Sojourner's Blog

October 16, 2013

The March on Washington 50 Years Later

On a sweltering August day in 1963, I listened to Dr. King speak his dream, articulating the highest aspirations of our Freedom Movement. My heart soared, and to this day I am still moved by those words no matter how often I hear them.

But now, 50 years later, as the media tributes and commemorations flood the airwaves I am struck by their thundering silence on the issues of economic justice, poverty, and income-inequality that formed half of the protest’s bedrock core.

The March on Washington was a march for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. King, A. Philip Randolph, John Lewis of SNCC, and James Farmer of CORE, all insisted that the march must be as much about economic justice as about social segregation. We marched that day to make 10 demands on American government and society (see ). Half of those demands addressed economic issues such as a living minimum wage, jobs and job training, fair labor standards, and an end to employment discrimination. The first portion of Dr. King’s speech — the part which the media and the politicians never quote — spoke to issues of wealth and poverty and income inequality.

Today, as we know full well, those issues are still with us, still unaddressed, still festering. Now, 50 years later, issues of economic justice, income inequality, and systemic poverty still remain the taboo topic of political discourse in America. Fifty years ago we assumed that the roots of poverty lay in discrimination and lack of opportunity. Today we understand that such issues are also inextricably bound to the realities of political power, the enormous disparity of influence between the wealthy few and working many.

Year after year, anti-union laws and court rulings cripple the ability of hard working people to earn a living-wage, while pro-business legislation and government policies encourage and subsidize the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs in a race to the bottom of lower labor costs. Housing and urban renewal policies result in the poor paying greater portions of their income for substandard housing than the affluent do for luxury accommodations. Political dis-investment in education, public works, transportation, and public health steadily widen the income gap and disproportionately impact the poor. Despite rhetoric about “family farms,” federal agriculture policies and subsidies are designed to enrich corporate agribusiness and impoverish small subsistence farmers. Business and consumer “protection” laws and international treaties are written to favor corporate profits at the expense of We the People.

One of the March demands was to raise the federal minimum from $1.15/hour to $2.00. When you adjust for inflation, $1.15 in 1963 is equal to $8.78 in 2013. Yet today, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25, significantly lower than what it was 50 years ago. After adjusting for inflation, the $2.00/hour minimum wage called for by the marchers would be equal to a minimum wage of $15.27 today, more than twice what it actually is. Congress sets the minimum wage. It is corporate political power that keeps it low, and the only way to raise it is by building popular people power.

Dr. King understood this relationship between economic justice and political power. In a lecture shortly before his assassination in 1968 he said, “The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty.”

August, 2013

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October 15, 2013

October 14, 2013

Taxes and Liberty Poles

When I was a kid they taught me all about the American Revolution, “No Taxation Without Representation,” the Stamp Tax and the Boston Tea Party. Yay! Go Yankees!

But for some reason (an oversight, no doubt), they left out the context. Those taxes our ancestors were protesting were imposed to finance imperialist war. From the 1740s through 1760s, Britain fought the Dutch, French, and Spanish to conquer Canada, seize sugar islands in the Caribbean, take Senegal & Gambia in Africa, and grab Bengal & Pondicherry in India. That required a massive expansion of the British Army & Navy, first to take and then to hold those prizes against rival powers and local resistance.

But the riches and wealth from those colonies went only to the British 1%, the aristocrats and merchant princes who owned the East and West India companies, the plantations, and the mines. And, of course, the slaves, serfs, & indentured servants forced to work them. Since they controlled Parliament, they arranged a tax system where they paid very little and the 99% were bled dry for their benefit.

The resulting tax protests didn’t just occur in America, there were protests, riots, and uprisings in Ireland, Scotland, and England itself. The “Boston Massacre” we read about in school, for example, was called “massacre” in memory of the “St. George’s Fields Massacre” in London two years earlier when 15,000 people protesting taxes and denial of free speech were fired on by Redcoats.

One of the tactics of popular resistance used on both sides of the Atlantic back then was erecting “Liberty Poles” on public and private property as protest symbols and rallying points. Some of those poles were very tall, and all of them were hung with signs and symbols of protest. When the authorities tried to cut them down, sometimes they were defended, occasionally with violence, but more often with what we would today call nonviolent mass action. If a pole was taken down, a mass action was mobilized to put up a new one. The authorities discovered that it was much easier for the protesters to erect new poles than for the Redcoats to take them down against public opposition.

Ah well, just a curiosity of history I suppose. So glad all that sort of injustice and abuse is long in the past.

February 14, 2013

The Roots of Poverty

Fifty years ago, Black and white college students active with the Civil Rights Movement undertook freedom sojourns in rural communities of the deep South. For many of us, our starkest and most enduring memories of that intense time are not of KKK violence, mass protests or filthy jail cells but rather images of devastating, intractable, systemic poverty. In 2005, TV images of Katrina’s aftermath forcefully reminded us once again that beneath America’s celebrated affluence lie rural and urban wastelands of abysmal poverty and human suffering.

The mass media presents us with two opposing views of poverty’s root causes:

To oversimplify, and in a sense caricaturize, the view of the political right is that there are two kinds of poor folk. The “deserving poor” (orphans, accident victims, those with debilitating illness, etc.) for whom we should provide some ameliorative charity. And a much greater number of “undeserving poor” who live in poverty because they are lazy, shiftless, alcoholic, drug addicted, or are sexually promiscuous women who engage in serial pregnancies. Providing assistance to the undeserving poor just enables their life-style choices and encourages them to remain permanent social parasites feeding off the hard work and taxes of “productive” citizens.

Again to oversimplify, the liberal view is that in most cases the root cause of long-term poverty is lack of opportunity. Inadequate education, lack of job training, no child care, inadequate public transportation, no jobs available, or jobs denied because of race, gender, or some other form of discrimination. And therefore the corresponding solution is to supply opportunity by ending discrimination, providing education, training, child care, transportation and investing public and private funds to create new jobs.

I and many other civil rights workers initially held the liberal view. But once involved in the Freedom Movement we quickly learned that while discrimination and lack of opportunity are certainly important factors, lack of political power (broadly defined) is a deeper, and more fundamental root cause of systemic poverty. In this context, “political power” refers to the ability to change (or maintain) some economic aspect of society. This kind of political power can be expressed via elections, lobbying, economic action (boycotts, strikes and mutual aid), and all the varied tactics of nonviolent direct action.

Year after year, anti-union laws and rulings cripple the ability of workers to earn a living wage while pro-business legislation and government policies encourage and subsidize the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs in a race to the bottom of lower and lower labor costs. Housing and urban renewal policies result in the poor paying greater portions of their income for substandard housing than the affluent do for luxury accommodations. Political disinvestment in education, public works, transportation, and public health disproportionately impact the poor to their detriment. Despite rhetoric about “family farms,” federal agriculture policies and subsidies enrich corporate agribusiness and impoverish small and medium farmers. And business and consumer laws are written to favor corporate profits at the expense of those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

The result is that most poor people have productive jobs — often multiple jobs — and they are working longer and longer hours, but they remain mired in permanent poverty. This is not caused by lack of opportunity alone, it’s also caused by lack of power to change the systems, policies, and practices that create and continually recreate poverty.

In essence, the liberal “lack-of-opportunity” view was the intellectual foundation that underlay the federal “War on Poverty” programs of the 1960s. Despite LBJ’s rhetoric, empowering poor people was not included in those programs and when people in the field made efforts in that direction they were immediately reined in by both local and national power brokers.

Such was the case with the Child Development Group of Mississippi (CDGM), one of the earliest and most successful Headstart programs. Among its organizers were a number of Freedom Movement veterans who favored training and hiring actual poor people to staff the centers (as opposed to professional educators with college degrees). They organized poor parents to take active decision-making roles in both the education of their children and broader community affairs.

The CDGM came under immediate and intense political attack from the Mississippi power-structure led by Senator Stennis who accused it of being “Communist” — not because the alphabet blocks the children played with could be used to spell “red,” but because it was empowering poor people to exert some influence and control over their own lives. Bowing to political pressure, Washington soon defunded CDGM, replacing it with a program where middle-class professionals provided services to the poor who were expected to consume and accept what was given to them as passive clients.

Dr. King understood this relationship between poverty and political power. In a lecture shortly before his assassination he said:

The dispossessed of this nation — the poor, both white and Negro — live in a cruelly unjust society. They must organize a revolution against that injustice, not against the lives of the persons who are their fellow citizens, but against the structures through which the society is refusing to take means which have been called for, and which are at hand, to lift the load of poverty. — The Trumpet of Conscience, Beacon Press.

 That was the underlying vision of his Poor Peoples Campaign, to build a national, multi-racial alliance of poor people to fight on their own behalf. Not to plead for more charity or welfare, but to demand and win economic justice.

November 26, 2011

Military Spending — The Basic Truth

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 3:23 pm
Tags: ,
U.S. Military Spending Compared to Other Nations

U.S. Military Spending Compared {3}

The United States spends almost as much money on its military as all other nations in the world combined.{1} Paying for past, present, and future
wars consumes 54% of our Federal budget.{2} These figures are not controversial, everyone on all sides of the debate acknowledge them. The dispute is over whether we need such a huge military, and why.

Why do we spend so much? Canada is not massing troops to pour over the border, Mexico is not arming for war against us. There is not a nation on the planet who poses any credible military threat to America.

Where Your Income Tax Really Goes

Where Your Taxes Go {2}

Yes, terrorists have attacked us. But the bulk of our military budget goes for “big-ticket” items like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines, stealth bombers and supersonic fighters, armored divisions and ICBMs. None of these expensive weapons are effective against terrorists who conceal themselves within a civilian population.

So, again, the question is why? This question is not new, and the answer has not changed. After resigning from the Marine Corps in 1935, Major General Smedley Butler (holder of two Congressional Medals of Honor) wrote the following:

 

“I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscleman for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys [today Citi Bank] to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested. During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in threedistricts. I operated on three continents.”

Sources:

{1} U.S. vs. Global Defense Spending
{2} Where Your Income Tax Really Goes
{3} Military Expenditure Database

Military Spending — The Basic Truth [PDF version of this post, as a flyer]

May 28, 2010

Invest in Congress

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 7:43 pm
Tags: , ,

This month (May, 2010), we’ve seen Wall Street lobbyists showering cash down upon Congress in an effort to prevent any effective regulatory laws from being passed. It all reminds me of something I wrote in 2001 which is clearly still relevant today:

“Since I’m someone who often reads the S.F. Chronicle’s business section my friends consider me a financial expert, and I’m often asked for investment advice, particularly how we aging “Boomers” can prepare for our “golden years.” Stocks? Real estate? Mutual funds? Marijuana/cocaine?

According to a recent PBS Macneil-Newshour report, Enron Corporation contributed $1.8 million to Congressional campaign coffers over the past year, and received $280 million in direct benefits from the “economic stimulus” package. That’s a Return on Investment (ROI) of 1,555%. Which compares quite favorably to the typical 5-10% annual return on mutual funds, the 10-15% savvy investors have been reaping from NASDAQ and other stock markets, or even the 15-20% skilled house-flippers have been making in the red-hot Bay Area housing market. And it’s far more than the 300- 400% profit margin enjoyed by Mendocino pot growers or Colombian drug lords importing blow in wholesale lots.

The conclusion is obvious. Only saps invest in stocks (or, for that matter, cocaine). To make real money, you invest in Congress. Which makes sense, because under our free-market system we have the best Democracy that money can buy. To prepare for our “golden years” I propose that we pool our meager resources, form an investment co-op, purchase some members of Congress, and then let the good times roll. From what I’ve been reading, Representatives are quite reasonably priced these days, and while Senators are, of course, more costly you don’t need as many of them.”

February 18, 2010

Break Up With Your Big Bank

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 1:19 am
Tags: ,

Move Your Money [PDF]

February 4, 2010

Writers on the Information Plantation

Filed under: Political Economy — brucehartford @ 11:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

[Address by National Writers Union (NWU) Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Hartford to Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) convention, 1997.]

Access to knowledge is the superb, the supreme act of truly great civilizations” — Toni Morrison, 1986

In recent years debate has exploded over the role of copyright and intellectual property in cyberspace. Unfortunately, this discussion has been almost exclusively posed as a conflict between publishers/distributors and information consumers. The voice of those who actually create intellectual property has had to struggle to be heard.

The National Writers Union addresses these questions from the following premises:

  1. We do not believe that reading is a crime.
  2. We do believe that writers/creators have a right to earn a living from the fruits of their labor.
  3. We think that society needs independent voices.

When we look at these new information technologies, we see an information revolution as profound and far-reaching as the one triggered by Gutenberg’s printing press. The printing press was not merely a more efficient hand-scribe — it totally transformed the way in which information was created, reproduced, sold, and consumed. It created information markets and formats undreamed of in the medieval quill-pen universe. The printing press brought into being new economic institutions and relationships and altered old ones beyond recognition. We’re now experiencing a similar revolution, but instead of time measured in centuries, it is happening in a decade or less.

Revolution By and For the Rich and Powerful

Normally, we tend to associate the word “revolution” with the have-nots rising up against their oppressors to demand greater freedom and a more equitable sharing wealth and resources. But what we are seeing in today’s information revolution is an economic coup d’etat in which the media and information cartels are ruthlessly moving to corner and control an essential element of world economic and intellectual life.

In a report to their stock-holders a few years ago, Time-Warner predicted that by the year 2000, the vast majority of all information would be disseminated by seven international media conglomerates and that they intended to be one of those seven. Today they are well on their way to achieving that goal.

But this is nothing new. The robber barons of the railroad age tried to do the same thing with transportation, and for a time they succeeded. They used their power to ruthlessly destroy farmers and workers and small businesses until in self defense the people formed granges and unions and business associations to curb that monopoly power. In the immortal words of the great philospoher Yogi Berra, “Dis is deja vu all over again.”

And just as government around the turn of the century aided and abetted the railroad barons, today they play the same role for the information barons. The Clinton administration’s “White Paper on Intellectual Property and the National Information Infrastructure,” for example, ranks right up there with the unilateral transfer of indian lands to the Union Pacific railroad as an example of Washington’s rush to serve the needs of the least needy. Or, as they say inside the beltway: “Might makes right, and campaign contributions win elections.”

A burglar sneaks into your home and a pickpocket robs you by stealth. The media barons and their government assistants work the same way. If they can pass the legislation they want they do so. But if they can’t, they accomplish the same ends through international treaties like WIPO and GATT. Or through bureaucratic revisions of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Information Should be Free

On the other side of the debate, are those who reject the entire concept of intellectual property and advocate that “information should be free,” meaning that there should be no commerce in information and that all forms of knowledge should be distributed and shared without cost or payment.

The problem with that ideal is that information does not spontaneously come into existence. Information — intellectual property — is the product of human labor and the people who create it: writers, artists, photographers, musicians, etc, have a moral and economic right to be fairly paid for their labor.

The fact is that intellectual property is, in a sense, a commodity. And like the farmer who produces food, those of us who labor to produce information and knowledge have a right to make a decent living from our craft. And if we can’t make a living, we can’t continue to do the work.

Information is the Staff of Life

Information is as much a necessity of intellectual and economic life as food is of biologic life. Not only is it morally wrong to deny people the necessities of life, it’s impractical. When people can’t afford to buy food they steal it. And if they have to cut off Marie Antoinette’s head to put bread on the table for their kids they will do it.

Furthermore, despite our culture’s deification of the individual

entrepreneur, the truth is that human advancement is a collective process. It is in the long-term interest of society as a whole to provide educational opportunities to all, rich and poor. Today we benefit from the investments our ancestors made in the education of our parents and grandparents. Today, and even more certainly tomorrow, access to the world’s electronic infosphere will be as essential to education as are schools and libraries.

And as citizens we know that without full access by all to multiple sources of news and information, democracy itself is a myth.

Thus, the National Writers Union is committed to the fight for full access to the new information universe for everyone, regardless of income. As writers we do not support the position of the Microsofts and the Time-Warners who view all forms of copying for any purpose as criminal violations of copyright.

Reading is not a crime

As writers, we do not oppose individuals sharing the information that we created for their personal, private use. End users have long been able to lend books to friends, photocopy cartoons and articles to pass around the water cooler, and quote (and misquote) things we have written and they have read. The fact that the new technologies make it easier to share information does not make such sharing wrong.

What we do oppose is anyone making money from our work without obtaining our permission and without passing along to us a share of the income. Thus, for creators, the crucial dividing line between permissible private use and copyright violation is the division between commerce and personal use.

For example, I do not care if you like my poem and post it on your web site. But if you start selling my work, or selling advertising on a site where my work is displayed, or using my work to promote your income-generating site, then you are engaged in a commercial use of my work and you must obtain my consent and grant me some share of the income.

Much of the current debate has been focused on the technical details of digital copying. There have been fierce arguments, for example, over the copyright implications of the temporary copies stored in computer memory when users view web pages. In our view, this is the wrong approach. With technology changing so fast it is futile to base copyright principles on specific technologies or media. The issue is not whether or not a copy is, or was, created or for how long it exists. The real issue is for what purpose the copy came into existence. If a copy is made for the purpose of private use, it should not be considered a copyright violation. If a copy is made for commercial purposes, then copyright law should apply.

Which brings us to the issue of “fair use.” In the broadest sense, the infosphere — the total sum of humankind’s knowledge and wisdom — is the collective product of all and the birthright of every individual.

All new knowledge, every single piece of new intellectual property, is built on the intellectual foundation of what has gone before. You cannot be a writer, or any other kind of creator, without also being a reader and a researcher.

Copyright has traditionally recognized the concept of “fair use,” allowing authors to legitimately use and quote portions of someone else’s copyrighted work as part of their own creation. The definitions of what is, and is not, permissible fair use are widely known and accepted. The traditional interpretations of the fair use provision of the Copyright Act takes into account the need for an unimpeded flow of information, and at the same time acknowledges the legitimate interests of those who own copyrights. There is no reason or need to change that in the digital age.

Information Super-Highway or Information Plantation?

It’s time to stop touting the mythic “information super-highway” and start examining the “information plantation.”

One of the worst abuses in American economic history was the sharecrop system. To briefly recap, the cropper worked the land all season for no pay. The cropper bore all risk from flood, drought, boll weevils, locusts, and God’s other dangers. At harvest time the cropper had to sell the crop (if there was a crop) to the landowner at whatever price he chose to grant. All downstream benefit and value of that crop than went entirely and exclusively to the master.

Let us look now at the lot of freelance writers. The number of publishers is steadily declining through mergers and monopolization while prices and terms are increasingly being set on an across-the-board basis. An editor assigns a story, this many words on that subject for a minuscule fee, take it or leave it. We do the work, we turn in the manuscript. Maybe the editor accepts it, maybe not. Maybe it’s rejected because a rival publication just ran a similar story, or the editor’s boss had a change of interest, but whatever the reason, we did the work but we don’t get our pittance.

If they do buy the story, they now insist we sell them “all-rights” for the same small fee that they used to pay for First North American Serial Rights (1NASR). In other words, we used to sell them the right to be the first publication in North America to print our story, and we were free to make a little something extra by selling our foreign, anthology, reprint, and electronic rights. Now they not only insist on taking everything and denying us all downstream income, but they word the contracts to grant them all rights to any media or technology that might someday be invented in the future.

Not only are the media cartels coercing us to sell all future rights to our work for no increase in pay, but they are unilaterally seizing and abrogating to themselves electronic and database rights to works we sold them before these new technologies even existed. And that issue is the heart of the Tasini v New York Times lawsuit being supported by the National Writers Union. They claim that they can resell to

electronic databases like Nexis work that we originally sold to them on a 1NASR basis. We say that is a gross and outrageous violation of our copyrights.

What really threatens creators is not personal copying by readers, but the concerted effort on the part of publishers and media conglomerates to force us into this modern form of economic peonage.

To carry the plantation analogy further, one of the darker corners of our economic landscape is the treatment and situation of migrant farm workers. Temporary work, low pay, no rights, no benefits. Now we see that high-tech creators are being forcibly converted from permanent to temporary employees. Not just writers, but engineers, programmers, artists, etc. Sun Microsystems used to hire direct contractors, now they force freelancers to be W2 temps of “payroll agencies.” Microsoft lays off its “content provider” employees and rehires them back as temps. No job security, no rights, no benefits, and of course no union.

As high-tech temps, we face the worst of both worlds. We are treated as employees in terms of restrictions, supervision, and payroll deductions, but we receive no health or vacation benefits, no pension, no paid vacation. Yet we’re treated as contractors in that we are often required to supply own equipment and off-site office, but we are prohibited from writing off our business expenses as tax deductions because we are “employees.”

Now obviously, to literally compare writers and programmers to sharecroppers and migrant farm workers is a gross exaggeration. Hyperbole in its rawest form for the purpose of making a point. Things are nowhere near that bad for us. Yet. But the point is that the time to stand up for economic justice is before the conglomerates drive us into penury and serfdom.

You may think that this is our problem and you have no stake in it, but if professional, self-directed authors, freelance investigative reporters, and independent artists are denied the ability to make a decent living, then the only information and entertainment that will be available to you will be that which is produced by employees working as directed by media conglomerates, corporate PR departments, government agencies, and other institutions that hire talent to speak for them.

A Thousand Flowers or the Voice of Big Brother?

The First Amendment was written to politically guarantee the free flow of ideas and information. There once was a time not so long ago that even small towns had multiple newspapers. Anyone could set up a printing press and if people were interested in reading what you produced you could make a living. Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine were examples of the thinker-writer-publisher-printers that the First Amendment was written to protect.

But the First Amendment says nothing about economics. As the costs of printing and distributing to national markets increased,

the independent voices were increasingly squeezed out. We all now understand that “Freedom of the press only applies to those who own presses.”

These new media technologies now offer us both a threat and a promise. The promise is that they can bring down the cost of information distribution so low as to make it economically feasible for individuals and small, independent presses to reach audiences large enough to be economically viable. These technologies could restore the original intent of a free press, and nurture a new flowering of intellectual freedom. They can lead to a great flowering of democracy as information flows into the hands of individuals who then participate in the world of ideas and politics.

One of the worst effects of both the rising cost of ink on dead trees and the monopolization of information distribution has been the increasing difficulties faced by those who wish to address some audience more sharply defined than the lowest-common-denominator-mass-market so beloved by corporate marketeers. It is proving almost impossible now to make a living addressing niche audiences such as the African-American community, gay and lesbian audiences, those with ideas at variance from the mass media defined “mainstream,” and other communities defined by culture, interest, occupation, etc. But with its potentially lower costs of distribution, free and open electronic publishing holds out the hope that writers and independent publishers can economically survive outside the Borders-Disney-CBS-TimesWarner cartels.

But if the media monopolists succeed in cornering the information market and making it impossible for independent voices to economically survive, then all these wonderful new technologies will result in nothing more than additional channels for Madison Avenue hucksterism. Cybespace, like mass-market television, will be turned into a vast wasteland of dumbed-down consumerism, homogenized political indoctrination, and “never-offend-anyone-in-Tulsa” mediocrity. And the internet will become nothing more than the digital equivalent of TV shopping channels.

And that, of course, is where organizations like CPSR and the NWU come in. PBS recently ran biographies of “trust buster” Teddy Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt the “father of the New Deal.” But there was no mention of the agrarian granges, the Wobblies, the small business associations, and the consumer groups that banded together to fight the monopolists. Teddy did not break the trusts as an act if individual beneficence, he did it because he was forced to by popular pressure. Similarly, the show left the impression that FDR bestowed upon grateful workers the right to form unions as a personal act of magnanimous generosity. But that ain’t the way it happened.

Both Roosevelts supported reforms because people came together and raised hell until the government was forced to take action. And our great-grandparents did eventually curb the power of the railroad and oil barons, and our grandparents did eventually force living wages from big auto and big steel, and our mothers and fathers did break the back of southern segregation. And we can resist the media cartels, and we can open up the information plantation if we come together to organize and fight. But as the old saying goes: “Where the broom doesn’t sweep, the dirt doesn’t move.” We are that broom, and it’s high time we started taking care of the housework.

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