For the record, Stephen Lerner is a friend of mine. The former SEIU executive, one of the brightest organizing minds in America today, spends every waking minute thinking about what he and the rest of us can do to help working-class and poor people in America. And no, as Glenn Beck now correctly points out, Lerner's conclusion is not that we need to help Wall Street ...
From Glenn Bleck's The Blaze website:
During the 1970s, Lerner worked with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union to orchestrate a year-long strike in South Carolina. In the 1980s, Lerner worked with Justice for Janitors through the SEIU's building service division. His work in organizing the bottom-up protest model based on geographical area propelled Lerner to progressive stardom, receiving praise for his innovative style and success as the labor movement struggled to increase membership.
Damn straight! Lerner helped workers who were literally being subjected to slave-like treatment for poverty wages fight for justice. What a horrible thing to do!
Glenn Beck and his allies attack the protest tactics that working people and organizers like Lerner resort to rather than attack the goals directly---because the vast majority of Americans support social and economic justice. For instance, 92 percent of Americans believe wealth in the United States should be far more evenly distributed than it is now. The thing is, in our consumer-driven mass-media consuming culture, we're anesthetized to the fact that speaking up for justice often isn't enough. Sometimes, to get justice for the struggling majority we have to disrupt the powerful minority. So it was in Egypt. So it was in Wisconsin. And so it is on Wall Street.
In a discussion at this year's Left Forum, Beck's team recorded Lerner saying:
"It seems to me that we're in a moment where we need to figure out in a much more, through direct action, much more concrete way how we really are trying to disrupt and create uncertainty for capital, for how corporations operate."
Horrible? Maybe if you're the head of J.P. Morgan Chase. But for the vast majority of working Americans struggling to pay their bills, in or on the brink of foreclosure, sacked with astronomical credit card debt and interest payments, stifled by student loans and the rising cost of education -- Lerner's plan is a beacon of hope. Disrupt corporations and the economy as it currently functions to make it work for working people!
In the Washington Post, Ezra Klein outlines the goals behind Lerner's proposed tactics:
"You" -- meaning banks in general, and J.P. Morgan Chase in particular -- "reduce the price of our interest, since your interest rate is down; and second, you rewrite the mortgages for everybody in the community so they can stay in their homes. We could make them do that."
Recall that Thomas Jefferson took down private corporations when they were violating the public interest. And the original Tea Party? It was to protest taxes the British king was levying to bailout the for-profit East India Company.
The real "economic terrorists" (to use Beck's phrase) are the big banks that used lethal weapons like complex derivatives to crash the economy, regularly go "on strike" hoarding capital and cutting small business lending, and maintain a crisis to keep the rest of us drowning in uncertainty while they extort further tax cuts and deregulation.
Klein suggests labor is unlikely to take up Lerner's call, which is sadly probably true given that unions are so preoccupied with preserving their existing crumbs of power rather than making a bold grab for real impact.
But I would follow Lerner's lead. And so would the American people. Beck can sound the alarm all he wants, but 63 percent of Americans don't think that capitalism in its current form is working. And 63 percent of Americans supporting a strategy to withhold mortgage and credit payments from a corrupt economic system in order to shock that system into behaving in a more just and fair way, thus preserving the values of opportunity for all on which our nation was founded? I can't think of anything more American!
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