Why the 99% Spring?

By George Goehl

During the week of April 9-15, 100,000 people will train to engage in nonviolent direct action in the name of a new economic vision.

There are moments in civic life when our political system completely fails to address extreme moral crises. And within these instants generations of warriors for justice have been called to take action that involved risk and ridicule.

Economic Reforms Now!

We are in one of those moments right now. And while engaging in the most basic form of democratic practice, voting, is essential, it is clearly not enough to address the steady and strong attack on poor and middle class families in this country.

That is why this spring, during the week of April 9-15, 100,000 people will train to engage in nonviolent direct action in the name of a new economic vision.  

This will be learning for action: an opportunity to grasp what’s at the heart of our economic crisis, crossed with the lessons learned across centuries of movements that came before us. It will be a training that names names, and calls on the trainees to take action to expose those who created and perpetuate the extreme poverty and injustice that so many Americans are experiencing.

The Face of Poverty

We live in an America where more than 46 million Americans live below the poverty level. This is the highest poverty rate since the Census Bureau began publishing such figures.  Nearly 15 million children in the United States – 21 percent of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level–  an average of $22,050 a year for a  family of four. To make matters worse, six million families have already lost their homes, and 11 million homeowners have mortgages that cost  more than the home is worth.

The numbers are so staggering that they can lose meaning. But behind each number is a child wondering if there will be enough food today; a young person with incredible debt and limited opportunities; a neighbor being evicted from their home; a widowed grandmother struggling to make ends meet.

How Did It Happen and What Do We Do Now?!

This is not an accident. But rather the culmination of a 40-year plan to undermine the role of government, deregulate the financial markets and the corporate sector, rewrite the tax code in favor of the wealthy and corporations, and erode the right for workers to organize.

The good news is there is no shortage of policy solutions that can begin to reverse these trends. Change can start with the following:

·      End the Bush Tax Cuts for households making over $250,000 a year

·      Pass a Wall Street, or Robin Hood, Tax on speculative trading

·      Make the big banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reduce principal on millions of underwater mortgages

·      Strengthen collective bargaining laws as strong unions are central to growing the middle class

·      Pass a public jobs bill that puts millions of American back to work rebuilding our infrastructure and developing green technology

·      Pass comprehensive immigration reform and welcome those who have chosen to call America their home and invest in our future

·      Ensure policies are targeted to deliver relief and opportunity to the hardest hit communities

To make these ideas and others come to life, we will have to fully expose who is perpetuating wealth inequality and the status quo. That is why following the 99 % Spring, thousands upon thousands will be engaging in nonviolent direct action to shine a light on the exact corporate actors who created this historically unjust economy.  Under the banner of 99 % Power, there will be more demonstrations leading up to and at corporate shareholder meetings this Spring than at any point in American history.

Our Call to Action

In this moment, we are called, like our predecessors, to act in ways that demonstrate the moral clarity of our purpose.  Whether it’s been women risking arrest in the fight for the right to vote, African-American’s organizing lunch counter sit-ins and freedom rides to end segregation, or immigrants marching in record numbers in 2006 to stand down anti-immigrant legislation, there have been moments where we have expanded our participation in political life to end gross injustice.

Conviction without action is impotence. The question that many of us will ask ourselves in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years is this:  When it was clear we were deep down the path toward untenable economic and political inequality, did our action match the power of our convictions? This 99 % Spring, we will prepare ourselves to ensure we have a good answer to that question.  We hope you will join us http://www.the99spring.com Φ

George Goehl is the executive director of National People’s Action, a network of metropolitan and statewide membership organizations dedicated to advancing economic and racial justice. Goehl has been an organizer and strategist for 17 years, crafting city, state, and federal campaigns on issues ranging from preventing foreclosures, outlawing predatory lending, and advancing immigration reform. Under Goehl’s leadership National People’s Action has helped lead the fight to hold big banks accountable, advance financial reform, and prevent foreclosures. He is a co-founder of the New Bottom Line, a national alignment designed to restructure our relationship with Wall Street and the financial sector and advance a vision of a more equitable and sustainable economy.

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