Wednesday, November 12, 2008

East Bound And Down: A Homeless March On Washington Part 2

by David Kendall

11 November, 2008

Read Part I

The first installment of this series might have appeared to dismiss David Swanson's suggested march on Washington with regard to a "stolen election". 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. (Photo above;

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." 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 policy analyst 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.

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 each 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.

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." (Photo:ImageSourcePoorpeople'smarchonWashinton, )

Michael Moore follows with an entertaining thought: "America needs to bring back the draft, but only draft the children of the rich". 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. 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.

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 cliché', "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.

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".

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.

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." 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."

Dr. King's dream was to abolish Black segregation in the United States, and great strides resulted from his leadership in this regard. But "Phase 2" of Dr. King's dream was to eradicate poverty for people of all races worldwide. While he recognized that "people must be made consumers" through either employment or incomes or both, the centerpiece for King's proposal was "Basic Income Guarantee".

So, with such a long history and so much contemporary support, why does such a simple idea receive so much opposition from those in power? Why are the power structures on Wall Street and in Washington, D.C. so reluctant -- nay afraid -- to even discuss such an obviously viable plan for economic stability? Why must "We The People " march on Washington to gets this proposal discussed? If we're "all in this together" as Barack Obama suggests, then why must we force a reasonable decision upon him?

Meanwhile, the economic forecast is not at all promising, regardless of recent election results. Things will most likely get much worse before they start getting any better. Moreover, windy campaign rhetoric rarely translates very well into real-world practice.So it might be wise for communities nationwide to begin right now in organizing a Homeless March on Washington -- "East Bound and Down" -- to bring our leaders back to their senses.

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

Related Story:

Sparing Obama Criticism Isn't Doing Him (or Us) Any Favors by Tom Engelhardt,
Posted November 13, 2008.
Obama is about to enter a hornet's nest of entrenched interests and ideology. Electing him was the easy part. Now the real work begins.

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