Crowds demand Jobs, Not Cuts from Congress today

A huge crowd of protestors assembled in Chicago to demand jobs, not cuts from CongressNow that Congress is on vacation and members are back in their districts, people are desperately trying to give them the message that we need jobs, not cuts, and we need spending projects financed by the rich paying their fair share to get growth going again. Rallygoers in many districts sharpened that message by dropping off a copy of the Contract for the American Dream at their district office.In Chicago, Rep. Jan Schakowsky warmly greeted a gathering demanding a turn away from the austerity agenda by announcing her own jobs bill that would create 2.2 million jobs and lower the unemployment rate by 1.3%, down to a level not seen since 2009. Here's what we heard from someone who attended the rally:

Got back from an event with Rep. Jan Schakowsky where she talked about "The Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act." There were at least 100 people there and MoveOn was well represented by in terms of people and large signs (Jobs Not Cuts, and American Dream Signs). The vibe was very positive. Everyone seemed happy to have a piece of legislation/leader to rally around.

In North Carolina, people picketed freshman Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.

About two dozen demonstrators said they wanted to persuade Ellmers to change her hawkish stance on the U.S. deficit. The nation has a jobs crisis, not a deficit crisis, they said, and more spending, such as a public works program to rebuild roads, bridges and schools, could create jobs.

"(We need) something like FDR did back in the 1930s, when he had his Works Progress (Administration) program," said Rohema Miah, a member of the liberal group MoveOn.org. "He put people back to work, and certainly we say we're not in a depression like the 1930s, so why can't we do it now?"

"They should be standing up saying, 'Tax the rich. Make them pay their fair share,'" demonstrator Agnes Batts said of Congress.

In Herndon, VA, protestors met with staffers for Republican Rep. Frank Wolf.

Did a honk + wave outside and then individuals told their story, then went inside and presented the staffers with the contract, told more individual stories to the staffers, and wrote our personal stories on an "American Dream" sign with the contract to leave for Wolf. At one point the staffer was like, "He isn't a tea partier! He's not that bad".

In Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Republican Rep. Lou Barletta refused to even look at the camera outside a breakfast with CEOs, so constituents conducted a quick interview with a cardboard version:In Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, protestors confronted freshman Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) about his lack of focus on job creation. Toomey, former president of Big Business boosters Club for Growth, was just named to the Super Committee that will likely hack away at essential federal programs.

Toomey's efforts weren't enough for Kevin Deely, a 10th-grade teacher at Easton Area High School. Deely estimated 6,000 teaching jobs have been eliminated statewide due to budget cuts.

“We know the key to fixing this economy is to make sure everyone is employed,” Deely told the group. “When you’re employed, you’re paying taxes. When you’re paying taxes, you’re paying Sen. Toomey’s salary.”

Also speaking at the protest was Joni Weinreich, of Allentown, who in 2008 was laid off from her job as a table worker at Tama Manufacturing. Her husband, Irv Weinreich, had been laid off twice from jobs at Cedar Brook Nursing Home in 2002 and later at Brookfield Apartments in 2009 when he was undergoing bypass surgery.

“Our jobs went overseas and that’s where most of them are going,” she told the group. “You just cut back on things you can’t afford. Toomey promised us jobs and he hasn’t delivered.”

Dan Haney, 52, of Philadelphia, said he was laid off in February from Express Scripts Mail Order Pharmacy, and Shawn Wygant, of Pittsburgh, said he was laid off in March from his job at Sodexo due to outsourcing. Both turned out to the protest to send a message to re-create jobs in Pennsylvania.

“I think it’s time the people stand up,” Wygant said. “I feel if I don’t stand up now, there won’t be jobs for the next generation.”

In the Twin Cities in Minnesota, Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum faced anger from voters who were upset that President Obama and Congressional Democrats seemed resigned to allowing cuts to necessary programs.

The crowd of about 150 was largely friendly and civil, but they were passionate about their opposition to the conservative policies flowing from the Republican-controlled Congress and what they consider an all-too-conciliatory White House.

John from St. Paul wanted to know why Obama has moved to the right. "Whose side is he on?" he asked. "What are progressives telling him?"

McCollum, who voted against the bill to raise the debt ceiling crafted by Obama and GOP congressional leaders, defended the president, contending he negotiated the best deal he could get. She did say, however, that Obama "could be clearer" about insisting that tax increases on the wealthy be part of future deficit-reduction legislation.

Another man who identified himself as a veteran and father of a military reservist told McCollum that U.S. troops are the only people paying dearly for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Bring them home!" he demanded, sparking a burst of cheers and applause.

"I agree with you. It's time to bring our troops home," McCollum responded.

In Loveland, CO, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner heard angry words from constituents at a town hall meeting.

About 300 or so packed a conference room at American Eagle Distributing this morning, with many having sharp comments either for or against the freshman congressman.

Some accused Gardner of attacking Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid while cozying up to corporations and huge oil companies during his first year in Congress.

"That's all you care about is defeating President Obama and that's it," said one woman.

In Syracuse, New York, locals protested outside Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle's office against her votes to cut Medicare and for the cuts in the default deal.

“Ann Marie Buerkle always talks about cutting taxes,” said one speaker, Gerald Lotierzo of Lysander. “We’re for taxing the millionaires and billionaires and the corporations. They’re paying practically nothing.”

Elsewhere in New York State, locals rallied outside Rep. Nan Hayworth's office in Somers. (Hayworth's office called the police on seniors protesting at her office just before the default deal in late July.)

Epstein said she showed up at an afternoon rally Monday outside Rep. Nan Hayworth's office here to protest the congresswoman's support for a Republican budget proposal she says puts Medicare in jeopardy.

"People under 55, she just threw them under the bus," Epstein, a retiree from Somers, said. "She didn't say that, but I'm reading between the lines. I'm afraid for my children and grandchildren."

Hayworth, R-Mount Kisco, was in Peekskill in the morning and not in the office.

"I'm really concerned that Nan Hayworth and her Republican colleagues believe we should be balancing the budget on the backs of the people who can least afford it," said Mel Tanzman of Mohegan Lake.

Expect to hear more anger over votes to put essential programs like Social Security and Medicare in danger throughout the month.


Announcing the American Dream Fellowship

Do you know any aspiring progressive rock stars? Do you know anyone who always starts new projects, organizes their friends to make something new and wonderful happen, or finds a way to shift the conversation around them into something productive? Do you see yourself this way?If you said yes to any of these questions, you'll want to take a look at a new Fellowship we're launching. Here's the description:AMERICAN DREAM FELLOWSHIP DESCRIPTIONFull time, paidLocation: anywhereIf you're an ambitious go-getter who wants to win big political fights and gets excited about 21st Century organizing, you should apply for this Fellowship. Right now.The American Dream Fellowship is a six-month, full-time, paid Fellowship run by a partnership between the New Organizing Institute, Rebuild the Dream, MoveOn.org, ColorofChange.org and other allies. You'll learn a whole new range of organizing skills, from online campaigning to field actions to political strategy. Then you'll put those skills to work as a staff member at MoveOn, Rebuild or another partner organization, fighting the good fight at the highest levels of American politics.We're looking for driven progressives from diverse backgrounds who can make fun, exciting things happen. We want social entrepreneurs -- people who make, lead, do. People who start things, like a college newspaper, or an immigrant rights walkout, or a social media community. Political or online organizing experience is nice, but not at all required.In addition to deep skills trainings, we'll give you real responsibility for important projects, as a full-time member of a team like this:- MoveOn Media, a project to win the war of ideas and beating Fox News by spreading progressive content- Rebuild the Dream, Van Jones's new meta-network that's going to beat the Tea Party at its own game- MoveOn State & Local, which wins critical fights with our new tool, SignOn.org- MoveOn Labs, our innovations laboratory- Other teams as appropriateThis will be a "virtual office" Fellowship, so you can do it from any location. Pay is very competitive. At the end of six months, if we mutually agree that you are a good fit, one of the participating organizations may offer you an ongoing position. Or we will help you find your dream job in an allied group. Either way, you will have built up your skills, and we will have built up the progressive movement -- a win-win.To apply, send your resume to Fellowship2011@moveon.org. Include a cover letter that answers these questions:1. What's a big, cool thing you've started or led? Why are you proud of it? If you've got a couple examples, great.2. Got any ideas of things you'd like to start?3. What the best thing you've ever written? Attach it, or send us a link.4. Describe your personal politics.5. Boil down why you'd be a great Fellow into one sentence.6. How techy are you? What's the most advanced thing you can do on a computer?Applications are due by August 21.


VIDEO: Boehner hears from the left

Protestors showed up in numbers at Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner's office in West Chester, Ohio to demand that the Speaker actually start focusing on jobs rather than partisan bickering in Washington. Staffers locked the door and even refused to allow protestors to send two people in to give their message directly to Boehner or his staff. When they were informed that Boehner was at a country club fundraiser, the protestors departed for the golf course soiree in nearby Dublin, Ohio. (Inside the fundraiser, donors were reportedly given golf balls with Nancy Pelosi's face printed on them.) The protesters were told "Boehner chooses not to come out", and police were called to shoo the protesters away.The group was filled with people who were either out of work and directly stood in harm's way due to Boehner's policies. One woman, Sheri Dever from Dayton, held bachelor's and master's degrees in business, but can't find work because she's "overqualified." Now that she's been out of work because she has "too many qualifications", she has a second strike against her - she's unhirable because of the gap in her employment record, despite looking for work in the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

"I hope to explain to him and explain to him what it's like. [And tell him] stop the bickering, get the jobs back to Ohio not overseas, but bring them back here. We are dying out here. There is no jobs. We really need his help," Dever said.

"Let's get jobs back in to the United States," she said. "I'm so sick and tired of politicians like Boehner putting their personal politics in front of our jobs and our security ... we need him to stand up for Americans not a party on either side, but to stand up for Americans."

Others faulted Boehner for his stance on jobs and health care. A disabled veteran, out of work since 2008, has been sharing the insulin he gets from the federal government through VA with his wife, who lost her health insurance when her job disappeared in 2009. They are both diabetics."I would like to see our government and Congress start concentrating on what the real problem is and that is regaining some of our jobs here," he said. "We need more jobs here or we are going to be rats in a sinking ship. People will be bailing out of these areas if they can't find jobs, can't make ends meet, and it is devastating our American way of life."Liberals are lining up around the country to take on members of Congress for their lack of attention to jobs. We can all expect to hear lots of stories like this one in the coming month.


Don't Get Mad, Get Even

I see a lot of folks on Facebook and Twitter hanging their heads about what happened in the recall elections last night, when Democrats failed to pick up enough seats to take over control of the Wisconsin Senate, which would have given them the ability to block Gov. Scott Walker's austerity agenda. It's true that in that sense, last night was not a win. But this wasn't like 2004, when despite massive outrage against Bush and the Republican Party over the Iraq War, Bush was re-elected and Republicans picked up seats in both houses of Congress.The seats that were contested yesterday were lost by Democrats in 2008 (a great year for Democrats nationally and in Wisconsin) by 15%. Obama carried the state of Wisconsin that year by 2%. Outside groups like Americans for Prosperity poured tens of millions of dollars into supporting Republicans in strong Republican districts. In this context, it's amazing that any of the Democrats were even in the game, much less winners.But Democrats managed to pick up two seats last night. They upped their ground game in every district, making preparations in Republican territory for tough statewide contests. The New York Times election stats guru Nate Silver makes the point that these districts all went heavily for Walker in 2010. If they came close to splitting between Democrats and Republicans on Tuesday, he could be in trouble for a recall of his own. Guess what happened? Now the Senate is 17-16, not 19-14. It's going to be a lot harder for Walker to get anything radical through the chamber, certainly nothing like what he managed to strong-arm through in the spring. Now is not the time to hang our heads. Now it's time to get to work.


ACTION: Let's take the Contract for the American Dream to Congress

Now that the crowdsourced Contract for the American Dream is out, and Congress is out of session and back in their districts, it's time to let them know firsthand that they need to get back on the job of putting Americans back to work. We're asking you to join us all across the country at district events in your town. In three easy steps, you can join your fellow citizens to make sure that your representative hears it from the people: Focus on jobs, not cuts. 1. Click on the following link and sign up for a local event: http://civic.moveon.org/event/jobsnotcuts/2. Print out some paper copies of the Contract for the American Dream. If you can meet with any staffers from your representative, and/or if there are any media present at your event, please make sure they get a copy of the Contract. 3. Print out a sign to show your support. If you get any good pictures from your event, please e-mail us at public-support@rebuildthedream.com!


Announcing the Contract for the American Dream

Back in early July, with no idea what sort of response we might get, we asked for your ideas to draft a Contract for the American Dream, a people-powered response to the rightwing austerity agenda. A month later, after 130,000 of you gave your feedback online and in 1,600 house meetings across the country, the end result is here: http://contract.rebuildthedream.com.[caption id="attachment_677" align="aligncenter" width="475" caption="The ten planks for the Contract for the American Dream"][/caption]We invite everyone to sign the Contract for the American Dream and share it with friends. The website allows you to dive easily share the Contract as a whole via e-mail and social networks, or to just share a single plank. Additionally, you can discuss each individual plank with other visitors to the website just by clicking on it.We used a straightforward people-powered process to assemble the Contract. Thousands submitted ideas on our Contract website, about 25,000 ideas altogether. Those ideas were rated by visitors to the website, totalling about 6.1 million ratings. The top 40 ideas were presented and discussed at house meetings around the country, including at least one in every single congressional district, and we used the feedback from those discussions to put together the final ten ideas that constitute a jobs-creating agenda for this country.The overwhelming response from about 1,600 meetings caused us a little bit of delay in releasing the final Contract, but it certainly did not come a moment too soon. Because Congress bent to the demands of a tiny minority of Tea Party extremists, the federal government staved off the debt crisis by putting essential programs like Medicare in harm's way instead of looking to raise revenue by making the rich pay their fair share. No new ideas were brought to the forefront of the discourse, except for radical new ways to cut programs using euphemisms like "chained CPI."So now the time has come for action. We hope that you'll show your support by signing the Contract and sharing it with your friends and family, but it's going to take more than just engaging on a website to change the direction of this country.We're taking the Contract directly to each member of Congress when they return to their district. Please click here for more information about what you can do to make sure that Congress once again turns to a jobs agenda.


Strike! Verizon workers say enough is enough

As of midnight on Saturday, 45,000 Verizon workers have gone on strike. The first thing I thought when I heard this news was, "Wow, these people are brave! With millions unemployed, and the economy once again slumping, they are risking everything to make their point."But looking at the story more closely, it looks like Verizon has been banking on that inherent risk to hold a Tea Party-esque line in negotiations. Verizon, whose CEO has raked in $81 million over the last few years, insists on the following terms:

  • Continued contracting out of work to low-wage contractors, which means more outsourcing of good jobs overseas.
  • Eliminating disability benefits for workers injured while on the job.
  • Elimination of all job security provisions.
  • Eliminating paid sick days for new hires and limiting them to no more than five for any workers.
  • Freezing pensions for current workers and eliminating them for future employees.
  • Replacing the current high-quality health care plan with a high-deductible plan requiring up to $6,800 in additional costs.
Why would any worker agree to have his legs cut out from him or her like that? What worker wouldn't take a stand when their boss, pulling in three hundred times more pay and free health insurance for life, tells them that their hard work is meaningless, that they can't get a fair share of the billions in profits that Verizon raked in this year?Watch this New York Verizon worker talk about why he's out on the picket line on a hot day:


Buying Stock in the US of A

I've seen a lot of angry reactions of Standard & Poor's downgrade of the federal government's debt, from blaming Standard & Poor for political motivations to pointing out that Tea Party Republicans had essentially forced S&P's hand.I don't disagree with the anger. We should be angry! We should be furious at Standard & Poor for turning a blind eye at Wall Street firms like Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns right up until the moment they went under while using fuzzy math now to predict that the federal government will somehow refuse to honor its debt obligations. And we should be firing the news out to family and friends that the reason our home and student loans might be pricier in the near future is because of Republican refusal to raise taxes on the wealthy.But movements aren't built on waves of resistance and anger alone. Whether it's a girl putting a flower in the barrel of a soldier's gun, or one woman refusing to sit in the back of the bus any longer, great movements that build lasting change depend on the accumulation of millions of small gestures made in the hope that, however naive or futile they may be, there's a better way forward.Rob Delaney posted this on his blog over the weekend. He's not a political consultant or policy wonk. He's an average working guy who was upset at S&P for downgrading federal debt. But he thought he'd do something constructive, so he invested some savings in a fund that tracks the Wilshire 5000, the 5000 largest American companies. Literally, he bought some stock in America. He didn't buy Treasury notes, because he figured if the government wanted his money, they could tax it out of the companies he just invested in. It's worth quoting his reasoning in full:

What I am saying is that I believe in me, and I believe in you and I believe in elbow grease, objectivity and history. Did you see the recession coming? Did it announce itself and tell you the date it would arrive? No, it did not. Nor will recovery. So quit whining. Pessimism is for losers.

So to paraphrase Warren Buffet, whose sterling, brick and mortar, brilliantly run, cash-rich company Berkshire Hathaway was ALSO downgraded by S&P in the past, “American stocks are on sale.” Why not pick some up? I did. And I’m a 34 year old, hard working husband and father who gives a sh*t about the country he lives in and doesn’t take orders from S&P, CNN, or Congress. I give them. And so do you.

Whether you think Rob's idea is foolhardy or great, he's right. We as a movement need more positive action and less pessimism and pouting. So let's hear it. What do you think of Rob's idea? What are your outside the box ideas for positive change?


We Are Wisconsin has cold reception for Tea Party visitors

In the last days before the final Wisconsin recall elections, Tea Party groups have brought in buses to support Republican senators facing recall. It's ironic, because conservatives have long blamed the stiffening resistance to Gov. Walker's union-busting austerity agenda on "outside agitators" bused in from out of state. Now Republicans are dependent on their own "outside agitators" riding in from out of state to give them a spark in their lagging campaigns.On Friday, the Tea Party Express, whose chair hails all the way from Georgia, rolled in to a rally to support Republican incumbent Sheila Harsdorf. They were met by shouts of "Go Home" from We Are Wisconsin, a local coalition of workers, educators, health care workers, and people concerned with the rightwing takeover of Wisconsin's state government. There was only a token showing of protesters, as many from We Are Wisconsin were already out working hard on turning out the vote in the recall elections. But protesters still nearly outnumbered the Tea Party supporters who had hoped to rally media attention and support from the community. KTSP had video coverage of the event:


VIDEO: The people are getting restless

Hundreds gathered outside Congressman Jeff Denham's Fresno district office on Friday, angrily chanting "WE WANT JOBS". The Fresno metropolitan area, the fifth largest in California and the largest inland city, is currently suffering from a 16.8% unemployment rate, one of the highest in the nation. And it's only rising.Most of the people at the rally have spent more than 5 months looking for work. One man, dressed in a suit, has been unemployed for a year and a half. Said one woman from the crowd, “Unemployment doesn't pay enough, let alone leave money left over to pay the rent and eat."Rep. Denham, a Republican representing California's 19th District, defended himself by claiming that he's fighting hard to create jobs, having sponsored "nine job creation bills" cutting regulation and lowering taxes for business. He ignores that eight years of deregulation and tax cutting for corporations and the wealthy produced the worst decade for the economy since the 1930s. In the 2000s, a decade dominated by George Bush's repeated tax cuts for the wealthy and clearcutting of regulation, private employment actually fell!Denham's claim to have sponsored nine jobs bills also falls to pieces on closer inspection. He sponsored a couple of bills to clarify the definition of the watershed for a river, a bill to establish a commission that would examine ways to more easily sell federal property, a couple of ceremonial bills that have about as much economic impact in the district as renaming post offices, a bill gutting economic and environmental review over local projects, a bill to remove implementation money for the restoration of the San Joaquin River and reintroduction of salmon, and a resolution to express hope that airlines would bestow extra benefits on members of the US military.Nothing in that parcel of bills, most of which show no signs of passing any time soon, show promise for reducing the jobless rate of Fresno. Hopefully the crowds showing up at his office will cause him to look for better answers to the jobs crisis with a little more urgency.