VIDEO: How the Middle Class Got Screwed

Some day, when you're working extra hours trying to somehow get ahead of the game, you might stop and think to yourself, "Hey! My parents could somehow afford to own a decent home, take vacations, and not stay up nights wondering how they were going to pay for my college. And if there was a family medical emergency, their first thought wasn't going to be 'How can I pay for this?'" And when those memories surface, you wonder, "Where did it all go? What happened? Is it just me?" Of course it isn't just you! A whole generation of Americans faces exactly the same problems, exploding health care costs, rising cost of higher education, fewer jobs, stagnant wages, and fewer benefits. This short video will help explain how this state of affairs came to be, and what you can do to reverse it.

Missourians turn up pressure on Sen. Blunt

A couple of weeks ago, a coalition of labor and community groups teamed with faith leaders and rallied hundreds in front of Sen. Claire McCaskill's office in St. Louis, MO. In a private meeting with McCaskill during the rally, protest organizers got McCaskill to agree to keep Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid off the table in negotiations with the Republicans. Which is a big step, if you've followed McCaskill, because she's known primarily as a deficit hawk who favors cutting programs, not preserving them. The same group turned their aim this week towards Roy Blunt, a Republican freshman in the US Senate with a long prior history in the US House of favoring tax cuts for the rich and program cuts for everyone else, save for the big earmarks for his own district. A longshot for the protest organizers, perhaps, but two hundred rallying in the rain outside Sen. Blunt's office in the tony St. Louis suburb of Clayton helped persuade Blunt's staff to invite some of the organizers inside for a meeting, but only with senior staff, not with Sen. Blunt himself.Kirsten Dunham of Paraquad listed the havoc that Medicaid cuts would wreak on people helped by her organization, many of whom depend on Paraquad's services to be as productive as they are. Judith Parker of the Alliance of Retired Americans spoke of the utter dismay that retired Missourians are feeling at the thought that Social Security would be trimmed. And Rev. Carlton Stock detailed the programs that his church provides for low income families in the area and told of the devastation that many of them experience if these cuts went through. Each of the organizers were especially concerned that the budget would be balanced on the backs of the poor, and that not enough attention was being paid to the need to raise revenue by rolling back tax cuts for the superrich. Rev. Carlton Stock requested a personal meeting with Sen. Blunt before any votes were taken on the default crisis negotiations, a request that was rebuffed. Blunt's schedule is so unpredictable, apparently, that there was no way to guarantee a meeting. There is one predictable element on Sen. Blunt's schedule, however. He's holding a fundraiser this week in Washington DC with high-priced lobbyists at a minimum of $500 a head. That's more per ticket than most of those rallying outside his office make in a week. (Hat tip to Show Me Progress for the video.)

Truthout Interview with Van Jones

Amy B. Dean had a great, wide-ranging interview at Truthout with Van Jones about the problems facing the American middle class, how they might be addressed, and where he sees himself and other leaders in the movement.Here are some of the highlights:On what the real conflict is:

"The real fight is not between conservatives and liberal, or even between Wall Street and Main Street. The real fight is between 'cheap patriots,' who are trying to destroy the American dream and 'deeper patriots,' who are trying to restore it. It's really a fight between two different versions of patriotism, two visions of what American greatness will require in the next century.

"You have these cheaper patriots who have taken their wrecking ball agenda," Jones explained, "painted it red, white and blue and used it to smash down all of the institutions that made America exceptional: unions, public schools, the sense of responsibility among Americans to invest in the country that made their success possible."

On what needs to be rebuilt in order to rebuild the American Dream:

"I don't have a magic answer to the question," Jones said, "but I do try to promote a process that will get us closer to good answers. It's going to take a mix of approaches, some of them governmental, some having to do with individual behavior, some of them having to do with finding smarter ways for the labor movement to revive. But fundamentally, the deck is stacked against patriotic corporations that want to hire in America.


"So there has to be change in trade and tax policy. But also, we can't wait on Washington, DC to fix these things."

On learning from the Tea Party:

"On the whole, what we call the Tea Party represents a set of preexisting assets - both ideas and individual organizations that long pre-dated the declaration of the new movement. Some of them go back to the Ross Perot days. Yet this set of libertarian ideas was not taken very seriously, even within the Republican Party.

"It's sheer genius to be able to take a very old set of ideas and an aging set of assets and realign them and re-brand them so that they must be taken seriously in the current context. That's something we can learn from the Tea Party: How to take existing infrastructure and ideas but find a way to re-present them to the American people.

On leadership:

"One of our aspirations is to create a banner under which many leaders can shine and grow and learn, but where no one leader is the personification of the movement. People will always let you down. Principles endure. So having a network that is based on principles and values first, not based on politicians or even a political party, is critical.

As I said, these are just some of the highlights. Van Jones gets into some more specifics on all of those points, and also talks quite a bit about how he personally approaches his work. As they say, read the rest

Nominate an Unsung Hero!

Even though she built a powerful progressive circle in the upper reaches of Washington, DC society, you've probably never heard of Maria Leavey before. Nobody could blame you. She never held office. Nor was she a powerful lobbyist, campaign manager, columnist, or polling expert. She had a small apartment in Washington, and didn't even have a regular job or very much money. She pursued her political efforts largely on a landline telephone and an ancient computer in her tiny apartment.Despite all these things, Leavey managed to build a powerful network of progressives, holding a monthly movement-building breakfast that the likes of Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid attended. She was known to bake cookies for everyone from top Democrats to her mail carrier. When she died of heart disease in 2006, her obituary appeared in the Washington Post as an article of a length usually reserved for longserving congressmen.Since Leavey's death, the Campaign for America's Future has memorialized Leavey's work with an annual Maria Leavey Tribute Award for an unsung progressive organizer who has contributed significantly to the progressive movement while working tirelessly behind the behind the scenes without seeking the limelight. Past winners include Lanya Shapiro, a social entrepreneur in Durham, NC; Graciela Sanchez, director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center in San Antonio, TX; and Ari Lipman, an organizer for the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.If you know a selfless organizer who is quietly pushing the progressive movement forward, you should nominate them! Nominations are due by July 25th, and nominees should meet the following criteria:A Convener who builds connections among diverse members of the progressive movement, cultivating networks of old and new leaders and activists;A Persistent Advocate who overcomes obstacles and marches forward with an enduring commitment and passion for social justice;A Selfless Organizer who works behind the scenes without seeking the limelight or credit for his or her efforts, while lending credit to others; andAn Idea Generator who pushes forward creative new ideas, a strong analysis of important issues, or helps build specific new capacities and infrastructure for the progressive movement.

"This is what Democracy floats like!"

Despite Gov. Scott Walker's attacks on state government, he's quite content to use the lavish mansion and accompanying estate granted to the governor's office for his own ends, including hosting a garden party of over 1,000 Republicans on its lakeside lawn. But Walker has found out that using the governor's estate for his own draconian and unpopular agenda has its drawbacks. As it were, the edge of the governer's estate grounds are accessible to the public by boat, right where the party was scheduled to take place. A flotilla sporting "Recall Walker" signs and chanting "Union Busting? That's disgusting!" floated just offshore during the party, spoiling the fun at the fundraiser. The protesting boaters themselves had so much fun that they plan to make it a regular occurrence. As for Walker, it's unlikely he'll hold any more parties on the lake shore while he remains in office.

What have the Unions Ever Done for Us?

Everybody knows that the unions exist for no real reason except to bleed us dry, right? What have they done for us? The answers slowly dawn on this management meeting:

VIDEO: Lie #3, "Hating on America's government is patriotic."

In this clip, Van Jones takes apart the third of the Four Big Lies that dominate our political discourse. By "painting the wrecking ball red, white and blue" conservatives are allowed to use the most vile rhetoric against America's government, all in the service of making sure rich people don't have to pay their fair share.Watch the video now and share with friends!

VIDEO: Lie #3, "Hating on America's government is patriotic."

In this clip, Van Jones takes apart the third of the Four Big Lies that dominate our political discourse. By "painting the wrecking ball red, white and blue" conservatives are allowed to use the most vile rhetoric against America's government, all in the service of making sure rich people don't have to pay their fair share.Watch the video now and share with friends!

VIDEO: Lie #2: "Asking the super-rich to pay taxes hurts America's economy."

In another highlight from our launch, Van Jones dissects the lie that asking the wealthiest to pay a fair amount in taxes will hurt our country. Massive corporations and the super-rich make huge profits by utilizing American infrastructure, military prowess, and prestige. It's only fair that they invest some of that back in America to ensure the success of future generations, just as public investment gave them roads to ship their goods, courts to secure their contracts, and schools to train their workers and management. In other words, those that "do well in America" should do "right by America."

Van Jones on the Ed Show

Van Jones made an appearance on the Ed Show last night. He talked about the growing movement that's building in America to oppose the cut-first mentality and to build a real working economy for all Americans. Watch it here:

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