigrants. Tapping into the energy of the Occupy, student and immigrant movements, the National Prison Divestment Campaign has been pressuring Wells Fargo to sell off these holdings. In a possible sign of success, the campaign reports that on September 30, Wells Fargo and its subsidiaries dumped 75 percent of their aggregate holdings in the GEO Group.

On another front, the Rainforest Action Network just won a huge victory when, after a two-year campaign involving high-profile direct actions, the Walt Disney Company agreed to eliminate paper connected to the destruction of endangered rainforests and animals from its entire supply chain—affecting the operation of 25,000 factories in more than 100 countries, including 10,000 in China alone.

While elected officials can certainly help, such struggles are waged and won far outside Washington.

Gary Younge this week highlights the point “Where Elections End and Politics Begins [1].”

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Kit B (276)
Monday November 5, 2012, 8:23 am

This country has a long history of how to use the government. As the country grew geographically therefore, in population size so grew the size of government. Democrat or republican, this issue of "hand's off" business was largely followed. Even the depression of the 1870's brought no direct intervention by the US government. After a long slow struggle, aided in no small part by governmental interaction to direct business in their "free-range" activities by European governments, we saw some moments of day break. It was of course, an illusion, and we were shortly back in another depression, this one again caused by lack of control by the institution of government to protect the citizens from duplicitous corporate entities. This time the people elected man that had a different vision, a man that is either truly heroic in his actions or villainous, there seems to be few that have no opinion or feelings about FDR.

Once the banks and corporations had some regulations in place, those stood and the standard for the task of the government. If the government is to protect the people does it only stand to protect the people from enemy's of foreign soil? Is not the task of government to also be the voice of the people? We certainly rebuilt this country on that notion. After WWII and forward till 30 years ago, we all, republican or democrat, did believe that one cohesive message.

No, big business was not fond of this regulation, but most politicians agreed with what theman often considered the "father of capitalism" - Adam Smith warns in his book, "The Wealth of Nations" within almost every chapter, that when the government does not restrict and control corporate interests, than corporations will destroy themselves and take the government down with them. We once knew that as a certain truth, now we have forgotten that.

Somehow, I don't think being correct about this would make Adam Smith any happier today.

People lose touch with history and forget that we have been here before, movements like Occupy are a part of the face of America. When outside pressures and lack of government response brings these diversified groups together with one cohesive message, the people win. Sounds, very simple, but in fact that is the toughest climb, to unite people for one singular cause in their own best interest.

JL A (281)
Monday November 5, 2012, 5:23 pm
Thanks you Kit for that marvelous summary of relevant history!You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.

natalie n (164)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 5:44 am
Good luck at the polls guys, may the leader that can take the country forward, come into power.

JL A (281)
Tuesday November 6, 2012, 6:20 am
Thanks Natalie. You cannot currently send a star to natalie because you have done so within the last week.
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