Pages tagged "americandream"

Nebraska boos proposed Tar Sands XL pipeline

People rarely boo when they go to church, but that's what happened in September in Nebraska.Fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football team are known as the most polite but passionate supporters of their team of any sports franchise in the country. Passionate, in that they've sold out every home game since 1962. (Think about that. Nearly fifty years of sold out home games, in good times and bad. Most marriages don't last that long.) Polite, because they stay to the end of every game and applaud the opposing team for coming out to play, even for hated rivals like Texas and Oklahoma. They even cheered for Texas running back Ricky Williams with chants of "Heisman!" when he had a career day against them in the late 1990s. Outside of places of worship, few places on Earth exist where people express their fervor as openly and loudly in a positive way on a regular basis.That makes what happened at a home game in September all the more remarkable. A highlight reel for Nebraska's 1978 team played on the mammoth Huskervision videoscreen over the scoreboard, bookended by the logo for TransCanada, the builders of the proposed XL pipeline through Nebraska. Fans began booing at the first appearance of the logo, and booed louder at the end. It made no difference that images of their beloved 1978 Huskers were caught in the hail of jeers.The proposed Transcanada Keystone XL Pipeline would transport massive amounts of oil harvested from stripmining tarsands in Alberta, Canada down through the Midwest to refineries in Texas. The pipeline has come under fire because the tarsands are an especially dirty source of fossil fuels, both in carbon emissions and in terms of the immediate poisonous impact of the process by which it is mined. Oil companies extract the thick, gooey tar from the sands in an open pit process requiring an intensive use of fresh water and extra energy to extract the oil from the sand. At a time when we should transition to clean, renewable forms of energy, the Keystone XL Pipeline would deliver a dirty fuel and increase our reliance on oil.In Nebraska, the proposed pipeline would be routed through a major aquifer and go through hundreds of miles of rich farmland. Leaks would potentially poison both the farmland itself and the water supply for thousands, costing millions in damages and lost jobs.After the strong crowd reaction, the University of Nebraska ended its sponsorship agreement with TransCanada. Legendary former coach Nebraska coach Tom Osborne, now serving as the university's athletics director, stated:"We have certain principles regarding advertising in the stadium such as no alcohol, tobacco or gambling advertisements. We also avoid ads of a political nature. Over the last two or three months, the pipeline issue has been increasingly politicized. Our athletic events are intended to entertain and unify our fan base by providing an experience that is not divisive."Here's hoping that the State of Nebraska itself follows suit.

Elected officials have begun endorsing the Contract

About 300,000 people have signed onto the Contract for the American Dream so far, and we've heard kind words from many elected officials about the tenets expressed in the Contract. but so far, no elected representatives have actually signed onto it. Until now. Stepping forward from the progressive bastion of... Arizona, several state legislators, members of local school boards, and a city councilman stood in front of the state capitol building in Phoenix this week to announce their support for the Contract for the American Dream. Developed over the summer with the help of over 130,000 Americans, the Contract for the American Dream is a crowdsourced alternative proposal to guide our country out of a period of austerity, war and divisiveness into a shared future of prosperity and peace. Among those signing onto the Contract is Ruben Gallego, a Democrat representing the city of Phoenix. Gallego is a first-generation American. He specifically counts a good public school education as the main reason that he managed to climb out of the poverty of his childhood. Gallego also knows the importance of giving back. After graduating, he joined the United States Marine Corps and served one tour of duty in Iraq in one of the hardest hit companies in the Corps. As Gallego put it, "The American dream is for any American, no matter where they start in life, to be able to accomplish their full goals. Everyone should have that opportunity." (The emphasis is mine.) Rep. Gallego makes a really good point. The American Dream isn't about having a house you can feature on MTV Cribs. It's about all Americans having access to opportunity no matter where you start in life. Rep. Gallego started out as the poor child of Mexican immigrants, and he’s living the Dream right now because he had access to a strong public education as a child, access that is slipping away for many in the current generation. And that's why officials present signed both English and Spanish versions of the Contract. including communities of color. The representatives endorsing the Contract wanted to make clear as day that that America’s original promise will be open to allAll in all, eight elected officials signed the Contract yesterday, House Minority Whip Anna Tovar, State Rep. Ruben Gallego, State Rep. Katie Hobbs, State Senator Steve Gallardo, School Board Member Adam Lopez Falk, School Board Member Martin Quezada, and Tolleson City Councilman Diego Espinoza. This is only the first instance of elected representatives signing the Contract, but it won't be the last, especially with your help. Will you write your representatives, both local, state and federal, and ask them to endorse the Contract? And if you haven't signed it yet yourself, there's a spot for you right here.

VIDEO: Elizabeth Warren on Fairness

If you haven't seen this comment from Elizabeth Warren yet, it will make your week. And if you've already seen the video... it will still make your week.

Clever online game: Could you make it if you were unemployed?

If the unthinkable happened and you lost your job, could you make it? Could pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get a job, any job, and make ends meet? I'm optimistic that I could, and maybe you are, too. But it might be a little trickier than you think.Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina has a nifty little online game called Spent, where you take on the role of a newly unemployed worker with a rapidly dwindling savings account. The goal of the game is to make it through the month with cash left over, and it's not easy. You pick a job that typically might be available to anyone looking for work, and you navigate through a month of expenses, which range from deciding whether or not to opt in to health insurance to figuring out whether you can afford to pay the school for your child's field trip.Can you do it? Playing the game, I made it through the month, but barely. I had $157 left over, but I was driving a car without proper registration, I had no health insurance, and I had chronic tooth pain because I couldn't afford a simple trip to the dentist. And I only spent $80 on groceries for the entire month, so I either lost about 50 pounds last month, or the rest of my family starved. Either way, I don't know where the rent money for next month is coming from.The problem in our country is that being unemployed is no game. Even if you manage to land a low-wage job to "pay the bills" you're still left with incredibly difficult choices, and you can't hit the back button on your browser to change them. If the neighbor's kid breaks your window and you have to fix it, you have to decide whether you want glass in your window or a plastic sheet over the hole plus some food on the table. You have to decide whether or not your child gets to play sports because you don't know if you can spot the money for the uniform.The unemployment rate hovers around 9%, the unemployment plus underemployment rate is stuck at about 16%, and the conservatives in the House of Representatives are blocking the first real jobs bill to be proposed in years. Millions of people who were gainfully employed 3 or 4 years ago have through no fault of their own been stuck with no job or a job that hardly pays enough to get by, millions who are playing this game every month.

Awesome Analysis: Borosage and Vanden Heuvel on The American Dream Movement

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Photo by Brian Auer, used under a Creative Commons license"]Statue of Liberty, seen from the bottom looking at the clouds[/caption]Longtime progressive commentators Robert Borosage and Katrina Vanden Heuvel have an extensive article in The Nation, "Can a Movement Save the American Dream", on the historical roots of the American Dream Movement, parallels to older American reform movements, and the unique challenges that we face today. Here's a peek:
Wisconsin provided inspiration for the effort by Van Jones and others to launch the American Dream Movement. Jones, the founder of Green For All, joined, the Center for Community Change, the Campaign for America’s Future and dozens of unions and other progressive organizations to build an initiative that many activists can affiliate with and help to define.Just as the Tea Party provided an umbrella for conservative groups with disparate agendas, ranging from small-government purists to Christian fundamentalists to Citizens Council racists, so the American Dream Movement hopes to provide an umbrella and help mobilize energy for widespread progressive organizing efforts that are virtually invisible nationally. But unlike the Tea Party, the American Dream Movement is championing concerns that have broad popular support.As a first step, the initiative held more than 1,500 house parties across the country to help develop a “Contract for the American Dream.” More than 130,000 activists joined online and in person to define a reform agenda that challenges the limits of the current debate. It includes major initiatives for jobs and growth: a commitment to reinvest in our decrepit infrastructure and to recapture the lead in the green industrial revolution. It calls for repairing our basic social contract, with investment in education from preschool to affordable college, Medicare for all and protection of Social Security. It would make work pay, empowering employees to organize unions and championing a living wage. It advocates progressive tax reform and an end to America’s wars abroad to help get our domestic books in order. And it demands sweeping democratic reforms to curb the power of money politics and clean out the Washington swamp.
Looking back at the labor movement late 19th and early 20th centuries, the women's suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, Borosage and Vanden Heuvel make a strong argument that it matters little who we elect in the coming years if we don't act on the ground. As they point out, King helped win civil rights reforms on the bridge at Selma, not by campaigning for Johnson. The movement came first, then the voting. The whole article is well worth your time. As they say, read the rest.

Time to pay US back

We've been waiting for something like this, and it's finally starting to happen. People are turning out in the streets to hold big banks accountable. Today in downtown Seattle, 175 people showed up outside Chase headquarters to hold them accountable for their behavior during the Great Recession and the taxpayer-funded bailout. 11 were arrested for their part in the large peaceful protest against J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, whose executives were all in town for a major business confab. After the building was completely locked down, the protestors overtook the intersection outside and held a mock trial for the CEOs of the three banks.

The action today was the first of a grassroots campaign by The New Bottom Line. Banks haven't had to answer for their actions that led to the Great Recession. If anything, they've taken taxpayer bailout money to gobble up smaller banks, pay bonuses, and lock down a seat at the table with members of Congress. They're sitting on a giant pool of money that could jumpstart businesses and put a floor back under the housing market.

And because the government continues to refuse to hold the banks accountable, it's going to take a wave of thousands of Americans to turn up the heat. This is just the beginning.

The Pay US Back campaign has three key demands:.

  • Pay their fair share of taxes: Stop draining government of revenue and pay their statutorily required 35% corporate income tax. Stop gaming the system through off-shore tax shelters, loopholes and scams.
  • Stabilize the housing market and revitalize the economy: Reduce principal for all underwater homeowners to current-market value. This would end the foreclosure crisis, reset the housing market, pump billions of dollars back into the economy and create 1 million jobs a year.
  • Invest in American jobs: Stop sitting on trillions in cash reserves that could be invested into small businesses, the main source of jobs in the U.S. as well as into additional into job-generating investments.

By the way, those 11 who were arrested at the protest? That's 11 more than the total number of bankers who have been prosecuted for their part in the massive financial meltdown of 2008, including illegal foreclosures, robosigning, and knowingly packaging bad mortgages into securities that they then sold to unwitting investors.

Mark Cuban: The Most Patriotic Thing You Can Do

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="240" caption="Photo of Mark Cuban used under a Creative Commons license from JD Lasica /"][/caption]Warren Buffett isn't the only megabillionaire who understands that we all do better in America when everyone does right by America. I'm not in 100% agreement with billionaire Mark Cuban, but he makes an interesting point in a recent blog post. (Fair warning on the link: we try to stay family friendly with the language on our blog; Cuban does not.)
"[B]e Patriotic. Go out there and get rich. Get so obnoxiously rich that when that tax bill comes , your first thought will be to choke on how big a check you have to write. Your 2nd thought will be “what a great problem to have”, and your 3rd should be a recognition that in paying your taxes you are helping to support millions of Americans that are not as fortunate as you."
To pick a nit, there's a lot to be said for the young men and women who selflessly serve in the military, the teachers who work for low pay in rural communities not because they couldn't do better for themselves, but because they wanted to better others. Are businessmen and women more patriotic? It's hard to see it that way.But Cuban is right. There's also something to be said for entrepreneurs to take risks, to work hard at a business, to hire people and train them on new skillsets. And he's also right that if they are successful, they need to recognize their continued success depends on a healthy government role in stabilizing the economy.If you're wondering who Mark Cuban is, he's a billionaire who made his initial fortune in technology in the 1990s. He then bought the Dallas Mavericks pro basketball franchise, where he's made a name for himself by receiving massive fines for criticizing referees and matching them with equal contributions to charity. He paid for the team's victory parade in June when they won the league championship; like many cities around America, Dallas faced a cash crunch that would have taken away from essential services if they had to pay for the traditional victory parade.It's nice that Cuban, despite the fact that he's rich enough to not care a whit what anyone else thinks, still recognizes that millionaires and billionaires ought to pay their fair share and stop squawking about taxes. After all, 7000 millionaires didn't even pay income tax last year - zero dollars. Why should millionaires pay a lower rate than middle class Americans?

"I Am Warren Buffett's Secretary"

As Warren Buffett has pointed out, his own secretary pays in a higher income tax bracket because he makes his money from investing billions, while she makes her money working at a job. The same goes for Warren Buffett's nurse, his mechanic, his groundskeepers. Virtually anyone who does any work for Buffett has to pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than he does, and he's far more able to afford it.Why is this? Over several decades, rich investors complained enough to Congress (and paid enough money to lobbyists) that they could be creating trillions in new wealth and millions of new jobs if only they had to less in taxes, and unfortunately, Congress listened. The wealthy got their way, but not before bringing about a massive recession with millions of lost jobs and stagnant wage growth, while our public infrastructure crumbled.Now it's time for Congress to listen to us. Make sure that you call Congress today to let them know that millionaires need to pay their fair share. There's no reason a millionaire should pay taxes in a lower bracket than middle class Americans.

Apply for Take Back the American Dream Scholarship

Earlier this year, we announced that we would be partnering with Campaign for America's Future in creating the Take Back the American Dream conference, the first national gathering of the American Dream Movement. Because we know that not everyone has enough cash in their wallet to go to DC for a weekend just to attend a progressive "rally" or "protest" or "get-together", we wanted to let everyone know that for one, it's much more than a get-together or rally. And we've put together a little something that will help make sure that many good progressives can attend even if they are low on cash right now. We've partnered with our friends at Democracy for America to offer 30(!) scholarships to progressives wanting to attend the Take Back the American Dream conference on October 3 through October 5, 2011. We invite progressives to submit an application online and to solicit the support of whomever you can corral for your application. The top 3 vote-getters automatically receive the scholarship, worth a free conference registration and up to $400 in travel costs. The remaining scholarships will be awarded based on a combination of the strength of the application and wider support from the community. Do make sure you apply by midnight EST on Thursday, September 15. Applications submitted after that time will not be considered.And just why would you want to travel to Washington DC for a progressive gathering? This fall, in honor of the growing American Dream Movement fighting to rebuild the middle class and take our country back, the Take Back the American Dream conference will bring together thousands of leaders, local volunteers, students, teachers, unions, community groups, and progressives from across the country to learn from one another and to get inspired. Among the speakers: economist Robert Reich, psychologist Drew Westen, union leaders Mary Kay Henry, Leo Gerard, and Richard Trumka, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, progressive congressmen Rep. Keith Ellison and Rep. Barney Frank, progressive radio all-stars Sam Seder and Nicole Sandler, Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, Georgia Students for Public Higher Education organizer Allie McCullen, and of course, our very own Van Jones. And that's just to name a few.The conference will not just be a bunch of people speaking to you, either (fantastic and full of food for thought as the speakers may be.) Tons of breakout workshops are on the schedule, from A New Bottom Line-led workshop on breaking the banks' hold on Washington to a workshop on a women-led economic recovery to one about involving creative communities in bringing back the American Dream. You can find out the full agenda for the conference here, along with lots more information about each session.If any of this intrigues you, but you're just not sure about being able to afford to attend, please apply for a DFA scholarship! If you're not sure about attending (or you're definitely going but aren't worried about being able to afford it) please pass the word along to a deserving progressive who might not even know about the opportunity. And of course, if you're interested and you don't want to depend on a scholarship to get you there, please go to the Take Back the American Dream conference page on Campaign for America's Future's website to register.

Obama's job speech tonight streamed LIVE with the American Dream Movement

Tonight, President Barack Obama will unveil his jobs proposal, and we'll be watching. We hope that you'll join us for a very special American Dream Movement livestream of President Obama's speech. The livestream will start at 6:45 Eastern time, and will feature a live chat hosted by's Daniel Mintz and feature special guests Heather McGhee, an economist at Demos, and Steve Nathan, an unemployed paralegal who knows the downside of the current economy all too well.We’re excited to host our very own online broadcast of the speech, and unlike just watching TV, you get the opportunity to speak your mind as the President pitches his jobs proposal to the nation.It's encouraging to see President Obama returning to job creation after some successes very early in his administration. In the last 18 months, the White House has been too focused on deficit reduction and negotiating over just how deep budget cuts would be, without pushing hard for new funding for American workers and infrastructure, financed by making the rich pay their fair share again.Signs are that President Obama is back on the right track. Let's meet tonight at 6:45 Eastern time to cheer him on when he hits the mark, and to prod him in the right direction if he goes off key. As a bonus, we'll have an official Rebuild the Dream response right after the speech.And as a double bonus for football fans, you won't have to miss kickoff for tonight's Saints-Packers game.