November 19, 2011

OWS Conversation Possibly Influencing New Bills in Congress

"When CEOs are making more in ten minutes than the average worker earns in a year, and millions of families lose their homes due to unscrupulous lending, checked neither by a sense of corporate ethics or a vigilant government; when the dream of entering the middle class and staying there is fading for young people in our community, we have more work to do."
This could be a quote coming directly from the Occupy Movement. But in fact, Barack Obama made these statements when addressing the 99th NAACP Convention on July 12, 2008. In a huge disappointment for many of those who voted for him, President Obama has made no significant progress on these issues. So little has improved that a national conversation has emerged in the form of non-stop, coast to coast protest encampments.

I have been looking for signs that the discussion in the streets is impacting the discussion in political campaigns, or better yet, newly proposed legislation. I have found a few glimmers of hope.

In October, Elizabeth Warren entered the race for Massachusetts Senator. She reminded us all that “there’s nobody in this country who got rich on his own."

On November 14, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn released a 37 page report titled "Subsidies of the Rich and Famous". In this report he uses the language of Occupy Wall Street, noting that "the income of the wealthiest 1% has risen dramatically over the last decade." He goes on to decry the federal government largess that "lavishes these millionaires with billions of dollars in giveaways and tax breaks."

On November 15, Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown filed the "Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge" bill, which would make it illegal for elected lawmakers and their staffs to use privileged inside government information in making personal investment decisions. Could it be that incumbent Scott Brown, who is running against Elizabeth Warren for Senate, is running scared? Does Elizabeth Warren and her support of Occupy Wall Street have him worried enough that he is suddenly standing up for consumer/investor protections? But it is not just Scott Brown. This bill has languished for years, and suddenly, there is one version in the House with two sponsors and two similar versions in the Senate.

On November 16, the House Financial Services Committee voted 52 to 4 to suspend current and future bonuses paid to executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Top earners at Fannie and Freddie had pay packages worth nearly $100 million in the period since the 2008 federal government bailout. The Senate is expected to consider similar legislation soon.

Also on November 16, in a much broader reach, Representative Jim McGovern introduced the 28th amendment, to put an end to the ridiculous nonsense that corporations are people. The People’s Rights Amendment goes beyond the scope of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. It puts a stake through the heart of corporate rights, rights which have been used by large corporations to evade public interest laws for decades. UPDATE 11/22/2011: A new OCCUPIED Amendment has now been introduced. More details on these amendments here.

This feels like an avalanche of good intentions. The OWS dialog now has echoes in Congress. You can help turn these intentions into law by calling your U.S. representatives and telling them of your support. You can also sign Jim McGover's petition to end corporate personhood. Then invite your friends and family to do the same.

1 comment:

  1. My friends up in Massachusetts showed me that exact link of Elizabeth Warren's speech a couple of weeks ago. I hope the tides are turning...