I. Democracy Networks
The concentration of power in large corporations and banks has placed serious constraints on democracy. Many large companies have outsourced work overseas and failed to organize work at home. The megabanks, backed by bond rating agencies and governments, have created austerity programs, and have received bailouts when many are jobless or homeless.
Yet, we have democratic responsibility for the economy (taking the form of bailouts) without democratic influence on how these bailout funds are invested. The result: disinvestment and austerity for the majority—while a massive public investment helps the private big corporate minority. We need to organize globally and locally to counteract the non-democratic power of these mega-institutions.
A Global Teach-In, bringing together diverse constituencies in real time, is an excellent way to do this. The Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the UK Uncut and the Spanish Indignants’ movement show how alliances among diverse political forces can strengthen the hand of various communities facing common problems. We must defend the right to collective bargaining, housing and meaningful employment as well as the provision of public services answerable to democratically elected governments. Cooperative economics, family and worker-owned firms, and locally anchored businesses are key ways to achieve these goals. So too is extension of democracy through user inputs, informed public discussion of alternative designs and technology, and broadened and deepened public awareness of policy choices.
II. Green Jobs and Planning
We are facing a “triple crisis” defined by: economics (inequality, deindustrialization, mass unemployment, or the privatization and “de-democratization” of public goods), the environment (pollution, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and depletion of species) crisis and reliance on unsustainable energy supplies (diminished stocks of cheap oil, use of oil in hard to get or insecure areas, and substitution of land used to grow food to supply alternative fuels).
The solution requires a “Green New Deal” that expands investments, manufacturing and infrastructure related to alternative energy and mass transportation. This will lower our reliance on non-sustainable and costly energy systems while promoting a wealth-creating system. The creation of wealth is a way to transcend the politics of scarcity and austerity.
Budget deficits sometimes have led or may lead to military budget reductions. Such cutbacks represent an opportunity to advance the conversion or diversification of defense firms into green industries. The advance of green jobs depends on regulations which penalize carbon emissions and research and production networks (backed by industrial policy) promoting firms’ capacities. For a green job to be a good job, labor rights must be extended and jobs ladders developed. Locally anchored jobs are more sustainable (reducing transit costs in production) and provide economic security. Green planning involves the creation of metropolitan regions where residential and labor markets are more proximate, where housing is sustainable and affordable, where products are designed to be durable and recyclable, and where designs generally reflect user interests and needs. Land banks are one way to prevent the cycle of housing displacement. Cooperatives and public ownership are two important ways to turn the tide against privatization or market monopolies controlling the supply of vital public goods.
What is planning? It’s just a way to say we have choices about alternative social, economic, and political designs. “Grounded utopianism” is an approach to social change building on concrete examples or practices defined by alternative choices for society. Green conversion of petroleum-based firms and defense contractors are also necessary within the context of support for multi-lateral disarmament and alternative security. Often smaller companies, innovators and entrepreneurs can’t get the capital they need to develop prototypes or help build needed infrastructure. Citizens must become more involved in the budgeting process. Students should not be burdened by a lifetime of debt; new budget priorities should address the economic security of students in countries where the government has under-financed education.
III. An Alternative Financial System
The tax breaks received by the super rich and the bailouts received by large banks have not prevented austerity and economic decline. They have strengthened their ability to continue to manipulate governments and lowered accountability. We need a new way to organize our banking capacities and financial system. The people have the immediate power to influence direction of financial investment, limiting the financial volatility that is the basis for a high frequency trading system expropriating the majority’s savings every nanosecond.
Five key sources of capital can support locally-anchored and/or green growth alternatives: (a) “Move Your Money”: This U.S.-initiated movement takes funds out of large banks and moves the money to smaller banks and “credit unions.” Cooperative banks and low-interest charging banks are also important alternatives. (b) Selective Reinvestment: Unions, universities, hospitals, religious and other organizations can reinvest their large payroll and pension fund accounts that have supported megabanks, various stock portfolios and bonds. (c) Green and Local Procurement: Cities and communities that federate or cooperate can create “consumer” or “purchasing” cooperatives, leveraging their buying power to advance a “triple bottom line”, i.e. not just profits, but local employment and sustainability. (d) More Equitable Tax Policies: When the rich and corporations don’t pay their fare share of taxes the result is often reduced welfare state services and a failure to invest in needed public goods. (e) New Budget Priorities: Security challenges include climate change and economic insecurity. So we must redirect military budgets towards green investments (mass transit investments help security by helping move populations from flood zones, earth quake regions and other areas under attack).