I don’t know about you, but I’m frustrated that a year after the first shoe dropped in the current financial crisis, we’re still dribbling out tens of billions of dollars to zombie institutions, with no end in sight. And I understand there’s some complexity when it comes to these bonuses, but I can’t help but clench my fists with rage every time I hear about more massive bonuses going out to executives in companies staying afloat with billions in taxpayer subsidies. But I also worry about the possible cataclysmic consequences if we simply do nothing, let the banking giants fail.
I’ve grumbled to my wife about it, put biting observations in my Facebook status, and commented on some blogs about it. If you’re like me, you might have even written a sharply worded letter to your representatives in Congress. I know that I really haven’t done anything else.
Luckily, a few friends who have a little experience in organizing decided to do something to bring a viable solution to the forefront of public discussion. They’ve put together something called A New Way Forward, a day of demonstrations (April 11) calling for the federal government to nationalize the problem financial institutions, and reorganize them into smaller pieces without the same leadership that got us all into this mess to begin with.
How can you help, you might ask? At a bare minimum (other than attending), you can let your friends know about it by e-mailing them, joining the national Facebook group and inviting others, or Twittering about it using the hashtag #anwf. You can also add your own ideas to the discussion, or even organize your own demonstration, if there isn’t one in your city already. (There’s a list of suggestions with links here, including a handy-dandy e-mail form to pass the word to friends and family.) Also, if you belong to an organization that might be interested in helping out, you can ask them to endorse.
More below the fold on who these New Way Forward people are and what they hope to accomplish.
A few weeks ago, a couple of friends, among them Tiffiniy Cheng and Nicholas Reville, were sitting around watching an episode of NOW with Bill Moyers. The topic of discussion on that week’s episode was the crisis in our banking system, and Moyers’ distinguished guest was the economist Simon Johnson, who has among other things worked for decades in resolving financial crises for institutions such as the International Monetary Fund. (Naturally, he has a blog.) In his crisis prevention work, he had helped advise other countries suffering through similar financial crises on how to clean up their banking system, which usually involved nationalizing the banks responsible for the crisis, and reorganizing them into smaller, healthier units back in the private sector. And this is essentially what he advocates that the U.S. government do now.
The group of friends had followed the banking crisis closely, but until that point hadn’t heard too much conversation about nationalization and reorganization, and it seemed rather complex. Upon hearing from an expert like Johnson that it might be a more viable and just solution than the other ones floating around, the friends asked each other, “Why aren’t we doing this in the US? And if this is a viable solution, what do we have to do to get the ball rolling?” Unlike many people who happened to watch the show that night, this group included a few people who have experience in organizing both offline and online. Among them, Nicholas Reville helped found two non-profits, the Participatory Politics Foundation and the Participatory Culture Foundation (although as non-profits, they are not involved in this effort in any way.) Tiffiniy Cheng helped found the same non-profits and took time off from her work to be an Obama organizer in Joplin, MO. (You’ve got to give her respect for that!) The two of them also developed Downhill Battle, an effort to combat the music label oligopoly. Morgan Knutson is a generous and talented web designer and volunteered to build a nice-looking website. (So nice, in fact, that I wondered what organization was really behind it.)
From their own experience that an ordinary citizen can make a big difference with an idea and a little effort, they decided they would had to find someway of getting this message out to people and to our elected representatives – you know, the people who actually can do something about the situation. The idea is this: create a series of public demonstrations to show support for a three step plan to get this banking crisis behind us. Nationalize, Reorganize, Decentralize. The government should nationalize the zombie banks, reorganize them by sorting out problem assets and flush out those responsible for the crisis in the first place, and finally break them up into smaller, healthier units for the private sector where they will no longer be “too big to fail.”
As a central hub, they built a website at http://anewwayforward.org. There is a list of demonstrations already being planned, and discussion forums with each planned demonstration to share ideas on how to make a successful event. They also have suggestions on how to start your own demonstration and spread the word, if there isn’t one already set up for your area. I’ll be at the one in Saint Louis, and I hope that others around the state of Missouri might hold similar rallies.
One more thing. Tiffiniy, Nicholas, et al are working on a coalition right now to help get out the word and get more people involved – Joe Trippi will be helping out, and others in the online and offline progressive community will soon be signing on. But it was important as a first step for the small group of friends to ask ordinary citizens through the magic of the interwebs to help out, rather than ask a larger organization or group to set them up and tell their members to show up at a certain place or time, because they wanted it to be a true bottom-up affair, with ordinary citizens taking responsibility for making a difference. This isn’t a set of astroturf protests – this is Americans getting angry, joining together and putting forward a positive solution.
Now all we need is a little bit of your ideas, enthusiasm, and time.