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Take Back the American Dream, Day 2: "Something's Happening Here"

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We took too long , Justin told us. We should have begun when our economic problems took off. The contract will lack value if we don't use it. He cited the state of Kansas as working hard to realize the contract. Other grassroots successes have occurred in Montana, were the Tea Party with its agenda of cut, cut, cut, was beaten back and expenditures on essential services and institutions were preserved. Then there were others already materializing our ideals in Ohio, North Carolina, and elsewhere.  

Leo Girard took cause and effect as one: loss of manufacturing has cost this country $7--$8 billion dollars in taxes. Meanwhile, China holds $2 trillion dollars we have borrowed [that's a lot of bonds]. We are behind the twenty leading industrial countries, which have manufacturing strategies; our infrastructure is in shambles. We need a plan.  

Leo Hindery spoke of how advanced our technology has soared and how antiquated it is in most places trying to benefit from it. We must install broadband in every public school.  

As to the bay bridge in Oakland, California, most of the work has been farmed out to China. Those occupying Wall Street need us: workers, progressives, and youth must work together. It's time to reclaim democracy from this mess that began 25 years ago, with Reagan.  

Answered Leo Girard, we don't have the money we need for our progressive agenda. There was, however, most inequality under Herbert Hoover in 1928 [small comfort, but think about Jim Crow]. Job expansion last occurred in 2000; there have been no pay raises for 20 years [perhaps in the steel industry?]  

Anxious to see the "Buffett rule" passed in Congress, he said that we must design projects the Tea Party can't work around. We need an overall progressive tax system. Amid the G20 group, our shortcomings are apparent: no value-added tax, no regulation of industry and manufacturing, and capital gains and death taxes are ducked by the rich.  

The Harkin-DeFazio act (contributions from Wall Street to Main Street) must be passed. The Campaign Finance law is out greatest ever; we must march for job equity and campaign funding.  

Congresswoman Schakowsky spoke of the American Dream of the fifties, the era of her childhood when full-time employees not only had the picket fences at home but vacation cottages for summer retreats. She descried the 30 years of unabated class warfare we are enduring: growing income equality, growing deregulation--this will not become our "new normal."  

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The contract is our blueprint. The best is yet to come. Our problems are manmade and solvable--math scores here, for example that rank below the median of 20 other countries; toxic school buildings leaking energy. We need preschools for all children and health care. Obamacare is a start. Fifty million Americans remain uninsured, and fifty thousand die each year for lack of health insurance.  

We can solve our problems without sacrificing a penny of our entitlements. We're at a crossroads; we must inspire all the people. Yes, we can take back the American Dream.  

Erica Williams stressed the crisis not only of our economy but also our democracy. We must help the people find their power--we can't give it to them. With her work in youth policy and advocacy, she is concerned with the vacuum graduating students encounter once they step into the "real world."  

She spoke of the oppressiveness of voter identification requirements, herself a fit into each category of contemporary oppression: race, gender, economic background, voting rights . . . the list goes on.

 We must get out on the streets. We're losing our power.

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Ai-Jen Poo, in a new plenary on "Jobs, Justice and the American Dream," had a new perspective to offer, another oppressed group, home caregivers, largely immigrants who serve the rich while simultaneously receiving the lowest wages.

   This organizer of immigrant women workers in New York has successfully launched a New York Domestic Bill of Rights, which the legislature passed.   

Why was this bill necessary? As much value as these workers, who usually assume all responsibilities of housekeeping and child care, place on that work as well as the equivalent at home, we don't reciprocate.   

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A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three (more...)

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