Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Debt, Austerity and How to Fight Back

Frances Fox PivenCornel West

 by The Nation

The Nation Editor's note: On Tuesday, April 5, hundreds of schools and community groups will participate in a teach-in on debt, austerity and how people are fighting back. From 2–3:30 pm (EST) a national teach-in will be streamed live from New York City, followed by local teach-ins and strategy discussions around the country. Read the call to action by Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West, check out the organizing guide and join the movement by attending or hosting a teach-in near you. Please see for more information.

Wall Street Banks, American corporations and their political allies have declared a one-sided war on the American people. This war is being waged at our schools and colleges, the workplace and in our communities.

Today, Americans are working harder and earning less while corporate profits soar. As homeowners, consumers and students we see our wealth being stripped away by banks. Our government plunges into debt waging trillion-dollar wars. Meanwhile, our infrastructure erodes and climate change proceeds unchecked. Schools, daycare centers, senior citizen facilities, clinics, parks and firehouses are starved for funds so that corporations and the rich can get billions in tax breaks!

Corporate America’s unprovoked assault on working people has been carried out by manufacturing a need for fiscal austerity. We are told that there is no more money for essential human services, for the care of children, or better public schools, or to help lower the cost of a college education. The fact is that big banks and large corporations are hoarding trillions in cash and using tax loopholes to bankrupt our communities.

Spending on social needs is not the reason governments at all levels are facing massive budget short falls. Our debt and deficit problems are a direct result of corporate tax rollbacks, and the extortionist policies of banks and financial institutions that are engaged in a coordinated and massive wealth transfer from the American people to their own coffers.

The courageous actions by the citizens in Wisconsin are an inspiring defense of the core values of this country: a civil society based on freedom of association, ensuring that our communities have high quality public services—education, public safety and support for our elderly and most vulnerable—along with good jobs for all. The outpouring of support nationally shows the possibilities for challenging deepening economic inequality and political marginalization of the majority of the American people.

We are on the cusp of a great movement to resist and roll back that corporate domination by banks, energy companies and war profiteers. To join that movement and escalate the activism planned in the days, weeks and months ahead we are organizing a “National Teach-in on Debt, Austerity and How People Are Fighting Back.” The live web-streamed teach-in will be held on Tuesday, April 5, 2011, at the Judson Memorial Church in New York City, beginning at 2 pm (EST). Admission is free. Speakers from schools and communities around the country will be hosted by moderators Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West in New York City through a live webcast that you can join by organizing a teach-in on your own campus.

HOW TO ORGANIZE A PARTICIPATING TEACH-IN ON YOUR CAMPUS (or at your home or local meeting space)

Please join us in organizing this event and building a progressive social movement to fight the destructive power of corporate greed. College campuses around the country will be linked to the New York City teach-in via the Internet. Anyone with a connection can participate. After the web cast, each campus will have its own discussion of how students can join with unions and community organizations to escalate their own local campaigns.

It’s easy to take part. All you need to do is:

Reserve a room with WIFI or an Ethernet connection to receive the webcast feed, and to make sure that you have audiovisual capability to make it available to the audience. The room reservation for Tuesday April 5, 2011, should be for several hours across the afternoon (or starting at 11:00 am Pacific Coast Time). Allot time in your reservation for setting up and testing equipment and your Internet connection and to clean up afterward.

Identify a person who will take charge of the webcast hook-up from your end.

Identify a moderator, even if only to welcome people before the webcast.

Publicize the event. Use social media and seek coverage from local media including newspapers, student papers, radio stations and television.

Organize a few people to help set up and clean up afterwards.

And then add your own teach-in to the national program:

Invite local speakers and activists to address national or local topics following the webcast.

Identify local actions and organizing efforts around student debt, home foreclosures, predatory lending and other destructive actions by banks, increases in college tuition, the Dream Act, cuts in public services, daycare cutbacks, teacher lay-offs, attacks on unions etc. in which students and other community members can participate.

Seek co-sponsorship from student groups, local labor unions, churches and local activist organizations.

Prepare educational materials for distribution at the event and available online. Include information about national, state and local efforts opposing austerity and budget cuts.

Publicize the event—again.

As you develop your plans, please contact us for technical details about how to connect to the live webcast from New York City and that so we can help connect you to others in your area also planning events. Please see

© 2017 The Nation
Frances Fox Piven

Frances Fox Piven

Frances Fox Piven is professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she has taught since 1982. Her latest book is "Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate" (The New Press). She is the author and co-author of numerous books, including "The War at Home: The Domestic Costs of Bush's Militarism" (2004) and "Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America" (2006), "Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail" (1978) and has received career and lifetime achievement awards from the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association.

Cornel West

Cornel West

Dr. Cornel West is Professor of Religion and African Studies at Princeton University. An activist, author, and social critic he has written many books, including: "Race Matters,"  "Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism,"  "Ethical Dimensions of Marxism," "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, a Memoir," and "Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom."

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Intentional Vandalism' Leaves Thousands Without Power in North Carolina

One right-wing extremist implied that multiple electrical substations were targeted to disrupt a drag show in Moore County. Local law enforcement authorities and the FBI are investigating.

Kenny Stancil ·

GOP Silence on Trump's Call to Axe Constitution Reveals 'Full Embrace of Fascism': House Dem

"Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler 'great,'" said Rep. Bill Pascrell. "Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator."

Kenny Stancil ·

Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·

'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·

EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo