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East Bound and Down: A Homeless March on Washington Part 2

By       Message David Kendall       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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The first installment of this series might have appeared to dismiss David Swanson's suggested march on Washington with regard to a "stolen election". [1] Far from it, Swanson's call for justice seemed well founded, and he is probably best qualified to organize and lead that movement or any other. But in view of the recent victory for Barack Obama, this article series seeks to extend the purpose and application of Swanson's original proposal beyond the outcome of the 2008 Presidential election. [2]

First, most Americans cannot leave their jobs, homes and families indefinitely as Swanson suggests, whereas growing numbers of American homeless already have. As outlined in the first installment of this series, "American Homeless Ambassadors" are an army of disenfranchised citizens ready and waiting to be mobilized through regional and community coordination for a "Homeless March on Washington".

Second, much bigger problems still remain for all Americans to protest in Washington. As Susan Rosenthal suggests, "No matter who is elected, the war will continue to take American and Iraqi lives. The economy will be continue to be floated at the expense of working people. The environment will continue to be destroyed for profit. And more Americans will lose access to health care." [3] Owned by corporate America, both Obama and McCain are on the same team, and it doesn't happen to be ours. Both presidential candidates supported the recent "Wall Street Bailout", and neither have proposed any sort of emergency plan to bailout "Main Street".

Meanwhile, Richard C. Cook, former project manager for the U.S. Treasury Department, has proposed a feasible plan designed to extend beyond the immediate crisis. To stabilize the U.S. economy, the "Cook Plan" simply injects it with purchasing power at a monthly rate of $1,000 per adult and $500 per child -- regardless of employment status. [4]

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Essentially, that's all there is to it -- a simple plan that is easy for everyone to understand, but not so easy for politicians to manipulate and distort for their own interests. Cook estimates the annual gap between production and purchasing power in the United States is about $3.77-trillion. The current U.S. population is just under 306-million. If monthly vouchers were distributed according to the "Cook Plan", the government would still have several hundred billion dollars left over at the end of the year. Sweet deal. So why hasn't the government implemented it yet? This is an excellent question that will be discussed in the next installment of this series.

Meanwhile, the "Cook Plan" is something all other Americans can literally get their teeth into. It's a positive proposal we can all get behind and promote in a "Homeless March on Washington", rather than merely protesting a "stolen election" or any number of other social injustices.

Right now, most Americans probably aren't too excited about a "Homeless March on Washington". It seems like a painful and expensive job -- probably even "silly" and "extreme" -- and nobody really wants to do it. Likewise, our leaders in Washington don't seem too excited about a "Basic Income Guarantee" or any other means of pulling us out of this noose that they've cinched around our necks.

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Meanwhile, the economic and ecological crises continue to escalate, and they're not going to magically disappear this time. So while a "Homeless March on Washington" might seem like a dirty job, somebody will eventually need to do it. Moreover, the effort will be far more successful with regional and community support than without it. Ann Friedman provides some interesting commentary in this regard:

Today’s social-justice activists start with very different conditions than those that existed in the 1960s. Yes, the student protests against the Vietnam War shook the country to its core. But it’s not hard to connect the dots between the absence of a draft for the Iraq War and the lack of ongoing protest today.” [5]

Michael Moore follows with an entertaining thought: "America needs to bring back the draft, but only draft the children of the rich". [6] But how many millions of American homeless have already been "drafted" and "shafted" in a very real sense -- by their own government? How many more of us need to be drafted before communities start coordinating a response to this madness? As the current economic crisis continues to escalate, perhaps increased numbers of Americans will become ready to mobilize a "Homeless March on Washington" for "Basic Income Guarantee".

In his many articles, Richard C. Cook very effectively fields all sorts of technical arguments regarding his proposal. [7] But some important general observations can be made here:

1) At least one real world American example of Basic Income Guarantee already exists. Established in 1976, the "Alaska Permanent Fund" provides every citizen in the State of Alaska with an annual dividend of approximately $1,200 from productive surplus. So not only is guaranteed income entirely doable, it's already being done -- in the United States. [8]

2) If the U.S. government can bail out wealthy bankers on Wall Street, then it can also bail out workers on Main Street. To coin an old expression,  "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." Any questions about inflation, welfare, funding, or feasibility should be applied at least as critically to the Wall Street Bailout and the war in Iraq as they are to a Basic Income Guarantee for every American citizen.

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3) If our government can afford to maintain endless wars against unnamed terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, then it can afford to satisfy the fundamental needs of every American citizen right here at home. In 1966, John Kenneth Galbraith suggested that a guaranteed income wouldn't cost "much more than we will spend the next fiscal year to rescue freedom and democracy and religious liberty as these are defined by 'experts' in Vietnam". [9] [10]

4) "The wealthy who own securities have always had an assured income; and their polar opposite, the relief client, has been guaranteed an income, however minuscule, through welfare benefits." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. considered it a symptom of "confused social values that these two groups turn out to be the richest and the poorest". But these two extremes in American society have already enjoyed a "guaranteed income" for at least the past eighty years. [11]

5) According to Dr. King, "The contemporary tendency in our society is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity." [12]  And Richard C. Cook concurs: "Our problems stem not from a failure to manage fairly the limited resources found in a world of scarcity but from our inability to manage a world of almost unlimited abundance and prosperity."[13]

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David Kendall lives in WA and is concerned about the future of our world.

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