Take Back the American Dream, Day 2:
"Something's Happening Here"
Writers, bloggers, hold your notes; they're history--Van Jones
200 groups are represented here, and 2,000 are attending--Robert Borosage
Official proceedings commenced this morning with a brief appearance by Representative Barney Frank (I(I-VT), introduced by Susan Shaer as "the brainiest, funniest, most astute member of Congress, who has spent 30 years on Capitol Hill investigating the Pentagon. He will work with anyone."
Indeed, she continued, he collaborated with Ron Paul on the issue of Pentagon spending--"Gotta work with the people you despise, get the troops home, cut military spending--everything is on the table. This is our moment."
Frank got to the point immediately: if we cut the military budget, now $600 billion a year, by $200 billion a year, we can bring the money home where it belongs, and think how far it will go. We're overcommitted.
Truman helped repair Western Europe after the war, but the shadow of Stalin threatened.
By spending money on nonexistent threats, we're like the person Tom Sawyer persuaded to paint the fence, only Western Europe is Tom Sawyer, letting us take upon ourselves the urgent need to promote world stability. We should want to help our allies and have more than enough nuclear weaponry to defeat the Soviet Union, let alone Russia. Obama wants the biggest air force in the world, but do we have to have the biggest navy, too? He asked.
Obama wants to stay in Iraq even longer than Bush  did [note from editor: this is one of two times Bush was referred to in a positive context today. The other occurred later in the day at a press conference; see my October 5 posting] We should take care of our own security needs, even though the Republicans warn that scaling back the military will hinder the economy.
Terrorism is a threat, but not an existential threat like the Nazis. Social Security and Medicare are the most important accomplishments of this country [Later in the day, Van Jones would opine that the middle class holds (held?) this honor--ed.]
We must divert military funding to our hungry children, raise taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year, cut spending down to our actual needs and channel it into domestic use. Cutting military spending will greatly contribute to cutting the national debt.
The first plenary session was concerned with the conference's Contract for the American Dream, a document dedicated to restoring the middle class with all the amenities we enjoyed and took for granted, that picket-fence era of the 1950s [don't forget the air-raid shelters and cloud of fear of the USSR that darkened that cup of joy, however]. To produce it, 131,203 Americans consulted their communities online and in person; out of 225,904 ideas, ten were isolated as most crucial and listed on the contract: investing in infrastructure, creating 21st-century energy jobs, investing in public education, offering Medicare for all, making work pay, securing Social Security, returning to fairer tax rates, ending wars abroad and investing at home, taxing Wall Street speculation, and strengthening American democracy--we remain the "wealthiest nation ever"--the wealth is in far too few hands.
The day teemed with statistics, as if reality consists of numbers. It certainly packs a wallop, though.
Moderators of the first plenary were Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, and Justin Ruben, head of Moveon.org. Panelists were Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers; Leo Hindery, managing partner of Intermedia Partners; Erica Williams, senior strategist at Citizen Engagement Lab; and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
Deepak, first to speak, discussed the contract as a map of how to take care of each other; America isn't broke, and as for the rich, "Who does well must do well by us." He cited various grassroots efforts realizing the aims of the contract, which Justin took farther (see below)