Sunday, November 06, 2011

It's Only Fair

There has been a mini-controversy surrounding the Occupy Seattle movement and its recent overnight campsite relocation from Westlake Center downtown to the Seattle Central Community College campus on Capital Hill. It's true we've set up our tents adjacent to the school day care center's playground, and I can imagine that some parents find this disturbing.

The media reports that some parents are so upset that they're thinking of moving their child to another center. What the corporate media isn't reporting is that this daycare center, which has operated for three decades, serving lower income students who are also parents, is already slated to be shut down entirely at the end of the quarter due to "austerity" budget cuts. Our state's elected officials, the political elite of one of the wealthiest states in the wealthiest nation on earth, refuse to address its budget shortfall by raising taxes, even slightly, on its wealthiest citizens or corporations. No, instead they are placing the entire burden of "austerity" on the most helpless among us: lower-income children and their families. This is happening right across the nation.

This daycare center at SCCC is a perfect emblem of what the Occupy movement is fighting for. It is more than symbolic that our tents are pitched around an abandoned playground.

More than 1 in 4 of our children under 6 now lives in poverty according the the latest US Census, with nearly 1 million new children falling into that category in the past two years alone. Yet as this trend worsens, our federal and state governments have taken an axe to programs designed to help provide the essentials of food, clothing and education to these children, as this devastating recent study from the National Association of Childcare Resources & Referral Agencies details. Nearly every state has slashed funding for public education, often dramatically. Millions of children have been eliminated from programs that provide healthcare, food and daycare assistance. Families that are suffering are being made to suffer even more.

And as poor children are being forced to bear the burden of an economic crisis that was largely caused by our corporate and political elite, not one single penny in new revenue has been collected from those making over $1 million a year. In fact, the top 1 percent in this country has seen their incomes surge dramatically during our economic crisis, while their tax rates remain at historically low levels.

Governments are incapable of raising those taxes despite a recent survey that finds that nearly 70 percent of millionaires themselves think their taxes should be increased, despite poll after poll showing that more than 75 percent of the rest of us agree, including two-thirds of those who consider themselves Republicans. Every family knows, every business owner knows, that when times are tough you may have to tighten your belt, but you also need to increase income, yet only half of this equation is being enacted. In a true democracy, the question wouldn't be whether or not to raise taxes on the wealthy, the question would be, How much?

Tragically, while nearly everyone agrees that raising taxes on the wealthy must be at least part of the solution (some of us believe it should be the centerpiece of a solution), even my own Senator Patty Murray, a woman I've campaigned for, from her position on the latest Catfood Commission (most often referred to as the "Super Congress") is proposing deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, with virtually no income enhancement in the form of increased taxes on the rich, taxes that the rich themselves feel, in fairness, they should pay.

It's insanity and it doesn't seem to be about one political party or the other. Republicans might be overtly fighting against tax increases, but Democrats are so incredibly incapable of even pushing forward this wildly popular idea that I can only conclude that they are failing intentionally. 

Why would they do this?

Frankly, I've come to the conclusion that it is because our federal and state governments have been completely corrupted by the billions of dollars that flow into their coffers from corporations. Our elected representatives have become so dependent upon this money and the legions of lobbyists who seem to exist exclusively to provide talking point cover as to why this is not outright bribery, that they can only serve their paymasters. James Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, one of the world's largest banks, recently spoke in Seattle (as I protested outside in the rain), saying that even he believes in a progressive income tax, one that would cause him to pay more in taxes, yet his legion of corporate lobbyists flood DC and state capitols with billions to fight what their own CEO believes in. Even when individual wealthy people say they are ready and willing to shoulder more of the burden, the corporations they supposedly control, are shouting them down with their money that outrageously is considered "free speech."

We must get corporate money out of politics. It is perverting our democracy. The sign I carry at the Occupy Seattle protests reads: I'm here because I can't afford a politician.

I don't want to be spending my evenings and weekends up there surrounding an abandoned playground, but I don't know what else to do. I can only hope that as our movement grows, as more people come to understand our message, as more people come to see the abject unfairness of having children bear the burden of our challenging times, we can grow large enough and loud enough to drown out those corporate billions.

We are the 99 percent and I do believe that even in the face of this incredible corruption, we can be heard, but only if we join our voices together and shout as one.

It's only fair.

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Anonymous said...

Thank you Tom, that was well said. I am completely grateful to all the people who are out in the rain and cold trying to save what is left of our country!

Anonymous said...

I agree that we need to get lobbyists out of the equation - ALL lobbyists, including big labor (unions) and environmentalists. Let the people decide with our votes.

CARRIE said...

I have had mixed feelings about the Occupy movement because I have heard so different things as to what it is about---that it refuses to take a "position." But I am TOTALLY behind everything you said.

Krys - Baby Massage said...

I'm watching you here, from the other side of the world (Australia), and can't wait to tell my children about the American revolution of 2011 when they grow up.

alia said...

Thank you. Thank you for your words and thank you for your service.

My son was born in Kirkland, but we live in NYC now. I cook for my local occupiers and write them love poems, but it never seems like enough; not when they're getting arrested and sleeping in the cold for me.

I just keep hoping that we'll stumble into better before I have to sleep in a tent with my two little boys, too.

Thanks again.

Nana said...

I'm sharing your post. Well said and thank you.