Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jeffrey D. Sachs: OWS Heralds A New Progressive Era

Jeffrey D. Sachs (left), director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes that Occupy Wall Street signals the end of the 30-year Reagan era, which has culminated with “soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest.” This period has been similar to other ages of inequality, including the Gilded Age at the close of the 19th century and the Roaring Twenties. Sachs contends that we are now moving into a progressive period, resembling the eras of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as well as F.D.R.’s New Deal. From “The New Progressive Movement”:

The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. The movement, still in its first days, will have to expand in several strategic ways. Activists are needed among shareholders, consumers and students to hold corporations and politicians to account. Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power. The whole range of other actions — shareholder and consumer activism, policy formulation, and running of candidates — will not happen in the park.

The new movement also needs to build a public policy platform. The American people have it absolutely right on the three main points of a new agenda. To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all.

Finally, the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take.

Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.

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