SEQUIM, Wash. — More than 250 Olympic Peninsula residents crowded a MoveOn.org forum here the evening of May 4 to denounce corporate greed and its stranglehold on government.
The forum, "Waking Up from the American Dream," was one of 150 similar MoveOn events across the nation.
Richard Gray, coordinator of the MoveOn Clallam County Council, cited BP's oil gusher "fouling the Gulf," an army of insurance company lobbyists who blocked Medicare-for-all health care reform, and bank lobbyists who seek to gut or block a strong financial reform bill.
"They have bought our government with an army of lobbyists," he said.
"The top two percent of wealthy Americans is calling all the shots in Washington," he charged. "Is it any wonder that the approval rating of the House and Senate is sinking lower and lower?"
He called for "serious citizenship" with a broad, grassroots movement that "works year round" to elect a government that represents the people.
A panel addressed many burning issues. Patent lawyer Virginia Shogren said the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision overturning limits on corporate campaign contributions is a menacing step toward "corporate oligarchy" and a "major upheaval in First Amendment law," adding, "We are on a slippery slope."
Sierra Club representative Ben Greuel decried the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion "that is turning the Gulf into a disaster." Despite some reservations about "cap and trade," he said, the Sierra Club is supporting the pending climate change bill. "On the one side is the grassroots environmental community, on the other, the deep-pockets of the carbon polluters," Gruel said. He charged that the oil, gas and coal corporations have amassed as much as $6 billion to lobby against the bill.
Eddy Hayes, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, said the labor movement is a key force in the struggle to counter corporate tyranny. "We've lost eight million jobs," she said. "Millions have lost their homes in foreclosure and millions more are on the verge of bankruptcy. But the banks are back on top with a record $140 billion in bonuses." Most of that unearned income, she charged, has been pilfered from the $750 billion taxpayer bailout of the Wall Street banks.
"The big banks continue to foreclose on our families while they are spending more than $1.4 million per day to lobby against the financial feform bill," she said. "It is time to end Wall Street's stranglehold on our economy and political system."
Speaking from a floor microphone, retired machinist Richard Jean, former president of a Los Angeles local of the International Association of Machinists, charged that giant corporations have destroyed millions of good, union wage jobs, replacing them with jobs paying the minimum wage and no benefits. The government, he said, has facilitated the export of those good jobs. "Cats pass legislation that benefit cats," he quipped. "It's time to elect more mice to pass legislation that benefits mice."
Another speaker urged support of the $100 billion Local Jobs for America bill introduced on the House floor by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Earl Archer, a leader of the Clallam County Democratic Party, said a constitutional amendment to reverse the high court's Citizens United ruling will take too long. He urged enactment by Congress of a statute specifying, "Corporations are not people."
A worker at a local organic farm told the crowd that "mega-corporations control the world's food" and it is time to fight back. "It makes sense to support local, organic food," she said as the crowd applauded.
Another speaker said that "local commercial banks control most of the loans," but these local banks got almost nothing from the Wall Street bailout. "Congress should forget the big banks. Let's bail out the local banks," she said as the crowd once again erupted in applause.
Mollie Nagin, who moved to Sequim from Cleveland last year and plans to attend Evergreen College in the fall, spoke of her boyfriend, a gifted youth who recently wrote a paper on the Federal Reserve and another on socialism. "He has cancer and has no health insurance," she told the crowd. "We're losing our young people with these stupid insurance companies, these stupid corporations."
Several speakers urged support of a petition drive to place on the November ballot an initiative to establish a progressive state income tax levied on wealthy couples with $400,000 or higher annual income as well as a 20 percent reduction in the regressive property tax. Nelson Cone, leader of the Clallam County Green Party, said it would generate over a billion dollars in annual revenues for public education and health care while also reducing the state deficit.
Photo: Tim Wheeler/PW