What seems most immediately alarming about the bailouts and the $787 billion stimulus, write Leo Hindery and Donald Riegle in the April 20 issue of The Nation, are the countless indications that the rescue packages still fall woefully short of what is needed to confront the emergency economic conditions we face.
With the US economy having contracted at a stunning rate of 6.3 percent in the last three months of 2008, a quarterly performance rivaled only four times since the Great Depression and getting worse in '09; a growing unemployment rate, now at 12 million people, and foreclosures up 81 percent, many economists are arguing that this current stimulus is bound to fail, inevitably pushing perhaps millions more Americans over the brink of financial collapse.
This is compounded by the central problem with Obama's bailout from the point of view of experts like former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson, Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, James Kwak, George Akerlof, and Robert Shiller -- that recovery will fail unless America breaks up the financial oligarchy. The solution is to have the government temporarily take over failing banks, break them up and sell them off in the private markets. This is not the current plan.
As Simon argues, this process isn't theoretically difficult. The challenge is political and lies in facing down the banking establishment and Wall Street to create a bailout that upends business-as-usual, embraces regulation and transparency, repudiates the blind and unconditional faith in markets that got us into the current mess and that values economic growth, but protects the well-being of the public before the bank accounts of the world's financial elite.
Informed and inspired by Johnson's message, a young cohort of activists, backed by an illustrious group of online organizing veterans like Zephyr Teachout, Joe Trippi and Mike Lux, recently launched A New Way Forward to raise awareness and support for alternative bailout plans and to protest the current plan. In the first three weeks since the group's March launch, 8,000 people have signed up to participate in the ANWF's first tangible effort -- a national series of creative actions this Saturday, April 11, designed to muster opposition to the current bailout plan.
The Nation's William Greider recently explained to Bill Moyers why ANWF has him excited.
There are currently sixty events (or "bonfires" in Greider's words) planned nationwide on April 11. Some examples: 165 people have so far pledged to participate in a protest at Central Ave and Thomas Road outside of AIG Headquarters in Phoenix. 288 activists have confirmed that they'll be marching in front of the Bank of America in Chicago. More than 500 citizens have committed to a rally in New York City's Union Sq Park. This is just a small sampling of what's going on and new plans are being hatched daily.
See if there's an event planned in your town. If not, check out ANWF's tips on how to pull off a protest and plan your own rally. Also useful: Sign the ANWF pledge. Help spread the word about the actions. Read (and pass on) WireTap's Kristina Rizga's interview with Tiffiniy Cheng, a co-founder of the group, for an inspirational sense of what's motivating people, and visit The Nation's special Meltdown page for a multimedia guide to the economic crisis and what you can do about it.
PS: If you happen to have time on your hands and want to follow me on Twitter -- a micro-blog -- click here. (You'll find slightly more personal posts, breaking news and lots of links.) If you have no idea what Twitter is and want to know, read this "Non-fanatical Beginner's Guide to Twitter" by my friend Deanna Zandt.