July 2009

Focus on a New Economy

The financial crash of September 2009 exposed the power and corruption of Wall Street. It should have been a wakeup call to the need for a thoroughgoing redesign of the financial system. Yet both the Bush and Obama administrations responded by pumping trillions of dollars in bailout money into zombie banks in an effort to restore business as usual. The responsibility of the Wall Street financial system for spreading environmental devastation and egregious and growing inequality goes largely unmentioned.

Public debate has centered not on how to restructure the financial system, but rather on whether there is any legitimate role for government intervention. It is akin to debating whether government should assume that if left to their own devices competing mafia factions will ultimately restore public order by killing one another.

Restructuring the financial system is a defining imperative. Because Wall Street controls the creation and allocation of money, it controls the major resource allocation choices of society. Yet it recognizes only one value—money—and has only one goal—to maximize financial returns to its most powerful players. Social and environmental consequences find no place on its balance sheets. Until Wall Street is stripped of its power, it will reduce efforts to address all other essential societal priorities to cosmetic reforms—whether it be action on climate change, economic justice, health care reform, demilitarization, or a host of other critical issues.

Public outrage at Wall Street creates an opening for an essential public dialogue. We are focusing the resources of the Great Turning Initiative on building broadly based political support for actions to shut down the Wall Street financial system and replace it with a new financial system accountable for serving the needs of Main Street. A year ago, such a call would have been greeted with bemused laughter. Now it is greeted with enthusiastic applause.

In response to this opening we have:

  • Formed the New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup) as an alliance of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, YES! magazine, and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economiesto work with and through progressive civil society organizations to change the language and stories that reframe the national debate on economic policy.
  • Launched Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth, Why Wall Street Can’t Be Fixed and How to Replace It on January 23, 2009 at the historic Wall Street Trinity Church, engaged in a national campaign of media outreach and conference presentations, and contributed the lead article for YES! magazine’s summer 2009 issue on the New Economy.
  • Joined a Seattle + 10 call for a national week of action November 28 to December 5, 2009 as a focal point for political education and mobilization. Seattle + 10 marks the tenth anniversary of the historic 1999 Seattle World Trade Organization (WTO) demonstration that launched civil society’s declaration of independence from the World Trade Organization. It was the beginning of the end of the WTO as an effective instrument of Wall Street rule. Seattle + 10 will be a declaration of independence from Wall Street itself. Cities all across the United States and beyond will organize teach-ins and demonstrations making the link between Wall Street and climate change, economic injustice, job loss, destruction of the middle class, the war machine, spiraling health care costs, the misuse of trade agreements, the prison-industiral complex, debt slavery, and much more. Check theWiserEarth website for initial details. Join in.
The Great Turning continues to frame all of our work, but these three initiatives will be my priority for the near future.