Plutocratic Government Tries To Beat Down #Occupy

In Oakland peaceful #Occupy demonstrators were camping out in front of city hall. The city launched a police raid to clear out the camp, using tear gas, flash-bank grenades, rubber bullets and beating people with batons. An Iraq war vet was hit in the head by either a rubber bullet or tear gas canister and critically injured. These days this is the typical government response to non-Tea-Party “protesters.” Let’s look at how the Occupiers and protests would be treated if we were a functioning democracy — a government of by and for We, the People — instead of a dysfunctional plutocracy serving the biggest corporations and the billionaires behind them.
The first thing to understand about every single person involved in the #occupy movement is that they are citizens and human beings. Even the ones with beards. Alas, even the drummers. (What do you call a drummer who breaks up with his girlfriend? Homeless. What do you call a drummer with half a brain? Gifted.)
The people involved in the #occupy movement are upset that our country has abandoned democracy in favor of plutocracy. They are upset that every decision made in Washington is based on the wishes of the top 1%. They are upset that we do not have a reasonable health care system, no reasonable pension system, or child care system, or other benefits that people in democracies around the world receive. They are upset that most of the benefits of our economy instead go to a very few at the top. They are upset that a huge amount of our money goes to pay for a military machines that costs more than all other countries spend on military combined. They are upset that there is a “Super Committee” meeting in secret to decide how much money to take out of the economy to pay for the bailouts and other costs of the fiasco caused by Wall Street and the big banks.
So with their government ignoring their majority demands they have finally decided to voice their protests publicly. For doing this they have been met with smears, derision, and police attacks.
Police Ordered To Attack
Just as in countries like Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iran, the instinctive response of our plutocratic government and Wall Street-backed power structures has been to see those people who have shown up at these protests as somehow suspect, possibly even as an enemy, and to attack them. FOX News and the entire corporate/conservative media machine regularly attacks them. And the police are ordered to attack them.
This is not “protesters vs police.” People who work in law enforcement are part of the 99%, just like us. They have families to feed, bills to pay, and have to do what they’re told.

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And this is what they were ordered to do, to people who were exercising their legitimate rights:

American citizens were treated as criminals and attacked just for speaking out about the injustice of Wall Street getting a huge bailout after they caused this mess, and now the rest of us are told to sacrifice to pay for it.
John Stewart on The Daily Show reacts to the Oakland attack:

If We Were A Democracy Instead Of A Plutocracy
The occupy movement clashes with federal, state and local governments the way they currently work. We really have an opportunity here to come back to an understanding of democracy and the role of government, and who government should serve. Currently government is really set up to serve the top few, and facilitate bigger businesses, and understands the people in their communities as consumers and corporate employees, and not as citizens.
So imagine how it cold be different, if we had a government designed to serve the people rather than keep them in their place. In a country with a true democratic culture the local governments would be serving these people and honoring their right to dissent and protest. They would instinctively be showing up at protests like this and offering to help with any sanitation problems, etc, setting up public toilets, and other services. They would even be offering tents. If there are security problems in the occupy camps a city would be posting police in the encampment to help the people there, with a clear mission to serve them. They certainly would not be seeing them as the enemy, and attacking them.
Imagine Real Democracy and its Implications
The #occupy movement opens up the space to imagine what the country could be if we really did have a democracy with a first instinct of serving the people, instead of serving only the wealthy and their big corporations.
Imagine a government of, by and for the people and the things that regular people want and need. Imagine everyone entitled to a free education through college? Imagine a transportation system that helps us all get around — mass transit and high-speed rail systems instead of just roads and highways for those who can afford cars, with plutocratic pay lanes so those with more money can get around.
Imagine a people outraged at special passes through airport security for those with first-class tickets.
Imagine advertisers having to get people’s permission before they are allowed to interrupt their attention. Imagine the things we would have if We, the People were in charge.
Imagine a modern, maintained infrastructure, good schools, and a guarantee of a job working on those for any9one who needed work.
Imagine a government that enforced laws even when the top few violated them, enforced job discrimination laws, enforced anti-trust laws… or a government that protected citizens from corporate fraud, fees, scams, etc.
Occupiers Are People Too
These occupiers are “the people’ just as much as any other people in the community and government should exist to serve them just as much as any other group.
Alas, even the drummers.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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Absolute MUST-WATCH For All Progressives!!!

Here is the video of last night’s launch of Rebuild the Dream campaign, with Van Jones. ((If you want to skip the music parts, start at 9:15.)
The three big lies:
1) America is broke.
2) Asking the super rich to pay taxes hurts the economy.
3) Hating America’s government and wrecking America’s infrastructure is patriotic.

Watch live streaming video from rebuildthedream at

Alternet has a great write-up of the event and its meaning, in Van Jones Kicks off American Dream Movement with Energetic Rally and Speech at NYC’s Town Hall
And then you can watch this:

The Voters Set the Democrats Free — Will They Act Like it?

(This is a guest post by George Lakoff.  We will have more to say here on the special election results — we think that this is bigger than just complaints about spending or taxes or politicians.  What the people are crying out for is reform of the broken system of governance in California.  George says the results of this election present the Democrats with an opportunity to accomplish that.)

Hooray! The outrageous propositions 1 A-E have been crushed by voters who just can’t take any more.

California voters have rejected the nonfunctional minority-rule government that has bankrupted the state, along with the governor who led the state into bankruptcy.
The voters want a functional democracy, and that means majority rule. No more blackmail by a 1/3 plus 1 Republican minority.
In short, the voters have given the Democrats a new freedom – if they will only take it.

Continue reading

Public Still Trusts Corporations More Than Self-Government

Marketing works.  But we already knew that.  Big business has been marketing the idea that corporations making decisions for us is better than having government run by the people.  And a lot of people have bought into that idea.

But is it really better to be government by corporations?  In February I wrote,

After decades of anti-government speeches claiming that government holds back business, government takes money out of the economy and government is less efficient than corporations, people came to believe that, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is the problem, not the solution.”  This led to deregulation and budget cutbacks in all areas including education and infrastructure. 

If you think about it, government really is what We, the People want it to be.  In a democracy we jointly make decisions about the best way to manage our affairs.  So saying that corporations do things better is really an anti-democracy message.  What they are saying is that organizations run by a few wealthy elites telling everyone else what to do, with the benefits of everyone’s work mostly going to those few at the top, is a better way to manage society than to have everyone making the decisions and sharing in the results.

Just for fun, here is the video from that post again:

Here is more proof that marketing works:  A recent Gallup Poll of public trust of government vs corporations found that the public still would rather be governed by big corporations than by themselves.

Gallup’s recent update of its long-standing trend question on whether big business, big labor, or big government will be the biggest threat to the country in the future finds Americans still viewing big government as the most serious threat. However, compared to Gallup’s last pre-financial-crisis measurement in December 2006, more now see big business and fewer see big government as the greater threat.

Gallup’s results, graphically:

GallupGovtBusResults.gifMarketing works.  Especially when it is repeated over and over for decades, unopposed.  This blog reaches a moderate audience, but the message that government by the people is a good thing needs to reach people who don’t hear it very often, and only hear the marketed anti-government, anti-democracy message that is spread by the corporations.  Did you know that Speak Out California also provides speakers to talk to local groups across California and do radio and TV interviews discussing the benefits of government and democracy? Please contact us at to schedule a speaker for your event.

Who Is Our Government For?

dday, writing in Giving Away The Tax Argument at Digby’s Hullabaloo blog, asks why so many California newspapers have “tax increase calculators” but no calculators that show people how much the budget cuts affect them.

In my life, I have never seen a “spending cut calculator,” where someone could plug in, say, how many school-age children they have, or how many roads they take to work, or how many police officers and firefighters serve their community, or what social services they or their families rely on, and discover how much they stand to lose in THAT equation. Tax calculators show bias toward the gated community screamers on the right who see their money being “taken away” for nothing. A spending cut calculator would actually show the impact to a much larger cross-section of society, putting far more people at risk than a below 1% hit to their bottom line.

[. . . The media already highlights the tax side of the equation over spending, dramatically portraying tax increases while relegating spending cuts to paragraph 27. It feeds the tax revolt and distorts the debate. And it’s completely irresponsible.

In Why Are Public Assets Being Cut Right When We Need Them Most? Jay Walljasper, of wonders why public transit, libraries and other things the government does for us are all being cut at exactly the time people need them? As the economy turns downward more people need to take the train or bus, or use the library. Jay makes the connection,

Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, proposes closing the state’s budget gap by reducing corporate taxes and slashing state aid to local governments. This will mean painful cuts in public assets, such as transit and libraries.

. . . This loss of our public assets is an alarming threat to our society. The things we all own in common and depend upon–libraries, transit, parks, water systems, schools, public safety, infrastructure, cultural programs, social services–are being gradually but steadily undermined.

For many years I have been blogging at Seeing the Forest, often coming back to a question, “Who is our economy for?” For some time now regular incomes have stagnated, while incomes at the very top just go up and up. The GDP keeps rising, productivity keeps going up, but regular people see less and less of the benefit of this increase. In fact, if you look at charts and data, the stagnation of incomes started almost exactly at the same time as President Reagan took office and started implementing the corporate agenda of anti-tax and anti-government policies. So is this a coincidence?

Throughout human history we have seen one scheme after another wherein a few people seize power and devise a system to hold it and use it to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. This is human nature and through history we have seen it happen over and over.

America formed in reaction to the British monarchy’s exploitation of its people. We, the People formed our government to band together and protect each other from attempts by the powerful few to exploit us. Our Constitution was supposed to be include a system of checks and balances to account for the nature of power.

It is time for the people to take back that power and use it to again benefit each other. And it is time for California’s newspapers to do something for We, the People and include a “budget cuts calculator” as well as tax increase calculator. It is just as important, maybe more so, that we all understand how we’re injuring and jeopardizing our future with the budget cuts the Republicans required in this year’s budget negotiations.

The Budget Agreement

California finally passed a budget.  It is a bad budget, cutting essential
services, borrowing a tremendous amount, selling our lottery revenues and giving
a huge tax break to big out-of-state companies. 
Each of these came from demands by the very, very few Republicans who agreed
to vote for the budget at all will, of course, just get us through another year
while making it ever more difficult to pass future

California’s 2/3 requirement means that a few
corporate-funded extremists can hold the rest of us hostage.  So they had to make a terrible deal to get the
three Republican votes required by the 2/3 rule, or else lay of tens of
thousands and stop paying California’s bills. 
We the People of California were all held hostage to that threat. 

The resulting deal was that if We, the People want schools,
police, firefighters, roads & bridges, courts, all the things our
government does for us, we had to agree
to tax breaks for the big multinational corporations that kick in so much money
to help elect the anti-government extremists
. So the big companies – the kind
that come in and crush local California businesses – get a big tax break while
the rest of us have our taxes raised. 
Oh, and the oil companies can continue to take our oil out of the ground
for free and then sell it back to us.

Here are some reactions around the California netroots:

Dayen at Calitics

 “The cuts are going to be really, really bad:
10% across the board for education, huge cuts for public transit operations,
health care, etc.  The new revenues basically fill in the loss of revenue
from massive unemployment.

[. . .] The “single sales
factor apportionment,” which is the massive business tax cut, doesn’t kick
in until FY2011, predictably and conveniently after Gov. Schwarzenegger is out
of office and it will be someone else’s problem to make up the revenue!
 It’s almost like somebody planned it that way!”

Holober at Consumer Federation of California

 “The deal reported today does not call on all
California taxpayers to share in the sacrifice. Working Californians will face
billions in higher sales tax and income tax rates. But businesses win about one
billion dollars in new tax breaks.  $700 million in corporate tax cuts
result from a recalculation of how California taxes the profits of big
multinational corporations.   According to the Senate Analysis, the
windfall to multinational corporations, and the revenue loss to California will
eventually grow to $1.5 billion.”

Cruickshank at the Courage Campaign blog

“The only way out, and the first
reform that we must undertake – the tree blocking the tracks, the door that
opens the path to all other reforms – is eliminating the 2/3 rule that
gives conservatives veto power over the state and turns the majority Democrats
into a minority party on fiscal matters. It’s been talked about frequently on
Calitics and in what remains of the media’s coverage of state politics. So it
seemed time for an in-depth discussion of the issue and the prospects for
restoring majority rule to California.

M. Greenwald at California Progress Report

“Many Democrats and political
observers fear that Maldonado strong-arming the legislature may set a bad
precedent for future attempts at getting a budget on time.”

So here we are.  Our
structural problems have enabled extremists to increase … our structural
problems.  We are one more step down the
road to intentional ungovernability.

Over the next several months, we who love this state must act to fix this.  We must get rid of this 2/3 budget-vote requirement that allows extremists to hold us hostage.  An initiative changing the 2/3 vote requirement is long-overdue but we’ll need the support of every forward-thinking voter to make it happen.  Let’s work together to ensure that it does.

CA’s Budget Problem Is Paragraph 10

Today’s San Jose Mercury News front page story is about California’s budget problem: that they are still one vote short.  But Californians reading the story are not told why one more vote is required, not are they told who it is required from — until the 10th paragraph.  The 10th paragraph reads,

The votes were there in the
Assembly. But in the Senate, only two Republican senators were prepared
to buck party orthodoxy and vote to raise taxes. Three were needed.

Even in this 10th paragraph readers are not informed that every Democrat is voting for the budget. 

Before this paragraph, readers are told that “lawmakers” cannot agree and that “the deal still was held hostage by the thinnest of margins.” But there is nothing telling them who or why

The reason this is such a problem is that the people of California need this information, to help them play their part in the functioning of our state government.  The voters need to know who to hold accountable or they will not make their wishes known through calls to their Assemblymember’s or Senator’s office.  And they can’t make informed decisions at election time. 

This is typical of stories about the budget impasse — across the state the major newspapers, radio and TV stations are not giving the voters the information they need in order to participate in their government.  The result is that the state is becoming ungovernable — and going broke.

So let’s be clear about what is happening here.  California’s elected Republicans have all signed a “no-new-taxes” pledge with Grover Norquist’s organization.  (He’s the guy who says the plan is to make government small enough to “drown in a bathtub.”)  So now they see the budget crisis as an opportunity to force mass layoffs of state employees and reductions in support for people who need things like state-supplied oxygen tanks.  They call that “reducing government.”  And even with all the budget cuts that the Democrats have all voted for, they still will not vote to pass a budget.  They want more, and then more, and then they want the state government to go away.

This is ideology. They repeat an ideological mantra that will ruin the state.  And they say this is their goal — to get rid of government.  They say government is bad.  They say government spending is bad.  They say taxes are bad.  They say corporations are good.  Ideology.

California can not continue to fund our schools, universities, roads, public safety, firefighters, health services, services to
the poor, blind and elderly, provide funding for local government, etc.
without additional revenues.  Do the Math (George Skelton, LA Times):

It’s Republican dogma in the Capitol that to vote for a tax increase is
“career-ending.” Even if true — and there’s evidence both ways — so

These are folks, after all, who sermonize against making politics
a career, publicly pretend to worship term limits and preach the
virtues of private enterprise. You’d think they’d be eager to return to
the private sector. Yet, they’re afraid to risk losing out on their
next political job.

Another item not reported is that the Republicans demanded a huge tax cut for large corporations — the very kind that are killing off California’s smaller independent, job-creating businesses.
And they still won’t vote for the budget.  And the public still doesn’t have a chance to learn what is going on here.


After decades of anti-government speeches claiming that government holds back business, government takes money out of the economy and government is less efficient than corporations, people came to believe that, as Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government is the problem, not the solution.”  This led to deregulation and budget cutbacks in all areas including education and infrastructure. 

If you think about it, government really is what We, the People want it to be.  In a democracy we jointly make decisions about the best way to manage our affairs.  So saying that corporations do things better is really an anti-democracy message.  What they are saying is that organizations run by a few wealthy elites telling everyone else what to do, with the benefits of everyone’s work mostly going to those few at the top, is a better way to manage society than to have everyone making the decisions and sharing in the results.

As the financial crisis hits, and the fabric of that pro-big business
philosophy is shredding the fabric of our society, we can see clearly
just how foolish and destructive the right-wing machine has been to our
economic, social and political values. (Not to mention cutting off peanut processing plant regulation and inspection, leading to the current situation of 9 dead and hundreds seriously ill across the country.  This is just ONE more example of the consequences of right-wing policies.)

Alone those lines, here is an interesting video, making fun of some of the anti-government propaganda we have heard over the last few decades:

The New President

At 12:01pm EST, as Barack Obama took the oath of office to become President of the United States of America, the White House website,, switched over to its new format.  The list of menu items on that website includes “Our Government.”  It is OUR government, the People of the United States joining together to manage our affairs.

One feature of the new website is a blog.  The first post at the blogs promises Communication, Transparency and Patricipation.  For example,

“One significant addition to reflects a campaign promise
from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to
the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment
before the President signs it.”

It is OUR government, and a new era has begun. 

The “Tax Freedom Day” Trick

It takes a 2/3 vote to pass a budget in California. As we have seen this means any budget that does not completely meet the hard-core anti-tax, must-cut-government position of the Republicans in the legislature is voted down. Even though there is enormous public support for government – schools, roads, firefighters, etc. – they will not compromise at all. They demand that we gut the government, lay off tens of thousands of workers, or nothing. So California races toward economic ruin.
What do your taxes buy you? The average person benefits greatly from strong government. By gathering together into a community that is jointly managed (i.e. government) people can pool their resources and accomplish great things that cannot be accomplished by people who are on their own. Roads and bridges are examples of things that people cannot accomplish individually. Police, firefighters, public schools are other examples. Law and courts and a monetary system are still more. And then there are benefits like Social Security and the “safety net” of programs for people who lose jobs food programs for those of us without enough to eat.
The reason we have almost everything that we value as a society, our education and (until recently anyway) jobs, the internet, buildings that don’t easily burn down or blow away, drinkable water coming to our houses and sewage systems leaving them and (until fairly recently, anyway) a health care system that stops epidemics is our government. All of the businesses we see around us exist because of our government — a corporation cannot even exist without the government that establishes it and the legal system that maintains it.
But there are some who would personally benefit more in the absence of government than in its presence. History has taught that there are some who would organize themselves to take what others have worked to build rather than do that work themselves. One need only look at the walls built around cities in the past to understand this. There have also been organized gangs and other criminal enterprises that take rather than build, and more recently we have seen that organized predatory enterprises also find ways to victimize and prey on people. Fraud, confidence and ponzi schemes, consumer scams and all manner of trickery prey on people who are left unprotected by their community. Government is what has always protected regular people from such predators.
Government — the people banding together to guard and accomplish their interests — serves to protect people from those who would just take rather than work with the rest of us to build.
So why did Ronald Reagan famously say “government is the problem” in his first inaugural address and he loudly and repeatedly attack the idea of taxes? The foundation and strength of government is the taxes it collect. Taxes are what provide government with its strength to do all of the good things described above. This is why anti-government ideologues reason that the way to cut government (and thereby bring in its alternative) is to cut taxes. They say that if they can just cut out the foundation of government, it will fall. Or, more famously, that they can “drown it in a bathtub.”
One way that anti-government ideologues have worked to accomplish this is to turn people against their own government, tricking people into misunderstanding how taxes work and what government does for them. last week, in What Are Tax Brackets, I explained how one of these tricks works — that you only pay bracket rates taxes on income that falls in that bracket, not on all income earned up to that bracket.
Another way they turn people against taxation and government is to misrepresent how much is collected and how it is used. Exaggerated statements like, “We pay half our income in taxes” are commonly heard, along with under-representation and misrepresentation of the benefits we receive from government.
“Tax Freedom Day” is one example of this technique. Tax Freedom Day is a product of The Tax Foundation, which is funded by the very same collection of right-wing donors that fund the Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and so many other components of the anti-government “conservative movement.”
Tax Freedom Day is widely publicized by corporate media, and usually described as being when “the average American” has earned enough income to pay their taxes. Tax Freedom Day for 2008 is April 23. To calculate Tax Freedom Day the The Tax Foundation adds up all the taxes paid to the government from all sources, but it only includes certain forms of income. It doesn’t include capital gains income, for example, yet includes capital gains taxes on the tax side of the calculation. These misleading calculations of course result in a much higher tax amount than “the average America” really pays. So while they say that 30.8% of “our” income went to pay taxes in 2008, anyone reading this who looks at their own tax bill can see that their taxes are substantially lower than this figure.
So the next time you hear about Tax Freedom Day, keep in mind who is making this claim, and why.