Occupy Congress Today! Protect the 99%! 12.01.11
by Susan C. Strong
Because Occupy Wall Street has refocused America’s attention on growing economic inequality, many on the left are talking about broad national or local reform actions, in hopes that Occupy will embody them. Thinking big and local is important and necessary. But we also must keep a sharp eye out for ways to counter immediate new harm to the 99%. For example, right now Congress must decide whether or not to extend unemployment benefits and continue the payroll tax cut in 2012.
We all need to push Congress to do the right thing about both of these measures, in whatever ways we can think up. If either or both of these common sense steps fail, economic hardship and inequality for all of the 99% will sharply increase. If extended, both measures will put continued funding into the hands of those who will spend every cent of it. That would provide the only kind of economic stimulus that has ever created jobs: demand. When some people spend, others get paid, and then they spend too. Austerity always fails. It’s the 99% who create jobs, if they have jobs.
Of course the Republicans will try to take hostage the bills I speak of here. They are already demanding new cuts in the federal work force, and an extended pay freeze for federal workers, in exchange for any vote to extend unemployment benefits.(1) These are choices that will throw the most people out of work and cut the buying power of the rest. As for extending the payroll tax cut, they may kidnap it in order to get the expiring Bush tax cuts for the wealthy renewed. We know that whatever they might try to do about these measures will send our economy into a greater downward spiral. They hope they can blame it on President Obama, and get their man, whoever it is, into the White House.
But they know perfectly well that the rich are not creating jobs in America these days, and that regular consumer demand is what creates jobs.(2) It’s a well-documented fact that wealthy American individuals and corporations are sitting on huge cash reserves, waiting until consumer “confidence” and demand ramp up again, before they invest in new job creation.(3) Or to put it another way, the fat cats just sit on their money, waiting for the consumers to come out. Republicans are well aware that they are lying about rich “job creators.” We must stop their sabotage. They must see to it that unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut get extended, with no hostage taking allowed. We the 99% must demand that they do the right thing right now.
If you would also like to comment on the essay, it is posted in a slightly longer version, entitled “Protect the 99% Right Now!” on my pages at the following links, which have comment capability.
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*The longer version of the article, with full footnotes, is also available on this site at: Protect the 99% Right Now! 12.01.11
Susan C. Strong is the founder and executive director of The Metaphor Project (http://www.metaphorproject.org), and author of our forthcoming new book, Move Our Message: How To Get America’s Ear (January, 2012). The Metaphor Project has been helping progressives mainstream their messages since 1997.
2 As is well known, consumer spending drives 70% of the U.S. economy. See http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-28/consumer-spending-in-u-s-expands-more-than-forecast-as-incomes-increase.html
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/your-money/goldmans-beige-book-shows-an-uncertain-business-outlook.html?pagewanted=all and http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/business/turning-the-dialogue-from-wealth-to-values.html