To Truly Address Inequality, Let’s Build a People-Centered Economy

Written by on January 31, 2014 in Economy with 1 Comment
image_pdfimage_print

By Laura Flanders | Common Dreams

The high-tech hubs and natural gas drilling the president called for in his state of the union speech aren't the answer to our economic woes. Instead, we need to follow the leadership already coming from communities, workers, and small-business owners.

(Photo: Pete Souza / White House)

(Photo: Pete Souza / White House)

President Obama got one thing right in his State of the Union address. “It is [we] the citizens who make the state of our union strong.”

Just look at his speech. After years of saying the word “poverty” fewer times than any president in memory (and talking about the middle class more), here was Obama talking about inequality and workers stifled by low wages. That's thanks to public activism.

Many Americans“Inequality has deepened”; “No one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.” The president's best applause lines were lifted from protest signs. Now “citizens” (and would-be citizens) will have to come up with solutions too, because his won't take us very far.


Take that minimum wage hike for federal workers. Ten dollars and ten cents an hour is nice, but $20,000 a year is hardly a ticket out of poverty, even if you can find a full-time job in the public sector. The demand on the street, in case the president missed it, has been for $15 an hour, and the right to bargain collectively so workers have some power. (On Twitter that's #Fightfor15 or #raisethewage.)

Yes! Magazine held a live Twitter-fest during the president's speech. Among the messages that flew in were the following suggestions.

To stop the shrinking of the public sector, the president needs to bring jobs back home, said union members. The feds spend a reported $1.5 billion a year buying camo pants and TSA uniforms from companies overseas. Obviously the government needs to set labor standards for overseas procurement and stick to them. But instead of subcontracting to sweatshops why not buy #Americanmade? In fact, why not shop locally at all levels of government? (For more on the local procurement issue, follow #shoplocal or #localbiz on Twitter.)

The president talked about speeding approvals for infrastructure repair and high-tech “hubs.” Why not do away with the middleman? Hire those workers directly and pay them a living wages with good benefits?

Good Jobs First (@GoodJobsFirst) has documented that tempting profitable businesses into “hubs” with tax breaks and incentive cash is wasteful. If government's going to invest in private businesses, why not demand an ownership share for the taxpayers? Create anchor institutions that are connected to the local economy. Better yet, invest in the businesses that are already there. (In a recent report, @GoodJobsFirst shows that ending corporate subsidies and loopholes could end state pension crises.)

Antifracking activists responded to President Obama support for natural gas as “a bridge fuel.” It's a bridge to nowhere, several said. Invest now in wind and solar and it'll pay off handsomely down the road. And why not keep those companies public, so the profits, not just the risks stay with the taxpayers?


The tweet that sticks with me most came from George Goehl at National People’s Action:

SOTU tweet embed

President Obama said, “We all owe it to the American people to say what we're for, not just what we’re against.” There's also a responsibility to listen. Many Americans are saying loudly what they're for, and they're making it happen: creating worker owned co-ops, community-owned businesses, and public services that feed the stomach and the soul.

At Yes! Magazine, I'm calling it “Commonomics”—as one follower described it, “people-centered economics.” That's economics that serves local people and the planet first, not ever-increasing profit. As Goehl suggests, it's possible to make a fairer economy, but not if policy makers only tinker, and not if “citizens” wait for someone else to do it. As the president said, the strength of the union is built by we the people.

This article was written for YES! Magazine‘s Commonomics project.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

laura_flanders

Laura Flanders was the founder and host of GRITtv and is the author of the books BUSHWOMEN and Blue Grit. She's the editor of At the Tea Party

 

 

Tags: , , ,

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on YouTube

1 Reader Comment

Trackback URL Comments RSS Feed

  1. indichas@outlook.com' Chas says:

    Government does not hold the key, no matter who sits in the oval office. This article is spot-on. The old paradigm is broken and no longer works.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FAIR USE NOTICE. Many of the articles on this site contain copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making this material available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental issues, human rights, economic and political democracy, and issues of social justice. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of the US Copyright Law which contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. If you wish to use such copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use'...you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. And, if you are a copyright owner who wishes to have your content removed, let us know via the "Contact Us" link at the top of the site, and we will promptly remove it.

The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Conscious Life News assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material. Your use of this website indicates your agreement to these terms.

Paid advertising on Conscious Life News may not represent the views and opinions of this website and its contributors. No endorsement of products and services advertised is either expressed or implied.
Top
Send this to a friend