December 2011, Week 1


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Sat, 3 Dec 2011 01:44:45 -0500
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Why We Must 'Take Back the Capitol'

By Isaiah J. Poole
December 2, 2011 - 8:16am ET

Keith Chatterton, a 61-year-old former salesman for a
building components company, recently told the Syracuse
Post-Standard that he hasn't had a steady job since
2008, even with "days scouring the Internet for
openings, attending job fairs and support groups, trying
to widen his network of contacts and sending out
thousands of electronic resumes."

"His $75,000 salary is gone, he has flown past his 99
weeks of unemployment insurance, and his 401(k)
continues to be battered in the stock market. If not for
his wife’s $35,000-a-year job at the Syracuse Housing
Authority, he said, they wouldn’t be able to hold on to
their three-bedroom house near Corcoran High School,"
the paper reported.

This, I thought when I encountered his story during a
recent visit to my father-in-law near Syracuse, is one
reason thousands of people have been in Occupy
encampments around the country. It's for the nearly 6
million people like Keith Chatterton whose long-term
joblessness represents a particularly egregious failure
of our economic and political system. It's for the
millions within reach of retirement before the recession
hit who were stripped of secure jobs and had their
retirement savings erased. It's for the millions more
who were in college as the recession hit and now, as Van
Jones has often said, have graduated off a cliff into an
economy that offers them no way to use their education
and no means to pay the college debt they have
accumulated. It's for the heads of once solidly middle-
class families who have seen their incomes fall and who
now live in the midst of record levels of poverty.

Some critics of the Occupy movement on the right have
started saying, "Instead of occupying Wall Street, you
ought to be occupying Washington." The week of December
5, we will. But it will not be the kind of occupation
conservative critics have in mind.

"Take Back the Capitol" is a week of actions intended to
expose and challenge the dysfunction in Washington
fostered by the intransigence of conservative
ideologues, the rapaciousness of corporate lobbyists and
the cowardice of those we would expect to stand against
them. As a flier promoting the week explains, the aim is
to "show Congress what democracy looks like, shine a
light on corporate greed and the human suffering it has
caused, and demand justice for the 99 percent."

Several thousand protestors--bringing together the
Occupy movement, organized labor and other progressive
activists--will converge on the National Mall starting
Monday as Congress is deciding what action it will take
on a continuation of a payroll tax break for workers and
aid for the long-term jobless. The plan is for
participants to go directly to congressional offices
Tuesday with their "jobs, not cuts" message, condemning
Congress' failure to send legislation to President Obama
that would use the resources of government to put people
to work while the private sector economy recovers.

On Thursday, all but one Republican senator voted to
block sensible legislation to extend a payroll tax cut
for workers. The legislation would have meant an extra
$1,500 in take-home cash for the average worker, and it
would offset the tax cut with a 3.25 percent surtax on
earnings in excess of $1 million. This is the approach
favored by a majority of the public, including rank-and-
file Republicans: ask those who continue to do well in
today's economy to do their fair share to enable the
rest of the economy to recover. But instead of the
bipartisan will of the public, Senate Republicans did
the bidding of their corporate benefactors, acting as
the guardians of the 1 percent rather than the servants
of all of the people.

Meanwhile, there is resistance among many conservatives
to approving the $50 billion it would take to pay to
continue extended unemployment benefits. The Washington
Post quotes Sen. John Kyl as asking, "Do we want to
borrow money from China to pay people not to work?" The
article goes on point out that there are four unemployed
workers for every job opening. Clearly, the issue is not
"paying people not to work"; it's ensuring people can
survive until Congress comes to its senses and enacts
real jobs legislation, such as the bills that send aid
to prevent state and local government layoffs or fund
urgently needed school construction and transportation

"Take Back the Capitol" seeks to challenge the current
climate in Washington through a combination of
demonstrations, grassroots lobbying and civil

Earlier in November, the Congressional Progressive
Caucus conducted a hearing in which several experts
condemned the austerity economics being ardently pushed
by the conservative leadership in Congress and laid out
what's really needed to grow the economy and set the
stage for managing the federal deficit. The discussion
involved viewpoints that the congressional deficit-
reduction supercommittee that was meeting at the time
needed to hear, but the committee members, though
invited, were a no-show.

Now that the supercommittee is no more, it's time for
the full Congress to feel continued heat from the
American majority. The good news is that we have people
such as Republican strategist Frank Luntz "frightened to
death" of the impact that the Occupy Wall Street
movement is already having on the political discourse.
Luntz's advice to Republicans is to change their
language. Our demand is for both Republicans and
Democrats to change their behavior, and support policies
that will put put Americans back to work on the jobs
that need to be done, ask millionaires to start paying
their fair share, and repair the damage that
conservative policies have done to our economy and our


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