Posted by rflacks on:
Those of us who've been calling for determined grassroots mobilization as a key to progressive reform are beginning to see some validation. Most dramatic has been the Senate passage of a series of amendments to the Dodd financial reform bill-amendments authored by the most progressive Senators. Bernie Sanders (the one avowed socialist in national politics) proposed an audikt of the Federal Reserve Board and this got unanimous support. Al Franken proposed significant regulation of credit rating companies (like Moody's). And a series of other proposals providing consumer protections also passed. Bob Kuttner, writing in Huffington Post , suggests that a major reason for this shift has been the brilliant work of the Americans for Financial Reform:
"With a tiny core staff headed by veteran organizer Heather Booth, AFR is out-spent at least a hundred to one by the banking lobby, but its foot soldiers, donated by participating groups, have daily strategy calls, head counts, regular discussions with the administration, and target wavering senators of both parties. AFR, many of whose member organizations in turn connect to millions of people at the grass roots, has emerged as a model of how citizen power can move public opinion and match the power of high finance."
Yesterday a series of street actions, fostered by this coalition, targeted bank headquarters and homes of top bank executives. Headline in the Washington Post: Hundreds of Protesters Shut Down Bank of America Branch. These are the latest in a series of actions mobilized by labor and citizens action groups that have rallied large crowds at banks and other financial centers. These actions haven't had the national publicity that smaller Tea Party theatricals have received. But as Kuttner tells us, they're manifestations of a highly effective and multi-pronged grassroots effort.
Meanwhile, California Gov. Arnold just released a revised budget for the state. One of the revision's features is that it restores funding for higher education and student financial aid that had been cut in the first version of the budget. There can't be much doubt that this change is a response to the months of student led protest that we've applauded in this space. Truly nauseating is that Arnold proposes to balance the budget by eliminating or drastically cutting the major state programs that provide subsistence aid for poor, disabled and elderly folk. His new budget pretends to maintain k-12 education funding (also a response to widespread grassroots protest) but fails to provide for increased costs. He also now wants to keep state parks open-another issue that had prompted considerable mobilization to protest parks closing.
As we've pointed out here, the grassroots opposition to cuts has not been accompanied by a focused agenda for reform. Now some Democrats in the legislature have begun to talk about plugging corporate tax loopholes, oil severance tax and the like (although good old Jerry Brown redux, campaigning here in Santa Barbara yesterday pointedly failed to mention any tax reform and spoke only of the need to cut spending!) Schwarzenegger claimed that there was ‘no more low hanging fruit' to justify his draconian assault on the poor. But Lenny Goldberg of the California Tax Reform Association six months ago provided a list of "Low Hanging Fruit in the Tax System: 10 Policies for $20 Billion". Read it here. Somehow, we need here in California a coalition patterned after Americans for Financial Reform and we need it now.