Every time there are proposals to improve schools and educational opportunities, our environment or our food supply, the answer is the same: Nice idea, but it can’t be done. We’re broke.
But somehow we’re not broke when it comes to zillion-dollar weapons systems, starting another war or outfitting cities with fancy riot gear. Yet veterans are nearly a quarter of our homeless population and women veterans two to four times more likely to become homeless than women in the general population.
Corporations claim they can’t afford environmental regulations, create family wage jobs or invest in a better future for us all, while they are making record profits, paying no income taxes and lavishing mind-boggling salaries on CEOs, successful or not.
Meanwhile, schools are laying off teachers and crowding kids in substandard classrooms; assistance to the sick, the poor and needy is shrinking to the vanishing point; medical costs keep countless people from ordinary care; even those with medical insurance are going bankrupt.
Firefighters, teachers, nurses and civic employees have their hours reduced and salaries shrunk. College students graduate with crippling debt. Secure pensions are things of the past as companies offer less secure, under-performing — but cheaper — 401K plans.
What’s wrong with this picture? Much of this mismatch is rooted in the lopsidedness of our economy. Thanks in part to the Occupy movements, people are waking up to the fact that “our” country now advances the interests of the über-rich, the corporations, mega-banks and financial manipulators — the very ones who crashed the global economy.“We’re not broke. We were robbed,” said Van Jones, announcing a thoughtful, ambitious “Campaign for America’s Future” agenda.
“We’re in this mess because of Wall Street, not because seniors need to go to the doctor,” said its web page, www.ourfuture.org.
Profiteers, including banks on the Federal Reserve Board, have rewarded themselves while gambling away our savings, investments, pensions and homes on junk derivatives here and abroad.
Government Accountability Office investigations reveal that the Fed gave $16 trillion to every major financial institution in the country — and corporations, wealthy individuals and banks around the world.
“Given the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement — and millions of Americans’ concerns about Wall Street — we now have a unique opportunity to make significant changes to one of the most powerful and secretive agencies of the federal government,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “Do what it takes: Fix the Fed.” (www.benningtonbanner.com/opinion/ci_19311469)
This summer, National Nurses United demanded taking immediate therapeutic action to heal our economic ills. Their medicine: a financial transaction tax (FTT) on the sale of stocks, bonds and derivatives. There’s sweet justice in taxing Wall Street speculators to provide funds to heal the global economy, provide health care for all, living wage jobs and quality education.
The 0.05 percent tax, dubbed the “Robin Hood tax” by the Brits, painlessly could raise $350 billion to $400 billion annually worldwide — enough to protect schools and hospitals, stop massive cuts across the public sector, deal with global climate challenges and fight poverty.
Thousands of people, nonprofit organizations, unions, religious leaders and politicians worldwide are demanding a Robin Hood Tax, already adopted by more than a dozen nations.
Want to get involved? Watch Bill Nighy, one of my favorite British actors, at www.robinhoodtax.org.
“Story of Broke,” Annie Leonard’s latest YouTube video offers a straightforward explanation of how our government spends $1 trillion on “really dumb choices” that drag down our economy by filling corporate coffers: Like the $10 billion subsidizing the oil and gas industry while it’s raking in record profits, instead of funding clean solar and wind energy. Laws dating back to 1872 allow our timber and mineral resources to be sold for far less than what they’re worth.
We’re not broke. Our economy got smashed. Time to reject ideas, like the XL Pipeline, that perpetuate dinosaur technology. Stop reducing our quality of life. End polluting our air and water, creating more garbage and releasing greenhouse gases.
Now’s the time for open minds, new ideas, creative solutions and careful re-thinking. Don’t expect answers from the “super-committee.” It’s up to us — the 99 percent of the world’s people.
Diana Somerville writes about creating more sustainable communities and our personal connection with the environment. A Clallam County resident, she’s a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Reach her at www.DianaSomerville.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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