Friday, July 12, 2013

Its time to aspire for the possible.

Something awesome happened yesterday in Atlanta.

A temporary alliance of Tea Party activists, environmentalists, and the solar industry convinced the Public Service Commission of something which at its core was a question about how we structure our markets and if it matters. These activists joined together and made the case that yes it does.

The PSC agreed and voted to expand the production of solar energy in this state.

It was a small victory--525 megawatts of new solar is a modest increase (1%) in Georgia Power's energy mix--in a long hard struggle to build a Green economy.

But the decision will move our state into the forefront of solar energy, helping to create more jobs, increase economic investment in rural Georgia, and help lower electric bills for years to come.  It was an investment in our future.  But more than that, it was a group of people joining together to ask our elected officials to aspire for the possible--because its within our grasp.

The PSC responded back...  Yes we can.

Brilliantly coined as a "Green Tea" alliance, it reminded me of two things.  First, the question of how Government structures the market matters.  We can build winning coalitions, to undermine the power of the 1% to gridlock the political process, around this question.

Secondly, it was a reminder of the potential we all have when we aspire for the possible.

The GOP has spent the past 5 years blocking everything that  Barack Obama and the Democrats have proposed----even the ideas they came up with!

It has taken its toll on all of us--myself included.

I think the battle wounds have crept in to our souls a little bit.

Katrina vanden Heuvel had asked the other day if we have the will to fight for the jobless.  She reminded me that we have a lot of really smart people in DC fighting the good fight.  But she wondered about the will to create the energy needed to force through those changes.

In savoring my Green Tea from yesterday I can answer with great confidence--I think we do.

Go watch the video a few more times if need be to remember.

I think there is a perfect issue that has a broad based coalition staring us in the face.  One which answers Heuvel's concern for the jobless and taps in to overcoming the lack of mobilization. An issue that can help the jobless and help reaffirm our commitment to our seniors, one that is fundamental to the Democratic Party platform, one which will inspire the activists and unite across generations--expand Social Security.

Many Americans don't realize it but we have dangers on the horizon when it comes to retirement security.  Our ability as a society to follow through on these commitments to one another is at risk if we don't come up with a solution.  The experts are already doing so.

The economic crisis brought the retirement security question to the forefront for millions. Hard working Americans watched their life savings wiped out by the actions of bankers, and the failure of policymakers and regulators. But the consequence of their failures of judgement, and outright greed, is trickling down on all of us--harming the quality of life, stunting the future potential of millions.  Its an issue that has mass movement potential if we try to make it happen.

Pew did a study a little bit ago and found that 55% of Americans have experienced some work-related hardship because of the Great Recession.  Be it unemployment, a cut in pay, a reduction in hours, or an involuntary move to part-time work.  Remember we didn't crash the economy--a small sector of elites did.

The report notes:
While nearly all Americans have been hurt in one way or another, some groups have suffered more than others. Blacks and Hispanics have borne a disproportionate share of both the job losses and the housing foreclosures. Young adults have taken the biggest losses on the job front. Middle-aged adults have gotten the worst of the downturn in house values, household finances and retirement accounts. Men have lost many more jobs than women. And across most indicators, those with a high school diploma or less education have been hit harder than those with a college degree or more.
The wealth that was destroyed as the housing bubble came back down to earth is keeping hard working Americans in jobs longer than they expected. They are afraid their Social Security benefits will not be enough to survive on.  We can fix that and help improve the job situation at the same time.

The destruction of wealth was of a magnitude most couldn't have imagined or prepared for as the Pew Study notes:
 This recession has eroded more household wealth than any other episode in the post-World War II era—not surprising in that it was triggered by the bursting of bubbles in both the housing and stock markets, the two principal sources of household wealth. According to the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics (PSID), median household wealth decreased by an estimated 19% from 2007 to 2009. On a percentage basis, this loss of wealth was greater among middle-income households than among those in either the lower or upper income tiers. Similarly, it took a much bigger percentage bite out of the (relatively modest) wealth of black and Hispanic households than of white households
Those hit hardest were hard working Americans, the people who didn't get a bail out, who probably weren't forced or able to to utilize the expansion of food stamps or long term unemployment.  But they were some of the hardest hit in terms of loss of wealth. Many of the those most hardest hit were pivotal in the election and re-election of Obama; but also those most resistent to the Democratic Party message on many other issues.

Now fear of the unknown is locking them in to jobs, jobs that would have been filled by a new generation rising up through the labor market.  But these people can't retire, out of feat--that might help explain some of the populist rage on the right about food stamps and unemployment benefits.

Together we can change that.  

Those on the top and those at the very bottom saw Government help during this economic crisis.   But those in the middle are being forced to stick around in jobs they thought they'd be retiring from. Pew found that among adults 62 and older who are still working
35% say they’ve already delayed retirement because of the recession. Among adults ages 50 to 61 who are currently employed, six-in-ten say they may have to delay retirement because of the recession.
This fear of the unknown is locking up the labor market--having a negative impact across every age group, every family situation.  60% of Americans delaying retirement is not a solution any of us can afford.

In a nation with massive unemployment, where people who should be teaching Math and Science to high school kids, people who should be inventing the next generations of green technologies, people who should be building the future America as they build their careers are instead serving you coffee, cleaning your toilets, and loading your trucks.

We can join together and do something to change this.

I had been meaning to try out Democracy for America's new activist tool YouPower so it gave me a good excuse to give it a run and see what, with a little work, we might be able to change together, through collective action.  Won't you join me?

Join me in aspiring to reaffirm a social commitment to one another which  FDR signed in to law many years ago.  One which might possibly mobilize the kind of Green Tea coalition we saw here in Georgia yesterday.

Lets not play defense against the Republicans, lets get on offense. I think I know a great leader who can help lead the charge navigating the many hurdles and right wing attacks to come. He might even take us up on it if enough of us ask...

Its time to aspire for the possible---because we can.

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