By Todd Olson of Portland. Todd is coordinator of Move Our Money Oregon.
The Occupy and Move Your Money movements have, at long last, focused the country's attention on the obscenely unequal amount of wealth and political power owned by a handful of Wall Street banks. A few days ago, while addressing the Portland City Council, I looked Mayor Sam Adams squarely in the eye and asserted that banking is now a political issue. And I could have sworn I saw his eyebrows move slightly upward, in surprise, before he looked down and shuffled papers.
Banking is a political (and social) issue because our local governments have few options in meeting their banking needs. Because of the large amounts of money involved, Oregon’s cities and towns are essentially forced to bank with Wall Street banks. The very same banks whose arrogance and avarice wrecked the economy, caused immeasurable human suffering across the country and here in Oregon. And after Wall Street got bailed out by the 99%, they stunningly resumed their predation upon human civilization, enabled by government policies that they helped write.
That was until about two months ago, when the rarest of human events, a social movement, began. The 99% rose up and began marching, occupying, and moving their money en mass, telling Wall Street and our elected officials that things must change—really change. And after last week's nationwide N17 Day of Action, any progressives who still do not realize that we are in the midst of a real social movement are either in denial, or have not been paying attention.
Most progressive elected officials, as far as I can tell, have remained conspicuously and maddeningly silent about this real social movement for equity and Wall Street accountability. With the exception of only one candidate in Portland's mayoral race, State Rep. Jefferson Smith, progressive elected officials and candidates appear unwilling or uncertain about how to respond to this movement. Americans and Oregonians believe that the 1% control too much wealth and political influence, and the 99% no longer believe our elected representatives and democratic institutions can or will do anything to remedy this inequity.
Jefferson Smith was the first and only Portland mayoral candidate who, in my opinion, has shown an understanding of the political and social significance of what’s happening in Portland and throughout the country. He offered some bold and concrete proposals to weaken the grip big Wall Street banks have over our democratic institutions, and our ability to achieve real economic equity.
The place to begin to address the morally justified grievances of the Occupy movement that’s happening and growing, is with Wall Street banks, locally. We really can’t expect Congress to take action, can we? We must begin the change at city hall. Our local governments have the power and the ability to stop doing business with Wall Street banks, through divestment, Responsible Banking Ordinances, and even through public banking.
So far Jefferson Smith is the only candidate for Portland mayor, or any office, who understands the true nature and causes of the social, political, and economic inequity driving the Occupy and Move Your Money movements. Wall Street banks have too much unchecked power over almost every aspect of our lives, and the people, the 99%, have reached the breaking point. Really.
Our country, our cities, and our neighborhoods need courageous and wise leadership. Where are you progressives?
Nov. 20, 2011 | |