In Search of the Missing Task Force

In the January State of the Union address, President Obama announced plans to form a financial crimes task force that would investigate... you know... all that awful stuff that happened back in 2008. Then in February, the state attorneys general and five of the nation's largest banks reached a settlement that came out of mortgage fraud: $25 billion.Although we weren't satisfied with the $25 billion (which only equals a few thousand per family affected) we thought a task force was the right idea.Now that it's been a few months, progressive strategist Ilyse Hogue (one of our favorite people!) is asking, "So, about that task force... where is it?" Here are some excerpts from her article -- and definitely check it out.

"My curiosity was piqued again this week when I got an e-mail from CREDO Action protesting new information that the task force established to investigate what went wrong never received the staff that it was promised. And while the source of the hold up is unclear as is exactly how many staffers have been assigned, what is becoming clear is that even the promised fifty-five investigators would be ill-equipped to achieve its goals. That news got me wondering where things stand more generally with task force, lauded by progressives and homeowners alike when it was announced back in January.The reasons for acting with speed and strength are clear and compelling:1. The Moral Imperative: Americans are sick of seeing bankers go free while they foot the bill [...]2. The Economic Imperative: Unresolved mortgages are a huge drag on economic recovery [...]3. The Political Imperative: If none of those reasons are enough, a glance at the politics of the situation should motivate even the most hard-hearted political operative to action. As Mike Lux put it in his excellent Daily Kos piece last week, there are 11 million underwater homeowners. This is an important constituency in a close election [...]
Yeah. We're annoyed too, Ilyse. We're annoyed too.


After the Big Bank Settlement, It's not Over

When government officials and big banks announced the details of a $26 billion mortgage settlement in February, many assumed homeowners would get some welcome relief. Not many people were paying attention to what would happen with the financial fraud task force or potential bigger "Round 2" in the settlement.They should be.Eleven million homeowners are still living with underwater home mortgages, and they vote. Millions of underwater homeowners live and vote in Nevada, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other crucial swing states to the presidential race. Many of them feel like neither party is helping them recover.Mike Lux is encouraging the current administration to pay attention.

Here’s the most important question in my mind: is the White House paying enough attention to this? I know from my experience in the Clinton White House that once a decision is made to move forward on a major new initiative like the settlement and fraud task force, that sometimes the sense of urgency fades and senior staff tend to move on to new issues, problems, and crises -- they assume whoever they appointed to do things is taking care of it. That is natural enough given all the demands on the White House, and I sense it may have happened here. But I fear for my friends in the Obama White House that this is going to come back and bite them in the ass in a really serious way if they aren’t paying a lot of attention to it. One of the greatest weaknesses the President has going into election season, both with swing and base voters, is the lingering feeling that he and his team have been too soft on the Wall Street guys that took down this economy. The big banks making record profits and handing out record bonuses the year after taxpayers bailed them out, and while the overall economy has been terrible, has left a lasting impression with voters. The failures of the HAMP program, the flurry of bad press around the Suskind book, the unwillingness to recess appoint Elizabeth Warren as the head of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (even though the person Obama appointed, Rich Cordray, has been terrific, he has nowhere near the profile or cachet with activists following the issue as Warren), and the lack of any prosecution of Wall Street big shots has steadily added to that image. So if nothing happens with this task force any time soon, it will be a huge disappointment and a very big deal to people and organizations working on the issue, to the reporters who know the financial beat, and to voters in general. In an election season dominated by discussion of Mitt Romney’s Wall Street background, for the President to be vulnerable on this issue would be a terrible mistake, and the way they get strong on it is to have a successful task force.
While a settlement for underwater homeowners may not be in the headlines, it's still front and center for the 11 million homeowners struggling to hold on to their homes. It's time for the administration to pay attention to these homeowners.


We Asked, You Answered: What does Rebuilding the Dream Mean To You

Thanks to everyone who participated in last week's contest for an autographed copy of Van Jones' new book, Rebuild the Dream.We asked all of you to submit what rebuilding the American Dream meant to you and dozens responded. Congratulations and thank you everyone for your thoughtful submissions.

 
Rebuilding the dream means trusting all of our elected representatives to do what's best for the people and not what's best for themselves. When this happens the cynicism that most people regard politics with will melt away. Our representatives won't be seen as kingmakers and royalty but as the best friend of everyone they represent. People will know who their representatives are and if any representative forgets that they're a public servant the voters will recognize that and get them out of there.My dream begins with our system of governance but it doesn't end there. In my version of the American Dream the respected professions are those that help many people such as teachers or farmers rather than lawyers or race car drivers. The media will deliver what is important as opposed to what is entertaining or attention grabbing.

— Jay W. on Facebook

Rebuilding the Dream means having the vision and fortitude to build a sustainable economy and future that fully embraces and integrates American ingenuity and vast talents. It will require ensuring our children have access to an education system that prepares them for a globally connected world with the necessary critical thinking skills. It will require Us to step up to what should be our leadership role in green energy!! Economy, Energy, Environment, Education!

— Jenny T. on Facebook

When I served in the U.S. Navy, I didn't think I was serving 1% of the people. Rebuilding the Dream means that my service, and the service of millions of ordinary Americans was for ALL Americans.

— Chuck N. on Facebook


Which age group has $36 billion in student loan debt?

60 AND OVER! Can you believe it?! That is so much. Look at this pie chart (I love pie charts). As Maegan at Upworthy says, "I thought old people were supposed to be free of burdens, enjoying a nice game of shuffleboard and a 4 p.m. steak dinner at Sizzler." Me too, girl.


What Obama's Willingness to Deal with the Right Means for Progressive Politics

Remember that time we wanted a deficit-reduction deal that included, oh, I don't know, higher tax rates on those who can afford them? And instead we got, you know, a proposed deal to make cuts to Social Security and Medicaid? I do!Check out this GREAT article by Guy Saperstein that analyzes President Obama's "Grand Bargain" politics... and what we can do about it.Key quotes follow, but be sure to read the article in full so you can be fully prepared to fight.

Obama was willing to make substantial cuts to the crown jewels of liberalism---Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid---and get little in return, in order to get a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans.The details of the proposed deal should be very disturbing to anyone who believes in Democratic core values and protecting the American Dream. In addition to substantial cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the domestic budget, Obama was willing to reduce top-end tax rates, maintain current tax rates on investment income (the reason millionaires like Mitt Romney pay such low tax rates) and prevent the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in return for increasing tax revenues by $800 billion.... The progressive vehicle for this pressure may now be in sight with plans by The 99% Spring to train 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action April 9 to 15 to push a progressive agenda about foreclosure relief, student debt, protection of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, job creation, poverty, pollution, wealth inequality and the roll-back of tax cuts for the rich. Let us hope this potentially game-changing force puts its allegiance squarely behind real change, not protecting the president, or any other politician.


What Obama's Willingness to Deal with the Right Means for Progressive Politics

Remember that time we wanted a deficit-reduction deal that included, oh, I don't know, higher tax rates on those who can afford them? And instead we got, you know, a proposed deal to make cuts to Social Security and Medicaid? I do!Check out this GREAT article by Guy Saperstein that analyzes President Obama's "Grand Bargain" politics... and what we can do about it.Key quotes follow, but be sure to read the article in full so you can be fully prepared to fight.

Obama was willing to make substantial cuts to the crown jewels of liberalism---Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid---and get little in return, in order to get a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans.The details of the proposed deal should be very disturbing to anyone who believes in Democratic core values and protecting the American Dream. In addition to substantial cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the domestic budget, Obama was willing to reduce top-end tax rates, maintain current tax rates on investment income (the reason millionaires like Mitt Romney pay such low tax rates) and prevent the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in return for increasing tax revenues by $800 billion.... The progressive vehicle for this pressure may now be in sight with plans by The 99% Spring to train 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action April 9 to 15 to push a progressive agenda about foreclosure relief, student debt, protection of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, job creation, poverty, pollution, wealth inequality and the roll-back of tax cuts for the rich. Let us hope this potentially game-changing force puts its allegiance squarely behind real change, not protecting the president, or any other politician.


Who's on Tumblr? Rebuild the Dream is.

Hillary Clinton. Ryan Gosling. The 99%. What do all these things have in common? They all have awesome Tumblrs.We're launching our Tumblr today to join on the fun. If you're on Tumblr, reblog and say "hello."

Join us in welcoming Rebuild The Dream to Tumblr for the latest images and news on rebuilding the American Dream.


Why I'm excited for spring 2012

Are you excited for the spring? You definitely should be: warm weather, blooming flowers, ice cream stands opening... and activism! Check out the email we sent this morning:

The 99% Spring is starting on Monday. Will you be a part of it?The 99% movement is about to have its second act. We're gonna prove that we meant it and we're not going away. This Spring, the 99% will take on corporate power, Wall Street greed, and the political corruption of the 1%.But first, we prepare -- in a big way. There will be a truly unprecedented series of trainings throughout the country, where 100,000 Americans will get ready for this next phase. The trainings will happen in homes, on campuses, in places of worship, and in public spaces. There are already over 900 trainings scheduled all over the country. And they start Monday.Find the training closest to you and be a part of the 99% Spring.In the minds of Wall Street banks, tax-dodging corporations, and paid-and-bought politicians, the 99% movement was a one-shot deal. A passing fad. A flash in the pan. They thought that once things settled down, they could go back to business as usual, continuing to destabilize our economy, enrich the 1%, and rob the rest of us of our economic future.They're really not going to like the 99% Spring.The trainings are happening throughout the week of April 9-15. Depending on where you live, a training may be as large as 100 folks in a community center or as small as 10 folks in a living room. Every training will focus on three things:
  • The Economy: How we got here, who's responsible, and how we fix it.
  • Non-Violent Direct Action: From Gandhi to the Civil Rights Movement to Occupy, we've learned valuable lessons culled over decades of peaceful direct action, and we'll put them to use in our movement for change.
  • Action: We'll plan campaigns to win change locally and nationally.
We were all inspired by the protesters of the Arab Spring who stood up to totalitarian governments, and inspired by the Occupy movement here in America. We were inspired by the students at UC Davis who took pepper spray in the face and didn't budge, because they knew their cause was more important than retaliation.We now have the opportunity to turn that inspiration into action. Rebuild the Dream Innovation Fund is joining with dozens of leading organizations, all collaborating on this massive grassroots training project. Together, we're turning the page on a new chapter of American activism, and it starts with the 99% Spring.Find a 99% Spring training near you and be a part of this moment.Thanks,Caroline and the team at Rebuild the Dream Innovation Fund


Win An Autographed Copy of 'Rebuild The Dream' By Van Jones

When we came up with our Contract for the American Dream, we came to you. We know our members have some of the clearest ideas on what the American Dream really means.Today, we're giving away five copies of the new book Rebuild The Dream. To win you have to answer the question: What does rebuilding the American Dream mean to you?Your answer can be inspired wisdom distilled down to 140 characters, a graphic or photograph that communicates your ideas or even a short video. All we have is a few ground rules: (1) Come up with something great; (2) Give us permission to share what you create with others, so we can inspire them as well. [caption id="attachment_4870" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Our staff used images to share what rebuilding the American Dream means for them."][/caption]To participate, you can tweet your answer with the hashtag #RebuildBook or post a comment to this Facebook post on the Rebuild the Dream book page. Tell us what rebuilding the dream means to you today for a chance to win a signed copy of Van Jones’ new book.We’re looking forward to seeing what you create!


Los Angeles Shows Its Support At All In For The 99%

Artists, musicians, and activists all gathered together in Los Angeles for an art opening celebrating the 99% movement. Activists from Venice, Occupy L.A. and journalists performed readings from the frontlines of the 99% movement as art was exhibited from dozens of local artists.Actress Marisa Tomei came out to be part of a giant aerial photograph of the 99% symbol and Jason Alexander interviewed participants at the show. Celebrities like Julia Bowen (Modern Family), Jack Black (Tenacious D) and Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) also appeared to show their support. Did you miss the gathering this weekend? No worries. We have the best of the show gathered for you after the jump.[View the story "All in for the 99%" on Storify]