Economic Activism Opportunities

  • Cancel All #StudentDebt via @thenation & @StrikeDebt — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Cancel All Student Debt.

    In 1994, about half of bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with some debt — usually around $10,000. This year, more than two-thirds graduated in the hole and they averaged $35,000. Americans now owe more than $1.3 trillion total in student loan debt.

    According to an article at Time.com’s typically understated “Money” vertical titled "Why the Student Loan Crisis Is Even Worse Than People Think,” the increased burden is because government grants and support have failed to keep pace with increases in college costs. Despite the government getting a big increase in income tax revenue from college grads, it has fallen down on the job of continuing to make those degrees possible.

    40 million people are now heavily burdened by student loan debt with virtually no way to discharge it. More and more are defaulting as they choose immediate needs over a chipping away at a repayment schedule set to last several decades. 10% of people with excessive debt put off life events such as buying a home or getting married and 20% say that their debt influenced employment plans. Many take jobs outside their field to stay afloat, work unhealthy hours, and take multiple jobs.

    According to the new outlet “Attn,” a third of millennials report that they’d be willing to sell an organ to pay off their student debt. Over half say they’d willingly do a reality show, just under half say that they’d sell half their possessions if that would get them close to paying off loans, and over one-third would “take part in a questionable health study.”

    Perhaps it has gotten absurd enough to get the attention of legislators who seem to leave out debt forgiveness even if they champion free college going forward. A new campaign spearheaded by The Nation with partners Daily Kos, Working Families, the American Federation of Teachers and others is calling for an end to the crisis.

    At CancelAllStudentDebt.com, you can sign on to the demand that our legislators act now and then share it on social media, tagging your representatives and the White House. Addressed to President Obama as well as Congress, the letter simply states:

    "Americans now owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. Eighty-six percent of that money is owed to the United States government. This is a crushing burden for more than 40 million Americans and their families. I urge you to take immediate action to forgive all student debt, public and private.”

    As the Nation Action page says, this is a problem for more than just students. When people live paycheck-to-paycheck for decades just to pay the interest on loans they can’t discharge, they are unable to buy items even those of us who are anti-capitalism begrudgingly say most of us need. They also can’t pursue “public good” type jobs because a teacher or social worker will never make enough to pay off $30,000 in loans; we’re losing talent at a dangerous pace.

    The good news is that Strike Debt has put together an amazingly simple proposal to reallocate money and make public higher education free for all — for the paltry sum of $15 billion per year. That’s 0.39% of the federal budget; certainly an economic stimulus and an investment in our future is worth that much.

    Let’s not wait for a new White House occupant to push this simple, important plan. The full House is up for election as always and 34 states have elections for Senate, so now is the time to let them know you demand action and will hold them accountable in November.

    TAKE ACTION:

    SIGN: Cancel All Student Debt via The Nation & coalition

    READ & Share: "How far to free?”StrikeDebt’s plan for tuition-free college

    Additional Activism/Resources:

    Help if you are or are about to be behind/defaulting: Student Loan Borrowers Assistance — "Find a Solution” via National Consumer Law Center

    Sources/further reading:

    "Why the Student Loan Crisis Is Even Worse Than People Think” via Time.com/Money

    "Student Debt Is Worse Than You Think” via The New York Times

    "5 Extreme Ways to Get Rid of Your Student Loan Debt” via Attn:

    "We Need to End the Student Loan Debt Crisis: To draw attention to the magnitude of the student debt crisis, we’re doing something dramatic.” via The Nation & coalition

    Graphic via: BorderlessNewsAndViews.com

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #989 "Investments in education should not earn cash profits"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap w/@AECFNews (Annie E. Casey Fdn) — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Narrowing the Racial Wealth Gap.

    Last week, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent reported on their tour of Washington D.C., Baltimore, Jackson, MS., Chicago and New York City. They determined what people of color and social justice advocates already know: African Americans continue to face inequality, barriers to education and health care, and death at the hands of the state.

    Common Dreams reported that the five-member working group says they are "extremely concerned about the human rights situation of African Americans” and determined that they deserve reparatory justice.

    The human rights advocate leading the working group is quoted as saying:

    "Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights of African Americans today.”

    Obviously, there’s no easy policy fix, law, or organizational plan that can move us in the right direction by itself. But a new plan out from The Annie E. Casey Foundation reported on at Colorlines looks like a great place to start. “Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets” seeks to close the gap between median net worth for white households and households of color; currently, white households have more than ten times the assets of their black and latino peers at 47% of adults do not have enough savings to cover a $400 emergency, leaving them constantly vulnerable.

    At AECF.org, the Annie E. Casey Foundation provides ways to get involved with helping those in your community who need access to helpful services, advocate with your state-level legislators on implementing these policies, and — of course — share the well-designed graphics and information on social media to raise awareness and put pressure on candidates and legislators.

    The four recommendations of the “Investing in Tomorrow” initiative are:

    • Raise asset limits for public benefit programs
    • Provide portable, safe accounts for retirement and emergency savings
    • Expand access to home ownership
    • Create savings accounts that help build wealth from birth

    The top one — raising the asset limits for public benefit programs — is a great action item to raise with candidates and legislators because it doesn’t require new infrastructure and has very simple talking points. As Best of the Left social media/activism director Katie Klabusich found out the hard way last year, people utilizing public programs like food stamps are penalized if they own literally anything — a car, a house, a computer — and they’re expected to drain any savings and cash on hand they might have before qualifying. Since writing about her experience, she’s heard from people all over the country who ended up in a poverty cycle because they could never set anything aside to change their longterm circumstances without forfeiting eligibility to programs that are supposedly to help people get on their feet.

    We've created the cycle of dependence that the right-wing rails about — not because assistance makes people lazy, but because we don't allow people to rebuild. Allowing people who experience losses like job layoffs to get assistance without having to move and sell assets that are more expensive to replace than keep as well as reducing the barriers to initially qualifying would go a long way to making our safety net safe and empowering people — especially those who face systemic discrimination and injustice.

    Click on the orange “Investing in Tomorrow” tab at ACEF.org to get involved in your state and use OpenStates.org to find and contact your state reps about implementing some or all of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s policy recommendations.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Get Involved with the Annie E. Casey Foundation: Who We Help: Communities

    Contact your legislators through OpenStates.org about: ”Investing in Tomorrow”

    Sources/further reading:

    "Could These Four Policy Changes Close the Racial Wealth Gap?” at Colorlines.org

    "UN Experts Catalog Seemingly Endless List of Racial Discrimination in US” at CommonDreams

    "The U.S. Supreme Court Barely Saves the Fair Housing Act” at The Atlantic

    "Ending the Cycle of Racial Isolation” at The New York Times

    "Obama administration to unveil major new rules targeting segregation across U.S.” via The White House

    "In Fair Housing Act Case, Supreme Court Backs 'Disparate Impact’ Claims”

    “Segregation Now: Investigating America’s Racial Divide” at ProPublica

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #987 "The double helix of racial and economic inequality"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Opposing the TPP On #Climate Grounds via @IATP, @Public_Citizen & @ExposeTheTPP - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached today’s activism segment. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s a reminder that certain awful things don’t go away quickly, so we have to stay vigilant and keep fighting them until we succeed. Today’s update: Opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Climate Grounds.

    While the UN Climate Change Conference continues in Paris this week, we have the opportunity to do some intersectional activism. Trade, labor, climate, health — all these things are always connected; let’s use the spotlight on Paris to remind our legislators how true that is.

    The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy put out their analysis on the TPP and have bullet-pointed three ways it would hurt the climate:

    1 — It expands the rights of corporations to challenge regulations.

    2 — It drives natural gas exports and production.

    3 — Limiting support for local, renewable energy systems.

    Using Public Citizen's action link “Stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership” at Citizen.org, you’ll use your ZIP code to address the auto-fill letter to the correct legislators. Take the time to add “for the climate” to the “Vote no on the TPP” subject line” and include a personal comment in the body of the letter about why you’re against the faux trade deal.

    Don’t forget to post about sending the letter on social media using the #StopTPP hashtag as well as the one being used internationally for the Paris climate talks, #COP21. You can find your legislators’ handles and Facebook pages at ContactingTheCongress.org; and, as always, if you’re feeling motivated, you can get their direct phone line there as well to leave a message saying you’re a constituent who opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

    For those who enjoy a good social media campaign, you can also visit ExposeTheTPP.org to add your palm pic to the collection with the reason you oppose the trade deal written across your hand and posed in the fingers-out “Stop” sign.

    Update!

    The TPP is bad for the climate! via "3 Ways the TPP Will Hurt the Climate—If We Let It Pass” at The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

    Follow-up/new Action!

    CONTACT: your legislators about TPP with climate-specific concerns. via Public Citizen

    SHOW why you oppose the TPP on social media via Expose The TPP

    Sources/further reading:

    FOLLOW: #COP21 for updates on the Paris Climate Negotiations

    "It’s Never Been about Trade” via The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #974 "The Trans Pacific Partnership revealed (Corporate Takeover)"

    Revisit the original action/segment: "Stop Fast Track of TransPacific Partnership via @MoveOn” — 02/06/2015

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Stop Fast Track of TransPacific Partnership via @MoveOn — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached today’s activism segment. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s a reminder that certain awful things don’t go away quickly, so we have to stay vigilant and keep fighting them until we succeed. Today’s update: Stop the Fast Track of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

    It appears there is something the president and the GOP-lead Congress can agree is a good idea: ceding our nation’s economic autonomy to an international corporate conglomerate in a trade deal that has been repeatedly called “NAFTA on steroids.”

    As Lori Wallach reported in The Nation back when the TPP first got press almost three years ago, the agreement is essentially an assault on democracy.

    Wallach wrote:

    "Countries would be obliged to conform all their domestic laws and regulations to the TPP’s rules—in effect, a corporate coup d’état. The proposed pact would limit even how governments can spend their tax dollars.”

    The Obama administration has asked Congress to “Fast Track” legislation to approve the trade deal. Fast track authority accelerates the process by which a bill becomes law by preventing amendments and only requiring a majority vote in the senate, rather than the now typical supermajority. Most of the Congressional Democratic Caucus is opposed to Fast Track for the TPP, but there may not be enough republican opposition to prevent it from happening without public outcry — which is going to be hard to drum up because trade deals are BORING.

    Super important and super boring. As our friend Lee Camp says: “boring evil is The Worst.” It’s terrifyingly easy to get things past a busy, struggling or apathetic public when words like “trade deals” and “tax policy” and …. There, see? I’ve lost you.

    The Communication Workers of America are making it easy to care and easy to act. Their petition at MoveOn.org simply says: "Tell Congress: We Can't Afford to Outsource More Jobs.” You can find it at the MoveOn homepage, then just click and sign to tell your representatives you expect them to vote no on Fast Track authority.

    The CWA is also phone banking to let legislators know they oppose thoughtlessly approving a corporate power grab that would eliminate their jobs. If you want to join them, simply dial 855-980-2256 and enter your zip code when prompted. You will be connected to your rep’s staffer to whom you simply say:

    "I'm a constituent and I've had enough of bad trade deals negotiated in secret like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress needs to read the deal and not vote to Fast Track it before even knowing what's in it. I urge you to vote no on Fast Track authority for the TPP.”

    Simple. Direct. And, yes, legislators do still keep a record of calls on issues and House members are pretty much already running again and need to listen when you call.

    Opposing Fast Track won’t stop the TPP from eventually becoming law. It will, however, make the process public and lengthier and give less engaged citizens an opportunity to hear about the deal and weigh in. As part of the highly engaged and involved group within the citizenry, it’s basically on us to run around sounding the alarm. Visit MoveOn.org, sign, and then share the petition.

    Update!

    Obama administration asks for fast tracking of TPP: "Democrats oppose Obama's demand for fast-tracking Pacific trade deal” by Siri Srinivas at The Guardian

    Follow-up/new Action!

    SIGN: Tell Congress: We Can't Afford to Outsource More Jobs via MoveOn.org and the CWA

    Sources/further reading:

    ”Tell Your Congress Member: No Fast Track For the TPP!” via the Communications Workers of America

    "NAFTA on Steroids: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would grant enormous new powers to corporations, is a massive assault on democracy” by Lori Wallach at The Nation

    "The Top Secret Deal Between 11 Countries That Will Affect Your Life" - MOC #186Lee Camp

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #896 "Resisting global corporate takeover (Trans-Pacific Partnership)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Keep #SNAP Strong via @FRACtweets — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Keep SNAP Strong.

    That video from the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities began with the voices of former Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern — the democrat and the republican credited by World Food Program USA as being pioneers in the way food assistance is delivered to those who need it in this country. Their website unequivocally declares:

    "It is no exaggeration to say that every major U.S. program designed to help feed poor children bears the imprint of these two men.”

    How quickly things change.

    As Best of the Left’s Social Media/Activism director Katie Klabusich lays out in a piece for RollingStone, the GOP has spent the past four years proposing 10 year plans to “balance the budget" that cut more than $130 billion from food assistance programs — WIC and SNAP — that Dole and McGovern worked so hard to make more user-friendly and easier to qualify for.

    Why a need to cut approximately “half of one hundredth of one percent” — that’s 0.0085 of one percent — out of a $3.8 trillion federal budget? According to the GOP the answer is priorities and redundancy. Katie, who spent the first six months of this year utilizing SNAP after an unexpected medial bill — an experience she details in the article, makes a good point: 49 million of her is pretty redundant.

    That’s how many people are food insecure in this country. 49 million — or 14% of our population. One in six Americans aren’t living with or in danger of being hungry because of the economy either; the hungry segment of our population really never drops below 11%. This is simply the percentage of our friends, neighbors, and coworkers that we’re willing to live with being hungry as a trade for our capitalist culture.

    Currently, the GOP is in charge of the budget and they're celebrating a drop in SNAP dollars for 2016 — actually due to factors affecting the program's funding calculator like fewer expected enrollees and a break in food inflation — as though they managed to sneak a law past the president that fundamentally undid Dole and McGovern’s legacy. Their intentions are clear by their false premise boasting and their on-the-record long-term budget plans. Now is the time to get involved in the effort to bolster these life-saving programs because they are absolutely at risk.

    The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) is a national organization working to maintain funding for food assistance programs and fill the gaps with private efforts when public money falls short. They have a great Legislative Action Center at FRAC.org where you can track and support or oppose proposed state and federal budget actions.

    At FRAC.org, be sure to sign the "Tell Congress to Keep SNAP Strong” which encourages Congress not just to ditch any notion of cuts, but join with the White House and Progressive Caucus in bolstering life-sustaining access to food.

    You can also share your experiences and amplify others' through a hashtag Katie revived earlier this year: #PovertyIs. The hashtag trended on multiple continents and the stories are powerful. 

    TAKE ACTION:

    Track and support/oppose pending budgetary and program changes to food assistance through Food Research and Action Center’s Legislative Action Center

    SIGN: "Tell Congress to Keep SNAP Strong”

    Sources/further reading:

    "What SNAP Is For” via the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

    "Honoring the Legacy of Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern” via World Food Program USA

    "Republicans Are Trying to Take Food Out of My Mouth” by Katie Klabusich at RollingStone

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #941 "Taking food out of the mouths of babes (Poverty)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • Public Banking via @PublicBanksNow & @DemocracyCollab — Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: Public Banking.

    Neither the concept of pooling money to benefit a larger community nor the notion of holding that money in a publicly owned and run institution is novel. We collect taxes to fund schools and roads — projects we couldn’t accomplish individually — and the state of North Dakota has operated its own financial institution for nearly a century. So why is Bismarck, ND the only place in the country with a publicly owned bank?

    The movement to expand public banking is gaining momentum. Gus Alperovitz — the economist behind The New System Project we featured just a few weeks ago — described what has created renewed interest in founding more public banks in an op-ed for Bill Moyers:

    “[R]ecognition is also growing of the undue influence that private corporate finance — tied to Wall Street rather than anchored to Main Street — has on our communities. Most Americans understand that regulation can only go so far and that it has a tendency to unravel in the face of corporate pressure…[S]tarting at the local level, 'public banking' and related strategies seek to transform the current system toward one in which banking is managed as a public utility rather than a global casino where taxpayers pick up the tab for private losses.”

    Banking as a "public utility" — a public good — rather than a playground for the uber rich could quickly revolutionize who has access to capital for starting businesses, buying homes, and funding worthwhile projects that benefit entire communities. We already know that locally spent dollars fuel local economies; public banks work in a similar way by not funneling a percentage of the tax dollars housed in those institutions off to the CEOs of Wells Fargo and Citibank.

    Efforts are underway in Sante Fe, New Mexico and the state of Vermont to found public banks. The Vermont plan would authorize up to 10% of the state’s cash balance — approximately $350 million — to be available for investment in local enterprise. Imagine what that could do for a state with just 600,000 people?

    If this concept is exciting to you, the Public Banking Institute is looking for volunteers, members for their chapters in more than 20 cities across the country, and support for local initiatives in Santa Fe, Philadelphia, Seattle, Vermont and California. Visit PublicBankingInstitute.org and click on the “Take Action” tab for volunteer opportunities, events, and info to share on your networks.

    Then, keep an eye out for more from The Next System Project, which The Public Banking Institute partners on, and new ways to get involved with reclaiming public assets for public use.

    TAKE ACTION:

    Get involved with The Public Banking Institute by:

    Supporting a Local Initiative, Volunteering, and/or Joining a Chapter!

    Sources/further reading:

    "Inequality’s Dead End — And the Possibility of a New, Long-Term Direction” by Gar Alperovitz of The Democracy Collaborative

    "Vermont Votes for Public Banking” by John Nichols at The Nation

    "Public banking debate starts in Santa Fe” at Albuquerque Journal

    "Public Banking Institute a Partner to a New Project on Economic Alternatives” via The Public Banking Institute

    WATCH: "National Launch Webinar: The Next System Project

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #928 "The criminal enterprise that runs our politics (Big Banks)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich

  • .@TheNextSystem Project- National Launch Webinar - Best of the Left Activism

    You’ve reached the activism portion of today’s show. Now that you’re informed and angry, here’s what you can do about it. Today’s activism: The Next System Project: National Launch Webinar.

    It’s becoming increasingly clear that the capitalist, boot-strap, American Dream mythology basis of the way we live and interact with each other simply isn’t sustainable. But a few minutes thinking about how to reverse the ship or even rebuild the ship from scratch is pretty overwhelming.

    Luckily, the folks at The Next System Project are doing the heavy lifting and they’re inviting you to join in as they imagine and design a better, more sustainable way of life. A project of the Democracy Collaborative, they describe their undertaking this way:

    "The Next System Project is an ambitious multi-year initiative aimed at thinking boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic challenges the United States faces now and in coming decades.”

    You can register for the introductory, interactive national launch webinar on Wednesday, May 20th at 3pmEST moderated by GritTV’s Laura Flanders. I’m tuning in and Katie will be livetweeting through the @BestoftheLeft Twitter feed using the #WhatsNext hashtag. If you heard the clip of The Next System Project on the show a couple months ago and were intrigued, but full of questions, this is your chance to ask them.

    Get registered at “launch.thenextsystem.org” and mark your calendars!

    TAKE ACTION:

    WATCH The Next System Project National Launch Webinar moderated by Laura Flanders of GritTV

    Hear the segment in context:

    Episode #922 "A crisis of culture (Capitalism)"

    Written by BOTL social media/activism director Katie Klabusich